July 27, 2014
Santa Cruz Sentinel
by Karen Kefauver
SANTA CRUZ >> Addi Somekh's unique talent of twisting balloons into mind-bending art has taken his life in a direction that he never could have imagined.
Since stumbling upon his unusual gift at age 19, the UC Santa Cruz graduate has traveled to 34 countries, including Mongolia and a Bosnian war zone, starred in his own reality TV show, "The Unpoppables," and has appeared on a dozen talk shows, including "The Today Show," "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Martha Stewart," and "Access Hollywood."
The owner of New Balloon Art specializes in making wild, whimsical, multicolored balloon hats, gowns, bikinis and towering balloon sculptures for celebrity parties, charity appearances and team-building workshops.
Eight years ago, he even devised a musical balloon instrument. He will play the three-and-a half octave, all-latex Balloon Bass when his touring band, the Unpopable, performs Wednesday night at the Crepe Place in Santa Cruz.
At first, Somekh and his family were less than thrilled with his newfound skills.
"I thought balloon art was the lamest art form possible," recalled the 42-year-old from Pasadena. "I had zero artistic talent. I had never been able to do anything with art. Then I touched the balloon for my first time and instinctively knew what I was doing."
As for his parents, they were, "50 percent concerned, 40 percent tormented, and 10 percent secretly impressed."
He wasn't hooked on balloon art, but the sociology undergrad liked "making $100 an hour with no boss. It kept me going."
Slowly, Somekh's attitude toward his balloon art changed.
"I realized that what I was doing was emotionally gratifying, and that I could create joy in a simple way. Things shifted when I saw how I was able to make people happy — no matter how old, how much money, no matter the language barriers, cultural barriers. I saw the happiest you can be is when you make other people happy."
A pivotal moment for Somekh followed a balloon show at a nursing home.
"A nurse came up to me afterward and said, 'For a lot of these people, you just gave them surprise and delight for the last time in their lives."
Somekh is modest, down-to-earth and philosophical about his business and his band.
"Balloons make adults feel childlike. The power of balloons is the fact that they are impermanent, so ephemeral. It forces you to be in the moment. Balloon art can, for a moment, give you genuine delight and joy."