Luis Ortega…

Luis Ortega…

I’ve been meaning to order the book: Luis Ortega’s Rawhide Artistry even since Meagan Baldwin mentioned it to me a few months ago.  Well I finally got off my duff and ordered it, Meagan says that Ortega’s work is amazing!

Luis Ortega rawhide artistry

I ordered the paperback edition (the hardback was a little “too rich for my blood”) from Amazon.com…at $26.95, it’s not a bad deal!

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Matched Pair of Bullwhips…

Matched Pair of Bullwhips…

Today I continued work on the Matched Pair of Bullwhips that I started yesterday:

You’ll notice in the pictures above I “punch” the yokes of my bellies.  I do that by taking a leather punch and putting a hole at the start of the strand.  The reason I do that is when they are braided and rolled, you will get a little bump there and this reduces that bump. If you don’t punch it you will need to trim off the bump…however sometimes you still need to when you punch the yoke.

I’m excited to get to the overlays of these bullwhips because I’ll get a chance to try out something that Paul and Lauren at MidWest Whips mentioned to me and by coincidence Adam Winrich and I talked about to help strengthen the transitions of these whips.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Matched Pair of Bullwhips…

Matched Pair of Bullwhips…

Yesterday I started a bit of work on two bullwhips.  They both are 7 foot 12 plait kangaroo bulllwhips.  I’m making them as a matched pair even though they are going to two different people.  The main reason I’m making them as a matched pair is more for fun and to make it a bit more challenge on my end.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Kangaroo!

Kangaroo!

About half an hour ago FedEx dropped off a shipment of four whiskey colored Veg Tanned Drum Stuffed Kangaroo skins.

Kangaroo

Our new puppy was very interested in the package…she had to inspect the skins to make sure they were good enough to turn into whips:

veg tanned kangaroo

The kangaroo skins were a bit smaller than I had requested.  I asked at least three of the four to be a minimum of 60dm, however what I got was a 52dm, 55dm and two 56dm skins.  From what I’ve heard the kangaroo supply over the years has been slowly dwindling and this may be a result of that.  Based on the “industry gossip” I’ve heard it’s not because of any lack of kangaroo, but lack of people who will go out and get them.

This morning I also finished the strand prep for the 16 foot bullwhip:

bullwhip

Today I’m going to probably trim up the kangaroo skins that came in today and maybe cut out some bellies before I have to get ready for my evening gig.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

16 foot Bullwhip Progress…

16 foot Bullwhip Progress…

Well I really under estimated how much work this bullwhip would be.  It seems like I’ve been working on it forever and I sort of have, well not actually working on it…but it’s been I’ve been working on for a while.  This project has had to compete for time with performing (It’s the busy summer season), my road trip, and squeezing in the odd other plaiting project here and there I’ve probably been working on this for a month.

I’m almost finished cutting out the overlay, which has been a bit of a challenge because it’s coming from three different kangaroo skins. My calculations were that I’d need just over two of the skins that I got sent for the bellies and overlays.  How I calculated this was I can make an 8 foot whip from about a 63-65dm kangaroo skin, so multiply that by two.  However I am cutting everything a lot longer than it needs to be to make sure I don’t run out of lace.  I’ll use any leftover for keychains or some other small project.

I’m cutting the lace for the overlay a bit wide as well, then I’ll resize and do any adjustment to the taper of the strand.  Then it’s time to split them to the same thickness, and give the all a quick pare.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Dog Leash

Dog Leash

Yesterday while I was trimming some of the stretchy area on a kangaroo skin that will be part of the overlay of the 16 foot bullwhip, I cut a few strands for a dog leash.  Now this is great timing because we have a new puppy around my house.

dog lead

It’s a simple 4 plait leash and it is actually braided around itself to make a sort of slip knot.  I also made a simple latigo slit braided leash, but the dog pooped on it…good thing that was the easier one to make!

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Bullwhip Performance…

Bullwhip Performance…

You may or  may not know that my full time job is as a Professional Magician, and I perform over 300 shows a year!  I’ve been thinking a lot about performing with a bullwhip and recently saw where an “expert” recommends being yourself and not a character.

