Monday, February 28, 2011

Lethal Weapon

This is a true story from my life. Back in the 1980's I received a phone call from the Tech Advisor for a new movie being made called Lethal Weapon. He was an old friend of mine and he remembered the story I told him about my very first encounter with a straight jacket.
I was invited to the set to meet with the producer, director and my buddy the tech advisor. They all wanted to hear the story right from the horse's mouth. As a young teen, my mother worked in health care. I asked her if she could get a straight-jacket. She got permission from her employer and brought one home.
Keep in mind, this was the first time I had ever seen a regulation straight-jacket and didn't really know much about getting out of it. I was in my garage with my best buddy, Lee, and he proceeded to strap me into this thing. I was wearing a T-shirt which I later learned was a big mistake.
I twisted and turned and bent my body in ways that I didn't even know were possible. Then I had an idea. If I could shift my body within the jacket it might help me to gain slack and get my arm over my head, then I could get out. My solution, run full speed into the garage wall slamming my shoulder against it.WHAMMO! And OUCH! To make a long story short, I did get out, eventually. With plenty of marks and scrapes from only wearing a t-shirt.
That's the story I told the crew on the set of Lethal Weapon. They passed the story to Mel Gibson. Mel then comes to me and asks me a few questions regarding it, like was it true? Did it hurt? Yes, it was true. Yes it hurt! Well he loved the story so much, that he incorporated it into the film. When you watch the movie, you will see Mel Gibson's character escape from a straight-jacket by slamming himself into a filing cabinet so as to dislocate his shoulder and escape, ala the young Steve Baker!
And that my friends, was my contribution to Lethal Weapon.
Just a side note, I do not advise the shoulder slamming method as one of the better ways to escape from a straight jacket!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Cannon's Closing Shop

I just got word that Mark and Sheila Cannon will be closing their Cannon's Great Escape Shop in June. This is a real surprise. I will miss the Escape Convention that they put on. I'll miss having the place to meet up with so many friends in the escape world.  They let me present my escape lecture at their convention one year.
In 2005, they honored me by giving me their 'Silver Cuff' Award, a lifetime achievement award of sorts. I wish the Cannon's the best of luck in all their future endeavors.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Steve Baker in Vietnam

It was July of 1966, I was touring Vietnam performing for the troops. A chopper had just taken me, June Collins my assistant and Al Ricketts, who was a reporter for the Stars & Stripes Newspaper, to a place called Phanrang. There were about 400 GI's stationed there, most were part of the 101st Airborne. These poor guys were starved for entertainment. They supplied a flatbed truck that we used as our stage along with a p.a. system.
We were supposed to present one show the first day and another show the second day for a different group of guys. Afterwhich, a chopper would come get us and fly us to another location to do the whole thing over again. Did I mention these guys were starved for entertainment? We were a hit! After our first show they invited all of us to the mess hall for a very impromptu party. They took foot lockers and filled them with ice and beer.We spent the next few hours laughing and telling jokes, I did some card tricks, June my assistant danced a bit and we generally had some good old fashioned fun.After downing a few beers and generally cutting up with the GI's, someone asked me if I had ever parachuted. I had made a couple jumps in the past and related the stories.
I was asked if I had ever done a dangerous escape and I relished them with stories of my various straightjacket escapes. "Ever thought of doing that escape out of an airplane?" I had already had a few beers so I said, "sure I've thought of it." My answer really stirred them on and another guy asked, "If we could get a plane, would you do it?". Again, I said, "Sure", but I never in my wildest dreams thought they could get a plane. Afterall, my troupe and I were leaving the next day, there wouldn't be enough time. I also knew I couldn't do it from a chopper because there would be no way to get enough height for a parachute to open. With the alchohol doing my thinking for me, I asked June to get my straightjacket out of our tent. One of the GI's went to find a parachute. The chute fit me fine. Putting the straightjacket on was another story. They were unable to bind my hands properly. I asked June to get the ten foot legnth of chain from our trunk and the GI's used that to help secure me inside the jacket. It was tight! Even though the GI's were excited about the prospect of this dangerous escape, it was geting really late so I retired for the night.
When I woke up, I had a doozy of a hangover. In addition, I discovered that the entire camp was buzzing over this escape idea. What on earth had I gotten myself into? I told them that I frankly didn't think there was enough time to present the escape, even if we had a plane, which we didn't. We had to leave at three that afternoon for another camp. Just about the time I was saying the words, "even if we had a plane", I heard the sound of a small aircraft flying overhead. As it turned out, this plane was carrying vegetables for the encampment and my nightmare was about to come true.

