Disparate Measures: The Height Report
Celebrities come in two basic flavors: Shorter Than You Expect, and Taller Than You Expect. It’s the first thing tipsters mention when they call us with excited news of the VIP they’ve just seen in the flesh. Hollywood people are generally Shorter Than You Expect — startlingly so. The prototypes: Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, whose blue eyes or big teeth go unmentioned by those who’ve had up-close-and-personals, so taken aback are they by the slightly sub-average statures.
Why is that, and what did we expect, anyway? When we’re used to seeing someone on TV or in the movies — and they always fill up that screen, don’t they? — it skews our perspective. Some aren’t actually that short in real life, at least according to the tape measure, but their super-lean physiques amplify the impression that they’re dainty little things. Or we just expect so much more from them: A colleague saw Sean Connery walking down the street last week before an appearance at a National Museum of Women in the Arts gala. “Shorter than I expected!” she gasped. By most accounts, he’s 6-2 — not short by any standard outside the NBA. “But in ‘Highlander’ he looked 6-6!”
Yet we’re often surprised that other folks — politicians, especially — are Taller Than You Expect, perhaps because of their determination to present themselves as, well, down-to-earth. Some celebs are Taller Than You Expect simply because you’re so accustomed to the fake-out that you expect them to be Shorter Than You Expect, e.g., Heather Graham, who at a Creative Coalition reception in January simply wasn’t as minuscule as most red-carpet gals. As for D.C.’s current celeb-in-residence, Nicolas Cage, some say he’s taller than expected, others say he’s shorter, and his official IMDB bio says he’s 6 feet 3⁄ inch tall—
4 but who’s counting?