“People’s bodies have a natural harmonic frequency,” says George McQuilken, gesturing at a roomful of lanky couples flailing to Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” “They work together better on the dance floor if they’re about the same height. It’s the same with sex.”
McQuilken, a six-foot-six, fiftysomething venture capitalist, is representing the Boston Beanstalks Tall Club at the three-day “Worldwide Gathering of Tall People,” joining the Tulsa Tip-Toppers, the Cleveland Skyscrapers, New Jersey’s Moonrakers, and fifteen other regional groups. Somewhat less grand than its name implies, the long weekend thus far has comprised the usual tourist stuff: dinner at Lucky Cheng’s, beers at McSorley’s, walking tours of Gramercy Park. But Saturday night, 98 “talls” are cutting loose in style at a financial-district cigar bar. A few revelers go about their business in tiaras and sashes – Miss Tall Atlanta, Mr. Tall New Jersey.
Ann Watt, the five-foot-eleven founder of the Tall Club of New York City, says her outfit and its parent – Tall Clubs International – serve a serious purpose. “People don’t realize it’s a disability,” she says of her unusual height. Nor, perhaps, do people realize how few talls are out there. According to a Tall Club flyer, “vertically enhanced people” – over five-ten for women, six-two or better for men – account for just 3 percent of the U.S. population. To make life more tolerable for this underserved minority, TCI offers services such as the Tall City Web page, where long-limbed consumers can locate everything from extra-large Rollerblades to advice on which airlines offer the most leg room.
That’s all well and good, says one six-foot New York woman, who asks not to be identified by name, but she considers the organization little more than a legal-size dating service. “I call it checking the traps,” she says. “Whenever I get out of a relationship, I like to come see who’s available. How often, as a six-foot-tall woman, do you walk into a room and know all the men will be taller than you?”
Not often, especially if that room is in Polish farm country. “Growing up, I was very depressed because I was so tall,” says Alina Kowalska, 40. “There was only one boy in my whole school taller than me. I never had a boyfriend.” Six-three and glamorous in a way that only a retired Eastern European professional basketball player can be, Kowalska’s decked out in three-inch pumps. When she was eighteen, she heard an announcement on Polish state radio about a new club for tall people. “It saved me,” she says earnestly.
When the D.J.’s have spun the obligatory slow jams, Bee Gees hits, and “Last Dance,” when all the highballs have been downed, the giddy talls take to the streets. Their destination: The Greatest Bar on Earth – aptly located atop the tallest building in New York. Strolling with Miss Tall Boston on his arm, Steve Sweet, a six-foot-ten contractor from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, is in tall-pride overdrive. “Do you play basketball?” he shouts to no one in particular. Miss Tall Boston giggles as Steve’s reappropriated taunts echo among the skyscrapers of Exchange Place. “Are your parents tall? What kind of bed do you sleep in? Do you have trouble buying clothes?”