Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: Sea World superheroes water ski show—Chuck Jordan, Supervisor of Entertainment

Introduction to series “Super ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Introduction to subseries “Sea World superheroes show” (including list of interviewees).

SWSH = Sea World superheroes

What was your role with the SWSH show?

At that time I was Supervisor of Entertainment, Sea World, and supervised live entertainment announcers and actors. Worked with script development, staging and installation, costume operations, etc. Also lighting director for Atlantis Theater.

How did you get the job with the SWSH show?

Visited Orlando when first married and applied for job at Sea World. Interviewed nine times, still not sure why. But was offered the job.

What was your background before taking the job?

Graduate of Florida State University with majors in applied music, dance, theater; worked in summer stock in New York; work in set design and install lighting, etc.

How long were you with the SWSH show or Sea World in general?

Worked for Sea World from 1976 through about 1989 (Supervisor of Entertainment, Sea World; Manager of Entertainment Contract Services and Special Events; Manager of Entertainment Florida Festival; Director of Entertainment Boardwalk and Baseball).

How were the characters to be used chosen? Did you have anything to do with that?

DC Comics played a large role in character selection and integrity of design and character.

How did you find a costume designer?

Costuming was executed by Lloyd Lambert who had extensive experience in LA and Vegas. This was all new at that time, especially the need for durability. Superheroes at that time were spandex city and jumbo spandex, while shiny and durable, has basic weakness in that it was not designed for high-speed extreme sports applications. A simple pair of red high boots for Wonder Woman posed a problem because in the ‘70s there were not red boots, no high gloss paints that would adhere to boots or plastic, etc.

Who wrote the storyline?

Dan Kibble was engaged to do initial script treatments, but again, this was a new process, product, and exercise. The writer provided a treatment but this, as I remember, meant that the script would say something to the effect of “announcer announces the shoe ski act” or “announcer describes the ski jump act.” Not real helpful. A ski jumping act is generally anywhere from five to seven minutes long unless someone falls—then it seems like 45 minutes long—but the announcer (in this case Jimmy Olsen) needed to stay engaged and to take the audience along for the ride.

I guess what I am trying to say is that while the initial storyline may have been constructed via committee with Sea World administration, DC folks, and the “writer,” much of the task of taking that storyline and making it a viable, Jimmy Olsen-facilitated action show came in many cases from the performers themselves. I had numerous people on staff through the run of the show [who] were announcers, not skiers or high divers or boat drivers, but people who actually established the pace of the show, moved it forward for the audience, covered when a boat was late or if there [was] a fall. These are the people who sat in endless script meetings and worked in rehearsals to make this show different from Cypress Gardens or other ski shows; this one had a story and blended action, skill, beauty, magic, stunts, and great visuals in a way that had not been done before.

What, if any, mistakes or accidents happened during a show?

On the whole not a lot of mistakes. I guess we were all pretty demanding of ourselves, music was expected to be right on for all performances, dialogue and subtext were well established to cover for any contingency and most everyone took their job seriously. When you present a show with someone being dragged behind a high-speed boat on two sticks by a piece of rope you have enough variables to deal with. Focus was generally on show quality control and consistency of performance.

Any funny/unusual show anecdotes that you didn’t address already?

I remember always being challenged by the magic illusion apparatus used in the show. Originally designed by Harry Blackstone, Jr. and his wife Gaye, the apparatus was in a unique environment—water, sand, skiers, performers, escape tunnels with rising levels of water sometimes, wheels that would grind to a stop with sand occasionally, training, training, training, and quality control to insure safety. The spike bed was particularly important. I remember [that] every day the show was in production, at precisely the time that illusion was on stage, we all monitored performance; even though we know how the illusion was performed, we, all of us, always paid extra attention to that segment of the show.

John Gaffey

Did you spend time socially with the SWSH performers?

Not really. It has been a long time and my career has taken me to many new memories along the way.

How many SWSH performers have you been in touch with continuously since the show ended?

Continuously none; from time to time, a few of us cross paths.

What do you do for a living?

Have produced shows for hotels, resorts, theme parks and similar venues around the world, continue in production.

What was your reaction when you first heard why I was contacting you?

I was intrigued and hoped you would appreciate that this show was not a superhero show exclusively; this was an exercise in developing a new creative direction for ski shows, theme park shows, and the Central Florida theme park market. The Atlantis Theater was the first 7,000-seat venue in a Central Florida theme park. This was the first concert facility in a Central Florida theme park. This was a first-of-its-kind production that would incorporate storyline, costumed characters, high-speed action, boats, special effects, high divers, fire on the surface of the water, night shows, integrated music and sound effects, magic illusions, licensed DC characters, boat patterns, backwash…it was a show concept unlike anything anywhere else in the world.

Bubby Snow, Sheri McNary

How do you look back at your time with the SWSH show?

I look at the photos and everyone seems so young.

Do you have a favorite memory about the SWSH show?

The day I performed the role of the Joker.

Do you still have the script?

No, [but] I can still hear it in my head.

Next: Clark Gault, composer.

1 comment:

EtTuD2 said...

Great interview Chuck! Particularly enjoyed the "bigger context" you wrapped around the show, in terms of the themepark "firsts".