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The Occasional When-we-feel-like-it
Email Newsletter from Sapsis Rigging, Inc.

006 February 5, 2001

Memo from Uncle Bill: Flying People
Product Specials Gizmo & Gadget Sale!
Press Release from USITT
Tete à Tete
Links we Love: Head Trip Around the Net


Memo from Uncle Bill: Flying People
What is it about the holidays that cause normal people to lose their minds?

Beginning in late October I start getting calls from community group technical directors, church deacons and high school music teachers who want to fly an actor in their holiday show. Invariably, the first thing out of their mouths, after they tell me what they want to do, is "but we don't have much money so it has to be cheap." These are intelligent, responsible people. People who probably pay their taxes on time, get regular dental check-ups and wear their seatbelts even when driving just two blocks away. What on earth would lead these fine upstanding citizens to believe that suspending their children from little ropes and wires over a stage for cheap was a good idea?

"We're only going to be lifting her 6' in the air" they say. "Fine", I respond. "Why don't you stand on top of a 6' stepladder, jump off and land on the base of your spine to see what it feels like. Then tell me if you want your kid in that position." Sometimes that gets their attention.

I hear it all. They want no supervision. They want me to sell them some rope, a pulley and a cheap harness and turn them loose on the Peter Pans and flying angels of the world. I have the same answer for each and every one of them. No.

People think that just anything tied around a person will work as a flying harness. They trot off to Home Depot looking for a 'safety harness'. The ever-knowledgeable salesperson (at Home Depot?) simply stares at them of course, not having a clue. That's when they call me. When I explain that all I carry are Fall Arrest or climbing harnesses, they ask if they can alter one of those. I tell them no and explain why these harnesses will not work; the harnesses aren't designed for this type of stunt nor do the manufacturers warrant their use in this manner. Then I recommend that they talk to one of the companies that makes flying harnesses. "Those people are too expensive", I'm told. Oh. What do you think that 6' fall is going to do to your kid's spine? Is it worth putting them in a wheelchair for life because you were too cheap to get the right harness? Some of the parents even listen at this point. For the others I move onto my next argument.

Experience. There's a difference between the bookkeeper that volunteers to run the fly rail once a year at the church pageant and the professional who's been running a fly system for years. That difference is, among other things, focus. Let's look at a possible scenario. Poindexter, the volunteer is running the rail. He is 17 and a senior in high school. He has a girlfriend, and she just walked backstage to chat during a rehearsal. Is this kid giving his total attention to the show or is he showing off for his girlfriend? Go ahead; think back to when you were 17. Right. He's more easily distracted because he's in unfamiliar surroundings and he doesn't really understand the repercussions of a mistake. Amy, the professional, does know what happens to someone dropped from 6' or run into the wall. She also knows that she can wait and take her boyfriend out for donuts after the rehearsal.

The professional also knows when to call it quits. When a flying effect works, amateur directors tend to act like they invented it all by themselves. They want to do it everywhere and all the time. Flying is an extremely tiring job, both for the performer and the technician. You've got to know when to draw the line and stop working before someone gets hurt. It's also smart to understand that not everyone in the cast has to fly. Cap'n Hook, played by somebody's paunchy dad, never looks good careening around on a wire.

Eventually I get through to most of these folks and they either call in a professional or don't do the gag. But I'm willing to bet there's plenty of others who don't bother to call and are blithely flinging their kids around a stagehouse. If you happen to know anyone like that let him or her know just how foolish their actions are and try to get them to stop. It'll be your good deed for the week.

Tsin yea quai la
(Happy Chinese New Year)
Be well & be happy

For more Uncle Bill visit our archives at:

Product Specials Gizmo & Gadget Sale!
All kinds of stuff you never knew you needed.
Indispensable lightweight tool for removing par can bulbs and leko lens
Suggested retail $20.00
SPECIAL $13.75
Versitile multipurpose tool perfect for lighting fixtures. Use with any of
your 3/8" sockets (not included).
Suggested retail $35.00
SAVE! $22.00
Unique design allows this device to hold the weight of a lighting fixture
while you fasten it to the pipe.
Retail $29.95
SALE $22.50

