Publicity Plots And Ideas

Radio Prediction

About two months ago I was working on a series of B.B.C. Radio Programmes with my good friend David Berglas. Halfway through the series of thirteen programmes we decided that a Publicity Stunt would do everybody a bit of good! The occasion will serve as a good example of how a plot is thought out and then exploited.

Our first concern was to "think big". My job was to get ideas and David's job was to do them; normally I reckon that given time I can work out a stunt which is big enough for any occasion, but Mr. Berglas is a "stunt eater". I'd think up something that would scare the living daylights out of the ordinary performer—and David would look it over as though it was a new novelty for kiddies. He talks in terms of "Vanishing Nelson's Column" and "Stopping all the traffic in Piccadilly for three minutes". (It tqpk me three days to talk him out of the last fantastic scheme which would have landed us all "inside" for a short holiday!) So the situation demanded something big and David Berglas was the right chap to handle it. Those who know him as I do, will appreciate that there are not many like him—and when it comes to Publicity Stunts, David is an expert.

The plot for our Radio Prediction was basically very simple. A prediction would be done. Now came the problem of dressing it up to giant size so that it would interest several million listeners who weekly followed the radio programme. Not to be satisfied with several million listeners, David decided that the general public and press should be trawled in—the more the merrier!

We decided that the Prediction would be sealed in a fairly large box and this had to be displayed very prominently for quite a while. The usual run of things like "leaving it in a bank vault" and "the Editor keeps it in his safe" were out. Not big enough. Two million listeners would suspect your uncle was the Editor and the other millions wouldn't care. After rejecting twenty ideas, it was agreed that the best place to display the box was to suspend it in mid-air—and make it somewhere so that everybody and anybody could see it —yet nobody could get at it.

After three weeks of arguments, debates, bribes, swearing and threatening, David had been to every official outside the House of Lords and finally gained permission to suspend the box on a wire cable hanging right over the middle of London's prominent thoroughfare—Regent Street—within a few feet of Piccadilly Circus which we call the "heart of London". It stayed there causing curiosity, traffic jams and alarm from old ladies who thought it had come from

Mars, for no less than one week. During that time—thousands upon thousands of people must have looked up and wondered what the hell it was. Press people naturally followed the interest and a brief mention on the air brought many more to see nothing less than a big box marked with a query swinging thirty feet over the main road.

By the time the week was up—and the Stunt taken place, there was a keen interest by half the Nation to know what was going to happen. The B.B.C. were delighted that the listening public increased their tuning in to the programme. All was well, David came on as Resident Mindreader on the series; members of the audience provided information to make up an imaginary passport. They supply the name, address, age and nationality, etc. . . . . when this had been done in the Studio, a team of officials, supported by a B.B.C. outside broadcasting unit—hauled in the box through the windows of a Famous Hotel and opened it up. There inside, where it had been for a week is a genuine passport issued especially to David Berglas a week ago— and it predicted with amazing accuracy the facts just supplied in the Studio! Amid the gasps of amazement there were one or two quieter sighs of relief as a couple said to themselves "it worked!"

Now for the judgment, was it worth it? The answer came that night. David had been booked to appear six times at weekly intervals on the radio series. That night the Producer wanted to know if he could possibly continue and stay in until the series ended—another seven weeks. David did thirteen programmes.

This particular occasion served as a first class example that big results demand big thinking. I make no attempt to bother you here and now with how it was done. That was unimportant—the trick itself was child's play, and who cares how a good trick is done—as long as it is done well?

Personal Column Advert Stunt

Leslie May of Edinburgh reminded me that a very good publicity stunt is one where you insert an advertisement in some prominent daily paper. The original idea comes from an early Jinx and to my experience, Joe Elman our contributor of "Sightless Vision" in Step Five, is one person who has made good use of this for many years.

Practically any trick will do—a simple card prediction, a word for a book test, a name etc., you merely word out a small advert which goes —

AT THE SAVOY tonight, Mr. Eric Mason will select the Ace of Clubs.

