There are three hot dog eating titles in the world. The first two -- the New York City/Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Council title and the United States Hot Dog Eating Association title -- have been held by local champs as long as anyone can remember. However, the Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Federation title was been held by the Japanese for seven years until Devito brought it home to New York City.
The be-jeweled Mustard Yellow International Belt, worn only by the International Champion, is to hot dog aficionados what the Faberge Eggs were to Csar Nicholas. The belt is of unknown age and value and is unveiled only at the annual contest. Unfortunately, with Krachie's loss to Nakajima, the belt was once again taken to Japan, where it stands in a glass case in the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. Many believe that the belt's presence in Japan is a mockery to the American hot dog eating world.
Women often compete in the Nathan's Fourth of July Hot Dog Contest. In fact, in the 1950s the contest was won by a German woman, Gerta Hasselhoff, who trained on Bratwurst. This is a perfectly legal training method. On occasion, some competitors have allowed their lust for glory to compromise their ethics. Certain Certain unethical competitors have tried to cheat using several different methods, including "the sleeper" (abandoning a hot dog in the middle of the competition table) and "the mule" (placing a hot dog on the plate of an accomplice). As a result of the expertise of the team of official contest judges, however, no impropriety has ever gone undetected.
Stand-out eating rivalries from the past include, Rudman V. Libnitz, a grudge match that went on for nearly a decade. In the 1930s, Stan Libnitz from Flushing Queens, and Andrew Rudman from Brighton Beach were the kings of the hot dog eating world. They alternated victories for eight years until Rudman said the 1938 contest would be his last. He vowed to beat Libnitz and settle who was champion once and for all.
At the start of the much-anticipated 1938 contest, Libnitz seemed unsettled. His fans had not arrived and Rudman's cheering section had taken over the crowd. Nonetheless, six minutes into the contest, Libnitz was two dogs ahead, and at eight minutes he was 3 ½ dogs ahead. Victory seemed assured. However, that was the point at which Libnitz suddenly stopped eating. Rudman rallied to beat him by 1/2 a hot dog as Libnitz continually pointed at Rudman's elbow.
Following the contest, Libnitz complained bitterly that Rudman had elbowed him in the gut during the contest, and he demanded a rematch. Rudman agreed, but Libnitz was advised by his doctor that he could not compete again without risking a case of chronic gas. For years, Libnitz complained to anyone who would listen about the events that occurred that day. It was a turning point in his life. Eventually, he wrote about it in his autobiography, "Stan Libnitz, My Way," 1949, FSG.
While the book is now out of print, copies are still available in some libraries. The opening lines from the poetic memoir convey the importance of the hot dog eating title to Libnitz: "It was a black day for Coney Island, friends, and for this country. There are thousands of people in this city who know the truth, who know that on July Fourth, a most sacred day in this country, a horrible black deed was done,a horrible black deed against one countryman and one country's honor" Rudman denied any wrongdoing.
To find out more about Nathan's Famous and the quest
for the Mustard Belt, contact Shea Communications at
(212) 627-5766. And check out our home page for the
very latest contest updates.