September 12, 2013

Tallest famous men not famous for being tall

A long-time commenter points out that NYC mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio (born Warren Wilhelm) claims to be 6'5", but looks taller. That raises an old question about how many extremely tall men there really are. The fame of basketball stars inures us to how unusual 7-footers are, until you see a famous basketball player in a civilian setting. 

A long time ago, Colby Cosh raised the question of how many extremely tall men have been famous for reasons unrelated to their being tall. 

Here's a random list, using heights that I have one source for. Of course, sources disagree, and there are inevitable questions about height in shoes or barefoot, at prime age or in old age, etc.

Michael Crichton, novelist, 6'9"
John Kenneth Galbraith, economist, 6'8"
Crown Prince Leka, rightful heir of Zog, King of Albania, described as anywhere from 6'5" to 7'0"
John Maynard Keynes, economist, 6'6"
Thomas Wolfe, novelist, 6'6.5" (novelist Tom Wolfe claims his namesake wrote standing up using the top of a refrigerator as his table)
James Cromwell, actor, 6'5.5"
Peter the Great, Czar, 6'8"
Charles de Gaulle, Frenchman, 6'5"
Jim Pinkerton, pundit, 6'9"
Tommy Tune, Broadway dancer, 6'6.5"
Mikhail Prokhorov, oligarch and owner of Brooklyn Nets, 6'8"

Here's an 1866 list of the height of U.S. Senators. The tallest were Edgar Cowan and Charles Sumner at a little over 6'3". Abraham Lincoln, another victim of wounded Southern amour propre, is usually said to have been 6'4".

Bush and Fox
Here's a graph of Presidential heights. And here's a table of winners v. losers in Presidential elections. It's not at all true that the taller candidate always wins (for example, the tallest candidate listed is Gen. Winfield Scott, loser in 1852, at 6'5"), but it's clear that men of below average height have trouble getting nominated. 

Heightism is like anti-sinisterism (bias against lefthanders) -- it's one of those things that people tsk-tsk about, but there's little organized opposition that fights discrimination against the short because height, like left-handedness, is distributed somewhat randomly around the population.

Bush and Gutierrez
This makes it harder to organize around than more powerful identity politics traits such as race, ethnicity, language, religion, sex, and sexuality.

Even where shortness is concentrated, such as among Mexican-Americans, there's no organized anti-heightist effort. Instead, tall Cubans like Carlos Gutierrez step forward to tell their fellow Republican what short Mexicans want.

57 comments:

Dave Pinsen said...

Had no idea Pinkerton was that tall.

If you include professional athletes in this list, and 6'5" is your floor, you can find plenty who are famous for being pro athletes without being famous for being the tallest guys in their sport.

But a non-athlete you could add to this list is Paul Volcker, who is 6'7", I think.

Anonymous said...

"there's little organized opposition that fights discrimination against the short because height, like left-handedness, is distributed somewhat randomly around the population"

What do you mean by "randomly"? You should flesh this out, it seems important.

Anonymous said...

Jim Pinkerton, 6'9"? Wow. I'd never have guessed.

RWF said...

Krist Novoselic the guitarist from Nirvahna should be on that list, he's about 6'7.

Who are the tallest female celebrities not famous for being tall? There are a few supermodels who are over six foot & Maria Sharapova is about 6'2 but height is part of what makes them famous.

Whiskey said...

LBJ was 6 4 according to wiki. Washington and Jefferson over 6 foot when John Adams was 5 7 and Monroe only 5 4. That's a pretty large variance.

Howard Hughes was 6 4. Jimmy Stewart was 6 3. John Wayne was 6 4. James Arness was 6 7. Peter Graves was 6 3. Sean Connery is 6 3. Rupert Everret is 6 4.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Jim Pinkerton is 6'9". Having only seen him from the sternum up on TV and on Bloggingheads.tv, I imagined him to be short, below 5'10", to go with his overall geeky appearance, voice, manner of speaking and laughing, etc. I'm having trouble imagining his geeky face/head on a 6'9" body.

In contrast, your face/head, Steve, looks like it would be on a tall person's body, as it is in reality.

Steve Sailer said...

"What do you mean by "randomly"? You should flesh this out, it seems important."

I talk here about what are and aren't identity politics category and why:

http://takimag.com/article/the_forgotten_leftists_steve_sailer/print#axzz2ekhOs7Fj

jody said...

i've posted before about tom scholz, who is in the 6-5 to 6-6 range.

tony robbins would be another guy for this list.

