Free Publicity

It was a Wednesday morning, I recall, when I opened the "local" section of the newspaper to page 5 and spotted the following article nestled down "below the fold".

Magician to Appear at Grand Opening of Supermarket

Magician and escape artist Flash Mildew will entertain during the festivities marking the opening of the new Spoonman's Food World at the corner of 12th and Wimhurst this Saturday. The highlight of the performance will be a daring escape never before attempted in the Northern Hemisphere.

Mr. Mildew will be secured by Duct Tapeİ to the front bumper of a 1989 Plymouthİ mini-van, directly in the path of a runaway grocery cart containing three cases of Del Monteİ cling peaches (in heavy syrup). Although the new parking lot at Spoonman's is fairly level, the cart is expected to pick up enough speed to inflict a very nasty bruise and perhaps a blood blister should Mr. Mildew fail to set himself free in time.

Other entertainment at the event will include a bear baiting exhibition, a tattooing booth, and a refreshment stand. Free "Spoonman's Feeds My Family" bumper stickers will be available while supplies last. And remember, every Saturday is double coupon day at Spoonman's (some restrictions apply).

Flash had apparently found himself a publicity agent -- and he was going to perform an escape! I just had to go see this. The publicity had turned out a much larger crowd than Spoonman's had expected. So many people showed up that they had to open a second pack of hot dogs for the refreshment stand.

Flash's escape act turned out to be an enormous success with the crowd as well! His original plan for the escape was simple: after having his torso taped to the bumper he would squirm around a bit and then reach into his pocket, pull out his key chain knife, and cut himself free. This in itself would not have been very exciting; so it is fortunate for the crowd that he had accidentally left his keys in the minivan.

By the time Mr. Mildew noticed that his plan had gone awry, the cart was well on it's way across the parking lot and his cries for help were assumed to be part of the act. The impact of the cart did no more than knock the wind out of Flash, but the gathered crowd enjoyed the unexpected climax enough to pull the cart back up the incline and set it off again!

The effect lost nothing thru repetition and the crowd was into it. By the fourth cycle, parents were letting their children ride in the cart on top of the peaches. Everybody got at least two rides before one of the bag boys came up with the idea of taping the bear from Leon's bear baiting exhibition to the front of the grocery cart to add to the excitement. An initial nose-heavy stability problem was solved by having the assistant manager hang off the rear of the cart to counter-balance the weight of the bear on the front.

By this time, Flash had managed to gnaw thru most of the tape holding him to the Plymouth. The impact of the bear/cart/peaches/manager tore thru the remaining tape and allowed our friend to roll under the minivan and escape the wrath of the bear, which ripped itself free and turned on the assistant manager.

Flash has been invited to appear at the next Spoonman's opening, which marks the first time in his career that he has received a repeat booking.