Friday, December 21, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
This poster is also currently unavailible. The good news is . . . that due to the many requests received this one will be reprinted. I will post again when it is availible.
Meanwhile, there are other posters for sale if interested. Log on to: thomassolomon.com and click on "Store"
Thanks for your patience.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Sorry. I have been away for awhile----shooting a television special. This special will aire on a "major network" early in 2008 and is filled with many types of escapes (handcuffs, jails, locks, etc., etc.). There will be a retrospective on my twenty-five plus year career in the escape field at the beginning of the show. We were shooting on location in New Mexico, Texas, Pennsylvania and Maine and when I mention "we", I mean myself and the wonderful production company that has been behind me on this. Escapes and magic are difficult to shoot for television (being a live performance art) and admittedly we made several stumbles in the run-up to this production, but nevertheless I think we have finally found our groove. Myself and the writer (an Emmy award winner) come from different backgrounds and while it was a challenge to find out how to work together in the beginning, I think, through this process we have come out more informed, and better artists. It was a Trial by Fire so to speak. He has made me see things in a new light, I'm sure the same is true for him. We finished our initial shoot in June and then had to go back and re-shoot new scenes in September. On the shoot in September, I had broken my left hand in one of the stunts. Since this happened on the second day of a four day shoot, I had to manage the last two days working with a broken hand. My hand was not severely broken, but rather was a "longitudinal fracture of the fifth phalanx of my left hand. " I was able to carry on for two more days before it was X-rayed and then splinted.
Currently, two editors (one in Califonia and the other in Maine) are hard at work taking over 30 hours of raw footage and funnelling it down to an hour show of hard-hitting escapes. That, as far as I'm concerned, is the real magic.
Also have been busy writing several articles for the new "Encyclopedia of Escapes" that is being updated and re-printed this year. This book is on sale only to the magic community, but in it, I have decided to tip several of my methods for this new edition. First published in 1965, it was, when I was a kid one of the very few books on escapes. Hungry for information, I read it spiral bound cover to spiral bound cover many times and recall learning almost everything in the book. Meeting the author recently was a humbling experience and I readily agreed to be part of this new edition.
To all who have sent well wishes and/or read this blog, thank you. The best to all of you this Thanksgiving. I for one, have much to be thankful for.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Seven is the luckiest of all numbers so tomorrow, should be a good day, while next Friday . . . well, we'll see . . .
I tend to be a superstitious person--believing that success is often times set in motion by certain days, hours, times and locations and one's place within them. I believe in the magic of numbers--although I don't live my life by them. I think there is something to the zodiac--esp. Sun signs--although I also agree with Thomas Aquinas' assertion that those who do not believe in the zodiac--have its attributes fit them like a glove. (Believing its possibilities--he thought--allowed you to exert free will, thus negating the controlling power of the zodiac). I also believe in sympathetic magic in all of its various forms esp. that a parallel person's success will almost always lead to mine. Various times in my life I have traced my particular success in something directly to another person's success. I know its strange and I'm not entirely sure its real . . . only that I tend to believe in it.
One example I can relate of karma or sympathetic magic working in my favor occurred many years ago on the streets of NYC. This is probably around 1990--1991 after I quit working cruise ships. I was desperate for any success as a magician. I worked tons of dive clubs, sometimes I wasn't paid. One time I had some coins I used in my show stolen off a table at a trade show I was working. Another time I was stranded in Philly because the organizer stiffed me and I had no train fare back. It was just horror show after horror show and somehow, miraculously, I lived through it all. Well, a good friend of mine, Polaris, an excellent magician, was doing street performing in NYC about this time. He would work usually all day on the weekends and at the end of the day could make some pretty good cash.
I thought street performing might be good and lucrative. So, I created an act . . . magic incorporating escapes and for about a year I worked everyday at lunch hour on the streets of New York. My favorite places to work were in front of the Plaza Hotel right under the General Sherman statue and along Sixth Avenue from about 47th to about 53rd. In the warm weather, the sidewalks in front of the McGraw Hill and Time Life Buildings were filled with people and it became my daily audience.
I kept some of the money myself but gave most of it away. I did pretty well. I met many people and got alot of business cards. Roughly three months into it, I met someone who was a promoter. (He shall remain nameless). We became friends and he often took me out to dinner. Over food, he would tell me of the outlandish pranks he had conceived over the years--how he had fooled the NY Times into publishing his obituary and on and on. He was an interesting guy.
