IN REMEMBRANCE: 11-20-2011



Published: November 16, 2011

Lee Pockriss, who wrote the music for midcentury pop hits like “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” “Catch a Falling Star” and “Johnny Angel,” died on Monday at his home in Bridgewater, Conn. He was 87.

Lee Pockriss also worked in musical theater for decades.

His death was confirmed by his nephew Adam Pockriss.

Perry Como made a hit of the gentle ballad “Catch a Falling Star” (“Put it in your pocket/Save it for a rainy day”), which Mr. Pockriss wrote with Paul Vance, in 1957. Shelley Fabares introduced Mr. Pockriss and Lyn Duddy’s wistful love song “Johnny Angel” (“I dream of him and me/And how it’s gonna be”) as her teenage character on the family sitcom “The Donna Reed Show” in 1962.

But in between, Mr. Pockriss struck a very different note in another collaboration with Mr. Vance: “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” a novelty number about a young woman “afraid to come out of the water” and be seen in the revealing swimsuit she was wearing. Her reluctance was understandable, because the navel-revealing bikini was still considered relatively shocking outside Hollywood and the French Riviera. In fact, the song has been credited with helping it gain acceptance.

Brian Hyland had a No. 1 hit with the song in 1960, and it was so inescapable as part of popular culture that a Hollywood film, Billy Wilder’s “One, Two, Three” (1961), affectionately lampooned it with a scene in which East German soldiers tortured a character (played by Horst Bucholz) by forcing him to listen to the song repeatedly.

Mr. Pockriss also worked in musical theater for decades. He wrote the music and Anne Croswell wrote the lyrics for the 1963 Broadway show “Tovarich,” for which Vivien Leigh won the Tony Award for best actress in a musical. The two also collaborated on “Ernest in Love,” a musical version of Oscar Wilde’s “Importance of Being Earnest,” first produced off Broadway in 1960 and revived by the Irish Repertory Company in 2009; “Conrack,” based on Pat Conroy’s book, which had an Off Broadway production in 1987; and “Bodo,” about a 12th-century goatherd, produced at the Promenade Theater in 1983.

With the lyricist Carolyn Leigh and Hugh Wheeler of “Sweeney Todd,” Mr. Pockriss created “Gatsby,” a musical based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby,” in 1969. It was best known as an unproduced work, but this year it received two concert performances as part of the New York Musical Theater Festival. David Rooney, reviewing it in The New York Times, said that the songs succeeded in “evoking Fitzgerald’s characters, spreading a beguiling carpet of melancholy beneath all that jazz age revelry.”

“It made me curious,” he added, “to see a full production.”

Mr. Pockriss also wrote songs for “Sesame Street,” including “My Polliwog Ways,” sung by Kermit the Frog.

Lee Julian Pockriss was born on Jan. 20, 1924, in Brooklyn, the son of Joseph and Ethel Price Pockriss. He attended Erasmus Hall High School and Brooklyn College, and studied musicology at New York University. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II as a cryptographer in the South Pacific.

He is survived by his wife, Sonja, and a brother, Harold.

Mr. Pockriss’s talent was recognized early. In 1950 The Times reported the presentation of an American Federation of Music Clubs award. The $100 first prize in composing went to a young graduate student, Lee Pockriss, of 325 Ocean Avenue, Brooklyn.





Published: November 16, 2011

DUBLIN, Ga. (AP) — Karl Slover, one of the last surviving actors who played Munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz,” died on Tuesday in a central Georgia hospital. He was 93.

MGM, via Photofest

Karl Slover in “The Wizard of Oz” as the lead trumpeter in the Munchkins’ band.

The cause was cardiopulmonary arrest, said the Laurens County deputy coroner, Nathan Stanley.

Mr. Slover was best known for playing the lead trumpeter in the Munchkins’ band, but he also played an Oz townsman and soldier, according to John Fricke, author of “100 Years of Oz.”

Long after the 4-foot-5 Mr. Slover retired, he appeared around the country at festivals and events related to “The Wizard of Oz.” He was one of seven Munchkins at the 2007 unveiling of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame dedicated to the film’s little people. Only 3 of the 124 actors playing Munchkins remain.

Mr. Slover was born Karl Kosiczky on Sept. 21, 1918, in what is now the Czech Republic.

“In those uninformed days his father tried witch doctor treatments to make him grow,” Mr. Fricke said. Young Karl was immersed in heated oil until his skin blistered and then attached to a stretching machine at a hospital, all in an attempt to make him taller. When he was 9, he was sold by his father to a traveling show in Europe, Mr. Fricke said.

Mr. Slover was paid $50 a week for “Oz” and told friends that Toto, Judy Garland’s canine co-star, made more money.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s