3-D halftime show blends '50s music, magic

By JANE SUTTON, UPI Feature Writer  |  Jan. 15, 1989
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MIAMI -- The halftime show for Super Bowl XXIII will combine 12 minutes of magic tricks, BeBop music and '50s kitsch in a 3D broadcast the sponsors hope will have 20 million television viewers sporting red cardboard glasses.

'BeBop Bamboozled,' created by Minneapolis illusionist Dan Witkowski and his MagicCom Entertainment company, will star a Presley-style Houdini dubbed 'Elvis Presto.'

Dressed in a mirrored gold-lame suit, he will materialize and then vanish in an exploding juke box. There will be levitating waitresses, rollerskaters, Be-Bop singers, Do-Wap dancers, costumes that magically change color and 100 'Mean Marlin' bikers on special edition Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

But the musical tribute to the Greaser Era will probably be most noted as the first network television show to be broadcast live in 3D.

Coca-Cola USA is behind the 3D gimmick, along with NBC Sports, the NFL and Nuoptix Associates. The 3D broadcast is part of a campaign to expand the low-cal soda market among men, who consume only 35 percent of the diet sodas sold today. The halftime show will include a 3D commercial for Diet Coke, but it will concentrate on the taste, not the calorie count, said Gerogia Camp, spokeswoman for Coca-Cola USA in Atlanta.

Coke isn't saying how much the project costs. The three-dimensional effect will be visible on black-and-white sets as well as color, so long as the viewer watches through the special 3D glasses, Camp said.

The patented process developed by Nuoptix Associates of Los Angeles is a technoligical advance over the blurry, vertigo-inducing 3D movies of the 1950s, she said.

'The process is different from previous 3D in that a consumer who doesn't have glasses can see a clear screen,' said Camp.

The company had planned to sponsor a 3D episode of ABC's 'Moonlighting' with a 3D commercial last fall, but the writer's strike forced them to seek another venue and the Super Bowl seemed opportune.

'You figure it's targeting men through the No. 1 male spectator sport. It's a good fit,' Camp said.

Coke has distributed 20 million pairs of the glasses -- red cardboard with one dark lens and one light lens -- to its regional bottlers. They will be available beginning Jan. 9 at supermarkets, convenience stores, and drugstores that sell Diet Coke, though the stores will vary by region.

Witkowski hopes to keep the show lighthearted despite the extra attention and pressure created by the 3D broadcast.

'So many of these shows are so serious. A show of this magnitude can be overpowering. So we decided, let's have a romp. The music from this era is a lot of fun,' said Witkowski, who produced the pregame show for last year's Super Bowl.

The cameras will be constantly moving in order to stay in front of the performers and maximize the 3D perception that the action is reaching out toward the viewer.

'It has changed a lot of our staging. The cameras are being choreographed in this case as well as the dancers,' Witkowski said.

Even without 3D, the logistics of producing a Super Bowl halftime show are mind-boggling.

'Frantic doesn't even begin to describe how I feel,' Witkowski said during a break at Milander Park auditorium, where dance troupes practiced their routines as costumers unpacked crate after crate of crinolines.

The performers will have five minutes before the show to set up all their props and assemble on the field, and two minutes afterward to clear it all away.

The winged '50s-style automobiles used in the show had to be specially built out of lightweight plywood because the real cars would have mashed the field. The performers will have only one chance to rehearse at Joe Robbie Stadium, on the Friday before the game. If that session is rained out, they won't get to practice at the stadium at all.

The magic tricks, ranging from card tricks to pyrotechnic spectacles, had to be staged so the illusions would be visible from every part of the oval-shaped arena and look good on TV. All 1,000 performers and 300 technicians and crewmen have signed agreements promising not to reveal how the stunts were done, he said.

All 75,000 spectators in the stadium will have a chance to participate in one trick. They'll be asked to pick a card from among four giant 30-by-40-foot playing cards, with their choice recorded by an Applause-O-Meter, Witkowski said. 'Elvis' promises to correctly guess their choice before they make it, he said.

'It'll be the world's largest card trick. It doesn't necessarily mean the best, but it's very '50s,' Witkowski said.

The stadium audience will also get a chance to perform card routines with their colored seat cushions.

The music, by Emmy and Tony award winning musical director Don Pippin, will include original songs and adaptions of late 1950s and early 1960s favorites such as 'This Magic Moment' and 'Good Lovin'.'

It will be choreographed by Tad Tadlock with the field formations supervised by Kay Crawford, who directed the opening ceremonies for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

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