Monthly Archives: December 2011

There’s No Business Like Show Business

I wasn’t going to write a blog this week, being on vacation and all, but sometimes circumstances dictate what we do and don’t do, and after the events of the last 2 days a blog must be written.

Last week I wrote about how to increase your chances of obtaining a contract for a show. I pointed out that using these methods I secured 9 shows for Phil within the 6 days between Christmas and New  Years.

In past years I used to phone the people that hired Phil as soon as I got to Kitchener and told them we were in town and would be there as arranged. This year, deciding to join the  electonic era I emailed all my contacts, telling them we had arrived safely and would be there to do the show as planned. I left phone numbers, which they already had, where they could reach me if they had to for any reason.

The first show was Monday afternoon.The receptionist informed me that  the activity director was not there, but she was expecting us and pointed towards the piano. We had performed there before and   Phil had notes from the previous time that it was an electronic piano that had major issues so they had brought a piano up from downstairs. The piano the receptionist had indicated was the same electronic one. We figured they must have fixed it but soon discovered that they didn’t, or did and it broke down again, in spades. It just didn’t work. Middle C and the 5 notes after it didn’t play at all, as well as the vast majority of the other notes. No that’s not quite true. Sometimes one or another of those notes would play and then the next time you tried the same note and it didn’t play. You could never be sure whether or not there would be any sound. Phil made up his mind he could not play on this piano.

The receptionist came over to the piano and tried it out for herself. “Some notes work, she said. You don’t have to play anything fancy. Other piano players have used it.”

We asked when was it last used and she had to admit it was a long time ago. She said she was sorry but there was nothing she could do about it. She was just the receptionist and was not in charge of  it and expected that the people who made the arrangements were the ones to look after these things. And that was that! I totally agreed with her, but there were a lot of people who were waiting for a concert, and we should try to resolve the situation somehow.

We informed her that last time we were here the piano from downstairs was brought up. She reluctantly got up and spoke to the man who was washing the dining room floor and asked if he could bring it up. “Well, what if I bring it up and that one doesn’t work either. ” Seeing the logic in that, Phil and I and the receptionist went downstairs to check it out. The piano worked, but Phil said that it would be extremely difficult to move as it had delicate legs with tiny wheels on them and it was on a rug and there was a danger of the legs breaking. The man upstairs heartily agreed with Phil. Moving the piano upstairs was not an option. “Why can’t we have the show downstairs?” I asked.

“Because we’re having a private party there during that time slot. But, we do have an organ downstairs which can be placed on a dolly and we can bring that up and you can play on that.” replied the receptionist.

“No, I can’t” said Phil

“Why not? It’s the same thing.”

Go explain!

Then the girl who was running the afternoon hour suddenly appeared (not the person who hired him), asked if everything was OK. We quickly informed her of the situation. She tried the piano and agreed there was no way anyone could play on it. She tried phoning the activities director but could not reach her. She said it was no use hanging around as she had to clear the area by 4:30. We were supposed to start at 3:30 and by this time it was it was 4 o’clock.

She then talked to the receptionist, who finally came around and understood the situation. They said  we would be paid just the same. – and that was Concert Number 1.

Concert No 2. Yes, they were expecting us, and I was thrilled to see a real piano, except that it was not the one Phil was destined to use. They had just got it and it hadn’t been tuned and also needed some repairs. Phil was directed to an electronic piano. Phil checked it out. It worked fine. Except for 2 things he subsequently discovered. One, before the concert; the second, after he started playing. The first thing was the pedal. It worked in reverse. When you stepped on it, it cut off the sound and when you took your foot off it, it sustained the sound, which is the exact opposite of how it is supposed to work. He told his audience this and that there would be no pedal. Not terrible, but a little disconcerting to the piano player who is used to using a peddle. Then as he played I found myself in a dilemma. For some reason Phil was not playing as well as usual. His singing was great as he was using his Happie Amp and his voice came out loud and clear, but the piano wasn’t as loud as I thought it should be, and I am the one who is supposed to tell him if his sound is okay. If I would tell him to put up the volume on the piano, then his mistakes would be more evident so I didn’t advise him to turn up the volume. I couldnd’t understand why he was playing the way he was, but soon all was to be revealed.