For temporary cable tensioning before final termination. NOT FOR OVERHEAD
SUSPENSION. For 3/16" - 1/2" cable.
This hands-free light runs on 2 AA batteries. Includes two micro standard
Suggested Retail $24.00
SYNTHETIC ROPE ACCESSORIES Clean, cut, measure, and seal. Everything you
need to maintain synthetic rope is now on sale!
Cut and fuse the ends of rope and webbing with this box-type cutter.
Suggested retail $105.00
Attach to a standard hose or faucet.
Suggested retail $31.35
Accurately measures cordage from 5/32" to 3/4" up to 999 feet.
Suggested retail $160.00
BONUS! With any purchase, (SURPRISE! It‚s NOT ear plugs!) one pair of
Uncle Bill's Tweezers (a $3.50 value)
All sales and specials expire on March 31, 2001 Quantities are limited and
subject to availability.
Check them all out at:
To order call 800-727-7471 -- Fax: 800-292-3851
or visit our fabulous Online Catalog at
New General Manager Joins USITT
United States Institute for Theatre Technology, Inc.'s Board of Directors
is pleased to announce the appointment of Tom Scharff as General Manager.
Tom comes to USITT from Cornell University, where he has been General
Manager of the Cornell Center for Theatre Arts.
To learn more about USITT, visit their web site at www.usitt.org
or call 800-93USITT (800-938-7488) for membership information.
Tete à Tete
Our question and answer column that we mostly make up out of the hundreds of
questions we get each month. Got a burning question for Uncle Bill? Email us
at netHEADS@sapsis-rigging.com and get a real answer right away.
Q: "Hey Uncle Bill! Will you be running a 'Stump the Rigger' session again
this year at USITT?" -- Joe Student, U of Pisscataway
A: Yup! Stump the Rigger will be held in Long Beach on Saturday March 24th
at 10:00 am. And don't forget to stop by the Sapsis Rigging Booth (# 220)
for some fun and games.
Q: "There I was, minding my own business, when the wire rope slipped out of
the cable clip. Yikes - that was scary! What am I doing wrong?" -- Karl
A: It slipped, as you have correctly surmised, because the clips were not
tightened properly. You probably know that when a wire rope clip is first
applied it must be tightened to a specific torque. For example: 1/4" wire
rope clips must be tightened to 15 foot-pounds. Many people don't know that
the clips must be tightened again after an initial load has been applied to
the cable. Then those clips must be checked on a regular (usually annual)
basis. The Turks have a saying that might apply here. "No one was holding
it, so it fell."
Q: "I just noticed that the lanyard I'm using doesn't have a shock absorber.
Do I need one?" -- Betty Backpain
A: In almost all cases a shock absorber is required with a lanyard.
However, if you are using certain vertical lifeline grab devices, they may
require a lanyard without a shock absorber. There are many different
manufacturers of Fall Arrest equipment and therefore an equal number of
different methods used to meet the OSHA regulations. It is imperative that
you READ THE MANUAL when you buy and use the equipment in question.
Links we Love: Head Trip Around the Net
A recent thread on Stagecraft http://www.theprices.net/lists/stagecraft
about a fellow who shot himself in the head with a nail gun (see
http://www.denverpost.com/news/news1123b.htm ) led us on a strange little
internet jaunt in search of other weird "head cases". We turned up:

The most famous head case: the story of Phineas Gage who survived a railroad
tamping iron blasting through his skull. Talk about your bad hair days.

The story of Mike the Headless Chicken - honest to God! Read about the
amazing Mike who survived decapitation at:

And the Guiness World Records Site http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com
where you can bone up on
Most extensive skull reconstruction
Largest object removed from human skull
Acrobatic Feats:
Beer keg balancing
Greatest distance walked with a milk bottle balanced on the head
Glass Balancing - on head
Risking Your Heads:
Most balls balanced on the head
Most books balanced on head
Head board breaking
Heaviest car balanced on the head
Heaviest weight balanced on head - bricks
Highest (head first) high diving
Longest NHL suspension for an infraction during a game
Fastest haircut
Most heads shaved in 4 hours
Most valuable item of headwear
Most heads of state together
Longest serving president today
Most expensive meal per head
Most heads on one sunflower
Longest surviving headless chicken- we really like Mike!
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Copyright 2001 Sapsis Rigging, Inc.
233 N. Lansdowne Ave. Lansdowne, PA 19050
800/727-7471 FAX: 800/292-3851
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