I couldn't believe what was happening. After all the talk about escaping from a plane and being certain that there was no way this group would be able to acquire an aircraft before I left, suddenly a small plane was landing at our encampment. After unloading the contents of the plane, the GIs told the pilot of this proposed stunt and wouldn't you know he agreed to it.
While this was happening, I was reluctantly agreeing to do the stunt with certain conditions. First, I needed someone to jump with me for safety and I needed someone who would jump and photograph the thing. I figured if I was going to possibly die, we might as well have a good record of it. And if I lived, I wanted the photos to exploit the rest of my life.
Quickly, a GI volunteered to jump safety with me. The reporter I was traveling with agreed to photograph the entire thing. It's important to remember that all this took place before before I became known as a daredevil escape artist, so I had more than a few butterflies while all this is going on. The GIs were so gung-ho over the escape idea, I couldn't back down. By 10:30 a.m. everything was ready to go.
The GIs strapped me into the regulation canvas straightjacket. They used the chain and locks to secure the jacket more firmly onto my body along with the parachute. The plane that we were getting into was not equipped to handle four people, so they removed the plane door to make the jump easier. The plane took off, with the pilot, the reporter, my safety jumper and myself all aboard.
One of the things they needed to do to make sure we didn't drift into enemy territory after the jump, was to find which way the wind was blowing. The solution was science at it's best. They would throw rolls of toilet paper out of the plane and watch which way the trail of t.p. was drifting. Here I am, laying on my back, trussed up in a regulation straightjacket and chains with a plane flying in circles while they throw toilet paper out of the plane to find the direction of the wind. The memory gives me chills even now.
It has always been my custom before any escape to say a short prayer. I'm actually into my prayer when I hear the pilot say, "It's time to jump!" Before I can even answer or react, the plane tilts suddenly spilling yours truly right out into the open air. The first thing I notice is that I am not having a sensation of falling, but having parachuted before, I know that I am. Quickly, I began my escape.
I know full well that time is ticking and any miscalculation on my part is going to leave a hole in the earth below me with a big red stain in the center. I wiggle my way free of the restraint and push the jacket down towards my waist. Immediately I reach for the rip cord and pull. I come to a complete stop but not without an incredibly painful sensation against my face. When I pulled the rip cord, the chain which was still on the jacket flew upwards and smacked me right in the face. Now that hurt! It left some pretty nice bruises.
After the initial shock of the chain hitting me, I look to find my cohorts. I see my safety jumper but the reporter is no where to be found. It turned out he was too scared to jump but did take a lot of photos of me as I descended out of the plane. As I'm drifting downwards, I see the area that I was supposed to land in, but I am drifting out to sea!
The sound of gunfire rings out from both sides of the river below me. This is a clear sign that the GIs are thrilled with my escape stunt! I ended up landing on the beach. My safety jumper landed exactly in the designated landing spot, show off. The officers and GIs meet me on the beach and they are extremely excited. I said to one of them, "Wow, everyone actually came out to see me, I could hear them firing their guns from both sides of the river!". The sergeant says, "oh, about those guys on the other side of the river, they're the Viet Cong!"

