Michael Tucker, a.k.a. Stuart Markowitz on NBC's "L.A. Law," was walking down a street in Manhattan recently when a construction worker recognized him from high atop a building.
"Hey, man," the hard-hat called. "You give us all hope ."
Men are recognizing it. Women are recognizing it. Maybe even Hollywood. So the time has come to officially declare that the short, cuddly man is "in."
A mere 5-foot-5 in height and a roundish 162 pounds in weight, Tucker is frankly delighted that he's on the cutting edge of a trend. "I've been a little miffed that I wasn't ever thought of by casting agents to play the leading man roles. I'd sulk," he admits. "But now all these women are coming up to me and saying, 'Oh, I love you. I love you.' My reaction depends on whether my wife is there. But generally I say, 'I love you' back."
Tall, dark and handsome Tom Selleck, eat your heart out.
Just ask Susan Camden, a 19-year-old model and Pasadena City College student. This 5-foot-9 model says she's madly in love with 5-foot-7 1/2 real estate attorney Mark Schwartz "because Mom always said that shorter men were sexier."
Of course, when she first started dating a shorter man, "I went out and spent $300 on flat shoes because I didn't want to embarrass him," she notes. "But Mark took one look at me and said, 'Darling, I don't like that look.' He adores me to wear the highest heels I can find."
And Erit Siegal, a 30-year-old legal secretary, says her husband Floyd's 5-foot-6 height is "perfect because I don't have to strain my neck looking up."
It doesn't seem fair that 5-foot-8 is the average height of the American male, but a man is still considered short if he's that or under. All he has to do is try to buy a suit if he wants proof. "Fashions don't cater to men who are below 5-foot-9. For years, my customers couldn't get anything cut for them," says Fred Gutierrez, manager of Jimmy Au's Small and Short shop in Beverly Center whose clients include Mel Brooks and Willie Shoemaker and where wardrobe people come to buy outfits for Dudley Moore and Michael J. Fox.
Seen as a Shortcoming
Until recently, many short men have been embarrassed to admit their shortness because they see it as a shortcoming. Gutierrez, for one, has seen men with jacket sleeves hanging around their knees shouting "I'm not short!" as their girlfriends or wives drag them into his store. Nor did Hollywood help matters any because studios used to (and still do, in some cases) fib about an actor's height if he's, uh, less than tall.
Gary Schweon, a 5-foot-7 surgeon visiting from Boston, maintains that short men have been "stigmatized" in years past by "being portrayed on TV and in the movies as not being a whole man." That just isn't the case, he says. "Because short men don't have everything, they try harder to succeed with women. They're always fighting to be seen." And tall men, like John Paul Knupp, a 6-foot-2 1/2-inch hunk from West Hollywood, can be infuriatingly smug. "I guess you could say I'm bigoted," Knupp says. "We're more attractive to women."
Doesn't Mince Any Words
Of course, some women still want a man to tower over them, like Lee Ann Shipowick, a 21-year-old Loma Linda University student, who doesn't mince any words when talking about her 5-foot-6 Canadian friend, Gerald Cherepushak. "I won't go out with him because he's too short," she said while he stood beside her.
"Oh, brother," he winced.
But those attitudes are changing, it seems. Jeffrey Ullman, president of the Great Expectations video-dating service, did an informal poll of female members recently at The Times' request. Nearly 75% of the women, whose average age was 35 and who were overwhelmingly interested in a "committed" relationship, were familiar with Michael Tucker's character on "L.A. Law." And many said they wouldn't mind meeting and marrying someone like that. "Certainly a majority of them are more willing to date men who they otherwise would not have dated, or even looked at, before," Ullman concludes. "And this includes a Stuart Markowitz."
Ullman found that the women were becoming "much more compromising about the kind of qualities that they really need and really want in a man. And as a result of this introspection process, guys like Stuart Markowitz are more acceptable to them."
For many, dating a man shorter than they are "was OK, but he must have something extra-special going for him," Ullman found. Other women thought that men like Stuart Markowitz "had better developed personalities because they haven't been able to rely on good looks or height so they had to develop their sense of fun."