Short Men Rock

Tom Cruise attends a film premiere with wife Katie Holmes. i i

hide captionWhen Tom Cruise attends a film premiere with wife Katie Holmes, it's clear he's still a "Top Gun" despite a lack of height.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Tom Cruise attends a film premiere with wife Katie Holmes.

When Tom Cruise attends a film premiere with wife Katie Holmes, it's clear he's still a "Top Gun" despite a lack of height.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Martin Luther King, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, John McCain: What do these men have in common? A few things. They're each talented, American and 5 feet 7 inches tall.

Have you ever noticed that the greatest Americans are all 5-foot-7? Just look around!

Who's that up in heaven with Old Blue Eyes, crackin' jokes and flappin' his little angel wings? Why, it's fellow 5-foot-7-inch Rat Packer Joey Bishop.

It would be Risky Business indeed if you said Tom Cruise didn't have All the Right Moves. To reach the Top Gun, you have to be at least 5-foot-7 — but not an inch higher.

Tony Bennett stands a few hairs on the happy side of 5-foot-8, as do Martin Sheen, Regis Philbin and the aptly named L'il Bow Wow.

We 5-foot-7 Americans are an elite if diminutive bunch. We see the world at eye level. We aren't so tall that our heads hover in the clouds, but we aren't so short that we need to crane our necks to see the light.

Many of us are rough around the edges. Call it a Napoleon complex if you like, but be advised that it's an advantage. We're just small enough to keep the fire of inferiority alive inside, and that flame, my friend, burns eternal. It keeps us warm no matter how cold it gets.

Americans who are 5-foot-7 stick together. When we pass each other on the street, we nod subtly. When people known in our lexicon as "Tallers" and "Smallers" aren't looking, we exchange complex and arcane handshakes. Every major city has a secret temple exclusively for men of our size. There, we linger in chairs custom-made for our tiny legs, discuss issues facing the slightly small and dunk minibasketballs on rims specially lowered for the somewhat short physique.

This year, one of our own is pursuing the highest office in the land. I speak of a young upstart from Arizona named John McCain. He's got pluck, moxie and the bad attitude of a guy who sometimes needs a stool for kitchen cabinets.

However, some of us five-seveners are torn. For example, while I love his stature, I disagree with his policy on — well, almost everything.

But I know what to do. I know what my people need. And I intend to march into that booth this November and vote accordingly.

Provided, that is, that I can reach the ballot.

Improv comedian Dennis O'Toole lives in Chicago. He is 33 years old, and he's one of those rare people who don't lie about their height.

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