'92 REPUBLICAN CONVENTION : Little Big Man : Politics: Actor Billy Barty is a star at the Astrodome and a spokesman for a small but important constituency.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He's a 3-foot-9 sensation every time he steps onto the red-carpeted Astrodome floor at the Republican National Convention here this week--posing for pictures, shaking hands, doing interviews.

Billy Barty, who has appeared in more than 200 movies since his 1927 debut at the age of 3, is a gung-ho Republican and a convention guest. The North Hollywood resident says he's representing "the little people," or fellow dwarfs.

"I want to prove the Republican Party is for the little people," said Barty, his eyes twinkling as he stood beside the enormous California delegation Tuesday evening. "I'm very proud to be here."

Barty, 67, founded the Little People of America in 1957 to increase public awareness of and vocational opportunities for dwarfs. Today, it has more than 5,000 members. He then started the Billy Barty Foundation in 1975 to raise money to assist dwarfs.

"We've come a long way because we make little people feel important," Barty said as photographers snapped pictures of him and delegates knelt to pose next to him. His goal, he said, is to help little people "be a part of society, not apart from society."

When he started Little People of America, he said, nearly all of its members were in the entertainment field. Now, he said, its ranks include lawyers, teachers and a cross-section of other occupations.

He joked that he has been the victim of discrimination in Hollywood because "they've never let me play opposite Elizabeth Taylor."

Barty starred in the film "Willow" in 1988 and has appeared in "The Day of the Locust," "W. C. Fields and Me," "Foul Play" and "Rumpelstiltskin." In the 1930s, he was in "Footlight Parade" and "Gold Diggers."

The father of two, he serves on the county Disabilities Commission and has testified about the need to construct buildings that are accessible to dwarfs. This includes such accommodations as lower light switches and sinks.

He has not voted Democratic, he said, since the time of the Second World War.

"Do you want government to control your life, or do you want business to control your life?" he asked. "I think we should bring the three Rs back to our country: That's respect, responsibility and religion."

As Barty spoke Tuesday evening, he had his left arm draped around the shoulders of 6-foot-3 Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a Bush delegate and the man who appointed Barty to the commission.

Antonovich said that he has periodically invited Barty to speak to elementary school students in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. "He's dynamite," Antonovich said. "He's a great motivator. He's been there. He's the most optimistic person I know. He has more optimism than Norman Vincent Peale."

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