Coney Island is a magical historic place that is close to my heart, my soul, and especially my stomach. I am celebrating my fifteenth year as a Major League Eater July 4th on stage at the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest as Nathan's celebrates it's 100th year. How often in life does one's stomach not only be a part of the collective digestive history of our country, but also eat something a century in the making? I honestly don't know what I will feel, either in my enteric or cranium bound brain, but I predict a sense of being one with everything. Ida and Nathan Handwerker opened their Nathan's hot dog stand on the corner of Stillwell and Surf Ave as their belief of "making it" in America -- they undercut the competitors wiener prices and charged 5 cents a dog for their secret spiced frankfurter. Today, Nathan's Famous is a behemoth corporation eternally linked to July 4th because of Major League Eating. I get to quaff one of their natural casing wieners a century later on the day of our country's independence. There are no words to describe what it will be like to literally eat the American Dream but probably be a burp or three.
Because of the intersection of history, encased meats, and the eternal ballyhoo of Coney Island, I've decided to risk death and celebrate the carnival spirit of Coney Island by eating Nathan's Hot Dogs atop the 96 year old Wonder Wheel...while it is in motion. Friday, July 24th at 11 am, wearing a patriotic Sky Suit, I will ascend 150 feet in the air, frankfurters going down my esophagus while my stomach rises 15 stories in the sky. Any butterflies in my stomach not crushed by the incoming hot dogs are free to flutter away in the clouds. Why risk vertigo, getting knocked out by a moving car, or falling to my demise? The fabric that makes Coney Island the tapestry of the human condition is a sideshow banner that can sum up the place in one word: "Thrills!" Becoming Icarus on a fast lunch break may not be the wisest life choice I've made, but it's the daring spirit of Coney Island that I hope will thrill you, thrill me and make for the meal of a century.
As a food stuntman, I've earned the monikers, "The Evil Knievel of the Alimentary Canal," "The Houdini of Cusini" and the slightly less regal title the "David Blaine of the Bowel." -- I've eaten my way out of a popcorn sarcophagus, struggling to breath below an avalanche of buttered airy kernels. This has earned me many accolades and occasional groupies, but as for my hot dog and bun numbers they are a personal best of 25 1/4 in ten minutes. On July 4th the focus will be on the eaters at the center of the table, the maelstrom of meat, while I will likely be on the outside. These gustatory gurgitators include Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, Matt "MegaToad" Stonie and "Oh" Miki Sudo whose hot dog and bun totals will be astronomical. By comparison over the year, my totals are paltry -- the Major League Eating circuit does have contests each weekend that a wily outside-the-top 10 ranking veteran can excel at due to food technique (I've already started getting hungry for the Yeah Kale contest sponsored by Healthy Choices in Buffalo on Saturday, July 9th -- If I eat the most Kale in eight minutes that makes me the healthiest human on the planet correct?) For the 100th running of the dogs and future July 4th contests, Nathan's Famous is offering prize money to every finisher, male and female which acknowledges the juggernaut event the ESPN 1-3 broadcast contest has become and creates a fiercer man/woman eat dog-eat-dog competition. Eaters like Yasir "The Iron Stomach" Salem, Gideon "The Truth" Oji, and Geoff "The Digester" Esper have increased their 10 minute chowdown HDBs numbers from the 20s to the 30s. Michelle "Lescimo" Lesco -- nicknamed because like the complex many-meanings-for-the-same-word Eskimo language, her stomach has 13 different ways of digesting hot dogs and buns - will be pushing her totals to cause a bun buzzer beater against the two previous female chomping champions. I can admit that at the end of the 10 minutes of marathon eating, I won't be hoisting the bejeweled yellow mustard belt but I can earn other monikers -- "The Liberace of Lunch" (My Julz Kroboth created SkySuit is going to cause Anna Wintour to lose her lunch), "The Salvador Dali of the Deli" (can one get more surreal than eating hot dogs in the clouds plus I have a killer mustache) and lastly, "The David Bowie of the Bun." I feel the loss of David Bowie because of his chameleon ability to take us somewhere else through his storytelling. It is not just his music, but was his ability to encapsulate all forms of the human condition even while becoming someone from another planet. At the top of the Wonder Wheel, I'll be closer to those other planets and I'll have my story to tell, however it will have to be with my mouth full.
Should I not survive the death-defying Wonder Wheel hot dog stunt, in lieu of flowers send apple pie dessert to his fellow competitors on July 4th.
If he returns to the ground safety with satiety -- you can find him at the following occasions:
Thursday, July 30th in Huffington Post offices eating with Joey Chestnut, Matt Stonie, Nela Zisser, and Badlands Booker against the entire Weird News Staff (broadcast at 2 pm on Facebook Live)
Saturday, July 2nd 8 pm "The Art of Competitive Eating" Gallery Show at THE COUNTING ROOM (44 Berry St @ N 11th street, Williamsburg, BK)
Monday, July 4th 10 am - 1 pm Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, Coney Island. Official Afterparty 7:33 pm Professor Thom's (219 2nd Ave, NYC) password, "Swordfish"
And at www.crazylegsconti.com