Jerry Maren looked like any grandfather – plaid shirt, khakis, baseball cap and orthopedic sneakers – except for his height. Despite the fact that he portrayed one of the most recognizable characters in film history, the “Lollipop Kid” from “The Wizard of Oz,” few people recognized him when he came to Huntsville, Alabama, in 2005. Baby Girl and I met Maren and his diminutive wife, Elizabeth, when I interviewed them for a newspaper article.
Maren died May 24, 2018, at the age of 98, but his death was only made public Wednesday.
Maren was the young man in the green suit who handed Dorothy (Judy Garland) a lollipop to welcome her to Munchkinland. Jerry was born in 1920 in Boston and turned 18 while filming “Oz.”
Baby Girl was 11 years old and a head taller then the Marens when I took her photo with them before they gave a performance in Huntsville called “Journey to Oz,” in which they went onstage and talked about his “Oz” memories and their life together.
The couple met after Jerry saw her photo in a newsletter for the Little People of America and asked for an introduction. Both had worked in Hollywood. Elizabeth Maren, who was born in Mobile, Alabama, was a stand-in for child actors. She described how she rode in a mining cart in “The Apple Dumpling Gang” because the stunt was too dangerous for the child actor. Elizabeth, who Maren called his “little dolly,” died in 2011.
Maren was a vaudeville actor, singer and dancer before landing the role in one of the most beloved films of all time. He said he’d never seen another little person before arriving on the “Oz” set. The 4-foot-4 actor later had roles in numerous films, and would portray Little Oscar for the Oscar Mayer Company, Buster Brown for Buster Brown Shoes, and Mayor McCheese and the Hamburglar for McDonald’s.
When we met, Jerry and I discussed the possibility of me writing a book about his life. Baby Girl and I traveled to Long Island, NY, where the couple lived, to discuss the project with the Marens and their agent. We had dinner at an old-fashioned, silver-clad diner on Long island and I later interviewed Jerry several times before we eventually decided not to proceed with the book.
He was a very nice guy and she was a feisty and funny lady. They led interesting lives and I’m glad I got to know them, if only for a little while. Farewell, Lollipop Kid. You will live on, somewhere over the rainbow.