Weird News: The Wolf Files

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But the gathering of little people was a social occasion. Margaret Pellegrini, a 4-foot, 3-inch retired actress who played a Sleepy Head, said, “Many marriages resulted in the film, and I made some lifetime friendships.”

Barty and others realized the value in forming an association. “Billy was well established in the film business and he started organizing picnics. That’s where my wife met him in 1952,” says Bankowski. “He had a vision and an easy way about him. He was a big star and treated us all as friends.”

Only 22 little people attended the first LPA meeting in 1957. Today there are more than 6,000 members.

Seinfeld’s Mickey Pays Tribute

Today, Hollywood actors of short stature treat Barty as a mentor. “I first saw him in Foul Play,” said actor Danny Woodburn, who played Kramer’s hot-tempered, 4-foot-tall buddy Mickey on Seinfeld.

“At that time, I wanted to be a vet … When I met him at LPA and at casting calls years later, he was always a nice guy, supportive, helpful.”

Woodburn has just finished shooting six episodes of Special Unit 2, a TV show for Paramount. He’ll be heading to Toronto to work on a Danny DeVito movie, Death to Smoochey, with Robin Williams and Edward Norton.

“Billy paved the way for others … He didn’t always get the roles he wanted. But he wasn’t confrontational,” Woodburn said.

“He worked within the system and he changed it. There was a time when the only roles for black women were as housekeepers and maids. People like Billy Barty changed things.”

Buck Wolf is a producer at The Wolf Files is a weekly feature. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.