It's 4 am and I am peddling a NYC rental Citibike towards Penn Station while singing the Standells' "Dirty Water." Actually, I am singing the Dropkick Murphy's cover of the Standells' "Dirty Water" because that is the only version they have on the Coyote Ugly jukebox. After fifteen hours bartending, one shower, and two episodes of Girls, I decide to stagger to the bar for an hour and then head towards my ride to Boston. Wing Kong and Wild Bill Meyers are meeting me in Secaucus and we are road tripping to Beantown's Phantom Gourmet Food Festival and the Yogurtland Frozen Yogurt Eating Contest. The Phantom Gourmet Food Festival is in its tenth year, under the shadow of Fenway Park, with fifty vendors giving out food from The Sausage Guy to Uppercrust Pizza to beer. Lots and lots of beer. The event sells out because Boston is a town that likes to celebrate anything without pretention. Show up in your Celts, Pats, Sox, or Bruins gear and eat and drink and talk sports among Titletown's folk. The Phantom Gourmet and its local TV show (investigating Boston restaurants in a complementary way) are run by the three Andelman brothers -- Dave, Dan, and Michael. It makes sense that the three would turn to TV, as the natural progression from their father, Eddie, who is one of Boston's most iconic radio hosts. The Andelman's have been linked to competitive eating from the early 2000s as Eddie's annual hot dog safari hosted a Nathan's qualifier each year (and was my rookie hot dog performance site). Now, the Nathan's qualifier is held at the Phantom Gourmet BBQ festival, where two years ago, an underage Matt "Megatoad" Stonie had to eat his hot dogs separated from the rest of the field due to the 21 and over rule. He was locked in a fenced off cage. It looked like a Blink 182 video or a Zombie film as 19-year-old Megatoad ate to prison victory. Megatoad is now 21, and on Sunday eschewed the Shocktop Pumpkin Ale and instead ate 10 ½ pounds of pumpkin (and vanilla tart) Yogurtland yogurt to claim a new World Record, a giant trophy spoon, and $750 in coupons for more yogurt.
Despite Megatoad's impressive performance, the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival belonged to two men. The first is one of the kings 1980s teen films - William "Billy" Zabka. From his roles in "European Vacation," "Back to School", and "Just one of the Guys" he always played a smart aleck, usually a villain. However, his role as Johnny Lawrence in the first (and for purists, the only) "Karate Kid" is the role that still has people yelling lines at him and asking if they can join the Cobra Kai Dojo (you can't, but you can buy a souvenir t-shirt or headband). Billy looks much younger than his actual age and is kind to everyone who does the crane pose or yells, "Sweep the leg," or "Get him a bodybag, Johnny." Billy is actually an Oscar nominated filmmaker who does five "Johnny Lawrence" appearances a year to satisfy fan's needs for a time when villains were just human bullies. It's odd that Billy was always cast as a bad-guy, because in real life, he couldn't be nicer. Billy is introduced prior to the yogurt eating contest and the crowd goes bonkers.
The day also belonged to Wild Bill Meyers, whose second place finish with 8 pounds of Yogurtland yogurt is akin to Brian Scalabrine shutting out Larry Bird in one-on-one. Wild Bill, formerly a table-ender and known only for driving extreme distances to contests and eating challenges, became Greg Kite blocking Magic Johnson, but in yogurt eating. While I was slogging through four pounds of pumpkin yogurt (think of turtleneck sweaters, large piles of dead leaves, a roasting fireplace), Wild Bill was doubling my total eating only Vanilla Tart (the eating equivalent of those ice sports at the Olympics with the long skates). He even beat Wing Kong - the mighty Kong falling from Boston skyscraper-like height victory (Kong won the Uppercrust pizza contest at this venue three years prior and remains the only Yankees fan to emerge from Fenway with pats on the back instead of punches to the belly). Wild Bill had found his groove and over a few wind down wings at the Cask and Flagon, he simply said that he felt at home with the yogurt and that he felt more brain freeze at his office IT job, than in the eating arena.
My all-nighter and poor performance at the yogurt table (I shouldn't have had that free Sausage Guy grinder) left me spent, but I sat with my nephew, 9 month old Simon as he tried to liberate my beer bottle from me and thought that perhaps casually dining with family and friends is the true meaning of the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival. As Wild Bill drove off to the Allentown sunset and Billy Zabka flew back to LA, I simply sat digesting autumn yogurt and smiled. And then I fell asleep.
Crazy Legs Conti can be reached at www.crazylegsconti.com where he claims that the chemical bonds in frozen yogurt make it colder than ice cream.
The truth is stranger than fiction. Step into the world of weird news. Learn more