IHTG said...

Would Engelbert Dolfuss not have been assassinated if he was taller and more respect-inspiring?

DYork said...

Joey Ramone maybe 6'6".

Ex-Senator Allan Simpson 6'7" maybe.

Amelia Earhart, 6'?

Bill Gates' father I've heard is 6'6" not sure.

Anonymous said...

It's extremely difficult to be several sigmas above average in more than one thing.

That's why there are so few girls who are both an HB10 and also a Summa Cum Laude in, say, an Ivy League STEM major.

Yeah, it can happen.

But maybe only once or twice a century.

PS: Is Jodi Foster really as smart as they say she is?

If so, then did she have any of her eggs frozen?

Thanks.

John Craig said...

I've never known a very tall person who wasn't absolutely fascinated by other tall people.

Just for the sake of clarification, Steve, aren't you something like 6' 5"?

Anonymous said...

Armie Hammer
Brad Garrett
Tim Robbins
John Cleese
Ryan Stiles
Vince Vaughn
Michael C Duncan

Rob said...

What about Cal Thomas? I think I heard him say years ago that he was 6ft 7in.

BB753 said...

Crown Prince Philip of Asturias, heir to the throne of Spain is about 6´6"

anony-mouse said...

1/ Heightism? Interesting.

And your almost very next article is called: 'Liberalism: Waging war on problems of people without real problems since 1968'.

Actually people make more money the taller they are.

2/ Don't know that actors or dancers should be included in your tallest list. There are about as many short famous male dancers as there are short basketball players.

Sean said...

Revilo Oliver 6'5''
William L. Pierce 6'4''


World shakers ain't tall:
Lenin- 5'5''
Mussolini-5'6''
Hitler-5'8''

Being v. tall makes you vulnerable in various ways. IMO large people don't look good for their age. (A 6'4'' Hitler would have been unlikely to survive WW1.)

Anonymous said...

Stephen Watt, a former whiz kid known for writing a sniffer program that was used in one of the biggest credit card frauds in history, is said to be a seven-footer, and he looks it in a recent interview.

Anonymous said...

Bill O'Reilly is 6'4" according to Google.

-SonOfStrom

dearieme said...

"Abraham Lincoln ... is usually said to have been 6'4". So six foot, two-and-a-half inches, then.

Kevin Michael Grace said...

Evelyn Waugh, who was short, remarks somewhere that Charles de Gaulle was the rare example of a very tall man who was greatly accomplished.

It is said that short men are angry, supposedly because of their lack of stature. Waugh countered that God had made angry men small so they could do less damage.

Aaron Haspel said...

Thomas Wolfe writing on top of a refrigerator is more than a rumor. I remember a photograph from A. Scott Berg's biography of Maxwell Perkins showing him doing exactly that.

Beckland said...

Tommy Tune is famous for being tall. He played the ukulele to exaggerate his proportions for comic effect.

Cleanthes said...

Harald Hardrada, king of Norway, the last great viking, and would-be conqueror of England was said to be seven feet tall, or at least that it would take seven feet of English ground to bury him. Even allowing for medieval exaggeration, he likely topped six foot six.

Nicolas S de Nagy-Bocsa said...

Let me tell you Bush is not that short.

pat said...

There is a web site that lists the really really tall and has pictures. The rule seems to be that if you are more than 8 feet tall you will be holding yourself up with a cane. Some of them have other men propping them up in their portraits. Humans don't seem to be able to attain eight feet and still stay upright - at least for very long.

The tallest important man in world history was Maximin the Roman Emperor who was reputed to be eight feet tall. He had been a wrestler and was said to have had prodigious strength. If that were true he would be very different from our modern eight footers. But of course it probably isn't true. He is described in the 'Augustan Histories' which are not very reliable.

I re-watched 'Master and Commander' on TV yesterday. I was struck by the size of one of the bit players portraying another 'able seaman'. At one point he carries Paul Bettany across the Galapagos on his back. He towered above Bettany. I had thought that Bettany was tall so I looked him up in 'Celebrity Heights'. Bettany is tall. He apparently is 6'4" but claims to be only 6'3" because he thinks 6'4" is freakish. I could understand why Bill Walton didn't want to be seven feet but 6'4" is not THAT big.

By the way do James Arness and Clint Walker count as 'tall but not known for being tall'. Both of them probably had had their careers negatively impacted by their stature. I bet James Cromwell will never appear on camera alongside Al Pacino. Unless they have Cromwell walk on his knees like Jose Ferrer in 'Moulin Rouge'.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

Also not famous for being tall, Mary Queen of Scots, 5'11".

