Arrogance: Despite their Weeble lineage and occupational limitations that render them relevant only during Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day, midgets are disproportionately (!) self-involved as a class, a status owing more to a sad societal tolerance than any actual tangible gains. With more visibility, thanks to any number of popular television programs, midgets remain curiosities and objects of derision, sure, but once the freak shows closed and rank exploitation became unlawful, midgets emerged from the shadows with unchecked egos and far more entitlement than their wee frames allow.
Billy Barty: Arguably the Martin Luther King, Jr. of the midget set, Barty (1924-2000) played leprechauns, pool hustlers, Nazis, and even Liberace, and is one of the few midgets in history who didn’t end his life with a firearm. Wry, witty, and edgy, Barty wore suits, wooed women, and spent much of his career trying to escape Night Patrol, a parody of cop shows (also starring Linda Blair) where he spent most of his screen time clearing the room with deafening flatulence. In 1957, he founded Little People of America, an organization that now has over 6,800 members, which, while impressive on its face, only comes out to about 2,700 regular folks.
Cock Size: Despite being at one time or another labeled the “curse of man”, “God’s Joke”, or “pint-size approximations of actual human beings”, midgets have enormous penises, proving once again that there is a direct correlation between genital generosity and soulless despair. Midget porn, once an underground movement with little actual movement, is now a multi-billion dollar empire, blanketing the world with buff, girth-laden dwarves on step-ladders and table tops, eliciting squeals that, at long last, are not followed by running in the opposite direction. While some have unjustly called this phenomenon a mere illusion (six inches of cock looks much bigger on a thirty-six inch man), peer-reviewed studies (at actual colleges, some say) have demonstrated that our thigh-highs are in fact packing enormous heat.
David Rappaport: Known to all the world as Randall, the midget leader in the endlessly creeptastic Time Bandits, Rappaport was as successful as any little man who ever lived, but not even fame and fortune could keep him from the inevitable suicide in 1990. Believing the world owed him a living beyond a mere novelty, Rappaport shot himself in the chest in Laurel Canyon Park, reflecting his ultimate wish to be carried off by a condor, high above the Hollywood Hills.
Employment: Outside of circuses, carnivals, Hollywood, and porn, midgets do not hold any jobs of actual value. In fact, were it not for the entertainment industry, midgets would clock in at an astounding 99.5% unemployment rate, avoiding 100% due to the occasional day labor involving the detection of natural gas leaks or unclogging sewer lines. As was said in the past, is so stated today: there is no such thing as a successful midget. The few college scholarships offered remain, to this day, unclaimed.
Freak Shows: At one time in American history, midgets were entirely unseen and unheard unless the traveling freak show made a stop in your area. This held true well into the Reagan era, as my first sighting occurred at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo somewhere around 1983. Right after the funeral-like procession that passed by the Fat Lady eating cake and ice cream, I was face to face with the tiniest of tots, a darkish imp both nameless and godless. Sitting fully erect, doll’s eyes inert and expressionless, he made me uneasy and slightly terrified, that is until the five-legged calf returned all to normal. As a family, we never spoke of him again, though I did chuckle repeatedly about the overweight woman, vowing never, ever to be like her.
Gold: For centuries, midgets were assumed to have bars and bars of the stuff, tucked away in some faraway place at rainbow’s end. Turns out, they’re almost always poor and bereft, drunken claims to the contrary.
Herve Villechaize: Has there ever been a more famous midget than the beloved Tattoo? Born in 1943, Herve was not, in fact, found among the reeds by a passing carnie, but rather came into being in Paris, the product of sophisticates and scholars and numerous botched surgeries. Proudly calling himself a midget rather than bending to political correctness, Herve was a painter, photographer, and genuine talent, also taking on memorable roles in The Man With the Golden Gun and Forbidden Zone. But it is Fantasy Island for which he earned everlasting fame, despite not really running up all those stairs to ring the bell. And, though blessed with money and power and women galore, Herve also shot himself dead, per his contract.
Irish: Ironically, despite the midget/Leprechaun connection, there are no actual midgets from the Emerald Isle.