Being yourself not exactly the best advice if you intend to perform professionally.  It’s fine for an informal backyard show, but not if you intend to make a living.  I can’t think of any successful performer is 100% themselves on stage.  When you are onstage and you are playing yourself, there are things you don’t mention, or embelish or just plain ol’ make up.

Before I go any further, if you asked the general public (people with little or no knowledge of whips) who are the most well know whip crackers in the USA, who do you think they’d say?

I’d bet that at least 9 of 10 times they’d say Indiana Jones, Zorro or some other movie character.  Wait a minute the most famous whip crackers are movie characters, that someone dreamed up, then an actor figured out a way to play them.

Hmmmm….

Here’s an example and I’m not going to name any names but there is a very successful stand up comic that I’ve opened for who is very much the same on stage as off…but the version of himself on stage is single where the real world version is married.  Before stepping onstage he takes off his wedding ring and makes no reference to being married.  He doesn’t do any material about being single either.  I asked him why he does this and he says he audience laughs harder when they perceive him as single…and yes he says he’s tested his show both ways with the ring on and off.

So basically my point is you have to think about what  you want to portray to your audience and write a show to with that character in mind.  Oh yeah, you need to sit down and write out your script as well.  Why is that important?  Well once you’ve decided what you are all about, you need to convey that to the audience.  That may mean leaving out jokes or whip tricks that don’t advance your character or general plot.

Now you need to think of Reactions Per Minute or RPM’s (I took this term from Stand Up Comedy that has Laughs Per Minute).  A reaction can be anything from and Ohh/Ahh to a laugh, to applause…it’s like the name says a reaction.  How many do you need?  Depends on your character, if you are comedy based your reactions will probably be higher because if you tell a joke and put two tags (a tag on a joke is something related to the joke that is said after the punchline) on it the RPM’s will skyrocket.  Where if you are a doing a more technical demonstration your RPM’s might be lower than a comedy act.

RPM’s is another place where me in real life differs from the me on stage. Whenever I do something at home I don’t “sell it”.  I don’t have a huge build up to me staining the deck, I just go to home depot, buy what I need and stain the deck…but if I were tell you about staining my deck in a show it’d look way different!

There’ probably be more jokes and hurdles in staining the deck, like (I’m just writing these jokes off the top of my head so they are probably horrible!):

“My wife asked me to stain the deck, so I got drunk and spilled wine all over it.”

“I went to Home Depot to get some stain…why don’t they call that store by it’s real name…Not In Stock?”

“Did you know they have clear stain?  Makes no sense, like having hot ice cream.”

“One thing the Home Depot is good at is upselling me to things I don’t need on the way out.  I ended up leaving with a diet pepsi, batteries, and two Mexican day laborers!”

“They tried to sell me an ergonomic brush…I didn’t know what ergonomic meant, so I looked it up on my iphone.  Ergonomic is latin for 30% more expensive.”

Now look at the ergonomic brush joke, while it’s not the best joke in the world, there is something important in it.  Did you notice the lie?  Probably not…I don’t have an iPhone.  But saying iPhone is a much easier way of saying that I looked it up on my Samsung Blackjack II smart phone.   Now if I was to “be myself” that joke would be a lot clunkier!

Also above are just jokes, then you have to sell why it’s soo hard (whip cracking is a skill act).  So during the build up you would might say/do things like:

Demonstrate a crack as part of the build up to a trick, and after the crack (with no audience reatcion) say, “You act like you see this every day…come on” and start clapping to begin to train your audience the appropriate way to repsond.

“Not only am I going to make the tip of the whip break the speed of sound and knock the flower out of this lady’s mouth…but I’m doing it into the wind.”

“If I’m 1/8 of an inch off she could lose a finger, so if I can do this and she keeps all her digits give her a big round of applause”

“Alright on the count of three”

In your regular “being yourself” life you don’t do build up.  I don’t bring my wife into the kitchen and sell me doing the dishes:  “On the count of three I’m going to load the dishwasher…and if I can do it without shutting your finger in the door give me a huge round of applause!”

The advice to “be yourself” onstage is very misguided from a stagecraft point a view as well.  For example when I talk to someone in real life I usually stand looking them and they will stand facing me.  However onstage if you do that you are closing off audience and being very selfish.  It’s be better for you and your assistant to stand at angles to each other to while talking.  It’s a very unnatural way to stand…but it looks soo much better on stage.

