This photo book is the perfect gift for anyone who loves The Wizard of Oz or who has a taste for whimsy and the unusual in the world of entertainment.
Jerry Maren was born in 1920 and grew up in a large Italian family in the city of Roxbury, Massachusetts. He played ball and had the usual childhood scrapes and scraps. But by the time he was about ten, it was abundantly clear that he wasn't going to grow up anymore. Jerry was a midget. The medical term is pituitary dwarfism (as distinguished from achondroplastic dwarfism that presents with dysmorphic characteristics like large head and short arms). Pituitary dwarfs like Jerry, generally known as midgets, have a perfectly shaped body and normal features but are just very short. Their condition is caused by pituitary gland malfunction and is now treated with relative success with growth hormones. Jerry had "some shots" when he was a kid but they didn't seem to help.
To deal with his condition, Jerry took dancing and singing lessons (his other, typically sized siblings did, too) and learned he had flair for entertainment. This soon led to what has been his lifelong career in show business.
His big break came when he was added to the troupe known as "Singer's Midgets" – Leo Singer was an entrepreneur who made a living off the talents of little people. When it was learned that MGM was hiring large numbers of midgets for their upcoming film about Dorothy and her trip to Oz based on the beloved children's book, Singer recruited as many midgets as he could find, and Jerry was among those who got the call. He was not only a member of the Munchkin chorus but got a special part – better paid – as one of the Lullabye League, a gang of "toughs" who inhabited the sewers of Munchkinland and presented Dorothy with an honorary lollipop. Most importantly, from working on
TWOO, Jerry met other midgets and made contacts in the entertainment business that kept him in short pants (that's a joke) for the rest of his life. He says, "I realized just how many little people there are in the world. I wasn't the only one in the neighborhood."
In his long career, highlighted with many charming photographs, Jerry played a cigar-smoking baby in the
Our Gang series, a chimpanzee in Bing Crosby and Bob Hope's Road to Morocco, and the Oscar Meyer Weiner boy. He was "Buster Brown" selling children's shoes, a chimp again in
Planet of the Apes, a comic for The Gong Show, and once played the White House dressed as a frog. He and his wife even appeared on an episode of
Seinfeld, as the parents of one of Kramer's girlfriends. In fact, Jerry has been an all-around hard-working star, energetic and well liked, willing to do anything the script called for. He never regarded his stature as anything but a boon, and that in turn has made him seem larger than life, and taller than many lesser, more self-absorbed entertainers.