To most people, the thought of being handcuffed to a stranger who's several feet taller than you and determined to get as wasted as humanly possible sounds like the sort of punishment doled out in a kind of pissed-up Amazonia.
For Ben Wilcox, a 30-year-old dwarf-for-hire, it's a standard night at work. Under the moniker of Little Yet Large Entertainment, he accompanies soon-to-be grooms and brides on their stag-dos and hen nights, handcuffed to them as they drink, cry and vomit their way through the evening.
I spoke to him recently to find out what exactly the job entails, and how he feels about stags and hens hiring little people for their pre-nuptial piss-ups.
VICE: Hi Ben. How did you get into being handcuffed to stags and hens?
Ben Wilcox: Three years ago I saw something come up on Facebook about some friends who were getting into movie work, so I joined a company and got into panto. Then I met some other dwarfs who did stag and hen party nights. They gave me a number to call, and within a week I had a job offer. I enjoyed it so much that I got myself signed up to Hayley B Entertainments agency.
What are your rates and services?
£100 an hour, but if they book me for six hours then it drops to £475. I get paid cash upfront, so if the night finishes early, as long as it's their fault they've still got to pay. The main objective is whoever's chained up to me is my best friend for the evening. You just dress up in whichever costume they want and banter around them, have a laugh and get them free drinks.
What are the best experiences you've had while in this line of work?
Some people have put me up in five-star hotels. I've been to Ibiza, Portugal and Germany, completely paid for. I've been picked up in a Bentley and taken on to millionaire's yachts with big dance floors and an open bar. I've had some epic nights and some absolute disasters.
What kind of things have happened on the disastrous nights?
I was in an Irish bar with a load of Irish lads and I was dressed as a leprechaun. One of the lads, who was about 30, started kicking me. So I said to the person who I was handcuffed to, "One of your lads keeps kicking me from behind." He found out which one it was and had a proper go at him.
I had one group of 18 or 19-year-olds who tried putting drugs in my drink. I usually get a lemonade, which is clear, and they got me a drink and it was all murky. They asked me to down it in one. I refused, and they were going, "Go on, go on," and I said, "Look, you down it in one, I ain't drinking that." I told them they spoiled the night, poured the drink on the floor and left.
I met another group in Birmingham at 6.30PM on a weekend night. I called them to let the group of lads – who were about 27 or 28 – know I was at the meeting point. I was hanging around for a bit, and then I got a call telling me to ring a number and say, "I've got your money. Where are you?" I thought it was a bit strange, but I did it. All of a sudden, this car comes screeching round the corner. The driver had a woollen stocking over his face. The guy in the passenger seat had his face covered, too. In the back was a man with a Halloween mask on, with all of the face holes stapled up. He was the stag. There were two other guys, and one of them had a ball-gag in his mouth and was blindfolded. The driver asked me to get in the middle of them, get handcuffed to the stag and say, "Where's my money?" Some of them got out, and one of them started screaming and pulled the handbrake off and ran out of the car. The car started rolling down the hill, with no driver in the car. I could see a main road at the bottom and we were rolling quite quickly towards heavy traffic, and I was chained to the guy in the back. I was scared. Then, like Superman, one of them came running in and pulled the handbrake up – a couple of metres from the road. Then we pulled up at a Premier Inn, crossed the road and went to a kebab house and sat in there for two and a half hours. It was really, really strange.
Enjoy watching drunk people? Try out short film 'House Party Politics' out for size:
Have you worked on many crazy hen parties?
There was one in Wales where I was dressed as a sheep. When I got there, the girl didn't even want me handcuffed to her. She freaked out. She just kept saying, "I can't do this," and darted off into the crowd. Then one of her group said she had a phobia of dwarfs, but they didn't know. So that night ended early.
I was asked to strip by a group of ladies in London. I was dressed as a butler in my tuxedo, and they asked me to serve wine for half an hour in a venue above a pub. As I went in, there was about 40 of them, and they started shouting, "Off! Off! Off!" So I took my shirt off, dental-flossed myself with my top and danced on the table a bit, and got down to my boxers. This is when I was single, so I could get away with it. I wouldn't have usually done it, but it was just that sort of situation and I went with it.
What happens if the client you're handcuffed to needs the toilet?
They want you handcuffed to them all the time, so if he wants to use the urinal I'll just stand back. But if he wants to do a number two then I'll take the handcuffs off him and let him go into the cubicle, but I'll wait outside the door so he can't go anywhere.
What are your thoughts about people wanting to be handcuffed to dwarfs? Do you think it's exploitative at all?
It's pretty strange, but I might as well use what I have to the best of my advantage. Most of them want it because they like the attention. When they've got a dwarf strapped to them in a camp costume, they get so much more attention when they're walking around the club or pub. It's all about a little bit of attention before they get married and settle down.
Do you ever worry for your safety?
Yes, and my girlfriend and my family worry about me, but there are rules. They can't be abusive to us and I can leave if it gets to a certain level of drunkenness, like if he falls over. I don't get drunk, but I'll have the odd one or two drinks. They have to be careful with my hand as well, because it wouldn't take much to rip it off. I've been picked up and dropped before, so now I ask people not to pick me up.
What advice would you give anyone who was thinking of becoming a dwarf for hire?
It's a risky job, and you have to be streetwise. A lot of little people are wrapped in cotton wool by their parents and might not have the backbone for it. I went on an event with another dwarf and they just stood there staring at the floor all night. You have to have the confidence to be the gimmick. I make sure they are laughing with me and not at me.
I'll educate people if they start being silly or rude to me. I'm in a big community of dwarfs online, and many of them hate being called midgets. If someone's saying, "Get a fucking picture with the fucking midget" then I'll let them know that isn't right. I'll also tell people that they could have a child that's a dwarf. My parents are both normal and there's no dwarfism anywhere else in my family.
Thanks very much, Ben.
More on VICE: