An Interview With Fogel

Some while ago it was considered that a lot of practical advice would be necessary in order to complete the "Steps". The subject of Presentation is dealt with as a specialised topic in the last Step, but when the chance occurred to get some first hand opinions from Maurice Fogel, an interview was arranged and tape-recorded. In the following script, the interview has not been edited in any way. The questions are as given and the replies as recorded on the spot. Bearing in mind that Fogel has been earning his living and doing well for very many years as a Mentalist, I feel that there is a lot to be learnt from his experience. I do not have to introduce Fogel; if you have not seen him work—you have missed something. Those who have seen him perform don't have to be told he's one of the best. We are thankful for the opportunity to publish this interview for the benefit of our Readers.

(q) Fogel, you have been practising Mentalism for quite some time—I believe as a Professional; can you tell us how long you have been at it and under what sort of conditions have you worked? (a) I've been a professional entertainer for over twenty years. Regarding conditions, I've worked under all sorts of conditions, from small barrack-rooms, small billets to the largest of theatres. Also, of course. Music Halls, Cabaret, Club, Dinners—and you know what! (q) Now have your activities been confined to England? (a) No. I've been practically all over the world—excepting Russia and Australia. I've been to Africa, Japan, Malaya. Singapore, Hong Kong— The Continent and I've been over to The States. Naturally I've worked a lot in the British Isles. V

(q) Right! Well I'm going to ask you some questions on Mentalism which I think will help the readers of this book. Please understand that whatever you say—you say as you like, we don't want to influence you in any way; in other words—let's have it straight! (a) Don't worry—you'll get it straight!

(q) The first question I have to put to you is a very important one. Do you think there is any future in Mentalism? (a) Yes—definitely a future. It's mystery and a good mystic effect well presented is always acceptable. (q) Coming down to the actual performer; what outstanding qualities do you think go to make a Mentalist? (a) Well that's a very big question really. Foremost what one has to keep in mind is to be an Entertainer. People want to be entertained—especially today. But 1 should imagine one of the greatest things to cultivate is a commanding personality. Mentalism naturally calls for that. (q) Now to rather a tricky question. Do you think it is a good thing to mix magic and mentalism during the course of a performance. 1 think we had better say during the course of a Mental Act? (a) No—I don't think it is a good thing because in presenting Magic, naturally the people, even though you are presenting an apparent miracle— know that you are using trickery. So therefore, if you mixed magic and you come to a Mental Effect the shine has been taken off by yourself because the conclusion with a great many of the people would be "well, it's just another form uf trickery".

(q) But I think I would be right in saying that a magician can of course put in a couple of mental effects to add to his performance. Would you agree to that?

(a) Yes—definitely, because that is exactly the way that I started. That was until I realised that Mentalism was far stronger, or had a stronger appeal than my magic—which was probably no good at all—so therefore I went in and specialised in Mentalism. (q) Thank you. Now the next question, again 1 feel you can give a pretty good answer to this. What about Comedy in Mentalism; do you think it necessary to have some light relief? (a) Yes. This is based again on experience. There was a time when I was the very, very strong Mentalist—but it can reach saturation point and create too high a tension with an audience and where possible to bring in Comedy Relief without lowering the dignity of the performance— it can be a very good thing and a great asset. (q) Now, what do you think is the best attitude to adopt towards an audience. By that, I mean, do you think you should try and fool them that you are a genuine mindreader—or infer that they must form their own opinions—or what?

(a) Well—if my experience can help 1 would suggest that you do not take on too strongly that you are genuine. That was one of my pitfalls in life—although I never made the claim—the claim was made for me and I paid very, very much for it. So if that can be a lesson to any of your Readers and it can be driven home, it would be a good thing for them. So therefore, what it amounts to is—Present Mentalism well, be the Actor, same as David Devant always suggested; after all a magician is an actor. But Mentalism is a very, very tricky subject—no puns meant— so therefore treat it lightly. (q) By that do you mean you should tell the audience that what you are doing isn't in any way Genuine Mindreading? Or do you say that the best thing is to say44 You must judge for yourself—is it trickery or is it genuine ?" (a) Yes. I agree with you on that only partly. Meaning, a great deal can be done by inference. You don't have to say openly "now look I leave it to you to judge what I do" that's been done quite often and to an extent it almost smells apologetic. No, be forthright in your Presentation—infer as much as you like, but don't come out in the open! (q) Excellent! I think I agree with you. Now let's get on to a slightly different field; how about mixing Mediumistic effects during a Mental Act. Do you think this is a good ¿hing? (a) Again it's dangerous ground. Meaning, you must keep at the back of your mind you're an Entertainer. There are people in this world (including myself) who are great believers in the Hereafter. Although I'm not a Spiritualist—there are people who are—and many genuine and sincere in their belief; now for you to come along with the aid of gimmicks and to take advantage of that, and to bring in Mediumistic effects—do so— but be careful.

(q) Now the next question. Do you think that age matters if you want to be a Mentalist?

