Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Month in phone booth, in search of Guinness record, comes to an end

Otok Ben-Hvar, 72, makes a dramatic exit from his homemade 1940s-era phone booth Thursday after living in it since April 1. 


Otok Ben-Hvar, 72, makes a dramatic exit from his homemade 1940s-era phone booth Thursday after living in it since April 1. 

NEW PORT RICHEY — For the past 30 days, Otok Ben-Hvar has endured strange spider bites, relied on strangers for meals and logged his bathroom breaks in a computer diary.

He spent almost all of April in a 1940s-era phone booth, even tilting the box on its side at night so he could sleep in it — all in the quest for his third Guinness World Record.

On Thursday, it was over. At 1:05 p.m., he emerged from the box.

Wearing a blue polo shirt, khaki shorts and black open-toe sandals, Ben-Hvar grabbed the hands of his friends and dramatically fell onto the black tarp on the patio at the Market on Main, where he'd parked the phone booth for most of the month.

"I'm a little weak," he said, smiling. "Now, I'm going to be on my w-a-y."

Ben-Hvar, who turned 72 on Wednesday, is now looking forward to a few creature comforts: Some episodes of Forensic Files on TV, a beer from the fridge of his New Port Richey condo and a good night's sleep in a real bed.

Aside from attempting to set a third world record — he garnered two others for longest lawn mower drive and most unusual nuptials after getting married in an ambulance — Ben-Hvar had another goal with this stunt.

He wanted to draw attention to his efforts to have America's First National Tree — a silver maple rooted in soil from all 50 states and the U.S. territories — planted on the lawn at the White House.

And Ben-Hvar has had plenty of experience over the years at drawing a crowd.

There was the time he crashed his plane during the Great Atlantic Air Race. The time he played Santa Claus in Moscow. Oh, and a stint at Juilliard.

His stories and upbeat personality drew followers to the booth over the past month. Most were fellow students at Pasco-Hernando Community College, where Ben-Hvar took classes in the citizens scholar program. Some stopped by to chat or bring him food. Others cared for him after his handful of trips to the emergency room for spider bites.

"I've been here every single night," said Jessica Peck, 19, a PHCC student. "I don't know what to do with myself now that it's all over."

Ben-Hvar plans to send documentation of his phone booth journey to the folks at Guinness in hopes of securing another record. If that doesn't pan out, he'll include this adventure in the book he's writing about his life.

But first, Ben-Hvar has more pressing matters to attend to. There's lunch — leftover spaghetti from his birthday party, which also included cupcakes and peach-flavored Belgian beer — a much-needed haircut and a nap.

And what will become of the booth?

It'll stay put behind the produce market, where the newly-formed Phone Booth Gang of Ben-Hvar's pals will gather to make firecracker art — you know, firecrackers dipped in paint and exploded onto art paper — and plan the next adventure.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at (813) 909-4609 or

Month in phone booth, in search of Guinness record, comes to an end 04/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 30, 2009 9:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest


    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.
  2. Police pull unconscious New Port Richey man from SUV in Cotee River


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Police rescued an unconscious driver whose sport utility vehicle plunged into the Cotee River on Saturday.

  3. Analysis: Bannon is out, but his agenda may live on


    WASHINGTON — In his West Wing office, Stephen Bannon kept a chart listing trade actions — on China, steel and autos — that the Trump White House planned to roll out, week by week, through the fall. Now that Bannon, the president's chief strategist, has been pushed out, the question is whether his …

    Steve Bannon thinks he could be more effective influencing policy from outside the White House.
  4. Trump to skip Kennedy Center Honors awards program


    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Acknowledging that he has become a "political distraction," President Donald Trump has decided to skip the festivities surrounding the annual Kennedy Center Honors arts awards later this year, the White House announced Saturday amid the continuing fallout over Trump's stance on last weekend's …

  5. Bucs' annual Women of RED preseason party attracts nearly 2,000


    TAMPA — Theresa Jones is primarily a college football fan, but she wanted to get a taste of the Bucs. So the 46-year-old Tampa resident bought a ticket for the team's Women of RED Ultimate Football Party at Raymond James Stadium on Friday.

    Lee White of Seminole tries on a helmet at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers female fans descended upon Raymond James Stadium for the ultimate football party, the 2017 Women of RED: The Takeover, supported by Moffitt Cancer Center. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times