Some people turn the other cheek. Not Sandy Allen. "I try not to have anger. But I give it to them back when I need to," she says. "I've learned to pity mean people." "You can laugh off some of those jokes. But how many times do you want to hear 'How's the weather up there?' Especially, if they are being mean about it. Sometimes you want to spit on those people and say, 'It's raining.'" She credits her grandmother for teaching survival instincts. Sandy's mother abandoned her, and she never knew her father. In 1976, only a few years after high school, she was working as a secretary, when Guinness recognized her as the world's tallest living woman and a high school pariah turned international celebrity. "Suddenly, my height became an asset. I was getting invitations everywhere," she says. "I figured why not go on TV and make some money?" Over the next years, she worked for Guinness at a museum and traveling exhibit and became a familiar face on the talk show circuits, speaking with the likes of David Frost, Phil Donahue, Merv Griffin, Oprah Winfrey, Leeza Gibbons, Maury Povich, Jerry Springer and Howard Stern. "Most of the time people were nice, and I got to travel the world," she said. One high point, she says — famed filmmaker Federico Fellini flew her to Europe to appear in his version of Casanova. In case you missed it, She played an arm-wrestling giantess who, at one point, takes a provocative bath with two dwarfs. "I was definitely proud of what I did and to be a part of a critically acclaimed filmmaker's work," she said. "When it played in Shelbyville, I was the toast of the town."
Michael Jackson and the Giantess
While working at a Guinness exhibit in San Francisco in the mid 1980s, a young black man came up to her one evening and introduced himself as Michael Jackson. "Of course, I didn't believe him," she said. "I shot back, 'Yeah sure, and I'm the next president of the United States.'" But, she says, she and Jackson saw each other several times. He came back the next day with autographed copies of his albums and she later sent him an autographed copy of the Guinness Book of World Records. "I was truly impressed with his humble kindness," she said. "I still can't believe he sought me out." But life on the road had low points. In Niagara Falls, tourists paid a few bucks to pose with her and that grew old fast. While she's always tried to maintain her dignity, it's not always easy. When talk-show host Howard Stern tried to get her to talk about her sex life, she finally admitted on the air that she was a virgin. "I don't want to hurt Howard Stern's reputation," she says. "But he's actually a nice guy. A little strange, but aren't we all?" She talks a little more openly in her book: "A man once pursued me for a relationship, but I found out in no time that he was married and he was just curious." "I'm sure a man would marry me," she now jokes, "But what man could afford a diamond that would fit on my size-16 ring finger?" Post-Sept. 11 Compassion