For many years, possibly decades, the concept of suspending inside of a gyroscope has been discussed within the suspension community. Until just recently, the idea had been dismissed as being too difficult, dangerous or physically impossible. Thankfully a group of visionaries came together at the 2014 Dallas Suscon to make this dream a reality.
So how did this monstrosity come to life? Please click more to read the full story as told by the Jason LaJudice, the creator of this amazing apparatus.
I am an artist, sculptor, engineer, owner of a small fabrication shop and contractor in many industries. Whatever the field, my thought process and the way I achieve my goals are unconventional but the final product is always achieved. I am an extremist in life, always looking for the next thrill. As far as how I found myself in this community, it was through Allen Falkner, my friend. He sparked my interest in suspension. Seeing people hang by hooks was great, and through my eyes I saw it as an art. The suspension, the use of the body, the collaborated minds and the people it takes to achieve the suspension, to the use of rigs, to the rig line from the hooks to the rigs, to the graceful suspendee, to the ones that push the limits, all of it is an art form.
Some of my achievements in suspension gear have been; load leveling spinning beams with ball screw, tripods and Angel rigs. But by far and what I am most proud of would be the Triad hooks, a unique, three piece stainless steel design with magnets and of course the Human Gyroscope also known as the Orbitron.
What I have been told is that the human gyroscope is something that has been talked about among the TSD (Traumatic Stress Discipline) crew and others in the community for over a decade. I can remember countless discussions on how to bring this beast to life. Personally, I never thought I would be the one doing the modifications, but at the same time I did have ideas for the modifications needed in order to successfully suspend within it.
Jared Anderson was the first key to this project becoming reality. Jared took it solely upon himself, searching for an acceptable gyroscope that worked with the specs needed for the Orbitron. Once purchased, Tom Moore of Steel Fetish jumped on board. We immediately started bouncing ideas off of each other. I truly didn’t know if it was going to be a success or even possible to achieve gyro rotation while being fully suspend.
I started the drafting process of the parts needed. I didn’t want to put all of this time and energy into a project that was going to be a failure. With this on my mind, I decided to take the gyro design one step further; engineering parts that would transform the gyro parts into two separate individual rigs (the public has yet to see this). Tom took over some of the workload as I attempted take on the rest by myself. I soon found out that this wasn’t going to be physically possible for one person to complete this project by the Dallas Suscon and not to mention all of the other behind the scene projects I took on for this event. Panicked and faced with having to pull the Human Gyroscope from Dallas Suscon and letting the community down, I put out the word that I needed help. I put my personal and work life on hold for the next 30 days.
For the next month help arrived. 204-1/8 pilot holes were hand drilled, as well as 102- 5/16 through holes. There were countless hours of rolling steel pipe, welding, cutting and grinding. Mistakes were made due to exhaustion. Material was scraped. 80% of the work was completed outdoors, with several days lost due to weather. Did I mention I had just moved into a new shop that was not set up for this? Long hours and the working conditions were extremely challenging for a build of this magnitude. In all honesty, the Orbitron was never completed to its fullest, just to a level we felt was acceptable for the event. It was in poor condition when we got it, but it was acceptable for the price. No matter how you looked at it, this was a big job for anyone.
Day of delivery
Let me tell you, I was excited and at the same time completely exhausted. Everything was going ok but not as smooth as I would have liked for an apparatus of this size. This was the first time breaking down and reassembling. To make things even more complicated, the event was on the second floor of the venue. Just as everything was moved upstairs, something went wrong. We torqued a Gyro arm and broke one of the main bearings! Fuck, this was not what I needed and less than 24 hours away, I was not prepared for this! I thought I had every scenario planned, down to spare parts, nuts, bolts, tools but not a fucking bearing. Without missing a beat, I was online specking one out. I couldn’t believe that luck was on my side. I found two bearings, less than a mile away. We were back in business. Everything went smoothly from then on.
Dallas Suscon 2014
At this point, from lack of sleep, pure exhaustion had set in. Friday was supposed to be my recovery day but that wasn’t the case. I was having a hard time holding a conversation and that day was one big blur.
On Saturday, Tom and I start going over the Human Gyroscope one last time. We felt that the easiest way to rig him in was to use pull straps and six strategically placed hooks. I have never been so scared for my friend! I watched him be strapped into the most evil contraptions I have ever designed. All I could think about was his safety and all the things that could go wrong. I don’t know if it was due to the fact I had just finished busting my ass over at the Lakewood theater for the Core/Fakir show or the fact this was about to go down, but I sweating and nervous as hell.
Ok, this is it. Tom is locked in. One quick safety check. And now it’s Go time. I forgot about everything and focused on only one thing, the Gyro. The plan was to unlock the inner ring and make one full revolution. If everything checked out, we would unleash the other 2 rings. I zoned in on Tom. It was time to go. The first time, only the inner green ring went around. It looked good! I let them all go. Tom was successfully spinning in the Human Gyroscope! Everyone was screaming! It was unlike anything! Tom had successfully christened the Orbitron! The energy in the room was unreal. It was a big relief and a heavy weight had been lifted. I found my second wind. That was one hell of a pay off and my shit eaten grin said it all!
