I've been asked repeatedly about the levitation of the [censored] Dolls at the MTV Movie Awards Sunday so I thought I'd share the story with the Genii Forum. I couldn't diminish the surprise before last night's show, but now it's been seen.
Kimberly Wyatt of the [censored] Dolls choreographed her barstool levitation for Celebracadabra with Murray and the Dolls' choregrapher Robin Antin at my house last year, and Robin asked me if I could arrange for all the Dolls to float.
I didn't hear back from her till earlier this month...a very tight time frame! Unfortunately, as you've seen on Celebracadabra, the European barstool levitation we used was fragile and fickle, and failed during the show. So I came up with a completely new design that was much more dependable and practical.
I had designed a barstool levitation back in 1988 and had twenty years to think about improvements! The new version had adjustable speed and other features to make it work in a challenging concert situation involving precise timing. I also made it easy enough so the girls only had to sit down on the barstools and concentrate on their dance moves. This meant moving the controls to an offstage control box so the dancers wouldn't have to set off the rise themselves.
My builders completed the job in record time and got everything perfect the first time...unbelievable. The Dolls management sent over custom pink roadcases, and the barstools were on their way to rehearsal.
At the rehearsal studio about 10 days ago, we began rehearsing the illusion. The choreographers worked out dance moves involving the barstools so they would appear to just be props in a dance routine, leading into the float naturally. They decided to have Nicole in the middle and not to have her levitate, since they felt she'd look odd singing as she floated.
The Dolls suggested ways to position themselves to conceal the method and because of their training as dancers, they were able to be in the exact proper place every time, no variation. Quite amazing to watch. They also had the physical ability to perform upper-body dance moves while keeping their legs stationary. In all, Kim, Ashley, Jessica, Melody, and Nicole were total pros, great dancers, and nice people, too.
Robin and the choreographers had me speed up the tempo to correspond to the music, and her vision was to have all four float at the same time...perhaps the world's first quadruple levitation. However, this entailed triggering all four devices at the same time, so I used a special bar to set them off simultaneously.
Rehearsals went great. The levitations worked perfectly every time without a single failure. Combined with a great song and the ladies' moves, the number looked superb.
Saturday was rehearsal at the Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal Studios near L.A. When I arrived, I watched stagehands using their muscle to plop the props and controls into place...good thing we built them solidly.
Then the director let us know that the controls would be split up, two stage left, two stage right, and they would have to be set off by union hands! Good thing we kept the controls simple! However, this meant that I would give a verbal cue to the stagehand working the controls on my side, while the stage manager next to me relayed the cue via radio to the other side of the stage so the prop man there could start the other two mechanisms. Everyone worked in synch, and the rehearsal went perfectly.
Sunday, as I drove to the show, I heard on the radio that Universal Studios had a huge fire on their backlot, demolishing sets and buildings, but the report said the awards show would go on! Almost all day, we watched black smoke rise from the fire, but run-throughs continued.
Backstage was amazing, with all the A-list stars passing through. Just before the show, it dawned on me that the Dolls were wearing new costumes I hadn't seen before...and I had to check to make sure nothing was dangling that could get caught in the equipment. No costume problems, fortunately, so I could breathe easy.
The elaborate [censored] Dolls set began about an hour into the show. I checked the speed controls to make sure everything was properly set and then took my place by the stagehands. As I waited for our number, a guy crammed himself next to me on the narrow walkway. I looked at my new Siamese twin and it was Johnny Depp. I said "Bonjour" - he lives in France. He smiled, said hi, and amiably punched me in the arm before going onstage to accept an award.
The number started, the Dolls rose from the set, and after two minutes I gave the cue. The girls rose as one and descended before continuing their routine, and as the pyro blasted and fire pots heated my cheeks, I cheered for the amazing Dolls and a successful adventure making these icons of femininity levitate.