Guinness World Record
The first time I built a Guinness World Record like this, I was still in high school. My first record was 14 feet 6 inches tall, and this one, my newest, is almost exactly 25 feet tall. I’ve broken my own record many times—each time a little taller. How tall could I build? The sky’s the limit; I’m only limited by time and how high a ceiling I have. In fact, for this project, we removed some ceiling tiles in the event space so I could build up into the attic as high as it would go.
This particular Guinness Record, my newest World’s Tallest House of Cards at 25 feet, was built for the State Fair of Texas. In the composition, you can see that tallest tower itself, with many other buildings surrounding it. The tallest spire required more than 1,000 decks of cards to construct. That’s about 140 pounds of cards for one tower alone. A common question I get about this project is if the tower is a replica of some very tall building. The answer is that it is just a design I came up with, and that’s half the fun. A tower like this could be built in an endless array of designs.
Guinness World Record Television Commercial
LG contacted me to say that they had developed a washing machine that boasts minimal vibrations, and they were not kidding. To make their point in a very dramatic and visual way, LG and I embarked on a unique challenge to create a Guinness World Record on top of an actual, loaded, spinning, washing machine. First, they overnighted me a washer to try building on it at home. Yes, a whole washing machine was sent to me in the US all the way from their production facility in Korea so I could make sure it would work as a cardstacking surface. Then, they flew me to Seoul to build with a film crew in a massive studio for the commercial.
I was impressed because this washer, even when packed full with wet socks, doesn’t really even vibrate. How’d they do it? Who knows. But, the final project set a new Guinness Record and was featured as a television commercial all across Europe. They even had engineers onsite to get the washer to run continuously, 24 hours a day, filled with wet clothes throughout the build and the shoot. (In my line of work, I have received a lot of hairspraying from my clients over the years before appearing on tv, but this was one of the most extreme hairspray encounters I’ve had so far.) I love this project because it is a great example of how creative marketing can get, and how a product improvement can be told through a story that must be seen to be believed. The commercial proved so successful that LG invited me back to do a live, scaled-down version several times a day (on top of a running washer of course) at IFA, the massive European consumer electronics show in Berlin, Germany.
Guinness World Record
The Venetian Macao casino in Macau, China approached me to break my own Guinness Record for World’s Largest House of Freestanding Playing Cards, which at the time, was held by the model I had built of Cinderella’s Castle for Walt Disney World. For The Venetian’s project, I built replicas of The Venetian, Four Seasons, and Sands Cotai Casino, Macau. I also rounded out The Venetian itself with the Campanile and the Rialto Bridge. This project took about 45 days and 4,000 decks. We also held hands-on cardstacking workshops during the event, and a VIP contest to find a hidden card in the knockdown (after the 200,000+ cards had been blasted with a giant leaf blower). This project happened to take place over Chinese New Year, and I was able to take a break to see some amazing dragon dance parades and insane fireworks. It was the most successful PR campaign the Venetian had undertaken, with the project receiving widespread media coverage worldwide.
It was the intent of this video to show how teamwork could overcome the impossible. Skoll World Forum approached me for this project, and asked if I could build a card project that looked like the Oxford Camera (a building in Oxford, England), while incredible wind was blowing. The answer was yes and no. The wind you see in the video is real, and the cards are freestanding, and here is the power of selective shooting and editing. This project took a lot longer than it should have because I’d build a bit and then they’d turn on the fans and shoot footage of me working with the wind. It seemed that for every three cards I’d put up, two would blow down—or maybe ten would blow down. Sometimes, just to get the right shot, a huge portion would blow away before they would stop shooting and turn the fans off. For much of the shoot, I felt like I was continually repairing a ruin. In the end, as I finished the project, they captured some great footage and made a truly beautiful video that I’m proud to be a part of.
Quite often when you see a television commercial, it will flash the word “dramatization” across the bottom of the screen. That’s a way of saying that something is not real and only being shown to make a point. In this case, it was very important to Lexus that the footage shown in the commercial be very real, and not a dramatization. The idea was to show that the Lexus was a smooth-running car, and that even with a driver inside, with it running, the cards surrounding it and even built on top of it would stay standing. The hardest part about this entire project was that I built much of it before we ever put the driver in the car, to avoid making him live in the seat for a week while I built the card structure around it. The act of opening and then gently slamming the door to get him in and out when the time came—and not disturbing the cards—proved to be a sensitive undertaking. In the end, we were able to get a driver in and out several times, start the car, and let the car run for multiple takes all without any collapses. The collapse you see at the end of the commercial was intentional. We had rigged the cards to fall on cue, and they mostly didn’t. But, the second rigging proved lethal, and down they went.
