This isn't run-of-the-mill entertainment. A knife-wielding champ, a fire-dancing maven and a poker-playing dog are among Long Island's extreme performance artists who push events into over-the-top territory. You'll see them at public fests or private parties, where their carnival sideshow-esque antics tend to leave a lasting impression.
THE KNIFE THROWER
Fourteen-inch knives whip across the stage and stab the wooden board -- right beside a pretty redhead's neck. Gasps from the audience are audible. But David Adamovich, "The Great Throwdini," has razor-sharp focus. Good thing, because those knives are flying up to 30 miles an hour.
He wears a back brace and metal-rimmed glasses. ("I'm blind as a bat without them," he concedes.) It's not an intimidating look for one of the world's fastest knife throwers. Adamovich holds Guinness World Records for throwing 102 knives at a human target in one minute. To up the ante, Adamovich hurls blades at women strapped to a giant spinning wheel.
"I'm not skittish about things, but when he does that ... I white-knuckle my seat," says Ken Ferst, 63, a professional magician from Manhattan who saw Adamovich at a performance there. Such excitement is a far cry from Adamovich's day job as a minister who often performs weddings out of his home chapel. He practices weekly; convincing his wife once to play target girl as he threw a knife through the ash of her cigarette.
The daring profession is not without its hazards. "If the knives are slightly out of position, I just come down and slam my hand right into the point, and it hurts," he says. But that hasn't dissuaded him since first throwing more than 15 years ago. Says Adamovich: "It's just pushing myself to the limits to do stuff that's very difficult and dangerous."
COST About $2,500 for an 18- to 22-minute performance of throwing knives, tomahawks, axes and machetes around a human target -- $3,500 includes the spinning wheel.
INFO 516-546-1425, knifethrower.com
THE POKER-PLAYING DOG
Rick Caran is dealing cards to Ruby, his 3-year-old Yorkshire terrier. "The name of the game is five-card, no-peek poker," says Caran, 67, of Centerport.
As the game begins, Caran holds a treat in his hand. "You pick a card," he says to Ruby, gesturing to her stack of cards. She promptly turns over a jack of hearts with her teeth.
"You bet," Caran says, motioning with his treat-toting hand toward a pile of $1 bills. Ruby prances over to the cash and grabs $2 with her teeth.
"A lot of confidence there, huh?" Caran says.
Ruby is billed as "the world's only poker-playing dog," a title she inherited from her "sister" Jilli, who is now retired. Ruby has performed internationally and has been seen by audiences from "Good Morning America." Her repertoire includes playing a toy piano, pushing a small blue wagon and shooting a basketball into a miniature hoop. The 3-pound dog also performs at community fairs and charity events.
She wins this poker game with two jacks. Caran gives her a treat first, but his voice suddenly drops. "You know what happens to dogs who cheat in poker," he says, fist balled. "Bang!" The fist turns into a finger pistol, and Ruby keels over on her side.
Such stunts take only five minutes of practice each night, Caran says.
COST $500 for a 30-minute performance at a children's party to $1,250 for several dogs performing tricks, plus travel expenses.
INFO 631-875-2660, jillidog.com
THE FIRE PERFORMER
It's a chilly night, but about 50 people gather outside. They stare up at the roof of the BrickHouse Brewery in Patchogue, where Lisa Elkins, 31, twirls two chains with a ball of fire on each end. She sashays her exposed hips from side to side to hip-hop rhythms, yellow flames zipping in circles. It looks as though she's creating fireworks against the dark sky.
"Had enough?" Elkins, of Wading River, shouts.
"No!" the crowd responds, cheering.
For James Skidmore, the brewery's entertainment director, the moment was "a little magic to what could have been a mundane event."
That's exactly what Elkins aims to do. "Fire performing is kind of part meditative and part thrill for me," she says. Elkins incorporates salsa and Brazilian dance into performances with fire-enhanced props, such as fans, staffs and even Hula-Hoops.
"You're not going to get burned if that's done quickly and carefully," Elkins says. Still, she has singed her near hip-length dreadlocks and had minor burns on her tongue after snuffing out fire with her mouth. Elkins performs with a safety assistant and carries insurance to cover any damage -- just in case.
A part-time Stony Brook University psychology and dance student by day, Elkins rehearses in her backyard, figuring out how to deal with wind and other surprises. "It takes a level of mastery and kind of a balance between not having too much fear and knowing when not to do something," she says.
COST $250 for a 20-minute show with one performer (fire eating is about $50 extra) to $2,000 for a larger 20- to 30- minute show with five performers.
INFO 631-599-2883, movementmosaic.com