Barty, an Italian American, was born William John Bertanzetti in Millsboro, Pennsylvania. He co-starred with Mickey Rooney in the Mickey McGuire shorts, a comedy series of the 1920s and 1930s based on the "Toonervile Trolley" comics, and similar in tone to the "Our Gang"/"Little Rascals" comedies. In The Gold Diggers of 1933, a nine-year-old Barty appeared as a baby who escapes from his stroller. He also appeared as The Child in Footlight Parade (1933).
Because of his stature, much of his work consisted of bit parts and gag roles, although he was featured prominently in The Day of the Locust (1975), W.C. Fields and Me (1976), The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977), Foul Play and The Lord of the Rings (both 1978), Under the Rainbow (1981), Night Patrol (1984), Legend (1985), Masters of the Universe (1987), Willow (1988), UHF (1989), Life Stinks and Radioland Murders (1994).
Beginning in 1958 he played pool hustler Babby, who was a sometime "information resource" for Pete, in 8 episodes of the Peter Gunn TV series. Barty was known for his boundless energy and enthusiasm for any productions in which he appeared. He also performed a remarkable impression of pianist Liberace. He performed with the Spike Jones musical comedy show on stage and television, including Club Oasis on NBC. Earlier, he appeared several times on NBC's The Dennis Day Show, including once as a leprechaun. Barty played the evil sidekick on the 1970s Saturday morning TV series Dr. Shrinker, and was a regular cast member of Redd Foxx's variety show The Redd Foxx Show. He was regularly seen on the Canadian comedy show Bizarre, a weekly Canadian TV sketch comedy series, airing from 1980 to 1985. The show was hosted by John Byner.
Barty also starred in a local Southern California children's show, "Billy Barty's Bigtop," in the mid-1960s, which regularly showed The Three Stooges shorts. In one program, Stooge Moe Howard visited the set as a surprise guest. The program gave many Los Angeles-area children their first opportunity to become familiar with little people, who until then had been rarely glimpsed on the screen except as two-dimensional curiosities.
Barty also starred as "Sigmund" in the popular children's television show "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" produced by Sid and Marty Krofft in 1974-1976. In 1983, Barty supplied the voice for Figment in EPCOT Center's Journey Into Imagination dark ride. He subsequently supplied a reprisal for the second incarnation, though very brief.
Barty was a noted activist for the promotion of rights for others with dwarfism. He was disappointed with contemporary Hervé Villechaize's insistence that they were "midgets" instead of actors with dwarfism. Barty founded the Little People of America to help with his activism.
Barty was married to Shirley Bolingbroke of Malad City, Idaho, from 1962 until his death. They had two children, Lori Neilson and TV/film producer and director Braden Barty.
Barty and his family belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A tribute book on his life was published in December 2002. Within Reach: An Inspirational Journey into the Life, Legacy and Influence of Billy Barty was produced by Barty's nephew, Michael Copeland, and Michael's wife, Debra.
Barty was a beloved annual guest-star on Canada's Telemiracle telethon, one of the most successful (per capita) telethons in the world.
In 1990 Barty was sued in small claims court by two of the writers of his cancelled comedy TV series Short Ribbs, which aired for 13 weeks in Fall 1989 as a local program on KDOC-TV; producer and writer William Winckler, and writer Warren Taylor, filed separate lawsuits against Barty for money owed, and Barty lost both cases. News of Barty losing in small claims court made headlines all over the world, with lead stories such as Barty Comes Up Short in Small Claims, and other such puns. Barty claimed the lawsuit news was the most negative publicity he ever got, and compared it to similar bad press Zsa Zsa Gabor received for slapping a Beverly Hills police officer.
In 1991 Barty was the subject of a punk rock song called "Lou's in the House" recorded by The Squids. The songs first lyric is "Billy Barty had a party and everyone was there."
Barty died of heart failure in 2000 at age 76. He was entombed in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.
"The name of my condition is cartilage hair hypoplasia, but you can just call me Billy."
"The general public thinks all little people are in circuses or sideshows. We have doctors, nurses, just about every field covered."
Owned a rollerskating rink in Fullerton, California, called "Billy Barty's Roller Fantasy." A movie started shooting there in the mid 80's but was never completed.
1. Los Angeles Times: "SHORT TAKES : Barty to Pay; Claims Victory"
2. "Mormon News for WE 29Dec00: Diminutive Mormon Entertainer Bill". Mormonstoday.com. 2000-12-29.
3. LA Times Obit
4. Chavez, Paul (2000-12-24). "The name of my condition is Cartilage Hair Syndrome Hypoplasia, but you can just call me Billy". ABC News.
5. "SHORT TAKES: Barty to Pay; Claims Victory - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. 1990-03-20.
Copeland, Michael and Debra (2002). Within Reach: An Inspirational Journey into the Life, Legacy and Influence of Billy Barty. Xulon Press. ISBN 1-59160-391-9.