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.