02-28-2012, 09:14 PM
Chapter Six: The Celebrity
By the turn of the Millenium, Luke Blade was ranking among more established illusionists such as David Copperfield and Penn and Teller. The twenty-first century began with Luke's induction into the Brotherhood of Magicians. He finally belonged. He was accepted, even in demand, by the public and fellow magicians.
In the spring of 2000, Luke bought his first home, a sprawling, five-bedroom estate in the desert hills of Nevada, about twenty miles from Las Vegas. It was modest by celebrity standards, costing only $1.5 million dollars, but there is a theory that Luke did not want to live in a huge mansion as it reminded him of the instutions in which he had been incarcerated during his childhood.
He developed a passion for cars and motorcycles, though there was the small matter of not having a license, or even knowing how to drive. With the help of his manager, Dave Barron, however, he aquired both the skill and the legal right to drive an automobile, and his first purchase was a classic 1969 Ford Mustang convertable. Luke was like a kid with a new toy--an expensive one to be sure, but he loved his car so much he had it towed along when he went on tour.
And Luke loved toys. Having had so few when he was growing up, he compensated by frequenting high-end toy stores such as FAO Schwarz, buying whatever he fancied. "He had so many toys in his house, he could have opened his own toy store!" said "Nursie" Soames. "He had model trains, radio-controlled cars and planes, building sets, even a go-cart that he raced around on. He liked anything that moved."
He read all his own fan mail, sending out personally autographed photos to anyone who asked. As his fan base grew, it became necessary to hire a secretary to help out. Luke autographed anything anyone gave him, even various parts of their anatomies (the legend that he autographed a fan's arm with a Bowie knife is unfounded; that incident is credited to Ted Nugent). He had his own website and "blog", available to anyone who wanted to read about him. Many of the "facts", however, were either distorted or left out altogether. For example, he claimed his parents gave him his first magic kit at six, when in fact he was given it by his foster parents at age eight. When asked about his religious beliefs, he stated that he had been left to "make up his own mind about that by his parents", when in fact he had little or no religious training outside of St. Mary's, and that left him antagonistic toward any sort of mainstream religion. He tried to create a middle-class upbringing for himself to cover the stigma of being in and out of foster care and institutions.
As a celebrity, Luke was constantly being asked to do charity work and to make donations to this cause or that. Give back to the community, they encouraged him. So many were in need and he could do a lot of good for them and for himself as well. Luke was still pretty much self centered and materialistic to listen to them. It took a disaster of national proportions to shake him out of his complacency.
Luke was in Manhattan for shooting a television special in late summer of 2001. He was on his way to a production meeting in the early morning of September 11, when he heard a deafening roar above his head. He and the rest of the New Yorkers looked up to see the initial attack on the World Trade Center. Luke recalled the ground shaking beneath his feet as Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower. Luke convinced himself that it had been an accident; maybe the pilot was drunk or something, he reasoned. Anyway the FDNY was on it's way to rescue everyone. Only when Flight 175 slammed into the South Tower did it occur to Luke that it was no accident. Like thousands beside him, he tuned into whatever news cast he could listen to. It was on that fateful day that the word "terrorist" entered his vocabulary.
Luke wanted to go home, but flights were cancelled, subways were paralyzed and the swirling dust disoriented him. The final horror Luke would witness was the collapse of the South Tower at 10:00 AM. The billowing clouds of dust charged at him like a monster from Hell, he said later. He took refuge in a small cafe, watching helplessly as downtown Manhattan was swallowed up in a dense cloud of grey dust.
When the dust finally settled hours later, the once bustling metropolis was like a ghost town, blanketed in concrete dust and debris. In his cafe shelter, Luke stopped thinking of himself for the first time in his life. The tiny cafe mobilized itself as a relief shelter for the firefighters, police officers and other rescue workers, handing out bottled water and preparing meals. Luke was drafted into service, serving sandwiches and coffee, sweeping the dust out of the cafe, and hauling out pallets of water and juice to keep the rescue teams hydrated. Luke did not complain; in fact, he wanted to be out there with New York's Finest and Bravest, digging out survivors and putting out the fires. The chief of Ladder Company 89 made it explicitly clear to the impetuous illusionist that his place was in the cafe. He should leave the rescue work to those whose job it was to do rescue work. The best way he could help was to stay out of the way. Just keep doing what he had been doing, and he'd be doing his part. End of discussion.
Luke reluctantly obeyed. Yet his assistance in the cafe/shelter did not go unnoted by the entertainment industry. He was photographed in the stock room of the cafe wearing a white kitchen worker's apron and kerchief around his head, cutting open boxes of bottled water, . It elevated the public's opinion of him as a civic-minded American citizen as well as an entertainer. Luke began to realize that charity work had personal benefits: for one thing, it was good PR. From then on, Luke made it a point to do as many benefit performances and personal appearances as his busy schedule allowed. It made him look good in the eyes of the Cult of Personality.
And the Cult of Personality welcomed him into their pantheon with open arms. He had all the qualifications: good looks, trim body, rock-star attitude, and a magic act yet to be equaled. He thrilled audiences worldwide with stunts, escapes and illusions on a grand scale never seen since the days of Houdini. He was becoming a household name in magic. He was a superstar. He never went anywhere without a gorgeous girl or two on his arm, and amassed the most ostentatious collection of "bling", or heavy jewelry, outside of the rap music industry. One silver chain set him back $30,000. Luke was living large, and he was in charge.
It was when he was in bed trying to sleep that the past came back to haunt him. He still suffered from night terrors to the point where he had to check into a sleep disorder clinic for help. Ironically, it was these night terrors that gave him inspiration for his most chilling escapes, such as the Underground Cell Escape. Psychologists reason that this particular stunt stemmed from his stay at St. Mary's, when he was locked in a dark closet in the basement of the home, as witnesses who were children in the care of the nuns later testified. Was Luke trying to overcome the demons of his past by doing this?
Luke made sure that no one found out about his past, especially his years at St. Mary's. He remained elusive about his childhood when interviewed. He created an illusion about himself to block away the pain and trauma of his early years. In time, however, his soul would become as deformed as his brain had been in the womb.