Tuesday, March 17, 2009 | 2 a.m.
He’s four-foot, one-inch tall, dressed in green. His jacket with tails and the floppy top hat have come off, because right now the man who works as Lucky the leprechaun is straddling a woman lying on the casino bar. He’s just poured a shot of mysterious green liqueur into her mouth and now Lucky is swiveling his hips and peeling off his suspenders, nice and slow, one shoulder at a time, the whistle in his mouth tweeting seduction.
The woman shakes her head, her face wide, red and laughing.
Off comes Lucky’s T-shirt. Under it, he’s wearing another shirt. He gives the woman the first shirt as a souvenir and leans in for a kiss on the cheek. At the last second, he plants her one on the lips.
Her face turns to tomato soup and she laughs louder, a positive cackle.
It’s another hourly performance from Lucky, as regular as the Mirage’s volcano or the Bellagio’s fountains. Only this is O’Sheas, a small down-market Harrah’s property between the Flamingo and the Imperial Palace. It doesn’t have the real estate or the budget for volcanoes, fountains or pirate-ship battles. What it has is a little person in green, barking at tourists over loudspeakers and pouring free shots on the hour.
“I take everything I do with pride,” says Brian Thomas, sitting in his dressing room in jeans before the day starts.
How does he reconcile his pride with a job that exploits his height and dresses him up as one of the wee folk?
“I’m pretty open-minded,” Thomas says. “Honestly, for me, it’s a gig.”
His stature is a genetic condition called achondroplasia. When he was born 42 years ago, doctors told his parents he would never walk. But when he was too young to remember, his older brothers (both of whom are six feet tall now) would come home from school, lie him on his back and work his legs back and forth to strengthen his limbs. Thomas says his brothers are the reason he can walk.
Thomas says he’s fine with using his height as an entertainer, so long as he’s not being presented as a joke or a freak. It’s the difference between being a punch line and being a star.
And at O’Sheas, Thomas is the star attraction. He’s had tourists from England return a year later wearing T-shirts of themselves taking shots out of Lucky’s bottle. People tell him he’s on their Facebook pages and there’s video of him performing on YouTube. It’s flattering. It’s gratifying. It’s fulfilling, Thomas says.
Although sometimes the pressures of fame are intense, especially after people have had a few drinks.
“Girls will come by and say, ‘Oh, he’s so cute’ and get that really high-pitched voice. And then, oh no,” Thomas says. “I have to be a good boy, a good Lucky, because some of these girls get really frisky.”
And it’s not just free shots and barking about the casino’s tattoo parlor or its beer pong tables. It’s also a job. He meets with people in the casino’s stores and restaurants and, every morning, he gets the casino’s greeter girls ready with promotional cards and has them on their spots by 1 p.m. Last April he was employee of the month.
Today being St. Patrick’s Day, Thomas will be telling red-headed ladies they can drink green beer for free. Mayor Oscar Goodman will present Thomas with the key to the city. Thomas says he’ll present the mayor with a shot.