Thursday, July 9, 2009


Okay folks. I've been holding on to this secret for a very long time. I've tried to deal with it through therapy, bad decisions, and finally acceptance. Life hasn't been easy carrying this heavy secret. But it is time to admit the truth.

I am Tom Thumb.

I feel better already. Yes, when I was a wee little boy, no bigger than my mother's thumb, I lived
a much different life.

My father, Richard Jesse Watson, was an up and coming children's book illustrator at the time. He needed a model and I agreed. On two conditions, I told him. One, that nobody would ever know about this. And two, that he would buy me a brand new G.I. Joe character of my choosing AND a brand new SWATCH.

As he cut my hair into a bowl cut and told me to put on bright red tights, he promised me, nobody would ever know.

My mother made all the clothing, including "mouse" leather boots and the "acorn" leaf hat.

Yes, this modeling seemed innocent enough, at first.

Swing on a rope, hold enormous cherry tomatoes. Avoid behemoth moth flying right at me.

And then things started getting more dangerous. I was "told" to juggle eight pointy objects at the same time. I'd never done more than three before. And they had been soft bean bags.

Working hours started getting longer. I was forced to go on a diet to keep my previous size and weight. So I'd fit in my custom clothes.

Under the strain I became dangerous to myself and others. Lashing out when my makeup boy didn't have my correct foundation and at the lighting guy for, well, just for being there.

I became an adrenaline junkie, as you can see on this bike. Later, Father would paint in my mouse steed. Yes those are VANS that I am wearing. All the rave. VANS came out with a TT mouse-leather prototype after our book came out, but under pressure from PETA and Disney they never took it to production. I could have really used that extra cash.

And then the inevitable happened. They needed something more edgy. So, sure enough, my clothes came off.

I did get a swell acorn sailboat out of the deal. Cheap tradeoff for my integrity? Perhaps.

Things went from bad to worse.

I was washed up. Just when I thought I'd given all I could possibly give to my father and the project...

Things hit rock bottom. I made some bad choices. Hung out with the wrong crowd. Same old children's book model story.

"I had no friend to go my bail they slapped my dried up carcass in that county jail." JR CASH

I don't like to talk about this time in my life. Though, I did make friends with sorts that I never thought I would. That's Geezer, in for cheese theft. Good company.

But after a lot of soul-searching, I found religion.

And my Dad found fame and awards. Like this one up there. And so it goes. They even wrote songs about me, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. "I do believe I've had enough." B. Dylan

So thanks Dad. For telling me that nobody would ever see me in tights. I guess you meant everybody but the whole world and Chevy Chase, who has, or at least had, a painting of me on his wall at home. It was nice shaking his hand.

I'm sure there are legions of us, former children's book models, never recovered from the adrenaline rush of an art show at Every Picture Tells A Story starring yours truly in Beverly Hills. Funny how life changes. How we change. I'm no longer that three inch hardbody you see in those pictures. I've grown. Mostly outward but, hopefully inwardly too.

Assalaamu 'alaykum. Namaste. Jesus loves you. And so does Abraham, Isaac AND Ishmael. No matter what size you are. Or what Golden Kite Award Winning book you posed for as a boy. You can't go forward until you admit who you are and where you've been.

So this is me. I am Tom Thumb. I'm no longer ashamed to admit it.


  1. OMG! Ben, you have to pitch this as a freelance story for a magazine...

  2. You, Tom Thumb, just made my day- nay! my week. And I can somewhat relate. I'm not yet comfortable writing what my husband, an animator, has made me wear and act out for the sake of a client. But let me just say, I feel your pain, though I am not yet ready to admit my particular truths. Hats off to you!

  3. So. Awesome.

    I love that the price of an ETERNITY IN RED TIGHTS was . . . a SWATCH!

    (They were pretty kewl.)

    Did I mention how awesome this post is? I tip my Peter Pan-esque hat to commend you for your bravery.

  4. OMG! Martha is totally right! Send this in for publication!

  5. There is hope through acceptance.

    PS The statute of limitations is long if you ever want to consider suing. :)

  6. Why were you ever ashamed!? This is fabulous. If only I had such tales to tell of myself! Fun! And I must say, your dad it quite awesome. : )

  7. Holy Tiny Appendages!

    That post was AWESOME! And your mom is TALENTED!

  8. I'm sure everybody already knows this, but I think I should preface any of my comments here by making sure that everyone knows that I like to fib a little, err, lot. That is I write fiction. Now, I WAS a model for my dad who DID win a golden kite award and a lot of other recognition for Tom Thumb. I didn't tell a soul growing up, boys wearing tights didn't go over real well in Calaveras County, CA. My dad DID have an art show at EVERY PICTURE... which Chevy Chase DID attend and I got to meet him and he DID buy a painting of yours truly.

    Now where I start fudging is first implying that my pops was anything less than the best dad in the world. He was awesome, went to every single ball game of every sort of ours, away game, etc, even when I was just a bench-warmer. We were also VERY lucky to have our Dad and Mom work at home so we got to see them all the time, hang out with them, and generally drive them crazy. We also got to go to him/her with our problems and endless list of medical trauma/emergencies.