Silver said...

I'm shocked that Keynes was that tall. In pics I googled of him to see what he looked like before I came across his real height I would have guessed as a shortass.

Talking about how some people's tallness seems obscured by their other qualities, I have an Italian-Bulgarian friend who has one of those faces/skulls that a pony tail looks really good on. (It's his best look imo.) He gets a lot of attention from girls, so much that I hardly ever notice how short he is. I'm 5'10 and I tower over him, so I'd guess he's at most 5'6. Hanging out with him it's almost like I "can't see" his height, because the girls that are near are not much taller than him. It's only when a girl is much taller, and they look a little silly standing next to each other, that I notice. Or maybe it's just because I can't stand girls taller than me. I don't mind a tad taller if she's in heals, but that's the absolute limit. Anything more than that and I lose all interest in her, even she's really pretty. Some guys may be able to feel dominant in those pairings, but I can't; I not only struggle, I lose all interest.

Anyway, I'll shut up now.

Robert said...

Otto von Bismarck was about 6ft 5in. And he was quite famous.

Anonymous said...

I think Tommy Lee is about 6'6. With a 6 foot dong as well.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about Chewbacca. I wonder if Han Solo bought the Millennium Falcon based on legroom for his friend.

Anonymous said...

I get a kick of the opposites, Milton Friedman and David Friedman I think were only 5'6" and Robert Reid only 4'11'' or 5'0".

John Mansfield said...

The Killers, a rock band says: "We're the tallest band in the world!" says guitarist Dave Keuning, 6'2". Says bassist Mark Stoermer, 6'5": "A lot of bands are like 5'5"." The other guys: Vannucci, 6'2" [drummer], Flowers, 5'11" [singer].

panjoomby said...

affirmative action for short people! short people bring diversity to the table! (we just have to scoot up closer to it, & sit on a phone book).

Camlost said...

PS: Is Jodi Foster really as smart as they say she is?

If so, then did she have any of her eggs frozen?


Doesn't she already have 2 sons through IVF?

Anonymous said...

Wiki says that of the six U.S. Presidents below 5' 8", all of them except Madison were single-termers.

30 out of 44 US Presidents have been above 5' 10". Considering that includes a lot of guys born in the 1700s and 1800s, when nutrition was poor and the science of it not properly understood, that's remarkable.

Anonymous said...

Some of the most famous people might have been short, Emperor Augustus short to average, St Paul in post bible sources refer to as short. Jesus Christ probably an average size Jew.

one of the dweebs commenting said...

And then there's William Wallace and Charlemagne--wow, so many connections here!

Anonymous said...

Top SEC official John Fedders was 6 foot 10. Lost his job over wife-beating allegations.

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/11/09/style/a-battered-wife-s-fight-in-and-out-of-court.html

Anonymous said...

Shorties.

Napoleon. Ross Perot. Stalin. Mussolini. Putin. Deng Xiaoping. Danny Devito.
All the famous gymnasts.

Steve Sailer said...

Anonymous Beckland said...
Tommy Tune is famous for being tall.

Right. His amazing height for a dancer was part of his appeal. There'd be jokes about it written into his shows. So, he doesn't really belong, although his fame as a choreographer is independent of his height.

With performers, I'd distinguish between frontmen and sidemen. That really tall singer for Midnight Oil -- well, his height was part of the act, part of what helped the band stand out. Really tall famous instrumentalists, however, no that's mostly orthogonal.

N.S. said...

Isn't Bush some sort of giant himself?

ian-jarchy said...

I always wondered why Americans pay so much attention to height. In Europe and Russia a lot of very powerful politicians are quite short, like 5'3"-5'5". It isn't seen as a total deal-breaker.

Steve Sailer said...

George W. Bush is listed at 5'11.5". That's maybe a standard deviation above average for his age cohort.

ironrailsironweights said...

Also not famous for being tall, Mary Queen of Scots, 5'11".

Though she was more than a foot shorter at the moment of death.

Peter

ironrailsironweights said...

Factoids:
Napoleon wasn't actually short. He was about 5'6", which would have been only an inch or two shorter than average for his time, certainly not short enough for his stature to have become noteworthy. He gave the impression of being shorter than he actually was, because he usually was surrounded by huge bodyguards.