We talked about what I was doing on the street and he offered a suggestion that he thought would take me to the next level. He said that I should play the character of a wealthy business man who did not need to work and instead wanted to make people feel happy by performing magic. At the end of my set, instead of soliciting money from people, I would give it away. (You heard right). I would produce money from an empty top hat and before leaving would give it away. If anyone tried to tip me, I would refuse it. He suggested I get some business cards which read: Robin Hood The Magician--and hand these out if anyone asked questions. People who wanted further information were to contact my manager, him.
Well, it sounded interesting--and within a few days we had an agreement. But I must tell you, the prospect of giving money away when I had so little, absolutely killed me. Many days I went without eating after a day of performing in which, playing the wealthy "Wall Street Executive", I gave away money. Somedays, all I had left was the "Robin Hood" business cards. Well, I did that for five months--I figured I had given away about $1000.00 keeping just enough money to pay my rent and get some food. Everything else was gone. In the picture to the right, I have just concluded my act and have produced money out of an empty hat, which I gave away to stunned spectators.
Eventually, the "manager" and I had a falling out and we parted. Soon after, I quit the Robin Hood thing. I pursued other work from people I had met on the street--for awhile working as a regular at The Front on Seventh Avenue South in the Village, then Cafe Bonjour on 53rd and Lexington. I even got booked at The White House!!! I soon forgot about street performing and the brutal Robin Hood image. Whenever, my mind went back to that crazy time, I thought about how much money I had given away and would always wonder when I would get it back--since my belief in karma always said that money freely given will be received back doubled.
Well, about a year afterwards, I was contacted by a researcher for a publishing house who was doing a book for Harvey Mackay on business practices and the unusual lengths people would go to secure a dream job or to boost their business. Someone, she informed me had been watching day after day--as I performed and then gave away money to astonished spectators. They thought it was a wonderful method of standing away from the crowd and marketing oneself. They listened to people wondering out loud who this mysterious figure was--why on earth was he giving away money? Is he crazy? Who is this?
Remember, this was before websites and the proliferation of email and camera phones--so the word of mouth would spread thus increasing the mystique. I would see some of the same people every day--oh but with ten new friends they had brought. I began to wonder if they even cared about the magic or the escapes--or if they just wanted money.
Anyways, this person followed me--she noted the reactions of the spectators and must have seen the crowds as they increased everyday. Most importantly she remembered me and kept the business card I probably gave her. About a year later, the publishing house she worked for contacted me and offered me $2500.00 to publish my "Robin Hood" story in HarveyMackay's next best-selling business practices book.
Friday, June 29, 2007
I was notified recently that my work as an escape artist is being profiled in the new Ripley's Believe it or Not!!! The Remarkable Revealed in stores on August 7.
These are annual hardcover compendiums put out by Ripley's with its usual fare of the unusual and the bizarre. They are large books about 8 1/2 x 11 size.
I feel sort of honored since I use to read the small bantam paperbacks of Ripley's back in the day-- when I attended grade school and we would go to the library every Wednesday morning. One of the books had a picture on its cover of a penny with a needle going through it. In small print down at the bottom right corner of the cover it said: "to learn how to do this turn to page 41." So, over on page 41 there was a diagram that showed how it could be done. You were to get two wooden blocks of wood that were longer than the needle. Placing these on the workbench standing upright, you would then get your penny and place each edge on one side of the block of wood. So the center of the penny would not be resting on the wood, only the edges. Then you were to get a cork and push the needle into the cork until the point started to come through the bottom. Then, you would set the cork on the penny. Taking a hammer (and here was the hard part) you would, with one straight downward blow strike the cork which would push the needle straight through the penny. When I first saw the diagram, I was intrigued. That night at home on my father's workbench, I broke alot of needles until I learned that you had to strike the cork squarely and sharply with the hammer. There was no second chance--otherwise the needle would bend and then break. Well, after about an hour and many attempts --it worked--exactly as the book had mentioned. I was so excited--I kept it for years--as an oddity I had created from the pages of Ripley's Believe It or Not!!!
Back to their annual book--The Remarkable Revealed--I have not seen the article done on me and am not sure what the layout is--I don't know if it is a full page spread or one column. I was told there are some pictures and a bio detailing my work on both English and American television. Mention is made of my escape from a locked safe under thirty feet of water and of my many escapes from handcuffs.
So, if you find yourself near a bookstore after August 7, run in and check it out. You don't even have to buy it (unless you want to, of course). But, I get no royalties for this.
Also, I may be performing escapes as part of the book launch--and may be doing some media around the country--possibly in the Chicago area. As soon as I know, I will post the information here. So, stay tuned.
