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Rick Maue
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Greetings,

Reading through the posts, I have noticed several comments about Swami/Mantra as an instructional book.

As entertaining as the book is, most hardcore sideshow guys (for example, Todd Robbins) usually try to direct people away from it as a learning tool. It simply is not accurate or complete enough to be used in such a manner. I know that Todd always says that those wanting to attempt sideshow should learn the stuff from someone that knows what they are doing, not from books.

I will mention that if you want to ask questions of Todd directly, he is giving a rare lecture at our upcoming Deception Convention next month. He will also be performing. (Also lecturing and performing will be Jamy Ian Swiss and Simon Lovell.) So if you have any questions about it, give me a yell. It should be a great weekend.


Keep the change,
Rick Maue


PS. I realize that some folks have learned things like "blockhead" from books like Swami/Mantra. I am simply pointing out to those that know very little about all of this that there are much safer (and better) ways to go about learning such dangerous things. I just wouldn't want to see someone get hurt.

I just wanted to clarify something from the above message. Where I stated "those that know very little about all of this", I was referring to those that are looking to try this stuff for the first time. I was not saying that others in this forum know very little about these things. The wording that I used was incorrect. Sorry about that.

Keep the change,
Rick Maue
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Geoff Williams
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I'm interested in learning how to eat a lightbulb and realize that there are some fundamental do's and dont's associated with it.

I've done a lot of info gathering but would like to correspond with someone who has done/is doing that sort of thing to get the "insider's view" of glass eating.

If that's your bag and you'd like to share techniques and tips, drop me a line.

I'm serious about learning this but have no plans to rush into it TOO quickly. I want to do it RIGHT.

Geoff Williams
geoff_williams@bigfoot.com
"Saját légpárnás tele van angolnák."

(Hungarian for "My hovercraft is full of eels")
Rick Maue
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Greetings Geoff,

My suggestion would be to talk with someone like Todd Robbins. If you are near the east coast, you may want to check him out at our convention in March. I know that he will be eating a lightbulb or two here, and he will be lecturing as well.

(Just so everyone knows, I am not simply trying to increase attendance at our event. I honestly feel that the only way to safely learn about these things is directly from an expert like Todd.)


Keep the change,
Rick Maue
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Michael Peterson
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Your advice is appreciated, Rick.

Smile
Geoff Williams
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Yes, thanks, Rick.
"Saját légpárnás tele van angolnák."

(Hungarian for "My hovercraft is full of eels")
Joe Marotta
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Hi Rick,

Is there any good, reliable, material available other than at the D-Con? Looks like I missed that one. Possibly a video or good book? Or do you know of anyone out here in California that I could learn from?

Todd Robbins doesn't seem to be selling any information on his website, and I'm having trouble accessing your website.

Many thanks for your emphasis on safety! After all, we are entertainers, not masochists........ uh, aren't we? Or am I at the wrong website?

Joe Marotta
Missing_Link
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This is an interesting point...when should you use a gaffed trick if it is possible to do the effect "for real". Example, if you should do human blockhead for real or find a way of convincingly make it seem a nail goes up your nose.

I think combining the two (real + gimmicked) you can create alot of comedy, if that is your thing.

Any thoughts?

ML
Harry Murphy
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Actually cigarette manipulators have been doing a “fake” Blockhead bit for years. In fact, I use the cigarette bit prior to doing the blockhead stunt. I do the cigarette in the eye (to mouth) bit, then the up-the-nose wipe it off and try to hand it back (borrowed cigarette as I don’t smoke).

Then go into the block routine.

End with the balloon up the nose-out-the-mouth bit.

Now that’s entertainment!


There is some safety and health concerns involved in most if not all of the carnival stunts. However, most are rather simple to learn. Some, like sword swallowing, take some discipline and a great deal of time to master. It is amongst the most difficult skills to learn. Further it is a difficult act to put together to be really entertaining. But anyone willing to put in a little time and effort can master them.

A big problem sword swallowers have is that everyone thinks it’s fake even though it isn’t! Folks, you really shove a blade down your esophagus! That’s it!

The Bed of Nails is about the simplest and safest stunt to perform. It is difficult to make and heavy to carry. I have a photo of me with a 300-pound man standing on my chest while I am lying on a bed of nails. The only danger there was, was me being crushed by the weight of this fellow. I would also do the old “break-the-cinder-block-with-a-sledgehammer” bit while lying on the bed of nails.

The old “break-the-cinder-block-with-a-sledgehammer” strongman bit is also at the easy to perform end of the spectrum. The danger here is from flying bits of the block. ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES! I have performed this with a block on my head and hit it with a small sledgehammer and with the block on my chest or abdomen while lying on a bed of nails.

My daughter (5 foot 90 pounds) has performed this bit also (block on her abdomen). This was on a beach at a summer resort, her in her bikini, for a publicity shot advertising a show.