Then there is costume, where the “be yourself” ideas is horrible!  Me in real life I wear a Tshirt and Jeans…which is fine for normal life.  But that’s not what I want to sell onstage.  So I wear jeans and a formal western style shirt that I have the sleeves shortened on.  I have a variety of these shirts so that I have options to stand out from whatever background I have.  A good example of a bad costume and background combination is the color black.  If you have a black background and wear a black shirt, my torso will be very difficult for the audience to see.  So if I was being myself and showed up in whatever T shirt I threw on that morning, it can seriously alter how the show is viewed by the audience.

In the world of magic there is a line about your performing character from the a very famous (but long dead) magician Robert-Houdin that goes like this:  “He is an actor playing the part of a magician”  So to tweak that to the whip world, “You are an actor playing the part of a skill act”. Now you need to figure out how you as an actor would interpret that role.

So to sum it all up I think that the “Be Yourself” advice is decent for someone that wants to do informal shows (and doesn’t really aspire to anything more) or is very lazy and doesn’t want to think about how they can have a top notch show.  Also I think the person giving the “Be Yourself” advice is trying to make performing seem easier than it actually is, or has very little experience performing onstage.

Don’t be lazy…be an artist.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

James Maxwell in Seattle

James Maxwell in Seattle

July has been a very busy “whip cracking month” for me and yesterday was no exception!  James Maxwell and Chris were in town and we managed to meet up briefly to do some whip cracking:

Unfortunately we only had about 30 or 40 minutes to crack before I had to head off to a gig.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Alex Green passes…

Alex Green passes…

Alex green is a person that I only knew through reputation and his videos Whip Cracking Made Easy vol 1 & 2 that he was in with Mark Allen.  However based on what I’ve heard of him the whip world (and western arts world) has lost a legend!

Paul Nolan has put up a bunch of unique pictures of Alex on his twitter feed at: http://twitter.com/MidWestWhips

Here’s his obituary from the Province:

Legendary film stuntman and Vancouver resident Alex Green died from liver cancer Tuesday. He was 68.

The Australian-born stunt master was most famous for jumping boats for Bruno Gerussi in The Beachcombers and cracking the whip for Anthony Hopkins in the 1998 film, The Mask of Zorro.

“I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a stunt man in cowboy movies!” Green had written on his biography on the Stunts Canada website. “I lived for the Saturday matinee — three hours of heaven!”

He grew up watching westerns with idols such as Roy Rogers, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott and Lash Larue — the latter of whom he admired for his whip.

Green would later become internationally renowned for his western gun-spinning and bullwhip-cracking, performing in more than 2,500 shows around the world.

He moved to Vancouver in the 1960s and then took off to Hollywood, where he fell, fought and played with fire in productions such as the Superman films, Death Hunt, First Blood, Shanghai Noon and more.

At career’s end, he had doubled for such Hollywood heavyweights as Jack Lemmon, Omar Sharif, Christopher Plummer and Peter Falk.

In 1970, he helped found Stunts Canada, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

The organization’s current president, James Bamford, remembered visiting Green’s studio in Gastown when he was younger and having Green teach him how to spin a six-gun until his fingers were numb.

“He loved the film industry. He loved cowboys,” said Bamford. “He always kept the attitude of a child, based on his love for film and television.

“He had thousands and thousands of stories that he would whip out for you at any given time on call.”

Green struggled with liver cancer over the past year, Bamford said, and though he and his wife never had children, the stunts community considered him “a godfather to us all.”

A small gathering will be held in Green’s honour this Sunday afternoon from 2 to 4 p.m. in Pitt Meadows.

“You only go through life once. You’ve got to give it your best shot,” Green had written online. “What could be better than being a cowboy in the movies?”

Louie
http://bullwhips.org

Bullwhips in progress…

Bullwhips in progress…

Right now I’m working on a few bullwhips.  I’ve got a 16 foot 12 plait bullwhip in the works and so far I have the two bellies finished, but still need to do the last bolster and overlay:

bullwhip

A bit ago I just finished a 4 plait bullwhips:

bullwhip

Tomorrow I’ll start work on the final bolster of the 16 foot bullwhip and begin cutting out the overlay.

Louie
http://bullwhips.org