Friday, March 16, 2007
I was reading the newspaper accounts of the killing spree AND the killer. Apparently, the killer was something of a filmmaker--actually probably the wrong phrase--he was an aspiring filmmaker. He had self-financed several different short films and by the account of one of his actresses had almost started a fight during one of his street shoots. Most who knew him well said there was something not right about him--a hidden anger if you will. One of his surreal film scripts involved a US Marine who goes on a shooting spree(???!!!) Interesting since he was asked to leave the Reserves after several years.
Those who knew him in a professional sense, his colleagues from the Wall Street Journal where he worked as a typographer said he was quiet and that there was nothing overtly unusual about him. Besides his short films, he had conceived of a Goth reality series entitled "The Darklys" and was apparently shopping this around. He told people he was a Pulitzer prize winning journalist. Some suggested that while the gunman craved recognition and had some talent as a filmaker and writer, he was unwilling or unable to put in the work to achieve success.
Now, I don't mean to trivialize what has happened. All artists live with frustration, depair, disappointment--but if you truly love what you do--as Picasso said--you cannot be doing it for the money. If you do it for the love--then the money and recognition will come. That's the thinking. Of course this takes a tremendous amount of faith in oneself. The fact that he was unwilling to 'work' for what he wanted suggests to me that he really did not 'love' what he was aspiring to do--rather he wanted fame, notoriety.
A search of his apartment in the Bronx found disguises and more guns including a speed loader and over a hundred rounds of ammo. The night of the shooting spree he carried a backpack that contained another semi-automatic with another 90 rounds of ammo. This was clearly someone who was planning damage . . . lots of it . . . and more of it.
This individual was a landmine . . . sitting . . . sometimes unnoticed . . . just waiting to be detonated. How many more people we see and interact daily are like this? Simmering . . . just waiting for that moment.
You know, its not the large things that send a man over the edge. Rather its the continuing series of small tragedies . . . a shoelace that snaps with no time left . . . a cancelled train when trying to reach an appointment . . . a firing from a job . . . a rejection from a lover . . . that do you in . . ."
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
It is the Mozart--Beethoven Theory.
It goes like this.
Creatively speaking, there are two kinds of people in this world, Mozart's and Beethoven's. "Mozart's" are people who have the gift of creativity flowing within them. Their creative output appears effortless and can seemingly be tapped at will. They seem to be devoid of any of the struggles that overtake artists and--to boot, their output is always the best--never a hint of mediocrity. "Beethoven's" on the other hand are people who must struggle for their creativity, they must suffer the rejection, shield the self-doubt and mask the despair of disappointment. They may have many wonderful ideas, only a few may ever be recognized.
Mozart if you remember was a prodigy. He could play the harpsichord at age three (imagine?) and was writing compositions at age four. He wrote his first opera at 13 and was said to be possessed of almost perfect pitch ( a feat never equalled). His companions were amazed when Mozart could learn minuets and trios in a half hours time. His short life produced an incredible body of work (600 compositions). Even more incredible, Mozart had no musical influences, making him one of those rare creative artists who was completely original. His observation that his music came to him completed, already in his head only waiting for his transcription is, at its very worst, astounding.
Beethoven is a different story. He was also considered a prodigy but with a completely different method of creativity. His talents were recognized early by his father, who nurtured these abilities (when he wasn't drinking) with the goal of turning him into "a little Mozart." (shades of John Stuart Mill) Beethoven was forced to tutor under a variety of musical teachers in his early teens including Hadyn. Within a few years he had produced a number of piano sonatas and Symphony 1. His magnum opus, the Ninth Symphony took him four years to write. Beethoven's early life was wracked with abuse at the hands of his father. In life, he was plagued with self-doubt at the same time he dealt with depression, loss of his hearing and severe financial hardship.
Still, Beethoven and Mozart's influence are lauded today with musical compositions that are performed around the world.
Creatively speaking, Beethoven had to work, and work hard to find and then nurture his now recognized genius. He often struggled over each note, each pause, re-writing and re-writing over and over again, never truly happy with what he created.
And so it is--music has parallels in all the creative arts, including magic. I often think of Beethoven and how aspects of his life mirror mine. I constantly struggle over this presentation or that presentation to the point of distraction and . . . despair.
If I could ask for one thing . . . I would ask to be a Mozart.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
As of this writing, I continue to hone the script for my stage show, The Escapist. I am adding more of my personal experiences (lockouts, safe cracking, etc.) that I encountered in my years as a locksmith in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I hope to open The Escapist somewhere (preferably Las Vegas) in the near future. My partner George, one of the best idea men and certainly the best graphic/set designer I have ever met will provide the visuals. He will be storyboarding sections of the script and provide illustrations for the lobby display and some of the effects.