Joy: Sadly, midgets lack it, despite their near-fanatical drive to entertain the masses. But once the makeup is wiped off and outrageous costumes put away, midgets close the blinds, turn out the lights, and sob uncontrollably until morning.
Little People: Now the preferred nomenclature, midget remains in use among actual scientists, as “little person” implies a growth that will never come. Kids are little people, and they become adults. Not so with midgets. Not ever.
Michael Dunn: Dunn (1934-1973) is easily the most talented midget ever to attempt the acting profession. In fact, he’s the shortest person with a penis to ever receive an Oscar nomination (1965’s Ship of Fools), barely beating out Linda Hunt in The Year of Living Dangerously. And, in addition to a very popular role on TV’s Wild Wild West, Dunn played Alexander in an episode of Star Trek, (“Plato’s Stepchildren”), making him one of the few early midgets to cross over into the mainstream culture. And while that episode broke societal taboos with the first small screen interracial kiss, it refused to allow Dunn to do anything more than play with knives and dance like a drunken elf.
Napoleon: Google wasn’t very helpful on this one.
Oompa Loompa: Now more a term for those with John Boehner’s skin tone, the infamous little devils from the acid-soaked Willie Wonka movie were once a catch-all stand-in for everything sinister and small, pint-size and poisonous. Always up to no good, the Oompas convinced viewers that behind every evil empire sat dozens of dastardly drones, lecturing the masses with preachy sing-songs that, while catchy, never failed to impart a blasted moral lesson. More than anything P.T. Barnum ever did, the midgets of the Gene Wilder classic are responsible for the fear and trembling that permeate the culture to this very day. Gay rights had Stonewall, while African Americans had Rosa Parks. Alas, midgets had only their Waterloo – hundreds of elfin maniacs emerging from a chocolate waterfall to devour the public’s very souls.
Peter Dinklage: Against all odds and logic, Dinklage challenges the stereotype that midgets can’t be presentable. Even handsome. And while he’s rumored to have bested even Milton Berle in the package department, he’s also dark and brooding, and not just because he’s depressed and about to kill himself. He’s an actor of nobility and grace, even if his appearance in The Station Agent was so hateful it actually made me say something nice about Patricia Clarkson. But Dinklage’s dramatic turn proved that midgets get ass; the kind of ass that might force a double take amongst us all, and not just a condescending glance out of pity. I hear he’s on something called Game of Thrones, but I’m not about to endorse any show where a midget holds power over life and death.
Quips: What did the midget say when I asked him for a dollar? Sorry, I’m a little short. What do you call a psychic midget wanted by the police? A small medium at large. I have others, but this is a family website.
R2-D2: For years, I thought R2-D2 was an actual robot, and it blew my mind when I learned there was an actual human being sitting inside that thing (senior year was difficult in more ways than one). Kenny Baker, the man responsible for the most densely packed tweets and beeps in the known universe, jammed his malleable bones in that stuffy contraption for months at a time, apparently, proving at long last that had we run out of monkeys and dogs, the space race had its next set of test subjects ready for action. Sure, I imagine most people are still doubtful that a person sat at the controls, overcoming heat, exhaustion, and deplorable working conditions, but those near and dear to George Lucas know for a fact he’s just the sort of sadist to make it happen.
St. Louis Browns: Thanks to genius and legend Bill Veeck, these very Browns helped usher in the most memorable moment in baseball history when Eddie Gaedel, the 3’7” wonder sporting the number 1/8, took four straight pitches and became the only midget ever to face big league pitching. Thanks to that moment in time, Gaedel is now a permanent #1 on the all-time list of highest on-base percentages. To add dignity to the affair, Gaedel popped out of a cake right before his plate appearance, and never hinted at actually swinging, thanks to a threat from Veeck which stated that he had a sharpshooter on the roof ready to fire if Gaedel got cheeky. After using him for laughs and a higher return on the gate, Veeck dispatched him to his fate, which involved an early death at 36 after being beaten savagely by a mugger.
