On one hand, he's a guy who stumbled his way onto the Howard Stern radio show one morning--and, thereafter, stumbled into cult status. (Named the Most Beautiful Person in the World, per a 1998 People online poll.)
And on the other hand, he's a guy with an undeniable gimmick: Namely, he's an angry, drunken dwarf. In billing, at least.
"I'm not always that angry," 4-foot, 1-inch Hank says.
And as for being drunk?
"Well, not now. A little bit of a hangover, maybe."
However he got there, Hank--aka Henry Nasiff of Massachusetts--is there. Cross-country media appearances, a mini-merchandise line and (but, of course) his very own Website (www.hankthedwarf.com), launched just this month.
What hath Howard Stern wrought?
"I equate [Hank] with the real-life Beavis & Butt-head or the guys from South Park," says manager Doug Z. Goodstein, a producer of Stern's E! TV show. "He's the real deal."
For the uninitiated, Hank is a member of Stern's so-called "Wack Pack," a band of semiregulars who seem just that--semiregular. There's Crackhead Bob, Elephant Boy, Gary the Retard, etc. And, yes, Hank.
Hank's shtick--and they say it's no shtick--is that he's, um, not afraid to express himself (sometimes while outfitted in a pink bunny suit). Example: "I'm not a midget, I'm a dwarf, you asshole."
The road to multimedia fame started on August 16, 1996, when Hank and a friend from Boston dinner theater (yes, Hank was in dinner theater) drove to New York City and decided to try to get on the Stern show. Hank's vigil at New York's K-Rock studios began at about 5:30 a.m.
Was he drunk?
"Yeah," Hank says.
"It was a no-brainer" to roust him for the broadcast, Goodstein says. "There was just a compelling feature of a drunk, belligerent midget." (Er, make that dwarf.)
Since then, Hank, now 37, has made about 20 studio appearances. Last year, Stern faithful helped him trounce the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio in People's online beauty poll--making him a noteworthy blurb in The New York Times and beyond.
The poll, and resulting media, brought offers for paying gigs--at bachelor parties, bars, strip clubs, etc. But Hank, once dependent on disability checks, was new to the celeb business. ("He told the first call to fuck off," Goodstein says.)
Now organized and Web-equipped, Team Hank is prepared to deliver Hank, The Angry Drunken Dwarf (capital letters)--not to mention official "Hank Says: Don't Drive & Drink" key chains. For a price, you, too, can hire Hank to sing karaoke, bartend or hurl insults. The last one's the real crowd-pleaser.
Asked for a sample insult, Hank politely asks, "Can I swear?"
Assured it's safe, he offers, "I say, like, 'You're all a bunch of fuckin' assholes--a bunch of fuckin' losers.'"
Goodstein says he hears complaints of exploitation from those who argue a steady drinker would be better off drying out than doing bachelor parties.
"I've told [Hank], 'You could stop cold turkey tomorrow...If you want to quit and change, fine,'" Goodstein says.
Since going professional as The Angry, Drunken Dwarf, Hank is off disability (save for medical benefits), Goodstein says, and "getting responsible."
Still, Goodstein is the first to say that if the alcohol ever goes away, so does the gimmick. ("I think that adds to people's sick, prurient interest," he says.) Goodstein is also the first to say he's fine with the end of the Drunken Dwarf.
As for Hank? He's fine with it all--the attention, the label, the requests to lap dance. He is, after all, a man with a plan.
"Hopefully," Hank says, "I'll make a lot of money out of it."
Spoken like a true 1990s-style celebrity.