I was dutily reminded that a man could be both short and alpha after watching a twenty-two year old interview which took place on my favorite talk show, the now defunct, "The Late Show With David Letterman". During this interview, Joe Pesci kept Letterman on his toes with his perfect timing, brushing off zingers and commanding the direction of the diatribe with his own one-liners, meaty anecdotes and the demonstration of the idea that just about anything that happens in his life takes place on his own terms.
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Joe Pesci stands about 5'4, is an Academy Award winner, has a list of movie and television credits miles long and has worked with everyone in entertainment from Robert Dinero to Michael Jackson. He's well respected both amongst his contemporaries and by young people who have just discovered his work. To this day, Pesci speaks of fans approaching him and citing lines from his movies, namely "Goodfellas" where he played a quick tempered mobster named Tommy DeVito, a role for which now he is most associated with. Most fans of that movie know that a lot of lines were improved. If you watch Pesci during interviews, his real-life persona with regards to speaking tone, pace and body language is close to that of his DeVito character.
Pesci Tells Letterman "I'm Sorry" (That You Don't Know Golf Terms) | Source: YouTube
In the 1994 Late Show interview, Pesci smokes a cigar while talking about his love of golf. Skeptical about his golfing ability, Letterman asks him what he shoots to which Pesci replies, "about a 16 handicap". Clueless about golf jargon, Letterman says that he doesn't have any idea as what that means to which Pesci replies with a confident sarcasm, "Well, I'm sorry" to which the audience responds with laughter and thunderous applause. See Pesci gets the implied, "You don't look like a guy who knows anything about golf" (which Letterman actually states later in the interview) and upstages Letterman by putting his ignorance to the game on display. The host later responds with a height joke ("Sit down, and when the bell rings, got to Algebra"), a cheap shot which Pesci lets slide off of his back. See, Pesci is in control here and he knows it. He just takes puffs from his cigar and keeps on going.
Pesci As Tommy DeVito In Goodfellas | Source: New York Daily News
A quick view of most of the comments on the interview which is on YouTube, along with other clips of Pesci's work will reveal comments along the lines of "Pesci is the type of guy in real life you don't want to piss off", or "he's a short guy with a short fuse". Now, I'm not implying that if you're a man who is 5'4 or under that you should walk around like you're mad at the world. This is not what Pesci does, but there is a certain level of Masculinity that Pesci's character exudes (and is apparent in the interview) that says, "this guy is a heavyweight".
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When I was in High School there was this kid whom nobody would ever dare to double cross. I forget his real name, but his street-name was "Tank". He was no taller than 5'3, built like a football player (hence his nickname), excelled at sports and was in a few gangs. He had more groupies than anyone could count and guys big or small would almost shiver when they'd talk to him. I wasn't much taller than him at the time, but by the time I graduated college and ran into him several years later (perhaps 6 years out of high school), I then realized how small he was. While the guy was no role model (he dropped out of High School and when I ran into him, he had on a UPS uniform), alpha in its rawest definition bled from his pores. Everyone knew who he was and everyone wanted to be associated with him to avoid trouble. Add to that, as I mentioned before, he had plenty of lady fans.
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So this Tank guy loosely reminded me of some of Joe Pesci's characters and Pesci himself during the Letterman interview. All jokes aside, during the interview, Pesci showed an immense level of self-assurance, held frame throughout no matter what insults were flung at him, broke a couple of rules and demonstrated strong social proof with his circle of A-Listers. It was seemingly impossible to not like and respect him.
Joe Pesci Did Nab An Academy Award Win For Goodfellas | Source: 1991 Academy Awards
So while we're not saying to go on a while mobster chase and use profanity at every opportunity, if someone insists that short men can't be masculine or alpha males, point people to this Late Show Interview.
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