This article appeared in the Daily News on March 23, 2000.
CANOGA PARK – Joining a long, wacky tradition of Guinness record seekers, Mandi Martin played her 17th straight day of pinball Wednesday – just four days from establishing a new world record.
“It’s not really about points,” said the 55-year-old Martin, as she kept her eyes on the flying metal ball, “my all-time high score is 1.8 billion, and I don’t even keep track of anything below 300 million anymore.”
As she cruised into hour 411 on Wednesday, Martin explained that she wants to play an endless series of games for 555 hours, 55 minutes and 55 seconds over 23 days, besting the record of 505 hours she said she set in 1979.
She is allowed only one five-minute break each hour, according to Guinness rules, so she sometimes accumulates her minutes to take short naps.
A telephone headset lets her talk to press and friends without halting play, and a revolving team of friends acting as witnesses gives her occasional shoulder massages to keep her loose and awake.
Her forearms are built up like a patrol cop’s, thanks to months of working out at the gym in preparation for the event, she said.
Martin chose her goal – 555 hours, 55 minutes and 55 seconds – to coincide with her 55th birthday, which she celebrated March 20.
To qualify, Guinness requires that a log of her hours be kept, and that there be present two sworn witnesses at all times who sign the log.
If successful, the self-described pinball queen will join the prestigious global ranks of such unbelievable characters as Swami Maujgiri Maharaj of India, who stood in place for a record 17 years straight from 1955 to 1973, and Randy Ober of Arizona, who spat a tobacco wad a record 47 feet, 7 inches in 1982.
“I don’t know how the heck she does this,” said Joe Breakfield, an insurance broker from Redondo Beach and friend of Martin’s who volunteered as a witness. “After just an hour’s nap, she’s at it again, full of energy. It’s an inspiration.”
Sitting in a cushioned chair and playing on a machine she says was loaned to her by rock guitar player Slash from the group Guns N’ Roses, Martin says she decided to break her own record now to mark the fifth anniversary of the passing of her late husband, Jerry Fox.
“I am the John Glenn of pinball,” she said. “I hadn’t planned on doing this again, but my friends convinced me they’d support me and it’s good for the charities.”
Like her record-setting event 21 years ago, Martin hopes the publicity will help her raise thousands of dollars for several charity organizations, including the MusiCares Foundation, which deals with addiction and housing issues; the domestic violence prevention group Haven Hills; The Chad Aitken Foundation, which supports families that lose a young child; Gilda’s Club, formed by actress Gilda Radner to support cancer patients worldwide; and America’s Breast Cancer Ride, a charity bicycle ride.
Martin takes donations on her Web site, www.pinballchamp.com.
A lifetime songwriter who got her start in the entertainment industry in Nashville, Tenn., in the 1970s, Martin got turned on to the game while playing after work with friends and says she has set records in the past.
“There was a DJ in Nashville named Captain Midnight who taught me all the tricks,” she said. “I found out I was really good at it, and I was hooked from the start.”