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Karl Slover, First Trumpeteer

Story & Photo By: Dee (DEEDUN) Dunheim

Karl Slover

At nine-years old a midget named Karl Kosiczky escaped an unhappy home life in Germany and joined a midget show, travelling from one European country to another until he moved to the United States.

The young man happened on a very fortunate career opportunity in 1938 as MGM was on the hunt for little people to play those would forever-after-be-known as 'munchkins' The movie, of course, was The Wizard of Oz.

At 21 years of age, he auditioned and happily in the process met the 123 other little people with whom he worked through a grueling two-month production schedule.

Some incidents during rehearsals and filming he recalls vividly. Particularly amusing was his first day on the set when a prop man showed him the incredibly magnificent and extravagant scenery. "I was startled while walking past some trees,' he says, '...They seemed to be making faces at me.'
'I've got news for you,' said the prop man. 'There are men in each tree and they ARE making faces at you!' That particular set-up was for the scene in which Dorothy, along with Toto, the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man, attempted to pick an apple, and the apple trees weren't at all happy about it.

'Judy Garland was young and a little nervous throughout the project,' recalls the munchkin. 'As the main character, she had so much work to do. But she was very sweet and kind to all of us. What I find most amusing is that the Wicked Witch of the West, played by Margaret Hamilton, was actually very much loved by children. She was kind to them, but,' he laughs, 'in the Wizard of Oz she did - and still - scares them to death.'

'Standing four feet and four inches tall, I was the smallest munchkin. I couldn't even reach the door knob,' he says. 'But not only was I the First Trumpeter,' he boasts. 'I was also one of the Munchkin soldiers, one of the singers who led Judy Garland to 'Follow the Yellow Brick Road,' and the only Sleepy Head boy in the nest of eggs.' That makes four parts in the Wizard of Oz!'.

'But I distinctly recall during a newspaper interview last year, Karl chuckled about being dressed up as a female to play a munchkin towns woman,' says Jean Nelson of Chesterton, Indiana. 'So by my count, that would make five parts.' Twenty years ago, Nelson founded the Wizard of Oz Festival and began searching for the original munchkins. One by when as she found them, she invited them to the Festival - which is now the oldest and largest of its kind. Penned by one newspaper writer as the' Mother of the Munchkins,' Nelson smiles when leafing through a mass of loving hand-written letters she continually receives from Slover which always begin 'Dear Mama Nelson' or 'Dear Mother Nelson.'

After the Wizard of Oz, Slover continued his show business career by dancing and singing across the country in the 'Original World Famous Singers Midget Show. 'We'd work for a week at a time, pack up and move on to another town.' When the show broke up in 1942, the man of small stature worked for B.A. Slover who owned several rides at the Royal American Carnival in Tampa. B.A. Slover and his wife Ada took an entrepreneurial shot by opening Southern Amusement. The company booked jobs in shopping centers, loaded the rides onto truck beds and literally took their show on the road. Kosiczky stuck with the family venture and sold tickets for the mobile rides.

Young Karl went to work for and live with the Slover clan in 1943. He became part of a family business with the family he'd grown to love. He became a United States Citizen. The couple wanted to adopt Karl, but he was too old for adoption. He was, however, able to legally change his name to Slover and he did. For the more than 20 years since B.A and Ada passed on, Carl has lived with their son Jimmy and his wife Marion in Tampa, Florida.

Slovers' frame is small, but his lists of professional credits and celebrities he has known is large. He worked with stars like Jimmy Durante and Ray Milland. One movie role led to another for the little person. There was Bringing Up Baby; Terror of Tiny Town (which boasted an all midget cast); and Laurel and Hardy's Blockhead. 'I also had a part in School Time and Magic Trio, They Gave Him A Gun starring Spencer Tracy and' he adds, '...even played a baby in a carriage in The Lost Weekend.'

'I've got a good life. A wonderful life. I've no complaints,' says the mild-mannered munchkin. Outdoors, he enjoys gardening and weed-pulling. But when Florida's sun gets a bit too hot for the 82 year old, relaxes by watching Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Active still, Slover makes television appearances and does newspaper and magazine interviews, public appearances at community organizations, schools and nursing homes giving advice to both young and old.

'My real joy is arriving in Chicago, Illinois on our way to Chesterton, Indiana. We do it each September to attend the Wizard of Oz Festival. It gives us a wonderful opportunity to spend a weekend with Oz fans and reminisce with the munchkins we worked with 66 years ago. The town even has special ambassadors and escorts waiting on us. They make such a fuss over us, and plan for every moment of our visit. But sadly,' says the munchkin, '...there are only nine of us left.'

Sloven's advice to anyone who has reached his age is: 'Just try to get along the best you can. Enjoy what you have. Enjoy where you live. Most of all, remember what Judy Garland said, '....there's no place like home.'
DEEDUN Public Relations
Phone 219 929 1038
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