By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
THE MUNCHKIN RULE
I have been making public appearances and giving speeches of one kind or another for more than half a century. What, you man ask (or maybe you won’t. See if I care.) is the most important lesson I have learned through all those year of making public appearances? This rule, above all, takes precedence.
Never give control of the microphone to a munchkin.
It is a lesson I learned the hard way.
About a dozen years ago I was the master of ceremonies at a dinner in Fort Myers, Florida at which many Red Sox players, former players and club executives were present. There were a lot of people on the speaking program. One job of the emcee is to keep the program moving, to get ‘em on and get ‘em off, so there was no room for extraneous delays. People don’t want to be sitting in a banquet hall until eleven o’clock at night when they can be doing more useful things, like going to the bar.
On this particular night, though, there was a celebrity in the audience who was not on the speaking program, but whom I thought it was important to introduce for a bow. His name was Mickey Carroll. Mickey was not an old ballplayer. He was an old munchkin.
He had been one of the munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, the classic 1939 film that starred Judy Garland, Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr. He played the town crier. (You could look it up.) He was only nineteen when the movie was made but had reached the ripe old age of eighty-six on the night of the banquet. Lord only knows how old that is in munchkin years. Sadly, Mickey has since passed on to that Great Yellow Brick Road in the Sky.
I knew that the audience would be thrilled to discover that there was an actual munchkin in its midst. “Ladies and gentlemen,” I began, “We have a special guest in the audience tonight, one of the original munchkins from The Wizard of Oz, Mickey Carroll! Take a bow, Mickey!”
Mickey jumped down from his seat and waved merrily. The crowd was ecstatic that an honest-to-God munchkin was there in person. There was one problem.
Nobody could see him.
After all, he was a munchkin.
The fellow in charge of the dinner whispered to me, “Let’s bring him up on the dais so people can see him,” Sounded like a good idea. I said, “Come on up here and say hello to the folks, Mickey.” And he came bounding up onto the dais, amazingly spry for an eight-six year old munchkin. I put a chair behind the podium and lifted him up onto it so that he could be seen. And Mickey went into his act.
It soon became apparent that he did indeed have an act, and that he was intent on doing it. Some of his material was a bit blue for the audience but he was getting away with it because he was, let’s face it, a munchkin. Now I had another problem. There was a full lineup of speakers to be heard from and Mickey was going to go on for God-only-knows how long. I had to get him off.
But here’s the rub. How do you elbow aside an eighty-six year old munchkin without coming across as a complete lout?
But I found an opening. Mickey, rolling along in his monologue, threw in a local reference. He said, “I’m so worried about the Red Sox this season that I was up all night last night – pacing up and down underneath the bed.” When he paused for the laugh, I sprang forward and cried out, “Mickey Carroll, ladies and gentlemen! Let’s hear it for the munchkin!” I lifted him off the chair and put him on the floor where no one could see him.. Mickey looked around, shrugged, and went back to his seat. And I went on with the rest of the program.
That, boys and girls, is the last time I ever gave control of the microphone to a munchkin.
STOP THAT MUNCHKIN
If a munchkin shows up at your banquet some night,
Whatever you do, keep the mike out of sight.
If he sees it, he’ll grab it, jump up in a chair,
For the rest of the evening you’ll be stuck there.
That munchkin won’t give up the spotlight because
He was, of course, in the Wizard of Oz.
He’ll yak on about Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr,
And tell you how he was the movie’s real star.
On and on he will go till you think you”ll explode;
It’s a long, long trip down that yellow brick road.
Let’s face it, you”ll be trapped there, old sport,
‘Cause you can’t tell a munchkin to just keep it short.