That's the story of my first big stunt. But more went on in Vietnam...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Cannon Escape

Following my successful 'birth' on February 22, 1967 and the Mirth, Magic & Mayhem fundraising show there was no shortage of offers for work. One of the offers came from the Oakland Auditorium. They were so amazed at the publicity I generated at the Tribune Tower, that they hired me to present my full evening escape show.
To publicize the event, I presented an escape for publicity called, "The Human Target". An antique brass Civil War Cannon was involved and yours truly was the human target. The cannon was an actual working cannon, but for the stunt we did not use a cannon ball. A five pound black powder charge was used which would shoot out a 25 foot flame and kick the cannon back several feet, even though it was anchored to the ground. If I were in front of this cannon when it went off, that would be the end of Mr. Escape.

The stunt took place in the parking lot of the Oakland Auditorium. Eight hundred people came out to watch this death defying escape. I will describe this in detail. A chain was wrapped around the barrel of the cannon several inches from the opening and was locked in place. I stood directly in front of the cannon with the muzzle pressed firmly against my chest. A chain went around my neck and was locked to the chain on the barrel. My hands and arms were also locked to the barrel. A chain encircling my body was locked onto the barrel as well. My feet were chained and locked to the wheels of the cannon. Without getting free of the chains, I couldn't even move sideways to avoid the cannons blast.

A one minute fuse was used and the moment it was lit, I began my escape attempt. This was a full view escape. I was very methodical in my approach. There was no room for error. My eyes were glued to the burning fuse as my hands went to work. They say that when you are close to death that things slow down and you can see your life pass before your eyes. I must not have been close to death yet because things seemed to be going much faster than I expected. That length of that fuse was disappearing in a bright blaze before my eyes and I only had one hand and a foot free. Then it happened. That inevitable moment of slow motion. The fuse had barely an inch left to burn. My head turned slightly to the crowd. Most of them were clutching their faces in horror. As I glanced back at the cannon the light from the fuse was almost gone.

I had gotten free of all the chains and locks and spun my body to the side. In my peripheral vision I could see the fuse light cease, a tiny puff of smoke came from the hole where the fuse was. I took another step sideways and then, BOOOOM!!! The twenty five foot flame shot forth from the cannon. The sound was so loud my head felt like it was being pressed in a vice. Momentarily my vision was blurred by the cloud of smoke that now enveloped the area around the cannon. People in the crowd screamed out, some not realizing I was free.
As the smoke cleared they could see me standing near the cannon, hands on my hips, the proud conqueror of another challenge. The spectators went wild! The Oakland Auditorium sold all of their 1200 tickets to the show and turned people away. The stunt was an unbelievable success.

Some time later, I presented the stunt for the L.A. Convention Center. This time, just prior to being chained to the cannon, I boldly and openly cut the fuse in half. Now I would only have 30 seconds in which to escape. Yes, I did escape in less than 30 seconds. Interestingly, the blast from the cannon was so loud in L.A. that it blew out windows in an office building a block and a half away.
I presented the Cannon Challenge Escape seven different times throughout my career. Always successfully! That my friends is another exciting and true story from the life of Mr. Escape.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

News Article Baker vs. Houdini

Another Article from 1967

Here is an article that describes the fund-raising show I did immediately following the Tribune Tower Escape. If you look closely you'll see they mention my 'Chicken Surprise' routine which was featured on this blog on Monday. At this point, I was still doing a mixture of magic, escapes, comedy and even mentalism. Eventually, I would drop everything for escapes.

Below is another photo covering my escape from the Tribune Tower, Feb 22, 1967.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Scarf

