and you have established yourself well, your centre material which for want of a better word we will call "padding"—but it should not be padding—not thrown away stuff. (Everything, today especially, has got to be strong.) And we are coming on to your finale. Now what's got to be the finale? The only way 1 feel I can help you is—imagine a chart in front of you. You start off, for arguments sake, at fifty per cent, that has got to work up like a barometer until you reach a peak—and once you reach that peak, that is it. So therefore, as far as I'm concerned, I'm not worried about what your finale is, I couldn't care less, but get everything possible so that first you leave a very good impression—it's got to be sold to the utmost. That's what I mean when I talk about presentation. Every ounce, everything within you has got to come up to a peak—and remember that barometer chart! When it gets to the top—that's when you leave them and you can't go wrong.
(q) Now a question about tricks. How important is it to try and be original ?
(a) Again let's be worldly on this. In every sphere in life originality counts a great deal, it pays off, but let us be fair with ourselves. Rather, let me be personal and be fair with myself.
For myself I try my utmost to present effects, some of them original ideas, but very, very few—because I'm limited. 1 admit this openly. But even so, there are effects on the market—get them, play with them for some time, and try and get an original approach and it will pay off in the end. Once in a blue moon, it's very rare—but you'll get someone who can be entirely original. Personally I've never come across such a performer. But there are ways of disguising effects—and you get a great deal of personal satisfaction if you get an original approach. It does not always mean the patter—say you, but a trick aryd you can't find anything better than the patter they suggest, work on it—remember that it's elementary in dramatics that a line in a play can be read in dozens of different ways. One line, pauses, flection in voice—do that with your effects.
Another instance. They suggested I had an original approach with the way I handled props—the way I handled the boards and threw the chalk away. To be absolutely truthful with you I never realised it, I had not planned it, it was me working; you can do the same thing—-just be NATURAL, and always try and get some original approach and you will find that people like you for that.
Whilst on this I do suggest strongly that if you do see a performer working an effect, and getting away with it, I know there's a great temptation to pinch it. Don't. It's sinful—on this I'm very superstitious, you will never have any luck with it—that is definite. But if that performer has inspired you, by all means be inspired and let that be a help to you. There is no need to take that effect away from him because believe me from experience I can assure you that every move means a lot of hard work. After all there is so much you can find. Some time ago I had to give a lecture on this and my suggestion was again based on personal experience. I advise, go down to the markets, watch the market people working, you will learn a lot from them. Remember they have to earn a living; watch two stalls selling the same product, for arguments sake, crockery or china. One fellow is taking a lot of money and the other fellow isn't. Analyse it—why? They are
selling the same product, possibly the same price and possibly the fellow who is not taking so much is selling his stuff cheaper? Why? Yet the other fellow can sell it—and the reason is showmanship; again inflection of voice, there's that en rapport with the public, also experience.
Another thing, don't go and watch entirely Magical performances; those who know me intimately will tell you that I see very, very few magicians because I know that temptation of wanting to take something that is really good and I would rather fight shy of that. But I can learn a lot by going and watch the Ballet or going to a good Opera. You will learn a great deal about showmanship and presentation.
(q) I think that's very good—but I think you must also agree that it's not much good introducing mental effects into a production of Swan Lake!
(a) I agree with you Corinda—and in the same voice somehow I don't think a chappy dressed up in tights would look well as a Mentalist. But what I'm trying to tell your Readers is to get the inspiration from these Classical productions; go and see a really excellent show away from magic—you'll learn a great deal. Watch all the time—the newspaper men selling papers, shop workers—everybody. Watch and learn.
(q) Still another on tricks. This time I want to ask you—how can you tell if a trick is good or bad ?
(a) Well my answer to that Corinda is this. There are very, very few indeed in the catagory of bad tricks. Meaning there are tricks which appeal to people so naturally you buy them. But like clothing apparel, what suits one man does not necessarily suit another. The same with tricks; what you think is a bad trick another fellow will make a miracle with it. Although I do agree there are some alleged tricks which should never have come on the market. They're no good at all—but there are very few. In the majority a trick is a trick—it may not suit you but it might suit somebody else.
(q) Don't you think that the acid test would surely be to try it out on an audience and then judge the reaction by the audience?
(a) That's all right to a point. I'll only go with you part of the way on that. So let's start from the beginning; you get your catalogue or you visit a magical dealer's place and there's something that appeals to you, you like it and in your mind you can see yourself presenting it. Well, you have gone more than half way, 1 do suggest you buy it. Now when you suggested a moment ago that you try it out on the audience to see the reaction and you base it on that reaction as to whether the trick is good or bad, that is not the acid test—again I'm talking from personal experience and I find that there are several tricks and effects which have taken me a long, long time to find out where and how it could be presented properly. Sometimes it was a matter of a word—again presentation, and inflection of voice or sometimes to stop sooner than you originally intended—or work it a bit longer. Therefore you cannot judge it on one, two or three showings. If you like the effect keep at it.
(q) Now to change the subject. Can you give us an example of a good effect that a Mentalist could do if called upon to do something on the spur of the moment?
(a) Well outside of the dealers' items which we wont mention, the greatest standby for absolutely impromptu stuff has been Muscle Reading. But of course you have all the advantages of Billets and say the Centre Tear
if you can use the necessary materials. There's a lot of fun and valuable experience to be gained from finding out for yourself—I don't think i should advertise or spoil the fun for your readers.
