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Jessica Cogan and Crazy Legs Conti Photographed
By Evan Sung
JC: Is there a darker side of competitive
eating? Is doping an issue?
CL: Here's the thing - there are
always the rumors. There've been rumors that Kobayashi
was surgically altered by the Japanese government.
There are the theories that say hey, there's a certain
substance you can smoke that makes you hungry and
could that help you in an eating competition. At
Coleman's Bar & Grill (where Crazy Legs makes
his home), we ran an unofficial, yet sanctioned,
grilled cheese eating contest in which seven contestants
competed and five were on that substance. And you
would have thought the guys on the smokable substance
would have done better, but really, they just stood
there and smiled. So, generally, no. I'd say drugs
would work against you in competition.
JC: What could you never eat?
CL: Well, you know I was supposed
to be on Jay Leno's show, and I was supposed to
eat mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is a condiment, and I'm
kind of anti-condiment, I prefer the real taste
of food. I've never eaten mayonnaise, and I really
couldn't do it. Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, my
nemesis in the competitive eating world, called
them up and said he could do a 32 oz. jar in 45
seconds. He flew out there, and Jay called him stupid
and he ate the mayonnaise. That was really the only
time I felt that I really couldn't do it. Mayonnaise
is not for me.
JC: How the ladies react to you being a competitive
CL: It's funny. They say that
the way to a man's heart is through his stomach,
and for a competitive eater, that's a big stomach,
so it takes a lot of ladies. Of course, the circuit
is filled with groupies, which is part of being
a professional athlete. You go to a town, women
are waiting at the airport, they want autographs,
they want to know where you're staying. You have
to deal with it in a professional manner. I keep
telling them not to send naked photos to www.crazylegsconti.com,
but they just keep sending naked photos to www.crazylegsconti.com.
JC: What are your goals?
CL: One of my big goals is to
crack the top ten in competitive eating, and it's
going to take a lot of intestinal fortitude to do
it. I'd also love the world to see the movie Crazy
Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating
and truly understand what will become the nation's
favorite sport in probably the next five years.
There are already TV shows and movies. Soon there
will probably be coffee table books. They would
probably have trading cards but they'd have to be
oversized because a lot of the guys couldn't fit
on the standard size.
JC: What advice would you
give to an aspiring competitive eater?
CL: I would say to him that to
become a great competitive eater, you've got to
do your homework. You need to stay in school. The
guy who wants to hit the big leagues right away
without hitting the books is going to be a lost
cause. I say learn from the eaters who came before
you. And stay in school. Don't do drugs. Never play
cards with a man named Lucky. And don't eat yellow
JC: What’s next for
Crazy Legs Conti?
CL: Some people have asked if
I’m going to retire because it does take a
toll on you, but I think I'm going to keep going.
Competitive eating has branched out into TV and
film. I like to be creative. I'd like to write.
Eventually I'd like to get up in the morning and
think, what are we going to create today? And let's
do it over a very large breakfast.
About the Documentary…
Crazy Legs Conti:
Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating, co-directed
and produced by Danielle Franco and Chris Kenneally.
Danielle Franco, Crazy Legs
and Chris Kennealy
is a sport. It has all the intense drama and emotion
innate to all athletic competitions. The players
train and compete seriously, sacrificing time, effort
and money, and their desire for victory is great.
Competitive eating also has a comedic side and those
involved understand both the serious and lighter
side of the game.
Crazy Legs' positive attitude
and passion for competitive eating inspired the
documentary. His determination as he trained and
battled to overcome obstacles during his journey
from fan, to amateur, to professional eater allowed
him to experience great things, meet unusual people,
and push himself to his physical and mental limits.
The filmmakers were alternately entertained, disgusted
and moved while making this film, and it's their
hope that everyone who sees the film comes away
feeling that any goal, no matter how absurd or seemingly
impossible, can be achieved if pursued with passion
Special Bonus! "A
few words with Eric "Badlands" Booker,
currently ranked 4th in the world by the IFOCE.
He holds a number of impressive records including
downing 49 glazed donuts in 8 minutes."
JC: How’d you get the name
Badlands Booker: I'm a bad man
from the bad lands of New York - I'm from South
JC: How did you get started in competitive eating?
BB: It started 8 years ago. I
was at Nathan's with my kids, and one day I saw
a sign with Uncle Sam with a frank in his hand and
it said, "I want YOU to enter the Nathan's
hot dog eating contest." And being the patriot
that I am, I decided to enter. I'd seen the hot
dog eating contest every Fourth of July growing
up, and I always said, "Hey, I can do that."
So, I said to myself, maybe this is the time to
try it out. I entered and I ate 17 dogs and buns
in 12 minutes. I got a nice trophy and some free
dogs. Then I got hooked on it. I did Nathan's a
couple more years. And the sport really grew. Then
when Kobayashi came on the scene in 2001, a lot
of contests started coming up - the Glutton Bowl,
JC: What’s the IFOCE like?
BB: We're like a big family. We're
all friends. We talk, we trade secrets. When we're
at the table, though, and it's game time, it's every
man and woman for themselves.
JC: Competitive eaters are really
branching out these days. What's this I hear about
a hip hop album?
BB: I have an album out called
Hungry and Focused, the first competitive
eating themed hip hop album available. It's 12 tracks
of speed eating venom. You can get it at www.badlandsbooker.com,
click on the record store link. It's about my eating
experiences and my thoughts, how I train, about
the IFOCE, my celebrity status.
JC: Any final thoughts?
BB: Whatever you do in life, stay hungry and focused.
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