Phil made a confession to the audience. He wasn’t playing as good as he should be because the keys of this particular piano were narrower the the standard size and his fingers were the same as always and he found himself hitting 2 notes instead of one. (Maybe his fingers got fatter after Christmas dinner at Joan and Romaine’s.) Also the feel of the keys were like an accordion key board, very soft and very difficult to judge the the amount of pressure to use so the dynamics were just about impossible to control. A very good ragtime friend calls these pianos, PSOs. (Piano Shaped Object). So it was not his best concert although everyone enjoyed it, just the same.

On our way to Concert #3 we were singing that old Christmas classic, “I’m dreaming of a real piano, just like the ones we used to know…” And lo and behold, there was a real piano. And that was the one that Phil was to play. It was a wonderful old piano. The only problem was that the person who hired Phil wasn’t there and didn’t tell anyone he was coming. But the person left in charge was lovely and told us everything would work out. She arranged it all in short notice and it was a wonderful concert.

When we got home, I went directly to the phone and called the 6 remaining places to make sure they knew we were coming.

I learned 2 things. Whenever I start on my campaign to get shows for Phil, the first question I always ask is if they have a piano. From now on it will be followed by a second question. Does it work?

The next thing is to phone weeks BEFORE and then again days before, and to make sure to remind the person to let others know about our plans if they won’t be there.

Tomorrow: Concert 4.

Hope you had a very Merry Christmas and we wish you a Happy & Healthy New Year!

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Filed under Show buisness

Magicians, Clowns, Entertainers! Get Booked for Next Year’s Christmas Shows!

First and foremost I want to wish all my readers a happy and healthy Christmas and Chanukah and a have a great 2012!

This is my 68th post.  I hope you’ve enjoyed them and that perhaps they might have helped you in some way or brought back a memory or two.  But enough looking back. We have to go forward.

Now is the time to prepare yourself to get booked for next year. The best way to do it, is if you are booked for this year, especially if you have a good show! I speak from experience. As I have mentioned in my earlier blogs, Phil (my husband) who thinks he’s the boss of Perfect Magic, also happens to be an excellent Ragtime & Nostalgia piano player. I’m his agent. Every Christmas we’ve been going to Kitchener to visit our dear friends Roman & Joan, who used to live in Montreal. I felt that if Phil did nothing for a week, he might get lazy, so I suggested that I try to book a few shows for him. He agreed. When I started making calls, it was difficult as no one knew him there and they had to take my word for it and take a chance that he was great, not only as a piano player, but as an entertainer. Whoever took the chance, was extremely satisfied.  I found that the best time to call to book for the following year was in January, about 2 weeks after the show. The show and the feedback from the audience is still fresh in the mind of the person responsible for hiring entertainment. I call them and ask if they were happy and after they give an affirmative answer, I tell them I am booking for next Christmas and they have a choice of the date. Most of the people are thrilled to do it and get it out of the way. Then I ask them if their budget can take a sleight increase. As long as its not too big a hike, they go for it. If they can’t, and they have been booking him for years, we keep it at the old price. I’ve had occasions where they said there have been budget cuts and they’re only allowed half of what they used to pay him. I tell them we’d love to do it anyhow, but we can’t and they understand. Sometimes they say they won’t have a budget until March, so I’ll call them in March if I’m not booked by then. This year Phil has 9 shows in the 6  days between Christmas and New Years. He says I’m trying to kill him, but he loves it.

It’s much easier to get booked the second time if they liked you the first time. Phil always changes his shows. He has a basic format, but the songs change.  It’s hard to break in for the first time, but you have to keep trying. If you are trying for a school show and the person in charge always says no, keep on trying. I found that personel changes from one year to the next. The new person may have a completely new attitude. Now when I try a new place, or if its a new person and they don’t know who I am, I give them a list of references with names and telephone numbers. Sometimes I say I’m phoning on behalf of Phil Matlin, and they say they know who he is as activity directors have meetings and they all talk about him. That makes it easy (as long as what they say is good!). As for what to charge,  you can always get a better price for your Christmas shows than your normal price.  So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and keep on truckin’!

