In the 1970s and 80s, Steve Baker was all over TV with his fabulous escapes. His career started a few years earlier when he hung upside down in front of the Tribune Tower Building in Oakland CA to recreate Houdini's Upside Down Strait Jacket Escape. Steve freed himself from the jacket in record time and it began his full time career in 1967.
Steve was known professionally as Mr. Escape. You might wonder where he got the name from? Well, the name had been used briefly by Steranko. According to Steve Baker, he asked Steranko if he could use it. A little known fact, when Steve Baker did his Tribune Tower Escape he was known as The Great Gerhart, so he was in need of a good stage moniker.
Steve was a favorite of Dick Clark the TV celebrity and producer. In the 70s, Dick Clark invited Steve to present many daring escapes on his various TV shows. His very first was on Dick Clark LIVE Wednesday on NBC. Steve presented a thrilling version of Houdini's Water Torture Cell Escape. He followed that appearance up with his Coffin of Death, and then a return visit had him doing a Double Hanging Strait Jacket Escape. Steve also did a challenge escape from a device created by one of the home viewers.
In the 1980s, Dick Clark had a show in CBS called Dick Clark LIVE, and Steve was again, brought on to do numerous escapes. Among those was his Tug of War Rope Tie, his Water Tank of Death, and a very thrilling original escape he called Death Race.
Despite his ability to free himself from anything, his life was not always so carefree. A freak accident while performing the Coffin of Death for the International Brotherhood of Magicians Convention, left him with severe burns on his hands.
In the mid 1990s, Steve was hit by a car in the parking lot of a grocery store which brought about numerous complications. Imagine that, the guy who had been chained to cars and was able to free himself, was hit by a car when not even chained. Life has an ironic way of playing out sometimes.
Though he tried to restart his career following this, it never really came back. He appeared on one episode of MindFreak and later was escape consultant for Andrew Basso on a TV Special he was doing in Italy. Privately, Steve and I worked on some things we were going to do but his health gradually deteriorated until he was unable to perform anymore.
This was not the case with others in the escape world. Steve Baker could hold a grudge, lol. And for now, I won't mention those other people. I think he was more connected to the Magic Community than any where else because he began his career as a magician. Most people are unaware that Steve did comedy magic for a long time, and he also had a mentalism act.
Steve Baker remained in the care of his loving wife Julie for the past several years. He lived a very private and secluded life. He no longer had email or internet access, and only a couple people even had his phone number. He preferred to be left alone I believe. When he lived in California, I used to talk to Steve several times per week. Then when he moved back to Illinois, it was a couple times a month, then once a month, and after his stint in a nursing home rehab, it became several times a year. He always seemed to remember me when I called, but his short term memory had issues. He could remember things from long ago, but remembering things in the short term was a struggle for him.
He was one interesting character. For those who knew him, the regular every day Steve Baker, he was a super nice guy. He was not ego-driven like his on stage persona. His onstage character had the same bravado as Houdini. In the end, he was just a performer who wanted desperately to get back out there in front of audiences because that is what he enjoyed most, entertaining people. Life and health just got in his way. RIP my old friend, there surely will not be another like you.