Abraham Lincoln's unusual height was all in his legs. When seated, he sat no higher than an average man.

If Bill DiBlasio becomes the next NYC mayor, even if he is "only" 6'5" he will be 15 or 17 inches taller than his famous predecessor Fiorello LaGuardia. Sources differ as to whether the "Little Flower" was 5'0" or 5'2".

Peter

John Derbyshire said...

Hubble. Aldous Huxley.

Anonymous said...

This bloke - Peter Jones has become quite well known in the UK. He comes in at 6'7" but it was some time before I realised how tall he was seeing him on TV standing next to a regular sized person.

He's certainly done well, now worth @ £475m ($750m). Has height helped along the way?

Gnosis Sisong said...

Two taller leaders: Fidel Castro is 6'3" though according to the scrappy Nat'l-Leaguer Don Hoak his baseball prowess is overrated. Gamal Abdel Nasser was 6'1", not bad in his neck of the woods.

Reg C├Žsar said...

You left out "Tall Paul" Volcker, at 6'7". So, with Galbraith and Maynard Keynes, this puts economics far ahead of most fields in producing giant giants. Too bad this list has a noticeable list to port. Where are the great towering free-market economists?

Dave Pinsen said...

"I bet James Cromwell will never appear on camera alongside Al Pacino. Unless they have Cromwell walk on his knees like Jose Ferrer in 'Moulin Rouge'."

The producers of the series 24 cast Cromwell as the father of the character played by Kiefer Sutherland (5'9"), and Paul McCrane (5'7") as Kiefer Sutherland's character's brother. That struck me as pretty odd. It would have made more sense to cast Donald Sutherland (6'4") as the father character, and then cast an actor of intermediate height (say, 6'1") as the brother.

Dave Pinsen said...

"Anonymous Beckland said...
Tommy Tune is famous for being tall.

Right. His amazing height for a dancer was part of his appeal. There'd be jokes about it written into his shows. So, he doesn't really belong, although his fame as a choreographer is independent of his height.

With performers, I'd distinguish between frontmen and sidemen. That really tall singer for Midnight Oil -- well, his height was part of the act, part of what helped the band stand out. Really tall famous instrumentalists, however, no that's mostly orthogonal."


How rare is it for male dancers to be tall? I remember reading that the woman behind Sex & The City married a 6'4" ballet dancer.

Re the singer for Midnight Oil, he also went on to become an Australian cabinet minister.

Neverland said...

Had to laugh at your list at the top, where you have name and what they're famous for. For De Gaulle you have 'Frenchman'.

Douglas Knight said...

Sailer: George W. Bush is listed at 5'11.5". That's maybe a standard deviation above average for his age cohort.

What do you believe is the mean and std for his cohort? Where do you get your beliefs?

According to self-reports in NHIS, men born in the 40s are average 5'10" with a variance of 3.0", while women average 5'4" with a variance of 2.8". Actual measurements from NHANES would be better.

If you believe the self-reports, he's half a standard deviation above average. If everyone exaggerates by 1.5", then he's a standard deviation above normal, but how much do you trust the report of his height?

Steve Sailer said...

Okay, but what is GWB's cohort? He was born in 1946 and is now in his later sixties. Baby Boomers averaged quite a bit more height than their parents, so he wasn't terribly tall versus men younger than himself, but was pretty tall versus men older than himself.

Douglas Knight said...

Let's look at older cohorts.

Men: born in the '10s, 20s, 30s, 40s: 69.1", 69.5, 69.9, 70.1. So Poppy's generation is 0.6" shorter than Dubya's. And another half inch from Reagan to Bush. Women are similar: 63.6, 64.0, 64.2, 64.4.

What surprised me is that the while men's std barely fell from 3.17 to 3.05, women's plummeted from 3.39 to 2.82. Women used to have higher height variance than men and now have lower.


Still using NHIS self-reports. Plus a new problem: for people born in the 10s and 20s, there are 25% more samples of women than men. oversampling housewives? deaths to old age? I could temper old age problems by using only old data, but I didn't. A high male death rate would censor the high end, exaggerating the increase in height. Also, it would reduce male variance, perhaps explaining the mystery of the male-female variance cross-over.

Anonymous said...

"Abraham Lincoln's unusual height was all in his legs. When seated, he sat no higher than an average man."

Had a friend who at 6'4'' was about half a foot taller, but when we were seated for dinner I would have to look down.
And height improvements in first world, like the gigantism in Netherladns are said to be mostly in legs.