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April 2014

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Robert Dante's personal performing website.


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Recent Posts

  1. "March to the East"
    Saturday, March 22, 2014
  2. Into a new world
    Thursday, February 13, 2014
  3. Yes, Virginia, there is a Playboy Channel...
    Wednesday, December 25, 2013
  4. 'All Politics is Local'
    Wednesday, December 25, 2013
  5. A Peek into a Whip Artist's Notebook
    Saturday, November 02, 2013
  6. Log Entry
    Sunday, October 27, 2013
  7. That Was That Summer, That Was
    Wednesday, August 28, 2013
  8. Guinness World Record - Fastest Whip
    Friday, June 07, 2013
  9. Dante's Last Year
    Monday, May 06, 2013
  10. "Silhouette Whipcracking to Music !"
    Sunday, May 05, 2013

Recent Comments


"March to the East"

Kinky Kollege in Chicago went off very well, except that the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosemont wants to charge you $4.50 for a soda pop and charges 10 bucks for parking in their garage even though you are a guest. The quality of presenter and attendee was high.
A leisurely drive to Feel Me Breathe in the Hudson River Valley and a full-blast 40-minute show by me and Mary, superb, electric. We nailed it.  Day-long workshop was very gratifying. Sunday breakfast with Sno on her new stove. Made some friends, I think, and got to enjoy the ferret which was fascinated by the color of my beard.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch -- NYS Thruway Authority's free wi-fi service blocks both my mainstream website and my "other" website. 
Whip lesson with Miss Couple at La Domaine, dance instructor (tango, ballroom) - catches on quicker than most, this background as good as martial arts.

On to Manhattan via Megabus from Albany -- oh, dear. Met by host, dropped off at Chinatown hotel, left to ourselves for day and a half, four floors up, bedbugs, Chinese TV shows, no mattress, bedsheet on a box spring. Cigarettes on the fire escape, watching rats. May lose on this trip any profit we may have made so far. Will not drop price -- that would burn those who have paid. Never thought the goal would be to break even.
Hmm -- Los Angeles is two-dimensional because it has Distance; Manhattan is three-dimensional because it has Density.
Being picked up in 90 minutes to give New York City our Best. 

Into a new world

Feb 13, 2014
Just enjoyed my 61st birthday yesterday. Maybe enjoyed is not the right word. Now into February, with much unfinished business already looming ahead for 2014. 
Rehab continues on L shoulder, and now includes elbows (Lateral epicondylitis, both arms). "When sorrows come, they come not as single spies but in battalions." Getting range of motion back in shoulders, although Tasmanian CutBacks remain off the menu. I am happy to settle for progress, if not perfection (where have I heard that before?)
First show in 6 months with Mary went well, two 10-minute sets vaudeville-style, with the first public appearance of my alter-ego, "Albino Magnifico" (always said with a flowery flourish of the hand). 

Still waiting for the video. Ached seriously afterwards, but the nice thing about performing is that it doesn't bother me in the moment, in fact it generates energy. One of these days that may catch up with me. 
Thank the gods I live in Minnesota where I have good health insurance. My death insurance is not so hot -- I found out today the policy I've been paying on since 2005 only covers accidental death or dismemberment, not death from natural causes or disease. I am like the trapeze artist who found out after his show that he'd been performing without a net. Not happy. 
Getting ready to take the Windstar on the road to the east coast in March. Must make preparations for this caravanserie toward the rising sun. Tick tick tick. 
Can't get over some of the birthday greetings I received on Facebook and Fetlife, especially the ones thanking me for workshops and presentations I gave 15-20 years ago. I can't believe the first Mary threw all that good work away for a cardboard illusion of a man -- In Los Angeles, the basic currency is "I will support you in your delusion about yourself if you support me in mine." This is a folie a deux I do not subscribe to. Obviously, they deserve each other. But then why do I deserve my present Mary, of whom this other unnamed person was merely a transparent promise? Happily, asking such questions does not preclude appreciating the present.
Still amazed I actually have relatives, never mind friends. Grace happens when you have done nothing to deserve it. And I have lived much of my life by grace of the gods. 

Yes, Virginia, there is a Playboy Channel...

