My new solo show which runs 75 minutes, takes 45 minutes to set up and almost 45 minutes to pack up so that it fits into 2 road cases. But having attended two different panel discussions on entering Fringe Festivals, I found out like that like the NYC Fringe Festival, almost all give you only get 15 minutes to load in and 15 minutes to load out. Some festivals it’s just half that time! I was hoping festivals in other states were more flexible.
Working and traveling alone it seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle due to the nature of my magic props with the delicacy of packing and setting them up. I was resigned to not being able to play 95% of the festivals out there.
However, a couple of days ago I decided out of curiosity to rethink the whole packing and setting up issue and see if I could possibly meet the dreaded 15 minute deadline. This will entail having special boxes built to hold pre-set props. Then to also figure out how to pack them so that each prop is taken out of the case in the order that the show needs to be set up.
While I only started this morning, I’m thinking there might be some hope! I intend on putting the same amount of time and thought into this problem as I would any other routine in my show. This just another issue that professional performers have to address that the audience never knows about.
As a magician one often has to learn various skills besides performing; such as woodworking, soldering and sometimes sewing. While I’m handy with the above for small projects, up until today, I had no idea how to fix a sewing machine. While sewing a prop today the machine kept jamming and wouldn’t catch the bobbin.
It turns out the hook timing needed adjusting and I had no idea how to do that. But by watching some YouTube videos and taking the whole thing apart, after a couple of hours I finally got it fixed. (This includes breaking another part inside and fixing that also). I’m quite proud to have learned yet another skill and put it into practice. Now I can get back to sewing the prop I had started 3 hours ago!
After a great show tonight at Coney Island, I came home to find that a copy of my all time favorite magic book had arrived. I have been looking for this particular copy for so many years that I lost track. Just seeing it floods me with happy memories growing up and first learning sleight of hand.
During my journey, I’ve been fortunate to have have met three of these Stars of Magic. I met John Scarne at Flosso’s shop where, despite being close to 80 years old, floored with my own deck of cards. I shared the bill numerous times with Tony Slydini at Mostly Magic and later took private lessons with him. And twice performed for Dai Vernon; once at his roast at the NY Magic Symposium and once at the Magic Castle. This was where he sat in the front row and watched me perform my pet routine with the Cone & Ball.
In those days Castle members were asked to rate the performers on little cards which were later given back to the management to keep on file. After my performance, Vernon made a point of calling me over to show me what he had given me. I was stunned to see that he had given me a 9 out of 10 rating! Coming from one of the greatest magicians of our time, this was just incredible to me. Growing up reading the Stars of Magic, I never could have fathomed meeting any of them, let alone being highly praised for my work. Magic has certainly been a blessing my whole life.
The proudest day of my career was on July 4th, 2002 winning First Place in the Society of American Magician’s National Competition and also being the first ever recipient of the Hofzinser Award for Classical Magic presented by the Vienna Magic Theatre of Austria.
A wonderful photo of my Dad and myself by Norman Blake from my new show: “A Hanky and a T-T-T-Top Hat” – An autobiographical solo play that tells of a little boy who stutters, explores his relationship with his father, and dreams of becoming a professional magician. While this is not your traditional magic show, I do feature magic performances to help illustrate my story.
Ever since I was about seven years old and had fallen in love with magic, I told “Santa” that I no longer wanted any toys or games; just magic tricks (of which I always made out a long list). And every Christmas, the living room would be filled to overflowing with so many tricks that, even as a child I would think, “This is almost too much!” This would go on until I was 16 years old. That was when I wanted a particular magic book for Christmas.
Now, in those days magic books were not nearly as expensive as they are today. A expensive magic book back then might cost $10.00. But one day I saw an ad in a magic magazine for a new book on one of my favorite magicians, Okito Bamberg. It was to be a very limited, numbered edition. I immediately knew that I had to get it! That is, until I looked at the price. The price was to be the unheard of amount of $60.00!!
But I wanted it so much that, that year for Christmas, I told my parents that I didn’t want any other presents. I just wanted that book. They asked if I was really sure, and I said, yes I definitely was! So that Christmas, for the first time, the living room was not filled to overflowing, but with just a single present under the tree. Ever since then whenever I look at the book on my shelf, it reminds of that very special Christmas back in 1973.
Here’s a song I’m re-sharing that has meaning for me on several levels. First, I remember growing up and watching this on the Donna Reed Show. But more importantly it makes me think of my late friend, Jonah Emsig. We used to work together for the Big Apple Circus clowning for kids in hospitals. Now, I DON’T SING AT ALL. But Jonah would insist that we sing this song to the kids making them and the staff crack up. It was a lot of fun. We sang it so much that Jonah even gave me the CD of it one year for my birthday. This month it will be 11 years since loosing Jonah much too young to cancer. However, I know how much he would have loved my sharing “our song.”
Another great thing to watch in this video is Donna Reed’s wonderful acting – being able to show such a range of emotions such as surprise, confusion, and being proud of her on-screen daughter without saying a word.
Now, for the ironic part. Even though I can’t sing, and despite my protestations to Jonah, I sang this song to kids in hospitals. The producer of the Donna Reed show was very much insistent on Shelly Fabares singing this newly written song on the show. Ironically, in an interview Shelley Fabares later confessed that she also COULDN’T SING AT ALL! She said she was not being modest but really couldn’t sing a note. She told the producer and said that she really didn’t want to record the song. The producer calmly asked her if she liked acting on the show? (Yes) And did she want to come back the next season? (Yes) Ahem. Shelley got the message. She recorded the song as best she could and after they “fixed it in the studio” it became a mega hit.