A story told by the magician who “Lives in a Perverse Fantasy World with Unrealistic Expectations”
I have an American accent, I have an Australian passport, I live in Belgium and I am married to a Polish woman.
When I was 15 years old I saw this man performing at a festival, who called himself the Mechanical Man and he moved like a mannequin with electrical gears moving in side him.
I don’t know how he did what he did. I just know that I watched him for an hour and never saw him blink. He never smiled.
It was 1960 something, I was impressed how he could control his body. I was into gymnastics, I could control my body on a high bar, do full twisting backs on the floor but
this man had a control over his body that I wanted to learn!
I couldn’t believe anyone could do that type of movement. When the Mechanical Man was introduced in the Discos during the 70’s it was called ‘The Robot’ but back when I first saw it the man called it mime.
This guy made himself into a Mechanical Man!
I went to my mom and said, “Did you see this man over here? He’s amazing. He told me I could get lessons in Hollywood to be a Mechanical Man”. We were living in L.A. at that time. “Would you give me 80 dollars so I can take lessons?”
My mom said, “No, you can teach yourself, and I will help you.”
And I said, “How the heck can I teach myself to do that?”
Why are mothers always right? You can’t argue with mom. My mother helped me all along the way to becoming the Mechanical Man I am today. I don’t know why she did?
But come Christmas that year Santa brought me a top hat and white mens gloves, just like the guy I saw was wearing. I was on my way.
Over the next 4 years of teaching myself this Mechanical Man, my mom would give me stuff for the act.
On my 16th birthday I got my first Tuxedo, it was a used tux, but I had the whole outfit now and she took me out shopping for the makeup I would need.
My mom was the best!
Over the next few years when I got side tracked with other teenage things, she kept me interested with clothes for the show.
Now it was time for me to teach me, how to keep my eyes open for an hour. Practice standing still, and how not to smile.
I had to teach myself four things. Not to blink, not to smile, to stand still and move mechanical like. The order of difficulty from easy to hard was for me: Not Blinking easy, Standing Still, Mechanical Movement,then not Smiling was the hardest to learned.
I don’t know where the movement came from, I had no one to show me how to do this movement. It really was frustrating and my Mom said, “Keep working on it”.
I could stand still really well, but when it came to the movement … I did not like the way it felt. It took three years before I had the confidence to get in front of anybody.
I did not work on the act every single day. That is why it took three years. I was a teen, I had other things on my mind.
But then Halloween would come around and I’d be outside on my front pouch, standing still like a mannequin scaring the kids.
When my birthday came around or Christmas, my Mom would give me something for the Mechanical Man act, some kind of clothing, a bow tie, or a new jacket, and this would renew my interest.
This is how I learned not to blink: Everyday after school, with a stop watch in hand, I would sit in front of the TV and time myself keeping my eyes open.
And one day I went for an hour without blinking. I don’t know when it happened or how many weeks it took but I did it. One hour no blinking!
I told my mom and she took me to an optometrist, she was concerned I could hurt my eyes from keeping them open so long. According to the doc I couldn’t damage them, I could irritate them, they might turn red, but I couldn’t damage them permanently.
The first time I was paid to performed as the Mechanical Man was in 1975
It was in America, at an amusement park in Maryland, owned by ABC networks. I performed there in the summer of my 19th year on this planet.
I was just looking for a summer job and I wasn’t expecting to get paid to do the Mechanical Man. I went to this brand new theme park and I applied for a summer job, for whatever job they had, and what they had open was Park Maintenance Crew.
Yes, I got a job keeping the park clean.
While I was keeping the park nice and clean, I saw these guys walking around in costumes (like Mickey Mouse) only it being a Wild Life Preserve Theme Park they had an elephant,lion, and parrot costumes.
They had High School students working in these costumes, and I said to myself “That would be more fun than cleaning up people’s mess.”
I went to my supervisor and I told her I’d like to change jobs.
But she said, “No, you can’t change jobs! No one can change departments once they started working.”
A week went by and I saw the supervisor of Entertainment. I went over to her and told her about the Mechanical Man. She was intrigued and I offered to come to the office and show the upper management the Mechanical Man.
On my day off I went in full costume, did the Mechanical Man for about 10 minutes in the head office.
They really liked the robot, but I still had to stay in maintenance, I could not transfer to another department, those were the rules.
Then a week later the park opened 7 days a week, the lion, elephant and parrot were still in High School they could not work on the weekdays. I was in my second year of college, I could do the elephant all week long.
But then they asked me to do the Mechanical Man.
Back then in my first paying acting job, I would walk as the Mechanical Man, see someone interesting and walk towards them. If they did not run away I would move into their personal space and stare at them eye to eye and shut down until they did something or move away.
Then I look for someone else to try to get nose to nose to. What fun.
The fun part was watching how the people would react to this Mechanical Man.
I ended up that summer working as The Mechanical Man. I loved it. I got so much practice in front of people!
The whole summer was a learning experience! When summer ended I was “The Mechanical Man”.