Photo by David Yellen
Here’s what happens when you google “Nick Gilronan.” First, auto-fill kicks in when you reach the r in his last name: Nick Gilronan size, Nick Gilronan inches. After you add the o: Nick Gilronan pictures. And as you finish his last name: Nick Gilronan smallest, Nick Gilronan how big. A string of thumbnails appear. They show a man—pale, fleshy, nearly naked—with a receding hairline. He’s wearing a pageant sash.
Then there are the results. The top link: “Nick Gilronan, Brooklyn’s Smallest-Penis Contest Winner, Says He’s Proud of Victory.” The fifth link: “Smallest Penis Contest Winner Tells Us Why He’s Proud To Be Less Endowed.” By the eighth result, Nick’s title has been enlarged. He’s now “Nick Gilronan, the Man With the Smallest Penis in the World.”
One hundred links later, 500 links later, Nick’s name is still tied to some variation of the phrase smallest penis. Strangers consistently mock him on comment boards. Once a closely guarded secret, Nick’s anatomical shortcomings have become his digital scarlet letter. So why is he always smiling?
Nick, 27, makes a living dealing with packages. Shape, size, feel, value—it all varies. He is an assistant manager at a shipping store in Brooklyn. You can probably guess which one. (Hint: Its name contains a total of three letters.) Since the contest, he’s been forced by the company’s corporate office to avoid any and all affiliation whenever it comes up. There’s paperwork and everything.
On a recent Saturday night, Nick is the last employee at the store, settling the register some 20 minutes after closing, when a couple knocks on the glass door and asks for a notary service. Nick looks at the clock and shrugs, the usual half-smile on his face. “Sure, I already shut down, but that’s something I can do by hand.” The two 30-somethings gush a spate of thank-yous and fumble through a thick manila folder of foreign adoption papers. “Happy to help,” he tells them.
Fifteen minutes later, Nick’s outside the store, shades on, roaring the metal shutters down over the door. He’s wearing a double-XL New York Jets jersey—a number 15 Tim Tebow jersey, to be exact. “I feel like no one ever gave him a shot,” he explains. “How can we just write the guy off if we never gave him a chance to prove himself?”
He squeezes onto a crowded L train. Nick is a lifelong New Yorker as well as a lifelong Jets fan. He talks football as the train lumbers toward East Williamsburg. He has a nasal whine and speaks in quick bursts in a thick Queens accent. His eyes are dark and small. He’s a big guy, but he doesn’t shy away from fat jokes. As he walks toward Kings County Bar, where it all happened, his hobble becomes a strut.
Bobbie Chaset, the dark-haired bartender, clinks open a bottle of Budweiser. “We were just talking about you!” The we: Chaset and a customer in his early 50s from Kansas City who heard about the contest on the radio “back home.”
“So you’re the guy?”
Nick looks him in the eye, swigs his beer and flashes his half-smile.
“Yeah, I’m the guy.”
Former Kings County manager Aimee Arciuolo says the idea came to her five years ago after she first encountered a micropenis. (Howard Stern has hosted a similar contest numerous times over the past decade.) “There are two types of guys on the smaller side,” she says. “The first is extremely awkward. The sex involves putting pillows under the butt to help the angle. But it’s still hard to feel anything. It’s a quick smack-smack-smack-smack-smack, then the guy usually gets up and runs away in shame.”The other type, she continues, involves “creative guys who know how to use their hands, guys who are silly. I was talking to the girls about this one night, and we said, ‘We should have a pageant for these guys!’”
In late May, Arciuolo posted an ad on Craigslist looking for “less-endowed men.” She didn’t request pictures, though they came, dozens and dozens of them, she says, pouring in each day.
Some men took photos while sitting on the toilet, yellow piss water in the background. Some took pictures in women’s underwear. Some sent photos of large penises, asking, “Is this small enough for ya?” Two sexagenarians sent photos every day for two weeks. One man wrote that he wanted to be onstage so people could stare at him, though he was afraid that he might not be able to stop himself from ejaculating.
Then there was Nick.
In high school, Nick threw shot put. He remembers the first dayof winter track practice. He was 15. The field was particularly muddy. Nick walked into the locker room after practice, exhausted, dirty, covered in sweat. He saw several teammates walking toward the row of showerheads, naked. Anxiety rushed over him. He froze.
“I’m the smallest one here.”
Nick left the gym quietly without showering. He walked two blocks home to his grandparents’ apartment in Queens. He closed the door, removed his clothes, turned on the hot water and cleaned the dirt off his body in peace. He would continue to do so all season.
Today he lives in the same apartment with his grandparents. He never knew his father. When he was young, Nick would often come home to find his mother sprawled across the living room floor, a needle dangling from her arm. One needle left her with AIDS, effectively killing her.
