Clubland

By 1952 David had returned to England, once again wondering what he should do with his life. One curious business venture involved selling novelties, music boxes and fancy goods to the shops at seaside resorts. I le would hire a hotel room and invite the local traders along to a coffee morning where they could see his wares and be treated to an unexpected demonstration of magic and mind reading using the musical tankards he had for sale. For a brief time he even persuaded fellow magician Alex Elmsley to act as one of his salesmen. The venture w as only moderately successful and really held no interest for either of them.

In London he heard that auditions were being held for entertainers at a cocktail bar called The Hollywood. He donned a white dinner jacket, the only formal wear lie had at the time, and went along. He performed a cigarette manipulation routine and some mentalism but it didn't really register with the audience, the bar was too noisv for magic acts. One man who was impressed was cocktail pianist Vic Evans, later part of a double act called Harriott and

Coca Cola in the newspaper.

Evans. I le cold David that the famous Stork Club, noted for its celebrity guests, held auditions at midnight and that if he rushed over he might just make them.

I le arrived just in time and was added to the list of twelve acts, making him the thirteenth scheduled to perform that night. This time he got a better reception and the owner, a notorious comedian called AI Burnett said, "Wonderful. I can use you. You start Monday." David pointed out that they hadn't even discussed his remuneration. "Fine." said AI, "Mow much do you want?"

David had been earning £15 a week plus commission as a textiles salesman, only, of course, there was never any commission because he seldom sold anything. I le calculated that he would be very happy on £1<S a week and so that was the figure he asked for. AI laughed and said. "Tell you what I'll do. I'll pay you £10 a week and you start Monday." AI knew his business and the amount was set in stone. David said okay and looked forward to a new career.

I lis first week went well and at 4 o'clock in the morning, after his Saturday show, he went to Al's offices to collect his money. AI always kept the acts waiting so the cashier advised him to knock on the door and just go in. He saw AI behind his desk, surrounded by papers. I le knew what David wanted and immediately produced a cheque. It was for £8 17s 6d, somewhat short of the figure they had agreed. "But you said £10." said David. "Yes," agreed AI, "But you used a ('oca Cola every night in your act. You know we charge 1 s 9d for those, well we've only charged you Is 3d." He ignored that fact that the actual cost of a Coke in those days was only four or five pence. The cola was for the Drinks in New spaper routine. Other deductions had been made for two or three coffees that David had at the bar. As a magician he was earning almost half of what he made as a salesman.

One day he was performing a couple of tricks in the late night restaurant The Celebrite near Bond Street. A favourite effect of his was Percy Abbott's Squash, in which a full glass of whisky is vanished, and he created quite a stir w ith it among the customers, reproducing it from someone's pocket. The owner came over and asked if David would give a show. He asked his name and then went onto the floor and made an announcement. "We've just discovered a young man sitting at the bar doing some amazing things and he's willing to show us something. So please give him a big hand..." Then his mind went blank as he tried to recall the name. Suddenly he announced, "...Douglas Bugless," and that was Davids introduction.

The seemingly impromptu performance at the bar had been part of a master plot. David had hoped he would be invited to perform for the audience and had prepared a stunt carefully. I Ic said, "Ladies and gentlemen, what I am going to show you w ill seem so impossible that you'll say later I must have used a confederate. So I w ant someone to go out of the Club into the street and find a volunteer to help me."

It was a very late night and two of the audience left and dragged back the first person they saw, a bleary eyed cab driver complete with long coat, badge and flat cap. David handed him a newspaper and asked him to choose a page and stick a pin in it. I le then read out the word nearest to the pin. To cut a long story short, that's the word David had predicted. The fact that David had arranged for the cab driver to be outside helped make the routine into a miracle. As you can imagine it went down very well indeed. The owner asked him how much it would cost to have him work there every night. David said £40 a week.

"And you'd do that every night?"

"No, no, I have other things."

"Well, I'll take a chance on you."

But it wasn't long before the owner, who had made some enquiries, came up to David and said, "You conned me a little bit. didn't your"

"What do you mean?"

