Nathan’s History category

Hot Dog 148th anniversary / “Little Arlene” photoshop

Today is the 48th anniversary of an event held at Nathan’s Famous Coney Island location on June 30, 1967 to commemorate the centennial of the invention of the hot dog in 1867. The UPI reported that Walter Paul ate 127 hot dogs in an hour at that celebration. This is the first Nathan’s hot dog eating contest that can be found in online news archives.

Research has not been able to turn up any more information about the competition, but a picture taken at that event of a bathing-suit clad model holding a plate of hot dogs has been circulating on social media. I have not been able to determine the name of the model or the original image source.

A modified version of this image was used in ESPN’s documentary about the St. Louis Spirits of the ABA to illustrate big-eating “Little Arlene”, a halftime performer for that franchise. (direct link to image in youtube video.) I doubt the woman was Arlene, but I have never seen a picture of her.

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NY Daily News has an article on the controversial comments about New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito made by Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, who finished 3rd in the 1994 Nathan's finals.
The original location of Nathan's Famous makes an appearance in a New York Observer article about the history of Coney Island redevelopment efforts.
Guardian Angel founder Curtis Sliwa, third place finisher in the 1996 Nathan's finals, is calling for investigation of PED usage in competitive eating on his facebook. (Red Angel Dragnet, a song about the Guardian Angels by The Clash)

A history of the “history”: the Nathan’s origin story

The following chronology attempts to trace the development of the origin story for Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest using public news archives.
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Flashback: Brigit Felden (2nd from right) of Cologne, West Germany is the first non-American to win the Nathan's finals in 1984 (9.5 hot dogs in 10 mminutes). She is also the last female winner of the pre-2011 unified-gender contest.
According to a review by Paste Magazine, Andrew Lewis Conn’s new novel, O, Africa opens with Babe Ruth competing a hot dog eating contest at Nathan's Famous in 1927.
The New York Daily News reports that Mortimer Matz, co-founder of Nathan's hot dog eating contest in 1972, has been subpoenaed as part of a probe of former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who allegedly paid Matz' firm over a million dollars from state asset forfeiture funds from 2003 to 2013.

Mortimer Matz in grand larceny investigation

update June 4 The Jewish Week reports that one service Matz did provide is suggest a press conference after the DA’s office declined to pursue a pedophilia case with an Orthodox Jewish defendant. Matz’ partner in Matz, Blancato and Associates: Robert Blancato says that he never received any of the state funds and claims that Matz was essentially a figurehead who had no significant role at the firm since before 2003.

The New York Times has an article about former Nathan’s Famous promoter Mortimer Matz, whose public relations firm allegedly received more than $200,000 of NY State funds from former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes in 2012 and 2013. The money was originally acquired by confiscating the assets of people convicted of drug crimes and intended for law enforcement purposes. The payment could result in grand larceny charges for Hynes for misuse of government funds. From 2003 to 2013, Matz’ firm received a total of $1.1 from the DA’s office for “public relations and community services”. ( Gothamist | NY Daily News | NY Times)

In 2010 Matz admitted fabricating the 1916 origin story for Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest. In the same interview, he ironically offers the advice: “Morty Matz always tells the truth”.

Allegations about Matz in the New York City Department of Investigation’s Findings on Charles J. Hynes follow:
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The Guardian has an excerpt from Think Like a Freak, the new book by the authors of Freakonomics with a section about Takeru Kobayashi doubling the Nathan's hot dog record.  There is also a section about the requirement in Van Halen's contract for a bowl of M&Ms with no brown candies.  
The New York Times has an article about "Famous Nathan", a documentary about Nathan Handwerker, founder of Nathan's Famous that will show this weekend at the TriBeCa Film Festival mentioning the founding of the hot dog eating contest in the early 1970s. (DNA Info article)

Unranked people with 10+ Nathan’s HDB in 2013

A listing of people who ate 10 hot dogs or more in a Nathan’s hot dog contest in 2013 and omitted from the recent MLE top 50 follows. Among ranked people who competed in a Nathan’s contest in 2013, Mary Bowers had the lowest total (10.5). Brian Seiken and Andrew Kogutkiewicz tied for the second lowest (11).