The conductor walked onto the train car and shook Nick’s arm. It was 3:45 on a Sunday morning in late July, the tail end of an oppressive heat wave. Nick was asleep on the pale blue subway bench, the last one in the car, the last one on the train. He had missed his stop and was at the end of the line. Nick stumbled home. He tiptoed into his grandparents’ house wearing a plastic crown topped with little dicks. He carried a scepter with a magnifying glass on one end. His back pocket bulged with $200 in cash. Nick collapsed on his bed and closed his eyes.
In the morning, Nick saw his name on page three of the New York Post. The next day, the calls started—a handful at first, then several, then several dozen. They mostly came from midmarket shock jocks looking for cheap on-air laughs. A porn producer sent Nick a Facebook message, offering him a role. He was insistent. Nick has modeled before—in art classes, in a weight-loss ad. He played a thug during a fight scene in The Dark Knight Rises. But porn was different. “I didn’t let him get to the money part,” Nick said. “The fact that I could have done it is enough.”
By late Monday, Nick’s name was tied to a juicy headline that was quickly gaining steam, and index, through Google. Soon enough, the story drifted overseas. A Dublin radio station cut away from its wall-to-wall coverage of the royal birth to speak with Nick. “That was the peak,” he said. “Never again will I be able to take airtime away from the royal baby.” A week later, Nick’s grandmother found the crown of dicks resting on his nightstand and asked, “What’s this?” Some prize he had won at a street fair, he told her. When she left the room, Nick shoved the crown and scepter into a plastic bag and buried it in the back of his closet.
In time, his grandparents found out, his co-workers too. His immediate supervisor at the shipping store thought the whole thing was hilarious; corporate did not and tried to have Nick fired for using the company logo. (He entered the contest as “The Delivery Man,” wearing a company hat and a cardboard box over his package.)
Three months later, everyone in Nick’s life knows something; the only question is how much. Do they know that Nick wore only a tiny piece of sheer fabric over his tiny penis in front of 200 people? Do they know that a hot blonde slammed him against a brick wall moments after his victory? (“She went right in for the tongue.”) Do they know that during the talent portion he elicited real laughs with a five-minute stand-up bit? (“Most men compensate for their lack of penis size by buying a sports car or a truck. Now, I don’t want to throw out any accusations, but Kim Jong-un was recently caught buying missiles from Cuba.”) Do they know that it all came down to Nick and “Rip Van Dinkle,” a 55-year-old who flew in from Minnesota? (“I was rooting for him so he could recoup some of the plane fare.”) Do they know that Nick did the whole thing sober? (He began drinking heavily immediately thereafter.) Do they know that three of the six contestants wore masks the entire time? (“When I saw that, I realized I had a shot. No one will vote for a guy in a mask.”)
Still, even during the swimwear portion—in which thinly veiled penises were pummeled with water guns—nobody actually saw Nick’s dick. During the measurement portion, a female judge held a retractable tape measure against the cloth that covered the contestants’ packages. The findings were delivered to the judges, though precise numbers were never announced to the crowd.
In that sense, perhaps the title that stalks Nick through Google is a little misleading. Yes, a nonscientific measurement of Nick’s penis was taken. Yes, the dimensions were small. But it was a pageant. The girls at Kings County weren’t looking to shame; they wanted to shine a light on someone special. Or so they claim.
A few days later, in an interview with HuffPost Live, Nick told the mocking host that when flaccid, he measures “a little over two inches,” but that he was hardly the smallest guy there. All six contestants dressed in a room above the bar, and the smallest, Nick claims, was one of the three masked men. Of the 400 comments on the accompanying article, most are hurtful: “Ouch, my eyes.… Does his big dunlap [sic] gut just make it appear smaller?… I don’t care if this guy was packing, he’s just gross.”
Through it all, Nick has become an unsuspecting symbol of positive body image. In late August, he stood in Times Square as artists covered his skin in pink body paint. Last month, he flew to Los Angeles to tape an episode of the CBS daytime talk show The Doctors. He planned to ask the panel one simple question: If he lost weight, would his penis look bigger? “I’m sure it’ll add an inch,” he maintains.
Nick does admit to feeling pressure to become a positive-body-image poster boy. “I’m happy to run with it, particularly if it helps spread a message,” he says.
His own struggle with his physical imperfections turned a corner in 2006, when a friend of Nick’s needed a last-minute stand-in at an NYU photography workshop. Nick volunteered. When the photos came back, something inside Nick changed. For the first time, Nick felt proud of the way he looked. He started scanning Craigslist for part-time modeling and acting gigs, eventually finding Arciuolo’s post seven years later.
“I x-ed it out and moved on,” Nick says. “But 20 minutes later, I was still thinking about it. I thought, Here’s my chance to do a show, a big show. The kind that only bodybuilder guys get to do. There aren’t many shows like that for regular guys.”
Does he wish it all away?
Nick sips his Bud and cracks his signature half-smile.
“Women like a winner,” he says. “A confident man.”