...and their checks did not bounce. From beginning to end, a positive experience.

Here are some pictures from my appearances on the Playboy Channel, some years back. 


And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street...

'All Politics is Local'

'All Politics is Local,' said former Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O'Neill. It's not often I get so pissed off I feel the need to write about this subject, but there has been some provocation. I have left the 768 MPH Group on Facebook, for what I consider to be good reasons. The standard currency in LaLaLand/Los Angeles is “I will support you in your delusion about yourself if you will support me in mine.” It seems my posting the Guinness World Records standings (at www.bullwhip.net) touched some nerves -- especially in Adam Winrich, who complained the guidelines for some records were vague and not what was intended – he should know, since he wrote them. I do have to agree, though, they were nowhere near as precise as the guidelines I wrote for the first actual whip cracking record in 2002. I thought I told him about this potential pitfall to credibility when I told him in 2004 how I established a Guinness World Record and suggested he do the same.  

Adding to the argument comes Gary Brophy (a pretty good whip handler, actually), sulking that Adam and Krist King stole his “long whip” record, then going on to say there were record holders for whip cracking in the 1950s (apparently Guinness itself does not know about Saltbush Bill and the gang).

Further, Adam W says there are two records I do not mention – flowers and straws cut out of a mouth in one minute, which he says could be the women's contribution to the Guinness Records (wow, I thought some of them could actually crack whips). 

Enough is enough. I deleted my account there because the idiots, hypocrites, liars, thieves and frauds were starting to get under my skin, and I knew I was going to say some things more scathing but just as true, especially about one husband-wife team in the wake of the Britney Spears/S&M hubbub of a few days before. I rarely see such hypocrisy displayed with such arrogance outside Congress. Do 'folks in the know' really need to update the IMDB listings for these two with verifiable credits and videos (which you can buy at Amazon.com), or will they learn to keep their mouths shut?

Strange how a group of cronies in LA refers to me as “that guy” as if it were an insult, while on the East Coast others tell me “you're the man” in praise – and I've not moved an inch to accommodate either. A Yes, a No, a Straight Line. Obviously, it's time to write my memoirs, because History belongs to those who write it, perhaps more than to those who actually make it.

A Peek into a Whip Artist's Notebook

I thought I'd share this to show what kind of pre-planning goes into something that looks spontaneous. This is from one show (with multiple sets) a few years back:

Hotcha Cornya (3:56)
Styrofoam strips for both of us, coke bottle glasses, small-normal-huge cards,
4 whiffle balls with elastic string anchored
1 - 0:58
dangerous - build up to final stunt: side cut - kneel - cut off top of head - throat cut

2 - 2:58
Spike Jones spoof - Russian
:00 oof start Mary sets noodles
:30 kick up yr heels Show card to audience
:40 bells 1 ungh ungh Norm card switch for small card
Glasses - Switch to big card
:49 wah wah Eye rub - Switch to norm card
1:01 bells hey hey hey Card cut - vertical down
1:10 gulg
1:22 bells 3 hey hey Card cut - vertical up
1:28 horn
1:41 bells 4 hey hey Card cut - horizontal 45º
1:47 banjo
2:00 bells 5 hey hey Styro self cuts (X2)
2:06 bang blooh fart
2:19 pop-ding X 4 4 rising shots with elastic string
2:36 bells 6 False ending
2:43 finale Dance, double wrap

Open with one minute of straightforward, daring styro strip cutting, ending with dangerous "Throat Cut" stunt. I Immediately bounce into Spike Jones spoof of classic Russian song. I show the audience a playing card, give it to Mary, turn my back and walk to my place. While my back is turned, she substitutes a teeny-tiny playing card for the card I gave her. I look at the miniscule card, disbelieving. I put on coke-bottle glasses and look again. This time, she has replaced the teensy card with a gigantic playing card. I remove the glasses and rub my eyes, during which she puts the original card back into her hand. We do three card cuts: first vertical coming down, second vertical coming up, third horizontal. I do two self-cuts with styrofoam strips. I pop four whiffle baseballs out of Mary's fingers rapidly (black elastic thread will send them soaring off the stage like something from a LoonyTunes cartoon). I take a bow as the music ends, but Mary isn't through, because it is a false ending. Mary dances a Charleston behind me. When I notice, I join in and we finish with a wild Charleston together until the music really ends.