The Blockhead routine is simplicity in itself and can be mastered by anyone who can get over the weird sensation of having a foreign object in his or her nostril.

Walking on glass is slightly more dangerous. Glass can (and will) cut! However, knowing the secret of preparing the glass (that seems like more than it is), and knowing that weight displacement as with the Bed of Nails, markedly reduces the danger (to almost zero!). Further a summer of walking barefoot on the sand can prepare the feet for some of the more dramatic stunts.

I watched a fellow at Venice Beach California, do the glass-walk bit as his street act. He would dance on the glass, jump on it from a stool, and finish by laying on it. It was a good show. I noted that the soles of his feet were one solid callous from working all summer on the hot sand and pavement barefoot. He and I spoke at length about his act and he showed me his bag of glass (some pieces well over 5 years old) and gave me a couple of good tips. I have cut my feet several times practicing this stunt.

More dangerous than the bed of glass is waking up a ladder of blades! This is very rarely seen anymore. The last time I saw it performed was by “Pop Eye” at the Oklahoma State Fair in 1963. The risk of this stunt is almost not worth the response it gets. I wonder if anyone out there has seen it performed recently?

What it looks like: a stand that holds four or five swords or saws is set up on stage. The blades are facing up ward. The performer, barefoot, walks up the blades, putting his/her weight on each foot as he/she climbs. The danger is slipping off the blade and cutting your calf off your leg. Otherwise, the principle is the same as the Bed-of-Nails.

I tried this only once. I used saws not swords. I did not like the insecure feeling I got as I got to the top saw and had to work my way back down. It is enough that I did it once!

Fire eating, like sword swallowing is a true skill. Fire eating is dangerous. You will be burned from time to time. Unleaded fuel is a must! Knowing how to handle a torch like never having them lit for over a minute or so at a time, keeping them well soaked with fuel and shaking off excess fuel, etc. is essential to the fire-eater's safety. However, you can learn to eat fire in much less time than it takes to learn to swallow a sword!

Warning, most of the old books on fire eating that are still being sold on magic shops are WRONG! They will give you information that will hurt you! For example, a booklet sold by Abbots, tells you how to make torches. It has you using wire to hold the head on. If you do, the hot wire will burn you! No if's about it, you will be burned!

I know three folks who earn their living performing fire eating as part of their acts. They are all self-taught and they all burned themselves regularly as they learned. I am self-taught also. I started playing with fire in high school (what a nerd I was!). I would light a book of matches on fire and put it in my mouth, hold it there a couple of seconds and pull it back out still lit. I would then wipe the burning book of matches across my tounge and finally extinguish them on my tounge. It always got a great reaction! I was in my 20’s and in college before I made my first torches and actually performed a fire-eating act (street performance). I still make my own torches (I have my own design for keeping the head on and stationary).

I could go on to several other acts/stunts/routines that I am familiar with (ribbon from stomach, animal trap, electric person, etc) but noticed that this has run over long as it is!
The artist formally known as Mumblepeas!
Eric Starkey
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Regarding the ladder of blades, Mumblepeas asked:

"I wonder if anyone out there has seen it performed recently?"

Teller was performing a great theatrical bit with the ladder a few years ago. Unfortunately, the piece was only in the show for a short amount of time. I saw him do it twice in Washington, DC in late 1999 (if I remember correctly). He was taught and coached by the great Todd Robbins.

Penn and Teller have a great history of using sideshow in their live performances. I saw Penn do the cinder block on his head in Pittsburgh - apparently he kept getting dizzy and forgetting who he was, so that didn't stay in the show very long either.

And of course, who could forget their superb fire eating act! Both the live and television versions are awesome (though completely different from one another).

Yours very truly,

Eric Starkey
Missing_Link
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For those interested in the sword ladder act, take a look at the website by the lovely Jewels: http://www.nothingimpossible.net Click on the video page and you will see her do this in her new promo video. Impressive stuff!

Slainte!

ML
Harry Murphy
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M. Link

Thank you for Jewel's website. She is a fine performer, and her act is one of the best of its type! She incorporates many of the in-one acts into a full experience.

I have seen literally dozens of performers doing bits and pieces of these routines (acts) and have actually performed several myself (100 foot rope escape and straight jacket escape, bed of nails, breaking blocks on head and abdomen [while on the nails], ladder of swords [saws in my case], block head, fire-eating, glass dancing, to name a few.

I have even participated in a fishhook once. I put the hooks in place! The young man then was suspended, prone from the hooks!

I have never seen the elegance that Jewels brings to the bits! Cirque du Soleil of the sideshow acts! Killer stuff!
The artist formally known as Mumblepeas!
the Sponge
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Quote:
On 2002-05-31 08:37, mumblepeas wrote:
More dangerous than the bed of glass is waking up a ladder of blades! This is very rarely seen anymore. The last time I saw it performed was by “Pop Eye” at the Oklahoma State Fair in 1963.I wonder if anyone out there has seen it performed recently?