My vision for the Human Gyroscope was it not only to be used for spinning but as a sphere. It could be rig 360 degrees and spun around without going upside down, kind of like skating a bowl. Jasmine Ellis’s 16 point lotus was about to prove this. It created a bit of challenge and opened up some new problems.
Things to keep in mind when rigging someone into the Gyro to do a lotus suspension or similar; you need to rig the person below the center of gravity. Install a chair, mount or some kind of swing for the suspendee to sit on during the rigging process. These things we did not know with Jasmine’s suspension. Like Tom, she is now the test subject. Jasmine toughed through it and pulled off a remarkable lotus suspension. Unfortunately, she was above the center of gravity so we were only able to do a 360 degree rotation and not skate the bowl like I had envisioned. It was still beautiful.
I don’t know what it is about this guy, but I always like seeing him suspend. It could be that he’s Canadian or that he screams and complains, or that he’s trying to figure out how he got himself into this predicament. Doug and his ten point Orbitron was about to take place. I was thrilled! Again we used the pull strap method. With Doug rigged in, his last words were “Fuck it! Spin me as fast as you can until I scream STOP!”
With that said, we gave him one revolution just to check everything out. It was a go! Then a big spin with a multitude of curses flying about but Doug was still in. Then I heard him say “I am through GET ME THE FUCK out of this thing!” We stopped him. I was excited for another successful Gyro suspension. Before we could get Doug cut out of the inner ring, I heard a chant coming from the crowd. ONE MORE TIME, ONE MORE TIME! I looked at Doug. He said, and I quote, “Fuck” under his breath. Then, like a rock star, he screamed to the crowd “Alright!” So we spun the fuck out of Doug one more time. This is what I am talking about; enjoyment every time he suspends. Everyone in the venue felt the same thing.
The Gyro is something else. It’s a rig of its own class like no other. This creates some challenges with rigging. You have two or three axes that come into play depending on if you’re doing a lotus or going for the full revolution. The best way to describe the Gyroscope is that it’s like riding a bull. It has a mind of its own. Strap in good and hold on. It does not follow a pattern.
You can be spinning smooth and without warning go into an abrupt auto rotation in the opposite direction and then back again. Weight distribution, center of gravity, hook points and rigging are extremely important and play a big part in a successful suspension within the Orbitron. If your weight is offset within the Gyro, this will feed the beast of the revolution and create a faster throw in the axis points within the Gyro. It will be an intense ride, with more jerks when it changes direction as you are spinning.
A good example of this is the way Tom and Doug were rigged. Their load and G-forces were applied to only a few points on their body at individual times within their revolution spin. Hands down it is one hell of a ride! Something that needs to be pointed out; rigging alone takes between 1.5 to 2 hours. With that said, Håvve Fjell stepped in with a new plan of attack.
Håvve rigged Kristina Kelley with one line spiraled from the top to bottom. Once rigged in, the line was tightened to a point and every hook had an equal force applied at the same time, centering Kristina’s body into the Gyroscope. This was executed to perfection and looked so sick! My personal opinion, if you’re going for the full Monty this is the preferred way.
Now back to Kristina. There are no words that can describe the energy that radiated from her, the Gyro and within the Dallas Suscon venue. This is what I saw through my eyes; Kristina with hooks in place and body shaking, the use of tie line. She was ready to go. Kristina focused on Håvve. Tom and I did one last check on safety. Håvve explained to Kristina the plan. Seconds before we spun the inner ring, everyone was focused on Kristina; I was solely focused on her. We spun the inner ring one full revolution. Everything checked out. She screamed “GO, GO, GO” but she was shaking her head as if saying “NO.” I let all the rings go. The room came to life with screams. As if everything was moving in slow motion, I heard her say “NO, NO, NO, NO” and someone said “Stop, she’s tearing.” But it was my mistake; she was still yelling “GO, GO, GO” as we slowed her down. She said “Keep going!” but either way we had to stop to check her out. Håvve asked, “Kristina, you want to keep going?” She responded “Fuck YA!” So again, fully confident in her rigging, I gave her a big spin. Around and around Kristina went until she finally said “I am done.” As we brought her to a stop, all you saw was Kristina’s grin on her face. I locked the Gyro down, stepped back and took in the whole experience. I almost lost it when I saw Håvve lean in and kiss Kristina. At that point Kristina did lose it. The tears started flying. I can’t speak for her, but for me it was a big accomplishment to have made something that impacted so many people in so many ways. That was an emotional moment for me.