Indy (4:57)

1 - 1:03 prelude: mystery exotic discovery - Talk: physics and dynamics of the whip, Indiana Jones, Maxim quote

2 - 1:16 action theme Mary sits close as I do flashes, using two 5-footers

3 - 1:58 Triumph on the mountain Newspaper cut 6-footer
:45 build up to finale
:57 payoff
second build up stamp - needle holders - target board
1:40 second payoff

4 - 0:40 recap action theme Wraps: knees, waist, bra, X's, neck wrap using 8-footer

Our tribute to Indiana Jones. I talk for one minute (music BG) about the whips, the physics, the danger, ending with my Harrison Ford story. I crack a flash routine with Mary sitting between my legs, the whip coming very close to her. I switch from 6-foot bullwhip to two 5-footers and execute two-handed routines, never touching Mary, who is inches away from serious injury but emerges unscathed. We do the newspaper cutting stunt, taking a newspaper from full double page down to postage-stamp size with 6-ft whip. Mary takes a surgical needle holder and holds an actual postage stamp out for me to cut. I miss. She pulls out a shooter's target and holds it behind the stamp as if she is trying to help me home in on the target. I miss again. She flips the target so now the target sheet shows four fierce red arrows pointing at the bullseye. I slice the postage stamp in half and Mary takes credit for the success of this stunt . We finish with a series of wraps, closing with a neck wrap with which I pull her in to my side for our final bow.

Glow in the Dark (5:00)

1 - 5:00 2 streamers with poi
3 candles (lit candle on cart)
2 balloons

Mary comes out with a streamer attached to a poi, spinning it like a swashbuckling sword. I use a whip to syncopate with her, so we are standing very close and missing each other as the whip cracks (Swashbucklers).
I step back and cut the streamer's tail off a few inches at a time. She gets a second poi with streamer and spins it horizontally over her head as I cut the tail off a few inches at a time. I do a few victorious flashes. Mary holds up a candle, which I snuff. She relights the candle and adds another candle to her hand. I snuff both candles at once. She adds a third candle. Due to the difficulty of this stunt, I may or may not snuff the three candles at once. If I do, great. If I don't and I get only two, Mary very obviously blows the third one out and I will raise my arms in triumph, as if I didn't see her do it. She winks at the audience. We do a balloon dance with the two balloons, popping them. We finish with one more two-handed routine which includes two-handed wraps with Mary and a move we call The Marionette.

Log Entry

This says it all, I think. Thank you, Mr. Cohen.

That Was That Summer, That Was

Sitting on a porch in Minnesota, savoring these last sultry days of summer sun, I reflect on the plasticity of time and how it molds itself to events, spikes and nubbles and fuzzies and all.

The Farewell Tour of Robert Dante was launched in May with a two-day appearance in Memphis, a fun city with spectacularly spooky graveyards. Outside their creaking gates, Life abounds in all its rich variety of restaurants, book stores and always, music. Between them, workshops, lessons, demos and parties. Ah, life.

Mission accomplished, we cruised to our next destination at our leisure, napping in rest stops until we reached Camp Crucible in Darlington, MD, a nine-day smorgasbord of workshops, demos and consults. The place, under the guidance of Uncle Frazier, retaught me how to relax. I liked the place strongly – and savored the positive vibes – enough to make this the venue to try to break the Guinness World Record, “Fastest Whip.” This entailed cracking 10 cups in a row with a whip. Simple enough, until you realize it had to be done in less than 4 seconds. First attempt went well, with ample volunteers to witness, record and deliriously cheer. But when we looked at the numerous videos afterward, it was obvious the gods were laughing. There were 11 cups lined up, not 10 -- and I'd still broken the record. A few days later, we marshaled the troops once more – this time, it was clockwork, with the 10 targets struck with cracks in 3.87 seconds. All the evidence gathered, tapes burned to disk, statements taken, and off to London went the heavy package. In the past, Guinness took 6-8 weeks to affirm or deny new record claims, but now their email said it could take up to 12 weeks. Patience is exercised as much as persistence in the world-record racket.

