Suburbanites hold Guinness records on whoopee cushions, big arcade game
Compelled by dreams of fame, a desire for glory, or merely a calculated plan to gain publicity, dozens of people and groups from the suburbs have earned their place in the Guinness World Records books.
Originally printed in 1955, the Guinness books for six decades have been the definitive source on world records ranging from near-superhuman feats to the outright silly.
The suburbs are home to record holders such as the world's oldest parrot -- Cookie, the 82-year-old Major Mitchell's cockatoo at the Brookfield Zoo -- and the world's tallest, steepest and fastest wooden roller coaster, the Goliath at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee.
Here are some suburban faces you may have spotted in book over the years:
World's Largest Chocolate Building
Master pastry chef Alain Roby has many accomplishments to be proud of over his distinguished culinary career, including more than 20 prestigious culinary awards, a spot in Pastry Art & Design and Chocolatier magazines' respective halls of fame, and frequent appearances on the Food Network and The Learning Channel.
But on the website for his Geneva restaurant All Chocolate Kitchen, Roby's trio of Guinness World Records are listed first among his achievements.
"It's something unique; it makes you feel great," Roby said. "Since it has never been done, you have no guideline, no information to see what should I be watching for. You really discover every day something new you didn't know."
Roby's first foray into the unknown occurred Oct. 10, 2006, when, at the Food Network's request, he created the world's largest chocolate building. Working in Chicago, Roby designed an almost 21-foot-tall replica of three iconic New York skyscrapers: Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building.
Roby vividly recalls the stress he felt waiting for his creation to be delivered to New York in five giant pieces so they could be reassembled.
"It all worked out perfect on paper, but doing it after the truck arrived on 5th Avenue was the biggest stress and challenge in my 35 years," he said. "Also, this had never been done and, oh my God, the pressure from all the media there."
Roby said he never expected the attention that his feat brought him.
"From Vietnam, France, China, all around the world they would call me and say, 'We saw it on the news,'" he said. "I didn't even realize the magnitude right away. A few weeks later, I remember seeing a picture of myself with the building in newspapers published in Hindu, Italian, German. The only word I could understand in the headline was my name."
Roby has since set two more Guinness World Records, for Tallest Cooked Sugar Sculpture and Longest Candy Cane. His newest creation is a "Chocolate Rig," which is like an oil rig but pumps chocolate at All Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva.
Most Whoopee Cushions sat on in 30 seconds
Most people make a concentrated effort to cross items off their bucket list only when they are somewhere near kicking the bucket, but 23-year-old Matt Bray has put his list at the fore of his adult life.
In 2012, the Naperville resident crossed off No. 11 on his list -- Break a Guinness World Record -- by sitting on 37 whoopee cushions in 30 seconds.
His status as a record holder was short-lived, however. In 2014, a Japanese man named "Mr. Cherry" Yoshitake flattened 52 whoopee cushions in 30 seconds on a British game show.
"He beat it by a lot, but I knew I could top him," Bray said. "I couldn't let that record go to someone else."
So Bray enlisted his friends to help him train, a process he chronicled in a tongue-in-cheek video he made about his comeback.
Bray said one of the hardest parts of re-breaking the record was passing Guinness' standards for submission, which include the event being witnessed by two impartial observers who have a "high standing in the community."
In 2012, Bray accomplished this by setting the record outside the Naperville police and fire stations with an officer and firefighter observing.
The second time around, Bray filmed at the gym of Grace Point Church, where he had to hope his witnesses were up to Guinness' standards.
"We just asked the guys who were playing basketball in the gym the session before us to stay behind and watch," Bray said. "I just hoped that two out of the 10 of them had high standing in the community."
They did, and Bray held up his end of the bargain, smashing 54 whoopee cushions on April 18.
"I'm proud of it," he said. "Whenever I bring up my (YouTube) channel, that's usually one of the first videos I bring up, that I have a world record for something ridiculous."
