Magic Man | Interview: Curtis Eugene Lovell
citizen-la-cover-curtis-eugene-lovellMarianne Williams | Citizen LA

Curtis Eugene Lovell the II announces that he truly believes in magic the moment we begin our interview….STILL believes in magic! Despite studying, KNOWING all the fake-out “magician” tricks, starting from the day his Dad mysteriously made a coin appear from behind his ear at the age of seven.

Today, Lovell is not only a master magician, illusionist, but, I’m fully convinced, the HOUDINI, the premiere escape artist, of our time. Lovell has performed so many scary, daredevil escapades, including being buried alive…eek!…one might wonder if he truly belongs in a straightjacket, permanently.

Indeed, Lovell’s Insurance carrier promptly cancelled his $5 million dollar policy after some company suits attended a show where Lovell, wrapped in weighted locks and chains, made a narrow escape from a sealed vat of water.

MetLife Insurance Company’s farewell letter reads: “Dear Mr. Lovell, We regret that we were unable to extend your policy…This decision was due to occupational duties.”

Curtis Lovell: “They say I’m a risk-taker…imagine that.”

Heidi Hutchinson: “Aren’t they discriminating against someone with a mental disability?”

Lovell knows I’m only teasing to break the ice. His quick wit and easy-going charm was immediately apparent even talking to him online where I first contacted him.

Curtis: “My Manager is negotiating a policy with Lloyds of London that covers other circumstances, not necessarily job-related, of accident or death.”

Heidi: “Are you as much of a risk-taker in life as on the job?”

Curtis: “Depends on what you consider to be a risk.”

Heidi: “Do you jaywalk?”

Curtis: “I moved to LA from New York City, where there’s a whole different attitude about jay walking. Police hardly ever ticket for it in New York. When I first came to LA a cop popped out of an unmarked car and chased me down the street, through traffic (!), trying to nab me for jaywalking. I surrendered and talked my way out of the citation. I told him, “Wouldn’t you run if someone were chasing you for what, in my mind, was no good reason?” …I haven’t jaywalked in LA since.”

Heidi: “Have you ever been arrested?”

Curtis: “Yes! I was pulled over for speeding and turned out there was a warrant for my arrest over some unpaid traffic tickets that I HAD paid. My cell phone was in my back pocket and I texted a friend from behind my back with the cuffs on to post bail right away. One of cops recognized me, then, and challenged me to get out of the cuffs. I said, “Why, so you can add more charges?! I get paid to do that, not vice-versa.”

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Lovell’s first death-defying stint occurred accidentally at the age of about 10. He was playing in a dangerous sewage ditch, was swept down in an undercurrent got caught on a drain grid and passed out drowning. “I had an assistant for that escape,” Lovell explains. “My friend managed to pull me out in time.”

Lovell lived on to pursue his early fascination with “magic,” delighting guests at family gatherings and first performing professionally as an adolescent. He did not visit the possibility of career escapism until the age of 19 when he was gifted a treasure trove of magic props from a retiring mentor that included a pair of handcuffs.
“I started toying with the handcuffs and with constant practice, was ultimately able to escape them in seconds,” Lovell says.

In fact, Lovell has become so expert at conquering restraints of all sorts that the U.S. Marines may hire him to test out some of theirs.

“My managers and I met with them to negotiate the terms of my contract and one clause I wanted in was that only a limited number of people with high security clearance could know how I escaped. One of the Marine officials made a wisecrack that that clause wouldn’t be necessary because there’s NO WAY I’m going to escape THEIR restraints. Now, I REALLY want to take on the challenge and do it!”

Heidi: “Don’t the revelations about Water Boarding and other hardcore military tactics make you nervous they might let it go too far?”

Curtis: “Water Boarding is something I’d love to try on that level!”

Heidi: “So, you’re telling me your escape methods are REAL, not tricks?”

Curtis: “Real as it gets.”

I expected Lovell to be evasive about revealing any trade secrets, of course. But I’m extra intrigued over this riddle about his belief in magic. For me “real magic” is an oxymoron.

Heidi: “Isn’t MAGIC really just undiscovered or little known science? …Human perception, hand quicker than the eye? How can YOU POSSIBLY believe in magic?”

Curtis: “Magic has made my life magical. Everything I’ve dreamed of, everything I’ve put my mind to has come true through magic. I watched Tony Curtis in ‘Houdini’ over and over as a child. I knew I’d meet him, work with him someday and voila’! There I was on stage with him at the Jules Verne show performing a couple of weeks ago. I always wanted to touch Paris Hilton. Who doesn’t? And, through my magic, I did.”

Heidi: “I heard you were responsible for Paris Hilton’s latest split-up!”

Curtis: “Yes, I cut her in half on her show.”

Heidi: “That’s illusion, not real magic.”

Curtis: “Ah, yes it is. I put my mind to it, realized my desire. Anything you put your mind to is possible. Even escaping death.”

