A small icon from back when the Internet used to be quirky and fun has passed. Click not for a few moments, veteran Netizens. Hold still. Hank, The Angry Drunken Dwarf is dead.
Born Henry Nasiff, the oft-sauced and saucy little man made a name for himself in the terrestrial world as a sidekick on the Howard Stern show for the past five years.
But Hank rocketed to cyber-fame in 1998 when he won People magazine's Most Beautiful People poll online. At Stern's request, thousands of people had logged on to People's website to support Hank.
The silly incident prompted serious coverage in the mainstream media. The pundits boiled Hank's victory down to a cautionary tale about the Internet. It's a wacky, upside down world with no rules, they said. The Angry Drunken Dwarf instead of Clooney, Paltrow, or Roberts? Anarchy on the Net, they declared.
"The unlikely leader in People magazine's Most Beautiful People poll has exposed online surveys for what they are -- junk mail for the brain," Michael Himowitz wrote in the Baltimore Sun.
In the spirit of democracy, People photographed Hank and featured him along with the more famous runners-up.
As a tribute to his late colleague, Stern sang "Candle in the Wind" during his radio show Wednesday. Then he and his co-host, Robin, reminisced about some great moments with Hank -- like the time he dressed up in a pink bunny suit to harass a magician trapped inside a giant ice cube.
Nasiff's mother found him dead in his bed Tuesday afternoon, according to his manager, Doug Goodstein. The cause of death is officially unknown, but on his show Wednesday, Stern said they had all suspected Hank would die young from drinking too much.
Fans e-mailed hundreds of tributes and condolences to Hank's website. They were pouring in at about 10 per minute on Wednesday, Goodstein said.
On Yahoo's Dwarfism List, a poster named Mary wrote: "It appears another dwarf has died due to 'alcohol poisoning.' Another dwarf who had little or no self esteem, what a shame. What pain his family must be feeling."
Although he wasn't much of a role model for his kind, Cara Egan, spokeswoman for the Little People of America, was philosophical about Hank's life, and death.
"There are all sorts of opportunities out there for people with Dwarfism," Egan said. "Some people will say what Hank did was entertainment, others will say it was exploitation. As for his drinking, I'm always sad to see alcoholics who don't get treatment."
Anybody else vote for Hank in the People magazine poll?