For Toto, Finally, There’s No Place Like Home
FixNation is Deeded the Plot to Toto’s Final Resting Place in Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Toto from The Wizard of Oz is one of the most well-known and beloved canine movie stars of all time. Say the word Toto to almost anyone in the world and they immediately know who you are talking about.
As a film, The Wizard of Oz was epic when it was released back in 1939. It was witness to the launch of Technicolor, it won several Academy Awards, and to this day it’s one of the biggest films in pop culture history. At least once a year, the movie airs and both young and old sit rapt in front of the TV. If you grew up with the Wizard of Oz, you remember being fascinated by talking lions and tin men, getting scared silly by flying monkeys and wicked witches, and falling in love with the adorable little Toto. And some of us drooling over Dorothy’s red glitter shoes, but that’s for another web post.
What most people don’t realize is that since Toto’s death in the late 1950′s, Toto has gone completely unrecognized by the Hollywood community. There is no star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, no memorial statues…absolutely nothing to honor this little dog’s big acting career.
But that is soon about to change!
Toto was one of the many animals trained by Carl Spitz back in the golden years of Hollywood. Carl Spitz was a German immigrant who became a famous animal trainer for the studios, opening up his Hollywood Dog Training School back in 1927. Spitz pioneered the training technique of using hand signals to get animals to perform. Toto was actually played by a female Cairn terrier named Terry, who had been abandoned at Spitz’s kennel four years before The Wizard of Oz was made (yes, Toto was a rescue!). Spitz officially changed the dog’s name to Toto after the movie became so popular. Toto went on to co-star in many films with some of the era’s biggest actors.
When Toto died towards the end of WWII, Carl Spitz buried the little dog behind his house and kennels. Then in 1958, the Ventura Freeway was expanded across the San Fernando Valley. CalTrans bought up the Spitz property for construction purposes and the entire area was destroyed. Toto’s final resting place had been plowed over in the name of progress.
Fast Forward to 2010
J.P. Myers, an L.A. local, was talking to a co-worker about an episode of the Huell Howser show, where Howser interviewed author and grave hunter Steve Goldstein about the lives and grave sites of famous animals. Through that conversation, Myers realized that Toto had lived and died just blocks down the street from where he had gone to elementary school on Riverside Drive, and this really hit home. Myers had just successfully launched a Facebook fan page and campaign to get Jack Norworth, who penned “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” a more appropriate grave marker than the nondescript gravesite where he had been buried. It dawned on him that the same action was needed for Toto, so Myers picked up a copy of Steve Goldstein’s book, LA’s Graveside Companion: Where the V.I.P.s R.I.P., to dig up more information. He contacted Goldstein directly, and Goldstein agreed to partner up on the project.
Hollywood Forever to the Rescue
Goldstein and Myers reached out to a number of local cemeteries around Los Angeles, only to get turned down by every single one. Finally, they contacted Tyler Cassity, owner of Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Hollywood Forever is the final resting place for hundreds of big-name celebrities such as Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Hattie McDaniel and Johnny Ramone, to name a few. Cassity, an animal lover, immediately recognized the impact that Toto had on American culture and graciously offered to donate the VIP plot and the memorial marker for Toto. It was agreed that the plot should be deeded to an animal group so that Toto’s gravesite would always be protected and well cared for. Cassity suggested FixNation, and Myers and Goldstein quickly agreed. FixNation has been fixing the feral cats at Hollywood Forever for some time now, in coordination with the cemetery and its caretakers.
A dedication ceremony will be held on Saturday, June 18th at 11:00 a.m. at Hollywood Forever Cemetery to unveil the new grave site and marker. The ceremony will be open to the public, so please come out and join! All parties will come together to celebrate and give tribute to this little dog’s big achievements. Thanks to the heart and vision of Myers, Goldstein, Cassity and Hollywood Forever, little Toto will be honored with the recognition this little legend so worthily deserves.
For Toto, finally, there’s no place like home.
Toto’s dedication ceremony will be held on Saturday, June 18th from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Admission is free to the public and there is free parking on site inside the cemetery. Kids and pets are both welcome. Hollywood Forever Cemetery is located at 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 90038.
Join the Toto Memorial Marker Facebook page