Cincinnati & Cleveland Landmarks
For this project, Horseshoe Casinos of Cincinnati and Cleveland wanted to film local market television commercials for a summer promotion that involved a million dollar giveaway in each city. Horseshoe wanted a unique commercial for the two cities, and really wanted to make each project a celebration of the architecture of each. Cincinnati and Cleveland have no shortage of great buildings, both new and old, so for me it was just a matter of having enough time to do it justice. I was very lucky to have an excellent film crew who made my work look even better.
Washington, DC Landmarks
If you’ve been reading about many of my projects, you’ll notice that I end up building this combination of buildings from the national mall quite a bit for conferences and tradeshows in Washington, DC. It’s an obvious choice, given that it makes such a great project and one that people will recognize and remember. It’s also a treat to look at because the various buildings show off some fun card building techniques like pillars, a dome, and something pretty tall and precarious looking—the Washington Monument. Charles Schwab asked me to build this project for the enjoyment of their attendees at their annual conference. Every day the conference goes on, the bigger the house of cards gets. The bigger card house gets, the more people start talking about the obvious question: “What happens to it at the end?” They are usually delighted to hear they get to help knock it down if they hang around on the last day. Attendees sometimes use conference-sanctioned projectiles, like branded bouncy balls or giant rubber bands. But sometimes attendees get to use whatever they want. They usually start out with the small stuff, like the cap off a pen, or a penny. But once they see that it takes more than that to do any real damage, they get more aggressive and break out the water bottles, shoes, belts—even purses and briefcases have been known to go flying. It seems to be a great way to relieve some stress after a long day at a conference. Plus, it’s fun to brag to your children about apparently. Really, it’s just good old fashioned fun, and it’s my favorite part of any project because people love the knockdown so much, and it helps prove that my work really was freestanding (no tape, no glue, no tricks!).
When it was time for Virgin Australia to roll out a new global frequent flyer program, they devised a campaign where they’d ask their frequent flyers what world monument they’d most like to visit, and then have me build that monument out of the new Velocity Frequent Flyer cards onsite in Sydney, Australia. Of course, as luck would have it, the monument people wanted to see most was the Eiffel Tower. And, while this is not any easy build, it becomes even more difficult when you have to build it out of glossy, slippery plastic credit cards . . . and when you have to build it big. In this case, the bigger the tower, the bigger the span between legs, and the greater the weight. It was not easy!
On my first attempt, after getting to the first platform where all four legs of the tower join in mid-air, I heard a click, and in about two seconds the entire project was flat on the ground. Ok, no problem. I revised my structural strategy. On my second attempt, after building up to the second platform where all four legs join once again in mid-air, I heard a click, and, yep, the entire tower fell flat as could be. Now it was serious. I revised my structural strategy once more, and on my third attempt, managed to make it all the way to the top of the tower without it falling. I was nervous. The cause of all the problems was the very, very slippery cards.
In the end, we had a media event where I sat watching as Virgin announced the arrival of the new cards. I was terrified the entire tower would just collapse during the event. But, no, it stood the test. These collapses are very unusual, and even the Eiffel Tower should not have been so hard. Luckily, the many buildings I had built around the tower to give it a city feel did not fall victim to my crashing tower during the course of the build. I finished just in time for the press conference onsite in Sydney, Australia and photo shoot with Virgin executives and flight attendants. And yes, my wife and I also had a ton of fun flying Virgin to get to the Land Down Under for this project.
Cinderella’s Castle: Guinness World Record
When I built my first project in this Guinness World Record category, a record for Largest House of Freestanding Playing Cards didn’t yet exist. Disney had approached me to build Cinderella’s Castle, and had interest in making it a Guinness Record. So, together with Guinness, we created a new category. This project took about one month, and about 3,000 decks of cards to build. In this case, the cards had been printed to look like Disney park passes. I built the project on Swan Boat Landing at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, in a specially designed tent. Upon completion, with zero wind blowing, we lifted the tent off with a crane, and there stood my card castle, outdoors, in front of the real Cinderella’s castle. Then we knocked it all down.
