Last night at Musso & Frank Grill, the big man was Jerry Maren, who happens to be only 4-foot-3. Lots of people -- famous people -- have held court at Musso & Frank's, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler and Orson Welles, but none had been a Munchkin star in "The Wizard of Oz" known for his performance of the song "We Represent the Lollipop Guild."
Maren, a longtime Musso & Frank's customer, just turned 93. He's the last male survivor of the 124 Munchkins in the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, one of the best-known American movies ever.
In his honor, yesterday was proclaimed "Jerry Maren Day" by L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge of Hollywood. "I've met presidents, Heisman Trophy winners, Olympians, all great, but Jerry Maren! He's a pal, and I thought, 'Let's do something for Jerry.'
"We all remember 'The Wizard of Oz.' It taught us to have a heart, a brain, courage, it was about being good."
LaBonge presented the former Munchkin (also famous for his roles as McDonald's Hamburglar and Oscar Mayer's Little Oscar and who has appeared in nearly 100 films) with a birthday card and proclamation.
In a dotted bowtie and newsboy cap, Maren stood propped up on a chair at a banquet table in the restaurant's "New Room," holding a gigantic lollipop and a cigar, and belted out "We Represent the Lollipop Guild" with a slight twist: "We represent the Lollipop Guild/The Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild/And in the name of the Lollipop Guild/We wish to welcome you to Musso & Frank's!"
LaBonge turned to Sergio Gonzalez, a waiter at Musso & Frank's for 41 years, and asked, "Who's bigger than Jerry Maren?" To which Gonzalez tentatively replied, "Keith Richards?" Prodded LaBonge: "Is there anybody you'd rather serve?" Gonzalez: "There's nobody I'd rather serve than Jerry!"
Also in attendance were the current "mayor" of Musso & Frank's, James "Doc" Pappas, and Paul Zollo, who wrote the book "Hollywood Remembered" that included a chapter about Maren. (All those stories about the diminutive actors who portrayed the Munchkins hosting wild orgies during filming were dismissed by Maren.)
Maren, who skipped out on dance class to attend the event in his honor, was asked what his secret was to a long life. "Just livin' the good life. And I don't smoke and I don't drink. The cigar's just for show."