Saturday, December 12, 2009
Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and meet…
The Amazing Maisel…
The most daring man on earth!
By Brenda Kay Dunagan
The man inside the front-loading washing machine can’t hear the screams of terror from those on the outside. His sore limbs, bound by leg irons and handcuffs, are painfully cramped. Something has gone terribly wrong with his signature and world famous escape stunt. The soapy water chokes him, stinging his eyes and throat, as he spins at 50 rpms. The machine’s deadly spin cycle is about to start, and it will pulverize him, if he doesn’t escape NOW.
Tension builds outside the washing machine as the man inside tries desperately to free himself from his cuffs and leg irons. It’s been way too long., though—it’s never taken this long!—and his anxious assistant awaits the emergency signal from him that she never sees. Through the machine’s small glass window, she sees that blood is starting to tint the sudsy water.
This time, time really is running out!
“Get him out!” the director of a crew filming the escape for a worldwide TV audience screams. “Get him out!”
The assistant reaches to push the large red emergency handle that will shut off the machine.She pushes, but the handle breaks off from the washer—everything is going wrong!—and she screams. This wasn’t in the script!
The emergency crew storms in.
The electricity is cut, and the washing machine’s door is pried open.
The man inside tumbles out ,somersaults out onto a red carpet, leaps to his feet, and with a grin that says he has effortlessly nailed another death-defying escape, victoriously shakes his fists at a shaken film crew.
Albuquerque’s world-record-breaking daredevil is at it again, entertaining millions with his shocking stunts and unassuming boy-next-door grin.
“I just want to sound like a normal guy,” Rick Maisel says, emphatically, peering over the rim of his glasses with huge brown eyes.
Nice try, Rick!
This man is anything but ordinary! Inventor, educator, author, motivational speaker, magician, escape artist…is there anything he can’t do?
“Nothing’s impossible,” Rick chuckles, fidgeting.
“Just don’t try anything I do at home!”
Fans instantly recognize Rick’s Vegas-style red satin sequined jacket and quirky “Ricky Megawatt” rap song, his Weird Al Yankovich humor and mad-scientist mannerisms.
Having logged appearances in 42 countries, Rick has astonished over one billion TV viewers with his myriad of super-human feats. Besides his washing machine act, he conducts over half a million volts of electricity across his skin and through his body, escapes from a strait-jacket while suspended 2,200 feet from a hot-air balloon, and survives being arc-welded into a milk-can, shackled and submerged in 45 gallons of water. Then, there’s the Tank of Death, Rick’s very own macabre invention, a 500-gallon Plexiglas tank filled with water, into which a crane lowers him, upside down in restraints!
Rick boasts an extensive list of television appearances, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Today Show, Kathy and Regis Lee, and Maury Povich Show. Ripley’s Believe it or Not! featured him in 225 shows in its live review show in Branson, Mo, as well as its TV series and museums worldwide. The Guiness Book of World Records lists him holding the world record since 1996, escaping upside-down from a straitjacket in 2.23 seconds. And Escape and Beyond, a one-hour television show, features him breaking four world records in escapes that he himself conceived and designed.
Of the thousands of shows in the last forty-two years, his favorites were his childhood performances. The only boy in a family of sisters and female pets, Rick developed a close bond with his father, “Buddy” S.L. Maisel, who died in April 2008.
“Dad wrote my first scripts,” Rick recalls, “He wrote silly one-liner jokes for me that the audiences just loved!”
Buddy encouraged young Rick, and his son joined the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM), which, after 35 years of membership, awarded him the Order of the Merlin’s Shield.. Later, Rick joined the Society of American Magicans, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
“I performed my first professional magic show when I was eight,” Rick grins from ear to ear. Amy, his younger sister, was his assistant.
“Of one hundred contestants, I came in second place with The Illusion of the Appearing Wand, and was awarded $10.. The applause was addictive!”
Sponsored by the IBM at the Silver Spur Family Restaurant, the contest was held for Sorcerers’ Apprentices, a magic club for children ages 8-18. A family friend and life-long IBM member, Stan Jennings, introduced Rick to the brotherhood to which he still belongs.
At 10 years old, Rick had his own professional listing in the Yellow Pages. At 12, he was earning $100 a show at the Petroleum Club in downtown Albuquerque.
