A Little Sidebar, If I May Be So Shameless
So I approached and discovered---how can I express this?---a midget dressed like Michael Jackson (from the early-white period of '91 or so; glove, hat, loose hair dangling on one side of his face). He was breakdancing, moonwalking, the whole shebang. And alas, the song ended as I got there, so he said, "Thank you, everybody, it's been an honor performing for you"---and then he started passing around a hat. (Not the dress-up hat; a crappy money container.) So I never got to see if he was also lip-synching.
And although I had my camera phone, I actually resisted taking the picture. It was a surprising reaction. Apparently, there are some freak shows even I feel guilty about watching.
Now I realize that the term "midget" is considered offensive, and they prefer the term "little people." Or so I am told. But of course the problem with "little person"---aside from the fact that it's a helluva lot less funny to say, which I'm sure is the point---is that it's maddeningly unspecific. When you say "A little person kicked this other guy's ass," you have to stop and think, "Do you mean a little-person little person, or just a smallish guy?" Polite is polite, but doggone it, all short people are not midgets, and they don't have a right to claim such a sweeping term.
So from now on I'm going with "dwarf." It seems to strike the proper balance between absurdity and technical accuracy. And of course you'd want to use the term "little person" for people with dwarfism whose difference you'd rather not call undue attention to (like the people on A&E's "Little People, Big World," which is a really fascinating show if y'all ain't watching). But goddamn it---if you're going to dress like a tiny Michael Jackson, aren't you kind of playing to the "midget" type? Wouldn't it be just as insulting to use "little person" to describe the dwarf minstrels on The Man Show or Mind of Mencia or---god help us---the movie Little Man, which opens this weekend and bids fair to ruin what remains of our standing in the world? In fact, hell with it, here's the way I'm gonna break down my usage:
Midget: a little person who's selling out for laughs
Dwarf: a general descriptor to emphasize the oddity of an encounter with a little person, or to avoid the awkwardness of "little person"'s general-sounding unhelpfulness
Little person: a dwarf I actually know, or whose dwarfism isn't the current point of discussion.
A dwarf Michael Jackson. Only in Vegas, I thought. But I guess I was wrong.
P.S. On another surprisingly current dwarf-related matter, this past weekend I saw a brief documentary on The Wizard of Oz, and was surprised to discover that---at least as of 2001, when the doc was made---at least five of the Munchkins were still around (and that's how they apparently like to be identified). They include (or included) the coroner who pronounces death on the witch ("she isn't only merely dead/ she's really quite sincerely dead") and one of the original Lollipop Guild members. And here's a fun fact: For most of the Munchkin's voices, what they did was record the dialogue in real time, but speaking very slowly, and then they sped up the tape to make their voices high-pitched and (to my ear) really, really grating. But there is one line of Munchkin dialog where the actor actually got to use his own voice: the fellow who says "We thank you very sweetly/You killed her so completely" and hands Dorothy the flowers. He's still alive too! And, if I remember the documentary correctly, has an incredibly thick German accent.