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Brian Lehr
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Edmonton, Canada
1603 Posts

Profile of Brian Lehr
I haven't done a straitjacket escape for several years, but added it to a show I did last week for a teen boy's birthday. In the past, there's never been any problems doing the escape, but this time was a bit different. Because it was so hot in the room, I was sweating by the time of the last effect, which was the jacket. I soon discovered that it was a bit more difficult to do the escape, since I had trouble getting my right arm out. The sweat was making it cling more to the jacket material.

This isn't something I've encountered before. Any tips about this? Perhaps wear a shirt with long sleeves instead of a t-shirt?

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Profile of mhsam
Hi Brian. I have lots of thoughts on this, provided you are presenting it as a serious escape and not as a comedy escape. If this is the case, sweating ABSOLUTELY adds to the legitimacy and difficulty that a performer would want the audience to see and feel. An elderly magician (Ron Zollweg, God rest his soul) once told me that Houdini, upon escaping with "staged" difficulty from a SJ on stage, would throw the jacket on the ground and repeatedly jump up and down on it (...I defeated the monster...)!!! The audience would be so taken in at what they just saw.

Therefore, because I was younger, I would always thereafter try to recreate the immense difficulty (fake of course) the escape should have! I would hold my breath, turn red, try to sweat even more, and also try to have a tear apart shirt (at the seams), all the while trying to make the audience think "Is he going to be successful?" "Will he NOT get out?" "OMG, look at how hard this is... he may fail!"

What good is a SJ escape that looks easy to escape from? The hardest part for me was making it look difficult!

But if this look of difficulty isn't something you want to embrace for your final effect, note that a t-shirt under a white long sleeve shirt tends to hide perspiration/wetness on the shirt.

A loose fitting SJ would help here (I don't know where today's widely accepted slim fitting SJ idea came from... back in the day, a bulky SJ together with the staged difficulty discussed above sold the escape's presentation!)

Also, loading up on an extra applicarion of anti-perspirant (not mere deodorant) everywhere (not just the underarms) should help. A world class magician (who will remain nameless!) told a group of us at an all night session that he swore by shaving his underarms...I think that would be individual/personal trial and error stuff as to whether that works.

You are correct regarding the SJ clinging more with the added wetness. A well known escape artist Steve Quinn (The Mighty Quinn...God rest his soul as well) almost lost his life escaping from a canvas SJ underwater at the old Erie (Barge) Canal in NY because the material "bound up". He did successfully escape, but he didn't count on the added difficulty. Lance B. successfully performed it (wonderfully) underwater in a torture type of cell for his 1998 national TV special, but he left nothing to chance concerning the clinging or binding. He had a mid/short sleeve t- shirt, however he was totally submerged in water.

Chalk this event up to your SJ experience!! I always tried to anticipate all, or as many problems that might arise, while having "outs" for them!

I suppose you can experiment with different shirt materials such as silk, or synthetic blends. Or a different and more gimmicked SJ? You should see how David C. didn't take any chances with this issue (private msg me if you'd like to go further with this privately.)

Great question that we all could discuss for hours!
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So.California / Centl.Florida / retired Florida
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Profile of Russo
So true = years ago I did SJ escape, boom boom boom 'out' - NO DRAMA. Later if room, would roll on the floor or just struggle -"OUT" - though don't act it up toooo looong. Same with the Siberian Chain escape had one for wrists and ankles plus "t" shirt and white pants (bell bottom) - and an officer (?) would chain me up(?), then do an under water pool escape. Coming up with just me in a swim suit.. At 85 (in June) - NO MORE - But it was FUN, fun ,fun.
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