Masseur Trying to Rub Way to Record

How do you attract attention to your Guinness record attempt? Massage the press, said Nikolai Novikov, a Moscow physical therapist who set out Wednesday to establish an all-time masseur endurance record -- 24 consecutive hours of massage.

"Reporters need a deep, satisfying massage," said Novikov, 40, who began his attempt at 10 a.m. Wednesday. "If they don't go home satisfied, I don't get the attention I need."

Novikov, who is a physical therapist for Moscow's Spartak sports club, is gunning for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's strongest and fittest masseur. Between Wednesday and Thursday he planned on massaging some 120 people, among them Russian hockey stars Sergei Fyodorov and Vyacheslav Fetisov, who are in Moscow to play in the Spartak Cup tournament.

But his first customers were almost exclusively reporters. Izvestia, 2x2 television and radio "Yunost" all lined up to submit to the new public relations bid -- and all, as could be expected, gave Novikov an excellent review.

"!" stammered Vadim Baskov of radio "Yunost," as Novikov mauled his back and neck on live radio. "I...admire...your...methods!"

There is no massage record in the Guinness Book as yet, and there may never be one. According to Carol Jones at the book's headquarters in London, Novikov has a chance of making the book if he submits the necessary documentation. But the book is shying away from "endurance" records.

"We get a lot of people who are willing to put up with just about anything just to get into the book," she said. "You'd be amazed by the applications we get."

But Novikov, who moonlights as a magician and a circus clown, said that Guinness status isn't the most important thing.

"I do this for glory, for personal satisfaction," said Novikov, who says he is limber enough to give himself massages rather than burdening his wife. "A man who can give a deep massage for 24 hours is a man to be reckoned with."

Nonetheless, Novikov is determined to gain international recognition. If he fails to get into the Guinness Book this time, he said, he will use his clown skills to set a record for walking on his hands.

"I'll walk a kilometer," he said. "Whatever it takes."