2015 With winter here. I am starting to get itchy feet so I am booking a few dates for 2015. I need the money and also make it 49 years of what I love to do. I just can't give it up as this is the only business I know. Maybe I can perform in the 3 states that I have not been to in my career. They are HAWAII, ALASKA, and WASHINGTON.
After 48 years of dedicating my life to the outdoor entertainment business (Stunt show, thrill show world). I am going into semi-retirement with the option of still performing part time.
I have lived to travel every year since I started in 1967 with the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show. But over the years I have made nothing. I am over $80,000 in the hole. Plus I owe back taxes on my home and sewer and have lein's on my property. I can not even go bankrupt as I need $1,800 to pay a lawyer first and can not come up with enough for even a down payment. Let alone even file my taxes for 2013.
I very seldom perform in Maine, so my friends, family and neighbors can see what I do. The acts that I do best, it would cost me over a $1,00 extra to perform these acts in Maine as they involve fire and pyro. This is all in the name of safety by the State Fire Marshall's Office new regulations who puts everything in one catagory. Yet years ago I could and did perform these acts in Maine, Once I leave the border of Maine I don't have to pay these extra blood money fees Maine wants.
When I started in the business, there was over 30 traveling stunt shows now there is only 1 big show left and they only had 15 shows total in 2014. This show don't want to pay what a person is worth and don't have enough help to put a decent show. All the while the owner is pocketing over $1,000 per show while most help don't even make $400 a week minus taxes, etc. Also the owner now is on an ego trip and only cares where he is set-up instead of the best place to put an act or where a stunt can be scene by the spectators who pays to see the show.
What about the booking agents that don't want to book a show for decent money or another who wants to cut the show and puts in other acts that don't even belong in a thrill show like pogo jumping. And even one agency tells their prospected buyers who ask for a thrill show that there is NO Shows left out there, so they can book in a motorcycle fx jumpers for more money that performs the same type of jumps for an hour. (Boring after 30 minutes). If they do book a show one year they tell them they will not draw the second year which is a proven fact that this is wrong. Look at the Wayne County Fair which has 2 shows in 2 days and packs both shows each year and this is year after year after year.
What about the speedways that books in an individual stunt and calls it a Thrill Show. Or the monster truck shows that says they have a thrill show with just a motorcycle jumper or extreme riders. No fire, No bombs and think this is thrilling to the spectators.
The promoters who don't want to pay a living wage after you travel hundreds of miles and always want a better price. If you want a good act you pay a decent fee. Not try to get a local guy who wants to be a Super Star and do it for nothing. Then they get hurt, now they don't want any stunts!. An example1 guy I know booked an act. He buys all his vehicles and hauls them 300 miles to the show than waits 60 or more days to get paid by a check. A professional gets paid before he does the act as he is on the road traveling from show to show let alone be paid by a check as they bounce or your not in the area long enough to cash it.
Last year I played a date in Maine. We were suppose to do a crane drop. Less than 2 days from the show, the crane company that was furnishing the crane, CANCELLED. They did not call but e-mailed the track. The track could not come up with another crane, so they asked if I could do a couple of car crashes instead and I said I would. I set-up a few acts but an hour before the gates opened the rain came in and the show was cancelled. My contract stated I would receive $500 but the track owner didn't like that I was getting money as I am local. He came up with a check and at least it didn't bounce, but what did he think I do things for the fun of it? I drove from DuQoin, Ill to Maine and had to go back to Stoneboro, PA for my next show. This money didn't even pay my expences. Of coarse I didn't come back this year.
I lost another show to another guy from Michigan who thinks it was great. Of coarse he took the date for less money. He didn't relize I really didn't want it after last year and I have been there for 5 years. It was the Night of Destruction and the track announcer did not care about any stunts as it was only the racers he cared about. He never came down once in 5 years to find out what we were doing or who was doing the act. Last year it started raining out and I was going to do the Human Bomb Act that I did on America's Got Talent. The demo derby was done and the announcer kept on talking about the driver and the demo. The spectators was getting wet, the area became a mud and water hole so I asked the event producer to get a hole of the announcer and of coarse it didn't matter to the announcer as he kept on talking so after waiting 5 minutes I just went and blew up the box with out and build up on the act. This is the mentallity some tracks treat you.
Other tracks has booked me in and less than a week before the scheduled performance and they cancelled the performance for some reason. Now I ask for a deposit and some tracks balk at this. At times I ask for my money prior to performing and they don't want to pay up front. But I have a check that bounced because they pay afterwards and then they claimed they didn't have enough to pay cash.
This is just part of what I go thru and now I don't care. I will be working on this, up dating this comment of retirement in the next few weeks.
