The Master of the Impossible

Interview by:  Iride Aparicio

An Underwater photo of ANDREW BASSO
An Underwater photo of ANDREW BASSO

SAN JOSÉ, CA – He calls himself “An Escapologist” because he is Italy’s youngest escape artist. Since 2003, he has performed his underwater escapes to audiences in an act where he puts his life at risk in every performance. He considers Houdini his “hero” and people often calls him “The New Houdini.” Since 2005, he holds the title of "Escape Champion" which was given to him, at the world’s convention of Escapology, hosted in Los Angeles for his “miraculous escapes” from a glass tank filled with water where he is submerged after being padlocked.

“I started learning magic when I was seven years old,” ANDREW BASSO tells CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL in an exclusive interview, prior to his coming to this city, where he will be presented as part of Broadway San José’s “THE ILLUSIONISTS,  Witness the Impossible” magical show. “Magic was and is still is my first love, but growing up in the field’s art, I moved my interest to “Escapology” and I have spent my last ten years specializing in it.” he says.

C.W.B. When was your first encounter with a Magician?

I grew up in Italy, and when I was 8 years old, a little circus came to town and there was a magician performing. What I remember is that my mother, who was a very serious person, was laughing, clapping and having fun. For me, it was the coolest thing ever. My dreams started at that moment.” 

C.W.B.  What was what attracted you to Magic?

A.B: “The feeling that when I watched this magician perform, he was able to create in me a sense of wonder. The sense that to a magician, nothing is impossible because he could turn dreams into reality. The power that the magician had (over his audience). It was something I wanted to achieve too and have it for the rest of my life.”

C.W.B. When did you start learning Magic?

A.B: “The minute after I saw this magician. It was immediate. The moment I went home I tried to get some objects and replicate what the magician did. I could not do it, (He laughs) but it was my beginning.” 

C.W.B. What did you do after that?

A.B. “I tried to look for books in the old library of my little town.  I could not find much, but I found something, and that something lead to find something else in another library. I also got the addresses of people who knew about magic. I started my journey, meeting these people that I know were holding the “real” secrets. Soon after, I started (in Italy) with my first mentor, Sergio, and for four years, every week my father could drive me to his house, for classes. That was the beginning of my assiduous process of learning and practice the art of Magic.”

C.W.B. How does a person start learning Magic?

A.B: In the beginning you start by learning to understand some simple rules of the art. The basics of Magic. These principles do not mean the illusion, but they are psychological, because Magic requires a lot of concentration a lot of skills.  In a magic trick that looks simple, there are many difficult things behind it. That trick, requires a lot of training. The Art of Magic is not about “Tricks.” Magic is about being able to transform something that looks simple into an experience for the audience. That is the achievement of the artist.

C.W.B. What made you become an escapist?

A.B.: “When I turned thirteen, I reached an age where the prohibited things and the dangerous things were more fascinating for me as a boy. Escapes reflected that desire for danger, for doing something that nobody, specially my family, wanted me to do. I began reading about Houdini."

Houdini, known around the world as the greatest magician, was Born as Erich Weisz  in Budapest, Austria on March 24, l874. His last name was changed to Weiss (the German spelling) and his first name to Harry shortly after the family arrived in the United States of American  on July 3, l878 on the  SS Fresia. The family included his father, Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz, his mother and four brothers.

He began performing at age 9 as a trapeze artist, and years later when he became a professional magician, he changed his name to HARRY HOUDINI after the French magician, JEAN EUGENE ROBERT-HOUDIN. He became so good as escapism, that when on a tour to Europe, he challenged the police forces to keep him locked up, yet, he managed to escape. At the end, his repertoire included chains, locks, handcuffs, ropes, straitjackets, and escaping from a sealed milk can. He was even buried alive once, and was able to claw himself to the surface.

“ The stunts that Houdini did got me completely hooked," says ANDREW, "so that was my turning point. I wanted to move now to that side of the Art of Magic, where the danger is keen and you breath adrenaline”

C.W.B.  Could you describe the most difficult of your acts?

A.B. “For “The illusionists,” where seven world champions magicians are performing on the same stage, every one brought their best material. I brought Houdini’s most famous and most dangerous escape that is called “The Water Torture Cell,” where I am locked by my feet with padlocks, and lowered into a water tank, upside down with my hand handcuffed, and using just a bobby pin I have to open the locks and open the handcuffs,while holding my breath, to make my escape and survive. 

ANDREW BASSO escaping from his water cell        Photo by Joan Marcus
 ANDREW BASSO escaping from his water cell        Photo by Joan Marcus

The escape takes me three to four minutes while I am holding my breath in the water. Here it is important that the audience understands that what I am doing, is not an illusion it is one hundred percent real. In THE ILLUSIONISTS we are all demonstrating our skills on the stage. What we have acquired in many years of practice. What I am doing does not rely on illusion or magical principles. My act is reality, yet is magical, because I give the audience the feeling that I am doing the impossible.

ANDREW BASSO escaping from his water cell        Photo by Joan Marcus
Andrew Basso-The Escapologist                  Photo by Joan Marcus