"They thought they could get away with anything because they were so small," writes Garland's ex-husband Sid Luft in a new memoir
In The Wizard of Oz, the lovable Munchkins help Dorothy follow the yellow brick road to find her way home. But just like Oz himself, it turns out some of the Munchkins may not have been all they seemed.
‘They would make Judy’s life miserable on set by putting their hands under her dress … The men were 40 or more years old,” wrote the producer and business manager, who died in 2005.
“They thought they could get away with anything because they were so small,” he added.
Garland, who died in 1969, described the actor’s behavior before her death. In a 1967 interview with Jack Paar, Judy Garland said, “They were little drunks … They got smashed every night, and they picked them up in butterfly nets.”
Rumors about the actors’ bad behavior — ranging from Caligula-like orgies to gambling to prostitution — have been floating around Hollywood for decades. Julie Lugo Cerra, whose father worked near the Wizard of Oz studio in Culver City, CA at the time, told NPR that the hundred and twenty some Munchkin actors “had a really good time” during filming because, for many of them, it was their first time interacting with other little people.
“They were having a very good time and they celebrated a lot,” Cerra added. Her father told her that the Munchkin actors “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.” While she denied many of the rumors, Cerra said, “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.”
Many of the Munchkin actors have denied the claims, arguing that they worked hard for little pay. Munchkin actress Margaret Pellegrini told The Independent in 2009, “There were a lot of them who liked to go out and have a few drinks, but nothing got out of hand. Everyone was having a good time and enjoying themselves. There was no rowdiness or anything like that, and those stories are very upsetting.”
Jerry Maren, the last surviving Munchkin at 97, reportedly asked, “How could you get drunk on $50 a week?” He added, “There were a couple of kids from Germany who liked to drink beer. They drank beer morning, noon and night, and got in a little trouble. They wanted to meet the girls, but they were the only ones.”
In addition to the Munchkin allegations, Luft’s memoir details his love affair with Garland, including her drug addictions and multiple suicide attempts.