‘They Were Drunks’ – The Hotel-trashing Munchkins Of Oz

The Munchkin’s wild hotel-trashing parties shocked MGM, their fellow actors and the local police. Night after night they tore it up in the Culver Hotel with their drunken debauchery. One Munchkin allegedly came on set armed with two loaded pistols to threaten a fellow Munchkin for making eyes at his wife. But is this urban myth true? Let’s hear from those who lived it: the cast and crew of the Wizard of Oz.

1. The film’s producer, Mervyn LeRoy said the Munchkins caused a lot of trouble: “they had parties in the hotel, and we had to have police on just about every floor.

2. Judy Garland often talked of the hard-partying Munchkins in interviews – once saying: “They were drunks. They got smashed every night and the police had to pick them up.” She also claimed she went on a date with a Munchkin and her mother as a chaperone, to which the Munchkin said: “Fair enough, two broads for the price of one.”

3. Make-up artist Jack Dawn told a story about a Munchkin called The Count who went missing one day: “He had got plastered during lunch, fallen in the toilet and could not get out.”

4. Bert Lahr, who played the character of the Cowardly Lion is quoted as saying that many Munchkins “made their living by panhandling, pimping and whoring.”

5. Hollywood gossip David Niven told a story about the Munchkins dancing on the roof of a cinema drinking Scotch who had got so wild they had stripped off, leading to the Fire Department having to come and capture them one by one in a pillow case and bring them down.

6. Screenwriter Noel Langley claimed not all the rumors were true, but admitted that the Munchkins were: “very raunchy people. They raided the lot. The showgirls had to be escorted in bunches by armed guards.”

7. Lyricist Yip Harburg claimed that the stories had been exaggerated but did admit to the following incidents: drunken Munchkins biting policemen, some carrying knives and a female Munchkin trying to solicit business from men!

8. The Munchkin actors denied it and said they were hard-workers with no time for bad behavior. Former Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini said the stories were upsetting, while Jerry Maren asked: “How could you get drunk on $50 a week?” and blamed it on a few bad apples: “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.

9. The Munchkins reputation as notorious hell-raising reputation lives on and even inspired the 1981 movie comedy “Under the Rainbow” – while in 1997, the Culver Hotel showed all was forgiven and held Munchkin Week for the 14 surviving Munchkins.