On March 18, 2012, I performed an underwater handcuff escape at the New York Aquarium out in Coney Island Brooklyn. This event, which was almost six months in the making was sponsored by the New York Aquarium and the New York Police Department (NYPD). The NYPD would provide the handcuffs and the police officers who would handcuff me securely before I leaped into one of the outdoor tanks at the Aqua Theatre. The producer of the event, Gary Dreifus, did a masterful job in getting all the parties on board with this event. He handled all of the publicity for the event, negotiated with all of the officials, those at the Aquarium and elsewhere and was the go-between between the NYPD and myself.
An excellent poster to promote the event was designed by my very good friend, George Allison whose talents are beyond compare.
Back in January of 2012, Gary and I took a Friday afternoon jaunt out to Coney Island to meet with officials of the Aquarium. It was a cold day only in the upper 40s and after taking the Q train from Manhattan to the New York Aquarium stop, almost the end of the line, I walked over the pedestrian bridge linking the Coney Island Boardwalk with the New York Aquarium where I met Gary and Patrick and several officials including the dive captain, the marketing manager and a few of her assistants, some other corporate types and several dive assistants. After shaking hands all around, we were ushered into a back room where we all took seats around a large rectangular table. The marketing manager first, with the help of Gary gave an overview of the event; the who, what, where, why and to some extent, the how of the event.
It was then the dive captain's turn. An older gentlemen, he gave the appearance of being extremely knowledgeable in every aspect of safety. He carefully explained all the potential dangers of the event starting first with the temperature of the water and how, if not carefully monitored could lead to hypothermia and death. The water that morning was topping out at about 44 degrees. All of the tanks were salt water, which would be a first for me in any kind of stunt. I've swam in the ocean before, but never did a stunt in salt water. Most of my escapes were (are) in rivers and, as we know, they are fresh water. Nevertheless, it would be salt water since the occupant of this tank, a 400 pound harbor seal, named Duke would be moved out of this enclosure for my performance on March 18.
As for today, Duke was already out of his enclosure, so it would be possible for me to take several dry runs (wet runs?) in the water. The Aqua Theatre seats roughly 500 people and is essentially theatre in the round with the spectators having a view of the tank through the glass below. The picture below (taken during the actual performance on March 18) gives an exact look of what the audience would see. It was taken by photographer Dennis Galante who was seated in the audience and captured a moment in the escape as I struggled with the handcuffs.