I discovered my unique ability in May of 1975, at the age of 14. I was in gym class at the time. We, the class, had the activity of rope climbing, where each student was to climb a rope to the top, touch the ceiling, then climb back down. When it came my turn, I climbed about 15 feet off the ground; I had then lost my grip on the rope, and fell.
Because of the position I had fallen in to (one foot being twisted around), my teacher had thought that I had either broken a bone, or dislocated a joint within my ankle. Much to everyone’s surprise, and mine, I stood to my feet, and felt no pain what so ever. I walked around to insure that I was OK, and then completed the rope climbing activity.
Later that same day at home, I began to twist that same foot around backwards, and then the other foot, to test my flexibility, and limitations, and discovered that I had the ability of turning my feet around backwards! Freely and painlessly!
The next day, I demonstrated for my parents the flexibility that I had. My mother was concerned that maybe it was a ‘sign’ of a deformity that I may have, and contacted our family physician for an appointment to be examined. My father on the other hand, was excited over my newly discovered talent and contacted the local newspaper.
After having been examined by my physician and x-rays taken, my physician discovered that I had been born with extra ligaments and cartilage within the joints of my ankles, knees, and hips, that allowed me to rotate my bones within the sockets of my joints freely and painlessly. He stated that as abnormal that these extra tissues were, that I was as normal as any other person, and no deformity would result from these ‘extras’ that I had.
The local newspaper had taken photographs and ran a small story on my unique gift. The article had been circulated via the Associated Press and appeared in several other newspapers across the country.
Through the summer of 1975, I was asked to appear and perform at local fund raisers and charities. Even though I was called ‘freak boy’ on more than one occasion, I enjoyed performing and making people laugh. I also was interviewed by various television news programs within my regional area.
Shortly after school had resumed in the fall, my father had began receiving phone calls from producers asking that I appear on their television programs of that time. I appeared on only three television programs, which were the ‘Dinah Shore Show’, ‘Real People’, and the original ‘Candid Camera’. The producers had seen the press coverage that I had been receiving (via the Associated Press), and wanted me to appear in segments of these programs. My father, though overjoyed that his son was appearing on television, and he himself as my acting manager was traveling to states that he only dreamed of, decided to put a stop to my career because he felt it would hinder my schooling and education. He felt that the phaze of popularity that we were experience would quickly and adruptly come to an end, and that I would had been lacking in my schooling by the many times I had missed school by traveling the country. Even though I had this God given talent that no one else had, he did not want me to miss any more schooling because of it. I did continue to receive telephone calls from producers of other TV shows, but my father told the callers ‘no’.
Through the remainder of my school years, my talent became too well known and common in my home town, that I was no longer being asked to perform at fund raisers and the like. There was no more press coverage, and I no longer received phone calls from television producers. I felt that I had had my 15 minutes of fame, and it was time for me to plan a career. So off to college I went.
While attending college, I desired to be the ‘class clown’ and wanted to get a laugh. So I would turn my feet backwards and walk through the hallways! However, I discovered that many people would not look at me or show any kind of reaction. I learned that people had thought that I was handicapped or deformed, and feared looking at me, that I would become offended. So, I entertained the idea of putting a suit, tie, and shoes on backwards, and then walk around campus with my feet backwards. I also would stand at a phone booth, having my clothes on backwards, and carried on a non-existent conversation on the telephone. The facial expressions and reactions of people that passed by was hilarious! Within their mind, they were seeing a man with his head on backwards!
During my college years, I did not pursue the entertainment field. Other than being class clown, I did not perform locally, or wanted any press coverage. I wanted to establish a career in the field of which I was studying, then settle down and start a family, and that I did. I graduated from college in 1984; married a beautiful girl, by the name of Felicia, in 1986; and in 1994, my only son, Trey, was born.
Years had past and still I gave no thought of making a career from my talent. I would still entertain family and friends at holiday gatherings, but nothing more than that. Then in August of 1995, while visiting a “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!” museum at Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, my wife encouraged me to submit photographs of myself with my feet turned around to “Ripley’s”. My wife also encouraged me in submitting videos to the then popular television programs “America’s Funniest Home Videos”, and “The Worlds Funniest”. And this I did. (View additional photographs )
During the months of March and April 1996, the two home video programs aired my submitted videos, and “Ripley’s” released a cartoon panel that featured my talent in the comic section of newspapers across the U.S., and in some other countries over-seas, as well. Soon after these appearances, I began receiving requests for performances and interviews. Strangely enough, a majority of these requests were from European television producers and publication editors! Not like my father who said ‘no’ in my youth, these offers I now accepted!
To the best of my knowledge, I am the only living person that has this ability. I have yet to meet anyone that can do what I can do. My father did not have this unique gift, nor anyone else in my family. However in 1999, my wife and I discovered that our then 6 year old son, Trey, appeared to have inherited the ‘extra’ tissues within his joints as well! Trey can turn his feet backwards 180 degrees, just like his Dad!. Trey is currently learning the ability to walk with his feet in the backwards position, but in given time, I believe he will learn. Go to pictures of Trey at age 6. In 1999, Trey made his first televised appearance; and in 2005 he appeared in his own Ripley’s cartoon panel.
I still perform (sometimes with Trey) at local fund raisers and benefits. On occasion, we will participate together in childrens special events and programs at Schools, Hospitals, and Libraries.
On one occasion, while performing in the Los Angeles area, I came across the filming of an infomercial for a ‘Juiceman’ kitchen appliance. I was recognized by the producer of the project from a recent television appearance that I had done. He kindly asked me to participate in the infomercial. I glady contributed!
Trey and I have made several televised and live appearances individually, and together as a Father & Son act. He respectfully refers to himself as “Jr. Elastic”!
I do not know if I will make an actual full-time career from my talent as a contortionist (or as an ‘extra’ in a product infomercial!), but for the time being, I fully enjoy making people laugh (and wonder!) by putting my best foot backwards!