The Incredible World of Navel Fluff
Part 3: The history and impact of my collection
Charted below is the curious history of my navel fluff collection, showing how it developed from a humble scrap of lint into a phenomena commanding worldwide media attention, with international travel.
January 17 1984 - The collection begins
I began the collection as described on the main page. As the collection grew, so too did the desire to keep collecting, as I realised it was something rather unusual. At the age I was back then, the desire to do something different, and express individuality, was starting to awaken.
Late 1998 - Website commenced
I began my personal website, both for self expression and to learn HTML. It started small and grew slowly. In the following months I yearned to do a web page on a topic that wasn't being covered by anyone else; once again the desire to do something different.
July 1999 - Created navel fluff web page and online survey
Searching for a topic not yet covered on the internet proved fruitless - until I thought of navel fluff, and my large collection of the stuff. I created a page about my collection which included the world's first internet survey of navel fluff. I submitted the page two search engines, one website, and joined the "Unusual Museums of the Internet" web ring. I've never done anything else to promote the page, but many other sites have linked to it and visitors multiplied.
May 2000 - First mention on TV
My collection was mentioned on ABC news in Colorado Springs, USA
June 2000 - Approached by Guinness World Records
One of the staff at Guinness World Records in London invited me to make a claim in respect of my collection. I put together the required material and submitted it.
June 16 2000 - Christchurch radio interview
Was interviewed live by telephone by Rik van Dijk and Katrina Smith on the breakfast show of radio station 91ZM, Christchurch New Zealand. I decided not to do any more radio interviews and declined many subsequent requests from all around the world.
July 2000 - Included in "Cool Collecting" book
I provided information about my collection to be used in a book for Price Stern Sloan publishing titled "Cool Collecting". I don't know if the book has been published yet.
September 2000 - First income from navel fluff
My first navel fluff income arrives, in the form of a very small cheque for banner advertising placed on my navel fluff page, which by then was averaging around 8000 visitors per month. Unfortunately the advertising company ceased advertising, so the first cheque was the last.
October 2000 - Approached by Ripley's Believe It Or Not
Ripley's Television staff in Los Angeles expressed interest in including my fluff collection in a segment on their show, however I declined.
November 2000 - Notified of world record
I received an e-mail from Guinness World Records informing me that my collection had been recognised as an official world record, and was interviewed by telephone for their website. The certificate arrived shortly after.
November 2000 - Contributed to BBC program "The Body Show"
I was contacted by a BBC producer who was researching a program about navels, as part of a 13 part series on various body parts. I spoke to her about my collection, and the results so far of my online navel fluff survey.
March 18 2001 - Featured in the Sunday Herald Sun newspaper, Melbourne
After being interviewed over the phone by reporter Samantha Amjadali, a page-and-a-half article was printed. Titled "A nice little bit of fluff", it was the feature story in the internet section of their Sunday newspaper.
April 2001 - Approached by Guinness World Records Primetime
Fox Television staff in Los Angeles expressed interest in showing my collection on their "Guinness World Records Primetime" TV show, however I declined.
September 2001 - Invited to appear on the Tonight Show
I was contacted by an NBC producer inviting me to appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The attractive offer included travelling to Los Angeles, however the date planned was impossible due to various committments. I declined, but left the door open for another date.
September 2001 - The 2002 edition of Guinness Book of Records released
The new edition of the famous book was released, with my collection being the feature item on page 131. Very satisfying! I was amused when several people approach me to autograph their copies of the book. [NB - I don't appear in subsequent editions of the book, which only feature selections of all records. However I still hold the record]
September 2001 - My web page listed in book of world's "best"
I was honoured to discovered that my navel fluff web page was included in the book "500 of the World's Best Websites", published by Lagoon Books UK.
October 2001 - Brisbane radio interview
Despite my reluctance to do radio interviews, I was interviewed by Ian Maurice for his evening talk show on radio station 4BC in Brisbane, Australia.
December 2001 - Included in "Q&A With Dr K" book
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki of the University of Sydney and the ABC (Australia) released his 20th book on popular science. One chapter deals with navel fluff, including the results of his own navel fluff survey conducted over the internet (commenced after mine), with experimental work done by his university staff. My collection is included.
October 18 2001 - Featured in the Melbourne Age newspaper
Following a phone interview, a page-and-a-half article by reporter Chris Johnston was printed. It was the cover story for their "Today" section and featured my collection and some of the other Australian entries in the recently released new edition of the Guinness Book of Records.