(a) Well for pure Mentalism, naturally, as I said at the beginning, you have to have a commanding personality. Well straight away that does suggest that you have to be of a mature age, although the youngster

! i I I I i I i who wants to come into Mentalism—I don't want him to be thrown off because of this. By all means do it, as a youngster you can still present it and with experience you will learn a lot for a really good Mentalist Presentation I would say you should be of ripe mature age— round about thirty and onwards. (q) Actually Fogel, what I had in mind was appearance. That is to say, even if you do get a young chap with a commanding personality (which is possible) do you think the audience will accept his Mentalism if he looks "too young"? (a) No—certainly they will accept it. As I say, primarily, if he remembers he is an Entertainer and his stuff is presented well—neither age or appearance matter to that extent. (q) This more or less goes back to one of our earlier questions but it is a specific question. What about the use of magical locking props on a Mental Act—good or bad? (a) In a pure mental act—definitely bad. The whole thing has to have the appearance of impromptu; for instance you will recollect, and those who have seen me work will know, that even the boards that I use— the blackboards—I could have quite easily had possibly a frame or a plated border, something bizarre ; no, it was wise to keep them as plain looking as possible. If you were a genuine thoughtreader you wouldn't need anything—keep that in mind. (q) Contrary to that I suppose you agree that a bit of Mentalism can be slipped into most magic acts—with or without props? (a) Are you asking me or telling me? (Corinda) Asking you!

Fogel. Well—let's have a cup of tea then I'll agree!! ^

(q) OK. Now we get on to the next question. Supposing you are doing an act. Which trick do you think is most important. The first or the last? (a) Both. I think they are equally important. At the opening you must naturally remember that most of them are seeing you for the first time and you have to create an impression, the audience have to accept you. With your finale you must be very strong, very strong because you have to leave them with a good finish.

(q) In other words, you would say that the first and the last effects of the act are indeed the most important? (a) Well I would say in every sphere of entertainment that is so. You'll find it with the juggler, the dancer and the singer just the same. (q) I see. Now what would you say would be an "ideal" running time for an average act. Shall we say the type of act aimed at dinners or maybe club work?

(a) Fifteen to twenty minutes for a Mental act. (q) Not more?

(a) Well you can. I've presented Mentalism for a longer time—but experience, which is something that you cannot learn, helps you to present a longer act. At the beginning I would suggest fifteen to twenty minutes.

(Q) Next question is—would you say it is a good thing for a mentalist to dress up in costume or to appear in any other way than well dressed? (a) I have seen Mentalism and Magic presented in evening dress—wearing a turban. This seemed quite in order, it didn't seem wrong, but generally

! i i I i I ! i speaking it is safe to dress respectably in evening wear. Certainly avoid dressing in Oriental garb and speak in obvious Oxford language. That would be stupid.

Corinda And my next question is will you have another cup of tea? Fogel Yes—you've read my mind!

(q) Right, now we get on to rather a difficult question, one which I think you will be quite capable of answering—that is; roughly how many tricks would best make up a ten to fifteen minute act? (a) Well, again that's very, very difficult to answer. It is possible, keeping in mind your introductory effect and your finale, to present just three. That is your opening, something in the centre and something to finisH with. On the other hand you can present a few quickies. You cannot give a direct answer on that—that's my feelings.

The main thing is—get strong effects. Get good strong effects and then, vary them, meaning it would be unwise for instance to put in two book tests in one programme. You see it would be just as silly to put in two Predictions. So we must keep in mind that with Mentalism you are limited. After all, what is Mentalism but reading of the mind or Predicting into the future? So keep the effects strong and allow for variety on the programme. (q) From that I suppose we may conclude that it is not the number of tricks that we do—but the strength of the effect that is far more important? (a) That's it. Aim at quality and not quantity.

(q) Now I want to get down to analysing the two most important tricks in the act. You have said the first and the last are the prime effects so can you give us an idea of what essential qualities are needed for a good opening mental effect? (a) Essential qualities? Well you must aim to establish yourself and although it might appear contradictory to what I said earlier, get away from the idea that an effect is necessary. I think in mentalism the approach. From the moment you walk on with the majority of audiences you are treated with a certain amount of suspicion; it's something they don't know whether to believe in or not. So right from the beginning from, your walk on, you are meeting your audience—that is your opening, especially in mentalism more so than with magic. (q) So the first thing is to establish yourself with the audience? (a) Yes. I mean—consider your patter. This might seem exaggerated but I don't think it is—with your "Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen", I think you can establish a great deal. The way you walk, the slight nod, the slight bow—it's all production. Regarding effect, if you can get over something good, quick, snappy—so much the better, but the main thing to keep in mind is your impact, the opening as you walk on, remember all the time that they are looking at you. (q) So it's the way you walk and what you say that are equally as important as the first trick you do ? (a) Yes.

(q) Thank you. Now let's get to the other end of the act. What about the closing effect, what are the important things to try and achieve for your finale?

(a) Well to leave a good impression, a good mystery is essential. Right, so we are dealing now on the finale, let's take it that you have your opening

Friendly Persuasion

Friendly Persuasion

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