By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Moments after the cuffs clicked shut around his skinny little wrists, Lamont knew he was in trouble. The handcuffs were a gift from his dad, a Boulder County sheriff's deputy, who'd finally relented after months of pestering. The set was cheap, made in Japan, with flimsy alloy keys, but perfect for a bespectacled, fifteen-year-old beanpole who could wriggle free from all manner of restraints.
But no sooner had Lamont slapped on the cuffs for an impromptu school-bus performance than he broke the keys. That morning he walked to class a prisoner, eventually to be cut loose by friends. "Embarrassing," he recalls. "Embarrassing."
That was the last time he failed before an audience.
TONY CURTIS AND MYSTO MAGIC SET
It all began when his big brother tied him up in the backyard with rope.
Actually, that's not true.
It started Christmas Day 1957, when six-year-old Lamont ripped open the Mysto Magic set and unpacked a ball vase, imp bottle, pair of dice and magic wand.
Then again, there was the Magic Land of Alakazam, starring Mark Wilson, which appeared every Saturday morning.
But to be completely accurate, it was Tony Curtis. In 1953, the actor played Houdini in a movie called Houdini. You know, the one where Houdini gets trapped under a frozen pond while escaping from a safe (not true). The one where he escaped from an iron vest (not true, either). The one where he dies at the end in the Chinese Water Torture Cell (also not true).
"I didn't know any better," Lamont recalls. "I didn't know who Houdini was. But after I saw it, I knew instantly what I wanted to do. That movie literally changed my life."
After that, he went to the backyard with his brother and the rope.
THE INCREDIBLE LAMONT
He escapes from:
A) Handcuffs, shackles, chains, ropes, canvas bags, packing crates and jail cells.
B) Steel milk cans filled with water and padlocked.
C) Medieval-style head and wrist pillories.
D) Trunks wrapped in chains, nailed shut and padlocked.
E) Whiskey barrels wrapped in chains, steel bands and padlocks.
F) Straitjackets, while dangling from cranes and wearing leg irons.
(P.S.: And he does card tricks.)
Besides, if you're going to be an escape artist, you want a name that evokes mystery, intrigue and wonder. Like Blackstone, Kellar, Houdini, even Thurston.
Lamont thought long and hard.
Lamont isn't so bad. It's distinctive. Unusual. Certainly better than Sam or Bob.
"The Incredible Lamont!" "The Amazing Lamont!" "Lamont: World Class Magician!"
Ladies and gentlemen, Lamont!
"Let me grab a few cuffs here and a couple of balls and chains. Let's see...and a pair of manacles.
"Normally I would have people in the audience lock things on me, but for now I'm just going to put a lot of stuff on.
"These are pirate-era locks that don't have a key. They'd simply throw people overboard. So they're really heavy.
"See that cuff that looks like a giant padlock with two loops? That's currently worth about $1,200. A lot of the smaller ones there are currently about $600...
"I just realized something. If you aren't really from the newspaper, and I'm all hooked up, I could be robbed! I hope I get out of this stuff.
"I have about 400 handcuffs in all. From all eras and all parts of the world. I've mastered all the locks you see before you. It usually takes twenty or thirty seconds to extricate myself.
"Gosh. I've only got room for one more pair. Let's see. Let's go for the best-looking ones.
"Take the padlock and lock my wrists to the shackles. Yes. Good.
"Now go ahead and drape a sheet over me. Yes. All the way over me.
(Lamont thrashes under the sheet like a ghost wrestling an alligator.)
"Man, am I sweating.
(An arm pops out. His head. Then it's back under the sheet.)
"One item left. And it's giving me some difficulty!
"Can't seem to get it...
"Whew! Did that look all right? Great! Now I'll grab the straitjacket!"
HE WAS A HAM BACK THEN
In the spring of 1969, Lamont asked some friends to strap him in a straitjacket, lock him in leg irons and hoist up him up a light pole.
"I had never done it before and I just wanted to go out and do it," he explains.
Traffic screeched, women gasped, sirens screamed. Practically the entire Boulder police force converged on Canyon Boulevard in front of the Red Barn Restaurant as Lamont calmly freed himself.
"I had an instant audience. The parking lot was filled. They must have thought someone was trying to kill me."
That was the first time Lamont performed the escape that would become his trademark. It was also the first of many publicity stunts.