September 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM
If Chris Walton ever started biting her nails, she'd probably wear her teeth out: the Las Vegas resident was declared Wednesday to be the woman with the longest nails in the world.
The professional singer with a combined total of nearly 20 feet (six meters) of nails celebrated in New York after being named in the newly released 2012 edition of the Guinness Book of Records.
Arriving by black stretch limousine, Walton, a flamboyant 45-year-old grandmother with a huge bottle-blonde hairdo, posed for photographs on the steps of the ornate main New York Public Library.
The claws on the famous stone lions flanking the library steps had nothing on her bizarre appendages.
Varnished in gold glitter, Walton's nails stretch and curve from her hands in a tangle resembling something between spaghetti and one of those writhing Hollywood aliens.
The nail on her ring finger is the length of a human arm, her left pinky is the length of a fire hydrant, and it would take only 484 versions of her left thumb nails to stretch all the way up to the top of the Empire State Building.
Stuart Claxton, a spokesman for the Guinness Book of Records, called her a "unique beauty."
Walton, who sings in Vegas and goes by the stage name The Dutchess, has been growing her nails for 18 years. She says she doesn't drink milk or stick to any other nail-friendly diet.
"Candy and a lot of patience," she said was her secret.
Despite the obvious impracticality of having a cat's cradle of keratin dangling from her finger tips, Walton insists that most of life goes on.
She does have a problem getting anything out of a pocket, but she uses her knuckles to text on a mobile phone and adds zippers or buttons to sleeves so that she can put on jackets.
"I don't swim, but it's not the nails that stop me swimming. It's a hair thing," she said.
Walton is not married -- she says "I'm in self love" -- but she assures that the nails keep men around her interested.
Now that she has the Guinness record, she's ready to think about dusting off the clippers. The only hitch: she'll have to pare the nails back a little bit at a time.
"If I cut them all off I know I will not be able to do anything," she said. "I'm so used to having nails I'd be running into walls and doors."
Claxton said the nails record, and other eye-popping achievements trumpeted in the Guinness Book of Records, had nothing in common with the kind of cruelty depicted in the movie "The Elephant Man," where a deformed man is paraded as a human curiosity.
"The fact that the Dutchess has the longest fingernails is a fact. She's a perfectly normal, rational woman," Claxton said. "We're actually celebrating these people."
English tourist Lynne Hannah, who was walking past the library in central Manhattan, was not enticed to give up her own fake nails after glimpsing the Dutchess.
"She can't be doing much housework. How does she even drive the car? It's something you'd see in a freak show," Hannah, 46, said.