I have several, what you might call traditions. I always say a prayer before an escape and whenever I do the hanging Straightjacket Escape, I hold a scarf in my mouth that I drop the moment I begin the escape. The scarf helps to focus the attention on me and also for anyone recording the time of my escape, it signifies the start.
In 1967, when I presented the upside down Straight Jacket Escape from the Tribune Tower building, I had my scarf tightly held within my teeth. It stayed there while I was raised10 stories in the air. The Mayor of Oakland, John Reading had a stopwatch in his hands and was waiting for my signal to start the clock. The signal of course was the dropping of the scarf.
All of my focus and energy centered on escaping as fast as I could. The crowd below me, which was later estimated to be close to 20,000, came to see something special. I was not going to disappoint. I dropped the scarf and immediately went into action.
Seconds later I was free and the enormous crowd went wild! From my upside down position all I could see was a sea of colored motion. When I released my feet and climbed to an upright position, I got a better view of the thousands of Oaklanders and others who came out to see me.
I am sure that all but 2 of the 20,000 people were on my side. How could I know that two people were against me? Well, two people held up signs which read, " Don't Ruin Houdini" and "Hang it up, Baker."
Once I was lowered, the crowd started to push and swell in my direction. One man compared the mass of people to what it was like to see the Beatles. Eventually, we were able to control the crowd and I signed autographs and greeted my new found fans. One of those fans was an 18 year old kid named Dan Sutter. He was on the roof of the Tribune Tower building watching my escape. As I dropped the scarf from my mouth a strong gust of air carried it up to the rooftop, almost into his waiting hands. A cool souvenir for an admiring spectator.
Young Dan Sutter, came down and fought the crowd so that he could have me sign the scarf. I was more than glad to sign the scarf and leave the fellow with a memento to cherish.
That was was 1967, forty four years ago. At the time, the Oakland Tribune Newspaper even did a write-up on Mr. Sutter and his Scarf which you can see below. 

Tribune Tower Fish Eye

This magnificent photo was on the front cover of the local newspaper and picked up by papers across the country. This is what is called a 'fish eye' photo. Incidentally, my escape was recorded for posterity by the British Pathe Newsreel company. Video if the actual escape is still available through them.

Birth of Mr.Escape

I began my professional performing career back in 1956. During that time I performed as a comedy magician, a dove worker, close-up magician and stage performer. I was known as "The Great Gerhardt" for a while, which is a story in itself. But in February 22, 1967, I officially became Steve, Mr. Escape, Baker.
This came about in a most interesting way. Back in 1923 the great Harry Houdini was performing in Oakland, and he chose the Tribune Tower Building to do his outdoor upside down straight jacket escape from. At the time, the Tribune Tower Building had not yet been completed. Houdini was raised up to the ninth floor and then escaped. People in attendance said Houdini presented the escape in an 'amazing' time, but no actual time was recorded for posterity.
A member of my church had been present at Houdini's escape in 1923 and she shared with me her experience. It just so happened that I was going to be doing a fundraising show for my church and we thought this would be a great way to generate publicity for the show. No one had any idea just how much publicity this stunt would eventually generate.
The number of people who came out to watch me attempt the escape was first reported as 12,000 in the newspapers. But later estimates were as high as 22,000 people. Newspaper photos of the crowd show a sea of people covering blocks of downtown Oakland. There was a parade of antique cars before my stunt and my crew and I were escorted to the Tribune Tower Building in one of the cars supplied by the Antique Auto Club of Oakland.
Dawn Wells from Gilligan's Island
The Mayor of Oakland, John Redding was the official time keeper. Also in attendance were Oakland Tribune columnist, Bob MacKenzie who was also the events master of ceremonies, Actress Dawn Wells who played Mary Ann on Gilligans Island, former Alameda County Sheriff H.P. Jack Gleason, Tribune security guards Bill Willmoth and Roy Earp. My crew consisted of my father who was my head male assistant and Miss San Leandro, Pamela Zweifel who was my female assistant.
The two security guards placed me into the straight jacket. One of security guards, Roy Earp, happened to be the nephew of the famous Wyatt Earp of OK Corral fame. After I was strapped in, Sheriff Gleason checked all the bindings to be sure I was tightly secured and proceeded to sinch them up even more. Up to this point the noise from the crowd was quite loud. But as soon as they started to raise me in the air, things began to quiet. In fact, the silence was almost deafening. The crowd could actually hear the sound of the rope and pulley as I was being raised. I held a scarf in my mouth that when dropped would signify the start of my escape. But at that moment, I was just marveling at the sea of people beneath me. Everywhere I looked there were people. They were all over the streets, standing on the roof tops of buildings, and hundreds stuck their heads out the windows of the buildings that were within view.
I looked upwards and could see the pole that jutted out from a tenth floor window. The moment of truth was only inches away. I said a quick prayer, mentally prepared myself and then I dropped the red scarf. I could almost feel the crowd take a deep breath in unison as I started my struggle. I had rehearsed this escape in my head a million times and now it was time for me to burst into action. Frankly, it was more of a surreal blur because six seconds after I released the scarf from my mouth, I was free. I huge burst of confetti was released at the moment of my freedom and the crowd below went wild. I pulled myself up vertically and began waving to my new found fans. Maybe it was from hanging upside down for so long, or maybe it was the electricity given off by the excitement of the crowd, but I felt more alive at that moment than ever before in my life.
When I made it back to the ground, Dawn Wells threw her arms around me and kissed and hugged me. When she finished my assistant Miss San Leandro continued with the exuberant kisses. Not a bad way to be greeted after hanging ten stories in the air. The surrounding crowd was cheering and celebrating this incredible stunt. The editor of the Tribune presented me with a commemorative plaque that had my photo and Houdinis side by side. Afterwards I signed autographs, greeted fans, shook hands and enjoyed my new found fame, but the crowds excitement continued for a very long time.
I had just not only duplicated Houdini's 1923 escape, but I had beat it by being raised one story higher and escaping faster.
By the way, a few days later I performed the fundraiser for my church. So many people came to see the show that they had to turn people away. There was only room for five hundred. The performance hall was overflowing with people.
My show was billed as 'An Evening of Mirth, Magic and Mayhem". During the show I presented my full dove act, my complete comedy magic act and ended the show with an escape from a postal service mail bag. My church raised a lot of money that evening.
A wonderful ending for a great cause and a wonderful beginning for Mr. Escape.

