11/09/1998 at 01:00 AM EST
Stacey Loizeaux had some modest success as a singer, but as she worked her way up and down the East Coast with her bar band the Pawns she never really brought down the house. Finally realizing that that was her calling, the 20-year-old Baltimore native and University of Maryland dropout abandoned the quiet life in 1991 and joined something really noisy: the family business.
Her family, you see, blows up buildings—implodes them, actually, in order to leave the rubble in a nice tidy pile—so now Stacey has a lot more to worry about than hecklers and lonely nights on the road. Today, as heiress apparent to Controlled Demolition Inc., America's top explosives demolition company, Loizeaux, now 27, is the world's top female implosionist. On Oct. 24 she helped oversee the leveling of Detroit's 33-story J.L. Hudson department store building, the tallest such structure ever taken down with explosives. For those who missed that blast when it was covered on CNN, the Loizeaux's handiwork is also on view in the action thriller Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith and due to open over Thanksgiving. (The exploding building in the movie's TV ads is, in fact, the late Dr Pepper plant in Baltimore.)
For her part, Stacey has helped turn the demolition business into something approaching performance art. When she took down the north tower of the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas in 1993 to make way for the Bellagio hotel and casino, 250,000 spectators watched her pyrotechnic display, which featured fireballs enveloping the 22-story building. "I was really scared," says Loizeaux of her decision to place fire-spitting mortars at 170 windows. "We'd never done that before."
The Loizeaux have always tried to give a little more bang for the buck, ever since Stacey's grandfather Jack, now 83, founded the firm in Towson, Md., back in 1947. Jack had started out in the forestry business, and one of his early jobs was removing the stumps of trees blighted by Dutch elm disease. He decided to use explosives, and in no time customers were asking him to take out rocks and chimneys as well. "Boom! Now he's in the demolition business," says Mark Loizeaux, 51, Jack's son and Stacey's father, who runs CDI these days with his brother Doug, 48. Stacey, who has three younger siblings, has been fascinated by the business since she was 3.
Over the years, the Loizeaux have ranged far afield, performing the demolition of more than 7,000 structures on six continents. Among the most notable was what remained of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City after the terrorist bombing three years ago. On the lighter side, the company has staged implosions for several movies, including Mars Attacks!, Lethal Weapon 3 and—of course—Demolition Man.
What makes CDI special is the family's formula for arranging explosives so buildings fall in a precise, controlled way. "It's the secret sauce to what we do," says Stacey. In the hours before the Hudson demolition, she went back to the site to ensure that all 36,000 feet of detonating cord had been attached properly to the 4,100 charges. Though the resulting rubble might suggest otherwise, she and her family firmly believe they are in the business not of destroying the old but of creating opportunities for the new. "None of the people who work for us have a destructive bone in their bodies," says Loizeaux.
All the same, she concedes that it hasn't always been easy making her way in the macho world of big-time demolition—or, for that matter, outside it. "Very few people consider a woman who travels virtually nonstop and handles explosives the ideal candidate for marriage," she says. Nevertheless, on Dec. 27, Stacey will marry her boyfriend of three years, Kevin Klass, 30, who works for a food-service business in Baltimore. Lately, as a badge of her femininity, she has taken to wearing a 24-karat gold pendant that once belonged to her grandmother. It's a dainty, jeweled item: a tiny bundle of dynamite with diamonds on the tip of every stick and a glowing ruby on the fuse.
Amanda J. Crawford in Maryland