By Lori Simpson
Not many Ole Miss students can say they've been featured on "Martha Stewart Living," "Oprah" or a CBS primetime special.
Chris Green, a senior journalism major at Ole Miss, has done all three, and not because he has suffered personal hardships or is clever with crafts. Green's claim to television fame is his role as trainer and pizza spinner on the United States Pizza Team.
The 6-foot-five-inch Green is also the world's tallest pizza spinner, a title about which he often jokes.
"Saying I'm the world's tallest pizza spinner is like saying I'm the world's tallest jockey," said the 23-year-old Green. "Most pizza spinners are Italian and are stereotypically short. As long as spinning does not gain popularity in Northern Europe, I think I'll hold onto the title for a while."
Green first came into pizza spinning when he accompanied his father, Steve Green, who owns and operates the magazine Pizza Marketing Quarterly from Oxford, to the World Pizza Spinning Championship in Italy.
"I always liked spinning, which I learned from waiting tables, and I also like to juggle," Green said. "When I went to Italy and saw those guys spinning pizza dough, I said, I can do that,' and I just started practicing."
He'd practice at random times during the day, even while working as a server at O'Charley's.
"They had these trays we carried the food on and I thought it would be cool to spin a tray up to a table with food on it," he said. "It didn't really work out."
Green also began training himself how to spin using the throw dough - a plastic, rubber-like training tool - around his father's office.
Steve Green has published PMQ in Oxford since 1997 but said his involvement in the pizza world had no bearing on his son's decision to spin pizza.
"Chris took up pizza spinning on his own," he said. "I never really tried to get him to do it, but since he was a good juggler already, he found pizza spinning relatively easy."
Chris Green's first official public performance was in Los Angeles, where he achieved his U.S. Pizza Team status.
Since then, Green has appeared in Australia, Germany, China, Canada, Italy and Singapore.
"My favorite performance so far has been when we spun in Germany," he said. "We were in this big airplane hangar and there were around 4,000 people in the audience. I really enjoy performing in front of such a large crowd."
Spinning with charisma
Green's magnetic personality in front of audiences has the ability to draw people in, according to his dad.
"There are others who can spin as well as Chris, but he has a way of communicating and involving the audience which is unique among those in the sport," Steve Green said. "The reaction to him is universal, whether it is in Italy or China. The returning smiles he gets are consistent in any language."
Patt Miller, a member of the pizza team who lives in Columbus, Ohio, agrees with the elder Green.
"Chris is always very confident and calm while performing," Miller said. "That makes for a smooth performance that can be very entertaining to watch. Of course, it's not just the spinning that wins over the crowd; Chris throws in several jokes to go along with it."
In addition to visiting numerous countries, Green and his teammates have done demonstrations on several television programs.
Green has been on "The Early Show," "Good Morning America," "Good Morning Australia" and the ABC primetime event "Masters of Champions" on top of his appearances on "Martha Stewart" and "Oprah."
"I didn't even know I was on Oprah,'" Green said. "They showed a 12-second clip of me spinning pizza and it wasn't until a friend told me that I looked into it."
Green's appearance on "Martha Stewart" was slightly more planned.
"It was a lot of fun because it was post-jail Martha," he said with a laugh. "We did a demonstration and the team's Chef Bruno baked a pizza."
Green and his teammates also taught Stewart how to spin, but according to Green, "She looked much better on TV because we spent around 10 minutes backstage beforehand showing her how to do it."
Juggling studies, spinning and more
Green's involvement with pizza spinning has been hard on his college career, but he said he manages to keep up with his work.
"Last school year I missed the week before finals and that was a lot easier than missing the second week of school, which I did this semester," he said. "It's tough because you are still getting acclimated to your classes, but a lot of my teachers are understanding and find it interesting."
Green's pizza spinning also takes time away from his job as a Rebel Radio disc jockey and station program director.
Andrew Abernathy has worked with Green at the station for three years and serves as the news director. He said Green's pizza spinning has been good for the station.
"Last year he did pizza tricks for United Way for two days," Abernathy said. "He spent about 12 total hours spinning and we had a booth set up beside him."
Green added, "I spun for eight hours one day with one roll of dough, and then spun four hours the second using two rolls. It was monumentally harder the second day because you can't change hands with two rolls, but I wound up making a little under $2,000 for charity, which was good."
As for the future, Green is not sure where he wants to go, but he does hope to continue a career in radio - making commercials, with a little help from his hobby.
"It is always a good conversation piece when you spin dough on your way into a job interview," he said.
Abernathy imagines Green will always be involved in spinning pizza.
"I can't picture a Chris Green who wasn't spinning whatever he could find," Abernathy said. "He spins everything - notebooks, briefcases - and he always has throw dough with him."