(q) Perhaps you are right. If I may say so, I have always got along with the Centre Tear and when no apparatus has been allowed, I have just used my natural psychic powers—as you know I'm mediumistic!
(a) (At this point Mr. Fogel came out with some quaint old English phrases which might not look so good in print).
(q) Now another question, this time on a much debated topic. How do you feel about using Playing Cards for Mental Effects, or'for that matter, anything that is easily associated with conjuring. For example a magician's wand, silks, boxes and so forth?
(a) Well first of all I'll say straight away the Magic wand is out. Definitely out—that's elementary, we all realise that. Other than that, any gaudy looking props that are definitely the property of a magician—they should be out. Such things won't be a help to you, they will be a deterrent— which should be obvious.
However, regarding Playing Cards, handled properly they can . be an asset because remember this—there's a great mystery regarding Playing Cards. Although they are used a great deal by magicians, remember that your Fortune Tellers, Seers, Tarot Readers—some of them use cards as their main stay and they are accepted for that purpose. So therefore you need not be afraid to use Playing Cards—but handle it right. Don't do anything which is obviously manipulation—there is a wide space between juggling and thoughtreading!
(q) I think the next question is one that few people could answer properly. I'm putting it to you. Most mental acts call for an assistant or two from the audience, can you give us any tips on handling tnis situation. In other words how do you go about a sure method to get people to come up?
(a) This is again a very important question and is hard to explain, but what has to be done—has to come from within you. Again we must start from the beginning, possibly I missed it earlier on; one of the greatest things is to be sincere. We go back to Houdini again who says a Magician is an actor—acting magic—and remember as a Mentalist you are an Actor presenting Mentalism and you've got to be sincere about it. Furthermore, if your whole presentation is sincerity, you should have no difficulty in getting people to help you. I have found that this has helped me a great deal, and to give you an example, on occasion in Music Halls which as you know are suffering a great deal, I had in large theatres very few people in the audience. Most of the artists backstage felt it and could not gain an atmosphere. You can imagine my feeling before coming on the stage—when I depend on audience participation— I'm wondering in my mind how I'm going to get a committee! But I've never failed and I do put this down to being sincere. It will ooze out of you and you'll attract people to you; after all they are part of the audience. You know as well as I do—that without audience participation you haven't got a Mental Act.
Further on this theme of sincerity, another thing which is worth bearing in mind is that you must have the complex that you are not going to fail. You see, it might sound contro,dictory—but it isn't;
earlier on I said that 1 felt a complex about getting a committee up— before 1 went on, but once I get on the stage that feeling goes immediately, Vm the Mentalist and this is the only secret—inwardly think, "I'm going to succeed" and you will. Occasionally the response wont be as quick as usual, well don't be lost for words. Always have something to say and always at the back of your mind have the complex that you are going to have your committee and that you will succeed in your mentalism. All this wrapped up together means that you must succeed. That is my experience.
(q) I'm going to go a bit further with this Fogel. Suppose I'm doing my Mental Act and after a few introductory remarks I ask for two assistants and find that they do not appear to be coming. What do you think I should do—stand there and talk or move about and be seen doing something—trying not to appear worried about the situation?
(a) Yes, obviously you have learnt your lesson already in saying those words, but to deal with that situation from a personal angle. Let's start "Ladies and Gentlemen I would like two people to come up", etc., etc. . . We find the response is not too good so now's the time to get in a bit of light relief. Let me give you an idea now—something which I have done on these occasions. The first thing is to play for time, talk about the way up "the stairs to the stage are on my right—come along up the steps there", look expectantly and smile saying "now don't all rush up together!" continue, "Just take it easy one at a time please", and by that time you'll find that you have broken the ice—but if not you can continue "I'd rather you came of your own accord because if I singled anybody out there would be even more suspicion than there is right now ". Phrases in that nature, light friendly remarks will soon solve the problem. , Never be insulting—remember, be commanding and yet remain humble —such a thing is possible. Take Sir Winston Churchill, one of the greatest orators of our time—he was commanding and when occasion demanded he was humility itself.
(q) Do you think it's a good or bad thing to do what is often done. V/hen the Mentalist has asked for assistants and they don't come up. he turns to the audience and says "Well, if somebody doesn't come up I can't get on with my act, I've got to have assistants"?
(a) Well 1 don't think anything of it. You want to keep your book off the "X Certificate" so I won't say exactly what I've got in mind at the moment. But never confess defeat—that's idiotic; and remember whoever has engaged you—has done so because you are supposed to succeed. You should never be there if you are going to use those sort of words. Never insult your audience in any way, be the master and be humble— the perfect gentleman and be courteous—remember that.
(q) Another hard question—suppose you do get a couple of people up OK. But w hat happens if one of them turns out to be an awkward so-and-so. What's the best way to handle that?
(a) Naturally that's happened to me—it happens to everybody and I have my tricks of the trade on that—one of the things is that you must remember again—you must succeed and the audience are with you, they are there to be entertained and if you've got someone with you wrho is going to spoil it they are on your side. You have to remain the master, on occasion I've held him by the hand and asked him to step back,
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Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.