Saturday night in the Searchlight desert, crazy motorcyclists zigzagged around each other inside a metal cage called the Globe of Death, for the thrills and the prestige and the wow.
The owner of the Globe of Death, the great daredevil John Stotts, staged the performance to make a music video for the band DiM.
Stotts is a 44-year-old Las Vegan who, since 1991, has ridden maybe 20,000 runs inside his Globes, first for the Strip’s “Splash” show, then for his own touring company, sponsors, TV episodes, and ads for Target, the NFL and a toy called Destroyer Dome.
Stotts boasts that his Globe team is the safest in the world. But accidents happen.
Last year, Stotts suffered a concussion one day, a broken leg another, followed by a 4-inch blood clot in one leg.
After that, he was watching a Strip show when his appendix burst. He blew it off, drove home and went to sleep.
“I take my kids to school the next morning, and my sons are, like, ‘Dad, are you drunk?’ ”
He was not. He went to the hospital. His appendix had toxified. But whatever. Stoic Stotts keeps manning up.
Stotts went to Clark High School, where he was a BMX pro, where he accidentally sliced his Achilles tendon, and where he was a woodshop whiz.
He owns engineering companies, so building Globes by hand is a piece of cake. How does a Globe (linear diameter: 14.5 feet) fit up to five tricking bikes going 22-38 mph in them at the same time?
“Very carefully,” Stotts says. “It all comes down to math, listening, sound and timing. There are 10 variables that happen every time we get in here.”
An Air Force engineering class once studied his Globe, and the teacher gave him bad news.
“He ends up saying to me, ‘According to this formula, you cannot do this.’ ”
It takes two things not to faint in the Globe. You eat enough to keep your blood sugar up. And you breathe through your teeth, holding pressure in your chest.
“When you’re riding, your lungs and everything else is collapsing inside. So if you hold pressure in your chest, they don’t collapse,” he says.
Stotts knows about lungs. In 1995, he was doing a “super crazy three-bike zigzag” when he T-boned a biker, crashing. He had a battery pack on his back, and his back slammed the metal Globe at 35 mph.
“It blew my ribs out of my sternum, like, boom, and collapsed my lung. My ribs were like fingers sticking out of the sternum.”
He woke in a hospital, his hands taped to a treadmill, a tube in his mouth, and someone was saying, “John, keep walking. We’re going to inflate your lungs rapidly, your chest is going to come out, and your ribs are going to go in. One, two, three.”
That painful procedure failed. So they did it again.
All these things are worth it.
“I’ve done backwood rallies where I’ve had 5,000 or 10,000 people surrounding the Globe,” he says. “Standing ovations, even when you’re in a small showroom, and you see the look on their face — I still love that.”
I haven’t even told you the worst thing.
“The worst thing is drinking a soda or a beer before you ride, because you can’t burp,” Stotts says. “It all stays in the bottom of your stomach. It feels like a lead weight.”
Oh yeah, that’s clearly the hard part.
Doug Elfman’s column appears on Page 3A in the main section on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He also writes for Neon on Fridays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.