Q: When was the first time you walked across a bed of hot coals?
A: I was a lawyer and I went to a hypnosis convention in New Hampshire in 1992. They had a firewalk the first night and I was the first one over the fire. I walked over the fire eight times, and watched 150 people walk over. I thought that the instructor was good, he was successful, but I thought of how I might improve it, do it my own way. I was disgruntled as an attorney—I was living in Philly at the time and so I started traveling on weekends to make fires for the instructor. I did it without pay for a few months, and I gave my notice at work one week after that first firewalk. Some people thought I was crazy. They either thought I was crazy or they congratulated me for getting out.
Q: And you became a certified firewalk instructor?
A: Yes. I went to training for a week in northern California. We did firewalks every night for eight nights. One night you had to walk over the fire 140 times, another night you had to walk across a forty-foot fire. I liked it. I liked the benefits of it. So I sold everything I owned and moved to Jamaica.
Q: You did? Really?
A: Yep. Trying to get a firewalking license there is tough. But I did it, and then my wife was pregnant and we moved to Miami where I started another business, but I still did the firewalking. I started doing firewalks for companies, sales teams, and themed events, that kind of thing. It took a while to get off the ground. I’ve continued to do them, but it’s not a full-time situation yet. It’s my plan to do firewalks once a week at a permanent venue. I would do a performance on Friday nights, for the general public. I think I’ve been able to secure a venue in Mexico; I should be heading there in the fall.
Q: How much do you charge?
A: I’ve gotten up to twenty thousand dollars for a two-hour firewalk for Avaya Corporation at the San Diego Marriott. I’ll either do a performance, where me and my crew do the firewalk, or a full-blown four-hour event, breaking boards, walking over a bed of nails … A lot of corporations don’t have the time or venue available for a firewalk, so we’ll break boards, bend steel, and as the main event, we walk over a bed of nails.
Q: What’s the bed of nails like?
A: It’s two foot by four foot and has six thousand nails. The technique is not hard; it’s getting your mind right. When I have an event, I’ll ask people, how many of you think you can break a board, smash a brick, bend a steel bar with your throat, or walk on a bed of nails? I’ll get a smattering of hands. By the time it’s over, nearly 95 to 100 percent of the people have done it, and believe that they can.
Sometimes when people are done, they’ll ask me, “What’s next?” and I tell them, “Your life is next.” A lot of people will quit smoking, lose weight, or change jobs after they do a firewalk. I like to make it fun, rather than a seven-hour lecture. I mean, more power to Tony Robbins, but I don’t lecture or make anyone write anything down. I have music and like to make it entertaining.
Q: What kind of safety precautions do you take?
A: The firewalk is twelve feet of fire, takes about five steps or two and a half seconds. People thinking they can do this on their own is ridiculous. You have to know the different kinds of wood, and how to make the fire as safely as possible. For example, oak or mesquite burns too hot. You have to make sure the fire burns for a sufficient amount of time, and then tamp it down to a level surface. And then you have to put your mind right. If somebody is intent on doing the wrong thing, there’s not much you can do. If they shuffle when we told them not to, or if they run when we told them to walk. Or if someone has an ego and they’re waving at their friends, they might get blisters. Those blisters go away within a day or two, but they might have taught that person an important lesson. Like they weren’t concentrating, weren’t paying attention.
Q: So no matter what the outcome, it’s generally a rewarding experience for most people?
A: Upon reflection, most people are happy they did it. Westerners want a 100 percent guarantee but you can’t give that. I like to say that there is 15 percent mystery involved. There have been hundreds of articles trying to debunk it, and I’ve suffered burns when I didn’t do it right. But it’s a real thing.
Q: Do you consider this a worthwhile profession?
A: It’s not easy to make a living, especially after 9/11. Corporations are extremely gun-shy. The only real way to get a gig is if the CEO says, “Get a firewalk.” I want to do it on my own terms. If they want me to dress up and play the fool, I won’t do it. I want to do it right and take it seriously. It’s not a macho rite of passage. The main points I make are that things are more than what they seem, and you’re capable of much more than you thought was possible.
As far as future events, I’ve got several “irons in the fire,” so to speak. I’m going to do it on my own terms and I won’t stop until it happens. And it beats being a lawyer.