Billy Barty, the diminutive film, vaudeville and TV star who put a face on the entertainment industry's community of "little people," died Dec. 23 at Glendale Memorial Hospital in California, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The 3-foot-9-inch Mr. Barty, who played Sparky on TV's "The Bugaloos" and was seen on stage and in many films and TV programs, was 76. The cause of death was heart failure.
His last major New York work was Andre Heller's Wonderhouse at the Broadhurst Theatre. In it, he played a man who was taking his diminutive wife to a vaudeville-style show of European specialty acts performed by old friends.
Mr. Barty was born William John Bertanzetti in Millsboro, PA, and move to California with his parents. His father was a machinist for Columbia Pictures. Mr. Barty was first noticed when he did a trick — flipping and spinning on his head, reportedly — for a director who was shooting a picture in their neighborhood. The director, Jules White (best known for his work with The Three Stooges), cast the young Mr. Barty in a picture called "Wedded Blisters" and a career followed.
Mr. Barty appeared in movie shorts and had roles in such features as "Footlight Parade," "Golddiggers of 1933," "Nothing Sacred," "Under the Rainbow," "W.C. Fields and Me" and "Willow." He appeared in vaudeville in the 1930s in an act called "Billy Barty and His Sisters." He reportedly played drums and did impressions while his sisters sang.
He founded two awareness and service organizations, the Little People of America and the Billy Barty Foundation, and was working on his autobiography at the time of his death.
— By Kenneth Jones