LESLIE MAY (Paranormalist).

You insert the place of performance of course, and use the name of the Chairman or President as the one who will select the card. Ending with your own name. You see that you have a copy of the paper with you when you arrive at the place of performance and say nothing about your advert until, by some means, you have forced the Chairman to choose the Ace of Clubs. Then comes printed evidence of your prediction being correct. Not to mention the curiosity that can be aroused by other people who spot your advert in the Personal Column. (Leslie May suggests two adverts in one paper; the Personal Column and Entertainments Section would result in a good tie-up). The easiest way to force the Ace of Clubs is to keep it under glass in bright sunlight—a la tomato plants ! !

At this point I will ask to be forgiven for sidetracking Publicity Stunts to come in with a true story, told briefly, which concerned David Berglas and a printed prediction set in The Radio Times.

David at a Studio in London worked a stunt with a lady in Manchester (another Studio—linked up). She had been told to choose a newspaper, choose a page, tear it up into eight pieces and choose one piece. Tear that bit up and finally came the order from David "and now you have one piece left, please choose any side". For half a minute there was a deathly silence and then David heard laughter and some unscripted remarks from the compere at the other end, who on this occasion was Cyril Fletcher. Naturally, David got a bit worried at this unexpectedHurn of events, and as best he could on a live broadcast, he asked Cyril Fletcher "What's going on . . . ." Back came the reply, "Well, our guest has done what you told her to— she is chewing the paper ! ! " The lady obviously mistook "Choose" for "Chew" and there she was chewing the vital slip that was intended as the prediction to tie up with the Radio Times advertisement! If she had swallowed, it would have taken an operation to prove the prediction correct, as it was, a sad and rather well-eaten slip of paper was deciphered, and with lots of giggles it turned out all right in the end. There's no accounting for taste!

Registered Letter Prediction

Another Stunt which goes well when you know in plenty of time, the place of performance; send a registered letter containing a prediction to the organiser (or, to anyone who will be there on the night). In actual fact, the envelope is empty—only to be loaded with a prediction from a billet knife or billet pencil (see Step Four) when you come to use it during the act.

You don't want the organiser to open the prediction before \ime, so what you do is send him the prediction sealed in an envelope which is enclosed within another envelope (the registered one) along with 2 note telling him to bring the enclosed envelope to your performance and to safeguard it intact until that time. They will co-operate if you do it tactfully.

If you are the proud owner of a Prediction Chest, this may also be sent via registered mail and worked accordingly.

FogePs Bullet Catching

From time to time performers have utilized the dramatic stage trick "Catching a Bullet in the Teeth" for the purpose of a Publicity Stunt. Legend has it that Ted Annemann once did a stunt, catching a bullet, and nobody knows how. Reading the description of this in Dexter's book is most interesting and quite impossible! Who cares? Annemann knew the difference between performing effects and demonstrating principles!

The Bullet Catch is a good Publicity Stunt because it fringes on play with death. However, it is not a toy that is something to be done by a fool. There are many safe methods; there are just as many unsafe ones. Some people insist that any publicity is good—but they go wrong when you hit the headlines with "Mindreader blows his brains out when stunt goes wrong". So you're in the news ! ! ?

I will not commit myself to methods for Bullet Catching, all I say is that here we have good material for Publicity Stunt on a grand scale—and if you are very careful—there is no more danger than there is from dropping a Svengali pack on your foot and breaking your toe.

Two years ago 1 had the great pleasure to watch the greatest Publicity Stunt I have ever seen. Maurice Fogel does the trick. Fogel does everything the book says: takes a trick and makes it big.

