Downing a quick 7 hoagies makes him the stuff of legends

August 27, 2002|By Michael Olesker | Michael Olesker,SUN STAFF

IN THE ANNALS of historic eating, my money's on Art Donovan, the former Baltimore Colt. But three years after he first achieved greatness in gluttony, Steve Addicks is beginning to take on the aura of a legend. And, in a couple of weeks, as they stage the fourth annual Italian Hoagie Eating Contest at the Giulianova Groceria on Westminster's Main Street - who knows? We may have a new name for the ages.

Donovan, of course, is everybody's measure of the grand eater. Once, he mentioned getting a peaceful night's sleep after eating 23 hot dogs. He said this strictly in passing. The man is never in this lifetime guilty of an empty boast about something as important as hot dogs.

"Twenty-three hot dogs?" I asked him, not certain I'd heard him clearly.

"Oh, sure," Donovan said. "Hell, more than that. And kosher dogs, I could eat 15 of 'em."

"The kosher dogs had more meat in them?"

"Oh, yeah. The other dogs, it was like eating peanuts."

So there. I match Artie with anybody, although at the annual hoagie-eating contest at Giulianova's, they're coming up with some pretty impressive gluttons, as Tony D'Eugenio was remembering the other day while constructing a couple of hoagies the size of parade floats.

"Steve Addicks," said D'Eugenio, known to many as Tony D. "The guy was an animal. And I say that in the nicest possible way."

Addicks still holds the record for the hoagie-eating contest. In 30 minutes, he ate seven. That is not a misprint. As constructed by Tony D, each Giulianova hoagie - for regular customers as well as for competitive eaters - is composed of prosciuttini, mortadella, Genoa salami, capicola, imported provolone, olive oil, romano cheese, olives, lettuce, tomato, sweet onions, all stuffed into thick Italian bread.

"How many calories?" Tony D was asked now.

"Gotta be 2,200, easy," he said. "This is why I have so much respect for Addicks. The first year we had the contest, he eats seven, and nobody to this day can touch him."

How good is Addicks? The veterans still remember him from the old days when Polock Johnny's used to have Polish hot dog-eating contests on The Block. Addicks would dunk his sandwiches in water before devouring them. Once, he ate 2 1/2 pounds of ice cream in 15 minutes.

So great is Addicks' fame that he was invited to the international hot dog-eating contest at Nathan's Famous in Coney Island. Addicks, a machinist from Finksburg, ate 21 hot dogs but lost to Kazutoyo "The Rabbit" Arai, a mattress salesman from Saitama, Japan, who ate 25.

"And a stomach flat as a pancake," Tony D said. He meant Arai. "The guy weighed a hundred pounds. And Steve did everything he could. He was dunking his hot dog rolls in water - which, by the way, I will not allow."

Rules are rules. Two years ago, Cal Bloom won the hoagie contest. He ate six. Cal has the barbershop next door to the Giulianova grocery. The other day, between haircuts, he revealed a few secrets to competitive eating.

"Slow and steady," he said. "You can't stuff everything in at once. Plus" - he looked around, as though not wishing to pass on classified information to any lurking subversives - "plus, don't eat that day. In fact, I didn't eat for a couple of days before. I could have not eaten for a week, but my doctor said it would have shrunk my stomach, and you do not want to enter a hoagie contest with a shrunk stomach."

In the lunch hour the other day, Tony D prepared several hoagies. One customer, Martha Eubert, a sales rep from Mercer Carpets, said she's watched the contest but never entered. Only a few women have dared enter in the first three years of competition.

"I'd love to have more women," said Tony D.

"My husband, Eric, is entered this year," said Darlyn Horgos, a staffer at the local State Farm office. "He's crossing his fingers that he can eat enough. He's an engineer with American Sprinkler. He only has a 36-inch waist."

"God," said Tony D, "I was born with a 36-inch waist."

He is 6-1 and weighs, he says, 252. Living in an environment of 2,200-calorie hoagies, this is considered an accomplishment.

This year's contest is set for Sept. 14 at 2 p.m. The eating will last for 30 minutes. Contestants have to pay an entrance fee of $10, and they're also asked to collect pledges from friends and family. That money will be donated to Carroll County's Child Abduction Prevention Program Inc.

"It's nice to help charity," Tony D said. "Plus, let's face it, it's a great laugh for everybody."

Take it from Tony D, who never bites off more than he can chew.

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