Tossing: Now decidedly out of favor in all but the seediest of Tijuana nightclubs, midget tossing was once an American institution on par with baseball and apple pie, proving above all that when the dust clears from the wreckage of the 20th century, history will remember us as a people who liked throwing things – into walls and tubs of pudding, preferably. Bars and restaurants had special nights devoted to the sport, and unless the record has been exaggerated, the 1936 Berlin Olympics were said to have flirted with midget tossing as a replacement for the javelin. Solving the twin crises of chronic midget joblessness and a lack of live human beings for frustrated white folks to humiliate, midget tossing became a black market sport of kings, enabling liquor-laden nights with work friends to be tolerable once again. While no official record keeping then existed to establish the mightiest toss, rumors abound that the greatest heave – and first known fatality – took place during an Applebee’s happy hour.
Under the Rainbow: Either a fevered nightmare that the worst of David Lynch couldn’t touch, or a 1981 masterpiece of gothic horror starring Chevy Chase and a good 4,000 midgets of varying creepiness. Also featuring Carrie Fisher and the aforementioned Billy Barty, Under the Rainbow’s story is said to be that of a Hollywood hotel’s open auditions for The Wizard of Oz, but in fact, it’s a sly, surreptitious examination of the Depression era and the looming world war. Of course, Barty is a Nazi spy on hand to give away America’s military secrets to the Japanese, which seems odd indeed in light of the fact that it’s very possible Hitler sent away all of Europe’s midgets to Auschwitz and exactly zero on top secret missions that could turn the tide of history. Depending on the source, it’s either a camp classic or a little person’s Birth of a Nation. Likely it’s both.
Verne Troyer: At a mere 2’8”, Verne is the smallest man to ever appear on the big screen. He’s also notorious for seducing – and securing – more Hollywood pussy than any other actor alive. How, we don’t know. Why, we know even less. But there it remains: Mini-Me has been inside more women than the entirety of the NFL, NBA, MLB, and Jersey Shore combined. Remember that when you fix your microwaveable dinner-for-one some Saturday night. Nevertheless, Troyer remains an indisputable cultural icon, known more for his public urination than any one cinematic role. In 2008, word got out that Troyer had made a sex tape, which was either the best possible news for a hungry, voyeuristic public, or final confirmation that God indeed removed his blanket of protection from America, sealing our rapid demise. Gossip and scandals aside, Troyer continues to work, though prognosticators pretty much see the expected suicide by 2017.
Warwick Davis: While starting out as an Ewok, Davis won our hearts with Willow, the one film that argued a midget could protect, defend, and save others without resorting to unthinkable violence. Needless to say, it was a fantasy. Portraying a genuine hero rather than a thief, liar, drunk, or personification of evil, Davis set the midget world on its ear, though he predictably erased all good will a few years later with Leprechaun, the film most responsible for placing the stereotypical midget’s earth back on its axis. Not one to look down his nose at a paycheck, he played the evil gold-hoarder for five more movies, which is pretty much incontrovertible evidence that he preferred darkness over light. Heroic midgets, like Magic Negroes, have their day, but we’d all rather have our villains bite-sized and digestible. While still alive, history promises a bitter end, given his alcoholism, chronic depression, and obsession with firearms.
X-rays reveal no souls for the litter buggers, but science is still investigating.
Yo! MTV Raps: Proving that the hip-hop community hasn’t been immune to midgetry, I present Bushwick Bill, the heart, soul, and demonic force behind the Geto Boys, easily the greatest affront to white middle-class existence since parachute pants. No uglier man exists, and to compound his affliction, he decided in 1991 that it was a good idea to get drunk and shoot out his eye. He’s flirted with suicide, drugs, and homelessness, but he remains very much alive, with heretofore unfulfilled threats to make a comeback.
Zelda Rubinstein: I never really checked, but I’m fairly certain Miss Zelda is the longest living midget of all time, eclipsing Billy Barty by a matter of days. She’s also the one midget who you’d love as your grandmother. She’s sweet, cute, and ever-so-gentle, belying the stereotype of instability and moodiness that plagues the population. Her acting career spans decades, but no one can remember a damn thing but her star turn as Tangina, the bad-ass medium from Poltergeist who assures us that “all are welcome.” Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure Zelda is not a midget at all, just short. Still, no other “Z” comes to mind, so she stays.