Memoirs of a Doggie Diva
First came the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, then the revelation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. And now, thanks to a 1993 lane-expansion project on the Ventura Freeway, humanity has recovered the lost years of . . . Toto.
At least, that’s how “The Wizard of Oz” collector Willard Carroll tells it in “I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, the Dog Who Was Toto” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang). Carroll, whose Oz trove numbers more than 20,000 pieces, claims he was at a demolished pet cemetery near the construction area eight years ago when he just happened to unearth a metal box containing Toto’s leather-bound scrapbook.
“We had to do a little restoration here and there,” says the author (er, editor). Carroll insists that Toto used a manual typewriter (“I’m keeping it a secret how she learned to type”) to document her salad days as a movie star in more than a dozen films opposite talents such as Judy Garland, Shirley Temple and Spencer Tracy. The “memoir” includes press clippings, movie stills, snapshots and commentary. (“I have six [barking] lines in this [Oz] scene! And I’m gonna make the most of them.”)
Well, this much is true: The famous--and female--cairn terrier indeed spent her last years during the 1930s and ‘40s at Carl Spitz’s Hollywood Dog Training School on Riverside Drive in North Hollywood. And she was buried in a pet cemetery on the grounds of the school, which was vacated in 1958 to make way for a stretch of the Ventura Freeway (later the site of the 1993 expansion).
Whatever its provenance, “I, Toto” offers a dog’s-eye view on the making of “The Wizard of Oz.” The canine star confirms those rumored squabbles on the set of the 1939 classic. Off the set, we learn, she melted in the arms of a doting Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), was spooked by wind machines and the witch’s minions, the Winkies, and, like many a film diva, teetered on the brink of a nervous breakdown. “The dog, indeed, was given a little down time,” Carroll confirms. “She was pretty stressed out.”
Love a good book?
Get the latest news, events and more from the Los Angeles Times Book Club, and help us get L.A. reading and talking.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.