Mihaly ‘Michu’ Meszaros, ‘smallest man’ – obituary


Mihaly “Michu” Meszaros, who has died aged 76, was a circus performer higher often called “Michu, the smallest man on the planet”.

Standing at simply 33 inches tall, Michu first appeared with the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1973 and was billed as “seven inches shorter than P T Barnum’s Tom Thumb”. This was a reference to the nice American circus showman Phineas Taylor Barnum, who, some 136 years earlier, had launched the midget Charles Stratton (“Normal Tom Thumb”) to the circus-going public. The Barnum and Bailey Circus later merged with the Ringling Brothers and by the Nineteen Seventies it was run by the daddy and son impresarios, Irvin and Kenneth Feld.

Michu was certainly shorter than “Normal Tom Thumb” however he was not shorter than the 25 inches that Tom Thumb had stood at when he first toured with Barnum. By the tip of his life, Barnum’s smallest man had grown a further 15 inches, and it was at this peak that the Felds in contrast him to Michu, utilizing the normal showman’s licence.

Mihaly “Michu” Meszaros was born on October 1 1939 in Budapest. At his delivery he was mentioned to be 14 inches lengthy. His grandparents have been underneath 4 ft tall, as have been his older brother and sister, each of whom went on to work in a Budapest manufacturing facility. His mother and father, who carried out with Budapest’s Lilliputian Theatre – an organization of diminutive actors which introduced mild comedies and kids’s performs – have been some six inches taller than he grew to be.

Michu was educated on the state-run Hungarian Circus College, the place he learnt juggling, acrobatics, pantomime and different circus expertise. After graduating, he spent 15 years with the Liebel Circus as a clown, unicyclist and juggler.

Within the early Nineteen Seventies Michu was recognised by the Guinness E book of Data because the world’s smallest man and got here to the eye of Irvin and Kenneth Feld. They set about making an attempt to hint him, finally monitoring him all the way down to a small village close to Budapest, the place he was residing with the Leibels, who had adopted him.

“Our arrival,” Irvin Feld later recalled, “was heralded by two snarling Doberman Pinschers, and we needed to move in entrance of a bear that was tied as much as the porch. Inside, an 8 ft boa constrictor crawled in the direction of us over the linoleum. We have been able to make a speedy retreat when Michu instantly made his look. His wonderful measurement made us neglect all the pieces else.”

The Felds signed Michu to a contract and he was flown to america. He later revealed that he had obtained brutal therapy from unscrupulous Hungarian circus-owners. “The happiest day of my life,” he mentioned in 1990, “was after I arrived at Kennedy airport.”

He went on to get star billing with Ringling’s and within the 104th “Best Present on Earth” a full-length life-sized poster of him was inserted into the memento programme, by which he was billed as a “Diminished Regal of Royal Renown”.

Within the 106th manufacturing of the present he featured within the “Historical past-Making Circus Marriage of Michu, the Smallest Man within the World, and his Sweetheart, Juliana.”

Twice an evening Michu and Juliana, who was additionally a midget from Hungary, have been “married” by the ringmaster, Harold Ronk, Michu additionally tried to woo Juliana off-stage, however she discovered his behaviour quite stunning (he was mentioned to have turn into one thing of a prima donna) and as quickly as her contract completed she returned to Hungary.

Michu’s different acts included presenting poodles standing on their hind legs (significantly taller than him). He stayed with Ringling till the 1982/3 season, when, in a Western-inspired manufacturing characteristic, he wore a rhinestone costume, silver boots and a 10-gallon hat and was billed because the “Marshal of Marshmallow Gulch”.

After his spell with the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus was over, Michu remained in America, however work was spasmodic. He tried to interrupt into movie and tv and featured within the circus movie Massive High Pee-wee, with the comic Pee Wee Herman in 1988. He additionally appeared in Look Who’s Speaking (1989), Expensive John (1991), Freaked (1993) and Demise to Cupid (2015).

Within the NBC sitcom, Alf (1986), Michu wore the costume of the alien Alf when the creature (usually seen solely from the center up and operated by puppeteers) was wanted in full-body motion photographs. He was additionally befriended by the singer Michael Jackson, whom he would recurrently go to at his Neverland ranch.

Michu – who based on one circus reviewer had “the face of a wrinkled cherub” and “chugs vodka from a glass clutched in two fingers” – lived alone for many of his performing years in a trailer fitted with stepladders in order that he may attain his sink, cooker and mattress. “[He] is a marvellous tiny creature,” Irvin Feld as soon as noticed. “He’s a good-looking, completely fashioned man – not a dwarf, not a midget, not a freak.”

Michu himself most well-liked to be often called a “Lilli” for Lilliputian. “I’m not like most individuals,” he mentioned in 1982. “However I wish to be handled like a grown particular person, not like a child or a pet. I’m human.”

Mihaly “Michu” Meszaros, born October 1 1939, died June 13 2016


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