I should also mention that amongst the hazards of being housed in a tent, the card house endured the reverberations from a massive nightly fireworks show directly behind it and would lose a few cards each evening. A rogue squirrel also ran into the tent and played havoc in the card house’s archway; he was evicted using noise from a portable radio without further incident. I was also made a major in the Disney parade, and of course rode all the rides.
Horseshoe Baltimore was looking for a fun and eye-catching project that would be locally inspired. They desired to incorporate landmarks from Baltimore, and neighboring Washington DC as well. This display required about ten days to construct and included DC landmarks such as the US Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, the White House, and the Lincoln Memorial; plus, Baltimore landmarks such as the Baltimore Aquarium, Baltimore’s Washington Monument, Oriole Park, M&T Bank Stadium, and the art deco Bank of America Tower. A unique challenge in this case was the extremely limited floor space available. This required careful consideration of the order of construction, and made for some very challenging working conditions in which there was often hardly enough room for me to build. The project was featured on the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.
Of course, I would have enjoyed building many other buildings of Baltimore fame if time and space permitted, as Baltimore is one of those American cities that benefits from an incredible collection of architecture from the Industrial-Victorian era.
This client is a global pharmaceutical company who was exhibiting at the annual CHEST medical conference in Washington DC. The goal in this case was to simply drive booth traffic and give attendees a fun photo op. This three day conference took place in Washington DC, and so it seemed an easy fit to build some of the most notable DC landmarks: the US Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument with reflecting pools.
According to their website, Seattle Genetics is “focused on developing and commercializing a new generation of targeted, empowered antibody-based therapies that have the potential to change the foundation of treatment for people with cancer.” I think what they’re getting at, without coming right out and saying it, is that they do amazing things to help people with cancer. When they approached me to build a project for them at a couple of medical conferences, the challenge was to manifest this idea of doing the impossible, and, they also wanted to showcase some very important and exciting data. AND give a shoutout to their hometown of Seattle. Of course, all THIS was to simply get some foot traffic. That’s a tall order, especially when it involves building the super-tall-skinny-legged Seattle Space Needle out of freestanding playing cards, AND building a Seattle skyline to go with it that could not-too-covertly display a data graph that, coincidentally, looked a little bit like a skyline itself if you used a little imagination. The was result was one of my favorite projects, and I am proud to say that it got them in trouble with the show management and fire marshal because . . . their booth and the aisles surrounding their booth were clogged with gawkers, which apparently is a fire hazard (never mind that paper playing cards are probably pretty flammable in and of themselves). If you’re a marketing person, this is the kind of problem you dream of having: so many people in your space looking at your brand that you get into trouble.
This project is a great example of how to incorporate branding, messaging, and data, all while having some fun and hogging all the attention. For the second show, we decided to move the project into the center of the booth a bit more to keep them out of trouble.
The State Fair of Texas is one of the most massive public events in the United States, with about one million people attending over the course of a month. Up to this point in my career, I don’t think I’ve ever had a huge, endless mob like this watching me. The line to get into the building where I was working flowed all the way down the staircase, through the atrium, out the door, down the sidewalk, and through the street. People waited in line for hours to see the project. It was a rush. I love what I do, but when you have a million people rooting you on it has a way of helping you push your own limits.
They do everything big in Texas, so when the fair approached me to build a project for them, they wanted it to live up to that reputation. My proposal was to build the Dallas city skyline and feature many of its notable buildings. For this I included the JP Morgan Chase Tower, Reunion Tower, the Magnolia Building, Fountain Place, and a few others. I filled out the skyline with some additional structures to make it feel like a city.
This project was special to me because it really forced me out of my comfort zone and helped me take huge risks that resulted in many new techniques that I would go on to use in other projects—all of them perfected by trial and error, and on the fly. For both JP Morgan and Fountain Place, I realized early in the project that if I did not find a way to build these buildings quickly I’d never get done on time, and that meant these would need to be almost hollow structures, saving me countless hours assembling internal rigging not seen from the outside. I knew the fastest way to make these buildings would be to build very thin exterior walls with the cards placed vertically, a technique I was familiar with testing but had never really pushed beyond perhaps 20 levels before—and now I needed to try accomplishing the same method about twice as tall. It blew my mind how well it worked and how fast it was.