Watching the videos, I was mesmerized by the slow motion of the whip. There also were 3-D versions of the exercise, which opened our eyes to possibilities for future videos. Everything came together – even the still photos by William seemed to be divinely synchronized, with 7 of the 10 target cups hanging in the air simultaneously as the uncoiling whip prepared to strike again.

Next gig, we motored to Burlington, Vermont, where our hosts were gracious and welcoming. One attendee came from Montreal, bringing a bottle of “Dante” red wine with her. I am not a drinker, and there was more than enough wine to go around for those who wanted some. I am told it was tasty. Out in the country, long-haired horses in paddocks and pastures watching, the whips cracked for two days, and I think I did pretty well with one hand. 

Ahh – that “one hand” thing. Actually, it's the left shoulder. Adhesive capsulitis, aka frozen shoulder. Endocrine problem, diabetic hazard, not enough slippery juice in the joint so things lock up, painfully, whether you're moving or not. Gravity itself becomes the great enemy. Can't tuck my shirt in, comb my hair, put my finger in my left ear, or steer the car with both hands. The cure is to give a general anesthesia, pump the capsule full of fluid, go inside the shoulder with surgical instruments and manually break the adhesions loose. I've been told it sounds like branches being cracked to pieces, but with a quality surgeon your bones won't be broken -- even if it feels like it. I now refer to my orthopedic surgeon as my 'wingman,' and I am happy to recommend Dr. Tom Walsh of Minneapolis for any problems you may have in your arms or hands.

How bad is it? This is a career-ender, an unexpected and abrupt stop of a 25-year journey. The seven stages of grief, dark thoughts of mortality, the futility of the mission, the nature of the human condition at ground level. 

The floating roads took us to Cincinnati, where Mary's folks welcomed us for a few days before we fluttered back to Minneapolis, home base, for an oil change. The month of June was not yet finished, and we had a full head of momentum going.

We sling-shotted out of orbit, destination Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, one of our favorite cities, for a three-day weekend whip fest. Kind hosts Laura and Claude let us rest up for a week before hitting the boards again, and Bryan was our benevolent host. From him, I got a ticket to "The Farewell Tour of Robert Dante," which I will frame and hang next to my Guinness World Record certificates. 

Claude is a Civil War buff and owns many interesting books about the era, including a three-volume work about the Battle of Gettysburg I read over three nights. He and I also watched a three-part miniseries about Gettysburg and Daniel Day Lewis' flesh-and-blood portrait of Lincoln, right on the 150th anniversary of the history-changing campaign. Two weeks later, we'd drive through the actual battlegrounds in Pennsylvania.

Confident in Winnipeg, I took a shot at breaking a second Guinness World Record, “Most candles snuffed with a whip in 60 seconds." The world record had been held by Adam Winrich with 50 candles. I was certain I could beat that number. But the record had been broken a few months before by a Chinese national who raised the number to 78 candles, a mountain quite a bit higher and steeper than I thought it was.

I stacked the odds in my favor using a nylon whip which sprang back into its shape faster than a leather whip would. I could muscle the whip to get more speed without sacrificing accuracy. The rules stipulate the whip cracker has to be 2 meters from the candles – I used a 5-foot whip, relying on the fall-cracker combination of the whip to make up the distance. I positioned myself so the whip would be close enough to puff the flames out without splashing candle wax. It was a good plan.

One hundred votive candles were lined up in five tiers for the first day's attempts. I thought this would be easier if the targets were clustered – but they were so close that two and three candles at a time were being snuffed – and these candles would not count toward the total. Changing heights meant taking fresh aim every 20 candles or so. These results were not good.

Next day, we lined 100 candles along 30 feet of waist-high boards, each candle placed 4 inches from its neighbor. I planned to take mini-steps between cracks, the consistency of the motion allowing me to “cycle” the whip to go faster. This plan worked – but multiple snuffs of candles torpedoed me. The best clean count I could achieve was 74 candles. The record stood.

