Sunday, August 10, 2008

New Roche Figurine from the Yellow Brick Road

Karl Kosiczsky was born September 21 1918 and was a seemingly average child until the age of four when he stopped growing. Karl endured a few grueling, feeble minded attempts to force him to grow, but thankfully saner heads prevailed before serious injury occurred. In 1927, Karl accepted a job with the famed Singer Midget Troupe under the tutelage of Leo Singer. They eventually made their way to the United States and performed in almost every state even spending 3 years in Hawaii. In 1938, MGM Studios contracted Leo Singer to provide the little people needed to inhabit Munchkinland in the Wizard of Oz. Enough little people couldn't be found and some played multiple parts to fill in the gaps. Karl was the first trumpeter to herald the arrival of the Mayor of Munchkinland, a soldier, a sleepyhead, and one of the Munchkins urging Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road.

At the time of the filming of the Munchkinland sequences Karl was 21 years old and stood 3 feet tall. He’s since grown to 4 feet 4 inches. Karl doesn’t have many memories of Judy Garland, but states she was very nice as were all of the principal cast members. Time went on and Karl parted ways with Singer in 1943. Karl found a new home in the Slover household and became not only an employee of their carnival business but a member of their family. Karl legally changed his name to Slover when he became an American citizen. The Munchkins were largely ignored until the early 1980s when Oz mania was starting to take root and they were approached for personal appearances and interviews. Their celebrity has been steadily gaining and there’s no ebb in sight. In November 2007, Karl attended the Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony honoring the Munchkins with their own, long overdue, Hollywood star. Karl Slover delights in regaling fans, be it an audience of one or hundreds, with his memories of Oz, his amazing life and his infectious giggle. Despite his early adversity, Karl is one of the gentlest, warmest human beings and expresses no regrets.

The Yellow Brick Road

Oz purists sometimes scoff at the MGM movie for “dismissing” Dorothy’s adventures as a dream. But it’s a marvelous dream that an estimated billion people have enjoyed along with Dorothy. There’s a lot to be had from our dreams if we’re only willing to believe. Case in point: The Yellow Brick Road Shop in Chesterton, Indiana.

Jean Nelson opened The Yellow Brick Road Shop, so named after dreaming of the Wicked Witch, in 1978 as a doll shop. After a deluge of inquiries regarding Oz merchandise, Jean made the monumental decision to seek out Oz collectibles for her shop. She had no inkling at the time what an impact such a simple idea would have. Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch herself, visited the shop in 1980 and was so impressed by Jean’s personal collection, she suggested an Oz museum. In 1981, the shop evolved into the Yellow Brick Road Gift Shop and Museum.

Around this time, Chesterton and the surrounding areas of Northwest Indiana suffered multiple factory closings and lay offs resulting in a depressed economy and low morale overall. Jean Nelson’s generous nature propelled her into action. She invited munchkin Parnell St. Aubin and his wife Mary Ellen to attend an afternoon Wizard of Oz event in 1982. The St. Aubin’s helped Jean recruit more munchkins and the festival grew by leaps and bounds. A quaint three hour afternoon affair expanded into a mammoth three day festival jam packed with ozzy celebrities and activities to enthrall the young and young at heart. Jean’s efforts in bringing the last surviving cast members of the MGM film to the forefront have earned her the title “Mother of the Munhkins.” Jean Nelson retired in 2000 and the Yellow Brick Road Shop fell under the new ownership of Marilyn Zengler who works tirelessly to continue Jean’s extraordinary vision.

The Oz festival relocated to nearby Valparaiso in 2006, but festival attendees still flock in droves to the Yellow Brick Road’s Munchkinland Market Days.

Michael Roche Wizard of Oz Figurine Collection
Dave Grossman Creations commissioned award winning artist Michael Roche to sculpt Wizard of Oz characters to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the MGM movie. The series of cold cast marble figurines began with Dorothy & Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. The hand painted sculptures ranging in height from from 5 3/4" to 8 1/4" were also produced as smaller figurines and Christmas ornaments. In 1990, Glinda, the Wizard, and the Wicked Witch of the West were added to the line. Due to their popularity these figurines are getting harder to find, but the Wicked Witch is especially difficult to locate because so many were damaged in shipping when the crystal ball broke loose from it's confines.

Dave Grossman opted to discontinue the series, but Michael Roche has been steadily producing limited edition Oz figurines of his own accord starting with the Mayor of Munchkinland and a winged monkey in 1992. The Lollipop Boy and the Coroner followed in 1994 and 1996 respectively. Michael Roche has been a staple of the Yellow Brick Road's Munchkinland Market Days since 1995. A munchkin townslady figurine modeled after the beloved Margaret Pellegrini was commissioned by the shop in 2006. This year the Yellow Brick Road and Michael Roche are proud to present Karl Slover as The Trumpeter. Karl has been a festival favorite for many years and this limited edition figurine is sure to sell out. The pre-sale price is $119.96 until September 15. After that date, the regular price will be $149.95. You can order The Trumpeter online or during Munchkinland Market Days September 12 - 14.

Congratulations Yellow Brick Road Gift Shop and Museum on your 30th Anniversary!!!!!!!!! Thank you Jean Nelson for sharing your dream to make the dreams of thousands come true and thank you Marilyn Zengler for picking up the torch for future generations to travel over the rainbow and follow the Yellow Brick Road.

Michael Roche figurine and Yellow Brick Road Store photos courtesy of the Yellow Brick Road

Be sure to scroll down for more Oz. Lots of news coming in!