But, several other challenges remained, such as how to build the giant slot and rounded top of the JP Morgan Chase Tower, or, even more daunting, the sloping, prismatic volumes of Fountain Place. How did I do it? I’d need pages and pages to explain, but I finished up this project knowing that I was onto something, and that something was that with cards vertical and the buildings hollow, the sky was the limit. So, when the fair asked me back the following year to try and outdo myself by breaking my own Guinness World Record for the Tallest House of Cards, I knew it would be built with the insights I had gathered building the Dallas city skyline, and next time needing to reach over 90 stories tall—a spectacular challenge.
Charles and Ray Eames were mostly known for their iconic furniture designs, but they were also known for a toy kit of slotted building cards, and their landmark 1961 exhibition entitled Mathematica, So when San Francisco’s Exploratorium restored and relaunched Mathematica, they asked if I would create a project that would honor both the cards and the exhibit. Mathematica, as an exhibit, provides visuals to many mathematic and geometric concepts, such as the bell curve and the mobius strip—it provides ways for people to understand math in a visual way. For my contribution, I decided to show that cards can support huge amounts of weight when arranged in my very special geometric pattern, and also that those same arrangements can be used to create almost any shape or type of building. One of the highlights was a wheelbarrow loaded with more than a hundred pounds of material, supported by a freestanding house of cards (no tape, no glue!). We placed a very thick sheet of clear plastic on top of the card structure to distribute the weight of the wheelbarrow across all the cards evenly. And because it was clear, you could see all the cards in their geometric arrangement, working together to support the weight.
Beijing Olympic Village
Langham Place is the mother-of-all shopping malls in the heart of Hong Kong, with many levels of shopping and escalators zigzagging up and out to floors of retail and restaurants higher and higher. Hundreds of thousands of people enter this mall every day, and the weekends are almost standing-room-only. The place almost rattles with intensity. I could hardly get time during the day to work on the project because there was always a line of reporters waiting to interview me and photographers wanting to stage the ideal shot.
Timing is everything, and when I was preparing to build this project, China was about to host the Summer Olympics. China went all-out to wow the world with its new buildings for the Olympics and it was the talk of the globe at the time, so to tap into this nerve of national pride and create the ultimate challenge for me, they asked if I could build some Beijing landmarks as well as the Bird’s Nest Stadium and Water Cube from the Olympic Village. Beijing landmarks, no problem. Water Cube? Got it. Bird’s Nest Stadium? Umm. . .
For more than a week, I worked on everything except the Bird’s Nest because I had no clue how I would build it—not a clue structurally, and not a clue visually. How do you take rectangular cards and make a donut-shaped building that has an almost textured, criss-crossing, web-like exterior? Oh, and, all that crazy stuff has to lean outward as it gets higher. So, finally it was time to build the Nest because I had pretty much completed everything else, and the Langham Place mobs were watching my every move to see how I was going to make it happen. There were lots of restarts. There were some initial and ongoing collapses, but finally I found a few things that worked and captured the essence of the real building. As I worked, I had to build each section so that it leaned outward as much as possible, and all of it was just the slightest touch from falling. I guess I didn’t breathe much for a few days, but slowly fear turned to fun as I pushed through. As the Bird’s Nest started to really come together, I knew that even though this was by no means the largest or tallest build I had built, it was definitely one of the most intensely challenging.
As a side note, here is some advice from a guy who has been to a lot of places both far and wide: go to Hong Kong because it is just such an amazing place that has found a way to blend Eastern and Western influences into everything from food to architecture. And, if you want to make your exotic trip to Hong Kong even more exotic, take another set of flights to another amazing place that is just about as far away from home as you can get from the US: Cambodia. There you can see the Temples of Angkor (think Indiana Jones) and one of my favorite buildings on earth, Angkor Wat—another building I’d love to recreate in cards.
I’ve always been an architecture enthusiast, and I’m also a trained architect, so it was a pleasure to build some of Chicago’s greatest buildings for Horseshoe Hammond. Horseshoe desired a project that would be regionally inspired and serve as a daily progression for patrons to enjoy. This project included the Sears Tower, Marina City, John Hancock, Wrigley Field, and Crain Communications building with its iconic slanted top.
