Sunday, January 14, 2007

Thomas Solomon - The Worlds Greatest Escape Artist

This is another one of my old friends, Thomas Solomon. No, he is not a dangerous psycho being restrained, (although some may beg to differ). The police are just assisting him for another one of his amazing escapes.

Back in the days when I was doing my acting thing, we shared a haunted house with a bunch of other guys. (Yes, there really was a ghost). The infamous 939 Summit Ave in Jersey City, in the Heights.

It was interesting sharing a house with Tom. Not only is he an escape artist, but he is also one of the worlds best card magicians. Let me just say that I know there is nothing he can't do with a pack of cards. You can take a pack of unopened cards, shuffle them, cut them, do what you want to them, then hand them to him, and he will deal out the cards, and tell you exactly what you have in your hand. Or he can do all sorts of other things with cards- from slight of hand to real magic!

It was doing exactly that at the casino in Monte Carlo that got him banned. All the ingredients were right- an empty table, a fresh pack of cards, and a willing audience. He had a volunteer shuffle and cut the cards to their hearts content, after which he started dealing out poker hands. He started with low hands, and discarded the dealt cards, until he got to the Royal Flush with the Ace of Clubs. Of course, he always dealt himself the winning hand. After attracting quite a crowd, security saw what he was doing, and escorted him out. Not that he could have played there anyway- he was under aged.

He originally started out jumping off bridges handcuffed up in Milwaukee and Chicago. Later on, he developed a nightclub act, mixing magic with escapes. In his nightclub act, he has a challenge. You can bring in any sort of restraining device and lock him in it or tie him up anyway you want. If he can't get out, you got $500. If he gets out, then he gets to keep whatever he escaped from. In this way, he has built up an impressive and large collection of restraining devices and handcuffs, including a pair of cuffs used to restrain one of the Lincoln conspirators. In case you are wondering, he has never had to pay out. That includes during a challenge for his Channel 4 BBC-TV special, where he spent 24 hours in Trafalgar Square with the same nightclub challenge.

All sorts of macho guys or bondage freaks have tried their best, but no one has been able to keep him restrained. Tom once told me that their was one time when he almost had to pay out. That was when someone used a special pair of handcuffs. The cuffs had two rings that basically locked your hands wrist to wrist, with the palms facing each other. In between the rings was a heavy cylindrical lock, purposely made that way so that your arms would tire and you wouldn't be able to lift your hands up. It had seven tumblers in the lock, so a key would have to be turned seven times to open it. It took him 45 minutes to get out of that one.

Of course, all his challenges are done in front of the audience, not in a box or behind a curtain.

He used to try out different magic tricks on me, and see what I thought. So I would be eating dinner, and things would burst into flames, disappear, and all sorts of strange things would happen with cards. He would try out his set up and his patter, and I would give him my honest opinion.

It seemed kind of appropriate that we had a ghost in the house, with Tom living in the basement with his collection of restraining devices, and macabre objects for his first off-Broadway show.

I gave him some advice and help writing that show. He had a writing partner, and where he found this guy I don't know. This guy wanted to make Tom's first show into a B-movie 1950's Sci-fi type of show camp show, which is the antithesis of everything Tom is about. So I read over the script, told him to ditch the writing partner, and just go with what you love. I read over his new script outline, and gave him some advice and ideas. For some reason, though, I never saw his show. I can't remember why.

After I moved out of 939, (or basically politely asked to leave), we kept in touch for a while, usually commiserating about our girlfriends. Tom had met an English girl who worked as a hairdresser on the cruise line he had worked for. He was crazy about her, and spent insane amounts of money on phone calls and plane tickets to see her. That, and and the cost of getting the effects and props built for his first show caused him to max out every credit card he owned. However, what they wanted out of the relationship was something different. Tom was focused on his career, and wanted someone who would support him, not so much financially, but emotionally. She wanted a guy who would work 9 to 5 and support them so they could have kids.
Obviously things didn't work out. One night he showed up drunk at my little efficiency apartment at 3 am. He was coherent and lucid, and we talked things over for two hours. The next day, he remembered none of it, and apologized for bothering me at such an hour. Ah, it was OK, because I knew he'd do the same for me.

Eventually he did find that woman, a theatre seamstress, who was all for his career, and they got married.

I recently got back in contact with him, and did a little catching up on what has happened since back in the day.

Some of the things that have happened since back in the day:

At the World Magic Awards, he was voted the "Worlds Greatest Escape Artist".

He did a Special for BBC Channel 4, and had other appearances on TV.

You can see video of some of Tom's escapes on

So You can say he's doing quite well for himself right now.

Here are a few more links about Tom:

His fan site
Tom's Interview with the Magic Circular
Tom's Blog