- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) - Brian Jackson lifted a 4,387-pound sport utility vehicle off the ground with his breath. (Specifics later.) In doing so, the Muskogee resident became a Guinness World Record holder for the 12th time.

There’s your headline material.

Stop there and you miss the story.

The story is about a drug bust.

And balloon animals.



And getting knocked unconscious - gloriously so - by an exploding hot water bottle.

And being humiliated on national TV.

In 2011, Jackson was asked to appear on “America’s Got Talent.” His talent (“I’m full of hot air”) failed him at crunch time.

The studio audience booed. “AGT” judge Piers Morgan said this: “That’s one of the most pointless things I’ve ever watched in my entire life.”

Pointless?

Maybe Morgan wouldn’t have used that word if he knew about the big picture. But he had no way of knowing about the drug bust. Or the balloon animals. Or Jackson’s post-show encounter with a “cutter.”

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One puff nearly sabotaged a man who would someday huff and puff his way into record books.

“My best friend offered it to me one time,” Jackson said, recalling his first encounter with marijuana. “I didn’t want anybody to make fun of me, so I tried it. Kids face that all the time. They don’t want anybody to laugh at them. They don’t want to lose any friends. They don’t want anybody to say something about them. It’s easier to fit in. Just take it and go.”

Problem: “That thing grabbed a hold of me like I have never had anything grab a hold of me in my life.”

Jackson, who grew up in Seminole, was a distance runner who qualified for the state track meet as a high school junior. Then came an introduction to weed. His priorities changed. He said he barely graduated. He did, however, graduate to other drugs, including hashish and cocaine.

“When I started snorting coke, I loved coke,” he said. “I could do a gram a day easily. But I also had to make enough money to provide for my habit.”

Jackson became a dealer. He said it was nothing to be involved in $70,000 and $80,000 drug deals. His “business” extended all the way to Kansas City.

And, 18 months after finishing high school, he said he got caught with 25 pounds of marijuana, eight illegal firearms and more than $1,000 in cash.

“My arrest warrant said ‘armed and dangerous, shoot to kill if I resisted’ for a reason,” Jackson said. “One of the drug dealers did me wrong on a drug deal, and I remember waking him up at 3 o’clock in the morning and tying him up, and I took back what I thought was mine.”

Jackson said he was part of one of the biggest drug busts in Seminole County.

“I was looking at 10 years in prison. The district attorney and a couple of other people saw something in me that I never saw in myself, and they actually gave me a second chance.”

Jackson said he got saved while in jail. He also chose to salvage his reputation. He wanted to be known for something other than being a drug runner.

Balloon animals provided a “gateway drug” for Jackson to transform from villain to hero. In 2011, he was given the name “The Hurricane” when he lifted a car with his breath on the History Channel television series “Stan Lee’s Superhumans.”

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The Hurricane’s secret origin? Jackson said he became involved with church projects 22 years ago and his duties included making balloon animals for children.

Long, skinny, twistable balloons are used to craft balloon animals. If you’ve ever tried to blow one up, you know it’s a chore. “We were going to an event one day, and we left our pumps at home,” Jackson said. “And it was either blow them up by mouth and make balloon animals, or not make balloon animals and disappoint the kids.”

Jackson blew up the balloons and vowed never to use a pump again. He got so good at it that he was able to blow up nine balloons simultaneously. Then he watched a TV program and saw European strongman Georges Christen blow into a hot water bottle until it exploded.

Hmmmm.

Jackson contacted the Guinness folks and said he would like to try to break the record for fastest time to make a hot water bottle (and it must be a British Standard hot water bottle) explode.

Seven years later, he was still trying. People suggested he give up the quest and spare embarrassment.

Jackson took extra hot water bottles with him so he would have a spare in case he failed on the first try. “And I realized I was never giving it 100 percent because I knew, in my mind, I had a second chance or a third chance.”

Jackson took just one hot water bottle with him to a 2006 attempt at Tahlequah High School. He told his family he was going to push so hard they would have to carry him out. He wasn’t kidding.

“I knew I was getting really close, but when it burst, I don’t remember breaking the world record,” he said. “I remember seeing the ceiling. It hit me so hard it knocked me out and it dislocated my jaw and separated my ribs.”

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Finally over the hump, Jackson pursued more breath-related records, including golf ball spitting (length is the measuring stick) and most balloons blown up in an hour. He said the Guinness people suggested he try to break a record for inflating a balloon through a fire hose. He did it so well the category was tabled (retired).

Breaking records made Jackson a wanted man - this time for the right reasons. He was so thrilled to be invited to the Stan Lee (he created Spider-Man and the X-Men!) show that he upped the ante and lifted a car for the first time. TV programs from all over the globe extended invitations, and Jackson got an offer he couldn’t refuse (expenses paid) from “America’s Got Talent.”