On stage a team of six crackshot guardsmen. A colonel in charge of the "Firing Squad". Regulation army rifles—sandbags and anti-ricochette boards around. A plate holding eighteen live bullets—and each guardsman loads any bullet he likes. Twice they fire a salvo of six rounds at a plate which disintegrates under the impact of six bullets. The din is terrific, the atmosphere tense. Fogel now stands in shirt sleeves ready to face the onslaught of catching six bullets at once. The Colonel gives the order . . . "Load, Take aim, FIRE!" Another deafening bang and Fogel totters forward and crashes flat on his face. Everyone is on their feet with one thought "it's gone wrong" . . . thirty seconds later, after what seems to be ten hours of utter silence—Fogel stands to his feet—turns and smiles and six bullets array themselves in his teeth! They drop on to a plate, eager committee men rush forward and grab them—identify markings, they match —they are the bullets.

I doubt that I will ever-see a more frightening, dramatic and gripping performance than on this occasion. Primarily, Fogel did it for a Publicity Stunt. That night and next day nearly every paper in the country carried the story and many held front page pictures. Three newsreel films went out and brought the story on film to the public for six months afterwards.

Many plots for Publicity Stunts can be conceived by performance of some daring and unusual act. Ooce it was the fashion to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and as many who hit the headlines—hit the obituary column! We know about people like Houdini who utilised underwater escapes for dramatic Publicity Stunts. However, our prime object is to publicise our- ' selves as Mentalists—so the stunt must be one that savours of mental skill in addition to manual daring. Since there are many stunts which do not involve any risk of physical injury, it is not worth bothering or chancing anything that may land you in hospital.

Example of Personal Publicity: Raymond Hafler

A few pages back in this Step I criticised some of the letter headings and visiting cards that Mentalists use. Now we go to the opposite end and examine publicity of the personal kind—that we feel is in good taste.

Raymond Hafler of California, U.S.A., is a good friend and fellow Mentalist and his status in Mentalism we would call semi-professional. That means he does not do it for a living (although he is more than capable if it were necessary). Most of his time nowadays is taken up with professional work at the Municipal Courts of Long Beach. This means that he doesn't have to have good persona) publicity—but Ray, a Mentalist of many years experience knows the value of a job well done, and I asked him to allow me to reprint here samples of visiting cards and leaflet handouts. The card, you see, is direct, simple and sophisticated. The leaflet has been carefully worded and is given out as a small, single fold card. Our reproduction of this handout shows you both sides. The front is a straightforward drawing and bears his name. The inside tells you all about it and the back tells you he can be booked by telephone. Since Ray Hafler has been good enough to permit us to reproduce samples of his personal publicity, I will ask you to respect his property and not to copy these reproductions; they are merely illustrative.

• discriminating


Raymond W. Hafler, world traveler and lecturer of the science of Extra Sensory Perception is most qualified as a propounder of the startling discoveries and findings of this comparatively new science.

His travels have led h:m to those corners of the earth, Asia and the Orient, known for their intensive search to lift the veil of the secrets of a science hitherto placed in the category of mysticism. Steeped in the wisdom anil the fruits of knowledge accumulated by those ancient civilizations. Mr. Hafler has truly gained a unique insight and familiarity within his chosen field that has resulted in a most successful and productive quest of the unknown.

It has been stated by Mr. llafler. "Moth, ing in this world can be supernatural, but on the contrary can and must be subjected to the analytical mind of logician and scientist." Consequently, his lectures and demonstrations are presented from a purely unbiased standpoint and solely for the purpose of entertaining his audience.

His demonstrations include illustrations of the various characteristics and functions of that sixth sense, Extra Sensory Perception, e.g., the discernment of a person's thoughts, intuition; control of other minds; and the prophecy of occurrence.

He uses individuals in his audience who are unknown to him for his telepathic demonstrations. He makes them the actual recipient.« of telepathy and mental pictures which he dimactically reveals. Interest and thrills àwait those viewing this most unusual lecture

Friendly Persuasion

Friendly Persuasion

To do this successfully you need to build a clear path of action by using tools if necessary. These tools would be facts, evidence and stories which you know they can relate to. Plus you always want to have their best interests at heart, in other words, you know what is good for them

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