Sunday, May 27, 2012

Doing it Different (Part 1)

Alexanderia the Great aka escape artist Donna Purnell 
David Copperfield
 I was not trained in the classical way.  I didn't start out doing card tricks or learn at home magic kits.  How did I start out? I watched TV.  I simply watched and tried to duplicate what I saw.  Houdini, Henning, Copperfield, The Pendragons, Burton, Blaine & Angel.  I watched what they did and I wanted to do it.  The more challenging or dangerous the better.  I am self taught.  I love to challenge myself.  Most of the escapes I tried when I was younger, it was simply mind over matter.  If I didn't mind, it didn't matter, meaning I would go through the pain to escape.  But now the escapes are much more challenging and dangerous. I needed to add skills. But who could help me and how could I do it? When I got serious about maybe showing the world what I could do, I looked to the pros.
Doug Henni

Steve Baker
  I have talked with some legends Steve Baker and Norm Bigelow.  Steve who professionally was know as Mr Escape, talked with me in 2004.  I was deciding on whether to perform for the first Worldwide Escape Artist Relay (WEAR) in 2005.  I was concerned as to whether I was good enough and prepared enough to perform publicly. He shared with me some breath holding tips and some personal experience in his many underwater escapes.  He explained to me the dangers of underwater escapes and why I needed to overly prepare as things can and will go wrong.  He shared with me some of the problems he encountered and cautioned me in not "jumping into" something so potentially deadly without proper training and preparation.

Norm Bigelow
Norm Bigelow, I contacted a few years later when again I was thinking about doing WEAR in 2009 of which I did perform.  He has been simply amazing in all his support and guidance.  He did some amazing escapes in his day.  He is still developing new ideas and always challenging the escape world to move ahead.  He tirelessly continues to write on escape topics and is a great teacher.  Both of these legends were so wonderful to give of their time and advice to a novice.  I will be forever grateful to both.
Morgan the Escapist & Alexanderia the Great
I also called on Morgan the Escapist, early in my decision making process.  In 2004, I first called her to talk with one of the few woman in the world who called herself an escape artist.  I wanted a women's perspective on the escape world.  She was wonderful and took the time to view some escape video of me.  She gave me tips and encouraged me to perform.  We have stayed in contact and it was great to see her perform in her home state of New Jersey.  She is great.
Charlotte Pendragon on NBC Houdini Secrets Special 1995

Seeing Charlotte Pendragon of the Pendragons perform an escape in 1995 on an NBC Houdini special, really opened my eyes to what women could do. I have spoken with Charlotte via Facebook and it was great to speak to someone who really influenced me.  She showed me that women can take center stage in escapes.

The pioneer in female escape artists was Dorothy Dietrich.  She was the first women I remember seeing do escapes.  She was a magician as well and was famous for the being the only women to have successfully performed the dreaded bullet catch.  I remember first seeing Dorothy on an HBO special.  She did an aerial strait jacket escape upside down from a burning rope.  Tony Curtis the actor who played Houdini in the 1953 bio picture of Houdini was the master of ceremonies.  Hearing Tony, who played the immortal Houdini, it was like having Harry himself speak.  It gave her escape so much more impact.  Dorothy & I struck up a friendship on Facebook and she invited me as her guest to see her perform at the Houdini exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York City.  We met both Dick Brooks and Dorothy at their hotel in New York and we drove over together to the event.  
Dorothy Dietrich & Alexanderia the Great
She gave me some wonderful memorabilia of hers that I cherish.  We did lunch together before the event and Bill shot video of her strait jacket escape.  He posted it to Youtube for her after the event.  It was a great night as we also met Ken Silverman who wrote an amazing autobiography of Harry Houdini!: The Career of Ehrich Weiss.  The picture above is a vid clip of the video my husband did at the event.  Dorothy has it is her picture on Facebook.  And the picture here is of her and I that night.

Alexanderia the Great & the
Underwater Leap of Faith
Since I have began this journey into becoming an escape artist, I have been fortunate to meet some great professionals who have offer some great advice.  Trying to go beyond Houdini has forced me to go way beyond my comfort zone.  This is why when I decided to try and not simply duplicate what has been done before but take it to the next level, I could not just do the tried and true methods of before as they would not do.  I had to take another path, as I didn't start with the simple stuff like everyone else.  I went right for it in doing escape's most dangerous act, underwater escapes.  In trying to not copy but go further, I have had to get stronger, and push my limits.  When I found my limits and it was not enough, I had to push past them.  How?  By redefining my limits. I had to overcome my obstacles.

A little secret about my past.  I wanted to be a lifeguard like all high school kids.  It looked like a great job that allowed you to go to work at the beach in a swimsuit and get a tan.  Now that is a great summer job.  I had one small problem.  Though I loved the water and was a strong swimmer, I could not hold my breath.  I was horrible at it.  When it came time to take the test, I could do all the moves except one.  Diving to the bottom of the pool and picking up the instructor was a problem.  Because of my limited ability in holding my breath, I could not manage to get him from the pool bottom.  Though I told him and everyone else that it was the case of bronchitis that stopped me from passing, it was really a fear of holding my breath and diving.

So how is it that I am now able to be shackled, chained, padlocked and weighed down with more restraints  than even Houdini did in his underwater escapes?  How can I now jump willingly into 12.5 foot deep pools having to hold my breath long enough to escape all of these restraints?  It requires me to train in a different way.  In my next blog, I will explain some of my different methods for going beyond what has been done before.
Alexanderia the Great A Modern Day Houdini lifting weights underwater
as part of her extreme training for her death defying escapes

Next time part 2 of a different way to train.