Modern Living: Oddball Olympics

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Some venturesome souls achieve fame by scaling the world's highest peaks or plumbing the oceans' deepest bottoms. Their feats faithfully find their way into the Guinness Book of World Records, as do the odysseys of marathon smoke-ring blowers, balloonists, goldfish swallowers, grape eaters, yo-yo spinners, Scrabble players, prune devourers, face slappers, Pogo-stick jumpers, leapfroggers, barrel jumpers, needle threaders and record breakers in 10,000 other Record-worthy categories. For the past two weeks, in a guerrilla assault on Guinness, 200 young Californians assembled in Los Angeles to topple records or immortalize themselves and to discombobulate Recordkeeping.

They succeeded all too well. During the week-long oddball Olympics, contestants in 75 events set eleven new world records. John Parker, 24, made himself a 1975 edition Guinness notable by downing 300 goldfish, 75 more than the previous oldie goldie. Rick Sumner, 14, polished off 20 doughnuts in 9 min. 59 sec., beating the old record of 20 in 15 min. John McKinney, 17, and Rick Sackett, 25, each crammed 52 cigars into their mouths and kept them alight for 30 sec. (v. the previous record of 28 lit for 30 sec.). Another titlist, Scott Case, managed to smoke 110 cigarettes simultaneously for 30 sec. without endangering his health. Kevin Farrell and Corey Fletcher each stood on one leg for 7½ hr., 60 min. longer than anyone ever has before.

Allan Littman, 17, consumed a pound of grapes, with seeds, in 52 sec. to crush the old mark of 65 sec. Allan Greenberg, 22, twirled a record album on his forefinger for 5 hr. Bruce Stewart and Robert Argust slapped each other's faces for 31 hr. to top the old record by one hour. Frank Dolce blew 116 smoke rings on one drag to break the old high by 30.

For many Guinness busters, it was not all goldfish and chips. Three weary young high school students, in the middle of their 35th game of Monopoly and six hours ahead of the previous record, complained that they had not been properly fed and "it's extremely boring." Three other young titlists came better prepared. Setting their own private record for unicycle riding (50 hr.), they brought along Johnson's baby powder to alleviate what they called "diaper rash" and kept happy in the saddle for a record 50 by playing cards, Ping Pong and pool.

One oddball hero was Roger Guy English, 23, who claims to hold world marks for twisting, staying awake and kissing. His most serious attempt at record breaking will take place in August when he begins a 1,876-mile swim down the Mississippi River from Ford Dam, Minn., to New Orleans, which he has to do in fewer than 176 days.

Representatives of the Guinnesses, the Anglo-Irish beerage nobility who publish the Book of Records, which they claim is the world's biggest-selling volume after the Bible, were not all that amused by the heroics in Los Angeles. They will have to update the Book of Records—and now that just about every record in existence is open to challenge by oddball Olympians—will face the prospect of constant and frequent revisions.