RIP – MEINHARDT RAABE


EXPIRED: 04/09/10 – Meinhardt Raabe, 94, grew up the son of Wisconsin dairy farmers. Now Wisconsin is a tough place – and you have to walk tall.

Which is hard when you’re a midget.

Raabe endured years of schoolyard teasing about his smallness, but he was the only one of his kind around. He never came across anyone else like him. So imagine his surprise, and joy, when he wandered into the Midget Village attraction at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

Midgets. Lots of them.

And they were happy.

For the next three years, Raabe worked summers with other little people at expositions around the country, often as a pitchman. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, only to learn that no corporation would hire him.

“You don’t belong here,” he remembers being told. “You belong in a carnival.”

One company did hire him though – Oscar Meyer – although they seemed to be more interested in his diminutive size than his skills as a salesman.  Dubbed ‘Little Oscar,’ Raabe started touring the country promoting Oscar Meyer products and driving the Wienermobile.

Then, in 1938, came word through the grapevine of a demand for little people in Hollywood. Sensing opportunity, he boarded a train due west.

The casting director for Wizard of Oz had already chosen little people actors for the Mayor, the three Lullaby League dancers and the three members of the Lollipop Guild. There weren’t many speaking parts for ‘Munchkins’ But there was still the part of the coroner left – and it was a big part. The coroner had to pronounce the Wicked Witch deceased.

This is where Raabe’s sales skills came in handy. He had a great speaking voice.

“As coroner, I must aver, I thoroughly examined her. And she’s not only merely dead, she’s really, most sincerely dead.”

His on-screen time lasted only 13 seconds, and his lines were dubbed over, but thanks to televised repeats year after year, generation after generation, Raabe’s one of the most famous – if smallest – coroners ever.

After filming ended he got married, learned to fly, got a master’s degree in gardening and became a motivational speaker and author. Two years ago he went back to Hollywood from his home in Florida to see the Star honoring all the Munchkins placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

READ THE OBIT

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