Film: Tour de Force



Introduction article

On December 3, 1983, Georges Christen bent in half 250 eight-inch iron nails (and 7mm width) astonishing a whole country in the process.

Nowadays, 250 nails are child's play for the Luxembourg-born Christen. He doesn't even use gloves anymore. He's one of the leading strongmen in the Guiness Book of World Records.

In 1989 he bent 368 eight-inch nails and tore through a stack of 120 playing cards, breaking his own record.

With only his teeth, he can keep a Cessna Sport plane from taking off. His teeth have also pulled trucks, busses, railroad cars, horse-drawn wagons, and ships. At Luxembourg's famous Schobermesse he made a huge Ferris wheel turn - again, with his teeth.

Despite all his records, his ability to rip in half 1,344-page telephone books and break iron chains with his teeth, Georges Christen remains a likable young man.

Where did all this nail-bending start?

Like many things in life, says Christen, you get a crazy idea, and it takes on a life of its own. He was already bending nails as a teenager - smaller nails, that is.

One day he saw a man on French television who bent 50 nails, setting a record. "I can do better than that," he told himself, setting himself a goal of bending 75. After a bit of training, the man who was always getting caught up in crazy ideas launched his career by bending 250 nails in 73 minutes.

Nails, playing cards, telephone books

In 1984 he improved his record in Austria and bent 269 nails in one hour. At the same time, he beat another record set by his countryman John Grün at the turn of the century. Instead of 104 playing cards, he tore through 110. Then in 1985 at the Berlin Funkaustelling he made it through 115. The result of his latest feat of tearing through 120 cards can be seen in the Guiness World Record museum in London.

How did he get the idea of tearing cards? Quite simply, he just wanted to try. He tore through his first deck of 55 at the first go. Then he tried 50, then 60, 70, 80, until he finally got his record.

At that point he had to set himself a new goal. Having turned his hobby into a profession, he couldn't run the risk of boring his audience with the same old tricks. So he turned to ripping apart telephone books. Since then, he has gone through thousands. It's no problem to rip ten or more at one session. "Too bad there's nothing thicker," says Christen disappointedly. "There's only the 'Larousse' French dictionary, but it would be a shame to rip apart such a precious book, and besides, it would be too expensive in the long run."

The railroad car

Again, not to tire his audience, he came up with a new idea, simultaneously ripping apart a 1,344-page phone book, while breaking an iron chain linked between his teeth and his feet. The hard part was concentrating on both tasks at the same time. But a professional is a professional.

The next step was even more crazy. On August 18, 1985, he pulled a 22-ton railroad car 110 yards - with his teeth. Just to prove he wasn't pulling the car downhill, he pulled it back in the other direction as well. Asked if the feat wasn't too dangerous, he said that he'd never risk life or limb just for a record.

Hot water bottles and Cessnas

What he does find dangerous, though, is blowing up hot water bottles until they burst. He needs 40 seconds and a lot of air. He has to make sure that the compressed air doesn't rush back into his lungs. The pressure would tear them apart. But of course, Christen masters this trick as well has he does his others. When he is doing this stunt, it is as interesting to watch the faces in the audience as it is to watch him actually doing it, because while waiting for the explosion, some forget to breathe, or they'll drop their glass of beer.

But the ultimate feat came in September, 1987, when Christen made the whole world stand up and take notice: he stopped a fully-revved 110-horsepower Cessna plane from taking off - with his teeth.

The bed of nails

Christen says the most difficult thing of all is ripping apart playing cards, because their small size gives him no real grip.

To learn a new trick, the most important things one needs are skill and perseverance. But he manages to learn them in a short time.

His next trick was to lay shirtless on a bed of nails with someone smashing a 440-lb. block of granite on his chest.

Now, Christen is enjoying overseas fame, with an appearance on Japanese television.

During an anniversary performance at a circus, Christen bit into the side of a table and carried it with his teeth into the ring. But that's not all. A young lady was sitting on it. He pulled a 13-ton bus over 55 yards. He also held in his teeth a bridge over which 250 walked across in succession.

The amazing feats of strength continue: with both arms and his teeth he kept three Cessna planes from taking off. In 1991 Christen pulled a 100-ton ship 100 yards upstream. Finally, he turned a 65-ton 150-foot high Ferris Wheel with his teeth.

Growing popularity

Georges Christen has set 16 records. He is able to lift a 220-lb barrel 120 times in seven minutes. He pulls water skiers along a river, sits on a horse-drawn wagon and hauls the horses with his teeth, lies on shards of glass with a 2,200-lb. weight on his body.

He has become a well-known performer with his Powershow in Europe, America and Asia.

He speaks fluent English, French, German and of course the language of his native Luxembourg. There, he is a national hero. He still has many plans, and without doubt will fulfill them all.

But Christen is known not only for his strength, but also for his easy-going, humble manner. You won't find another like him on the face of the earth.

But does he still enjoy it?

You bet he does. His unusual profession was, is, and will stay his passion, and he can't imagine a life without it. Christen has never done any muscle training, and doesn't think much of bodybuilding. He does not take anabolic steroids, protein or vitamin supplements, and since 1986, has been a vegetarian. So he does not, like many might think, eat ten steaks a day.

A test of strength

Christen says he has mostly good memories of his life so far. There have only been a couple of embarrassing situations. One was at the Luxembourg Schobermesse, where a punching bag served as a test of strength. He destroyed the entire set-up with one blow.. During an auto show, he wanted to look at a car and by accident removed the bumper.

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