He’s made a big career out of small roles, but Jerry Maren will always represent the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild. The Boston native was 17 when he played the Munchkin who greets Dorothy with a sweet in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, which has just been rereleased by MGM/UA in a remastered video edition. After Oz, he continued working in film, radio, and TV (most memorably as Mayor McCheese, Big Mac, and the Hamburglar in McDonald’s commercials and as the Confetti Man on The Gong Show). Retired now at 76 and living with his wife, Elizabeth, in Hollywood, he still attends Oz-related events and recently agreed to endure our wee inquisition.
1. What would you want from the Wizard?
To tell the truth, I’ve got everything I ever wanted. I made smart investments because we didn’t make nothing doing The Wizard of Oz. We got $50 a week [for working] six days a week, from 6 in the morning till 7 or 8 at night. Guess who made more money than we did? Toto.
2. What is your favorite memory from the movie?
How wonderful Judy Garland was. We expected her to be a snobby movie star. She was more excited at meeting us than we were at meeting her. How many times do you see 124 midgets at one time?
3. Any truth to the rumors about the Munchkins’ behind-the-scenes carousing?
That was a lot of bulls—, dear. When were they going to party? Even if they did, there were only two or three that did get drunk, a couple of Irish kids.
4. And you didn’t mind appearing in ”Under the Rainbow” [a 1981 comedy starring Chevy Chase that depicts the alleged partying]?
It wasn’t a hell of a movie, but Jesus, I worked 22 weeks and I didn’t do anything. I mean I had a few lines. It was awful, just a bunch of crap.
5. Who would win in a fight — the Munchkins or Willy Wonka‘s Oompa-Loompas?
The Munchkins would win easy. They’re smarter, and they’re more athletically inclined. No contest.