"Well I heard you worked at the Stork Club for only £10 a week."

"I beg your pardon." said David, "1 did not get £10. I only got £8 17s 6d!"

The owner liked that and they became good friends. For the next three weeks David did the main cabaret spot and also entertained the club's most valued customers with some close-up. After the stint at The Celebrite he worked Churchill's Night Club doing much the same thing. Pleased with his progress he went to Switzerland for a holiday break. All of his family were keen skiers and David had a passion for the bobsleigh, making the fastest time down the run as part of a four-man team in the 1953 season. Later, in 1954, he would take a sled down the notorious Cresta Run. this time while blindfold (see Cresta R/m).

Nineteen fifty-three was a watershed year. It was the year David accepted a challenge from Picture Post magazine to find an object hidden somewhere in London. The stunt succeeded beyond his wildest dreams and gave him nationwide publicity {Picture Post Challenge) but it did not do much for him professionally until some time later. The reason being that the stunt, no matter how well executed, could not be reproduced as a club act or on the stage. It was of little value to bookers. But it was remembered and his reputation, if not his bookings, was enhanced.

David spent much of his time in the London clubs during the early fifties and he was a regular at the Jack of Clubs run by former American actor and amateur magician I larry Green. He was a small, squat and lively man. a great front man w ho made his guests feel comfortable. The club itself was a well-known haunt for celebrities and its walls were festooned with autographed photos of the rich and famous. One area was dubbed Kiss Corner. It was decorated w ith large reproductions of lipstick kisses from the most celebrated and glamorous women of the day.

W hen Harry found that David was an accomplished magician he involved him in his party stunts. He was always doing card tricks for the guests and never failed to amaze them. But then he would say. "But these are just tricks. If you want to see the real thing you should see that young man sitting over there. He can do it genuinely." Then he would force a card on the guest and tell them to ask David what card they were thinking of. Tentatively they would approach him and ask their strange question. David would fob them off, saying, "Don't be silly. Ile keeps doing that. He keeps sending people over to me. It's only a joke." Then he'd pause and with a penetrating look would add, "I nless you thought of the Six of Clubs!" The guests would be amazed. David would reciprocate by forcing cards and getting Harry to reveal them. There was always an atmosphere of fun at the Jack of Clubs and David has many fond memories of his time there.

I larry knew all the top celebrities of the day and many of them came into the club to relax after their shows. 1 )can Martin and Jerry Lewis were there regularly and Harry introduced them to David. Dean Martin had worked in casinos as a dealer and was adept at handling cards. He was fascinated with David's magic and couldn't believe that he was not enjoying a successful career as a full time magician. So he introduced him to his musical director Lou Brown whose brother Burton Brown worked for Lew and Leslie Grade, the two leading theatrical agents in the I K. Martin and Lewis were working the London Palladium at the time and one evening they gave a party in their dressing rooms. Martin asked David to do some close-up. He was getting a good reaction from the guests and when he had finished Martin went up to agent Burton Brown and said. "Well, w hat do you think?"

"'Think of what?"

" The magician."

"Listen, we've got a book full of magicians and very few of them arc working. Why would I want to add another?"

David's cigarette production routine.

Dean was very disappointed but David did talk to Burton Brown, left him a card and thought little more about it. However, a few months later he got a call from Brown, telling him that he had arranged a private audition at the famous Windmill Theatre. At the time it didn't mean anything to David that it was a "private audition." I le only knew that the Windmill was run by Vivian Van Damm who had a reputation for being ruthless with the talent and would often dismiss an act within seconds of them stepping on stage.

David put on his white jacket and went to the audition. He did some cigarette manipulations and a few other things and, as expected, before the act was half over he heard Van Damm's voice from the back of the theatre, "Thank you, that'll be all." It was hardly enthusiastic and he thought he'd lost his chance. Burton Brown called our to him and asked David to tell Van Damm about the Picture Post stunt. He got down on one knee, spoke into the darkness of the theatre and told the distant Van Damm all about it. He got the job.

