Category Archives: Show buisness

Clowning Around With Magic

When I was a kid my parents always took us to the Circus. Unlike today’s circus, it was full of lions and tigers and bears and horses and elephants and dogs. It was usually at the old Forum in Montreal, famous for its Hockey Games with the Montreal Canadians in their heday. I’m going back to the days of Rocket Richard, Guy Lafleur, Floyd Currie and Dickie Moore to name a few, but I digress. The thing about the circus was there were two things that made me nervous, the guy being shot out a cannon and the clowns.

Funny thing is, one of my favorite tricks in the magic shop is Card-toon, especially Card-toon 2, whereby the spectator names any card which is then located face up and removed from the deck and placed on the table so that we remember the chosen card. Then the magician shows his audience the back of the cards, which has a cartoon drawing of a little stick man with  a deck of cards at the circus. The magician tells the audience that he didn’t mix the deck because each back has a slightly different picture and by his flipping the cards they will see an amination. As the magician flips though the deck the spectators see a little stick man climbing into a cannon, lighting the cannon, and then he goes flying into the air with his cards flying all over. He manages to grab one of them and turns it over and guess what! Its the same card as the one on the table that the spectator chose. I much prefer this delightful little effect than the terrifying one at the circus.

If I was nervous about the clowns, its because they weren’t like the two charming young ladies that were here today. I know I would not be afraid of them as they were so sweet and thoughtful. They bought a lot of magic stuff, but not before they figured exactly where it would fit into their shows. They were studying theatre arts. They are working clowns and do well, and I can see why. I guess clowns don’t have to be scary.

Many years ago Phil did a lecture for Clowns Canada in New Brunswick and it was a real hit. Many of the clowns had never thought of using magic in their act. He still  has some lecture notes on the subject, Clowning Around With Magic . It is informative and deals with stage clowns, birthday party clowns and walk around clowns and how and what is suitable for each one. Check it out! By the way, Clowns Canada is having a Clowns Canada Carnavale 2013, September 27 and 28th in Mississauga, Ontario.

And then there are the magicians that do a lot of clowning, but that’s another story!

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Filed under Children's Magic, Comedy, Evelyn Matlin, Kid Show Magic, Performing, Show buisness

Boom Years for Restaurant Magicians Part 2

Last week I wrote a blog on boom years for Montreal magicians and asked for anyone with more info to write in. Here’s the reply from Jonathan Levey who has offered some solid advice to those interested in trying that venue. Here is what he has to say…

“Great article on the Boom Years, Evy.

I will have to thank Mark for mentioning a few of the restaurants I worked and you for posting this info.
If you have the chance, kindly consider adding a few more restaurants that I worked during the Boom years.

Those were the days when Jim Sisti’s infamous The Magic Menu (which actually started out in newsletter format!) served as vital inspiration and gave us practical tips and information on how to actually find and secure the venues on a long-term basis. As well, The Magic Menu provided us with precious tips and insights into how to negotiate our contracts and more effective ways to perform table-to-table magic within the (often) tight physical constraints of the dining room areas. In addition to Sisti’s Magic Menu (of which our own beloved David Acer was a regular contributor) other books which inspired and taught us were: Kirk Charles “Standing up Surrounded”, Paul Diamonds “it Takes Guts Dammt!”, and Charles Greene III “Restaurant Magic” (audio tape!), as well as Michael Ammar’s Negotiating Fees (also on audio tape at the time).

These great resources provided me with the insight and encouragement needed to secure and perform at the following restaurant-type establishments for most of the 1990′s, for a minimum of 6 months and on average for 1-2 years+: Le Lutetia (inside the Hotel de la Montagne), Thursdays, Moby Dicks, The Atlantic Pavilion, Jardins D’Hivers (inside the Montreal casino), La Tulipe Noire, Mikes, Nick & Marios, Holiday Inn Pointe Claire, and the Ramada Inn.

Of course, as most of us “old-timers ” know, if it wasn’t for the ground-breaking success of the skilled and charismatic Tom Auburn (aka Magic Tom), securing restaurant work in the city of Montreal would have been a much harder sell.

