Escape or Die

One of the more interesting people I’ve been introduced to through my work in television is escape artist Dean Gunnarson.  Also, one of the nicest.

I met Dean in his hometown of Winnipeg on the Halloween anniversary of his first big escape.  It was a Houdini-like stunt in which he attempted to free himself from a box lowered into the muddy Red River in front of 10,000 people in downtown Winnipeg. The escape failed. In fact, it nearly took his life.

Rather than being lowered horizontally into the water as planned, the trunk hit the water at too much of an angle, allowing too much water to rush into the box too soon. (There was probably a meeting with the crew later.)

One over-riding thought ran through my mind during my interview with Dean and during the trip back across the border that day.  This guy is a little crazy. But it’s a craziness that has taken him around the world more than a time or two.

This past December Dean successfully recreated the 1983 Winnipeg escape.  This time in shark-infested waters, as they say, of the Bahamas.

Dean and his Winnipeg crew are in the middle of production of a new reality series for Canadian television called Escape or Die.

Just last night Dean performed another outrageously  dangerous escape above the famed Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.  Again, the Escape or Die cameras were rolling.

The first of twelve episodes are to be seen beginning this spring on the OLN network.  I can’t wait.

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Guys on Ice

Going to be part of Guys on Ice next month, they tell me.  Guys on Ice is a “cheesy little musical” about ice fishing in Wisconsin.

Guys on Ice runs February 12 – 15, 19 – 21 and 26 – 28.  Reserve your tickets at TicketMaster and we’ll see you there.  You betcha!

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Je Suis Charlie

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Save the Date

We’re going to be emceeing the annual Raise Your Paws for Pets banquet for the Circle of Friends Humane Society Thursday evening, April 2, at Alerus Center in Grand Forks. We have done it several years now and it’s always fun.

Usually there’s a big live and silent auction and lots of fun, food and games. Much more information about it to come.  For now, hope you’ll save the date, April 2, and join us.

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Wishing you peace in the new year and always.

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Joe Cocker

Several years ago I was asked to welcome the audience to a Guess Who concert at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.  The opening act was Joe Cocker.

Waiting to “go on” to delivery my little welcoming speech, I was sitting backstage next to a desk.  The only thing on it was a meal request form from the caterer.  It read as follows.

Name:  Joe Cocker   Request:  Ham Sandwich

That’s all.

I wanted it very, very badly.  Framed in my kitchen, it would make a great conversation piece.

No one was around.  Several minutes passed.  But I did not pocket it.  For one thing, stealing is wrong. (Also, I was afraid of getting caught.) More importantly, I thought if I take it, Joe Cocker might not get fed on time. I didn’t want to be responsible for that.

Mr. Cocker was insanely good that night, as usual.  He richly deserved his post-performance ham sandwich.

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Ringing Dem Bells

In contention for worst selfie of the holiday season, I’m blaming the questionable lighting in the entryway of the Home of Economy.  I need all the (lighting) help I can get.

Nevertheless we had a great time ringing for the Salvation Army today.  Thanks to everybody for your donations. It doesn’t seem like Christmas until we’ve had a chance to ring.

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Dawn Sears

Sad to learn of the passing yesterday of Dawn Sears.  Dawn was an established and respected singer in Nashville, a member of the Grammy Award nominated group The Time Jumpers which includes singer/guitarist Vince Gill and her musician husband Kenny Sears.

I met them both some time ago when Dawn was working on a solo career.  More recently, she was also a backup singer with Vince Gill’s touring band.  I last saw Kenny performing with the Grand Ole Opry band in Nashville.  Two very nice people.

Dawn was born in East Grand Forks.  In recent months, she battled lung cancer.  She was 53.

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The Valley’s Talent

Congratulations to 12-year-old Autumn Lord of Grand Forks, the winner of this year’s The Valley’s Got Talent competition.  The 6th grade dancer beat out talented competitors much older than herself yesterday to win first place in the show and five hundred dollars.

Singer Will Beaton took second place, good for two hundred fifty dollars.  Gerald Alton, also known as rapper “Novicain,” takes home a hundred bucks for coming in third.

Yours truly helped judge this year’s competition along with Lisa Almquist, Naomi Dunavan andSteevie Frankl.  Ashley Johnson emceed the benefit show.

For many, many years, the Grand Forks Exchange Club organized a telethon that was broadcast in early December on WDAZ-TV and KNOX-TV (yes, KNOX television) before that.  The telethon morphed into the current talent competition four years ago.

The Exchange Club is responsible for lots of tremendous projects throughout the year.  Children’s programs like Coats for Kids, summer boating adventures and after school programs are among them.  The club is also interested in community violence intervention.  Several good reasons why its work should be supported.

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Elf Not Included

Ring, ring.

“Hi, it’s Bob Zany.  I’ve got an idea.”

It’s a call I get every year, usually a few weeks before Bob brings his legendary standup comedy to Grand Forks. It can mean a lot of things for me. It usually means my life is going to get a little more interesting in coming days.

On this particular year, Bob’s idea was even a little more off the wall than usual.  “It’s Christmas. I dress up as Santa.  You dress up as an elf.”

People will come early to Bob’s first show of the weekend to have their picture taken with us. Profits will go to a local charity of my choice?  Who can say no to Bob Zany and the Altru Cancer Center?

We enlist the services of photographer extraordinaire Rock Tweten.  He too thinks it’s a great idea and volunteers his services.

The big night comes.

We wait.

It turns out not that many people care to have their pictures taken with “Santa & his elf.” We spend the next hour mostly sitting and waiting for folks to show.  I fiddle with my elf ears.  Rock snaps shot after shot. Bob tells me dirty jokes for an hour.

Bob’s response to the less than spectacular crowd turnout.  “You try.”

A modest check is sent to the cancer center.

Time passes.

About six months later–July or so–I get another call from Bob saying he’s going to use one of Rock Tweten’s pictures of the two of us on a billboard to promote his upcoming Christmas shows somewhere in the world.  (It might have been St. Louis.)  The name of the holiday show:  Bob Zany (Elf Not Included).

Never did hear if that one panned out or not.

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