2008 wa one of the worst years that
I have had in 42 years of performing.
I have had many calls for performing in the beginning of the year but very few have booked the show as the promoters are worried about the economy and spectators are not coming out to the races. So far every track or fair that I have been to have larger crowds than their regular race nights as they have something else to see. This means there is money out there. Promoters have to advertise and add special attractions to make money. But they do not believe this. Other promoters think instead of hiring a professional touring stunt person that cost a few dollars more, they will bring in a local want-a-be stuntman to do the same stunts after receiving info of the full time professional. Now, the local stuntman screws up the act or gets hurt and now the promoter does not want another act. This has made my summer one of the worse in years.
I have kepted my prices down and it is catching up to me as the cost of gas, and other materials to perform an act has gone up over 20%. Coffee at truck stops resturants has gone up over 30 cents, motel rooms are up over $40 per night than a year ago and some think we are over paid. If you break down it is an automatic $200 for repairs for a car or over $500 if you are in a truck..
Now to make things worse is insurance agents who can not find liability insurance for the bigger shows and don't tell you until the last minute they could not get an underwriter after trying for over 2 months. All they say is we have another place we are trying. Because of this I lost a big paying date that has put me in the hole for the year and 5 other guys that was going to work this show is now without a payday.
It's not a big deal for these agents who sit in an office and takes home a payday every week but is a big deal who relies on these dates to make money when you only have a few months a year to get a pay day.
How about the big Insurance companies like Allied who wants you to guarentee them 10 shows and put up $10,000 up front and they will insure you. The small guy that has 2 or 3 show now are uninsurable. Or the one insurance company called The Insurance Company from New Hampshire that told me they could get the insurance for $5,000 for one show that was only paying $7,500. Now how do you pay professionals and travel expences on $2,500 and make any profit? Isn't this an accident claim looking to happen? What is happening is these companies are trying to put a profession / business out of business that has been going strong for over 70 years with very little claims. They tell us we are high risk. The only high risk is using in- experienced want-a-be stuntmen to work for nothing. Also the fairs that think we can do a show for prices that were set over 20 years ago. I quoated the Clinton County Fair in NY $6,000. This was too high. They was looking for a quality show for a top price of $5,000. The fair ended up getting The Ledgion Stunt Show who took it for $4,000 but the owner cried how he didn't make any money on it. The show was good for the price but not a quality show.
I live in Maine and the State Fire Marshall's office that has set standards so high I do not play Maine because I will not play their money game in the name of safety. Taking test on things I do not do, even after the States adopted NFPA codes says, if we can prove we know what we do or prove that we have done it before in the state, you do not have to take a test. If licensed by another state than the state should regconised their license but Maine don't see it that way no matter if it is written in the NFPA codes. After this week, hearing from the stuntman that played Presque Isle, I see the State Fire Marshall's Agents only want to apply the law on flame effects to certain ones and others can do the same act without the license and permits. Is this a human rights violation or discrimanation in the wat they apply the adopted laws from the NFPA rules.
This maybe my last year unless things change for the rest of the year. 42 years and it is getting worse out here for making money. Where is the honesty of the 60's when I started and all you needed is a hand shack. Today even a written contract doesn't mean a thing.
In the next few weeks I will be dealing with a lawyer as my annoncer (Larry Rich) failed to show up for a show that he signed a contract for. If his claim, like I have heard from his wife (Ruth Thomas), than I will have to go after the thrill show owner (Paul Riddell of the Imperial Hell Drivers) he was working for, for interferring with my contracted labor. When in business no one is your friend as many will stab you in the back. So called friends! Why not work together like the Circus World.
P.S. Come October when my season ends I will list the above problems with real names even if it makes waves as I will probally give up the business after 42 years.
Here we go:
My friend Scott who is an agent in Freeport, Maine tried to get insurance for my 3 dates. But he came up empty, even after I told him about another agent in NY on how she did it for Doug Danger. Doug's agent could not get it for me as I did not have an address in New York, but she told me I could get it from the same company in NY if an independent agent contacted them. I was told the company would not get back to him. It didn't happen. Five days before the show his assistance e-mailed me that she couldn't find any and went on vacation knowing I was on the road. I tried to call Scott as he was never end or answered my calls to notify me in time. He did not get back to me until Friday afternoon that it was a no go for Monday. I had to cancel the show. I had received a deposit and used it to get equipment and travel money to get to this date. It was spent. Now I only lost money for the date and now I have to pay them back without having any money. I finally found insurance for the next 2 shows that was double the $900 that Doug had paid for the same kind of show. Now any profits was gone for the two big shows left. No money to pay back the deposit.