For the record, I did my escape 44 years after Houdini and this blog is appearing 44 years after my escape!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Comedy Magic

Before I settled on one style of performing, Escapes, I was like many performers in the magic field, I did a lot of different things. One of those things was comedy magic. Even after I went to an all escape show, there was plenty of comedy in my program. The TV spots I did never reflected any of that, they only captured the serious side or the dangerous side of my character.

I loved doing comedy magic and comedy in general. One of my favorite comedy magic routines was something called "Chicken Surprise".  I combined elements of a drunk act and a cooking segment together with magic and became a chef who gradually got drunk as he was doing a cooking instruction.

It was my most requested non-escape performance piece. To the best of my knowledge, no video remains of that wonderfully fun routine.

TUESDAY Feb 22: The Birth of Mr.Escape

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mr.Escape & The Playboy Club

The Playboy Club and Two Policemen
Remember the Playboy Clubs? Thirty five cities in the U.S. and abroad had Playboy Clubs.They were very popular at one time and featured performances by some of the most popular show business figures of the time, like Bob Hope, Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Ray Charles and many more. They also kept a lot of magicians employed. The first Playboy club opened in Chicago in 1960 and the very last club closed in 1991. They were also a great place to meet with clients and managers. A great place for showbiz people to hang out.
I was at a meeting with my manager and a client at one of the popular Playboy Clubs in the L.A. area. During our meeting I was approached by two burley policeman who recognized me. They mentioned how they had seen me on television and enjoyed what I had done, but they were confident that I couldn't escape from a 'real' pair of police regulation handcuffs. We bantered back and forth for a bit about my ability and their lack of faith in that regard.
Keep in mind this was totally unprepared, a spur of the moment challenge. I stood up from the table and and allowed the officers to cuff me, right there in the middle of the dining room. The cuffs were clamped down on my wrists and the officers gave no regard to gentleness. I told them that I wasn't about to put on a show for the entire dining room, but if they wanted to head back towards the kitchen, I'd be glad to begin my escape.
I told them to stand near the kitchen door as I was not going to allow them to see exactly how I escaped, but by looking through the window of the door they could be sure that I wasn't going to leave or do anything too unusual. I think it was roughly about a minute later, possibly less that I stepped forth from the kitchen door free of the cuffs I handed the cuffs to the two policeman and told them, 'better luck next time fellas'. The people in the dining room erupted in laughter and applause.
They were stunned. Playboy Clubs had a strolling photographer that walked throughout the club taking pictures of guests with the world's most beautiful women. The policeman, now somewhat sheepishly, approached my table and asked if they could have a picture with me. So they flagged down the photographer and had a photograph taken, not with some of the world's most beautiful women, but with yours truly Mr.Escape.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Drowning 1958