February 2002 - Featured in the West Australian newspaper
Despite my reluctance, reporter Cian Manton interviewed me for the Today section of my home state's newspaper. The well written article emphasised how I hadn't sought the media attention I've been getting. It also made the point that navel fluff collecting is a very insignificant part of my life, and that I'm amused at how seriously other people are taking it.
February 4 2002 - Appeared on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno
I accepted a second invitation to travel to NBC studios in Los Angeles to talk about my collection on one of the highest rating talk shows in the states. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kylie Minogue were on the show with me, and after some initial fear I enjoyed my six minutes of fame - see next page for more details. After the show I took advantage of the opportunity to have a holiday, and a great time was had exploring some awesome countryside in the southwestern states between LA and Denver.
March/April 2002 - Declined further interviews
Upon returning from America I received and declined requests to appear on the Today Tonight current affairs show (Perth) and the Today Show (Melbourne), not to mention Ralph magazine. Contrary to what many think, there is no payment offered (to people like me) for interviews like these; the Tonight Show being the only interview so far providing any tangible benefit.
May 13 2003 - Albany radio interview
I spoke about my collection and trip to America on ABC regional radio in Albany, Western Australia. The interviewer was a friend of a friend, so I temporarily suspended my no radio interview policy.
Dec 13 2003 - Featured in The West magazine
Melissa Kent, a writer for the West Australian newspaper, wrote an interesting article for their saturday magazine about people in Perth who collect unusual things. There was a variety of people collecting plastic bags, lottery tickets, pencil sharpeners, garden gnomes, barbie dolls, and of course my lint.
Feb 25 2004 - Featured in "That's Life" magazine
This Australian magazine publishes lots of interesting, unusual, humourous and bizarre stories sent in by readers. Someone from the magazine contacted me for a phone interview, and once again my navel was published. I was delighted to later receive a cheque for my small effort!
Aug 2 2004 - Appeared on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton
Andrew Denton, one of Australia's best interviewers, features a non-celebrity audience guest at the end of each show because he believes "everyone has a story to tell". At his request I talked about my lint collecting habit at the end of one of his shows (transcript). Despite the ABC being a government funded TV network, I was flown to Sydney, put up in a nice hotel, and driven in a limousine between airport, hotel and studio. This was the third time I received some tangible benefit for my story - not money, but travel, which to me is just as good.
October 2004 - Included in the book "Enough Rope with Andrew Denton 2"
This book contains interview transcripts of a selection of guests who were interviewed on Andrew Denton's show in 2004. Though its mostly his primary guests, rather than audience guests, he included my interview (the full transcript, half of which was edited out for the TV show). I unexpectedly was sent a copy of the book signed by Andrew, in which he wrote "We are all lint in the navel of life, no? Thanks for trusting us".
October 2004 - Included in "Ripley's Believe It or Not: Special Edition 2005"
I haven't seen a copy of this book, but as I was paid for the use of a photo of my collection which was to be published in it, I'm assuming that I'm in it.
February 2006 - Interviewed for Farrago magazine
This is a student magazine at the Melbourne University, and having been a uni student once I was happy to be a part of it.
August 2006 - Included in "Uncle John's Strange and Scary Bathroom Reader"
The cover of this book elaborates: "Freaky facts about peculiar people", and I don't mind the publishers implying I may be peculiar because they paid me for the use of the photo I supplied them.
May 16 2008 - Appeared on Collectors
The Collectors show on Australia's ABC TV includes "classic antiques, funky collectables, the strange and the odd, mystery objects, and those with the potential to become collectables". In a segment filmed in my home, my lint and I were also featured - I think I can guess which of those categories they put me in.
June 2008 - Collection sold to Ripleys Entertainment
I often thought it would be nice for my world record lint collection to someday end up in a museum ... though I couldn't imagine one weird enough to want it. Then one day I was contacted by someone from Ripleys Entertainment, offering to purchase my collection. They thought it would be a good addition to one of their "Believe It Or Not!" museums, or "odditoriums" as they call them. Perfect! Not only would my collection find a very suitable home, but I would be paid a fair sum for it (which I will not disclose).
It was sad to part with such a unique collection that had been part of my life for so long. But I had returned to full time study and needed the money, and the novelty of the media attention had well and truly worn off. It had been fun, but in my mind I was ready to move on.
Ripleys were intending to house my collection in their new museum at Surfers' Paradise, Queensland. I'm not sure if they did, but hope to visit one day to see. In the meantime, I continue to collect my navel lint every day. Perhaps in twenty years or so I might try to sell them a further three jars of the stuff. Stranger things have happened.