I can't say this was recent, and I don't remember the details, but I would like to acknowledge a performer I saw years ago.

Around 12 years ago at Kennywood park in PA, I watched a multi-talented sideshow performer. He displayed many beautiful sideshow banners in advertisement for his show. He was an older man dressed in the "indian" garb (turban, vest, etc.).

He swallowed shears, bayonets (one afixed to the end of a pistol that was "fired" down his throat), many swords, and the infamous neon sword.

After proving the sharpness of the ladder swords by cutting newspaper, he walked up a (3 or 4) sword ladder.

He had a bed of nails with the longest nails I have ever seen. As he laid upon the bed, a small anvil was placed on his chest and stuck with a sledge by his assistant.

He also had what looked like a knife-throwing board set up, but I do not recall him throwing any knifes.

Sorry this went on with no real point, I just wanted to acknowledge this performer (maybe someone knows him) publicly, and let him know I still remember his show.
Dennis Michael
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Saturday, September, 14, 2002, I had the rare treat to see Todd Robbins in person. Below is a brief overview of his act. Yes, he does teach these things, and he did explain the dangers and what needs to be done to learn these things. He also pointed out the failures, so this side show stuff shouldn't be taken lightly. If you want to do this stuff, learn it right, for safety sake! As Todd pointed out, for the next several days after eating the lightbulb, he is concerned about its exit as well as its travel though his system. Can you imagine him trying to explain why he keeps setting off the metal detectors in the airport?


Spotlight Spectcular Convention in the Poconos.

Todd Robbins was an absolute nut, fire eating, putting a lit cigar out with his tongue, eating a lightbulb, drinking windex, walking & jumping on glass in his bare feet, sucking a balloon though his nose and out his mouth, banging a 30 Penny huge nail into his head through his nose, blowing up a water bottle until it exploded, and sword swallowing all kinds of swords, including a 30,000 volt neon tube which everyone got to see his throat. A great sideshow freak show all-in-one with great humor and entertainment. WITH CONSTANT WARNINGS NOT TO DO THESE THINGS THEY ARE VERY DANGEROUS!
Dennis Michael
Slim Price
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Quote:
On 2002-05-12 16:17, Joe Marotta wrote:
Hi Rick,

Is there any good, reliable, material available other than at the D-Con? Looks like I missed that one. Possibly a video or good book? Or do you know of anyone out here in California that I could learn from?

Todd Robbins doesn't seem to be selling any information on his website, and I'm having trouble accessing your website.

Many thanks for your emphasis on safety! After all, we are entertainers, not masochists........ uh, aren't we? Or am I at the wrong website?

Joe Marotta

Slim & Krista teach, without charge, all the arts. You will be expected to act like a guest, a friend, that is, and pay your own expenses.We teach only those we feel have the right attitude. For our phone number you can e-mail <sanscan@4dcomm.com>
We are in El Cajon, just outside San Diego.
Our door is always open.
sanscan@tds.net



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Bill Fienning
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Harley Newman does the walking barefoot on a ladder of knife blades. In an email from him, he mentioned that he was teaching this to his daughter.

Some of the things that Todd Robbins does are really dangerous if you don't know exactly what you are doing. He is careful about what he will teach because he doesn't want someone, not as cautious as he is, getting seriously hurt. Todd was taught these carnival stunts by experts.
Bill Fienning

"It's More than Tricks"
DonDriver
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Hi Gang,
I'm 59,I learned the blockhead and fire eating from Walt Hudson back in the 60's and have worked side shows.I now live in the Nashville Tn. area.If anybody that lives close wants to learn these side show skills and is serious about it,email me. Have a nice day,
Don
Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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I daresay escapes should be learned from an expert as well. I, like many escapologists, learned from varied sources over several years. The sad thing is when you see the case of a young, enthusiastic performer who gets injured or killed because he is unaware of the safety aspects and subtleties that one learns largely from experience.

Steve
Dr. Lao: "Do you know what wisdom is?"
Mike: "No."
Dr. Lao: "Wise answer."
Matthew the Magnificent
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Just some of my 2cents worth... I too am primarily self-taught and have done pretty much the gamut, but I differ in some cases from what has been already said... for instance, there CAN be advantages to using wire to wrap a torch head, and when done properly no burns beyond NORMAL may occur... but, too, this DOES add a new level of potential burns... one can and WILL always get burned, eventually, when doing a Fire Eating act... just a matter of time and experience...

I had a head 'fly off ' during a torch spinning effect, and it almost set fire to a young pianist's dress... long story there... and I decided to wrap my torches ALWAYS, as a result... but, too, using the correct gauge wire (too small and it will literally 'burn thru', too thick and you will slice thru' your lip if you don't keep your mouth open far enough) and keeping it tightly bound, and such DO add to the challenges already present... my only real message here is that there may be no real 'absolutes' on these subjects EXCEPT for they ARE dangerous !
Many years & Many experiences in Magic and Related Arts
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