By Larry Perl, firstname.lastname@example.org
4:01 PM EDT, October 2, 2012
It's official. Andreas "Spilly" Spiliadis is the hula hoop king of Italy.
And for his next trick, he's running for mayor of Baltimore.
In March, Spiliadis, a weekly fixture at the 32nd Street Farmers Market in Waverly, flew to Rome to face off against Paul "Dizzy Hips" Blair, of Flagstaff, Ariz., in a hula hoop contest taped for an Italian TV show.
The two contestants were sworn to secrecy until the episode aired. Now, it has, on Lo Show Dei Record, the Italian version of the Guinness Book of World Records show, and is posted on You Tube and Spiliadis' Facebook page.
And the winner is ... Spiliadis, 45, who tied a world record by swinging a giant, 3.5-centimeter hula hoop 64 times around his hips in one minute.
Both men became ambassadors for a sport that is somewhat obscure in Italy, according to the show's producers.
The all-expenses-paid trip, plus a payment of $1,500, was national exposure for Spiliadis, who lived for 15 years in Charles Village and two in Oakenshawe before moving to the Arcadia neighborhood in northeast Baltimore, where he lives in a fixer-upper next to a graveyard and calls himself "an urban farmer."
Spiliadis is a freelance writer and a debate coach at Frederick Douglass High School. He also sells hula hoops in the median overlooking the farmers market.
He said his teenage daughters, Zoe and Tali, got him into hula hooping at 39, when he couldn't rotate a hula hoop for more than 30 seconds.
He estimates that hula hoop sales and activities now account for as much as half of his income.
Promoting himself on Facebook and websites such as hooping.org and sonofasuperhero.com, he caught the attention of "Lo Show Dei Record."
But so did Blair, who has been a guest on ESPN, "America's Got Talent" and "The CBS Early Show," according to his website.
Blair's world records include the highest number of standard-size hula hoops spun simultaneously, 132 in November, 2009. But Spilly ran circles around him.
Spiliadis said Italian producers have hinted at more televised contests — and he is working on setting a world record for balancing a hula hoop on his nose and passing it to another person's nose without using their hands. He's up to eight passes, he said.
But Spiliadis may have a political trick up his sleeve, too. He plans to use his newfound fame to make an unlikely run for mayor of Baltimore.
He knows it's early yet; Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake won re-election in 2011. But he said on his Facebook page that he wants to promote urban farming as mayor.
"We can grow our own food and reduce our footprint and get ourselves and our strong young superstars exercise and farm therapy if we utilize the available farming space of Baltimore in this lifetime," he states on the site.
He plans to make an announcement of his candidacy soon, as well as an official announcement of his hoops victory.
Standing in his usual spot Saturday morning in the median strip near the Waverly farmers market, Spiliadis outlined a sustainability campaign in which his highest priority if elected would be to transform the city's vacant lots, school land and backyards into farm and gardening land."
He promised a serious campaign and said, "My goal is to accomplish as much while running as the rest of them accomplish while sitting," he said.