2013 Apr 20 2nd 31 10 min Tom “Goose” Gilbert Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier – men Las Vegas, NV
2013 Jun 2 1st 31 10 min Molly Schuyler Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier – women St. Paul, MN
2013 May 4 2nd 24.5 10 min Kevin “LA Beast” Strahle Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier – men Naples, FL
2013 Jun 2 4th 20 10 min Craig “The Keg” Reed Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier – men St. Paul, MN
2013 Jun 29 6th 18 10 min Basil Elamir Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier – men East Rutherford, NJ
2013 Apr 13 3rd 17.5 10 min Mike Katz Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier – men Miami, FL
2013 Jun 29 7th 15.25 10 min Tommy DeVito Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier – men East Rutherford, NJ
2013 Jun 15 3rd 15 10 min Steve “Pi Guy” Martin Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier – men Atlanta, GA
2013 Apr 20 7th 14 10 min Andrew Kim Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier – men Las Vegas, NV
2013 Apr 13 4th 13.5 10 min Juan “Cracker” Angel Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier – men Miami, FL

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Former Nathan's hot dog contest promoter Mortimer Matz is quoted in a New York Times article about releasing bad news during the holiday season.
The Japanese television segment about Takeru Kobayashi's victory in his Nathan's hot dog contest contest debut has been uploaded to youtube. "Badlands" Booker, Charles Hardy, Don Lerman, "Cookie" Jarvis and Kevin Lipsitz are others appearing in the video.
At a press conference promoting the upcoming season of Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston joked that his character, Walter White, ate 38.5 hot dogs in the 1978 Nathan's finals.

Issues with MLE twitter trivia contest

Yesterday’s MLE trivia contest on twitter incorrectly claimed that the easternmost Nathan’s qualifier took place in Beijing, China (longitude 116° East). Rhonda Evans received no response to her mention of the qualfiers held in Tokyo (long. 139° E) won by Nobuyki “The Giant” Shirota in 2004 and Kenji Oguni in 2005 & 06.

The Japanese contests may not actually be the easternmost Nathan’s qualifiers. A 2009 hot dog eating contest held in Fiji (long. 178° E) claimed the winner would receive a trip to New York City to compete in the finals if s/he ate more than 50 hot dogs.

Jim Mullen, supposedly the first winner of the Nathan’s contest in 1916, was the answer to one of the questions which contradicts Mortimer Matz, Nathan’s promoter before the Sheas, claim to have fabricated the Nathan’s contest origin story in a 2010 New York Times interview.

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A Life in Reels has a script based on Jim Mullen and the origins story for Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest. (The work would have to be classified as fiction, given that Mortimer Matz, Nathan's Famous promoter in the 1970s and 80s, admitted fabricating the 1916 origins of the competition in a 2010 New York Times interview.)

1998 World Trade Center qualifier clips in Footlong documentary

Footlong is a documentary (full movie) about “the social impact of the hot dog on American Culture” that opens with coverage of the 1998 Nathan’s finals (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3) including interviews with George Shea, Gersh Kuntzman, Ed Krachie, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa and defending champion Hirofumi Nakajima along with brief snippets of the 1998 Nathan’s qualifier held in Windows on the World on top of the World Trade Center.

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Don "Moses" Lerman is still upset about having his picture on Nathan's "Wall of Fame" painted over. He also believes he was third in the 2001 Nathan's finals.
A blog entry on salon.com claims that ESPN televised Nathan's hot dog eating contest in the mid-seventies. (ESPN was founded in 1979.) The first Nathan's telecast took place in 2004.

Wikipedia fabrication in 2010 ESPN Nathan’s graphic

A graph in last year’s broadcast of the Nathan’s finals listed Llamas as the top Nathan’s performer in the 1980’s with a total near 20 hot dogs. This is based on a Wikipedia fabrication claiming that Luis Llamas from Mexico won the 1983 contest with a total of 19.5 hot dogs.

According to an Associated Press article, the winner in 1983 was Emil Gomez with a total of 10.5 hot dogs.

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The Fortune Magazine blog has reposted a 1938 article about Coney Island with a section about how Nathan's five cent hot dogs were damaging the business of Feltman's, an eatery famed for its frankfurters costing a dime. The article makes no mention of any hot dog eating contests. (via longreads)
Gothamist reports that Murray Handwerker, son of Nathan's Famous founder Nathan Handwerker, passed away in Florida yesterday at the age of 89. Murray Handwerker became chairman in the early 1970s and oversaw the expansion of Nathan's Famous into a national brand.

7 part Patrick Michels article in the Dallas Observer

In a seven-part article for the Dallas Observer, Patrick Michels uses Nathan Biller’s career as a starting point to explore the history of the IFOCE/MLE and competitive eating in general. While quite thorough, the article does not mention the cancellation of the Krystal Square Off or the admission by Mortimer Matz, Nathan’s promoter in the 1970’s, that the 1916 “origin story” of the Coney Island contest was a fabrication.

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NJ.com reports that 1999 Nathan's champ Steve Keiner participated in the New Jersey hot dog tour.
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