Do short men really have rotten personalities?
Is Tom Cruise's power as a short man to be feared or admired?
Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images.
When news of the TomKat split erupted a couple of weeks back, I braced myself for the inevitable. Just how long would it be before the media and the Twittersphere pointed accusing fingers at that mysterious, select group of individuals, that elite corps of which Tom Cruise, David Miscavige, and I are all such prominent members? Not long, as it turned out. Not long at all.
“Cruise and Miscavige are great friends. They are both short men, like motorbikes and are deeply into Scientology,” screamed the London Independent.
The Twittersphere was even more direct:
“Apparently Tom Cruise proposed to Katie Holmes standing on top of the Eiffel Tower. How paranoid do you have to be about your height?” quipped @theLastJedi.
“Tom Cruise is a creepy little midget. Congrats Katie Holmes, you dodged that bullet,” added @MaceyWaddington.
How horribly predictable it all is! Whenever things go awry, pundits the world over blame the short guy. Was Tom Cruise attempting to oppress and control his wife and daughter Suri? Quite possibly! Is that because Tom Cruise is a Tom Thumb and must therefore be an ill-intentioned control freak?
Whenever there is perceived oppression, the world pulls out that yardstick—and I do mean yardstick—and starts measuring the oppressor. OK, I understand there are some unfortunate short-equals-bossy precedents. Hitler was dinky, Mussolini was too, and Bono is not exactly the tallest person on the planet. But these examples do not mean that every male under average height is hell-bent on establishing a tyrannical global brand. Yes, the Marquis de Sade was petite. But so was Gandhi.
From my vantage point—an admittedly low one, since my passport says 5 feet 4½ inches, and I just measured myself and I have lost half an inch in the last 40 years, which is actually a relief since I thought it would be more—the picture is by no means a simple one. The truth of the matter is, there are all kinds of little dudes. Yes, some of us are megalomaniacal, rage-filled Hummel figurines with Napoleon complexes. But only when the situation calls for it! And not all of us have such maniacal tendencies. We short guys are a spectrum, a rainbow. Let’s start at the darkest end.
THE EVIL GOBLINS
Certain diminutive fellows have a rough time contending with the altitudinal disadvantages of their daily lives. Frustration, caused by years of not being able to reach the cookie jar, turns them into stop-at-nothing despots. No, I’m not talking about Gary Coleman (4-foot-8) or Phil Collins (5-foot-6). I’m referring instead to malevolent munchkins like Joseph Stalin (5-foot-6) and Robert Blake (5-foot-4). The late Kim Jong-il (5-foot-3 + lifts) is another prime example. Of course there are exceptions: Dr. No was 6 feet 6 inches tall—Ian Fleming describes him as “a giant venomous worm wrapped in grey tin-foil”—with pincers for hands.
(Yes, I believe Dr. No was a real person. Why not? If Tom Cruise can believe in Lord Xenu then why can’t I … OK, let’s not go there.)
THE NAUGHTY PIXIES
This group is the most fun and the shortest and includes the late, great Dudley Moore (5-foot-2), Chuy from Chelsea Lately (estimates vary), Danny DeVito (5 feet), and myself (for height, see above). We fun-lovers respond to the humiliations and challenges of our pixietude with self-deprecating humor—when travelling we amuse others by shouting “Zee plane! Zee plane!”—and by the wearing of idiotic costumes.
THE OVERACHIEVING GNOMES
This is an impressive group. Members overcome Lilliputian feelings of teensy-weensy-ness by reaching unimaginable (and dizzying) heights of professional success. Famous overachieving gnomes include Aristotle Onassis (5-foot-5), Ryan Seacrest (5-foot-8, allegedly), and Nicolas Sarkozy (5-foot-6). Not to mention Slate Group chairman Jacob Weisberg (5-foot-5). Some overachieving gnomes achieve prominence through creativity rather than business acumen. These artistic homunculi are always catnip to women and invariably have legions of hot chicks chasing them—they are easy to catch—down the charming cobbled alleys of Saint Tropez. Hall of Famers in this category include Roman Polanski (5-foot-5) and Pablo Picasso (5-foot-4) and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (5-foot-1). The last was particularly easy to catch due to a not inconsiderable absinthe intake.
Lastly we have LES MUNCHKINS SPORTIFS
This is a vital group. We short guys rely on them for feelings of self-worth. When people mock us and encourage us to join the circus—a tall pal once vindictively sent me a fake circus employment application asking me to specify my “height above sawdust”—or shower us with discount coupons for elevator shoes, we reply, “Listen! Muggsy Bogues was in the NBA and he was 5-foot-3, fur chrissakes!” If I am dealing with younger detractors I shriek, “Lionel Messi is 5 feet 7 inches tall and the all time top-scorer for FC Barcelona!” Sometimes I get really beaten down and go transgender with my Munchkins Sportifs and play the Korbut card. Yes, I am talking about “The Sparrow from Minsk.” Despite being only 4 feet 11 inches tall, Olga Korbut took home three gold medals at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. With the U.K. games looming we shorties are scanning the horizon for future sporty munchkin role models. For some reason they are really hard to spot.
In the meantime, please stop picking on us. We have had enough of it, plus there are some groovy new fall fashion deliveries at Osh-Kosh right now and we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted. See you there, Tom!
Simon Doonan is an author, fashion commentator, and creative ambassador for Barneys New York.(Photo by Roxanne Lowit.)