Photo by the_anim8r from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
At the end of last year, the Burj Dubai now being erected in the United Arab Emirates slipped past the height of 553 metres, causing Torontonians to wring our hands at the emasculation of our own tower. The CN Tower held the record since a helicopter topped it off with a radio mast in 1975, leaving the residents of our fair city with a crucial bragging point for decades. We had the biggest something!
But what trivial or overcompensating feats are we to boast about now that our tall freestanding structure is no longer the tallest? On this occasion of Guinness World Records Day, the folks who bear the standard for astonishing accomplishments helped give us something to talk about.
Guinness World Records Day, which is being celebrated on both November 13 and 14, actually holds a world record of its own: it celebrates the biggest selling copyright book of all time (Guinness World Records), and features mass record attempts across the globe.
Though the CN Tower hasn’t technically lost its status (the Burj Dubai has yet to be certified), our lofty cement spire also holds some other world records: the revolving restaurant can claim the world’s highest wine cellar; the longest descent down the side of a building was secured by a team of rappellers in 1992; and in the summer of 1999, Ashrita Furman (an American) jumped up the stairs on a pogo stick to nail the fastest time.
Many people are also aware that the 27 km PATH system is considered the largest underground retail complex, and that Toronto’s Kenneth Thomson—who amassed a fortune of $16.1 billion before he died in 2006—holds the title of world’s richest media tycoon. However, Torontonians have our fair share of strange and obscure world record achievements too.
Shortest TV Commercial
On January 2, 2002, MuchMusic aired a series of “blip” IDs, each at a half-frame of video (1/60 of a second). MuchMusic editor and director Tharanga Ramanayake created twelve of these blink-and-you’ll-miss-them micro-spots. Due to a process called iconic sensory memory, our brains can register and often recognize an image that flashes across our eyes this quickly.
Most Major Operations Performed
Between 1924–1978, U of T grad Dr. Robert Baird McClure performed a staggering 20,423 major medical operations. McClure was a military surgeon in his early career who eventually became well known for his work as an international missionary, namely in mainland China, Egypt, Peru, India, and the Caribbean. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1971, and died in 1991.
Largest Footwear Retailer and Manufacturer
We aren’t home to the Bata Shoe Museum for nothing—the Bata Shoe organization, founded in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1894 and moved to Toronto in 1960, produces about 170 million pairs of shoes annually, sold in more than sixty countries through its 4,458 company-run outlets and 100,000 independent franchisees and retailers. Sadly, Toronto City Council rejected a heritage designation for the company’s modernist former headquarters last year, and the beautiful structure, designed by famed architect John Parkin, fell victim to Toronto’s overzealous wrecking ball.
In foot-related records, Michelle Nagy, Shopper’s Drug Mart, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation created the world’s largest canvas shoe in September of 2001. It measured 3.9 x 1.5 x 1.2 metres.
No word on the aphrodisiacal effects for the viewing audience, but on December 12, 2002, Patrick McMurray shucked a record 33 oysters in one minute on Christine Cushing Live. McMurray has estimated that he’s opened almost two million slimy mollusks in his lifetime so far.
And in May of 2003, Oak Leaf Confections employee Nick Calderaro put Scarborough on the Guinness World Records map when he created the largest jawbreaker ever made. The teeth-shattering candy weighed almost thirteen kilograms.
In a sobering return to reality, Guinness also tells us that local area food banks are applying for World Record certification.
So We Think We Can Dance?
On August 25, 2003, 4,431 people gathered at Exhibition Place danced the Hokey Pokey for five minutes with Sesame Street’s Elmo, making it the largest song and dance routine in a single venue. That’s not the only time the Hokey Pokey has shaken it all about—in April of 2002, Toronto students were among the 196,569 Canadians to dance the world’s largest Hokey Pokey simultaneously for eight minutes.
As part of the 2006 Guinness World Records Day, Radio City Music Hall’s famed Rockettes kicked up their gams with participants at the Hummingbird Centre, securing the record for the longest single line of people performing a kick line. Earlier that year, Arulanantham Suresh Joachim and Tiffany Lesko won the world record for the longest dance marathon by a couple, finishing at a time of 31 hours and one minute.
Our annual Zombie Walk is thought by some to be a size record (someone call Guinness next time, OK?), but the undead do have a certified record here: joining the most people worldwide performing the dance from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, held at the Harbourfront Community Centre on October 29, 2006 as darkness fell across the land and the midnight hour was close at hand.
In the category of Records You Never Realized Existed, Michal Kapral ran the 2004 Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2 hours, 49 minutes, and 43 seconds—while pushing a baby buggy. As a result, he holds the world record for Pram Pushing, Fastest Marathon (Men), but Kapral also boasts a second world record for joggling. While juggling three beanbags at the 2006 Longboat Toronto Island Run, he jogged a distance of 10 km without dropping any of them.
Highest Altitude by a Single Kite
Not only does he have one of the coolest names ever, but Richard Synergy flew a kite (not pictured) to an altitude of about 4,422 metres in August of 2000. The enormous delta kite, named the “Millibar Messenger,” had an area of 25 square metres, a wingspan of 9 metres, and weighed 8 kilograms.
In 1981, current University of Toronto professor Dr. Keigo Iizuka rescued a baby starling after it fell from its nest. The pet bird, named Kuro, lived to the ripe old age of eighteen.
Largest Saxophone Ensemble
This world record sounds incredibly tedious and annoying until you find out that it was orchestrated by The Shuffle Demons, who skipped the Spadina Bus for a trip to Dundas Square in 2004, where 900 participants celebrated the band’s twentieth anniversary with the rousing theme—er, ex-theme—to Hockey Night In Canada.
For this year’s Guinness World Records Day, Toronto will be trying for the largest leapfrog attempt (at the Toronto Zoo), the fastest piano player, the shortest radio show, and the biggest simultaneous, cross-country reading attempt. First published in 1955 by Sir Hugh Beaver of the Guinness Brewery, the annual tome is now published in twenty languages in more than a hundred countries. Guinness World Records Limited is now owned by the Vancouver-based Jim Pattison Group, which also controls the rights to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, is the franchisee of Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, owns car dealerships and food packaging factories, and (according to Torontoist’s Jonathan Goldsbie) erects more illegal billboards than anyone else in Canada—a record!
Bata Shoe Museum photo by Squeakyrat; kite photo by Ben Lawson; both from the Torontoist Flickr Pool. Shuffle Demons record attempt photo by Dave Deacon, courtesy of The Shuffle Demons.