Guinness Book of World Records shower commemorated by IU student
It was around the 55th hour of the most legendary shower in Indiana University history that 18-year-old Dave Hoffman’s parents found out.
Or was it 60?
It’s been 50 years, and Hoffman, now retired and living in Indianapolis, kept meticulous records, including an attendance sheet of the 1,070 visits he received. But he doesn’t remember it very well.
“My parents didn’t know I was doing it until I stayed a few days,” Hoffman said as he sat at his kitchen table with ledgers, reminders of unpaid college water bills and even laid-up hate mail. behind him.
He pulled out a letter that his friend, Nancy, had sent to Gary’s home from her parents. As Hoffman’s eventual world record shower – 174 hours, one week and change ending January 27, 1972 – began to attract press attention, his mother, Marge, received a call from a journalist.
“And she said ‘well, I guess it’s just good clean fun,'” Hoffman recalled. “And I thought mom, that sounds perfect.”
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Make UI Famous
The idea, like many before it, came at a party in a college dorm — McNutt Bordner 2, to be exact, where Hoffman and his 50 roommates lived. Today, Bordner Hall within McNutt Quad still exists, although it underwent renovations in 2019.
Hoffman stays in touch with many of her housemates to this day.
“We decided we had to do something to make IU famous or to make our floor famous,” Hoffman said.
The floor briefly toyed with the idea of breaking the Guinness World Record for longest time spent on a bus, but it seemed boring. As Hoffman looked at the shower record, he figured he could beat the 168 hours set in 1968. After all, the dorm was known for its excellent amount of hot water.
What followed was a shockingly organized period of planning for a group of young men still reveling in the twilight of the hippie era.
A friend was in charge of public relations, focusing first on the school newspaper, then on journalists across the country.
News photos kept by Hoffman in a green binder show a wide-eyed teenager, dressed only in an IU Swimming Speedo, at various stages of the record: holding an Underdog towel, eating a cracker, showing unspeakably pruned hands.
Another friend called Guinness World Records to get the official rules, which included monitoring Hoffman at all times to make sure he stayed under the showerhead somehow.
Others gathered supplies, including an airbed on which Hoffman slept for short periods with his head above water. The group even got sponsorship from local restaurants, which sent pizzas and burgers.
Some took notes in his lectures – or pretended, at least.
The last man to volunteer for the service — a football player named John Jordan, Hoffman recalls — performed the unfortunate task of emptying the bucket Hoffman used instead of the toilet.
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The aquatic endurance event was not without its risks.
Dr. Melanie Kingsley is currently Associate Professor of Dermatology at Indiana University School of Medicine, Director of Aesthetic Dermatology and Laser Surgery for IU Health and good sport for agreeing to be interviewed for this story.
Kingsley said prolonged time underwater can cause skin to macerate, irritate or peel, first on the hands and feet and then all over the body.
“It would be very uncomfortable,” Kingsley said. “Your skin is so important…you also destroy your body’s primary protection. You can lose control of your body’s core temperature or blood vessel flow.”
She warned that even typical bathing habits can damage the skin and recommended the regular use of moisturizer and hot and not hot showers.
As well as possible skin damage, Kingsley would be concerned about a patient’s mental and social health if isolated in the shower for such a long time.
Hoffman, 18, and his friends, remarkably, had answers to most of those concerns after a visit to the college clinic that gave similar advice.
“The boys would come, or the girls who were friends, would dry my hands and feet and put them in a plastic bag for an hour, so the wrinkles wouldn’t be as bad as you think,” said Hoffman said.
He had water in his ear at one point, but the former swimmer simply asked a friend to drain it for him. Someone from the university clinic also came to see him during the attempt.
When asked if he used petroleum jelly or something else to repel water, Hoffman said he thought that was why his friends smeared butter on their backs.
“All it did was break my back,” he said.
“I can’t be dumber”
Because he had to be watched at all times and other students often came and went because of the spectacle of it all, Hoffman said boredom was not a major factor.
Hoffman and his friends played cards and set up a Nerf basketball hoop — appropriate, he recalls, when legendary coach Bob Knight was in his freshman year on campus.
A women’s dorm at Purdue also did its part against Hoffman’s boredom by sending him a book, “The Sensual Woman,” with cheeky handwritten notes in the margins.
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Although individual solutions battled boredom, sleep deprivation, health issues, and other logistical issues, one response emerged as a mitigating factor for all ailments.
“The beer helped.”
A recording of a WTTS radio interview, originally done at shower 125, included jokes from Hoffman and his comrades.
During a lengthy clip, an unidentified voice pushed back against criticism of Hoffman. Kind of.
“Of course, that’s kinda silly. I can imagine people saying isn’t that silly? Well, think back to when you swallowed goldfish and everything. Think about the war we’ve been perpetuating for nine years: the bombings. Swamp land for nine years. You mean stupid? That kid couldn’t be more stupid in the shower cleaning himself.
“Thank you. I think so,” Hoffman replied in his kitchen, half a century later.
Hoffman left the shower as the official record holder. After eating and sleeping very little all week, he did what came naturally to the teenager: he threw a party.
“It was a good party – a party to remember,” Hoffman said with a smile.
But did he wear the Speedo?
“No, I think I changed clothes,” Hoffman recalled. “I’ve never really been one to look like Speedo.”
His skin had pruned, as shown in newspaper photos taken near the end of the shower, but Hoffman does not recall any pain or lingering effects.
“Maybe the beer helped with that too,” he said.
Hoffman then enjoyed a brief period of minor local stardom.
He kept personal letters of congratulations, and even hate mail — a note laden with swastikas and anti-Semitic language, falsely assuming Hoffman was Jewish.
Letters to the editor and columns in local newspapers alternate between praise and contempt. Some news stories even covered a brief controversy over the amount of water wasted—some 35,000 gallons, as Hoffman recalls.
A few memos from the university asked Hoffman to cover water costs, originally set at $120. He does not have.
The number was eventually reduced to a more reasonable $35, which he also did not pay.
A newspaper cartoon depicted Hoffman emerging from a box of prunes, and an Indiana crossword book published years later included him as a clue.
He even received an endorsement offer from Sullivan Mfg. & Sales Corp. for a new shower caddy, but nothing came of it.
Hoffman eventually earned a degree in business and advertising. He worked at the SupeRx drugstore before buying the Rain Check Bar at Shadeland Avenue and 38th Street.
He is now retired and lives with his wife of 18 years, Kelly Jo.
Prior to his retirement, he was a manager at the Oaken Barrel in Greenwood, where his staff often boasted of his world record.
The record was finally broken in 1985 by Kevin “Catfish” McCarthy, who spent nearly 341 hours – two weeks – in a Buffalo State College shower.
His employees offered to install a shower stall and water heater in the corner of the bar to give Hoffman another chance.
“I’m not going to be an exposed monkey for two weeks,” Hoffman said.
Still, he doesn’t mind reminiscing about his 15 minutes as he puts away the various clippings and letters.
“I’m kind of proud of it, in a weird way.”
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Rory Appleton is the pop culture reporter at IndyStar. Reach him at 317-552-9044 and [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at @RoryDoesPhonics.