VIDEO VAULT | Toto was stolen from the MGM Grand 'Emerald City' display and taken on tour
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) —
In August of 2011, a hand-crafted Tin Man based on the character from "The Wizard of Oz" was stolen from the front yard of its creator, David Holmes.
"For a practical joke, probably," shrugged Holmes. "I don't know."
Holmes had Oz characters which he built from scratch.
"I made it out of a water jacket, out of a hot water heater, and cones off the roads for his shoulder pads," said Holmes of his Tin Man. "The rubber shoulder pads."
In the mid-90s, Las Vegas was home to a flesh-and-blood cast, as well as their animatronic counterparts.
"I'm not afraid of anything," a robotic Cowardly Lion would tell visitors to the MGM's "Emerald City" display.
The MGM was quite a bit different from today when it first opened, with a giant lion's mouth above the entry way, and an Oz theme inside. All was well until the smallest member of the group was abducted.
"I'm deeply saddened by the loss of Toto," the MGM's Bill Doak told News 3. "And we've alerted the authorities."
One suspect immediately jumped to the top of the list.
"Who took Toto?" wondered one tourist aloud.
"That witch!" responded another emphatically.
"I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog too," snarled the Wicked Witch of the West as portrayed by Margaret Hamilton in in 1939's "The Wizard of Oz".
But in 1995--the year of the Simpson trial--the truth soon emerged.
"All appeared lost until we got this fax here in the newsroom," reported News 3's Rick Fuentes in April of 1995. "A ransom note that says 'Step aside, OJ. We've got Toto.' It says, 'Don't bother clicking your heels.' Now through some very scientific tests--and watching the movie a couple of times--we have determined that this photo is Toto."
Teasing pictures showed Toto in Canada. His abductors agreed to be interviewed, in subtle disguise.
"He's never seen Vancouver before though, eh." said one of several people seated at a table with grocery bags cut with holes for eyes and mouth. "I mean, he's been in the same place, same position for so long, he's bored. He's just up for a tour. He'll be returned. Don't worry, don't fret."
With News 3 acting as an intermediary, Toto was returned at night on a pedestrian bridge. The next day, the resort sent an emerald limo to pick up the dog.
"Oh, you're back," said the MGM's Michelle Tell accepting the return of purloined puppy. "It looks a little broken. I think that they were trying to send the foot back, just to show that they had Toto. But we'll repair him, and he'll be back at the Emerald City probably tomorrow. Everybody missed you. We're so glad you're home. Back at the MGM where you belong."
That story had a happy ending.
"Toto, Darling," said Judy Garland as Dorothy in the movie. "Oh, I've got you back."
When News 3 last spoke with David Holmes, he was still lamenting the loss of his Tin Man.
"His face was perfect," sighed Holmes. "He looked as much like the character as the character."
Holmes’ story had a happy ending too, though. His Tin Man was found and returned a couple of weeks after the interview.
By 1997, Las Vegas' "Family Friendly" experiment had largely ended. The Emerald City theme and Wizard of Oz characters were removed.
David Holmes passed away in 2012 at age 61.