Crazy Legs Conti
Training: “Zen method” of meditative visualization.
Conti is at something of a crossroads in his eating career: “Do I want to be a reality-TV star, or do I want to eat twenty hot dogs and buns in twelve minutes?” Affable and articulate, with his signature dreadlocks and shorts, Conti is the media’s go-to guy for competitive-eating antics. He starred in a documentary, Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating, that was released last year. He ate his way out of an eight-foot box filled with popcorn at the Tribeca Film Festival and showed off his oyster-downing skills on Letterman. This month, a top-hatted Crazy Legs is featured in a photo spread in FHM, playing Monopoly with Buffo, the world’s strongest clown, Mets siren Anna Benson, and a chimp.
“Competitive eating is what I live for, but I have to admit that I may have been distracted by the tangential benefits it has brought me,” he says. “It’s the deuce [twenty hot dogs] that’s going to give me the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. I’ll cry if I do the deuce. It means that much to me.”
Crazy Legs has been training on and off for the Nathan’s contest, but he hasn’t put together a qualifier win yet. Given that the top eaters are chasing a man who ate 53 hot dogs last year, the goal of 20 seems modest. For Crazy Legs, though, Kobayashi is beatable—even if it isn’t by him. “Not a lot of people realize that two years ago, he only managed 44 hot dogs. If he had his worst day ever, and Badlands or Sonya had their best day, there could be an upset.”
Tim “Eater X” Janus
Training: Five-dog sprints; cottage- cheese cross-training.
Talk to Tim Janus about his job on Wall Street, and the handsome, easygoing day trader will laugh off the razor-thin margins. But if you ask him about the upcoming Nathan’s contest, he turns deadly serious. “Right now I’m doing ﬁve-dog sprints, and cross-training to increase my capacity,” he says. “A gallon of water in a minute. Seven pounds of noodles or cottage cheese. But I’m also running four times a week and lifting at the New York Sports Clubs.”
Janus got started in competitive eating “to impress Jodie Foster,” he jokes, and he competes in face-painted character as “Eater X” (a tribute to former WWF wrestler the Ultimate Warrior). He sent shock waves through the eating community when he tied the great Ed “Cookie” Jarvis in chicken wings in one of his first contests. Now veteran eaters see him as the future of the sport. “He has the mental discipline,” says Hungry Charles. “He studies the food, thinks of all the angles.”
As for Janus, who says he’s always been “too timid” with the ladies, he’s found his inner tough guy in competitive eating. “Have you seen Revenge of the Sith?” he asks. “I’m switching over to the Dark Side. I’ve never had the killer instinct. But now I do. I want to carve out a spot out in the world for me. The contest is the gold standard; I don’t feel complete as an eater without it. And I know I can do this.”