Frank Simon pulls a pen from my hand and balances the ballpoint tip on his nose for 10 seconds. The act doesn’t end there as he grabs a stool at our McDonald’s meeting place and balances it on his forehead while still seated in a booth. He then swiftly fills a hotel glass with Coca-Cola and balances it on his nose as well.
“Come on, come on, shake my hand,” he urges me, while the glass wobbles in place, patrons looking up from their breakfast.
The affable beer- and buffet-loving Hungarian loves to work. And he does—some 200-plus balancing act shows annually around the globe. Simon has balanced refrigerators and motorcycles with his mouth. A motorcycle kickstand took out a few teeth during a World Record quest in Paris a few years back. But that is the extent of his injuries, even though he could stand to make a chiropractor appointment, he admits.
Simon has lived in Las Vegas for 12 years. He arrived after a 10-plus year run in Key West, Fla., at the urging of friends who said the seven-time Guinness Book of World Records honoree would be a shoo-in on the Strip.
“My friends said, ‘You should go. You should do it,’” he recalls.
But the closest Simon has come to Strip consistency was a two-year, twice-a-week stint at Beacher’s Madhouse in the Hard Rock. And when Beacher’s run ended, so did his. But Simon stays busy. He’s done opening acts for boxing matches, corporate shows and has appeared on such network stalwarts as The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Today.
Simon knows his shows have limitations: After all, how many things can a guy balance on his nose, forehead and jaw before the audience has seen it all? He’s achieved greatness in his niche, but it’s a niche that doesn’t always pay the bills. Simon buys and sells electronics on the Internet to get by these days. It’s a rags-to-not-quite-yet-riches immigrant story.
As a child in Hungary, Simon taught himself the fine art of balancing large objects after catching a televised circus show. His skills, though, were unmatched by opportunities to showcase them, and his eye was always on America.
In 1982, with tensions high between the U.S. and Russia, he spent six months in an Austrian refugee camp while immigration papers were processed. “This was the worst time to try to come to America,” he says. “But I knew I did not have a very good future for my show in Hungary.”
Alas, American stardom has proven elusive. But Simon keeps dreaming big, gearing up to achieve one of his life-long balancing goals.
“A full keg of beer,” he says. “It is very, very heavy, about 250 pounds.”