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Small man takes big stand on state law

''Dave the Dwarf'' goes to federal court to lift a ban on a barroom game that may be bizarre but, he says, should be allowed.

By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 29, 2001


"Dave the Dwarf" goes to federal court to lift a ban on a barroom game that may be bizarre but, he says, should be allowed. "Dave the Dwarf" goes to federal court to lift a ban on a barroom game that may be bizarre but, he says, should be allowed.

TAMPA -- Radio personality "Dave the Dwarf" has been frozen in a block of ice, sent to live in a Dumpster for charity and stuffed inside a giant bowling ball.

But tossed across a room by bar patrons? That's illegal.

A lawyer for Dave the Dwarf, whose real name is David Flood, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday, alleging that Flood's constitutional right to equal protection was violated with the 1989 passage of a law prohibiting dwarf tossing in bars.

The 3-foot 2-inch entertainer, who appears on WFLZ-FM 93.3's MJ Morning Show with MJ Kelli, said Wednesday that when he learned of the state law, he was offended.

"This is serious," Flood said. "I don't want the government telling me what I can or cannot do. They assume (people with dwarfism) don't have a mind of their own."

Flood, 37, said that while he is not jumping at the chance to be tossed, the lawsuit was filed on principle.

"People confuse exploitation with capitalization," he said. "If I were 7 feet tall, I'd get paid to put a basketball through a hoop."

Dwarf tossing is believed to have started in Australia and was popularized in America in the 1980s. Barroom contestants throw dwarfs across the bar and onto mattresses to see who can lob them the farthest. Other versions call for the dwarfs to be strapped into Velcro suits and hurled onto Velcro walls.

Lawmakers deemed the activity illegal in 1989 because of the danger to dwarfs, who have brittle bones because of the growth impediment. Violators face revocations of their liquor licenses and up to $1,000 in fines.

Kelli said an attorney friend of his mentioned the law to him and he told Flood. The two have been discussing it on the air during Kelli's morning show.

"This is serious," Kelli said. "(Dave) wants to start a dwarf tossing business."

Flood's attorney, Michael Steinberg, said a secretary in his office heard the issue being discussed on radio, so he called and offered his services.

Steinberg, who is running for a state House seat, said he's not seeking political office to change the dwarf tossing law. He is working on the case for free because he has an interest.

Steinberg, who is also an amateur standup comedian, said a business partner used to travel the state with his dwarf tossing enterprise and made a lot of money.

He went out of business when the law went into effect.

"It's funny because it's unusual," Steinberg said, "but not funny because of the state statute that discriminates against a person because of their disabilities."

The lawsuit names Gov. Jeb Bush and Kim Binkley-Seyer, the head of the state's Department of Business and Professional Regulations.

Steinberg said he hopes the courts will either find the law unconstitutional or Bush will, um, toss it out.

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