Bray's YouTube channel, called "ProjectOneLife," documents him crossing things off his massive bucket list, which even after 83 videos in three years, he isn't halfway done completing.
Fastest Lacrosse Shot
The first time he hit 100 mph with a lacrosse shot, Patrick Luehrsen decided he wanted to see how fast he could get.
"As soon as it happens, you want to do it again," the 26-year-old Libertyville resident said.
"You see the speed and think, 'Well, I can beat that.'"
Did he ever. In September, Luehrsen fired a lacrosse ball 119.9 mph, a feat Guinness a short time later recognized as the world record.
Luehrsen gives most of the credit for the record to his stick. He, his father and his brother, who together run a lacrosse supply company called Wolf Athletics out of a garage, developed an especially flexible stick called the Phantom made of a proprietary composite of polycarbonate and titanium.
He also spent a lot of time researching how to improve his form to maximize speed.
"I was watching golf and hockey, baseball pitching, as well as actual lacrosse players shooting the ball, looking at the biomechanics of what makes someone throw fast," he said.
Luehrsen clearly learned something. His record shot clocked in 2 mph faster than the best lacrosse professionals can do.
He's proud of the record but doesn't think it will last -- nor does he want it to.
"I'm wanting the kids to think, 'I can do that, I can beat them,'" Luehrsen said. "I hope they do. I want my record to be broken because then I'll have something else to accomplish."
Largest Arcade Machine
While technology is making electronic gadgets tinier and tinier, Jason Camberis took his passion for arcade machines and made it as big as possible.
Using custom-designed parts and an 80-inch screen, the Itasca man built the world's largest arcade machine at the Bensenville office of his company, Arcade Deluxe.
"I think the full experience is making it up just as big as you can get it," Camberis said. "I'm bringing bigger back."
The machine stands just under 15 feet high, making it taller than a fully grown African elephant and nearly as heavy. It towers over the dozens of other arcade cabinets at the combination warehouse and workshop where he tinkers on arcade cabinets and other inventions.
Among the features on the world's largest arcade machine is a booming sound system, oversized coin slot, flashing lights and the ability to play pretty much any game you could ever want -- that is, if you can reach the controls.
"I'm 6-foot-4 and I have to go on my tiptoes to reach it," he said. "This re-creates all the action of how tall I was when I started playing, being a little kid again with the lights and sound, the action."
Camberis does not intend to keep his colossal machine all to himself for long.
"I am going to auction it off and give the proceeds to my favorite charities," Camberis said. "I'm going to find a nice home for it."
That home will be in the Chicago area.
"Chicago, I did this for us -- we deserve to be in the spotlight again," Camberis said. "I love this place. I've been here my whole life. I would never think about going anywhere else, and now we've got the largest video game in the world."
Too many to remember
Of all the suburban record holders, competitive eater and restaurateur Patrick Bertoletti may be the only one to lose count of how many he has.
"I don't know, like 16 or 17," Bertoletti said. "I eat a lot."
Guinness World Records invited Bertoletti to an East Dundee photography studio in January 2012 to set 14 speed-eating records in one day. Among the items he ate were shrimp, Mars bars and bananas.
"It was harder to peel them than it was to eat them," Bertoletti said of the eight bananas he consumed in 60 seconds.
Bertoletti, who at one point was ranked the No. 2 professional competitive eater in the world, said Guinness sets strict rules for the eating records to discourage people from trying it at home, and choking in the process.
"Some of them you have to eat one at a time and clear your mouth after each, and others you can't drink any water for," he said. "I only ate three regular-size Mars bars in one minute, because without any water, they stick to the roof of your mouth."
Bertoletti recently moved his restaurant, Taco in a Bag, from the Spring Hill Mall in Carpentersville to Chicago.
He's confident he could break some of the records he set in East Dundee, because for a few he actually ran out of food to eat before the 60 seconds were up.
"The world records are something unique that I'm proud to have," Bertoletti said. "It's something to show my grandkids one day."