One very interesting aspect of this project is that the entire Horseshoe Casino Hammond—concert venue and all—is built on top of a massive boat. I didn’t notice for a few days, until I saw uniformed skippers running around the casino and asked what they were doing. Despite its size, the boat moves around in the wind and up and down depending on the crowds and where they are in the building. You can’t tell the boat is moving, and thankfully the cards can’t tell either. So to my surprise, even though the boat was constantly in motion, only two cards fell from the project for the entire month the finished model was on display. It seems like a bad idea to build a house of cards like this (on a rocking boat, and in The Windy City, nonetheless!) but it was fantastic.
Horseshoe Casinos have been a very good repeat customer of mine over the years. This was a project where the goal was simply to provide some entertainment for guests. For this project, I included the dome-topped 400 West Market building, the National City Tower, the Galt House, Michael Grave’s Humana Building, and of course, a riverboat. The dome high atop the 400 West Market building was a unique challenge.
Los Angeles Icons
At tradeshows, companies are always trying to get noticed, and they will even hire a cardstacker like me to make that happen. In this case, the tradeshow was for the insurance industry. My client, Starr Companies, wanted to highlight a few of their insurance business sectors: shipping, government, industrial, and sports. So, given that the show was in LA, I built the Los Angeles City Hall to symbolize government, and then built a stadium to represent sports, a power plant for industry, and a cargo ship for shipping. What was different here was that I used Starr Companies business cards for the build. I had never built a ship, and I think it was my favorite part of the project. I always like trying something new.
This client is a national diagnostics laboratory, and they were exhibiting at a SKIN TRADESHOW. Their goals for the show were to: 1) get foot traffic, 2) introduce their brand to attendees which consisted of dermatologists and clinic owners, and 3) blend a message about precision -- an important matter in the diagnostics industry. This three day conference took place in Washington DC, and so it seemed an easy fit to build some of the most notable DC landmarks: the US Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument with reflecting pools.
NYC Skyline in Dusseldorf Airport
Platinion is a European IT company that had just opened an office in New York City when they contacted me. Their slogan is The IT Architects, and they pride themselves on helping their clients build the impossible. So, it was a match made in heaven. I love nothing more than building the impossible, and Platinion decided they’d have me build the best of New York City—to represent their new digs—and that they’d place the project in the international departures ticketing area of the Dusseldorf Airport. This was a brilliant move because Platinion knows who their potential customers are: they are often flying in and out of Dusseldorf. So, Platinion put up an incredible glass box for me to work in, and I filled it with NYC landmarks, even the Guggenheim with the client’s tagline also built three-dimensionally out of cards in front. The result was that nobody departing Dusseldorf for an international destination could possibly miss what was happening in the gleaming exhibition space, and for those who were possibly shopping for IT services, Platinion had made a very memorable introduction.
When Holiday Inn rebranded and refreshed their thousands and thousands of hotels across the globe, they came to me looking for a way to get the word out in a fun, visual way, that people could interact with. I responded with an entire hotel room constructed out of glued hotel keycards—a life-sized bed, lamps, bathroom, and even the toilet provided great photo ops. I didn’t stop there. I even built a lobby with a front desk and armchairs. I keep saying I, but really it was we. I provided technical and creative direction to a crew of about ten people who worked for several months to construct this massive project. We even sewed keycards together to make pillowcases, a roll of toilet paper, and a shower curtain. We made special translucent cards for the lampshades. Each and every piece was glued together in a way as to be as authentic-looking as possible.
Upon completion we crated it all up and shipped it to New York City, where we set up the fully executed hotel room inside a huge geodesic dome on the Seaport in lower Manhattan. Pedestrians near and far could tell something was up, and when they strolled into the dome, they found the Keycard Hotel. They were greeted at a desk. They could lounge in the chairs and get a photo on the bed or in the bathroom. To pull it all together, I built a live freestanding playing card version of the Empire State Building onsite as a shout-out to NYC (no tape, no glue on that one). The display (and our crew) also traveled to Washington, DC, for another public event and it then shipped onward to Nashville where the structure is permanently housed. The project was a media sensation, and was a great example of the power of PR versus traditional advertising. Even the Wall Street Journal took note of how Holiday Inn had used a unique marketing event to get the word out that their properties—all of them—were fresh and new.
