Jerry Maren has died. He was 98 years old.

Maren was the last surviving featured cast member of the classic Wizard of Oz.  He was unforgettable as one of the famous Lollipop Guild boys who presented Dorothy with a large lollipop during her initial visit to Oz.

But I knew Jerry Maren very late in his life.  The tiny (under 4 feet tall) actor made many movies in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the Wizard of Oz was his legacy.  But late in his career he was also a regular on the Chuck Barris game show The Gong Show.  As almost all of my listeners know by now, I was a winner on the Gong Show in the late 1970s.  My act was singing "Bad Bad LeRoy Brown" in a shower!  After winning my prize, Jerry Maren came out and handed me my prize check of $516.32.  The check was bigger than Maren and yes, it made for a hilarious sight gag.

I only have a few photographs of my appearance on the Gong Show, snapped by a hand held camera pointing at a TV.  I interviewed Chuck Barris about 15 years ago on my radio show and asked him if he remembered my act, singing in the shower.  He said he most certainly did.  He called it "a classic performance."  He also said he sold the rights to the show and has no idea about any surviving videos of the episodes.  (Yes, I have watched every one that has popped upon TV to no avail).

BUT>>> the photos still exist and are shown below.  When I heard that Jerry Maren had died, I quickly looked at my old Gong Show photos to see if he could be seen in them giving me my check.  As you can tell, the photo of me getting my trophy would have been a mere seconds before Jerry came on the stage for the check presentation.

So that is my connection to Jerry Maren, the last recognizable cast member of the Wizard of Oz.  A weird connection, but a real one.

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Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Short-Sweet-Times-Lollipop-Munchkin/dp/1581825439