Friday, May 08, 2009

Out of the mower & into the phonebooth

The man who once took a record-breaking 2,801 mile long lawnmower ride from Old Orchard Beach, Maine, to Los Angeles, California, is at it again.
Life in a phone booth -- and he's no Superman
Posted by Barbara Hijek on April 13, 2009 04:15 PM

Everybody needs a goal, we guess.

Otok Ben-Hvar's has to do with a phone booth.

On April 1, he climbed inside a 1940s-era phone booth with wheels.

He had everything he'd need to live inside the red, white and blue booth until his 72nd birthday on April 29. reports the St. Petersburg Times.


He wants to set a Guinness world record for the longest time spent in a phone booth.

He's probably up to it.

He once drove a lawn mower 2,801 miles from Maine to California.

He was a U.S. Army paratrooper, played Santa Claus in Moscow and became a greeter and dancer on cruise lines.

What the heck. Here's hoping the old dude makes it.

We'll know on the 29th.

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, as Ben Garcia, Ben-Hvar has a long and weirdly wonderful history. His name change honors the Croatian island of Hvar. The reports of his lawnmower riding alone are legendary: "Hitting speeds of up to 35 mph, Garcia wore out one engine as well as five pulleys, was ticketed for driving too slowly near Austin, Texas, and had a minor fender-bender with a Jeep outside Twentynine Palms." [Source]

The St. Petersburg Times reported on his remarkable life story in 2003, including some of his connections to Maine:
Through the 1980s, he also became a motel owner in Maine, suffered a string of heart attacks, and landed in the Guinness Book of World Records - twice.

The first time was for "the longest lawn mower drive."

The 1988 book states: "Ben Garcia drove a rebuilt AMF lawn mower powered by an 8-horse-power Briggs and Stratton engine (he replaced it twice), 2801 miles, 4,507 km, across the United States from Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Maine, to Los Angeles, California, in 38 days from 6 Oct.-13 Nov. 1986."

The purpose, he explains: "To trim the nuclear arms race."

In pictures, he's bundled in a coat and scarf on the mower, an American flag flapping in the wind behind him. He's trailed by a mobile home on a four-lane highway.
Ben-Hvar can't understand why he's still alive. Many of his friends have died. Innocent lives were snuffed out by terrorists. Yet, with all his heart attacks, including one that resulted in a death notice, he is still alive.

"He feels so blessed by God to have survived everything he has," said columnist Tom Weber, who has written countless pieces about Ben-Hvar over the years for the Bangor Daily News of Maine. "He has just a pure passion for life."

Ben-Hvar can't be stopped. "When it comes time I'm on my death bed, and I've been there many times," he said, "I don't want to think, "Heavens, I haven't done enough.' "

For the full article (highly recommended): [Source]
Ben-Hvar, also known fondly as King KuKu, has his own website at, where he pledges his loyalty to his subjects. The photo shown here is from that page -- please note the Portland, Maine setting of the KukuMobile in front of Enterprise Record's old location on Congress Street!

Here's to folks like King Kuku!

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