New York City Skyline
When I was living in New York City, I got to know David Blaine a bit. David has good connections at ABC. In 2005, when a tsunami hit Indonesia, killing hundreds of thousand of people, it was David that came up with the idea I should build the New York City skyline using one card to honor each tsunami victim. He felt that it was a great way to put a visual behind the number of people who lost their lives in the tragedy, and a way to make a statement that humanity is rather fragile in the face of mother nature. So, it took him but a few phone calls to set this all up.
For 14 days, I constructed the city. I know I used at least 100,000 cards, possibly more. What made this project all the more unique was that I actually lived in the Times Square Good Morning America Studio during my 14 day run on the show. I had a little cot set up right behind the cards. David even lent me the sleeping mat he used for his stunt in the glass box hanging over the Thames. The evolution of the project was seen each morning on the show, and was also visible through the huge windows onto Times Square. The Empire State Building, Chrysler, Flatiron, Yankee Stadium, and others rose. Even the up-close, explosive volume and vibrating bass of Kenny Chesney and his band performing just a few feet away in the studio did not bring down the towers.
PPG Paints was looking for a unique way to announce and display their new color of the year, and create a project distinctly about their location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They also wanted to showcase two other featured colors for the year at the same time. The project took place in a large tent in PPG Plaza in Pittsburgh and I built three buildings over the course of three days: PPG Place Tower, Heinz Field, and PNC Park. I built the projects out of playing cards, and used paint chips for succulent green, curry yellow, and light blue as the outermost layers to show off PPG’s featured colors. The project was conceived as an experience for pedestrians in downtown Pittsburgh, and as a local market PR piece.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Pittsburgh, but few if any cities of this size have architecture on display like this one. Back in the day, Pittsburgh was an industrial behemoth, and the structures that remain from this period—both residential and industrial—are truly works of art. On the more modern side of things, Pittsburgh has really reinvented itself and has a lot of very interesting modern buildings as well. Add to this the drama of all the bridges crossing the rivers and you’ve got a mini Gotham, which is new and old all at once as well as safe to explore. My favorite building in all of Pittsburgh is the old Allegheny County Courthouse by H.H. Richardson, a building that influenced an entire generation of architects. You can’t graduate from architecture school without learning about this building, and it would be a dream project for me to just spend a month building it with all its complexities.
Istanbul has many shopping malls, and one of the largest is Cevahir. This client asked me to build a project that would honor the landmarks of their great, ancient city. This was especially awesome for me given that, as a trained architect, I have always been fascinated with the amazing Hagia Sophia and its domes and half-domes. In addition to Hagia Sophia, I also built the Maiden’s Tower, the Galata Tower, and the Cevahir shopping center itself. This project was a hit with the crowds—especially the knockdown, in which we used watermelons as cannonballs and set off fireworks inside the mall (not my idea!). The cards were no match for the melons, and the whole thing made quite an impressive mess. This project was also the first time I saw myself on a billboard.
Queen of Spades
The Queen of Spades was to be performed by the San Francisco Opera, and the opera wanted to build a project on-site for theater attendees, and also build a small project downtown San Francisco for additional visibility.
The on-site project was placed in the lobby and was very unique in that it was freestanding (no tape, no glue, no bending or folding), but was held together with giant clamps I had designed and fabricated. The idea came from the desire to have a house of cards that could be moved in and out of the lobby. How does it work? Well, and strange as it sounds, the more weight you put on a house of cards, the stronger it gets—until you simply overload it and it crushes. So, in this case, the giant clamps just acted like a press to hold everything together.
The off-site project was completed in the Ferragamo storefront window in downtown San Francisco. For this I built a fictitious city, and the opera used the spectacle to advertise the Queen of Spades.
Sky Poker, based in the UK, wanted to simply draw attention to their brand, and gave me the great pleasure of bringing me to London for a little over a week to build the British Parliament. Sky felt that Parliament and Big Ben were the most iconic structures we could build and I agreed. I had always wanted to build Big Ben, but what surprised me most is that Parliament has a tower much larger than Big Ben on the opposite end called the Victoria Tower. In the end, we brought in a British soccer star to bring it all down, and with a single whip of his head he directed a high-speed ball right through the clock face of my Big Ben, and down it went. We had fun using the same knockdown technique for the other parts of the building.
