American Vaudeville Museum

All material 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc. Page 9

Billy Barty

Although he spent his early years in two-reel comedies and in vaudeville, Billy Barty was primarily a character actor. His range was wide, able to play drama, comedy and fantasy, limited only by his height of 3 9 and some casting directors perception of him. He began in show business when he was three and worked for nearly his entire lifetime, appearing in a long line of films from Busby Berkeley musicals to its antithesis, The Day of the Locust.

His teenage years were spent in vaudeville touring in musical act (he played drums) with his two sisters. During the years of early television he was a frequent guest on Spike Jones programs. Often he was booked for small stature and his sense of comedy.

However, show business was never the sole territory of his life. He majored in journalism while in college and played football and basketball. Had not show business promised a practical way of earning a very good income, Billy Barty said he might have become a sports announcer.

He was a family man who enjoyed a 35 year union with his wife, Shirley. They have two children: a six foot son who is a filmmaker and a small person from Russia whom they adopted when she was an infant. Mr. Barty founded several organizations to educate both small- and average-sized people about small people. The Little People of America, founded in 1957, provides vocational guidance, health information and social services. The Billy Barty Foundation raises money for scholarships and other benefits.