Meet the Crazy Legs Conti, the East Village’s competitive eating machine

His name is Crazy Legs Conti. He lives in the East Village, doesn’t own a cell phone, and wears shorts all year round. It’s not the name his parents gave him, but it’s his legal surname and won’t tell us why.

However, he will tell us at length, is the reason for being competitive in eating. It’s not just about a love of food, which certainly exists, but there’s an almost philosophical and spiritual side to his dedication to the sport.

“Is it a strange, strange, bewildering sport?” Asked. “Yes. Is it foolish? Not mine. I never seek to explain how the universe works. I just want to find my place in it.”

There was a time, in college, when he wore three college letters, but he spent a lot of time on the bench during basketball and soccer games as well as track meetups.

Conte moved to New York City to work in the film industry and could also claim on his resume the roles of bouncer, nude model, window washer, bar manager at a strip club, meat seller, writer and director of three short films, and Maitred (or, as he prefers, ‘maitre d’ ‘t).

He has found his niche in New Orleans (“My Favorite American City”).

“I’ve always been a fan of sports,” he recalls. “When I moved to New York in the ’90s, I read the post every day and they always covered the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. That was before it aired on ESPN, when there were maybe 350 people in the audience.”

In 2002, Conte and his friends headed to the Big Easy to watch the Super Bowl, but Crazy Legs couldn’t afford the ticket. While watching the game at the bar, drinking beer and eating oysters, he discovered that he could eat for free across the street if he could break the record for oysters consumed in one sitting.

So he headed to the Acme Oyster House and proceeded to devour 34 dozen little creatures on top of what he had already digested, raising the bar for future rivals.

“My stomach looked like I was pregnant and I had to stay near the bathroom while I watched the rest of the game, which was won by my hometown national team, the Patriots. I got a warm welcome when I got back to the top with my friends later!” Conte recalls. “I really felt in love with this wonderful city.”

He continues, “The president of the Major League Eating sent me back to participate in my first pro competition.” “I won my first encounter with 32 dozen oysters in 10 minutes.”

Stone and Thistle Farm store binding in Tompkins Square ParkBob Krasner’s photo
On the morning of filming, Conte woke up from the roof falling on his head. Not recommended as a way to wake upBob Krasner’s photo
At work at VanelliBob Krasner’s photo
Conte dried Nathan’s hot dogs—purchased on Stillwell Street—and covered them in resin as gifts for his dining friends.Bob Krasner’s photo

Since then, he said, “You name it, I ate it in a contest.” Corn on the cob, pancakes with bacon, peanut butter and jelly, strawberry bun, fried asparagus, cannoli, zebols, buffalo wings, hot dogs – the list goes on.

There are some exercises involved, but not all of it is physical. Conte hits the gym, runs across the Williamsburg Bridge and does yoga, but he’s also mentally preparing. Meditation plays a role as well as some “pre-imagining.”

He says, “With every bite and chew, I think about the next competition. On the one hand, I train every day.”

Conte could easily figure out the stats of his champions and competitors and still marvel at the day he watched Takeru Kobayashi put 50 hot dogs and a bun in 12 minutes at Coney Island.

Unfortunately, Conte did not qualify to compete in this year’s Fourth of July competition, but that didn’t stop him from going, carrying homemade gifts for his fellow eaters and celebrating with them afterwards.

“Victory is very important, but success is always there.”

When he competes and wins, he hands his trophy to the nearest kid and proceeds to spend his prize money on the “morally casual pub bar and woman”.

Conte has traveled the world running competitions to entertain American troops, in front of up to 25,000 people in exotic locales like Japan, South Korea, Crete, Singapore, Thailand, and Guam, to name a few.

“I am a pacifist, but I support the forces,” he says. “It’s the greatest thing I’ve done as a human.”

East Village Gothic (for one person)Bob Krasner’s photo
At home with Crazy Legs ContiBob Krasner’s photo
Some people call their cars, Crazy Legs Conti called his apartment – Coleman’s Bar and GrillBob Krasner’s photo

Next is the Banana Cream Pudding Contest in Alabama, where he predicts he’ll wear a “beautiful smile,” because it’s one of his favorite foods.

Although the 51-year-old says he has “the stomach of a 22-year-old” and no plans to “suspend the esophagus,” he has two goals for the future in mind that have nothing to do with digestion.

“I want to live off my creative endeavors,” he explains. “I have heaps of scenarios ready to go. When I sell my first product, I get tattoos of all five of the Marks brothers. And I really want to have a beer with Bill Murray.”

But wait there is more! Conti is the subject of the documentary “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating” and has himself published a memoir titled “The Solitude of Long Distance Eaters.”

His website is

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