To those younger magicians seeking to work in a restaurant venue, I believe many of the above books and audio tapes, though admittedly somewhat outdated, will still serve the budding restaurant magician as relevant, informative and inspirational. Perhaps there are new “how to” books on the market these days that will add to your arsenal. A trip to Evy and Phil’s Van Horne Perfect Magic store in Cote-des-Neiges (…or is that Phil and Evy’s store?), will allow you to browse their shelves to find such treasures. One thing for sure is that it’s a great place to start your journey. Because, as Evy and Phil will tell you without pause… “if we don’t have it, we can get it… within days.” …and they mean it too!”

Thanks for sharing and thank you also for the praise for Perfect Magic!

Just so you know, Sisti’s Magic Menu is still available;  Negociating Fees by Michael Ammar and Restaurant Magic By Charles Green as referred to by Jonathan are now in CD format. Since then there are more books and DVD‘s to choose from if you are interested.

If you have info on who did what when and where re restaurants, let me know.

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Filed under "Magic Tom" Auburn, entertaining, Magic, Perfect Magic, Performing, Restaurant Magic, Show buisness

Reaching For A Star and Catching It! That’s Magic!

We’ve known Ted Outerbridge since he was a kid. He had a dream and didn’t let go. He worked hard. He struggled but never gave up. It paid off. Last week in the Gazette, there was an article about him. We were thrilled to see it.  In 1997, before he was famous, he won the Tom Auburn Award at Magic Montreal, the Annual Magic Convention produced by Perfect Magic and Wim Vermeys for 19 years. It was a sign of things to come. I spoke to him and asked him to write about himself and to include what got him to decide to make a career of this and also what tip he could give to up and coming magicians. I’ll publish it when I get it. In the meantime…Ted and Marion…Keep on truckin’!

I have included  photos of Wim Vermeys and Phil Matlin and the Trophy Winners of Magic Montreal 1997 and we have David Acer, sticking his head through the curtains in the back. He was never one to be left out! David was the M.C. of the stage show that year, hilarious as usual!

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Filed under "Magic Tom" Auburn, Magic Conventions, Magie Montreal, Perfect Magic, Show buisness, Ted Outerbridge

There’s No Business Like Show Business Part 2

Home sweet Home! We’re back at work and a shipment has already arrived from Murphy’s which I should unpack, but If I get involved in real work I won’t get back to the blog. Besides I may forget. It’s already becoming a blur. Last week I week I wrote part one, the trials and tribulations of Show Business, Phil’s first 3 out of 9 piano gigs that he had.  I will continue with the rest.

Before I do, in case you don’t read the comments or didn’t read the blog, I must relate one of my readers comments as I think it’s the epitome of the subject. In his younger days he was in a acting troupe and when the technical director was on the phone with the person in charge of the venue they were invited to perform at, he asked about lighting for the stage. The person on the other end said, Yes, there were ONE…TWO…  TWO WINDOWS! Don’t tell me you didn’t laugh at that!

Gig 4: They were expecting us. They had a real piano. It was the one Phil was to play. Everyone was already there ready to celebrate New Years with their hats on and blowing their horns. It was festive, indeed. Phil sat down to test the piano and played away. I could see he was happy. I went over to him and said, ” So you’re happy?” “Yes, he said, but it would be better if it was tuned, but hey, you can’t expect everything!”

Gig 5: No problem.

Gig 6: A problem. And I think it was Phil’s fault. They had a beautiful grand piano, a large hall pretty well filled. Phil was having a grand old time and so was the audience. He was playing and singing and his mike went dead. I went up to the stage and pushed the switch and it played, but when I took my finger off it stopped. NO WAY was I going to sit there thoughout the concert holding a switch. Phil has a back up in his car, but the thought of interrupting the show was not an option for me. Fortunately the activity director had a wireles mike which worked great! Whew! Phil had not recharged the battery, but he thinks their wireless sound system interfered with his wireless system.  I don’t think so.

Gig 7: Excellent all around

Gig 8: We had played here before. It’s a ritzy place with a grand piano on  a dance floor. Phil looks at the dance floor. No piano. “Where’s the piano?” asks Phil.

“You want a piano?” she asks.

I nearly fell over laughing. It was just too much. But all ended well, as they had only moved it to a different spot.

Gig 9: Perfection. You forget all the others when this happens! The Activity director thanked us over and over and sent an email the next morning, saying how everyone had such a wonderful time…blah …blah blah…!

Did you have any experiences you’s care to share? Just write it in the comments. We’d love to hear from you! As they say, Misery loves company!

Happy New Year everyone!

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Filed under Performing, Phil Matlin, Show buisness

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