Monthly Archives: April 2015

Who Doesn’t Like Magic and Why?

Who doesn’t like to watch magic and why not? As I wrote in a previous post, we love it naturally, from infancy, first trick being peek-a-boo. It doesn’t matter what language, what culture, the baby will get it and smile. You vanish and reappear! Great stuff! When they get older you can remove your thumb and put it back! Amazing. But as we get older and wiser we know its a trick. We know what’s happening. But we love delighting the child, and the child in us. Therefore the magician must come up with something the audience hasn’t figured out.

The problem is delighting them without making them feel stupid. It has to be more than a trick or a baffling mystery. It has to be enjoyable. “Entertainment First” is the cover of George Schindler’s DVD and he has it right. Bill Abbott recently wrote something on Facebook about wooing your audience and making them love you first.

When I first started demonstrating magic in order to sell it, I would just do the trick to show them how clever it is. I’m selling, right?  But as a grew older and wiser, more than how clever it is, I show how enjoyable it can be. The simple Svengali Deck. I never say, “As I riffle the cards, put your finger in the deck, anywhere you want.” I always say  “As I riffle the cards, put your finger in the deck, anywhere I want, I mean, anywhere YOU want.” It always gets a laugh and I haven’t even done the trick yet, but its already fun. They are going to go home and use that line. The trick is already sold and I haven’t even done it.

So who doesn’t like magic? It’s my opinion that people who think they are smarter than everyone else don’t like it. Sometimes someone will even say “I know it’s a trick!” Of course it is. You are in a Magic Shop, for heavens sake. They are just not completing their sentence. What they are really saying is, “I know its a trick, and I can’t figure it out, and I”m very intelligent, so I should be able to. How the hell did you do that?” One woman actually grabbed the cards out of my hand. I didn’t care for her before, but that clinched it. She was beside herself. I’m not sure that these people will ever loosen up enough to enjoy it.

In my last post about Children and Magic, Jody M. wrote a comment, which is well worth reading, about how he  helped his young audience enjoy his magic.  That’s what its all about.

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Performing Magic For Children

If you’re a magician it’s not a big deal to pull a quarter or a sponge ball out of a kids ears or nose and make a big impression. Actually kids are a great audience. They haven’t lived long enough to be inundated with all the TV and street magicians or even magic shows, although many day cares and camps include programs with magicians. But its a big leap from vanishing a coin for a kid and doing a birthday party for a bunch of kids.

I once mentioned that I don’t worry about what I’m going to write about each week, because sometimes when I have nothing in mind, a blog walks into the shop. Last week a dad came in  and said he wanted to do a show for his child’s birthday party. Fine. Except he had never done magic before. When is the show? Tomorrow. I cringed. “That doesn’t give you much time to prepare.”  “Oh, it’s okay. I’ll manage”

I asked him how old the kids were, and with that in mind, I showed him the simplest of tricks that I know work well with 5 year olds. But he didn’t want those. He wanted card tricks. He ended up buying some of what I suggested but mostly what he wanted. On his way out he crossed paths with David Acer who was walking in. I mentioned to David that the guy came in to get some magic tricks for his kid’s birthday party. David said something like, “That’s nice, he came to get some new effects.” I said he never did magic before and the show is tomorrow. David’s face dropped. “Oh, no.” I told him I tried, at least, to steer him in the right direction, but he wasn’t much interested. David felt terrible, as I did.

There is a lot to consider when performing for children. The age, the patter, the material, how to get them excited, how to keep them in control, picking the right volonteer, how long the show show be, and above all, the children. You should not be worrying you are going to mess up the trick, which can happen to the best of us, and how do you handle that. If you’ve done your homework,  read the books, watched the DVD’s and had experience you will manage. It’s called “Outs”. But if you’ve never done magic and you screw up it could be devastating, probably more to you than the audience. You will be ruminating over that one for a long time. The audience will just say, They had a magician. He was lousy.” So as the motto of the Boy Scouts goes “Be Prepared”. Speaking of Boy Scouts, did you know there is a Magic book on the market “Blue and Gold” written specifically for magicians who want to perform for the Boy Scouts, how to get into that market, etc. It’s worth looking into.

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So You Want To Be Your Own Magic Agent!

Being your own agent is not an easy task. It’s hard to tell someone, “Hey, I’m great. You’ll love me and my show!” There’s an old saying “Self-praise is no recommendation.”

Some magicians record their shows and put them on face book or on a web-site and that’s fine as long as you have permission from all the people. Could be tricky.

And even if you have a web site, there are many web sites out there. What to do?

How do you get the edge?

I know one guy, his name is Phil Matlin, and he got his wife to be his agent. Not for magic, for music. As some of you know Phil is a Ragtime Piano player. He has 2 CDs on the market, Ragtime Magic and Ragtime Daze and he is terrific if I must say so. He never sang when he played, but one day Phil and I wrote a song, and David Acer insisted that he sing it. Phil said, “I’m not a singer.” David said, “It doesn’t matter, it’s your song, it’s great and you have to sing it.” Phil wouldn’t sing. He said many a good piano player ruined their careers by singing. I phoned his coach at the time, Mimi Blais, internationally famous for her piano playing. Without informing Phil, I asked her if she knew anyone who gave singing lessons.

She connected me to a man in Montreal that coached many rock stars.  I told him that Mimi gave me his number and was his piano coach and I asked him if he could help Phil with his singing.  He said he would try. On and for his birthday, I gave Phil a session with this man. Phil was shocked but willing to go. The man told Phil he was good enough to sing along with his music, but he needed to do some breathing exercises, etc, and he gave him a tape to practice his breathing and vocal sounds and that was it. One lesson. Now you can’t shut him up! But I digress.

