Lerman Tops Black Tie

It is rare to find a man with greater sense of style than William, "Black Tie" Stobierski, the Connecticut eating champion who frequently wears a tuxedo t-shirt to events. It is rarer still to find an eater who can consume more hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes.

But, in the parking lot of East Hartford's Putnam Bridge Plaza this past Saturday, even Black Tie had to acknowledge that he was bested -- if only slightly -- by Don Moses Lerman, a veteran gurgitator known as much for his eating records (seven quarter-pound sticks of butter in five minutes, 115 jalepeno peppers in 20 minutes) as for his sartorial splendor (embroidered red sport jacket, hot dog hat).

The day's events began with remarks from East Hartford Mayor Tim Larson and a Neat Eating Contest overseen by East Hartfrod Nathan's owner John Andreo. Then the big dogs entered the arena: Crazy Legs Conti, Tim Janus, Black Tie, Don Lerman and a dozen other hopefuls.

Conti struggled from the beginning, his trademark nonchalance disappearing as it became clear that Black Tie and Lerman were locked in what can only be described as a soon-to-be historic rivalry. Conti could not keep pace with the two titans, who consumed hot dogs and buns with singular focus and enormous speed. They traded the lead throughout the match, neck and neck, cheek and jowl.

Then, in the final minute, Lerman suddenly paused and stared into the distance, as if hearing a call from the beyond, or from the Home Depot at the far edge of the strip mall. Black Tie immediately pressed his advantage, picking up the pace and pulling ahead by a hot dog. The crowd cheered wildly -- the Connecticut champion was poised to earn a seat at the Big Dance in Coney Island!

Or was he? With unparalleled delicacy, Lerman squeaked out a burp and patted his mouth dry with the soft side of an open hot dog bun. Refocused, he attacked his plate, eating with such speed that the hot dogs became indistinguishable from his fingers. The final whistle blew and the crowd drew a collective breath -- Lerman had beaten Black Tie by a single dog.

"The Deuce" is what they call 20 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes. Lerman hit the deuce in Connecticut for a new state record, with Black Tie close behind and Conti in third.