I don't even know where to start - when I read your bio, the first thought I got was wow, how can it be possible for one woman to do all of these crazy, wacky, adventurous, creative things! But let's begin with your Guiness Book of World Records achievement: How does one become the fastest talking woman in the world? Is this something you are born with or a skill you've worked on?
A while back, I was working at a radio station WBLS-FM in New York, doing the weather and traffic as this character June East (Mae West's long-lost sister). One day, Dinah Prince from the Daily News called and said she wanted to do an article on me. When she had finished interviewing me for the article, she asked, "What are you planning to do next?Ē
Next? Well at the time there was nothing I was planning on doing next,
so I asked her what she meant, stalling for time. She said she really wanted to follow my career. Here was a woman from The Daily News telling me she was interested in me! So I thought I'd better tell her something. What came out was, "I'm thinking about breaking the Guinness Record for the Fastest Talking Female."
The newspaper article came out the next day, and she included my parting remarks about trying to break the world's Fastest Talking Female record. At about 5:00 P.M. that afternoon, I got a call from CNN asking me to go on the Larry King Live Show. They wanted me to try to break the record. They told me they would send a limo to pick me up at 8:00. That was only 3 hours. They insisted because they wanted me to do it that same night! Talk about pressure.
I sat down to figure out what on earth I was going to do on the show. I called Guinness to find out what the rules were to break a fast-talking record. They told me I would have to recite something from either Shakespeare or the Bible. Suddenly I started saying the ninety-first Psalm, a prayer for protection that my mom had taught me. Shakespeare and I had never really gotten along, so I figured the Bible was my only hope. I began practicing and practicing, over and over again. Timing myself with a stop watch to see how fast I could do it. I was both nervous and excited at the same time.
At 8:00, the limousine picked me up. I practiced the whole way there, and by the time I reached the New York studio I felt as if my tongue was going to fall off. I asked the producer, "What if I don't break the record?Ē
"Larry doesn't care if you break it or not," she said, "He just cares that you try it on his show first." So I asked myself, "What's the worst thing that can happen? I'll look like a fool on national television! A minor thing, I told myself, thinking I could live through that. So I decided just to give it my best shot, and I did. I broke the record, becoming the World's Fastest Talking Female by speaking 585 words in one minute in front of a national television audience. (I broke it again two years later, with 603 words per minute.)
People often ask me how I did that. Or how I've managed to do many of the things I've done, like lecturing for the first time, or going on stage or bungee jumping. I tell them I live my life by this simple philosophy: I always say yes first, then I figure out how to accomplish it. Then I ask myself, "What is the worst thing that can happen if I don't succeed? The answer is simply, I don't succeed! And what's the best thing that can happen? I succeed. What more can life ask of you? Be yourself, and have a good time!
You have nine books to your name, which is amazing in itself, but one of your book signings was on top of a mountain, and the other 12,340 feet under water. How did you come with the idea to do this? Did you get a big audience for the signings?
Besides being a comic and fast talker, I'm also an adventurer. I was doing research for my book, Adrenaline Adventures and ran across the fact that an 83 year old woman climbed Kilimanjaro. I thought, hell if an 83 year old woman can do it, so can I. So I started contacting people which lead me to Corbet Bishop, the guy who lead the IMAX movie team up the mountain. I figured if he's good enough for them, he's good enough for me. So we made the plans and I started training. My book was coming out around the same time, so I thought, why not do a book signing at the top of the mountain.
My publisher loved the idea. They were very supportive even at the last minute decided to sponsor my trip, along with Masterfoods.
The first person on line for my book signing was the president of Stride Right shoes, Chuck Redeppening, next his daughter and then some other climbers. My son helped me with the signing.
That picture of my book signing circulated around the world.
Brian Day OíConnor (Sandra Day O'Connor's son) happened to see it. He emailed me, though it was great I did adventures with my kid and mentioned that he had been invited to go down to the wreck site of the Titanic. I joked, "Any room for another passenger?"
Soon plans were in motion, I raised $35,000 sponsorship money, this time with Ripley's Believe it or Not, Authorhouse (my publisher) and Goldenpalace.com, plus a number of individual sponsorships. While going down I decided that since I did a book signing at the top of the world, why not one at the depths of the sea? So that became my plan.
Along the way I found out that no one had ever done a memorial service by the wreck site, I thought that would be a really nice thing to do for those poor souls there. So I became an ordained minister, got a US Navy Chaplain to write a non denominational prayer for me to say, and once again I made it into the record books.
Everything I do starts as a crazy idea, grows with my passion to do it, and then takes on a life of its own. I love it, itís the only way I'd want to live life. (Geez aren't you glad you asked...good thing I talk fast...hope your readers read fast.)
How do you find the time to be a mom and an author, motivational speaker, comedienne, and oh, yeah, do book signings on top of mountains?
I just do the things as they come up. I'm very organized so luckily I find a way to work on each project and hopefully not leave anything or body out. Like today after I type and send this to you, I'm heading over to my momís with my son (who is also a stand up comic) and we are taking my mom to the movies.
From all the incredible things you've done, which is most memorable and one you cherish most?
Wow, well the thing is I cherish life. So I try to enjoy each adventure for what it is. I have to say though as long as I am making people laugh and motivating them I am happy.
Okay, I do have to also go on a new adventure every few months and then write about it too. And I have to bring my son too because I get a kick out of knowing I am letting him experience the world.
And the best part is that I never know where my career will take me next.
You must get a real huge kick out of taking on these amazing adventures can you talk about this? What inspires you to pursue such creative feats in your life?
There is something inside of me that feels such joy when I know I am exploring new things. It's like my whole soul comes alive, whether I'm crawling in bat filled caves, or skydiving out of a plane.
It's like when someone says to me do you want to go to Hawaii, I think, what adventure can I do there? Oh bike down a volcano...okay I'll go.
I know other Daring Females are wondering - what are some adventures you are planning for your future?
Ice Hotel in February.
Possibly a 100 mile trek in Pappa New Guinea.
Diving with great white sharks in California.
What advice would you share with other Daring Females who would like to live their lives in a more adventurous way?
I'd tell all the Daring Females to keep this in mind:
THIS IS YOUR LIFE. Live it to the fullest. Donít wait to do things because the opportunity may not come your way again. Be bold, be brave, use up all of the life youíve been given.
To learn more about Fran and her many books and adventures, please visit www.francapo.com.