Monday, April 12, 2010

Ding, Dong; The Coroner's Dead

He’s really most sincerely dead. Munchkin Meinhardt Raabe passed away last week at 95 under happier circumstances: he lived to see thousands of fans practically adore him, he rode thousands of miles, thirty years, in the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, and he was a wartime pilot (did he sit on phone books??).

Raabe became a regular visitor to the annual OzFest in Chittenango, N.Y. “Meinhardt wrote us a letter and said, 'You know I'm a Munchkin. I was in this movie. Would you ever be interested in having me come?' Of course, after we stopped screaming ...," organizer Barbara Evans said in 1998.

Raabe, no dummy, held degrees in accounting and an MBA, later working for Oscar Meyer. Then he saw the notice from MGM. He had been a barker at a sort of sideshow and he felt this helped him get the coroner’s job in “Oz.” Of 124 Munchkin actors, only nine had speaking parts.

Later he joined the Civil Air Patrol, became a skilled test pilot and spent the war years as the smallest uniformed pilot in U.S. history. He served as a ground instructor, teaching combat pilots meteorology and navigation. Even though his size prevented him from seeing combat, he became the smallest licensed pilot to fly during wartime.

So there he was, the once and future Oscar Meyer Little Chef, all dressed up in his coroner’s outfit, officially pronouncing the death of the Wicked Witch of the East.


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