It might seem strange that in 2016 there's still a market for little people to work as novelty entertainment for buck's nights and work Christmas parties. But apparently it's a thriving industry. This potentially says more about us than it does about little people.
But we wanted to speak with some of these guys—to hear about all the times they've been dressed up, thrown around, and hit on by partygoers with little people fetishes. We also wanted to know how they feel about being available for hire.
So we called up Melbourne's Dwarf My Party to get some insights.
Hi Blake, can you tell me how you got into this line of work?
Blake Johnston: Well it started with getting on The Footy Show through a friend of mine. It just sort of blossomed from there. How do I feel about the business? I love it. If I wasn't able to do what I do it would be like a singer not being able to use their talent.
Do you ever worry that you're endorsing a type of discrimination?
No, but it comes across like people are being douchebags, that's when I have an issue. Then I don't do it. Overall though, nothing offends me. I've always been the class clown, an entertainer, and that's what the gigs are for me. I've been slagged by other short-statured people for the job, and been called a prostitute. But other people don't have the balls to do it, and yet we get brought down for it. I think my job is great because we make people laugh.
Can you walk me through your first gig?
It was a hen's party and they wanted me to come in and do a dance routine, stripping. I'd never done it before so it was a bit nerve-wracking. But because I've done so much wrestling it was easy. I've created a character called Mr Big so it helped me a lot after that.
Wait, you wrestle?
Yep, for 12 years. Thirteen this year.
That's great. Do you ever have people asking to wrestle at parties?
Sometimes. I remember there was this one guy, the actual buck of a party, he tried to fight me. He basically got on his knees and said "let's go." I said to him, "Do you really want to be doing this?" His mates kept telling him, "Dude, the guy does wrestling he could break your arm!" He ended up leaving his own party. But that stuff doesn't happen often.
What about people flirting with you on the job. Does that happen?
Yeah one guy did. He was really persistent, trying to put the moves on me and it was really uncomfortable. He just kept going and going, and he got me to the point where I was like, "Dude, I have nothing against you, but I'm not keen." He kept arguing that he's never been with anyone small before, and I was like "you're not going to be with me dude! There's no chance!"
What's the strangest job you've ever done?
Yeah, I was once hired to be a baby for a 30th birthday party. So imagine you're 30 and you want to have party celebrating your younger days, so you have a baby-themed party. Oh my god, we got there and there were cots and bloody everything. They were drinking alcohol out of baby bottles. I'd rather give it a go first and say, "I'll never do it again," but they wanted us to wear actual nappies. I said, "No, I'll wear a jumpsuit."
What did you take away from that experience?
It was one of those situations where I realised I'll never do it again. In this job you're put in a lot of uncomfortable situations, but I was keen on not doing another thing like that. Ever.
Hi Josh, throughout your career at Dwarf My Party, what's the worst job you've done?
Josh Damman: I had an 18th birthday on the Gold Coast, and everything got wild. Chicks kept giving me beers and giving me beer bongs. I'm not a huge drinker so it was too much. They wanted to pick me up and I don't like being picked up—I'm not a baseball bat or a football. But most of the time I'm on stage so I'm in control.
I talked to Blake about people with a fetish for little people. Have you come across that sort of thing?
Yeah, I once had a 45-year-old couple who wanted to take me home. That freaked me out a little bit. I was talking to the chick at first but then he came over. Together they turned around and said really abruptly, "Yeah, how about it? Come back to ours, have a few drinks and see where the night takes us." I said a big "nah, no thanks." I don't do threesomes, especially with employees.
Is that what stands out in your mind as the weirdest moment?
Well, just about every gig I do is weird. There was one party where I had to dress up a bloke from Alice In Wonderland—Tweedledee. We had to jump out of a garden bed and surprise people as they were coming in. It was a very formal, black-tie event, and no-one was expecting us. People would just be walking up and we'd jump, scare them, then retreat again. It was really really weird, to say the least.
After all these uncomfortable incidents, what have you learned?
To pick and choose events, and not do things without too late notice. It's also good to set the rules so no one can take advantage of anyone—you always want to be in control.
You've been at Dwarf My Party for a while. How do you feel about the job?
Arti Penn: I've been here for 10-plus years. And joining, I think it's an individual choice. If you want to take it, do it. People have a quirky fascination with small people.
How do you feel about that fascination?
Well, the parties are a bit of education for them. Me being there can set them at ease and we can talk about things they might have always wondered. Of course it can sometimes get strange when alcohol is involved, but most of the time I see it as an entertainment gig as much as an educational one.
Has anyone ever asked to throw you?
At a party I was told I was going to get thrown off a balcony. That was something serious, and I thought if something goes down it's going to be bad. If you're a five-foot individual, and there's alcohol involved, there's an edginess to watch yourself and watch your back. Sometimes it's better just to leave, so I did.
Aside from the bad times, were there any shows you thought you wouldn't enjoy but did?
Well, one time we had to dress up as Beyoncé for The Footy Show. There were three of us shorter guys dressed up, and they asked us to do a little parody of "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)." I had to wear high heels, a wig, and a little leotard. I actually enjoyed that.
And what's the strangest thing you've been paid to do?
One time we thought we were going to a car exhibition. We were hoping for young ladies, promotional stuff, but it ended up being a bikie thing. There were heaps of gangs and patches.
But what was your job at the event exactly?
My job was just to walk around while they held raffles and wet t-shirt contents. But at the end of the day I don't really know what I was there for. I mean, I've been hired at other things so guys can snort lines of cocaine off my hat. You don't always know what you're exactly in for.
Looking back, how do you feel about all the strange encounters with Dwarf My Party?
Well, I stopped doing so much of the parties and I try and do films and TV shows and stuff like that now. The parties just get out of hand and they're not for me. People will be people, especially when alcohol is involved, but there are shows that I really love. I love seeing kids smile or dressing up like Santa's elf, and making people believe I'm a character. When I see them happy it makes the strange stuff worthwhile.
Follow Angela on Twitter