Why was an elephant arrested - complete with shackles and a stint in jail - in 1904? Why did New Yorkers fall for a giant hoax in 1869? How did P.T. Barnum use his famous showmanship to prove the durability of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1884?
Fran Capo, born and bred in Jamaica Hills and now living in Howard Beach, comedienne, author and "the world's fastest talking woman," answered these questions and more when she entertained at the Queens Museum of Art Theater this weekend before a warm, sitting-on-the-floor-room-only crowd of some 125 people.
She used most of the hour of her show in the small theater to present some of the interesting, strange, and just plain weird facts from her funnier-than-fiction collection of historical tidbits, "It Happened In New York," She signed a few dozen copies of the book, prepared with Frank Borzellieri, which her mother and 12-year-old son, Spencer, sold for $10 after the show.
She talked and answered audience questions for the hour without using any notes, teleprompter, or anything, except for some quick glances at the chapter headings to make sure she had the exact date of the events.
Since she is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being able to talk at the rate of 603 words per minute (compared to most people's normal conversation rate of 220 to 270 wpm), the audience expected to hear a sampling of the rare talent. But she was fighting a cold, and said her throat had to be in prime condition for her to race through 10 words a second and keep each syllable intact. The audience had to be content with watching taped segments of her appearance on "Larry King Live" and other shows - including one in which she placed a call for a Chinese take-out order over the phone to the baffled order-taker.
"Being a New Yorker, I always talked fast," she told Qguide, slowing down to something less than 600 wpm. "I found out in school, though, that I could talk even faster - never thinking I would make a career with it. It was just an efficient way to get things done."
She soon noticed in PS 131 in Jamaica that if she would talk really quickly, she'd get laughs. She still didn't see it as any kind of career, and majored in accounting and philosophy at Queens College, graduating in 1981. ("It was an interesting combination," she said. "I can say, '2 plus 2 equals 4 - why?'").
But she wasn't destined for a life of bean-counting. When she casually told a Daily News reporter that she thought she could be the world's fastest talking woman, he wrote about it, and it was picked up by producers of the Larry King show. On March 5, 1986, when CNN, the show, and all cable were in infancy, she was clocked at 585 wpm on the show. On June 5, 1990, the Guinness people officially clocked her at 603.32 words per 54.02 seconds, using special equipment that recorded and then slowed down her speech to make sure she had pronounced each syllable fully.
"It Happened in New York" is her fourth book - the others are "How to Get Publicity Without a Publicist," "How to Break Into Voiceovers," and "Humor in Business Speaking." She also has created a cyber sitcom, "The Estrogen Files: Money, Men, and Motherhood" at www.theest
To find out about future performances of Fran Capo in the area, or to order a book, visit the website, e-mail her at FranCNY@aol.com, or call 718-738-5390.
Reach Qguide Editor David Glenn by e-mail at glenn@time
©2001 Community News Group
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