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‘Little People’ Organization Condemns Dwarf-Tossing

July 1, 1989

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Traveling shows featuring dwarf-tossing contests are the latest outrage dwarfs find themselves fighting to preserve their dignity and safety, officials of the Little People of America Inc. said Saturday.

″Dwarf-tossing may help financially the person who does it. ... However, it tears down the structure and the esteem that little people are trying to gain,″ said association spokesman Ernie Ott.

Florida Gov. Bob Martinez signed a state law last week banning the barroom sport, helping short-statured people fight a lingering perception that they are ″non-persons,″ Angela Van Etten, a member of the Committee to Ban Dwarf Tossing, said at the association’s annual conference.

″It occurs in a bar and a consenting adult little person allows a stranger in the bar to pick him up and see how far he can throw him. The persons in the bar get prize money for throwing him the farthest,″ Ms. Van Etten said.

″The people in the bar ... all stand around laughing and think this is one huge joke,″ she said.

Dwarf tossing and dwarf-bowling, in which a helmeted dwarf strapped to a skatebard is used as a human bowling ball, have been made part of traveling entertainment shows and have been reported in South Carolina, North Carolina, New Jersey and New York, she said. Efforts to outlaw the practice in several states are under way.

The association also issued a statement opposing the use of bone- lengthening surgery to make dwarfed children taller. The association said bungled surgery has crippled patients and forced amputations.

A record 1,000 dwarfed people and their families were expected at the conference that began Saturday to attend clinics on medical treatments, watch a dwarf fashion show, compete athletically and dance nearly every night of the week.

″During the year, you go dancing with your husband and you’re the only little person on the floor. You end up with a jab to the right and a jab to the left,″ as well as curious stares, said conference co-chairwoman Dee Miller. ″So, dancing is very important to us.″

Kristen Pohlman, 17, said dwarfs travel across the country to attend the conference because it is their only chance to socialize with others who understand and accept them.

″It’s a dream world. It’s a real shock when you get back home,″ said Miss Pohlman, who believes she is the only dwarf in Panama City, Fla.

″It’s hell sometimes. Once a kid in a toy store came up to me and said, ‘Oh, you can talk.’ She went up to her dad and said, ’Daddy, buy me one of those,‴ she said.

The association was founded in 1957 by entertainer Billy Barty, an actor who recently was featured in the movies ″Willow″ and ″Legend.″ The organization bills itself as the largest national organization representing people of short stature.

Most dwarfism is genetic, but it usually does not strike all members of a family, and it can be caused by more than 100 disorders, Ott said.

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