THE LITTLE PEOPLE
By Bob Tennison
“Good morning. This is your five-thirty wake-up call. The temperature is twenty-five with light snow flurries.”
I glanced at the other bed. It was empty. Jumping up, I saw that my luggage was gone—my new clothes and gifts for my family in Houston where I was headed for my father’s funeral. I had kept my billfold under my pillow. I called the night manager. The house detective would be with me as soon as possible.
All I had left was a bathrobe and slippers. Opening the door, I watched the detective’s eyes move from straight ahead down in amazement to the four foot-five baby-faced creature in a plaid bathrobe looking up at him. At least he didn’t ask, “Is your father here, Sonny?”
I told him I would be back in ten days to file a formal police complaint and fill out the necessary insurance forms. As I waited for the coffee machine buzzer, I wondered what I was going to do. No stores were open, and I had no idea if the airlines would let me board wearing only a robe and slippers, but I had no choice but to go to the airport and hope for the best.
The hotel courtesy car was available, and the desk clerk gave me a lap robe to use until my return, so I wrapped it around myself and headed for the car. The look on the driver’s face would have made a fabulous photograph. I looked like something out of “Ten Little Indians” minus a feather in my hair.
Heading for the ticket counter I got some strange looks. Since the agent was unable to see me over the counter, I went to the space for luggage and handed her my ticket along with an explanation of why I was dressed in the robe. Before she could laugh I added that I was headed to Houston for my father’s funeral.
She called the supervisor. Since I was traveling First Class I would not have to walk down the aisle of the entire plane and be embarrassed further. On the way to my seat the supervisor said he recognized me from my recent TV appearances and was highly complimentary.
A stroke of luck had made a fantastic change in my life. Applying for jobs posed a big problem and was a futile experience. I applied at the finest and best-known circus and became the fourth member of a group of three other little people that led to my present career. We were acrobats and tumblers.
Attending a party one night, the four of us gathered around a piano and performed a song we had been singing in our dressing room, and many of the guests including some entertainers advised us to try out for a TV talent show. We began rehearsing a tumbling act and dance routine daily and finally signed up for the show. We won first place weekly, eventually leading up to a contract at the Circus Circus in Las Vegas where I was headed after my return from Houston.
My brother was waiting for me at the airport, total shock on his face as I came through the door. Before I had a chance to explain, he asked if I had been entertaining the passengers. We stopped at a mall on the way to his house to buy clothes. Again people stopped to watch a little man in his bathrobe and slippers walking casually as if I were wearing a suit and tie. Some recognized me.
The funeral mass was beautiful and the next few days enjoyable. My brother’s wife and ten-year-old twin boys, who were now taller than I and old enough to understand why I had not “grown up” saw me off at the airport promising they would come see me in Vegas.
From the Chicago airport I returned to the hotel to fill out my insurance claim. The surprise of my life awaited me. My suitcase was there intact. The thief had been caught shortly after my departure. Greed had overcome good sense. He made the mistake of hitting one more room. The occupant happened to be in the adjoining room with her friend. Thinking she heard somebody in her room, she called the front desk who alerted the police. They were waiting when he came out of the room with an armload of expensive dresses over his arm.
My luggage was destined for another problem. My suitcase was incorrectly tagged for Las Palmas, Spain, finally catching up with me two weeks later after a tour of Europe just in time for our smash hit opening in full costume.