Down to earth with a bump

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am

Spring brings out flowers, birds and lovers. In New York, it also seems to bring out stunt artists, adventurers and daredevils. They want to use the city's movie-set landscape as the ultimate backdrop for their extreme or absurd feats. King Kong eat your heart out!

Last week, 30-year-old Jebb Corliss was snatched by police officers and guards on the edge of the Empire State Building's 86th-floor observation deck. He was just about to jump, and parachute to the ground. The 'base (that stands for building, antenna-tower, span and earth) jumper' had disguised himself in a fat-man suit to get his gear through security.

The struggle between Corliss - a TV stunt-show star - and the police was so bizarre that onlookers thought it may have been a show to mark the building's 75th birthday. Corliss, who said he had dreamed of flying from the Empire State Building, was arrested.

Then Tom Cruise promoted the third in the Mission Impossible series of movies this week by criss-crossing Manhattan by land, sea and air using just about every form of transport imaginable - including a helicopter, sports car, subway train, speedboat and fire truck.

In the movie, Cruise's character does what Corliss was denied - he leaps off a skyscraper, though this one is in Shanghai.

While Cruise was cruising around town, performance artist David Blaine lowered himself into a water-filled plastic sphere in front of the Lincoln Centre arts complex. He is going to stay there for a week - breathing, eating and excreting through tubes - before trying to escape from shackles and chains on Monday, holding his breath underwater.

The next item is a little less physically exacting, but just as weird. Tomorrow, writer and performer David Wise will be selling, for US$60, copies of papers he says were produced by the co-designer of Central Park. The papers, he claims, have clues that allow their owners to unravel one of the most important secrets in American history - it's hidden in the 341-hectare park.

Publicity stunts are not a shock to New Yorkers, who witnessed French-born Philippe Petit set the world record by walking a tightrope 365 metres above the ground between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in 1974.

Mind you, the city doesn't encourage such behaviour. Petit was initially charged, then forced to give a free public performance to amuse local children. And former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani told 'base' jumper Thor Alex Kappfjell in 1998 that his jump from the Chrysler Building was 'really a stupid and jerky thing'.

Reading from the same script, the New York Daily News last week described Corliss as a 'jumping jerk' and 'jumping jackass'.