For Boston Magazine
All eyes are on King Perry (6 feet, 9 inches) as he strides through the ballroom at the Holiday Inn in Newton. He’s Bunyanesque, a tall drink of water even in this roomful of highballs. To a short sip like me (5-4), Perry’s wide, friendly face is a distant moon, all the more so since I’m sitting.
King Perry is the second tallest member of the Boston Beanstalks, a 150-person club that aims to encourage "tall folks to establish friendships and share tall-related experiences.” He's also Mr. Tall Boston 2002, a title he will relinquish later tonight at the Beanstalks' annual Mr. & Miss Tall Boston Pageant. "It's been a good year," he says.
There's more hype this year because the Beanstalks are celebrating their 20th anniversary. The contestants, like all Beanstalks, are tall, which means at least 5-10 for women and 6-2 for men, the height requirements set by the larger governing body, Tall Clubs International. Each potential member is measured, as per the bylaws, “with stocking feet and unadorned head." (You can understand the exclusivity: Research shows that tall people in the U.S. earn more money, at the rate of $1,500 per inch per year. They also live longer.)
While most Beanstalks join to meet people, they stay because, for once, they don't feel like the lone redwood in a bonsai forest. For many, the initial club encounter is life-changing, the first time that they, in the words of Susan Flynn (5-11) of Worcester, don’t “feel like the geek” on the dance floor.
In tonight’s pageant, Joan Jacobs (6 feet) of West Boylston wows the crowd with her Sound of Music parody, “When You’re Six Foot, Going on Seven Foot.” Later, she will don the crown.
On the men’s side, eventual winner Dann Maurno (6-4) of New Hampshire takes a more serious approach. Maurno, who reached 6 feet by the ninth grade, describes the hunchbacked gait of his adolescence, an attempt to render himself invisible. But when he took up acting, he realized his height was a positive attribute. "Being tall is like having a magnificent head of hair or beautiful eyes," he says. "It's something that distinguishes us, and of which we should be proud."
By 10:30, the lanky folk are ready to shake their bones. They’ve eaten dinner, answered my questions, and crowned a new king and queen. Now the music is thumping. It’s time to stand tall and get down.