Blowing up hot water bottles was old hat for Jackson by the time he showed up on “AGT.” He burst one in 12.29 seconds in 2010, far below his record time of 51.98 seconds in 2006. He exploded three hot water bottles in 68 seconds in 2009. For whatever reason, he was unable to blow up one hot water bottle during his 90-second “AGT” segment.

“I failed in front of 21 million people,” Jackson said.

Not long after, Jackson said he went on TruTV and exploded five hot water bottles in under a minute.

He calls the “AGT” experience his most successful failure.

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Jackson isn’t proud of his drug-dealing past or his “AGT” flameout, but he often shares details because he feels like it’s his responsibility to help others, especially kids.

A motivational speaker who works with Cherokee Nation Leadership Services, Jackson doesn’t just talk. He performs feats and replays the infamous “AGT” clip. Jackson said just being on the show gives him instant credibility. The clip gives him an excuse to ask questions.

How many of you have ever been laughed at? How many of you have been made fun of? How many of you have ever laughed at - or made fun of - somebody else?

“Another thing I will ask them is ‘How many of you all have a gift or talent that you think is so silly that you’re afraid to tell anybody because you’re afraid somebody is going to laugh at you?’ My gift and talent is I’m full of hot air. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. And it’s not what you have, it’s how you use it.”

Jackson hits the drug subject hard if audiences are older. Once upon a time, bullets whizzed by his head, so he’s got a frame of reference to deliver cautionary tales. You may think you’re a bad boy, but you have no idea how dangerous the drug life can get. Stop. Now.

“Most kids feel like when they mess up or screw up, that’s it. I have messed up my life,” Jackson said. “But I got a second chance, and I took advantage of that second chance. I make sure that I emphasize I took advantage of that second chance. I was arrested with seven of my best friends, and seven of my best friends have all been in prison. Two of them are dead today. And two of them are still in prison.

“You have to take advantage of that second chance.”

Balloon animals are visual aids during Jackson’s presentations. They’re used to reinforce a point to youths.

“If you allow us as adults - coaches, parents, teachers, elders - to mold you and shape you and change your direction in life, there’s no telling what we could help you become in life,” he said.

“For whatever reason, (a balloon animal) is the most powerful tool I have, but it’s the most silly tool I have. There is no place I go without balloon animals.”

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Jackson started 2015 with a trip. He and other like-minded folks were invited to China to do what they do best: break records.

Wearing tribal gear to honor his heritage, Jackson blew into a hose that was attached to air bags. Uninflated air bags had been placed under an SUV. It took Jackson 36 minutes, but he “blew” all four SUV wheels off the ground by inflating the air bags. He broke a Guinness record for heaviest vehicle lifted with breath and he said it took him more than a week to recover.

“There was so much pressure from that car on my throat that it almost blew my throat out,” he said.

Jackson says he is retired from the record-setting biz. Challengers are getting younger and stronger. He’s 50, and various feats have taken a toll on his 5-foot-5 body. He said he snapped an arm while breaking bricks and needed surgery after bending steel.

Blowing up hot water bottle leaves facial burns (protective eyewear is necessary) and it stresses more than his throat. He pushes hot water bottles against his mouth so hard that he busts his lip.

“You are going to push against your neck and your shoulders,” he said. “It’s going to affect your hands, your wrists, your arms, your back. When I’m blowing them up and (leaning forward), it’s like doing crunches. … To push air into something that is not meant to blow up, whether it takes a minute or takes four minutes, it’s a full-body workout for that amount of time.”

Jackson’s fear: Who will listen to me if I stop performing feats? He expects to eliminate hot water bottle inflations from his talks. He has about 800 hot water bottles at his home and said he will keep about 20. He also keeps emails and letters that remind him of the impact he has had on lives.

Jackson said he once met a cutter - a girl who said she had been made fun of her whole life. The “AGT” video struck a nerve. She pulled up a shirt sleeve to reveal cuts on an arm. She said she had tried to commit suicide. She wanted to know how he handled the “AGT” ridicule.

Young people - too often told they are nobodies who will never amount to anything - are looking for answers, according to Jackson. He answered the girl as best as he could. Never quit. Never give up. If you do, “they” will win.

And it’s OK to chase a dream, even if the dream is making a hot water bottle burst.

“So let Piers Morgan make fun of me,” Jackson said. “Let Piers Morgan say something about me. That’s OK, because it has given me more weapons in my arsenal to reach those kids.”

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Information from, Tulsa World: https://www.tulsaworld.com

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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