Saturday, April 10, 2010

As coroner I must aver I thoroughly examined her

"And she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead!"

One of the few Munchkins remaining on this mortal coil has left us, and since he was born just a few miles down the road from where I am typing this, a moment for tribute. Meinhardt Raabe (pronounced "ROBB-ee") spent the last 24 years in a Florida retirement community, and his recent death at the age of 94 brought an end to a life that was nothing if not fascinatingly original. At the time he appeared in The Wizard of Oz, he was all of 23 years old and two years out of the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a degree in accounting. When he answered Hollywood's call for the vertically-challenged of Oz, he was actually one of the tallest Munchkins, topping out at four feet. (He would continue to grow in his 30s, adding another seven inches to his stature.) But after the success of the film, the corporate world shunned him, until Oscar Meyer hired him as a salesman, bestowing upon him the title "The World's Smallest Chef," and he spent three decades trundling across the country in the Wiener Mobile (which, oddly enough, was involved in a bizarre accident just a few years ago, crashing into a house, just miles from Raabe's hometown of Watertown, WI). He also found a secondary career as a motivational speaker, and made frequent appearances at Oz conventions. But these are the 13 seconds of Meinhardt Raabe's life that will live forever; just another of the uncountable examples of why we will never fall out of love with the movies...

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