Employment agencies see job orders for specific industries all the time. Picture your staffing agency receptionist answering a call requesting a job order for 15 leprechauns.
A client needs clerical workers, light industrial laborers or even medical marijuana growers.
As luck (of the Irish or not) would have it, there’s a niche agency for leprechauns, as well as Oompa Loompas, Mini Mes and elves.
It’s called Shortdwarf.com.
Shortdwarf.com provides “lavish talent for midgets,” a tagline coined by its founder, Danny Black.
About 31 years ago, Black was a regular community college student, studying photography, when he fell into financial and career hardship. He also happened to be under 4’10” as an adult, which gave him the distinguished honor of dwarfism.
he was determined to turn his short stature into a viable career option. “Why shouldn’t I use my disadvantage to my advantage?” Black asked himself.
Black began hiring himself out as a midget entertainer, while marketing specialized products to short people, such as bottom wipers.
In 1980, he started the talent agency, recruiting dwarves as actors and models for parties, corporate events and on-camera/stage acting.
Black gained quite a bit of notoriety in 2003 when his services were required at the bachelor party of star trader Thomas Bruderman. Black happened to be the evening’s entertainment, where he allowed guests to partake in dwarf tossing: a popular activity in which a dwarf, dressed in a Velcro suit and crash pads, is thrown against a Velcro-covered wall.
Bruderman’s company issued a statement apologizing for misconduct, but Black doesn’t see it as such.
Black is famous for promoting this form of lighthearted humor in his efforts to prove the word midget and its synonyms are just words.
Shortdwarf’s booking agent, a man who only wanted to be referred to as Howard – “in the likes of Madonna” – told me Christmas and St. Paddy’s are their two busiest times of the year.
“There’s just something about a jolly old elf,” Howard said.
Shortdwarf is based in Michigan, but provides entertainment in all states. About 60 percent of the entertainment is for private parties, while the other 40 percent are corporate events.
The entertainers are independent contractors, as opposed to regular employees.
“In any given week, we have 15-20 [dwarves] contracted out,” Howard said.
There are more on the roster, and they are rotated so the same people aren’t always out working.
Black uses the term “midget” liberally, but I assumed that was because he could. For years, we have operated under the assumption that derisive epithets referring to groups of people with a common physical attribute are OK when spoken by said groups.
The Little People of America didn’t find it amusing that Black kept referring to himself as a midget.
The LPA, which formed to unite people of short stature, kicked Black out of a 2003 Boston convention.
According to an article by Alice Dreger, Black had been handing soda straws and navy beans out to children at the convention. But it was the T-shirt he wore that LPA took issue with, Dreger wrote.
Featuring the words “Amish Midget Militia,” the shirt had a cartoon depicting an Amish man with dwarfism holding a musket. Black was ordered by the LPA president to leave the convention, and his membership was also revoked. Incidents like this one only spurred Black on to demolish the negative association with use of the word “midget.”
“He liked to think that he opened up a lot of eyes,” Howard told me.
It opened up the eyes of people, including myself, to prove that exploitation doesn’t exist within the realm of Shortdwarf. If it did exist, Howard said “it’s only when somebody doesn’t want to be involved in something like that.”
When asked about the future of Shortdwarf, Howard claimed “Every day, clients are giving us ideas and new possibilities that we never dreamed of.”
The best part of Howard’s job is “the feedback from the folks” who hire Shortdwarf’s actors, telling him “how well the dwarves did.”
Ocassionally, though, there is the unhappy customer. I had to ask how someone could be unhappy with a leprechaun or Oompa Loompa.
“Sometimes we match up the wrong dwarf with the wrong event,” Howard replied.
Therefore, Howard said, Shortdwarf’s entertainers will meet with the clients before even booking the entertainment. It’s all about a good match.
Black himself, of course, has been one of the most popular dwarves, but he’s stepping out of the frontline after one last weekend in Cincinnati.
Howard said Black will go out with a bang at a bachelorette party.
“He’s going barhopping with about 10-15 ladies,” Howard said. “We’re there to make a memorable night.”