Top LA Legends #5: Orson Welles holds the record for eating the most hot dogs in one sitting at Pink’s.

I can't believe I ate the whole thing.

When moving anywhere near Hollywood, you invariably must take a trip to Pink’s to gawp at the line and hear stories about all the celebrities who’ve eaten there. It’s practically a by-law. If you stand in the line, you can hear these conversations over and over again. And by far, the most repeated anecdote is that Orson Welles once ate 18 hot dogs in one sitting. Sometimes the number is 14, or 17. Sometimes it’s chili dogs, or even double-chili dogs. The details shift with each telling, but the formula remains the same. For a sampling, google Orson Welles + Pink’s and you’ll see what I mean. It’s even in IMDB, for Kane’s sake. For a story that so well-known, you would think that there’d be a shred of documentation to back it up.

You would of course be wrong.

Welles has more biographies written about him than just about anyone in movie history. Here’s a sample of how many. But I could not find a single reference to the actual event. Perplexed, I consulted Wellesnet, the premier online resource for Welles aficionados and scholars. No luck here, although one person suggested contacting L.A. hot dog maven Steve Worth at Hot Dog Spot. Steve had no details on the legend, but was mystified at the idea of anybody keeping down 18 Pink’s hot dogs, as he could barely keep down one.

I’ve tried to contact Pink’s directly, but so far they have refused all of my requests for information. Servers at the stand had no details either.

This seems to be yet another example of the celebrity as household god, someone who becomes the embodiment of a single quality, like the modern equivalents Paris=slut, Keanu=stupid or Britney=ninja. Orson=fat, and any story that supports that has instant credibility.

So I’m calling you out, Pink’s. I say it’s bullshit, and unless you or somebody provides documentary evidence, we should all stop, er, piling on, to Orson’s already sizable girth.

Special bonus debunking: There’s also one going around that Orson’s ghost haunts Sweet Lady Jane’s, which Kathleen wrote about a while back. Because she’s a rockstar, Kat gets it right that Sweet Lady Jane’s sits at the address that used to house Orson’s favorite restaurant, Ma Masion (or, as he liked to call it, “Pat’s Fish House.”) But some citations claim that Orson haunts the place because he liked the sweets so much. The only problem with that theory is that Sweet Lady Jane’s opened it doors in 1988, three years after Welles died.

Oh those pesky facts getting in the way of a good story. Come to think of it, that seems to sum up Welles’s life and career pretty tidily.

4 thoughts on “Top LA Legends #5: Orson Welles holds the record for eating the most hot dogs in one sitting at Pink’s.”

  1. I made a short documentary about Pink’s (“Pink’s Famous Chili Dogs”) and interviewed the original owner, Paul Pink, now deceased. He told me that he saw Orson Wells eat the hot dogs. Need to actually check my own film for the exact number, but perhaps this is the documentation you’ve been craving?

  2. Thanks Elise, I’d love to see that. Although I’d still want to have some direct, corroboration other that from a person who directly benefited from the propagation of the story.

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