Failure Means a Drowning Death
The summer of 1958, I was enjoying a leisurely afternoon at the lake with a young lady friend. The lake had a platform in the center that you could swim to and which also divided the lake in half. One half was for swimmers, the other for water skiers. I was a very good swimmer and decided to show off for the fine young beauty I was with by swimming out to the platform. I had done this many times before, this shouldn't have been any different.
I began by diving into the water and swimming a short distance underwater. I loved swimming underwater. Once I came up to the surface I swam out towards the center platform. Each time I slowed to see how close I was to the platform it seemed that I hadn't even moved. I swam harder, pushing myself to make the platform but again as I looked it appeared that I hadn't even moved. I did this again and again until I realized that the waves from the water skiers were preventing me from advancing forward. Unfortunately, by this time it was too late. I was exhausted from trying to swim all that way.
They say when you are about to drown you go down three times, but that's nonsense. I went down five times. I tried to yell for help as best I could. I tried to hold my breath, I tried to hold on. But that fifth time I was out of energy. I slipped below the surface of the water. I could feel my body drift down to the bottom of the lake. There was a strange warmth that consumed my body, the light around me was getting dimmer and dimmer, more warmth and then...
Two young teenagers had heard me yelling and saw me slip below the surface of the water. They swam down and pulled me off the bottom of the lake. A couple in a rowboat was nearby and the young couple and the boys pulled me into the boat and took me to the shore. Paramedics revived me and I was taken to the hospital where I spent three days.
Those days in the hospital were mostly filled with recurring nightmares of my drowning. I relived it again and again. Even after I was sent home, for several weeks afterward I would wake up screaming every time I'd fall asleep. Never in my life had I been afraid of anything like this. In fact, before this happened I had already done three underwater escapes in a swimming pool. But drowning never entered my thoughts back then. Once it happened, it consumed my waking thoughts and my dreams at night.
I mention the three previous underwater escapes in a pool because my next underwater escape was coming up. This time it was going to take place in a lake. The thought of it now was terrifying. I would break out in a cold sweat, seriously. To give you an idea of just how frightening this was to me, my brother, two friends and I went to lake Chabot with all of my escape gear. We were going to rehearse the upcoming escape. I was unable to get out of the car. I was petrified. Everyone got back into the car and we drove home in complete silence. I was sick to my stomach, terror filled my mind. My friends and brother were equally as scared, not for themselves but for me. How on earth do I get ahold of this fear???
I asked my Dad for advice. He knew full well how scared I was. Many nights I woke him up, along with the rest of the family, with my screaming nightmares. My Dad gave me some strong advice, "stare down your fear." Not very politically correct, but facing my fear was the only thing I could do, otherwise it would haunt me my entire life.
That night before bed, I prayed and asked God to help me deal with my fear. I then dozed off to sleep. At 12:30 a.m. I woke up sweating, there was golden glow in my room given off by the light of the full moon, I gave a short sigh and then I heard a voice in my head say "go back to sleep".
Almost instantly I fell into a very deep sleep. Again, I relived every moment, every second of my drowning. I could feel the warmth, I could feel my body floating downwards, I could see the light getting dimmer, more warmth and then the light got brighter, I felt warmer, my arms reached out to something, what I don't know, but they reached outwards. I felt a peace, a calmness, I felt hands on my body and then I felt myself floating upwards, up, up, higher, I could feel a hot light and then I saw an angel, a red haired angel, I felt hands on me and then suddenly, blackness.
There was a voice echoing in my head, Steve, Steve....It was my brother. "You're moaning, did you have that dream again?" He asked me. No. In fact I never had that dream ever again. And I've never since been afraid of drowning or water.
Since that time I have performed nearly 200 underwater escapes and fear was never a factor to worry about. The memory of my drowning motivated me to stay alert, always check my equipment, keep my safety at hand and never take chances!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jail Escape 1963

