Appetite for destruction: Daredevil’s brush with death eating Nathan’s atop Wonder Wheel

Don’t fear the eater: Daredevil Crazy Legs Conti gets psyched up as major league eating impresario George Shea looks on with grave concern.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

He took hotdogging to new heights!

A daredevil eating Nathan’s atop the Wonder Wheel almost lost his head when one of the ride’s moving cars nearly rolled into him on June 24. Competitive eater and adrenaline junky Crazy Legs Conti raised the bar for downing sausages atop the ride, but he almost did not live to see his name in the record books, an organizer said.

“One of these cars just came sweeping in — imagine the momentum, it’s several thousand pounds,” said George Shea, head of Major League Eating. “That’s when I thought he must have been struck and killed. It was an emotionally harrowing event.”

Conti ducked just in time, and the basket passed within a foot or two of his head, photos show.

The death-defier set a record by eating a dozen dogs during one 3-minute revolution — an effort to psych himself up for Monday’s annual July Fourth hot-dog–eating contest, Shea said. The emcee of munch tried to talk Conti out of it, but said he respects his guts.

“It was heroic, but I thought he was taking unnecessary risks with his life,” Shea said. “I begged him not to do it, but he did it anyway. If we would have lost him, it would have been horrible and tragic, but not horrible and tragic enough for him to not do the stunt — a daredevil like that, you cant talk him out of it.”

And Conti better hope the competitive-eating gods smile on his near self-snackrifice, because he’ll have his work cut out for him on Monday.

He ate just 22 dogs in 10 minutes during a qualifier on June 25 — well behind a record-setting 73.5 put away by longtime contestant Joey “Jaws” Chesnut, who is looking to reclaim the crown underdog Matt “Megatoad” Stonie snatched last year, Shea said.

The so-called “Evel Knievel of the alimentary canal” admitted he may not be able to get his numbers as high as the big dogs, but he can get higher in other respects.

“When Joey eats that many and my personal best is around 26, I have to do something that Joey can’t do, and I thought there was something to going skyward,” said Conti, who once ate his way out of a “popcorn sarcophagus”.

And in the spirit of those who looked to the heavens before him, he took the great astronaut drink Tang with him to wet his wieners — but he almost needed astronaut diapers too, he said.

“I figured if it was good enough to go into space,” he said of the powdered orange drink. “When I got back down, I thought I involuntarily wet myself but it turned out it was just Tang.”

July Fourth Nathan’s Hot Dog-Eating Contest at Nathan’s Famous (1310 Surf Ave. between Stillwell Avenue and W. 15th Street in Coney Island). July 4 at noon. Free.

Here’s Conti’s brush with death

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Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.

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