We don’t weigh much: maybe 40, 50 pounds. We’re light compared to you. And that’s how it all got started. Some big guy got mad at Joey LaRoy down at MacNab’s Bar and Grill. He picked him up—to shake him, that’s all; but Joey bit him on the nose, and the guy threw him clear across the room— the way you would a cat. Joey bounced off the wall, which was 20 feet away, on the opposite side of two tables (fortunately unoccupied at the time). He got up and shook himself and started back for more. But another big mick named O’Malley grabbed him, yelled out, “Here ya go, Paddy,” and threw him back toward the bar; right away everybody’s grabbing us dwarfs and throwing us around. Considering that MacNab’s is a favorite hangout of ours, it’s actually amazing this never happened before.

It didn’t last long. Maybe five minutes. MaeNab brought it to a halt by setting everybody up with free beers, but it couldn’t have lasted much longer anyway. Even stevedores can’t throw us around forever. The thing is, we all were just having a good time, all but Joey. And so we knew, right away, that we were on to something big. And we were. The whole dwarf-throwing thing started that night at MacNab’s Bar and Grill on Water Street: May 8, 1987. Three years it lasted, a little more. Most of us got rich.

First thing we did was join the Teamsters. That was my work. I was the rep. They got us helmets, body padding, six-inch-thick mattresses on the floor, four-inch-thick ones on the walls, harnesses, padded skateboards, overtime, double pay for after hours, insurance. Together we made up a book of rules. ‘Cause, you see, right away we were in big demand. Within six months we were chartering our own planes. There were special events, tournaments, stars. We didn’t think anything of flying to the Coast or Chicago twice a week. It was night work, you see. Sleep a few hours, then get on the plane for Frisco, New York. Sure it was exhausting, but look how we were hauling it in. A thousand or more dollars in one night, not counting the overtime. It got so big that old guys were coming out of retirement, working a couple hours a week and making so much they had to take it under the table so as not to lose their Social Security. Even the midgets tried to muscle in.

It wasn’t the IRS but a bleeding heart from Rochester who did us in. This guy walked into Spivak’s Bar and Grill and saw a couple of us wrapped up like medicine balls. Or maybe it was piggy night and we were greased and jocked up like bonsai wrestlers. Maybe we were being tossed from one drunken Polack to another. Maybe one of us got dropped and bust a table. Maybe someone got bounced off a wall. Maybe they were playing dunk ball and we were being thrown through paper targets into tubs of water. Maybe it was girlie night and we were on our skateboards aimed at ten pins. “This is disgusting. Dehumanizing. Degrading,” he thought. “This should be stopped!” So he made his move. What’s he know about it? Did he even think of asking one of us? We would have told him we’d never had it so good. And it wasn’t just the money. It was the fun!

You have probably never really been thrown. Even as a kid, the nearest we get to it, most of us, is in the water. Our father throws us up in the air when we’re in a pool or a lake somewhere, and we push up from his hands with our feet to see how high we can go—then come tumbling down, screeching at the top of our lungs, making the biggest splash we can. Maybe you can remember that. Maybe you’d dive—flip over onto your back, see how far out you could go. With me, though, it was like being shot out of a cannon. I’d go 10,12 feet into the air. I had time to do a swan dive on the way down.

To me, as a kid, being shot from a cannon seemed the most exciting thing in the world. That puff of smoke; that perfect arc; that final, graceful turn. You bounce off the net, land on your feet, throw your arms into the air, and the crowd goes wild. But did you ever see one of us doing it? Of course not, though we would have gone twice as far. Think about it. What kind of jobs do we get? A good friend of mine, a Mexican, was used as a stand-in for one of the gorillas in a Tarzan movie. Talk about degrading. How do you think the Munchkins felt? Or those of us who played in that stupid Shelley Whatsherface’s Snow White and The You Know What? All I can say is at least those were jobs.

Maybe that’s where I got the idea. From seeing those big guys flying through the air, shot out of cannons, padded, helmets on. It was me, you see, who thought it up. It might have gone no further than MacNab’s. But I saw it all in my mind. Thousands of us being thrown through the air by the big guys, tossed from one to another, nestled in those manly arms. We’d be screaming, hysterical from the excitement, especially the girls—wrapped up in our bunting, like cats or monkeys or coons. We were cuddly. We were free!

All over now. “It is hereby proclaimed that dwarf-throwing and dwarf-bowling are from this time forth prohibited in public establishments where alcohol is served. By order of the Governor.” All the governors signed on. In three years it had spread to every state but Hawaii. Sure, we could have gone to Jamaica where there’s a tradition of it going back to Queen Victoria. But would that have been fair? They’ve got their own people to care for.

The saddest part of the whole thing is that a lot of us formed strong bonds with our handlers. (That’s what we called the big guys.) I’m talking about friendship. Not romance, for heaven’s sake. It was more a pride, a loyalty, thing. We had these tournaments, you see, with playoffs and buy-outs and trading, even cards. The guys who were into that got salaries you wouldn’t believe. Umpires, too. This was toward the end. We kept this whole “series” part of it hush-hush. We knew we couldn’t mainstream that. People just weren’t ready for it. But before they even found out about it, the bleeding heart from Rochester had done his dirty deed. He wasn’t getting through with his letters-to-the-editor. No one picked up on what was going on. Maybe no one believed him. Maybe no one cared. So he had to do something. What he did was get hold of Mrs. Timothy Flannegan and poison her mind.

The girl was Sally Bisko. Beautiful. Short, blond hair. Honey-colored. Weighed 42,43 pounds. She and Flannegan were so close she was like another arm to him. (I didn’t say there was no romance.) They were a team. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Every time he threw her or rolled her down the alley on her board toward those pins, it made you want to cry, it was such a beautiful act. He did it with such tenderness, with so much love. He was a huge guy, Flannegan—tremendous shoulders. He and Sally won every tournament they entered. If there was room enough to swing her, he could throw her 32 feet. If they were playing targets, he’d never miss. Two years and not a single accident, not one dropped catch in the relays. In the bowling, which not everyone did, very few games that left any spares.

They did a lot of touring, being just about the best; but they weren’t fooling around. It was a strictly platonic affair. Sally was a Quaker with very high morals; Flannegan, as well as being a good Gatholic, was a devoted family man. What’s more, his wife knew all about them and what they felt for each other. Yet one day she flew to Minneapolis, where they were playing for two weeks, and burst into their hotel room. There was Sally, curled up in the chair where she always slept, with Tim stretched out under the bed sheets, snoring. But she pulled the pistol out of her purse and shot them dead anyway. She later said she didn’t know why she had done it. The two of them never even woke up.

It was one of those crazy things. Crazy for them and ruinous for the rest of us, because of course then everything came out—the tournaments, the gambling, the hanky-panky with some of the customers. The papers had a field day out of it, naturally. And the governor, of course, had to act. It was that bleeding heart in Rochester. She told me herself. He never got through with his letters. So he got hold of Mrs. Timothy Flannegan and made her do his dirty work for him. He must have had some slick tongue, that’s all I can say.

Maybe it would have happened anyway. Probably it was too good a thing to last. A little over three years. The Golden Days, we call them. And most of us are still pretty well off, because we saved our money. We’re not out on the streets. Nobody’s jumping from office buildings, either. Not that we’re happy about it. Don’t get me wrong. We had such high hopes. Someday, we always said, we’d go public, come out of the closet. Think of it! To be in Friendly’s. Or under the Golden Arches! The whole country would recognize the sport for what it was and we’d be like baseball players. But it didn’t turn out that way. We got shut down, and now we’re out of work. Is that fair? I ask you. Is this America, or what?