WEDNESDAY IS THE NIGHT THEY STICK or die at Perfect Tommy's, a bar on Manhattan's Upper West Side. No, Tommy's isn't a dangerous waterfront dive given to midweek knife fights—although the stuff that goes on inside is noisy, raucous and leaves a lot of bodies on the floor. The cause of the uproar is the weekly Human Bar Fly Contest, when entrants hurl themselves through a gauntlet of frenzied fans, somersault off a trampoline and—if they do it right—wind up upside down, their Velcro-covered backs stuck to a Velcro-covered wall. The ones who gel it wrong "die" in a heap on the padded floor—their landing softened by two spotters.
Is this a real sport—or just another manifestation of the decline of Western civilization? Whichever, its nascent popularity in the U.S. is often traced to David Letterman, who featured it on Late Night in 1984—others believe the sport began in Australia and New Zealand. Now Velcro-jumping is making inroads in the U.S. Says Jack Kenny, editor of Top Shelf, a trade publication for tavern owners: "This is the fastest-rising activity around."
"Business on Wednesdays has increased at least 50 percent," says Adam Powers, owner of Perfect Tommy's. Although more than half the contestants wipe out, and "one girl broke a fingernail," says Powell, there have been no significant injuries so far. Still, would-be jumpers have to sign a legal release.
If there is ever a commissioner of Velcro-jumping, he or she will have to tackle the pervasive problem of VJWI (Velcro-jumping while intoxicated). After wiping out twice, Janette Carrier, 27, a book-publishing company employee, summed up the problem. "I got a little overconfident after those three beers," she says. "But if I hadn't had the beer, I wouldn't have jumped at all."
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