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His Mouth Is Where the Money Is

Jim Purol has been a cover guy for Esquire magazine.

That he was pictured with 141 cigarettes stuffed in his mouth to personify the worst of debatable deeds for 1984’s Best of Esquire’s Dubious Achievements, is neither here nor there.

“It was more bizarre than dubious,” acknowledges Purol, stage name Jim Mouth, family name Purolski until the family arrived at Ellis Island from Poland. “But it was an achievement, it was fun, it does intrigue people and it does create a sense of astonishment.

“And if it gets you on the cover of Esquire, well . . . “

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His trick of broadening a yawn into a crater crammed with seven packs of gaspers also has given Purol, 35, a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. He scored a second mention by smoking 38 pipes at one puffing. He opened wider, gritted his tonsils, and earned a third entry in 1983 by smoking 40 finger-fat stogies at the same time.

Paradoxically, Purol is a nonsmoker. It gets better. His world cigar smoking record was a charity performance benefiting the American Lung Assn.

“I hate smoking,” he explained. “I perform the stunts as a statement against smoking. Lookit this picture of me with cigarettes stuffed in my face. This is glamorous? It’s disgusting.”

To Purol, a mouthful is many things. Of 80 cigarettes, 12 cigars and three pipes at one time. Biting on 12 Ball Park Franks. Jamming one large pizza cut into 12 slices. Folded and wadded. But how?

“Easy. I can dislocate one side of my jaw.”

If he could unhinge the other side, Purol might attempt a half-dozen Volkswagens. But what payoff beyond herniated cheeks?

“One hand feeds the other. The stunts have raised about $100,000 for charities, but I’ve never earned one penny from them. On the other hand, I do get the publicity, I do get my picture on the cover of Esquire. That feeds the other career of Joe Mouth, musician and club entertainer.”

Accepting that neither man nor his stunts live by franks and pizza alone, Purol, who recently moved to Oceanside from his native Detroit, has diversified.

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Last year, he drove the Motor City 500 at Flat Rock Speedway. In reverse. It took him 96 hours to find a seat at the University of Michigan Stadium because he wanted to sit in all 101,701 of them. He has leapfrogged 5,000 parking meters in 13 hours (“a sport rather detrimental to manhood”) for the American Lung Assn. and crawled 25 miles on his hands and knees (“My knee became a purple water blister”) to dramatize the 1979 March of Dimes and pulled a 1929 Chevy (“After 50 feet I knew the brake was still on”) for 3.6 miles and Muscular Dystrophy.

And to think it all began in 1976 with a young musician’s whim and Purol wondering how long he could play the drums. He was still pounding away 13 days later and Livonia, Mich., had become a ghost town.

None of it, he says, is a question of courage or strength. “But it is self-discipline, the ability to shut out fatigue and pain completely. It is so easy to throw in the towel and walk away from anything. If it was easy, everybody would be doing what I do.

“I’m an entertainer and this is entertaining. It’s like the guy being shot out of the cannon. People look. They ooooooh. They are impressed and distracted. They’re entertained.”

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This month, Purol is hosting a Newport Beach comedy show best described as a one-man Saturday Night Live.

This fall, he could be playing Saturday morning dead.

He is out to break the world grape-catching record. He hopes to snag a fat, purple Ribier (for a better silhouette against the California sky) falling from a height of 700 feet. In his mouth.

“You have to be very selective about the grape,” he said. “Because there are pigeons at that altitude.”

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Purol was interviewed over lunch at Fish & Chips in Oceanside harbor. It is worth noting that he ate his French fries one at a time.

Pizza Hut might have been more fun.

The Jim Mouth Show at Reuben E. Lee, 151 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach. Thursday through Saturday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.


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