IF: small

And in the name of the Lolly pop Guild, We wish to welcome you to Muchkinland

Harry Earles was the most successful actor in Hollywood. The most successful actor under 40 inches tall, that is.

Harry came to the United States as Kurt Schneider at the age of 13. He came with his sisters Freida (later called “Grace”) and Hilda (later called “Daisy”). The family, all little people, worked in the circus for a man named Earles. They adopted his surname professionally, although they were sometimes billed as “The Doll Family.” Their younger sister Tiny joined the act in the early 20s.

Harry made his motion picture debut in the Tod Browning-directed silent film The Unholy Three. The film, starring screen legend Lon Chaney, featured a preposterous plot involving a trio of circus performers embarking on a life of crime. Chaney, a ventriloquist, disguised himself in women’s clothes, passing as a grandmother. Harry, snuggled in a baby carriage, played Chaney’s grandson. Victor McLaglen, the circus strongman, came along for the ride as their accomplice for the heavy lifting. Together, they bilked the wealthy by selling them fake talking parrots. When complaints came in, they would come to the customer’s home to pick up the non-verbal birds and rob the place. Not exactly Mission: Impossible. The movie was remade in 1930, as a talkie, with Chaney and Harry reprising their roles. It would be Chaney’s last film before his death.

But Harry’s career blossomed. He went on to make thirteen more films, including six times as a man playing a baby for underhanded purposes. He still performed with the circus during his film career, eventually starring with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey.

In 1932, Harry starred in the film for which he is most remembered (although not his most famous film.) He played “Hans,” the star of the circus in Tod Browning’s cult masterpiece Freaks. Harry’s sister Daisy was cast in the role of “Freida,” the wife of Harry’s character. (That’s right — his sister was playing his wife.) Featuring another absurd story line, Freaks was notable for presenting actual circus sideshow performers in their actual roles. Movie audiences were horrified and Freaks was eventually banned in many states and in England for 30 years.

Harry’s final film role was as a member of The Lollipop Guild, the little tough-guy Munchkins who welcome Dorothy when she crash-lands in Oz in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. (Harry’s the guy in blue on the right.) Harry returned full-time to the life that made him happy — the circus.

He retired to Florida and lived, with his sisters, in a house that was custom-built to accommodate the family’s small stature. Harry passed away in 1985, at the age of 83.

IF: vacation

Two weeks without you and I still haven't gotten over you yet
I’ll be honest with you. I took my second trip to Walt Disney World in 1981 because I was so drunk during my first trip the previous year, I wasn’t able to remember a whole lot.

I wasn’t violent or destructive or even mischievous. I was just plain, old-fashioned inebriated, and thus, a temporary amnesiac. Yeah, I know. Drunk in Walt Disney World? How awful! Not to justify my actions, but I was nineteen. I was on my first vacation without my parents. And, most importantly, I was of legal drinking age in Florida.  But, I must stress, I was not belligerent nor aggressive nor did I impede on anyone’s good time.

Unlike these people…

In 2009, my family took a trip to Walt Disney World. We did all the things we had done on previous trips regardless of the fact that my son was now 22. We all approached the experience with the strange combination of the wonderment of children and the cynicism of… well… Pincuses. One evening, we dined in one of our favorite restaurants – The Rose and Crown, located on the banks of the great World Showcase Lagoon in EPCOT’s United Kingdom Pavilion. Having no real frame of reference, I imagine that the eatery is a “Disney-fied” recreation of a sanitized version of a British pub. Our waitress, Linda, like most cast members (Disney’s corporate euphemism for “employee”), was friendly, talkative, attentive and overall delightful. In between dinner courses, she told tales of living in her native England* and about working at Walt Disney World. As she cleared away our main course dishes — and confirmed that it would be okay to linger and watch the nightly “IllumiNations” fireworks spectacular from our prime vantage point — she told us that she rarely waits tables in the dining room. Her usual assignment is tending the bar at the pub in the front portion of the building. We laughed and imagined that she probably has seen her share of interesting behavior. She suddenly pulled up a chair and leaned in close to relate one such incident. She smiled and explained that, while most guests are happy and cheerful, some get a little hostile after a few beers — no matter where they are. One recent night, as closing time approached, two gentlemen were knocking back more than their fair share of Bass Ales while their families where wandering about elsewhere. Something triggered a disagreement between the two. Soon, it elevated to a heated argument that evolved into several unwelcome shoves. Linda quickly set down the glasses that she was wiping down to practically leap over the polished wood bar and place herself in harm’s way as a buffer between these vacationing combatants.

“Hey!,” she shouted, extending her small arms in an effort to keep these lunkheads out of each others reach before they came to blows. “Let’s not forget where we are!,” she loudly reminded them,”We’re in Disney World! The happiest place on Earth!” Another cast member summoned a couple of burly security officers and the rambunctious pair were led off… in different directions. Linda confessed that episodes like that happen more often than you’d expect. Way more often.

More recently, as a matter of fact, Space Mountain and The Haunted Mansion weren’t exciting enough for one Andrew Hall. His May 2015 vacation called for a little more adventure than Disney could offer, as related in this story from The Orlando Sentinel.

My family is once again planning a Disney vacation. We will try to behave ourselves.

*When EPCOT first opened its gates in 1982, they made a conscious effort to employ natives of the respective countries represented in World Showcase in order to maintain the “you are actually in this country” illusion of which Disney is the pioneer and master.

from my sketchbook: adrian robinson

Joltin' Joe has left and gone away
Standing 6 foot 1 and weighing in at 250 pounds, Adrian Robinson was a force on the football field. In high school, he was a two-time all-state honoree. At Philadelphia’s Temple University, he played every game of the 2008 season. He led his team to a victory in the New Mexico Bowl, Temple’s first bowl victory in 30 years.

However, his NFL career was less than stellar.

He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing for a little over a year until a trade sent him to the Philadelphia Eagles. He was released by the Eagles after only a week. Immediately, he was picked up by the Denver Broncos, only to be released a month later. He was then picked up by the San Diego Chargers and again released within a month. The Washington Redskins offered Robinson a stint, but released him eight months later. He was signed to The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad, but he was released after two weeks. In April 2015, he signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.

Robinson hanged himself on May 16, 2015. He was 25 years old.