Melvin Burkhart

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Postby Matthew Field » 11/12/01 12:16 PM

I just learned of the death of Melvin Burkhart, The Human Blockhead, at age 94 in Florida.

Mr. Burkhart was given that name in a Ripley's Believe or Not column, which described his sideshow act which featured him hammering huge nails up his nose.

I saw Mr. Burkhart only a few months ago, at the wedding of Todd and Krista Robbins in New York, where he performed many of the sideshow pieces that garnered him fame in over 50 years of performing. His version of the "Color Changing Knives" was a miracle to behold, and it is expected that it will appear in a forthcoming issue of Genii magazine. Mr. Burkhart was the inspiration for Todd Robbins, who is featured in the Stevens Magic Emporium's video of Sideshow Stunts.

Melvin Burkhart's death was reported on the White Rabbit Linking Page, www.linkingpage.com.

Matt Field

[ November 13, 2001: Message edited by: Matthew Field ]
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Postby Guest » 11/12/01 05:40 PM

Matt-
Melvin was definately a legend in his field. I saw him work in 1986 at Side Shows by The Seashore (in Coney island) when John Bradshaw ran it. Saw the Knives routine and Blockhead. After the show I asked him about the Blockhead routine and he gave me three of the nails he had specially made in stainless steel. The nail head is larger than normal (for visability) and while not gaffed in anyway, the tip/point appears sharper than it really is. This is not my type of routine by will keep them as a remberance.
He was billed as the Anatomical Wonder - and he really was!!
........Doug Edwards
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Postby David Oliver » 11/13/01 01:03 AM

Matt -

Thanks to Todd and Krista Robbins, I had the fortunate opportunity to meet and spend a couple of days with Mr. Burkhart during the weekend of their wedding (where we were both on "the bill", as you know). He had an endless supply of carnival, theatre and magic stories, and I sat wide-eyed, eagerly listening to them all.

Although our encounter was brief, I will remember him as a gentle soul with a fabulous sense of humor.

For instance, on the chilly morning of the wedding, Melvin, his daughter and I briskly walked the four blocks from the hotel to the wedding. He was feeling rather ill, but tried to hide that fact from everyone around him. After all, he had a performance to do at the wedding. As we walked, he tripped on a curb. When I jumped to catch him, he said, "Oh I'll be fine. You know, I was a professional 'faller' in the old days. I learned how to fall without breaking anything. I can still do it today. But at 94, it just takes a little longer."

I told him that I hoped I would be as energetic as he was if I reached his age. He told me, "just hope you're vertical at my age."

Thanks, Melvin.

- David Oliver
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Postby Bill Mullins » 11/13/01 04:53 PM

I believe National Public Radio's "All Things
Considered" had a story today on Burkhart.
They archive stories on their website
in streaming audio.

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