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Walt Lees

There are three kinds of people in this world

— Lay people, whose only interest in magic is whether or not it happens to entertain tham at the time of performance.

— People who have no interest in magic, other than that, whether they like it or not magic plays an important part in their lives.

What! You exclaim, throwing up your hands in disbelief. Are there such people? The third group, that is.

Indeed there are. They are that sizable minority of people that could be called for want of a better description, the magically sophisticated semi lay public. But who are they? Well, here are some:-

~ Magician's wives, families, close friends, girlfriends, mistresses, neighbours etc.

— Regulars in pubs where magicians congregate.

— Showbiz people who frequently meet/work with magicians.

These people are not the lay public, although we frequently make the mistake of regarding them as such. We even equate their reaction to our miracles with a lay reaction. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing that they have in common with the genuine, one hundred per cent dyed in the wool layman is that they are not turned on by magic in the same way that we are. In other words they are not sufficiently motivated by it to want to do it themselves.

Take your own family, for instance. How much more magic have they seen than the average person? They even have a magician, good, bad or indifferent under their own roof. Magic, to them, is an everyday thing. Part of the routine of their lives. How often are they dragged to conventions and society events? How many times have they been forced to watch magic on television? They know all the standard effects, gags and presentations. They are just as sick of seeing the linking rings and unequal ropes as the most dedicated magic buff.

The same applies to those people who are always in the pub after the society meeting. They have seen it all before: They stand huddled together at a corner of the bar fending off the wild hoards, who descend brandishing packs of cards and bits of string.

So what is all this leading up to? Simply this. For better or for worse we have créated this magically sophisticated semi lay public. Having created them we must make sure that we distinguish them from the true lay public. If we fail to do so we are in for some nasty shocks. For instance, that trick which our kids thought was great on the dealer dem at some convention and just the thing for dad's act; what really appealed to them about it? Was it its novelty? What is novelty to a real layman, who has never seen the original standard version? Or that act on the gala show, the one that brought the house down — the one that had everybody saying "That's how magic should be presented". The wife may have raved over the style, costumes and lighting, but to the real layman is it perhaps just a lot of overdressed nothing? Or that trick that wowed the locals in the pub after the last society meeting, could it be that in a different pub, where magicians do not descend en mass every week, they would wonder why you had bothered?

To the real layman, magic is something totally outside of his normal experience. This alone makes it interesting, and when well presented, entertaining. The magically sophisticated audience, regards magic as normal, they take it for granted. They are entertained by novelty, elabbrate presentations and offbeat effects. To confuse the two is to court disaster.

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Happy New Year. I don't know about you dear reader, but if 1980 is as good as 1979 was then I'll love a happy new year. It has been a busy year, so busy in fact that I decided not to work at all over Christmas and the New Year. And so for the last 10 days or so I haven't done a thing. All my friends are amazed "Not working at Christmas or New Year?" they said "but that's the busiest time of the year." It was a great feeling to look at them, allow my head to swell a little, and say "For you, maybe."

Actually '79 got better towards the end in many respects, and not just financially. As I sit here surrounded by Christmas presents ranging from socks to after shave I am reminded of one of the sadder events that happened in '79 and that was the closing of the Ken Brooke Magic Place in Wardour Street. Someone once penned a line which pointed out that every cloud has a silver lining — or was it, it's an ill wind, that doesn't blow somebody some good! Well, however chilly the wind was that blew down Wardour Street towards the end of '79 it left a warm glow behind for someone and that someone was me .because Ken Brooke floored me a few days before Christmas by giving me a present of all the signed photographs which had adorned the walls of The Magic Place. I know that some people will be annoyed about that but I'm not. So a big thank you to both Ken Brooke and Frank Farrow for one of my happier moments of the year. I promise that if either of you decide to open up again you can have them all back if you want them. I won't like it, but you can, I promise. To complement the aforementioned surprise my family bought me a bunch of photograph albums so I had a busy time filling one with the other. (I still have room for more??)

'79 was also a good year for meeting old friends. Lots of visitors from the U.S. — Mike Caldwall, Jay Marshall, Percy Diaconais, Ricky Jay, Scotty York, etc etc, all of them Anglophiles. I mustn't forget Pete Biro who arrived just in time to appear on the evening show at Ron Macmillen's International Day of Magic. Pete's almost round the world trip was marred by the fact that his wife was taken ill and had to spend a few days in hospital, but everything turned out O.K. eventually. Keep well, Bobbie. Write sometime and I won't tell Pete. Mention of the International Day reminds me how impressed I was by The Moretti's version of the broomstick levitation. It gets better every time I see it. Did I mention Albert Goshman? He was there. Albert is fast catching up with Jay Marshall in the number of trips he has made to this country. He arrived, as always, with packed suitcases, new balls, and then departed, as before, with nothing but loot.

If I can harp back to Christmas again, I nearly forgot one of the most important items that Santa Claus threw down my chimney — a video cassette recorder. It was actually a present from a friend of mine. That*s the kind of friend magicians need. This one was short, fat, female and talks to herself occasionally, and she knocked me out with the present. In thé past I have always hated people with these machines and was sick and tired of them telling me how good they were. Now, you can get sick and tired of listening to me for a couple of minutes.

This machine is real magic and with it I got several tapes of various magicians in TV shows. This, of course is its major value for we magical idiots — the fact that we can tape other magicians performing.

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