by Josh Lanier
A Paddleball King is about to be crowned. Steve Langley, of Huntersville, left for Italy early this week to appear on a TV show in the hopes of setting a Guinness World Record by keeping the most paddles going at once.
Langley has been a professional juggler and performer for more than two decades, but his fascination with paddleballs, which started as a joke several years ago, could become his most notable act.
“This is all still pretty surreal,” he said last week at his Nottingham Drive home. “This all feels like a joke, because I’m being flown to Italy to perform on television because of a children’s toy.”
Langley will attempt Friday, April, 8, to keep between four and seven paddleballs going simultaneously. He can’t bobble or miss one bounce on any of them for 30 seconds.
“It’s definitely going to be hard,” he said. “I think I can do it, I’ve done it several times before, but it’s in front of the Guinness Book of World Records officials and a television camera and audience so that ups the pressure.”
He’ll have some practice, though. He’s made the rounds at several local news stations to show off his skills in recent weeks after announcing the trip.
It’s not his first brush with local celebrity. Langley, who performs under the name “The Great Fettucini,” and with a partner as the “Fettucini Brothers,” has been wowing crowds with juggling and live stage shows for years.
Langley has showmanship in his blood. His father was NASCAR racing legend Elmo Langley who had 193 top-10 race finishes in his 27-year career.
Steve Langley got his start with performing in a kitchen. A trained chef, Langley always wanted to be a culinary master. One day, he happened to catch a juggling act, where a man tossed torches. He thought it was cool and decided to learn the trade himself. A bartender where he worked showed him the juggling basics using lemons and a book on the trade gave him the finer points.
Another cook in that kitchen, Sean Sullivan, also had a knack for theater, and the two honed their skills by passing items inventively while working and essentially created the first Fettucini Brothers act on the prep line.
“It was all pretty cool,” Langley said. “We just had fun and that eventually just turned into something.”
That’s where the paddleballs first come into play. While on the road, crisscrossing the country from gig to gig, there was a lot of downtime.They created games to make each other laugh.
Langley spotted a paddleball at a gas station one day and decided to pick it up. He tried out target shooting – throwing items in the air and knocking them down with the ball – and the “William Tell” trick on Sullivan. They never tried it out on stage, but over time Langley became quite good.
A few years ago, he decided to show off some tricks in a video he posted to Youtube.com and became fast friends with other paddleball enthusiasts.
“There’s this entire world of people who have a skill using a paddleball,” he said. “It blew my mind when I realized there were other people out there who enjoyed this kind of thing the way I did. I remember seeing these paddleball paddles everywhere when I was a kid. I still see them now, but I never see anybody actually playing with them, so I was shocked.”
He’s quickly becoming one of that community’s stars. Already an impresario and notable figure in the juggling world, he hopes to continue to make a name for himself with the paddle. Once he returns Sunday, April 10, from Italy he hopes to work out a routine with the paddleball, incorporating music, games and tricks for a live stage show. He’s even thought out an off-Broadway production akin to the Blue Man Group but with a paddleball.
“I’m just a guy who never grew up,” he said. “But I’ve been blessed to follow my own path in life with some success. … I just never would have thought it would have been like this.”
Want to know more?
Steve Langley still performs as a juggler with the Fettucini Brothers and as a solo act as The Great Fettucini. For more information and videos visit www.fettucini
brothers.com. To see his paddleball skills visit www.huntersvilleherald.com to see him perform or go to www.thepaddleballking.net