We have just witnessed a dazzling display of strength, stamina and athleticism — a feat so Herculean that it will undoubtedly go down in history as one of humanity’s shining moments.
I’m speaking, of course, of Lluis Colet and what he did on a railway station platform in Perpignan, France, a week ago. (What, you thought I was talking about that piker Mark McGwire? Oh, give me a break. Babe Ruth hit 60 homers while drawing his sole sustenance from beer, hot dogs and whatever he could snag off his teammates’ dinner plates before they smacked his hand away. Wimps take steroids. Real men put their bellies into it.)
Colet, for those of you who haven’t heard, earned a place in the record books for delivering the world’s longest speech. He spoke nonstop for 24 hours and 21 minutes, aided only by sips of water, beer and wine. Especially wine.
Colet continued speaking even while going to the toilet, which â€“ I think you’ll agree â€“ demonstrates an admirable single-mindedness and dedication to his craft, as well as the willingness of someone to follow him into the john to make sure he kept jabbering.
The subject of and inspiration for Colet’s speech was the surrealist painter Salvador Dali, who 33 years ago stepped out onto the railway platform at Perpignan and loudly declared it the center of the universe. Why Dali did this no one really knows, because he quickly got back on the train and left, apparently never to speak of Perpignan again.
Other people took note of his pronouncement, however â€“ enough people, at least, to form the Association of the Friends of the Center of the Earth, which Lluis Colet ably serves as chairman.
To celebrate the 33rd anniversary of Dali’s revelation and to make his assault on the record book, Colet prepared a 700-page speech about the artist. This took up a good chunk of the 24 hours and 21 minutes. The rest of the time, he just made stuff up.
I know what you’re probably thinking: Why isn’t this man running for president? Well, for one thing, Colet speaks French, which means that — to most Americans — he would be slightly less intelligible than Ross Perot on a really lucid day. What’s more, it’s not likely that Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich – the most long-winded politicians in America today – would stand for some Frenchie taking over and hanging Dali’s paintings of melting watches in the White House and the Capitol.
The time might be ripe for Colet, though, because Clinton and Gingrich may soon be preoccupied with their own attempts to get into The Guinness World Book of Records. Gingrich, in fact, appears to be well on his way. According to the Reuters news service, he is attempting to claim the record for the “most handshakes by a national figure.” The House Speaker and his staff believe he earned the record on a recent Saturday in Washington state, where he shook hands with 3,609 people at a Republican Party picnic in a five-hour period.
Gingrich’s staff has submitted reports from eyewitnesses along with additional documentation, according to Reuters. He is eyeing the “most handshakes by a national figure” record because the categories for “public official” (8,513 handshakes by Theodore Roosevelt), “local public figure” (8,710 by Irish politician Joe Harrington) and “regular guy” (31,118 by Yogesh Sharma) are – for now, at least – a bit out of reach.
I’m sure we all wish him well in his endeavor and hope that he will not rest until he squeezes Sharma out of the record book. Bill Clinton, who would be better off if he stopped at a handshake, ought to try diverting attention by setting a record too. In fact, I have just the record in mind, and it involves Clinton’s favorite musical instrument – the saxophone. Reuters reported last week that Geovanny Escalante, a Costa Rican musician, is laying claim to the new world record for blowing the longest single musical note. The record was previously held by Kenny G.
Escalante held the note for 30 minutes and 45 seconds on the saxophone, according to two lawyers, two notary publics, his parents and a bunch of barflies who witnessed the event. (Yes, we’ve all heard car alarms go off longer, but Escalante’s feat is impressive nonetheless.)
Of course, it will take months, if not years, of practice for Gingrich and Clinton to set their new records.
In the meantime, Americans would be happy to sit back and listen to Lluis Colet say whatever it is that needs to be said. Sure, it might take us a while to get used to speeches lasting 24 hours and 21 minutes at a stretch. But at least we can be sure of one thing – they won’t be any more surrealistic than what we’re hearing from politicians now.