    My Dad is awesome and I haven't YET been to jail, made no more, OR LESS, bad choices than my older brother, though plenty more than our sis. Basically, if you've ever met my dad you already know, and if you haven't, I'm here to tell you that he's the most genuine, decent, generous man in the world, in my opinion.

    Enough disclaimer? Hope so. I actually barely did anything but pose a bit, and my Dad took a bunch of pictures. Rarely did he draw my hand or something in person, which I hated, because I'd have to sit still.

    It was secretly very special to me and once i grew older and wider, I had the distinct privilege to have my very own talented dad, illustrate my very first published writing. I'm very close to my dad and while growing up we were oblivious to it, he has had a very respected and cool career illustrating and writing children's books.

    It wasn't because he did that for a living that every one of his kids are all pursuing careers in children's books, it was because him and my mom, from a very early age, read to us every night, surrounded us with books and art. And we didn't even own a television until our psychologist Grandpa visited us and decided that we were certainly emotionally stunted and bought us a television and plugged it in himself.

    Us kids were thrilled, but not one of us every stopped reading. I'm sure many of you are writing and illustrating today because of the same reason as us. Your parents loved stories and they read to you. Others of you came to this passion more on your own, but someone, somewhere, provided you the same life-changing service and handed you a good book.

    I love my Dad, my mom. I was very lucky to have my family. In trying to be funny, I just hope that I didn't give anyone the wrong impression at all. That being said, don't be surprised to see me on Oprah one day, airing all parental grievances. ; )

  9. Thank you very much Martha Bee, coming from you that means a whole lot.

    Amy I didn't know your husband was an animator. That's really cool! I hope you put some of his work up on your blog someday. Thank you.

    Stephanie, swatches were cool, so were MC Hammer pants... hmm. As for brave, you know who's brave? The guy turning his back on a wet koala/Mogwai, that's who's brave. And you are a very fine writer.

    Thank you Corey! Right after you publish your undersea masterpiece. Actually I'd love to read ANY of the Scuba Godess' books, tropical underwater paradise-related or not.

    Thanks Angie, I'm trying to retain legal counsel as we speak. Anyone who hasn't already, go read Angie's hilarious Twittering incident. It cured me of any Twittering ambitions.

    Casey is rolling in style with a coonhound named Trevor. Talk about awesome. Ever since The Fox and The Hound I've been a big fan of hound dawgs. I can thank Jim Kjelgaard too.

    Yes she is Jennie. I believe she had to sew with spiderweb, but I could be wrong. She's gonna try to sell it all on ETSY, targeting the under five inch market. Jennie has a cool post about continuity editing and mistakes. Who knew Napoleon Dynamite, Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz all suffered from such a thing? Find out more at her blog.

    Thank you all, very kind, encouraging people.

  10. you are freaking hilarious, BJW. Your family sounds amazing. I do credit my parents with giving me a love of language.

  11. Oh lord. This is great, Ben. And I particularly love the addendum disclaimer. I think your p-rents are the bee's knees.
    Chevy Chase...wowzers.

  12. Too funny!

    I once made my daughters dress in dragon costumes for a Christmas card (The Good Knight books feature three dragons). It was hilarious (to me) probably humiliating (to them).

    Oh, the things we parents do in the name of art!


  13. Thank you Monica, you're pretty freaking hilarious yourself. That's neat to hear you say that about your parents. Now look at you!

    Ah Jaime. You just had to bust out the bee's knees, didn't you. That's what you get for walking so much Mystery Theater.

    Story Queen, your daughters probably had to pretend to be humiliated, but secretly loved it. It's in their daughter contract, pretty standard. Once we approach junior high, everything about parents embarrass us until we're old enough to look back and realize how cool they were/are.

  14. That's pretty dang awesome. I suppose if you can admit such "embarrassing" material, I can say I...wait, no, I can't. The internet's not ready for that yet.

  15. Hee hee! That's the best kind of secret (especialy the vans and spider-thread). You are part of a most wondrous family, Ben.

  16. Holy Vans, this is so good. You really made my day more bright and magical. And that's worth any price.

  17. This is the funniest post yet, Ben! I love it. The pictures really take the cake. I second what Martha said. At the very least, send this in to an SCBWI newsletter or something. It's hilarious.

  18. This is funny and sweet. I'm glad you posted it.

  19. The best part is Ben still wears that outfit around the house when he's fighting against writer's block. You're such a stud.

  20. Linda URBAN!!???! Why, howdy! Didn't we just see each other? You were an amazing speaker. You revolutionized my novel. THANK YOU!

    Logan knows this because we were roommates, or housemates to be more accurate. Yeah, nothing like an acorn hat and tights to get you over your insecurities. Ha. Logan is also HILARIOUS and the most sarcastic guy you'll ever meet. good dude.

  21. And thank you Natalie, Holly, Tricia and Kjersten. Very sorry I didn't acknowledge your funny, great comments a long time ago.

  22. Brilliant post. Reminds me of Charles Elton's Mr Toppit, but you do it far, far better! Love your blog title too.

    Dirtywhitecandy, who has posed as a fairy delivering an enchanted bridle to the bedroom of a sleeping boy...