Courtesy Rent-A-Midget.comThe regular people behind www.rentamidget.com (three guys from Chino) say hiring a little person to attend your party this holiday season is the ultimate icebreaker—but just mentioning their business name is nearly as effective and much cheaper, albeit not nearly as memorable.
Rent-A-Midget ("big fun, small package," says the fax) sounds like the kind of joke you're not supposed to remember, but it's proven to be the ultimate in sensitivity training for founders Chris Fetterer, Brian Vick and Jack Lopez, who started this business as just a website back in September.
"Before starting this, we didn't know any little people at all. I guess you could say we started it as a joke, and we just looked at the possibilities of it all. We said, 'There's nothing like this out here in Southern California,'" Fetterer says in a telephone conversation, quickly adding, "The joke part was that it was something that we were not serious about doing."
It was just a website until last month when they called KROQ-FM 106.7 FM, and morning hosts Kevin and Bean interviewed them on-air—stirring the pot in hopes of making this a real business. And it worked; while most of us know not to point and stare at little people, there remains a certain fascination that Fetterer says works both ways: like the joke in Cheaper by the Dozen about the guy who tries to get his 12 kids in free to the circus by telling the guy, "My kids really want to see your elephants." "That's nothing," the circus guy says. "My elephants really want to see your kids."
"We ended up meeting some little people. These guys were really excited about working with us," Fetterer says, though that came after the midget lesson about how it's really not okay to call them midgets— even if you're on their side.
"We didn't realize how that's kind of a degrading name," he says. "We had a lot of little people (say) that's kind of on the same line as the N-word to an African-American." Except if it's the website name; little people cut them a free pass on that one once things got serious, he says—and possibly also because they, like the guys who hired a little person for their party at Chanteclair in Irvine, see how some things stir us up.
"People do get used to them [at parties], but people still want to be friends, and it's such a positive atmosphere," Fetterer says, describing both parties that two of the website's five little people have been to. "Everybody who comes up to them wants to shake their hands; guys want to buy them a drink. And the women absolutely adore our little people. They do transcend themselves."
Sort of. At the night's end, they're still little people—just slightly intoxicated and $200 per hour richer (in-person birthday greetings are $75). "I think," Fetterer says, "the people who work for us understand the concept, and they really like to have fun. It wouldn't work for everybody."