Tucson Arizona Municipal Jail
In 1963, I was stationed at the Davis-Monthan Airforce Base, which was a Strategic Air Command Base in Tucson Arizona. In my off duty hours, I enjoyed performing my comedy magic act throughout the area. I had recently been hired by the Catholic Church in Tucson to present a show on Halloween Night. I was hoping to drum up a little publicity for the show when something unique fell right into my lap.
The Municipal Jail of Tucson was getting ready for a big state inspection. They needed volunteers to help get the jail in shape and often solicited volunteers from the Airforce. Yours truly quickly signed up to be on the clean up crew. You couldn't have paid for a better opportunity to examine a jail. I spent two weeks working in this place, cleaning and experimenting with a way to escape from the jail. The time arrived when I knew exactly what I was going to do to escape from this jail.
I went to the authorities and challenged them! I told them, I would escape from any cell and from any handcuff they had in less than ten minutes. They were reluctant, but later agreed with the condition that I was not allowed to contact the press. Afterall, they were gearing up for a state inspection. The last thing they needed was a front page article describing how someone had just escaped from their jail. I asked them if I could at least have a testimonial on their letterhead which stated that I escaped and they agreed.
At 4p.m. on October 30, 1963, I was escorted into the Municipal Jail in Tucson Arizona. A committee, made up of the Chief of Police, the Head Jailer and several guards, were waiting for me. To say they searched me is an understatement. They really searched me! They didn't do a cavity search, but it was awfully close. Once they were certain I had no tools on me, they handcuffed my hands to the bars of the jail cell door. My feet were also leg ironed to the bars as well. I had two doors to get through after releasing myself from the cuffs.
Back in those days, dress shirts often came with collar stays. Typically they were made out of either plastic, or in the case of the U.S. Military, they were made of metal. Oddly enough, they also made a perfect shimming device to enable me to get out of the cuffs. I secured the shim from my collar and got my left hand free and then my right, followed by the leg irons. Now it was time to tackle the door. I'll not reveal my method, suffice to say it worked perfectly and I was free of the cell. Next I had to tackle another door.
Unknown to me, there were two guards standing on each side of the door. They were hoping to catch me. I couldn't see them. But they couldn't see me either. I had a hunch that someone may have been trying to spy on me, so I took the shim and rubbed it back and forth on the cell door making a metallic scraping sound. No one came out so I opened the cell door. The moment I stepped through they both jumped out at me. They didn't jump out though in anger or anything of the kind. They were excited and dumbfounded that I just escaped. One of the guards said, "I don't know how in the world you did that! We searched you from head to toe. We 'heard' you working on the door. You don't have to tell us how you did it, but we sure would like to know!"
True to my word, I didn't contact the press. And true to their word, they did send me the testimonial letter, signed by the Chief of Police, the Head Jailer and all the guards who were present during the escape.
A side note to the jail escape. Because of the gossip that spread through police circles, I was regularly hired to entertain for police functions in the area. Throughout my career, I always had great repore with law enforcement officers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

44 Years Ago Today

February 15, 1967

Still Alive

Hello Friends,

I wanted you to know that I'm still alive. The last couple years have been a challenge. But I'm alive and anxious to get back to consulting and creating escapes. I'm also anxious to share with you the many true-life stories that have happened to me. Now through this blog I can do just that.
In a few days, I'll be celebrating the 44th Anniversary of the Birth of Mr. Escape, the character I created back in the 60s and served me very well during my performing career.

I hope you will bare with me on this journey. I'm not the most adept at computers, nor have I ever been. I shall endeavor as best I can to share my story one event at a time.

I'll be posting things daily, hopefully. But watch for the blog to take off on Feb 22, 2011. (The Anniversary of the Birth of Mr.Escape!)

Steve Baker, Mr.Escape