A World Record For Blockheads

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At what point in your life do you seriously look in a mirror and say “Today’s the day I jam a power drill up my nose.”? Are you inspired by the legendary Priests of Caladan? Was their ability to influence nations away from the brink of chaos using visual intimidation and divine prognostication something that touched you deep in your soul? Is it some twisted desire to push your frail form to heretofore unimagined limits? Or is it something more base? Maybe just the chance to do something that you know will freak your parents out.

Whatever the motivation, AOL News’ Marc Hauser recently decided that he had to give it a whirl.

Just 20 minutes before showtime, (legendary blockhead, Harley Newman) found me, pulled out a plastic cocktail sword, offered his guidance and simply said, “Do it now.”

And I did. Left nostril.

My eye teared a bit as an involuntary reaction, but no harm was done. I was ready to join in the record attempt.

On Saturday, 36 human blockheads set a world record by performing the stunt simultaneously on one stage. That’s me, second from the right (front page pic), with the look of great concentration.

Wolf had an equally quick lesson and seemed even more comfortable with the process than I did.

“It’s not that hard. It feels very natural,” he said. “I actually didn’t want to take the object out of my nose. I’m thinking of something else to put in there.”

Newman offered a few additional tips for proper blockhead safety and showmanship:

“You should always use an object with a handle, otherwise it can slip in, and you’ll have to go in with tweezers to get it out. That’s not fun. I think (though not everybody agrees) that if the handle of the object is the only thing people see, it provides additional verification that there is no trick,” he said. “Using an object that everybody understands to be real, like a plastic cocktail sword, increases the reality of the stunt. This is why I tend to use the drill, after establishing the fact of the stunt. Many folks assume that the drill is gimmicked.”

James Taylor, publisher of the sideshow journal Shocked and Amazed, used the handle of a comb for his role in the record. “I’ve only been doing the blockhead act since last year’s Sideshow Gathering, when I realized how aptly named the act is,” he said. “My hope is that now the record’s been blown away, that one day we can put a blockhead on the moon.”

The Human Blockhead stunt was popularized more than 70 years ago by the late Melvin Burkhart, whom I had the privilege of watching in action when he was 94 years old. Many of today’s sideshow performers still use his routine. “All you gotta do is get a good start and then you pound like the devil,” he’d say with the spike sticking halfway into his head. After a few more hits: “Ooh, hit a bone. But what do you expect out of a bonehead?”

Think of it this way kids, the next time your mom tells you to stop picking your nose, you just tell her you’re practicing for your new career.

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