NEW YORK -- Before dozens of the strangest people one might ever hope to meet, the Rapunzel of The Guinness Book of World Records let down her hair -- all 10 feet of it -- at the first convention of Guinness record holders Monday.
She was joined center stage by the world's fastest talker, an 8-year-old chess whiz, a guy who catches grapes in his mouth, the master of 3,372 disguises and a woman who threatens the 'Three Little Pigs' and blows the house down in a matter of 28 seconds.
Modesty was no virtue among these characters.
'I still paint a picture better and faster than he does, plus my work affects a lot more people,' said Conni Gordon, 'teacher of the world's largest art class' said of her rival, Morris Katz, 'the world's fastest painter.'
Gordon, her blue-sequined tam-o'-shanter cocked jauntily atop her head, traveled from Miami Beach, Fla., for the convention and didn't mind mentioning her talk show appearances, her televised painting lessons and the record-setting class for 55,000 U.S. Marines.
The only conventioneer who truly could be called demure at the midday meeting held in a midtown Manhattan hotel was the frail Diane Witt, whose husband Bob, tends her 10-foot auburn tresses that take four hours in the shower to shampoo.
'It's very healthy. I've never colored it,' Diane said as she waited to climb on a small stool and pull the two bobby pins to let her 10-foot braids fly free. 'We've even caught fish with it.'
Bob explained, 'We just tied a worm to it and cast. It's pretty strong.'
The Witts who hail from Worcester, Mass., avoid questions about Diane's age, gray hairs, split ends and shampoo brands. They prefer to talk about their kids, Alicia, 12, and Ian, 9, budding child prodigies destined for the concert piano tour.
'We've really kind of tried to put the hair in the background because of the kids,' Diane said.
Alicia Witt said she thought her mother's hair was 'very pretty' but wanted her own reddish locks no longer than knee-length because she plans to live on a farm and 'long hair could be very awkward.'
At 585 words a minute, Fran Capo, 26, of Queens, is the fastest talker in the world, according to the people at Guinness. 'I've talked my way out of lots of speeding tickets. My husband, he never wins an argument,' she said.
Capo, who works as a local comedian, is pregnant. 'I'm scared the baby is going to come out like lightning and will cry in fast-speed,' she said.
Like Capo, 8-year-old Westley Ciaramella, of Staten Island, the world's youngest holder of a karate black belt has found practical uses for his skills.
'The kids at school treat me like everybody else, but if they were going to fight me, they wouldn't,' Ciaramella said.
Another 8-year-old, chess star Ariel Avigard-Vernon, of Queens, defeated one of the top-ranked players, Nicholas Dumyk, last year at age 7, then started a chess club for first graders at P.S. 31.
Ariel's favorite school subjects are math, lunch and recess.