P.S. Even though we are closed for the holidays your orders will looked after as soon as we get back, which is on the 3rd of January. I probably won’t write a blog next week, but if I do, those who subscribed to the blog (see upper right corner under my photo) will be notified on email as usual.

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A Magic Show? Stand-Up Comedy? Just plain old entertainment!

So as I said on my Facebook earlier in the  week, we (Phil & I) went to the Comedy Nest at the old Montreal Forum to see Richard Sanders who was performing there last week-end. Plans to go there were conceived at our auction the other week, when we found out David Acer is now a co-owner of the Comedy Nest. Denise & Stan Teshser (also a  magician) who were at the auction ( not only were they at the auction, but Stan worked his butt off, bagging the items in the right place as people acquired them. NO mean task, I assure you, as I stood and watched!) and are our dear friends, (who else would work so hard for nothing except dear friends?), asked us if we would like to go. We set a date, they came into town, we went out for dinner and during the course of dinner we found out that neither Stan nor Denise has ever been to a comedy club. Stan doesn’t like stand-up comedians. Comedy clubs weren’t around when we were teen-agers. We used to go to night clubs and sometimes there was a comedian as a act but to have one after another was unheard of.

But being a magician and knowing Richard Sanders is a magician, he wanted to go. He figured, I suppose, that he would see a comedy magie act. There was a comedy M.C . and 2 acts before Richard. I will only talk about Richard because we are talking magic here, although we enjoyed them all but Richard was the Star! Let me tell you this. Stan and Denise did a whole lot of laughing, as did Phil and I. Richard did magic, which was impeccable, but so well disguised in his comedy that I’m sure people didn’t walk out and say we saw a magic show or even that we saw a magician. He sort of sneaked it in. His interaction with the audience was fabulous and funny. He didn’t put anyone down, or use foul language, that I can remember, and when it was over I had the distinct feeling that he could easily do that kind of show in Las Vegas. Phil felt the same way. And I don’t think that’s the last comedy show that Stan and Denise will go to. We just laughed ourselves silly!

We wish David every success. Keep on getting that calibre act and its a shoe in!

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Filed under Auction, David Acer, Denise Tesher, Evelyn Matlin, Magic, Phil Matlin, Richard Sanders, Stan Tesher, Uncategorized

Clowns, Magicians, Entertainers – Its Christmas Show Time.

It’s that time of year again. If you’re booked for a Christmas show, of course you want to put Christmas in it. You don’t have to have every single trick or skit focused only on Christmas. You can if you want to, but the things you do all year round are probably the best things you do and you can adapt those things to work for you with a holiday theme. You have to think about it or, if you want to see what a Christmas Magic Show is like, we have a Christmas DVD  with 3 different Magic shows on it. Its by Tony Chris; he performs 3 different shows and does 17 Christmas effects effects which he explains how to make and adapt it to your show plus 6 bonus effect. He also gives marketing tips. Who can’t use those?  If you only get one or two ideas or effects from it, its worth it, but I’m sure you’ll get more than that!

To give you an idea of what I talking about, if you do a rope trick, instead of white rope, use red or green rope. Red D’Lites are excellent ( Where is Rudolph’s Nose? Is it here, is it there?), also green. Most of you must have that in your arsenal already. Its easy and fun and so appropriate.

If you want to treat yourself to a new effect, we have the Christmas Chimney Production,  18″ and 36″ Merry Christmas Silks, Christmas Change bags, Lit Candle to Twinkling Christmas Tree,  Santa Blendo, Snow Storms, Crystal Silk Cylinder (so much can be done with that!), Canes, Candles, red silks, green silks, Bead Separation, (which has nothing to do with Christmas except that the beads are red and green). Fill a Dove Pan full of  little Candy Canes or fill the candy factory with striped candies. Put  little blue and yellow silks in a Mirrior Glass and change them to red and green. And Don’t forget the Magic Tea Kettle which can pour red and green drinks and not to mention the silks!

There’s so much you can do with a little imagination and a few props, of course. (spoken like a true magic dealer!)

Get your act together….now!

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Filed under Magic, Uncategorized