Recently while visiting my home, my mother recalled a story for my children that I had long since forgotten. As I listened to her recount the tale, I was equal parts horrified, captivated, and inspired by my own cunning the likes of which I have at least tempered in the decades that have passed since the incident took place. She told the story of a night about 20 years ago watching a then popular news program-A Current Affair-on television that was featuring a local competition in a New York City bar. As she and my father flipped through channels they stopped for a minute because they thought they saw someone on TV that looked like me. They were right.
David Letterman had developed a ludicrous activity using the magic of Velcro back in 1984. A contestant dressed in the hook side of the Velcro material would leap from a tiny trampoline and attempt to stick onto a wall made of the loop side of the Velcro material. The object of this competition, and I use the term loosely, was to stick as high up on the wall as possible. This ingenious ‘sport’ became known as “Human Bar Fly”. A New York City pub called Perfect Tommy’s hosted a weekly “Human Bar Fly” night. On one of its first nights holding the event I begged a dear friend of mine to accompany me to Manhattan so I could try my hand at this sport.
I am a bruiser by nature, a bit of a bull in the proverbial china shop. So this activity was appealing to me. I did not tell my parents where I was going, nor did I make the mental leap between the camera crews on site and my truancy. Once I got there I remained focused and my objective was clear. There were several dozen contestants and the event was initially divided into men against women. I won in the female category. The winning height was measured by how high your feet were off the floor. While you were stuck on the wall a small group of judges would measure your feet to floor distance, briefly confer, and then viciously peel you off the wall.
While I was an athlete’s athlete among the women I was simply no match for the conqueror of the men’s category and to declare an ultimate champion he and I would have to go head to head. In a tremendous show of chivalry my rival geared up to go first for our final show down, the crowd cleared a corridor for him to run down, and with every leg muscle bulging from within his Velcro suit he began his run toward the wall. His powerful spring from the trampoline was impressive and his belly hit the wall high and hard like an ejected F16 pilot. He stuck it high. It was physically impossible for me to jump that high.
Koichi Tohei, the founder of the Ki Society and the practice of Aikido said, “Power of mind is infinite while brawn is limited.” And so an out of the box, or off the wall strategy if you will, was imperative if victory was to be mine! I quickly clarified the rules and verified that the measurement was simply feet to floor. With the information affirmed I zipped into my navy blue suit, took my place on the starting tape, scanned the floor for beer sludge or any other possible impediments to my success and began my run at the wall. Rather than the hard leap on the trampoline that my adversary had taken, I took more of a balanced and calculated bounce this time and then made a strong, close to the wall, head first front flip sticking to the wall upside down, back to the wall, with my feet high above my head and way above my opponent’s marker tape! Ingenious.
I won the admiration of every beer infused patron at Perfect Tommy’s on that night, the adoration of my friend (which I already had to begin with) and an on air interview on A Current Affair which would later prove to be my unraveling. In researching for this blog, it turns out my brilliant flip has been used by the masses since, as you can read for yourself in the following 1992 Newsweek article. http://www.newsweek.com/id/125528.
That clandestine trip to Perfect Tommy’s gave way to a hilarious night back in 1991 even after the news program aired my interview, and it made for even more memorable giggles with my family nearly 20 years later in a sleepy farm house. A good night, indeed.