What’s the longest known chest hair?  The heaviest pumpkin on record? Or the longest time a person ever whistled? See a list of these superlatives by reading the newest edition of the Guinness World Records Book. I skimmed the entire 250 pages in three minutes, 6.8 seconds, which I am told gets me in the next edition.

Here are some actual categories along with a few snide asides by me…

The unluckiest man in the world is Ray Sullivan, who survived seven separate lightning strikes. Ray says he won’t buy a lottery ticket because he doesn’t like his chances.
Ben Pridmore of the UK memorized 884 playing cards in a row. He actually set the record two years ago but wasn’t in last year’s edition because he forgot to mail in his entry fee.

Roger Squires of England has compiled almost 80,000 crossword puzzles in 50 years. Asked why he developed this passion, Squires said, “Not a clue.”

Devandra Suthar of India has 14 fingers, evenly divided between his right and left hands. Devandra is a carpenter by trade, but he must not be very good at it because he used to have 16 fingers.

The oldest divorce in history was between two people in England, both over 90 years old. Said the unhappy couple, “We were waiting for the kids to die.”

The heaviest thing ever pulled by a woman in high heels?  Lia Grimanis of Canada lugged a 14,000-pound truck across a football field. Second place goes to Rosie Frobisher of Peoria who hauled her fat, drunk husband out of a Hooters restaurant.

Dinesh Upadhyaya of India crammed standard-sized lit taper candles in his mouth. Actually, his name is Denny Undermeyer but it sounds like Dinesh Upadhyaya when you have 15 lit candles in your mouth.

The shortest bull in the world is named Chegs and he lives in Ramona, California. The longest bull in the world was a 40-minute speech that Donald Trump gave in Des Moines, Iowa.

The largest collection of people dressed as Batman in one place was a convention in Alberta, Canada in 2014. It seems the 514 participants were unhappy with the accommodations.  There were only three working Bat Rooms.

Takeru Koyashi of Japan holds the record for eating 12 hamburgers in three minutes. Second place goes to almost everyone who has ever eaten at Golden Corral.

Mahade Bhujal of India held 23 tennis balls in one hand. In the book, he said he owed his success to the support of his family. I have no idea what that means.

The oldest living parrot is Cookie, who is 80 years old and lives at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. She’s very sensitive about her age, and when asked about it, she says she’s not talking.

Bruce Campbell of the United States owns the largest home in an airliner, an old 727 that still has its wings, landing gear and some seats. Bruce’s wife divorced him because after dinner he kept telling her to put her tray in the upright and locked position.

Michael Lindsay of New Zealand holds the record for Most Wool Sheared from a Sheep in a Single Shearing. That’s also the only category in the entire book considered a tongue twister.

The largest gathering of people dressed as pirates was in the UK in 2012. Approximately 14,000 buccaneers gathered from all over the world. British Airways directed their airline captains to break in every five minutes over the PA system and say: “This is your pirate speaking.”   

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I remember finding it in our living room, nestled between two Frank Sinatra albums. I recall carefully fitting the record over the tiny spindle on the Victrola (I’ll wait while you young people google that word) and asking myself what a “button-down mind” was.

I know what it means now:  staid and conventional.  Ironically it was the name of Bob Newhart’s first comedy album back in 1960. The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart was anything but conventional, despite Newhart’s demeanor being low key, almost lethargic. Think comic Steven Wright. Or presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson.  

Newhart’s shtick was to enact one side of a conversation (often on the phone) in such a way that you could imagine what the other person might be saying on the other end. Shelley Berman, another comic of that generation, used a similar concept, but it was Newhart who so perfected his routine that Button-Down Mind became the first comedy monologue to make it to the top of the charts and become album of the year. Some of those same younger readers are wondering, “Isn’t Newhart the guy who did that sitcom about an inn in Vermont?” Yup, that’s him.
So why is this iconic comedian (who is still performing at age 86) on my mind this week? All because of a   passing remark by presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who has been dealing with some low poll numbers and admitted to being frustrated by conflicting advice he is getting from his consultants and advisors. “If Lincoln were running today,” jabbed Jeb, “someone would be telling him to shave off the beard.”
Sorry, Jeb, but Bob Newhart was way ahead of you on this—precisely 55 years before you.
“I was thinking,” says Newhart as he begins his brilliant comedy sketch, “what if there was no Lincoln back during the Civil War, and the advertising bigwigs had to create one? Here’s what a conversation might have been like between the president and a Madison Avenue marketer right before he made his Gettysburg address…”
Then Newhart, playing a Mad Men executive chides Abe for thinking about changing his appearance, saying, “The beard, shawl, stovepipe hat, and string tie are all part of the image, Abe.”  He asks Lincoln not to type his speeches but to write them on the backs of envelopes. “We want it to look like you wrote it while on the train.”
Then he discovers that Lincoln has been busy editing his upcoming address at Gettysburg: “You made a few changes?” questions an exasperated Newhart (long pause while he listens to Lincoln’s response).  “You say you changed four score and seven to 70? That would be like Marc Antony saying, ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I’ve got something I want to tell you.’”
Apparently Abe also keeps messing up his best-known one-liner. “You keep saying it differently every time,” says Newhart. “Last time you said, ‘You can fool all of the people, all of the time.’” Then he adds: “Please leave it the way Charlie wrote it.”
Listening to this classic  sketch on YouTube doesn’t have quite the same charm it did when I first heard it on my Victrola.  But I have no way of truly comparing those two experiences, since I no longer have a record of it.
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