The Hotel Where the Munchkins Had a Big Time

The decorated lobby of the Culver Hotel. i i

The decorated lobby of the Culver Hotel. Peter Breslow, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Peter Breslow, NPR
The decorated lobby of the Culver Hotel.

The decorated lobby of the Culver Hotel.

Peter Breslow, NPR

NPR's Scott Simon talks with Culver City, Calif., honorary historian Julie Lugo Cerra in the Culver Hotel. It was there that the Munchkins stayed during the filming of The Wizard of Oz, just down the street at the MGM Studios. When that many little people got together, a wild time ensued.

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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

George Washington never slept here, but Southern California abounds with doors and windows at which people like to point and whisper, psst, Bogey and Bacall were there, Tracy and Hepburn, Elvis and everyone.

Well, we're in the historic Culver City Hotel in downtown Culver City with Julie Lugo Cerra who is the honorary historian of the city of Culver City, California.

And who slept here?

SIMON: The Munchkins slept here.

SIMON: This was when they were filming the "The Wizard of Oz," I assume.

SIMON: It was. They came in to Culver City on November 10th, 1938, so they brought them into the Culver Hotel and they were so little that they put them three in a bed because they were so small. They could put them sideways and almost get them all here.

SIMON: This must have been one of the biggest collections of little people to date at that point.

SIMON: Many of them, like Jerry Maren, who eventually settled in Los Angeles, who was a Lollipop Kid, had never seen another little person in his life before.

SIMON: So what happened when they were suddenly together?

SIMON: Well, they had a really good time, and they came to Culver City, and they thought it was wonderful to see so many other little people. Most of them had lived in areas where they were the only ones, so they were the exception. They were not very well accepted by society, and so it was wonderful to be with their own.

SIMON: How many young Munchkins - actors playing Munchkins are we talking about?

SIMON: It's a hundred and twenty plus. It's probably between a hundred and twenty and a hundred and twenty-six.

SIMON: Were they good guests? Did they behave like rock groups?

SIMON: No, I don't think they have trashed hotel rooms. They were having a very good time and they celebrated a lot. They worked very hard.

SIMON: I mean, the question embarrasses me, but, you know, we've heard that there was a Roman-like scene here. Is that folk myth or...

SIMON: My father owned a radio store at the time and became a policeman shortly thereafter, and he said they were all over the place. And they would pile them into cars, and they would be even under the dashboards because you could get so many in. So it - I'm sure it was a hysterical scene, I'm sure that they had a very good time, and I'm sure that most of them remembered it for the rest of their lives. They got their star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame recently. And they love coming back to Culver City. They were here in the '90s for a reunion - they do this every once in a while. And there's probably nobody who doesn't know about the Munchkins, and there's probably no one who doesn't love them.

SIMON: Julie Lugo Cerra, who's the honorary historian of Culver City, California, thanks very much.

SIMON: Thanks for coming to visit us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD")

U: (As Munchkin) Follow the yellow, brick road.

U: (As Munchkin) Follow the yellow, brick road.

U: (As Munchkins) Follow the yellow, brick road. Follow the yellow, brick road. Follow the, follow the, follow the, follow the, follow the yellow, brick road.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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