Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Opening this lock

The famous anthropologist Jane Goodall once said:

"If you really want something and really work hard and take advantage of opportunities and never give up, you will find a way."

This quote has always inspired me. I have it written here on the front of my computer and when I sit down at my desk to write new scripts for upcoming performances, I cannot help but to view that quote. On days when I am feeling discouraged or I am stuck creatively, I always try to remember that hard work and determination will always win out.

Someone with passion and determination will always trump someone with in-born talent.

Escape Artistry presents daily challenges. I sit here at my desk, a legal pad in front of me. I am attempting to find my way out of a lock that I have been challenged with. I may use this in my next performance--if I can find a way to pick it. So far, I have been unsuccessful--and the show is next week. I am out of ideas--but am hoping something will come to me . . .

Monday, November 06, 2006

Another Day . . . Another Handcuff Defeated!!!

Yesterday, I was hired to work a show in Oradell, NJ. It was a large retirement party and the person on whom the party was thrown was retiring from a construction company after 40 years. When I was first hired, I was told this gentlemen was a huge fan of magic. Originally, I had a conflict with the date of their party--I was to be out-of-town doing my escape act. When I tried to bow out of this party--the organizers offered to change their date!? Now, this rarely happens--unfortunately much of the general public feels that magicians are interchangeable--that, "if you've seen one, you've seen them all." So, most people in this situation would just hire another magician, right?

When I questioned further, the real reason surfaced. Turns out this gentlemen, was a fan of escapes--not magic. He had heard of my show and knew (through publicity and various websites) that I would accept challenges to get out of various devices.

So, to make a long story short, they changed the date of their party and booked me to perform my Challenge Handcuff Act. For those who have seen it--it involves accepting handcuffs from the audience and escaping from them in full view of the audience. Yes, that's right--full view of the audience. I don't want to explain any further--since you must see it--to believe it.

Anyways, Jack (the subject of the party) brought some of his own handcuffs--three pairs actually. They were of Chinese origin with markings from the Chinese Government. As is my stipulation--I asked him if I could keep them if my escape was successful. He agreed . . . after some cajoling.

So, at 4pm the performance began--I usually go through an introduction of various restraints and their importance in history before we get to the spectator portion of the show. Finally, I brought Jack to the stage--he talked about the handcuffs and how he came into possession of them (turns out his brother was in the military and was stationed in Japan and received them from a friend who had been in China during the Japanese occupation in the late 1930's)

The handcuffs were rusted and difficult to operate. The key barely opened them and was rusted enough that on any turn it could break. Very carefully, he locked them on my wrists behind my back. I entered my cabinet obscura at about 4:30pm and began the escape.

They turned out to be easier than I thought and I was out in minutes--and with this I have three new additions to my handcuff collection.

Another day . . . another handcuff defeated.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Golden Age?


Opening the newspaper this morning, I noticed another glowing review of the just released motion picture, The Prestige. It is so good to finally see the coolness of magicians and escape artists exploited in these mainstream movies for the general public (The Illusionist being the other film I am referencing). Magic seems to be entering its second Golden Age. There seem to be magicians and magic references everywhere and this can only be good for the state of the art.
I am in talks with the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, California to sign an exclusive contract for them. This would be a production of my escape show including my Challenge Handcuff Act. As of yet, the details are still being worked out.

I am taking a break from a rehearsal to write this. In my home, I have a rehearsal studio in my attic and the few people who have actually seen it--think it is one of the coolest spaces they have ever seen. Since my creativity is enhanced when I am surrounded by the tools and props of my art--my attic is awash in those objects; my magic awards, magic objects, tools, lockpicks, padlocks, chains, my four straitjackets that I have won in challenges, not to mention handcuffs of every possible description. My computer through which I write and hone my scripts sits against the only window which looks out over the neighborhood.

Speaking of this window--here is something you might find bizarre--outside, a power line runs horozontally in front of this window and on numerous occasions I have looked up from my writing or rehearsing to see a number of black crows--sometimes two or three--other times as many as six perched on the wire staring into the window! Sometimes we stare at one another, wondering what each is thinking. It reminds me of the Carlos Castaneda (The Teachings of Don Juan) observation he made while watching a beetle walk across the sand--he said: Though he and the beetle both inhabited the same world--their experiences of it were vastly different.

And so it is with the crows--we both exist in the world yet experience it in different ways.

Back to my attic. My actual performance space is in back and here is where I try out my new material. Sometimes I am up here all day--entering in the morning and not returning downstairs to the evening--except to use the bathroom and find out what my two dogs are barking about.

The creative process is a torturous thing and I have a myraid of escapes and magic ideas in various stages of development up here. Some never leave the development stage--some are half completed and end up being merged into another routine--some I can never make work. But, every now and then, a great and wonderful idea that is workable springs forth from this place and in the end I can say--but for that one moment-----which I am in constant search of--
it is all worth it!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Halloween


I just received a very interesting email from a very nice person who goes by the name of "YP". Based in Southern California he says he is a 'new fan.' So, YP--if you are reading this: thank you--and I hope you don't mind that I will post some of your message here--its very flattering when others recognize and appreciate your work. Being an artist is a thankless job--and my state of normalcy is that, I am either ecstatic or deeply depressed--I am rarely in the middle.

I don't yet know where I am today--but the following email might push me toward the former.

Here is some of the contents, paraphrasing as usual:

From: YP
Hi, I just read through much of your website. I was truly impressed by the stories of your real escapes. My perception of most of the escape artists i have seen or read about is that the escapes were tricked or otherwise somewhat gimmicked. I've always been fascinated by the concept of escape artists challenges. I've read enough about escapes to know the trricks that one uses to obtain slack and other advantages. But when i read about some of your hardest challenges, i realized that you can succeed even when your challengers have done their homework. That all-leather straitjacket escape in NY sounded truly heroic. The tension in the room must have been like that in Houdini's day. Do you have any more pics of this? Do you have any public shows coming up in the So Cal area?
A new fan

Are you f%#^ing crazy?!

Hi All:

I have just signed a contract with a major cell phone company to perform a promotion in Portland, Oregon on December 11, 2006. The deal is: I will be restrained into a regulation straitjacket by officers of the Portland Police Department. Then, twenty feet of chain will be wrapped around my body over the jacket to prevent my escape. An on-site crane will secure my ankles to a block and tackle and I will then be raised upside down feet, 250 feet over the city of Portland--The plan is, I hope to escape :-)

Now, I have been doing these upside downs for many years and they never really faze me--since I am not afraid of heights--But, I have to tell you--when I was finalizing the plans on the phone with the crane operator--the subject of height never came up. Finally, I said "by the way, how high will I be raised" Without missing a beat he says "Oh--250 feet." I didn't think much of it until several hours later when I was walking down 42nd street in NYC near the Chrysler Building. Then, it hit me. 250 feet! That's 24 stories!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyways--I have tried to put it out of my head for now--a really great flyer was created which you can view and download if you go to myspace site:

The flyer has generated the same responses from people who have seen it:--they all say "250 feet! Are you %&$*&$^ crazy?!

If you happen to be in the Portland area near Pioneer Square on December 11 around noontime--check it out.