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Nightlife profile: Eric Treese

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Do not attempt the acts you are about to read, unless you are a trained professional. Fire-eater Eric Treese confesses his favorite way to light a torch is to take a lit torch and transfer the flame to an unlit one with his tongue. The professional fire-eater is also a magician and balloon artist who has been performing in Charlotte for a little more than 10 years. Treese, his business coined Have Rabbit, performs in both private and public settings — nightclubs, street performances, birthday parties, neighborhood parties and corporate events. And, as if fire-eating and blowing weren't enough, the triple threat is in the process of taking his act to "new heights" — stilt-walking.

Creative Loafing: What nightlife events have you done in Charlotte?

Eric Treese: I did a six-week run at Halo with three other performers. I have done street performances outside of Phoenix. I have worked in several restaurants throughout Charlotte as a strolling magician.

What provoked you to put a lit wick in your mouth for the first time?

As a magician, I am interested in variety arts. I watched a video that featured carnival acts: sword-swallowing, eating glass, lying on a bed of nails and fire-eating. I love those kinds of acts, as you don't often see them. The only one that really seemed feasible for me to learn was fire-eating. [The first time I attempted to eat fire] I was full of anxiety and fear. I made sure I had someone on hand with a fire extinguisher. It was scary, but I really wanted to learn. Nothing worth doing is usually easy.

Have you or any of your guests ever gotten burned while you were playing with fire?

I have never burned an audience member or set anything on fire that wasn't supposed to be. I take very special care to make sure that my audience isn't in harm's way. I have, however, burnt myself several times. I have had two incidences where I set my entire face on fire. I keep several safety devices handy and was able to put out the flame before too much damage was done. I've had a few small 2nd degree burns on my face and almost always singe my facial hair.

Aside from catching on fire, there are several other health risks, especially when doing fire-breathing blasts. I use camping fuel as my accelerant, and swallowing it can be fatal. The trace amounts that get swallowed are filtered out by the liver, so doing my act too often can cause severe liver damage. When doing the fire-breathing portion of my show, I have to put a shot glass full of gas in my mouth. If it is not discharged properly, I risk the fumes going into my lungs and the fire pulling in those fumes and air from my lungs, which could cause them to collapse. It's really not a smart act to perform, even with proper training and safety gear.

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