Sunday, October 01, 2017

What the Future Holds

I've been a full time performer for 20 years. I will say that in that time, things have not gone exactly as I expected nor necessarily as I planned, but I'm not complaining. In the past few years many of my brother and sister magicians have had to leave the business because the work had dried up, mine did too but I still stayed afloat. In fact, most people who have had a 20 year career are either looking to slow down, or are getting out of the performing side of the business altogether. Again, I am not.

I am doing more now to further my career than I ever have in the past. Not just twice or three times what I used to do, but more than that. I have become relentless when it comes to marketing. Tenacious when it comes to selling my show. This is due in large part to some dear friends who helped to 'right my ship'. so to speak. This drive was always there, but in the past 7 years, it was tamped down and close to snuffed out. There were multiple reasons and I could use a long list of excuses, but in the end the results or lack thereof remain with me. So, it was I who had to pick myself up, and get things rolling again.

If you're wondering how I did this, I'll tell you. I attended a marketing conference for entertainers. But I was so self conscious of my few years of declining revenue, that I actually began to pull myself up even before attending. I didn't want to show up all dejected and depressed. So I started to force myself to make changes even before attending. Did it work? You bet your ass (pardon my language). But would it have continued if I had not attended the conference? Hard to say, but I lean towards probably not. The thing the conference did was really help me see areas where I needed help. Clearly there were gaps in my marketing knowledge and in my business brain that needed to be filled with fresh concepts and ideas. Not pie in the sky ideas, but proven strategies that could propel my career forward.

The conference is called, IT FACTOR LIVE, and it's like business and marketing boot camp for entertainers. It's fun, it's educational, it can be frustrating at times, and it can be exhilarating at times. 
One of my favorite exercises at the conference is when we have to write a letter to our future selves, which gets mailed 6 months later. This exercise happens after several days of intense training. Fast forward 6's amazing to see how on track  you are....and maybe how off track you are after six months. In my case, I'm pretty much right on the money, with the exception of one thing that was beyond my control. But other than that, I've stuck with it. I'm just as on fire today as I was when the last conference finished. I do tend to get frustrated when things don't come together as fast as I would like, but this just drives me to push harder.

I write this, partly to keep a record. But also to let others know. And perhaps to be an inspiration to my fellow performers who have been in the business for a long while and are thinking of maybe getting out or slowing down. Lighting a new fire is much easier than you think. The key is to surround yourself with like minded individuals who are doing what you want to do. And avoid those people who are not. I have no intention of slowing down. Maybe in 15 or 20 years, I might think about it. But if I still have my health, I'll be pushing harder than people half my age.

I'm reminded of a story. Acres of Gold I think it was called and it was about a guy who went searching for Gold. He purchased some property that had the potential to be filled with gold and began to prospect the land. He drilled and searched but came up with nothing. Eventually, he gave up and sold the property for pennies. The new owner, brought in a geologist who did some tests and told the new owner if he drilled only a few yards from where they were currently searching, he would find gold. And he did. The first man, was so close, he was only a few yards away from striking it rich. But he gave up, he gave up just a short distance from his goal.

That story always resonated with me. I have no intention of giving up. I have no intention of decreasing my goals. I have no intention of slowing down. I'm in this race to win and in the end, if I don't win, I'm still going to finish the race ahead of most of the pack. I'm not giving up, not now, not ever. Perhaps that gives you a glimpse of what I have in store for the future.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Loosing My Mentors

Over the weekend, I lost a dear friend and my mentor in all things escape related. My friend was Steve Baker, known professionally as Mr. Escape. He was a unique individual. He was one of only a couple of people who really kept the art of escape alive and in the eye of the public during his lifetime.

The first time encountered Mr. Escape was watching him on a TV show many years ago. I saw him do a recreation of Houdini's Water Torture Cell. I was not impressed. My thoughts at the time were, "Who does this guy think he is doing Houdini's tricks?" And then I would see him again, and again on TV over the years. I guess my attitude softened over time. Eventually, I got to meet Steve and get to know him. We hit it off right from the start and unlike many others, our friendship lasted for 17 years. Let me just add, that when I watched the footage of his Water Torture Cell years later, I was more than impressed. It was breathtaking. And a little known fact, Steve never presented the Water Torture Cell on TV the same way twice. He always added a unique moment to the escape.

In his life, he had only three students that I am aware of. The first was Tony Clark, the second was me, and the third was Andrew Basso. Steve was very guarded about his secrets and didn't share them with many folks. Even when he would have things built, he would often change the method so even the builder was unaware of how a device worked.

Our meeting came about over a very small escape he did called The Tug of War Rope Tie. I saw a video of Steve doing this thing and wondered how it worked.  The truth was there was no trick to it. No fake knots, no fake tying, all 100% legit. And I could do it. Steve was impressed, actually now that I recall, he was more than impressed. We spoke of the effect for many hours and he sent me numerous videos of his performances of the escape. I loved performing it and did so for many years. In fact, I've recently put it back in my show. See the video below for a very impromptu presentation.

Steve and I had plans to do a TV Special together. There were negotiations going on with Steve and Dick Clark productions. Everything was looking like it would happen and then Dick Clark had a stroke. All projects got shelved and so did our special. We worked out many cool original escapes to feature on the special, but with the cancellation, they were never performed. Who knows, perhaps I will dig out those notes and do one before I get to the point where even I can no longer do escapes, lol!

Steve died Saturday September 16th, 2017 at 11:11pm. His final escape was leaving this world. May You Rest In Peace Old Friend.

My other mentor, was very different from Steve. His name was Cesareo Pelaez and he was the creator and performer of a show called Le Grand David and His Own Spectacular Magic Company. Cesareo and I had an odd connection. We got along quite well, and were very similar in many ways. But unlike a mentor who might spent countless hours teaching you, Cesareo and I only had a few meetings together, a couple phone calls and numerous email exchanges. But because I understood his way of things, he would still influence me without being here. I would often ask myself, "What would Cesareo do in a case like this?" and the answer would soon come.

Cesareo was a college professor of Psychology by profession, but his heart and soul were both stuck in the world of theatre and magic. He was influenced by magical artists like FuManchu, Chang, Richiardi Sr and Jr and many others. His style of performance was very different from what is seen today. I think it could be best described as Broadway meets Vaudeville. It was grand and full of spectacle. And as a performer he was exceedingly charasmatic and charming. I learned so much from Cesareo and still do. Because I am friends with many of the cast members from Le Grand David, they often share stories of Cesareo and these stories always resonate with me.

I have written quite a lot about Cesareo over on my other blog, which can be found here:

Cesareo passed away March 24th, 2012 (Houdini's birthday, btw). He was also 79.

RIP Cesareo You Are Missed!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Carnegie's Magic Fish Illusion

I love doing tricks with fish, goldfish to be exact. I have presented a LOT of different effects with goldfish. One of my favorites was filling a 10 gallon aquarium FULL of fish, magically! But today's routine is a little less spectacular as it only uses 2 fish. However, it's no less amazing! I hope you enjoy it!