The Post – So What Ever Happened to Toto?

It’s a Friday, and while I get the rest of the art work photos ready for blog view, I figured a fun post was in order.

I am an incorrigible Wizard of Oz fan. The annual broadcast of the Wizard of Oz when I was growing up, usually sometime in the Spring, was like a national holiday or a Holy Day of Obligation. You marked your calendar months in advance and come that night, you were right there in front of the TV. This, of course, was back in the dark ages before VCRs or DVDs. There was no “record it to watch later” or “rent it to watch when you want.” You either watched it the night the network decided to broadcast it, or you waited until the next year. To further date myself, we still had a black-and-white TV set. I told you it was the dark ages. While it didn’t matter for the beginning and end of the film, both of which were in black-and-white, we always did miss out on the whole part of the film where she “wasn’t in Kansas anymore” – the amazing panorama of color when she opened the door to Munchkinland. Unless we were at our cousins’ house and got to stay late to watch at least the “opening of the door” part. My uncle owned a TV repair service, so they had a color TV.

Anyway, aside from the Wicked Witch of the West, my favorite character was Dorothy’s dog, Toto. It was a small Cairn terrier and the dog had more courage, and brains, than some of the human characters. And you just had to cheer for anything that would tear up Miss Gulch’s garden. Toto had more spunk that Dorothy’s Auntie Em, who could only lament to Miss Gulch: “For twenty-three years I’ve been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now… well, being a Christian woman, I can’t say it!” Toto didn’t waste words. She just bit Miss Gulch, then later escaped her clutches to return to Dorothy. And if you think that Toto was just “some dog” consider that Toto made $125 a week making this film, more than many of the human actors in it.

So why reminisce about Toto now? My husband and I are weird in that we often speak to each other in “movie code.” We will be out somewhere and something will catch our attention, and instead of just making an ordinary comment about it, we’ll look at each other then recite one of the thousands of movie lines we’ve stored in our brains. The truly scary thing is that the other one of us will totally understand what the other is getting at.

It’s also not unusual for one of these references to take on a life of its own and send us off on a totally new quest. Last Thanksgiving, we were walking through Colonial Williamsburg when we spotted a Cairn terrier that looked just like Toto from the Wizard of Oz. Given that the owner holding its leash looked pretty grumpy, of course we had to do the “Run, Toto, Run” line, and the “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!” – both classic lines from the Wizard of Oz. Our conversation eventually morphed into “Gee, I wonder what happened to Toto?” We stopped, looked at each other, and smiled deviously while our son rolled his eyes because he knew what this meant. We got back to my sister’s house, pulled out the computer and spent the next 20 minutes Googling Toto.

So…do you want to know what happened to Toto or not?

Well, apparently Toto, whose real name was Terry, had quite the film resume, appearing in 13 movies starring alongside such unknowns as Spencer Tracy and Shirley Temple, and she even co-starred again with Margaret Hamilton (the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West) in 1942. She nearly died during the making of the Wizard of Oz, when one of the witch’s guards stepped on her and broke her foot. She was renamed Toto because of the popularity of the Wizard of Oz, and she even attended the movie premier at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Toto died in 1944, and though one report says she was stuffed and auctioned off, most reports, including Wikipedia, state that she was buried in the backyard of her trainer, Carl Spitz, who lived in L.A.

So given this, you just have to go to Los Angeles, find out who owns Carl Spitz’s house now, buy some dog biscuits then make a pilgrimage to Toto’s grave, right?

Not quite. Apparently somewhere along the line, Spitz’s house was purchased by the city of Los Angeles, and the property became part of the Ventura Freeway. Since no one is sure just which exit ramp Toto is buried under, the best you can probably do is hum the 1972 America song, Ventura Highway, in her honor. But at least now you know what happened to Toto.

If you want to read more about Toto (and the rest of the Wizard of Oz cast), go to:

“And Your Little Dog, Too!”

or the Wikipedia entry for Terry

Can you tell that I am never bored in life? There’s ALWAYS something odd and quirky to hunt down…..

One Response to “The Post – So What Ever Happened to Toto?”

  1. Gil Says:

    The property where Toto is buried lies behind an apartment complex next to the Ventura freeway and the Los Angeles river. The apartment complex is called Diplomat Park Apartments in North Hollywood. I used to live there and just saw a Huel Howser California’s gold episode on PBS about famous pet grave sites. It confirmed what I was told about Toto’s grave location way back in the late ’80’s.

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