Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy are Hollywood royalty whose names are on the Walk of Fame – cinema icons in whose movies Karl Slover had the pleasure to play roles.
Karl was born 93 years ago with a short stature. By age 21 he measured in at just over 4 feet tall. His Slovakian family was of normal height and his dad was more than 6 feet tall. Numerous drastic attempts were made by his father to help Karl reach a growth spurt, even by placing him in a device that would stretch his small-frame body.
Nothing worked, and when Leo Singer, manager of the Singer Midgets, passed through Karl’s hometown searching for little people to play roles in movies being made back in America, Karl’s dad quickly replied, “Take him. I can’t do anything with him, and he will never be able to follow in my footsteps.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Karl Slover in 2009 while searching to determine if any original cast members from The Wizard of Oz were still living. I located Karl living in Dublin, Ga. The idea was introduced to him of visiting Augusta and taking part as we re-premiered the 1939 classic movie. Karl quickly replied, “Yes!”
The evening of July 17, 2010, will definitely be a highlight in Augusta’s history book, as Karl took the stage of the Paul Simon Theater and shared his memories with emcee Ashley Campbell of making what eventually became the most watched movie of all time.
The sold-out crowd hung on to every word Karl uttered and in keeping with tradition he concluded his interview by singing We’re Off to See the Wizard. By the end of the song, the crowd had joined in reciting every word in unison.
In a recent conversation, Karl shared with me how he was originally selected to be the second trumpeter in that now famous Munchkinland scene, but the first trumpeter kept falling asleep while standing and missed his cue to walk out. After nudging the first trumpeter to wake Karl asked the director to let him go first and the rest is history. That was one of four roles Karl Slover had in the timeless movie.
Augusta rolled out the red carpet during Karl’s 2010 visit, and Commissioner J.R. Hatney presented him with a plaque commemorating July 17, 2010, as Karl Slover Day.
Because of Karl’s short frame, for 93 years he was always looking up to people. With his passing, Karl Slover is one individual we as friends will always look up to. In my office hangs an autographed Wizard of Oz photo that reads “Follow The Yellow Brick Road – Karl Slover.” I find inspiration in that message.
We have lost a dear friend and will always remember Karl Slover, his connection with Augusta and his proud walk down the Yellow Brick Road.
(The writer is president and CEO of Augusta Amusements.)