Lawrence Leung’s “blindfolded drive” in Vegas had ABC approval
High risk or high art? A nail-biting, blindfolded drive through the streets of Las Vegas got the thumbs up from ABC legal teams for Lawrence Leung's new TV series.
Comedian Lawrence Leung is back with a new television series on ABC1 tackling the myths, lies and truths of the weird and wonderful including psychics, UFOs and ghosts.
Again produced by the boys from The Chaser, he embarked on a high-risk stunt for his first episode, which needed the approval of ABC legal before it could be staged: filming an illusionist who was driving blindfolded at high-speed through busy traffic in Las Vegas.
Leung attended the Skeptics Conference in Las Vegas and met with James Randi, best known to Australian viewers as the guest who Don Lane once told to “piss off” live on his show. But one of Randi’s adjudicators, named Banachek, told Leung he could drive blindfolded through traffic with coins over his eyes.
On hearing such a bold claim, Leung admits his initial reaction wasn’t one about safety risks so much as what might make good television.
“I wanted to see what he can do because he made the claim. But the camera crew and the producers said, ‘Whoa, whoa! Let’s just call home first,'” he says.
“So we told him that we can’t do this unless the ABC and their insurers let us do it.”
“We had to ask him a series of questions and make sure our seat belts were on.”
But, amazingly, after getting the go-ahead, Leung and his crew proceeded with the stunt.
“He was completely blindfolded with coins that were gaffer taped over his eyes, and I personally gaffer-taped them. I checked the coins and held them up to the sun to make sure he couldn’t see through them,” he says.
“I filled up any gaps, and he was driving the car. Myself and the film crew were completely freaked out!
“Despite looking at his blindfold and checking it all out, he was still able to drive at quite a high speed through the traffic in Las Vegas.”
Leung concedes that the traffic was busy and that they embarked on the stunt without having seen it undertaken first. In the ultimate “do not attempt this at home” demonstration, he even admits it may have been illegal.
“I guess it would be illegal, because you wouldn’t want anybody else to go and do it. But obviously he’s got some sort of training and practice behind this,” he says.
“We had to go on his word, because obviously he’s a practitioner at this particular craft and he had done it many times before.
Banachek, who has consulted for Penn & Teller, David Blaine, and Criss Angel, isn’t a psychic but a real-life mentalist and skeptic. He appears in the first episode of Unbelievable.
An ageing James Randi also appears in Leung’s look at Psychics, years after he was blasted by Don Lane for debunking British clairvoyant Doris Stokes, who had appeared many times on the show ‘reading’ members of his 1970s audience.
“I didn’t see it live because I was too young, but I remember it from my childhood because it always comes up in clips. Most of the context might be forgotten but I don’t think it was like Don to fire up on his own show,” says Leung.
He also tests the winner of Channel Seven’s psychic series The One, in another cheeky Chaser-style interview.
But as fans of Lawrence Leung’s Choose Your Own Adventure may ask, is there another appearance by his Hong Kong-born parents?
“That’s the number question that people who liked the last show want to know,” he laughs.
“Mum is in one of the episodes but it’s just her voice.
“They liked the fact that they were helping out for my last series but they don’t like getting stopped in the street anymore. It happens all the time, whether mum’s in the bakery and people recognise her or dad’s walking down the street and people are yelling out of their cars and things like that. They just want to have a quiet life.
“I’d prefer them to have their own TV show rather that stealing the spotlight from mine, because they were pretty awesome.”
Lawrence Leung’s Unbelievable airs 9:30pm Wednesdays on ABC1.