'Lean' but still keen, the Pie Man is back
The Pie Man is back. And after a decade out of the limelight, the self-confessed fat man in the stands and unofficial mascot of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens was snapped in his trademark pose yesterday, soaking up the atmosphere.
But to many of his admirers, Martin Hollis was a shadow of his formerly glorious, gargantuan self.
To be exact, Hollis - whose serial partying, eating, drinking and unabashed baring of his beer gut at the Sevens in the mid-90s earned him legendary status - has shed 38kg.
The 1.77-metre-tall Briton now tips the scale at 108kg. His weight-loss secret? Just cut back on the beer. 'It wasn't a diet, I just retrained my body. I used to have this really stressful job so I drank far too much and didn't eat properly,' he said.
Hollis said the famous Sevens version of the Pie Man chant began on his first visit in 1993. He was at the preceding Tens tournament when a group of his expat friends from the Sharjah Wanderers Rugby Club started singing it. He didn't mind, and the chant caught on when 5,000 fans joined in the following Saturday at the Sevens.
His powers were at their height the following year when he almost eclipsed the rugby as the 30,000-strong crowd chanted: 'Who ate all the pies? Who ate all the pies? You fat bastard! You fat bastard! You ate all the pies!'
In the spirit of the Sevens, he would rise bare-chested, pint in hand, pie in the other, beer gut wobbling, and take a bow. Back then, he would wolf at least a dozen pies a day and 30 pints of Carlsberg over the three-day event.
Looking back, Hollis has no regrets: 'It was a lot of fun ... I got a lot of kisses and women asked me to sign their breasts. Once, in 1996, I showed up to help open a new bar and there were 50 journalists waiting along with a television camera crew. I had journalists following me around. It was completely blown out of proportion.'
He stopped coming to the Sevens after 1999, not because he did not like the city but to embark on a rugby world tour. In the intervening years, the father-of-two semi-retired from his career as a forex trader in London and now works in Dubai in sports and property management.
The Pie Man did return to Hong Kong last year for the World Cup Sevens and was recognised by some, but apparently not the local press.
He said the Hong Kong Sevens had become more corporate in his absence, but added that the rugby itself was more professional.