MADELEINE BRAND, host:
He's known as Inspector the Collector. His real name is Harley Spiller, and his obsession is collecting restaurant menus. On Sunday in New York City, Spiller and his friends got together to count menus in hopes that Spiller would break the record for menus collected, and yes, that's actually a category in the Guinness Book of World Records. Producers Kara Oehler and Ann Hepperman were there for this momentous event and brought us this audio postcard.
Unidentified Woman: All right. Use the calculator.
Mr. HARLEY SPILLER (Menu Collector): The record is well within sight. We're at the 3,000-plus mark, and we only need to go to 4,001.
Unidentified Man #1: Twenty-one.
Unidentified Woman: Twenty-one.
Mr. SPILLER: Well, we're just going to go a thousand over just to throw down that gauntlet on the old guy in Florida.
Unidentified Woman: Thirty-two.
Unidentified Man #2: Thirty-two, check.
Mr. SPILLER: The Guinness records book, to me, as a tween-ager, was as exotic as Chinese food was to me when I first came to New York.
Unidentified Woman: Thirty-three.
Unidentified Man #2: Thirty-three, check.
Mr. SPILLER: Like the Indian guy whose beard was so long that it rolled and rolled and rolled on the floor in a big, long swirl. Like, that was just something that couldn't happen to a regular Joe like me.
Unidentified Woman: Fifty.
Unidentified Man #2: Fifty, check.
Mr. SPILLER: These menus started as a lark.
Unidentified Woman: Fifty-five.
Mr. SPILLER: I didn't really pick it. It picked me. The menu came sliding under my door, and they were fun to read. They have typos that are funny, they have foods that I didn't know were foods.
Unidentified Man #2: Calculate ...(unintelligible)
Mr. SPILLER: A year after I moved to New York and it was pouring rain one morning, I started counting my menus. I was up at 7. I didn't eat. It was 5 PM and I wasn't done.
Unidentified Man #1: Sixty-eight plus...
Mr. SPILLER: I'm estimating that I have 18,000 menus and that I've collected 15,000 of them.
Unidentified Man #1: Seventy...
Mr. SPILLER: And they all fit under my bed, and I fit on top of the bed.
Unidentified Man #1: ...equals 762.
Mr. SPILLER: People think collectors are crazy and make fun of collectors all day long. I think I'm nuts. I think this project--I think going for the Guinness world record is nuts.
Unidentified Man #2: OK. We're at 3,769.
Mr. SPILLER: I do have criteria. I have a taxonomy of my collection. If it says stir-fry, it's a Chinese menu. If it's a menu for the month, for the senior citizens' center and on Thursday they have turkey oriental, it's in.
Unidentified Man #2: One, two, four, seven, eight.
Mr. SPILLER: Collections are a diary. There are so many restaurants that I'm going to today that I see--like, `Wow, I used to eat there. I remember they had the Szechuan noodles,' or `This one was really good at the Crispy Duck.'
Unidentified Man #2: Forty-two hundred and forty.
Mr. SPILLER: I don't feel like I own this stuff. I feel like this is a collection I'm making for a university somewhere, you know.
Unidentified Man #2: Five thousand and six. Five thousand and six menus.
Unidentified Man #1: We have a new world record!
(Soundbite of cheering)
Unidentified Woman: But that's only half of what's actually here.
Unidentified Man #2: Champagne and Guinness, now being served in honor of the new world record.
(Soundbite of cheering)
Mr. SPILLER: I am liking this. I'm liking this more now that we're having champagne and Guinness.
My name is Harley. I'm from New York, and I have the world's largest collection of menus. The world's largest collection. There's none other larger in the world.
BRAND: Whoo-hoo, Harley. He won't be on the books as the new record holder until the number is confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records. Producer Kara Oehler and Ann Hepperman brought us this postcard, and there's more about Harley Spiller's collection on our Web site, npr.org.
NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Madeleine Brand.
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