So Phil plays ragtime mainly for seniors. They love it. They know most if not all of the songs and he encourages them to sing along. But his agent, me, was the one who made all the calls, to people who never heard of him. You have to be able to take rejection. You’ll get many nos before you get a yes. But you can’t give up. Every no is closer to a yes. Eventually someone will be delighted to have you. And if you are good, they want you back. That works for magic too. And then you have references of the people that want you back. That helps. So get your significant other to make the calls for you, and to tell them how great you are, the libraries, sugar shacks, schools, daycares, restaurants, the YMCA, YMHA, day camps…they are out there waiting for you. Start calling. Oh, and if you need magic supplies for all those shows, don’t forget for Perfect Magic!

By the way, in case you’re interested the song we wrote is in on his second CD Ragtime Daze and its called the Kent Street Blues. The other CD Ragtime Magic is only the piano, no singing. It’s a perfect accompanyment for a silent act and most of it is songs before 1923 so its public domain and Phil gives you permission to use those for magic.

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Magic Passover Moses and Jesus

How do they all come together in one story? If you were at the second Seder that we celebrated at my daughter’s in-laws you would know. At Passover we read the Haggadah in conjuction with our meal. It takes about 3 hours. It is the story of the Jews leaving Egypt and slavery a few thousand years ago. There is discussions and singing and questions during this time. My grandchildren that were there each wanted to tell the story themselves. My grandson, age 9 did an incredible job of reading the story and my grand daughter age seven, who can’t read so well, just told the story. She first told it to me a few days before the Seder how Moses held his staff over the water etc. Now she was telling it again.

When she came to the part where Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses in the river in a basket, my granddaughter got a little mixed up and said she found Jesus in the basket. She corrected herself but we all heard it. That was enough for a big discussion. Her father said, “Now that you brought up Jesus, you know the painting of  “The Last Supper”? She said yes. “Did you know that supper was a Passover Seder?” No, she did not know. And so the discussion went on.

Now its funny that that happened, because my older grandson, who is now 25, was at a supper when he was just about her age. His father is Catholic and his parents came to Montreal at for a visit and took him to the Montreal Shrine. They were all at our house for supper and his other grandparents wanted him to tell us all what he had seen at St. Joseph’s Oratory. They said, “And who was the baby in the manger?” and he said with such confidence “Moses”. We had a good laugh. Surprisingly, they told us that they had a Seder ever year, because it was Jesus’ last supper. Live and learn.

And so our granddaughter continued with the story and we knew she was really our granddaughter because when she spoke of the sea parting she said, “And Moses held his wand over the river and it parted.” It was so sweet. I would have settled for their version of the story but it didn’t work out that way. Two and half hours later we were still at the table, and a beautiful table and meaningful service and so much delicious food and good company it was.

 

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Magic is a Tricky Business

Keeping a small business going in Montreal is no mean feat. Put magic into the equation and its even harder. The Ice Storm didn’t help, nor did the language laws, or the competition. But we learned a lot along the way. We have a love/hate relationship with the Internet. Since we started in 1977, we had to learn a whole new way of doing business and continue to learn every day. It’s one of the reasons we don’t retire. I think without this daily challenge our minds would deteriorate at a faster pace than they are now.

There is a whole lot of competition out there on the web. Many at discount prices. Our loyal customers say they know they can get it cheaper elsewhere but do not want to lose the magic shop. They understand its not just the product they buy but the service they get and they also understand we have more expenses than the on line only shops. I mentioned in an earlier post the a guy came in and asked if we carried the Voodoo or Haunted Doll DVD. I said yes. He said he bought one and can’t figure it out and would Phil help him. Phil asked if he bought it here. He said no. it was cheaper on line somewhere else. Phil told him to call the place he got it from and ask them for help. He said he tried but there is no phone number and they don’t answer the emails. Phil would have spent the time with him had he bought it here. Someone phoned a few days ago and asked for something we didn’t have and we said we would order it for him. He said okay. He asked how many weeks it would take to get? Weeks? You’ll have it tomorrow or the next day and he did. He could not believe it.

But I am not really writing this to tell you the benefits of a magic shop in your community. I write this as I am now in the process of adding a line at the end of each product’s description to inform magicians when instructions are available in French or Spanish. Sometimes it says on the DVD’s that there are are explanations in different languages, but many tricks only have instructions in English.

Phil and I did not need Language Police and Language laws to understand that in order to sell to the French population, which is dominant in Quebec, we needed French instructions. Do you have any idea how expensive it is to have things translated from English to French. And there is another problem. To do a proper translation you would have to be a magician to understand the effect, in order to describe it properly. That’s when we learned about people. Many Francophone friends and customers offered to translate them for free. in 1977 Le Grand Marcis (deceased), who had his own little boutique and gave magic courses, gave us many translations, even though I know he was not happy that we opened a magic shop, yet he did this and like the gentleman he was, was always friendly with us, even bought supplies from us. Denise Tesher, did wonderful translations for us. Professor Shadow, Kurylo Le Magicien, Patrice Meunier, Denis Kino, Dave Harvey and I am sure there are others, all helped us I want to thank all of you.  I remember Jean Prentergast’s wife doing translations for us and telling me it was her pleasure to do it.

We did have some translations done professionally and I just came across them so you will be seeing a lot more French on the French side of the site. But it won’t happen till after Passover and Easter. A lot of cooking to do. So thanks again and Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all our customers and all my readers. By the way, did you know that in French, Easter and Passover are both the same word. “Pâques”

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