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7' Rockette Ice Sculpture Smashed to Pieces, then put on Display as Objet d'Art

People always ask me if I have ever accidentally broken ice sculptures during delivery or set-up. I suppose there will always be a morbid fascination with disaster. After more than 20 years in this business, the obvious answer is yes. There is, however, one story that really stands out and helped define me as a thick skinned, take it as it comes professional ice sculptor.

It was back in the late 80's when all the cool cultural events in downtown Los Angeles happened at the Dorthy-Chandler Pavilion, not the Disney center. The VIP event rooms were, of course, on the top floor and the delivery entrance was the Artists/Musicians door off the sidewalk that featured serious cracks, pits and bumps. Most of the sidewalks in downtown Los Angeles are well over 100 years old.

I was hired to create a 7' tall Rockette dancer like the ones featured in the famous New York Broadway show a decade or so earlier. The dancer was to have an enormous feathered head-dress and, of course, one leg kicking up in the air the way the line of Rockette girls would do.

It was a challenging ice sculpture for many reasons, but most of all because the entire weight of the torso was on that one supporting leg which had about a 4" diameter at the knee. Today, I would have included supporting ice in that area to ensure a safe delivery, but as the saying goes, that was then and this is now.

The carving actually came out beautifully. I managed to wrangle it into my car and get it to the downtown area quite effectively. Of course the parking was such that I had to park about 100 yards away and roll this 7' monster down the minefield strewn sidewalk before I even arrived at the two heavy doors and elevator obstacle. It was a hot day and I took it slow, using what seemed like an eternity to maneuver my fragile dancer all the way to the interior of the elevator. As the doors closed, I thought I was home free. And then, as if by her own will, the knee gave and the entire sculpture collapsed into hundreds of pieces.

When the elevator doors opened, I emerged dragging a blanket filled with ice just like Santa Claus with an overloaded bag of broken toys. Not knowing what else to do, and feeling terrified that I had let my employer down, I dragged it down the hall and unveiled the remains at the entrance to the ballroom. Sweating bullets, I approached the woman who had hired me and said, "Here's your ice sculpture."

She asked me three questions. 1) What happened? 2) Can you put it back together? And, my personal favorite, 3) Can you make another one? The answers of course were, A) It broke. B) No. And C) Hell, no.

The silver lining to this story was that, in the end, we presented many of the pieces on a bed of crushed ice, with the head here, an arm sticking up there, even a leg that survived as an objet d'art. And the best part was, I still got paid.

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