Billy Barty

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Billy Barty
Billy Barty 2.jpg
Born William John Bertanzetti
(1924-10-25)October 25, 1924
Millsboro, Pennsylvania
Died December 23, 2000(2000-12-23) (aged 76)
Glendale, California
Occupation Actor
Years active 1927-2000
Spouse(s) Shirley Bolingbroke
(m.1962-2000; his death)

Billy Barty (October 25, 1924 – December 23, 2000) was an American film actor and television star. In adult life he stood three feet, nine inches (114 cm), due to cartilage-hair hypoplasia dwarfism, and because of his short stature he was often cast in movies opposite taller performers for comic effect. He specialized in outspoken or wisecracking characters. During the 1950s he became a TV star, appearing regularly in the Spike Jones ensemble.

Career[edit]

Feature films[edit]

Barty co-starred with Mickey Rooney in the Mickey McGuire shorts, a comedy series of the 1920s and 1930s based on the Toonerville Folks comics. Small for his age even then, Barty would impersonate very young children alongside brawny authority figures or wild animals, and making these threats seem even larger by comparison.

He appeared in the 1931 movie Frankenstein, in a non credited role as a baby in one of Dr. Pretorius' experiments. In the 1933 film Gold Diggers of 1933, a nine-year-old Barty appeared as a baby who escapes from his stroller. He also appeared as The Child in the 1933 film Footlight Parade.

Much of Barty's film work consisted of bit parts and gag roles. He was featured prominently in the films Fireman Save My Child (with Spike Jones, 1954),The Day of the Locust (1975), W.C. Fields and Me (1976), The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977), Foul Play and The Lord of the Rings (both 1978), Under the Rainbow (1981), Night Patrol (1984), Legend (1985), Tough Guys (1986), Masters of the Universe (1987), Body Slam (1987)direct-to-video, Willow (1988), UHF (1989), Life Stinks (1991) and Radioland Murders (1994). In the 1960s, Barty also appeared in two Elvis Presley films; he had one scene in Roustabout and co-starred without dialogue in Harum Scarum.

Television shows[edit]

Barty appeared several times on the The Dennis Day Show, including once as a leprechaun. Beginning in 1958, he played pool hustler Babby, an occasional "information resource", in eight episodes of the Peter Gunn TV series. Barty starred in the Rawhide episode "Prairie Elephant" in 1961.

Barty was known for his boundless energy and enthusiasm for any productions in which he appeared. He performed with the Spike Jones musical comedy show on stage and television, and is remembered for his remarkable parody of flamboyant pianist Liberace.

Barty also starred in a local Southern California children's show, Billy Barty's Bigtop, in the mid-1960s, which regularly showed The Three Stooges shorts. In one program, Stooge Moe Howard visited the set as a surprise guest. The program gave many Los Angeles area children their first opportunity to become familiar with little people, who until then had been rarely glimpsed on the screen except as two-dimensional curiosities. He also appeared as a guest host on KTTV's Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade whenever "Sheriff John" Rovick was on vacation.

Barty also starred as "Sparky the Firefly" in the popular children's television shows The Bugaloos from 1970 to 1972 and as "Sigmund" in Sigmund and the Sea Monsters produced by Sid Krofft and Marty Krofft from 1974 to 1976. Barty played the evil sidekick on the 1970s Saturday morning TV series Dr. Shrinker, and was a regular cast member of comedian Redd Foxx's variety show The Redd Foxx Show. Barty was regularly seen on the Canadian comedy show Bizarre, a weekly Canadian TV sketch comedy series, airing from 1980 to 1985. In 1983, Barty supplied the voice for "Figment" in EPCOT Center's Journey Into Imagination dark ride. He subsequently supplied a reprisal for the second incarnation, though very brief.

Barty was a beloved annual guest-star on Canada's Telemiracle telethon, one of the most successful (per capita) telethons in the world.

Billy also appeared on a 1971 episode of Celebrity Bowling, paired with Dick Martin, in a match against John Schuck & Michael Ansara, in which Billy and Dick won, 120-118. He also guest starred on 'The Waltons', 'Little House on the Prairie', 'The Love Boat' and "The Golden Girls'.

Activism[edit]

Barty was a noted activist for the promotion of rights for others with dwarfism. He was disappointed with contemporary Hervé Villechaize's insistence that they were "midgets" instead of actors with dwarfism. Barty founded the Little People of America organization to help people with dwarfism in 1957 when he called upon people of short stature to join him in a get-together in Reno, Nevada. That original meeting of 21 people grew into Little People of America, a group which as of 2010 has more than 6,800 members. It was the first North American organization for little people.

Other[edit]

A tribute book on Barty's life was published in December 2002. Within Reach: An Inspirational Journey into the Life, Legacy and Influence of Billy Barty was produced by Barty's nephew, Michael Copeland, and Michael's wife, Debra.

In 1990, Barty was sued in small claims court by two of the writers of his cancelled comedy TV series Short Ribbs, which aired for 13 weeks in the Fall of 1989 as a local program on KDOC-TV; producer and writer William Winckler and writer Warren Taylor filed separate lawsuits against Barty for money owed, and Barty lost both cases. Barty claimed the lawsuit news was the most publicity he ever got, and compared it to similar press that celebrity Zsa Zsa Gabor received for slapping a Beverly Hills, California police officer.[1][2]

In 1991, Barty was the subject of a punk rock song called "Lou's in the House" recorded by The Squids. The song's first lyric is "Billy Barty had a party and everyone was there."

Personal life and death[edit]

Barty, an Italian American, was born William John Bertanzetti in Millsboro, Pennsylvania. From 1962 until his death, he was married to Shirley Bolingbroke of Malad City, Idaho. They had two children, Lori Neilson and TV/film producer and director Braden Barty.

Barty and his family were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[3]

Barty died of heart failure in 2000 at age 76.[4] He was entombed in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

Quotes[edit]

  • "The name of my condition is cartilage hair hypoplasia, but you can just call me Billy."[5]
  • "The general public thinks all little people are in circuses or sideshows. We have doctors, nurses, just about every field covered."[5]

Trivia[edit]

  • Owned a rollerskating rink in Fullerton, California, called "Billy Barty's Roller Fantasy". A movie started shooting there in the mid-1980s but was never completed.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Los Angeles Times: "SHORT TAKES : Barty to Pay; Claims Victory"". Articles.latimes.com. 1990-03-20. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  2. ^ "SHORT TAKES : Barty Ordered to Pay TV Writer". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. May 8, 1990. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  3. ^ "Mormon News for WE 29Dec00: Diminutive Mormon Entertainer Bill". Mormonstoday.com. 2000-12-29. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  4. ^ "LA Times Obit". Articles.latimes.com. 1992-08-20. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  5. ^ a b Chavez, Paul (2000-12-24). "The name of my condition is Cartilage Hair Syndrome Hypoplasia, but you can just call me Billy". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  6. ^ "SHORT TAKES : Barty to Pay; Claims Victory - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. 1990-03-20. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  • Copeland, Michael and Debra (2002). Within Reach: An Inspirational Journey into the Life, Legacy and Influence of Billy Barty. Xulon Press. ISBN 1-59160-391-9. 

External links[edit]