How To Land A Gig Breathing Fire and Live To Tell The Tale
(A string of fortuitous happenstance)
I recently had the pleasure of breathing fire for Steve-O from Jackass as part of his national “Steve-O’s Entirely Too Much Information Tour,” a hilarious stand-up and stunt show covering sobriety, misadventures, and LOTS of TMI. This is the story of how that came to be.
On a Monday night not too long ago at the not-exclusively-country Nashville musical establishment known as the Mercy Lounge Neil Young happened to saunter in. Amongst the crowd assembled for their weekly 8 off 8th (Mondays at Mercy Lounge) event was a curious cast of characters that included my friend Yvonne and her trivia team companion Kyle. Yvonne was the first to notice Neil, and her relation of this fact to Kyle sent him into swoons. Kyle was a bit afraid to go over and talk to Neil, but I cheered him on to give him the courage, citing that he might never have a chance to speak to him again.
So he did, and nearly passed out from excitement. Later I found that Neil Young was checking out the place for a memorial concert for his long-time friend and pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith. (Local Nashville artist and occasional co-conspirator Brandon Jazz happened to be tending bar that night, and had the honor of pouring shots of Patron for he and Neil and drinking them together).
Fast forward a few weeks.
It was a Wednesday night and I decided to go with Yvonne to her rehearsal for the rock opera The Sighing Hours (Yvonne plays a central part in the performance). We took her car, and after a little bit of parking shenanigans finally got into Bongo Java for the rehearsal. We walk up to the small theater upstairs, and sit down. It is the middle of a meeting about logistics for the show, and Yvonne motions to her neck. The pendant on her necklace, an opal and silver turtle, went missing. I point my finger in the air, signaling “One second,” and then rapidly walk out the door, now on a mission. My first instinct was to go to the original parking space that we decided against at the beginning of the “parking shenanigans,” but it turned out to be a red herring. I walked along the original path we took to the front door from that spot, and it too proved a fruitless endeavor. Going back into the rehearsal, I asked Yvonne for her car keys, looked in the car, and didn’t find it. Having nearly given up, I walked back to the cafe and find it on the pavement, completely undamaged! I returned the pendant to Yvonne, who is both elated and dumbfounded that I was able to find it (never doubt a wizard, by the way).
A minute or so later, Kyle (remember the guy who wanted to meet Neil Young?) sent Yvonne a text message about Steve-O being at The Wild Cow (she is vegan, and so is Steve-O). She can’t go and so I borrow her car from the rehearsal and bring my camera, hoping to get some shots of Steve-O when I get there.
In the parking lot of The Wild Cow, I almost chickened out. I sat in Yvonne’s car thinking up reasons why I shouldn’t go and see Steve-O and why none of this will work and the like, and then I just said “Fuck it,” and walked right in.
I walked through the door, and he saw my camera, smiled a half smile, and continued talking on the phone. I needed to stall a bit, so I purchased a Reed’s Ginger Brew and sat down. I watched him from the corner of my eye without making it obvious, sipping my ginger beer, waiting for him to get off the phone. Once he does, I said hello to him. We took some pictures and make some twitter posts, and all was well.
Then I found out what the original twitter post was about:
It seems Steve-O needed a firebreather for his comedy act.
It just so happened that I had learned how to breathe fire as something fun to do at parties. To test my abilities, he handed me a glass of water and instructed me to repeat after him. He emitted a burst of atomized liquid on to the pavement and the car unfortunate enough to be in its path, and I did the same. Satisfied with my performance, we left the Wild Cow after a short photo session with some happy fans and were on our way to Main Street Liquors in East Nashville.
On the ride there, we both came to a hilarious conclusion: both of us are sober, and we’re driving to a liquor store.
So we go to the liquor store, Steve-O and I, and purchase a bottle of Bacardi 151 to use as fuel.
At first the people in the store didn’t recognize him, But they eventually caught on
We went next door to the convenience store and purchased a lighter. The clerks knew that Steve-o was in the house, and got photos with him out front.
So here is the set-up:
We have the two clerks giggling and smoking cigarettes, and Steve-O and I preparing to breathe fire. On a main road. In the ghetto-y part of Nashville.
I popped off the flame guard with a lighter, Steve-O rolled up the bag and dips it into the 151, and we lit it up. I took a smallish mouthful of liquor and held it in my mouth, then expelled it in a fireball. Steve-O wasn’t too impressed with the size of the first burst, but he was happy with the aim. (I would be doing this off of his head later, and as such, it impressed him greatly that my aim was true).
So there we were, blowing fireballs on a main street. The busiest one in East Nashville. While the convenience store clerks watch. One of the fireballs turns blazed into the night, and Steve-O tweets it, impressed. We ended up chatting for a bit longer, then he drove me back to my car. We parted ways, and he told me to meet him at Zanies the next night (Thursday) for our opening performance! He told me that he will put me on the list +1.
I showed up to Zanies with Yvonne and my 151 in a paper bag. We got to the door and I informed the door guy that I am on the list and will be on stage with Steve-O. He told me that I was not, but I managed to just barge my way in via my conviction that I am supposed to be there, so they seated me near the stage
I watched the comedy act, (I will not detail in its entirety at this moment), and it is pretty damn hilarious.
The show came to the last act, when Steve-O started doing typical Jackass stuff, like balancing a kitchen knife on his nose:
And squeezing the juice of fresh lemons directly into his eyes:
Finally, he asked the crowd if they would like to see him do something really creepy. He proceeded to explain to them that he asked Zanies for a firebreather, and that they couldn’t find one, so he found out what twitter was for and came up with me.
He then invited me to the stage. By this point my adrenaline ran like a river, my heart pounded in my chest. I have never tried this liveand I now have to breathe fire utilizing Steve-O’s flaming hairspray soaked hair as the ignition source.
Standing by at ready was Chris Killian with a fire extinguisher. Steve-O sprayed on the hairspray, so I fill my mouth with 151. There was a slight problem. The hairspray he used happened to be rather sub-par, so I am stood there with a mouthful of corrosive liquor that started to seriously desiccate my mouth. I held it there with the stoicism of Marcus Aurelius. Steve-O finally got it lit, the lights dimmed, and I emitted a burst of flame from my lips.
The crowd went wild, and I grabbed my camera to take some photos. The manager of Zanies scolded me for bringing the 151 into the bar, which turned into an unexpected boon, as he decided to give me 4 seats for free to each of the remaining shows. So all in all, I made some cash, got Kyle into the show (remember the text message that started this all), and had a hell of a good time.
By the last show, Steve-O gave Zanies a signature, like comics are apt to do. Being Steve-O, his signature was a little different than your average comic.