Gus Wayne, one of the 124 midgets who graced the screen in “The Wizard of Oz” in 1939, died Jan 23 of heart failure at a nursing home in Lakeland, Fla. He was 77.
Wayne had been in ill health since suffering a stroke three years ago. Only 13 midget actors from “Oz” still survive.
Wayne was born Oct. 16, 1920, in the Bronx, New York. At age 18 he went to Hollywood and appeared as a “munchkin soldier” in “Oz” before returning to New York and working at the World’s Fair for the Sunshine Biscuit Co. as a little chef promoting the bakery’s product.
Wayne was later employed by the Philip Morris cigarette company as their famous character “Little Johnny.” Dressed in a red bellhop uniform, Wayne shouted the famous catchphrase, “Caaaaaall for Phillip Morris!” on radio commercials. He also toured the country in public appearances during the 1940s.
During the 1960s, Wayne worked for the Lucky Casino in Las Vegas as “Mr. Lucky.” In 1973 Wayne joined Piper Aircraft, where he worked until his retirement in 1980.
He had been married to performer Olive Brasno (also a midget performer) for 37 years. She died two days later.
There were no survivors.