Crazy Legs Conti: Zen And The Art Of Competitive Eating

2005, Movie, NR, 72 mins


"Hot dogs are the Tour de France, the Super Bowl, the World Series and the NBA Championship all rolled into one," marvels competitive eater Crazy Legs Conti in directors Danielle Franco and Chris Kenneally's slight, genial documentary portrait of a man and his dream. Looking at Conti's perfectly straight, guileless face, you have to wonder whether he's crazy: Following your passion is a time-honored road to happiness, but his passion is the sport of competitive eating. That's "sport" in the loosest sense of the word: racing to devour multiple sticks of butter without gagging isn't pole vaulting. But regardless of the attitude you bring to the crumb-spattered table, Conti himself possesses a certain oddball charm. A slacker with a mop of bleached dreads and a closet full of loud Hawaiian shirts, Conti lives on Manhattan's Lower East Side, and before dedicating himself to the discipline of eating like a decadent Roman, he washed windows, donated sperm and modeled nude for art students. Conti's medium build — a little chunky around the middle maybe, nothing more — sets him apart from the elite of American pro-gorgers, who tend to be large fellows with nicknames like "The Bison." A long-time fan of the annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, Conti impulsively decided to try his gut at chowing against the clock. His assault on the citadel of regulated gluttony began at an oyster-eating competition in New Orleans, where Conti claimed the title of "Oyster King" and is promptly immortalized in a damnably catchy little song by his equally offbeat pal, Dinshaw Gobhai. Flush with victory, Conti sets his si0ghts on Coney Island, which occasions his awestruck assessment of the significance of hot dog-eating contests. It's a fact universally acknowledged, though, that scarfing slimy shellfish is child's play compared to wieners, whose mouth-challenging combination of greasy processed meat and doughy buns makes them the K2 of speed gobblers. But Conti is determined to test himself against the greats: Hungry Charles Hardy, Eric "Badlands" Booker, Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, Mo' Ribs Molesky and, most terrifying of all, 130-pound eating machine Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi, world-record holder for 53 1/2 dogs in 12 minutes. It's all mind boggling, but the most mind-boggling thing of all is that there's a governing body — the International Federation of Competitive Eating — overseeing the madness for safety and cleanliness, if not restraint or propriety. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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