The Windmill Theatre was famous for its wartime slogan. "We Never Closed." It was London's most notorious theatre featuring tableaux of naked ladies (local laws insisted they remain motionless!) Between the scenes of nudity were comedy and speciality acts. In some ways it was similar to the celebrated Crazy Horse in Paris. David did six shows a day. six days a week, for six weeks. It was a never-ending treadmill but it was also a great experience. Only the strong survived. I lis act at that time included cigarette manipulations, the vanishing cane and the stunt in which he would strike a match on a box thrown bv a member of the audience.

A clever variation of The Drink in Newspaper was also featured. After David had poured Coca Cola into the newspaper he took it apart page by page, handing the sheets out to members of the audience until only one page remained. He tore that into halves. Somebody chose one and he tossed the other away. David tore the remaining half into pieces, bundled them together and poured the Coca Cola back into a waiting glass. He drank the Coke and then vanished the glass inside a paper bag. It was a smooth applause-pulling sequence that he used for a number of years.

David has always considered music an important part of his performance and has developed a style in which music plays softly in the background as he talks to the audience. It conveys the appropriate mood and atmosphere for each effect and helps pace each routine. Within such a music-filled act even a sudden silence, as used so effectively in his Chair Balance presentation, can play its part in heightening the drama. Working the Stork Room and Celebrite gave David his first experience of working with live music. There the club bands would play whatever music was required. The Windmill, on the other hand, had their own pianist. Later things would get much more complicated.

He had been signed by agents Lew and Leslie Grade and after the Windmill they arranged for him to appear at the Savoy for three weeks. This was a very prestigious booking.

The Savoy had its own orchestra, the Savoy Orpheans, led by Carol Gibbons. After the first show (larol asked him what he was doing the following day. David said that he was going for elocution lessons. He wanted to mellow his unusual European accent. Carol couldn't believe it. He told him not to change his accent because that was part of his attraction, customers were intrigued by his voice. It lent an exotic air to his performance. Thankfully David took Carol's advice and instead of taking elocution lessons he met with Gibbons who put together some orchestrations for his act, the first he had ever had.

Except for a fast-paced pick pocketing routine the act was pretty much the same as he had been performing at the Windmill. It included the Drink in Newspaper effect and one night, after the show, a man came up to him and asked whether he always used Coca Cola in the act.

"How much do you use?" he asked.

"In Variety theatres we work twice nightly, six days a week," answered David. Actually he had never worked Variety but was hoping to. He gave some exaggerated figures as to the amount of Coca Cola he used.

"Well, I happen to be a director of Coca Cola. If we send you a crate of Cokes would that help?" David thanked him, thinking that a single crate of Coca Cola would be turning up at his home. In fact they sent him a crate of Coke every week, wherever he was appearing, for fifteen years! It continued to arrive long after he had dropped the routine from his repertoire. His kids had Coca Cola parties for the entire neighbourhood. When the manufacturers brought out Fanta orangeade Dav id asked them to make it half Coke and half Fanta. 'They did.

Many years later when David was employed to introduce the newly opened National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, he was approached by a smartly dressed businessman who said, "Mr Berglas, you don't remember me do you?" There was something very familiar about him but David couldn't bring the name to mind. "I'm Jim." he said, "1 used to be the truck driver who delivered your Coke." He'd worked his way up the corporate ladder and was now a senior director.

It was in the early fifties that other magicians began to notice David's accomplishments. Goodliffe Neale reviewed the Windmill show in Abracadabra magazine (22nd August 1953) noting that audiences there were "the toughest theatre crowd I have ever met." I Ie commended David on his ability to pull applause from such a blase mob. Harry Stanley featured him as a Front Page Personality in the September 1953 issue of the The Gen. The cover photo shows David in his white jacket producing cigarettes. The same issue featured the first of a photo-illustrated series, Suit-Able Sorcery, written by Lewis Ganson and dedicated to describing David's Gravity Method for sleeving and pocketing. The series was later reprinted in Gansons' The Art of Close-1 p Magic.

The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

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.

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