More about the mystery-man, George. In every artistic endeavor, I think it is important for the artist to be able to bounce ideas off of someone else, to have a partner in their creativity. George is such a man--many of my ideas were only half ideas until I told George about them and then he breathed new life into them. Several times, he re-designed and rebuilt props I had been using for years, making them better in the process. He has created posters and flyers for events I have performed around the country. George is a great guy and is one of the most talented people I have ever met. George also knows everybody--well, not everybody--but enough people in the industry--that also are able to help. George created the segments that you can see on YouTube as well as The Escapist logo and key art animation. One interesting story about George--on one of our many meetings, I had mentioned that I needed to shoot a brief host segment for a Discovery Channel pitch. I was thinking of just taking a hi-8 camera and shooting myself on my driveway. George heard me say this and like the masterful director that he is--sprang into action. We were not going to do this on my driveway--he informed me. So George started making calls, right there in the diner where we were having lunch. Inside of an hour he had a theatre space, a camera crew and a design for a set that looked better than anything on television. So, can Vegas be far off with George at the helm? I think not.
I have a few shows scheduled out-of-state in the next few months, including one in Fort Lauderdale Florida.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
January has been a pretty busy month for me, with numerous shows every week. Some were magic, most escape artistry. Thankfully, they were pretty much local (tri-state area). For those unfamiliar with that term, it means New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Shows performed in the past four weeks have left me with a dozen new handcuffs to add to my ever-growing collection. I was able to escape an antique shackle that held my wrists close together and was padlocked on top. Don't know how old it is and the owner was unsure as well. Also was able to escape and keep a set of bilboes and an interesting Belgian Handcuff made by FN Herstal that is secured with a magnet!
I am putting the finishing touches on a new lobby exhibit that will display some of the more unusual handcuffs that I have escaped from over the course of 25 years. It is very cool and I think those attending my shows will find it interesting.
While many of you may be watching the Super Bowl this Sunday, I will be performing in Fair Lawn , New Jersey. This show will be strictly magic (no escapes) and will feature some of my original presentations in sleight-of-hand and platform magic.
I am considering two outdoor publicity events for this year. For years, I have wanted to perform an event at Coney Island and many times I came close to doing it. This year, I would really like to nail something down there. Coney Island is such an iconic piece of America--its like performing at the Empire State building. I have some ideas I am working on there and do not want to betray anything yet. I will post it here first when details become availible.
I have several television projects in the works (some closer to development than others) and I may be heading to Las Vegas in the next few months. In the middle of March, I will be perfroming my escape show in Fort Lauderdale for one night only. London, England is also a possibility this April if a new BBC show pitched to me gets the green-light. Weather is finally back to normal in New York City (temperatures where they should be at this time of the year). the tourists have left town, the subways are less crowded and generally everything is allright with the world.
To the many who email me with ideas and advice, thank you. I apologize for not being as prompt in getting back to you. Managing this blog on a daily basis has been challenging. Please be patient. I will personally answer all those who take the time to write.
World events have made me more introspective and the recent troubles in the Middle East have reminded me of an interesting quote I once read. I will end with that.
Best to all--T
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens
can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Even though it's not SUPPOSED to be 60 degrees in January, this would be the perfect weather for a handcuffed escape in the East River.
Performed New Years Eve for a very rich, very well-connected family. I have been in alot of beautiful homes, clubs, etc., etc.--but I think this home had to be near the top of the list. The foyer was covered in marble--the countertops slate, the rugs oriental, the floors parquet and on and on and on. In fact there were so many rooms in the house that many were left unfurnished. There was an unbelievable amount of food for a relatively small number of people. I performed in the hallway with my audience sitting on the bottom steps of a large winding staircase.
Very nice group of people--reacted to every effect I did by looking at one another and speaking in Ukranian!
Was asked today to consider writing a column for a new trade magazine called "Street Magic." When I expressed an interest, I was told that I would need to write an article about 'arrogance in magic.' On the surface, it sounds like a valid topic but as I considered accepting this job, I tried to envision this 1200 word article in my mind and I realized that all artists on some level are arrogant. I personally, have never met an artist who wasn't arrogant. I'm sure others have called me arrogant. So, I am still contemplating whether or not I will accept---
To those reading this . . . Happy New Year and may we have Peace On Earth.