Though a short read, The Little Gate-Crasher gives an insightful and in-depth look at the life of an extraordinary man.
Born with dwarfism in a time it was seen as a handicap to be hidden away out of shame or put on display for profit, Moishe Morris ‘Mace’ Bugen was born into a big loving family who didn’t treat him differently or coddle him.
With tenacity and sheer will, Mace would become a successful entrepreneur and businessman and a respected standout in community and civic groups, especially with youth and in sports, and in Jewish affairs.
Mace was also the king of self-promotion, staging more photo ops than a legion of press photographers. He had his photo snapped with luminaries from sports and stage and theater. He posed with politicians—and even a future president. While some subjects in the photos may look a bit surprised or caught off-guard, Mace Bugen is enjoying every second of it.
This read has some great photos—all property of the family—recapturing an era in modern history, with Mace front and center, of course. I didn’t read of any time Mace tried to use his disability for preferential treatment, but he had no problem using the shock value of his size to get his photos. Smart man!
But this leads me to my issue with the book. Photo and caption placement and formatting. Photo captions are listed at the beginning of the book. The photos are placed at the beginning of each section WITH captions. Many of the stories behind the photos are told throughout the story and it would have been less distracting to have photos with their stories, followed by a photo array at the end. And that list of captions in the front matter? It’s redundant, but I believe it should be part of the back matter. Future readers doing a Look Inside or downloading a sample will only get the copyright notice and the list of captions.
Life has changed much for individuals with special needs in the one-hundred-and-three years since Mace’s birth. Laws are in place protecting them and medicine and technology are now able to help alleviate some of the pain associated with dwarfism, and in some case, even give them additional height.
But Mace Bugen didn’t have those things and didn’t need them. He was forty-three inches tall… and larger than life. Pick up this unique bio today and meet the little gate-crasher.
Mace Bugen might have been an achondroplastic dwarf, 43 inches tall with an average size head and torso set on small, twisted legs—but that didn’t mean he was an idiot or a pushover. In truth, he was smarter than most; over the years, he learned to effectively turn what society in those days called a handicap into a powerful tool he could use to his advantage.
“When I was a kid,” he once said, “I’d ask myself, Why is that guy on the football team? Why can’t I be on the team? Why didn’t God give me the height so I could be the hero?”
“Then at some point I figured it out: I gotta do something special to let ’em know I’m me.”
In The Little Gate Crasher: The Life And Photos Of Mace Bugen, I remember my amazing great-Uncle Mace Bugen through his journey as a first-generation Jewish-American kid in working class Philipsburg, NJ to becoming the first celebrity selfie-artist—way ahead of his time.
Featuring vintage photos of Mace with his exploits, The Little Gate Crasher captures three decades of American pop culture, seen through the unique lens of Mace and his gate-crashing exploits.
Underneath his antics, we meet a complex man who continually defies others expectations and meets life on his own terms. Mace becomes a successful businessman and devoted son to his aging parents. But in his gate-crashing antics, we best get to see Mace’s unique combination of guile, cunning and sense of entitlement, which he used to engineer photos of himself with some of the biggest celebrities of his day. If people were going to stare at him all of his life, he would give them something to see.
The Little Gate Crasher features over 50 vintage photos of Mace with celebrities, athletes and politicians, including Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, Richard Nixon, Jane Russel, Joe DiMaggio and more.
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