His trip down the Yellow Brick Road is over.
Karl Slover, best known for portraying the Munchkin band’s lead trumpeter in The Wizard of Oz, died Tuesday, Nov. 16. He was 93 years old, and one of only four living Munchkins.
Born Karl Kosiczky in what was then Prakfalva, Kingdom of Hungary, Slover was diagnosed at an early age with pituitary dwarfism. Slover’s father, who was 6 foot 6 inches (his mother was only a few inches shorter) tried every thing he could to make his son taller, including dangerous backyard procedures and visits to the hospital where Hungarian doctors stretched his son’s arms and legs with medical machinery. Dwarfism was not a family trait, and Slover was not about to be the one exception.
Eventually, when Slover was nine years old, his father gave up and sold him to a “traveling midget” show in Berlin. After several years in the European show, he moved to America where he joined yet another revue of little people, and eventually landed roles in several films like The Terror of Tiny Town, Block-Heads and Bringing Up Baby. It was his involvement in the vaudeville group known as the Singer Midgets, though, that became the nucleus of the Munchkins of Oz and would lead to his greatest success.
Slover was 21 when he played the parts of four different munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. He claimed that, at $50 a week, he was paid less than Toto for his work in the film. But the film became an instant classic, and when surviving Munchkins began making appearances and doing interviews around the country in the 1980s, a whole new generation of fans was born. Slover and his former co-stars were embraced again, and that was priceless.
A faithful Munchkin until the day he died, Slover kept involved in Oz-related events like yearly celebrations birthday celebrations for Judy Garland at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn. He was present, along with other surviving Munchkins, at the Hollywood Walk of Fame when a star in their honor was unveiled. As recently as a week before his death (of cardiopulmonary arrest in an Atlanta hospital), friends say Slover appeared at events in the Chicago area.
Known for his excellent memory and Munchkinland anecdotes, Slover leaves behind three remaining Munchkins. Below is a clip of Slover singing the song that made him famous.