I do not mind failing. Babe Ruth was not only the home-run king, he was also the strike-out king. In my job, I put my neck on the chopping block again and again, like a matador. Failure becomes a dress rehearsal, no shame in not setting a new mark. You have to get out there, heart hammering, dry-mouthed, to stand on the line. You can't go for it without “going for it.” Nothing is guaranteed. You play the odds do your best and hope your gods are smiling today.

End of June reached, Farewell Tour was clicking along like a Swiss watch. We bid adieu to the green veils of the Northern Lights and chugged back into the good old USA on July 1st at Pembina, North Dakota.

Here, problems arose. We had three bananas from Canada to eat on the road. We admitted it. This was enough to warrant a complete search of the car, apparently. Mary and I were held in a locked room while they tore our car apart (perhaps looking for citrus or onions, as well). We heard someone announce they had found a computer. We remained sequestered while they browsed our files. Finally, a flak-jacketed youngster informed us there were “questionable” photos on the computer, but they would not show me the “evidence.” 

Curiously, when I pointed out that as a diabetic I needed to eat something after a few hours, they gave me – one of the bananas.

We were held until late evening, patted down and groped, interviewed  by an agent of Homeland Security. The laptop computer and several flash drives were seized. Here, 60 days later, the agent tells me they are still doing a forensic analysis of the computer, and they cannot tell me when they will be done nor what if anything they have found. 

The computer, incidentally, holds all my financial records, contracts, contacts, backups for books and flyers, email archives, notes about phone calls, scripts, writings, internet backups – in short, everything needed to run my business and maintain correspondence. Within two weeks, we had turned down at least $1500 in gigs for the fall because we did not have access to our computer. Time to involve our congressmen, I guess.

Turned loose, we zoomed to Minneapolis and immediately bought another laptop computer, so we were at least still online. 

We raced east, reaching Piscataway, NJ before July 4 for Tesfest 2013, where we sold our remaining stock of dvds and books. After a jam-packed weekend of workshops and demos (and complimentary whip repairs), we aimed the wrinkled nose of our car north to hang out for a few days with my friend R in upstate New York. Some private workshops paid for this part of the trip, a green immersion in the verdant thrum of the forest. I filled the quiet evenings with whip repairs and cracker weaving. An oasis is La Domain Esemar.

Next stop Pennsylvania, via Gettysburg, the chilling, gaudy tourist-fest of statues and pastures passing by on both sides of us, mile after mile. That evening, we camped at a friend's charming little bed and breakfast where Mary chatted with the resident ghost from the early 1800s (Mary will talk to anyone unselfconsciously, living or dead, a remarkable talent).

The rolling hills of Pennsylvania gave way to the steeper hills and forested mountains surrounding Roanoke, Virginia. I remember I lectured to a packed room, trying to talk loudly enough so the folks down the hall could hear me.

Once again, we embarked for Cincinnati. Mary's parents had renovated a downstairs bedroom for our use. We indulged in a week of blissful nothing, feeling peaceful. Already, we had traveled more than 3,000 miles from Canada. After we caught our breaths, we programmed the GPS to guide us to Greenville, Ohio for our last appearance of the summer, the Annie Oakley Days Festival Showcase, ramrodded by bullwhip pioneer and showman Gery Deer.

It's always good to see old friends – Kirk Bass and Melody (and their amazing kids), shaman Elk, Gery, a very tall Chris (The Whip Guy) Camp, lightning-fast Luke – a lot of whip handling talent there, so the whip demos drew the largest audiences of the fair, from the first show to the last

I tried for the candle-snuffing record again. I had held myself back, not participating in the contests and shows, but my left arm from shoulder to wrist by now had me in constant agony, draining my energy and my patience. I gave the candles two good tries, but I did not come as close as I had in Winnipeg. Knowing I'd have shoulder surgery in one week made the bitter pill of defeat easier to swallow, but it also made me wonder if the Annie Oakley Festival was jinxed. In 2009 I tried to break the 'most cracks in a minute' record, two weeks before my first surgery on my right shoulder. The results, still floating around on YouTube for the world to see, were disappointing. Hmm. Coincidence?

End of the road, back to Minneapolis, where Peter and Angel had offered us a safe place to recuperate from my Aug. 5th surgery.

