Warning: Joining NBC's Celebrity Circus could be hazardous to your health. "On [other shows], they can break a nail," executive producer Matt Kunitz tells me. "On our show, you can break a bone." No kidding. So far, Christopher "My Fair Brady" Knight has cracked his arm while training for the six-episode series, supermodel Rachel Hunter has injured her neck, actress Stacey Dash (Clueless) has nearly broken two ribs, and singer Blu Cantrell is so bruised she has to cover up to avoid really awkward conversations. Suddenly, volunteering to join this show does not sound like a smart move. "Don't worry. It's crazy safe," I'm told.
ACT 1: HIGH WIRE
"Is there a trick to this?" I ask Christopher. He chuckles, "A trick? No." Apparently, to master high wire, you simply do it over and over until you develop "muscle memory" and core strength — of which I have little (and even that's been spent on the warmup). Great. After practicing on a thin metal rope two feet off the ground, we move up to the real version, where Christopher will balance with a pole, while my only job is to not pull him down if I fall. "Falling is a production," he warns. Duly noted. I inhale, suck in my core. Exhale. Take a step…. The wire pushes up into my soles. But with my hands firmly on Christopher's shoulders, we get across. Phew. I mean, "Ta-da!"
ACT 2: THE HAMMOCK
Honestly, I'm more nervous about being photographed next to Rachel than I am about falling from the fabric swing. "This is how I fell on my head," Rachel says before talking me through a move that has me spinning upside down, hovering only by the strength of my crossed ankles. In an instant, my please-let-them-get-my-good-side prayer is replaced by a more rational one: Please don't let me smash my skull on the floor. And I don't — it's a miracle!
ACT 3: TRAPEZE
Antonio Sabato Jr. is the only celeb brave enough to do a trapeze act (without a harness, even!), so today he is my boyfrie — er, partner. He straps me into the harness, helps me tighten the ropes and holds my hand. (OK, the hand-holding wasn't necessary. But I couldn't waste the opportunity.) As a novice, I've been asked to swing out, let go and fall. "You star practicing on landing," he says. Anything for you, darling. After I climb a wobbly ladder to the platform, a trainer named Vinicio holds me by the stomach while I let my feet dangle 35 feet in the air. When he releases me, I soar across the room like a kid on a monkey bar. On his mark, I let go, hit the net and flop around until I land on my head. It's the most amazing thing I've ever done!
ACT 4: GERMAN WHEEL
No one likes the German Wheel. On Day 4, Christopher fractured his arm trying to imitate a spinning coin on this apparatus. But it is a lot easier than the other option — running like a human hamster in a wheel attached to a rotating metal beam. "It used to be called the Wheel. Then someone died. Now it's called the Wheel of Death," Jason "Wee Man" Acuna says. I'm going nowhere near that. So I give Christopher's unlucky wheel a try. "Whatever happens, don't let go!" trainer Sasha Fedorchev advises. As I start to spin, my head inches off the ground, I see Jason's wheel and think, "This is what it's like to be on Jackass."
ACT 5: SILKS
Elegantly, Stacey climbs up six feet. With only her legs to anchor her, she twists and turns, using the fabric to create her poses. "I can do that," I think. Turns out, no, I can't. The only thing I'm supposed to do is pull myself up, then twist my foot around the fabric to gain height. I try three times and, if possible, actually move further down the silk, not up. No wonder Rachel calls this "the beast." "Even though it looks so pretty, it's really hard to do," she says. True that.
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