Up, Up and away

He makes beautiful balloons

by Terry Loncaric

Dale Obrochta admits there isn't anything he wouldn't try to make out of a balloon. Golf bag. Headless Horsemen. Motorcycle. Wild-looking Tazmanian devils. "I've had an 8-foot clown in my living room." Obrochta boasts.

Some hecklers tell the Oak Forest entertainer, who makes his balloon sculptures in restaurants and even bars, to get a real job. Obrochta just laughs. He realizes what he does is kind of silly, but he enjoys twisting balloons into weird shapes.

"It's a way I can make an idiot out of myself and get paid," Obrochta admits. The energetic entertainer cracks jokes as his fingers are furiously twisting and turning several balloons and even painted on faces on the animals with magic markers.

"Playing with audience," Obrochta says, "gives me material. I try to create a vaudeville atmosphere." Obrochta says people are often blown away when they see what he can do with a few balloons and a little creativity.

"They say, 'Wow, it really looks like a dog. It really looks like Mickey Mouse. It really looks like the Starship Enterprise.'"

The kids who asked Obrochta if he can make a cockroach was genuinely surprised when the entertainer calmly twisted his balloon into an exact likeness of the nasty insect.

Even bikers in bars smile at Obrochta when he hands them a motorcycle with painted wheels and then gives their girl-friends bouquets of balloon flowers.

The creative performer, who watches cartoons for inspiration, says he likes to challenge himself. "I can only make 15 Mickey Mouse's in a row, and then I start to get bored," he admits. "You have to do the cool balloons," He emphasizes, "otherwise, you're just another guy doing puppy dogs and swords."

While appearing on AM1000 Radio, Obrochta surprised its traffic reporter when he handed her a helicopter made from balloons. "A lot of people want to know the hardest balloon I can do," he says. "It's usually the balloon I'm working on because if it breaks, I have to do it all over again."

The balloon artist can't be too squeamish. He goes through 600 balloons in a typical week.

While taking a clowning class at Moraine Valley Community College several years ago, Obrochta learned to make balloon sculptures. He says he discovered a way he could entertain kids with out boring their parents. He hung up his clown suit and made his goal to be "Chicago's best balloon artist,"

Most of what Obrochta learned as a balloon sculpturer he picked up on the job. "You have to not be afraid to break balloons," he points out. "I've had the balloon break in my face. It doesn't faze me. I just reach for another balloon and keep going."

Not every balloon sculptor can make a row boat with two men in it, they turn around and create a stork holding a baby. Obrochta is so good at what he does he is invited to Chicago Bulls game to hand out hats shaped in the face of a bull.

The balloon artist says he enjoys taking things to an extreme. He says he gets a big kick out of handing some "burly guy" a silly hat and then watching him put it on while his kids laugh at him.

Obrochta doesn't like it when he's worked hard on a balloon sculpture and then someone tosses one of his creation into the trash. Most of the time that doesn't happen because people think what he does is clever and fun.

"You're able to make something out a balloon without breaking it, and people are really amazed," Obrochta say.

"Everyone likes balloons," he adds. "It bring out the kid in us."

Star Newspaper Vol. 26--No.7 Thursday, July 24, 1997

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