That was that summer, that was. The Farewell Tour of Robert Dante in 2013. People still presume to ask my wife if I am ever going to get a “real” job, but as the Magic Eight-Ball says, “Don't count on it .” I stopped arguing with the gods years ago and accepted that a big part of my job is simply to do the best I can with what I have at hand – usually, that means either a bullwhip or a pen.


Guinness World Record - Fastest Whip

On June 1st, I attempted to set a new Guinness World Record for "Fastest Whip."

The record calls for 10 targets to be hit with a cracking whip. Witnesses, timekeepers (with clocks to measure 1/100ths of a second), photographers and videographers were all on hand for the event at Camp Ramblewood in Maryland.

The previous record was 4.85 seconds. My goal was to break the 4-second mark. My first run through was 4.37 seconds, good enough to beat the record -- but not good enough for me.

Saturday, June 1st at 10 a.m., I did it in 3.87 seconds.

The attempt was filmed from many angles, and included 3D versions. Here is a video taken at a close angle that captures the tension and speed of the event.

And if you want to see what the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has to say about it, read the story HERE

Dante's Last Year

Pirate captains used to write "last letters" to their crews before buckling on their swords. In that sense, I am writing such a letter to you, here.

I am retiring from professional performing as a bullwhip artist this year.

Adhesive capsulitis ("frozen shoulder") in my left shoulder limits my range of motion and drains my energy with pain. I am being treated with therapy and injections, but the constant pain is tremendous. Gravity is once again my enemy.

The same condition in 2009 froze my right shoulder as I was preparing to break my own Guinness World Record for most bullwhip cracks in one minute. I flew to London in a promotion for a new Indiana Jones video game. I failed in the attempt. I then tried again when I returned to the US at the Annie Oakley Festival. The number of cracks was exactly the same both times, miserably short of my goal.

One hydroplasty and two surgeries later, my right shoulder was operating again, although not to the degree it was before this endocrine-based ailment ambushed me.

I covered up, using my left arm more and striving more for accuracy than speed. I talked more in my shows and Mary started cracking a whip and standing closer to the front of the stage. It worked. The shows were still good, edgy, and held entertainment value.

I considered seeking a disability, but my lawyer (Greeman-Toomey) threw me under the bus and withdrew moments before the hearing, agreeing with the off-the-record judge that I could obviously still work if I could keep my website updated and use email. (We won't talk about the definition of "due diligence.")

At the same time, I'd developed lateral epicondylitis in both arms (tennis elbow) and carpal tunnel syndrome in my left hand (probably from all that updating of websites).

Happily, my belief that my method of cracking bullwhips would not lead to carpal tunnel syndrome was true -- it's all that other stuff that you have to look out for, like writing emails.

My type 2 diabetes sent me to the Emergency Room twice. It killed Brian Chic, a friend and fine whip cracker from Los Angeles. It now affects my eyesight in the form of a vitreous gel detachment in right eye, smudging everything to my right as though through an oily smeared window. This is not good for someone who takes the pips off a playing card from 8 feet.

Recently, two fine doctors - my internist and my orthopedic surgeon - told me point-blank this is my last year.

I am ending before I think I am finished, and that's a bitter one to swallow. You always think the party will end for others, but not for you.

I have several ongoing projects I did not complete. I see no one else pushing to get whip cracking into the Olympics. The prejudice of entities like Oregon State against whip cracking as a hobby and a sport needs to be publicized so others can see it for what it is. I wish I'd made the dvd version of my book, and made it a useful resource. I wish I'd seen a credible bullwhip TV show on the Travel Channel.

But that's the nature of change. The nature of growth. The nature of being who I really am in the world as it really is.

You'll continue to see me around, more as an alumnus like Arnold Palmer and less as a joke like Mike Tyson, I hope.I will try to step back with grace and style, because the whips have been good to me. I've tried to give some of that back, and I hope I can continue to.

In the meantime, do you hear that sound? It's the gods laughing.

Everything is as it's supposed to be.

-Robert Dante-

"Silhouette Whipcracking to Music !"

Whipcracker Lauren Wickline videotaped herself working with whips (which she made) and added some music. The result is breathtaking.

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