Lovell shows me some of his ‘real’ stuff. He contorts his slender frame, twisting his whole body around his hand, taking on mind-boggling shapes and unnatural positions. He bends back his fingers, ALL the way back, like rubber.

He won’t tell me, however, if he was born double-jointed, acquired limbering skills through practice, or had any bones removed!

“Can you keep a secret?” Lovell leans in to me whispering.

“Yes, yes!” I answer eagerly.

Lovell studies my eyes as if he’s really considering giving up a juicy one. I hang in suspense.

“Guess what? I can keep a secret, too!” Lovell says finally, eyes twinkling.

Aw, shucks! He’s tricked me again. And I love it! I feel like a little kid, fascinated by magic. Still, I’m getting to the bottom of this!

Heidi: “Houdini performed naked hiding his escape tools where the sun doesn’t shine! Perhaps, he had the advantage of the unthinkable, definitely unspeakable, social mores of his day. So where do you put your escape tools, now that someone might check THERE?”

Curtis: “In my head.”

Heidi: “Huh?”

Curtis: “Everything has a vibration. I tune into that, into the weak link, the escape point. The key to escape is not, is avoiding, the obvious. The key to escape is staying calm and overcoming the fear, what appears to be the obvious escape route, the place you go in a state of panic. Look at this door, you’re locked in, where do you escape?”

I look at the door. My breath shortens and pulse quickens at the mere thought of being locked in! Lovell tells me he loves freedom above all. So do I! Hell, yes, I imagine I would pull at the handle, try to break the lock off, scream, shout, as I go, try to force Lovell, somebody to let me out even if it means driving us both nuts! Or maybe that’s just ME, in a panic.

“Yes,” says Lovell, in his mesmerizing way. As if he’s read my mind, my vibration. “You’re dead. You went for it, what you THOUGHT was the key. If you were in a vat of water, you’d be dead by now!”

Why? How much time has gone by? Longer than I can I hold my breath under water?

Heidi: “How long can you hold your breath under water?”

Must be a secret as there’s no reply.

Curtis: “Did you not notice the window above? “

I hadn’t before.

Curtis:“Did you notice that you could peel back the molding? …The rusty piece in the door hinge, the warp in the sliding track, the tiny space I can work my finger through and ease open. That’s where I go first and fast.”

Heidi: “OK, but someday, somehow, you might slip up. We’re all going to die but why tempt fate so young?”

Curtis: “Ah, but maybe we’re not all going to die. I’ve left instructions to have myself frozen. No autopsy, no mutilation of my body. I’m going to be deep frozen instantly, quickly as possible. I believe that’s one of the ways we CAN live forever, really cheat death.”

Heidi: “Is that why you’re not so afraid of death? Does your belief in Cryogenics help you stay calm in the face of death?”

Curtis: “Maybe, but I don’t like to be cold either! So that’s a motivator for me to get out: To keep from being freezing cold for the next 50 years or so until I’m unfrozen.”

Heidi: “What do you think about to fend off any panic?”

Curtis: “Jamba Juice. I love fruits and veggies. That’s another motivator to escape. I can’t wait to have my next Jamba Juice.”

Heidi: “Has anyone ever proposed something to you that you’ve turned down?”

Lovell (Grinning): “No comment,”

Heidi: (LMAO) “What stunts have you refused to do, I mean.”

Curtis: “No one’s come up with one yet but I’d never work with alligators. I’m deathly afraid of alligators. I wouldn’t work with any animal that could eat me alive. Gators are just nasty.”

Heidi: “On October 30th, 2009 at the Grand Terrace, you’re performing the most daring escape I’ve heard of yet.”

Curtis: “Yes. I shall be strapped upside down 100 ft in the air, dangling from a rope that will be set on fire. Whence I escape that, I’ll be dropped into a locked box of water. I’ll be working with all the elements, Fire, Wind and Water…and, if I should not succeed, Earth!”

Heidi: “That’s morbid. Why do you draw such huge crowds, what makes this entertaining?”

Curtis: “It’s an escape from reality. No one wants you to die. But they want to be there if you do!”

Heidi: “What other escapes would you like to try?”

Curtis: “I want to be chained to a sewer at a busy traffic intersection when the light’s red and escape before the light turns green.”

Heidi: “Would anyone let you do that, with liability and all?”

Curtis: “I’ve found it’s much easier to ask forgiveness than permission. So sorry, won’t do it again.”

Heidi: “Well, let’s hope you CAN do it again.”

Curtis: “True.”

Heidi: “You’re called an escape ARTIST. What makes you an artist?”

Curtis: “Art is about the way we as artists express our perceptions to others.”

Heidi: “What perception are you expressing with your art?”

Curtis: “That we create our own destiny. That fear is escapable, can be overcome. That anything is possible. Dreams come true. Magic really does exist!”

For more on the arts of Curtis Eugene Lovell II, upcoming shows, “how-to magic” videos and other tricks up his sleeve, please visit: www.curtislovell.com

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