With the Human Gyroscope a success, I was still stressed over not knowing if anyone would show up the next day to help tear down the gyro and trailer it back to my house for the post Dallas Suscon event, Yard Con. Unfortunately, I went back to the venue only to find my tool box was stolen! What the fuck? I freaked out, started calling everyone, thinking this was someone’s idea of a joke. I was so pissed and let me tell you I don’t buy cheap tools. The only tools I had with me were an electric hand held band saw and a large radiac cut off wheel. I was so pissed I was going to get the Orbitron out of the venue even if I had to cut it in half. Cut me some slack, I know I was a bit over dramatic.
With a bit of investigating, the help of the venue/hotel and the few security cams that worked, we were able to locate my tools. Wait, it gets better! They were stolen by a person who lived in the hotel! I would have handled it myself if the staff would have let me but I would have been the one who went to jail. So the venue/hotel and I called the cops. This is like something out of a movie. We, the hotel staff and cops stepped out of the elevator, walked down to the room. The cops knocked on the door and said “Housekeeping “; no joke! He opened the door naked and they kicked their way in. It was actually quite funny.
Ok back to the gyro. With the recovery of the tools, the gyro was successfully loaded. It was time to continue with the tradition of Yard Con. Did I mention I was the host? It is the day after Suscon, a free for all to come, hang out, relax and have fun. Over 65 people came out to our house that day.
Lajudice Rigs Future
With the help of some well-deserved alcoholic beverages, I reflected on the past few months; from planning to completion, to all the hard work, to all volunteers, the countless conversations late nights, begging for help and donations, my time and money invested. I am faced with the fact that I need to step back and reassess my company Lajudice Rigs. I only started the company to sell affordable rigs and to reinvest the profits for more complex rigs and hooks to keep evolving the suspension community. I have ideas for hooks and rigs that far surpass the complexity of the Human Gyro and the Triad hooks. At this time, I will only be doing limited runs of Triad Hooks (I will always support them regardless) and special orders around my convenience. To get right down to it, the Gyro itself has drained the company bank to a point where I cannot dump any more of my personal time and funds into this rig.
The Orbitron/Human Gyroscope’s Next Stop
Funny story – I blame Mike Coons for getting me drunk and agreeing to this. Well, that’s not all true but yes, alcohol was involved. The Gyro will be making one last show at Mecca 2014. With that said, it’s only going to make it to the event depending on a few conditions. I need to update some safety features and make a few modifications before it can make the 1,332 mile round trip from Texas to Iowa. The drive itself is going to cost as well. At this time, we will ask the community again for help and set up a place for donations. In return, I will donate my time to make the changes needed.
The Human Gyroscope’s Future
What’s to become of the Human Gyroscope? The Gyro modifications of the additional rig/rings can be removed. The Gyro will be returned to its original configuration and sold to help recoup my personal investment and my company’s investment. I want to get back to the point to where I don’t have to rely on the community for help.
The Saga Continues
I was disappointed that the Gyro was not used to its fullest potential at Suscon. I also understand it is intimidating and overwhelming. After much thought, Jason Cruz and I made some work aids to help with rigging within the Gyro. I gave Jason C the limitations for a successful suspension and he came up with a plan of attack for the rigging. It is a swing to help the suspendee sit comfortably while being rigged.
Celeste Adair did a 10 point modified chair suspension executed to perfection! She spun a full 360 degrees and rocked back and forth. I would compare it to suspending on a boat, spinning 360 degrees in calm water. She was quite comfortable and she stayed in for over an hour.
Mary Bleeds, did a suspension she coined the “Super Space Monkey.” This was another beautiful suspension. Personally, we all had a lot of fun with Mary face down and ass up above her head. Again, we used 10 points. What was great about this set up was that Mary was able to spin herself without putting herself in harm’s way. She did this for the 2.5 hours.
I am planning on moving forward with the updates. Some of the key features will be; disk brakes to stop two of the rings; safety straps; new platforms to stand on; rigging aids to help the suspendee. I am also going to make a jig to transport a rig of this size on its long journey. There is more but I am also limited to funding so again, I will see how far I can go.
I am always looking for help and feel like I have exhausted all of my free help locally. At this time, I will have a link set up at ThekillerArt.com/Gyro where you can donate. Anything will help. You can always take part in the updates and follow the progress at Facebook group “Human Gyroscope Fund & Discussion” and follow us at Facebook.com/LaJudiceRigs
I would like to personally thank the people that helped me; with the hard labor Tom Moore, Shawn Sturdy, Jason Sharkweek Cruz, Princes Janel, Agen On, Kevin Weatherly, Shea C., Ryan D, Celeste Adair; integral people Jared Anderson, Allen Falkner and TSD; for moral support, Bradde Hamman and my infallible business and life partner, housekeeper, babysitter, accountant, distribution coordinator and editor, Ivy Nguyen. If it weren’t for you guys, this vision would not have come true. Thanks to everyone that donated and everyone that helped with load in and load out at the Dallas Suscon. Thanks to Mark Kaplan for his photo documentation and to Lady Snook for pushing me to write.