Once a spectacle

“And some,” continued Malvolio, reading from Maria’s letter, “have greatness thrust upon them.” For “greatness” read “unwanted notoriety,” and perhaps you wind up with a story like this:

I frequently pass a true-to-life statue of the tallest man in the world. The guy was really, really tall — almost 9 feet. Although it was put up as a sign of respect to the gentlemen, who died many years ago, I don’t think it functions that way.

When I pass by the little memorial, I almost always see somebody standing next to the statue stretching up on their tiptoes and giggling with their fingers wiggling in the sky, a friend or relative about four feet away with the camera.

I wonder how he would feel about that. Due to the fact we know how to treat overactive pituitaries now, he’ll certainly keep that record, but I wonder what he’d make of the continuing interest in his height.

It’s not as though Robert Wadlow was a recluse: he toured with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1936, when he was eighteen, and made many other personal appearances. (He died at twenty-two after a blister on one foot became infected.) He left little behind in the way of writings, and his family had most of his belongings destroyed after his death, fearing exploitation by unscrupulous collectors. But I have the feeling he’d pretty much come to grips with his Guinness-worthy stature and status; if you could see that high, you could probably have seen him shrug.

“Be not afraid of greatness,” Maria had said in her letter. Then again, at the time, Malvolio had no idea that it was Maria.


  1. Lisa paul »

    3 July 2009 · 4:27 pm

    Shakespeare and PT Barnum in the same post. Chaz, you never cease to amaze me.

  2. McGehee »

    3 July 2009 · 7:17 pm

    How quick some are to expect the different among us to be ashamed of it.

  3. Dick Stanley »

    3 July 2009 · 11:53 pm

    The tragedy is there was no NBA at the time Once he learned to dribble, pass and shoot, he coulda made millions.

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