His show, billed Ricky Maisel the Amazing, included illusions like the linking handkerchiefs, doll-house production boxes, levitations, dye boxes, appearing goldfish, and the sword box.
The legendary Dai Vernon, considered by many to be the greatest sleight-of-hand magician in the history of magic, gave young Rick this piece of advice:
“Listen, kid, if you do just one trick better than everyone else in the world, or perform an act that no one else has ever performed, you can make it in this business.”
This advice echoed through Rick’s mind throughout his teen years.
“I remembered some video footage of fraternity boys in the 1950s, climbing into dryers with crash helmets. I wanted to perform Harry Houdini’s underwater escapes, but the tank would have cost $25,000. I saw a front-loading washing machine, and thought, This is it!”
He had discovered his niche in the world of magic.
Did he just climb in a washer and start it up?
“No, I had to condition myself,” Rick explains, “with the help of a gastro-endocrinologist doctor, B.W. Brown Laundry Supply, and anti-nausea drugs like Dramamine, I overcame motion sickness before we ever added water.”
Then came the water. And the claustrophobia.
“I never knew that I would be afraid of tight spaces, but when the washer filled with soap and water, I panicked. There just wasn’t much room in there.”
Rick almost drowned the first two times he practiced the escape, but he overcame his claustrophobia.
The washing machine escape catapulted him into world-wide notoriety.
“Houdini, Move Over!” the National Enquirer’s headline proclaimed in 1990 after its reporters had seen Rick’s washing machine escape.
Does he have a death-wish?
“I’m not afraid of dying,” he laughs,” I just don’t want to do it any time soon!”
Rick takes the arts of escape and illusion a step forward, not only hearkening back to vaudevillian stage magic and side-show theatrics, but also employing futuristic, high-tech post-modernism, science fiction, and educational physics in his acts.
Rick’s message to the world is simple:
“I want for people to be exited and curious about the world in which they live. I want for them to challenge illusions and overcome self-limiting fear.”
If anyone knows something about fear, it’s Rick.
He’s overcome fear of heights, tight spaces, and large audiences, just to name a few.. He also has to deal with the risk of injury.
He smashed both wrists in a silver-smithing accident. When his doctor told him to find a new career, Rick found a new doctor instead, and was performing for the National Enquirer the next year.
He’s undergone three spinal surgeries after suffering a broken back from two automobile accidents. He didn’t realize, as he was being lowered by crane over Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza on New Year’s Eve, 2000, that he had a ruptured disk.
His worst injury, however, occurred while filming before a live studio audience for A Current Affair. While being arc-welded inside 50-gallon stainless steel drum, something malfunctioned. After freeing himself from the handcuffs, he couldn’t escape the welds. What happened next, Rick says, was a near-death experience.
“It seemed like the inside of the can was filled with lights. I could see what was happening all around me, even though my eyes were closed. I had been submerged in water for over 90 seconds. I was one second from breathing in the water. Then, the can opened up.”
They re-filmed the scene immediately, even though he nearly drowned.
A venerate performer, Rick shrugged off his near death. “The show must go on!” he now laughs.
“People call me a daredevil. I’m actually a safety expert. I cope with my fear of the unknown by educating myself.”
He makes things look dangerous, although he claims they are very safe.
The only person authorized by the FAA to suspend himself from 30,000 feet by rope restrained in a straitjacket, he has perfected emergency signals, hires trustworthy safety personnel and uses only equipment with which he trusts his life.
His most valuable instruments are his body and his mind. He exercises several hours a day to maintain his flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular stamina. Likewise, he plans every moment of each act with the precision of a mathematician.
What will Rick pull out of his hat next?
Courageous, yet unassuming, Rick has overcome the impossible. Now, he wants to share fearlessness with the mere mortals of the world.
Escape or Die! The Guide to Overcoming Fear, a motivational book, once published, will be available in bookstores around the country. Rick bases it on his personal experiences, his studies in multi-dimensional and quantum physics, and his strong desire to help others live happier, less fearful lives. He will share his invincible genius and charismatic charm with audiences worldwide, combining inspirational talks with death-defying feats, proving once and for all that the human spirit can overcome challenges, limitations, and disabilities, and live in fearless fulfillment!