Empire State Building
When people think of Tiffany & Co., they typically think of jewelry, but, this iconic jeweler offers housewares, too. Tiffany was hosting an invite-only special event in New York City, where they would unveil some of the new products in their home goods lineup. One of the items was a deck of cards. You can almost guess what happens next. I built the Empire State Building once for each of the two nights of the party. I only had about two hours each time, so it is not massive, but the cards were very nice, and I must say the Empire State looks very nice dressed up in blue.
Earth Day Skyline
The Woodgrove Center in British Columbia wanted to create an Earth Day promotion largely about recycling, and wanted to show off how many gift cards had been returned to their shopping center for recycling. This project is a great example of a client using special, branded cards for their display. The hard plastic cards were a bit difficult to work with compared to my usual paper playing cards, but they worked just the same. I went with a New York-ish theme to create a recognizable skyline, and built an entire city. In the end, a few very lucky youngsters got the honors to bring the project down.
All of a sudden, I started getting emails from production companies who were all competing to get the job to shoot a music video for The Bravery’s “Time Won’t Let Me Go.” They all wanted to know how we could build a set out of cards, what it would involve, and how long it would take—and a thousand other questions. About two days later, Island Records awarded the project to a production company and then my phone started ringing. They had to be ready to shoot this project in about three days. Much of the project would need to be glued so the band could interact with it. So, I used some cards to create samples of how you might glue cards onto a flat surface in an effort to make it look like it was actually stacked, not glued. The whole thing was a rush job, and getting as many cards as we needed that quickly was impossible. Except, yours truly always has a stash on standby. That same day, I loaded about 100 pounds of cards into my truck, drove them to Fed Ex, and overnighted them to New York City, where an army of people glued them into place per my specifications in a mere 24 hours. The script also called for a rather shaggy looking guy to play the lead in the video. At this point in life, I was a little bit more shaggy than usual, and they thought I looked perfect for the part. So they said, “Don’t cut your hair, and we will see you in NYC tomorrow.” On set, I spent a few days building the freestanding portions of the card set on camera. One of those was built in a cafe in Brooklyn. The catch was that about every ten minutes the subway would rattle the cafe, including my cards. The crew was very intent on getting everything just right; it was taking forever, and with each passing of the subway a few more cards would flake off what I had built. I even had to crawl through what I had stacked several times for several takes—each time almost knocking it down. In the end, it was a success and a very fun project, and I must say The Bravery is a great bunch of guys who had not let fame go to their heads. The project aired on MTV within a few days after completion.
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas
A project like this only comes along every once in a while. Loctite Adhesives asked me if a house of cards could be glued, and my answer was that I was not sure because I had never glued anything. This became my first glued project. I was a bit worried about what people would think of me gluing something. Do I made a stipulation: the end product must float, fly, hang or do something the a freestanding house of cards cannot normally do? Enter the idea of building the iconic Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. To top it off, the venue was to be at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas—a fitting choice.
It turns out that gluing a project takes forever. And, I discovered that you need to build a wooden structure inside large glued projects; otherwise, when you try to move them, the paper of the cards will otherwise tear and pull itself apart. This project had even more extra weight because it also contained dice and poker chips in the design, so the internal structure was even more important.
My favorite story about this project is that I loaded the sign into a truck in New Mexico where I had built it, and then drove it out to Las Vegas with a friend. The sign was traveling in many pieces that were to then going to be assembled onsite. When it was loaded on the moving truck, it really did not look impressive. Quite frankly, it looked like a pile of trash. So, when we tried to cross the Hoover Dam and the trailer got inspected by the Hoover Dam Police, they asked us to stop and throw the door up. What did they say? “Well gosh, guys, it looks like you’re just headed to the dump, right?” Of course this was hilarious until I got to thinking that in just an hour’s time we would pull up to a loading dock at the Rio Casino where the event was happening, and my client would be there waiting to see a first glimpse of the finished project as we rolled the truck door open. Fear consumed me at what they would see. Luckily the Loctite marketing team was very imaginative, and they watched in awe as we carefully took the many pieces out of the truck and put them together as they were intended to be. Last I knew, the sign was still hanging high in the rigging out of sight above the stage at the Rio, collecting dust after having had its moment in the spotlight centerstage at the WSOP tournament.