In the past year, a group of local jumpers invited the Pitch to half a dozen attempted parachute leaps from buildings and other high structures, but they never happened.
Once, a reporter was summoned when a local jumper concealed himself in a building, ready to go, but a maintenance crew kept the daredevil off the roof. Another time, winds were blowing in exactly the wrong direction.
It was getting to be a bad joke, like we were the new guy invited on the snipe hunt.
But there are photographs to prove that jumps have been made -- shots of dudes jumping from buildings that are clearly in downtown Kansas City. A Web site contains accounts of various jumps. We watched video evidence in a beige living room in Overland Park.
Over the past few years, Kansas City jumpers have leaped from cliffs in Switzerland and Norway and down a giant cave in Mexico. And there was proof that others had jumped locally (and illegally) as well. First radio antennae and then a building. They'd even jumped a roller coaster.
But we hadn't witnessed any of it in person, which is why it wasn't hard to remain skeptical when a phone call came late on a Friday last month with news that jumpers would be leaping off a downtown landmark in less than thirty minutes.
Sure, we thought -- we'd been this far before.
But when we arrived, there they were: four tiny silhouettes, dark against the light brick of a downtown building. On the street, a young couple, dressed in their dance-club finest, parked their car, bound for the Chemical Club. Thirty floors up, four people paused on a ledge like dolls on a shelf.
And then, one of them jumped.
More than a year earlier, the skyline of Kansas City is slowly spinning past the windows of Skies, the revolving restaurant atop the Hyatt.
Three men -- we'll call the leader of the posse "Tyler" -- sit at a low dining table, watching a menu of Kansas City's highest points revolve into view: the Boling Federal Building, Town Pavilion, One Kansas City Place, the Kansas City Power & Light Building, the spires of Bartle Hall. To the east blink radio towers in Raytown. To the south glow the red, white and blue lights of the KCTV Channel 5 signal tower.
To the other Skies diners, it's a romantic backdrop to be enjoyed over oysters and foie gras.
But to Tyler and his partners, it's a visual to-do list.
The three men are BASE jumpers, parachutists grown bored with tossing themselves out of moving airplanes. They've been seduced by the next level of danger, leaping off stationary objects of four different types: Buildings, Antennae, Spans (bridges) and Earth (cliffs) -- hence the acronym.
Over spinach dip and beer, they try to explain the allure of jumping from tall buildings. Besides the adrenaline rush, there's the camaraderie of sharing risks. And maybe there's a little lost youth thrown in. But these are not skate punks gone airborne. The three thirtysomething engineers, dressed in khakis and golf shirts, don't look out of place in the upscale eatery.
One is tall, with a boyish smirk and a mop of dishwater blond hair hanging down over his forehead. Tyler is stocky, with close-cut brown hair and a thin goatee. His accent betrays his East Coast upbringing. The third is thin, with short, blondish hair and an angular face.