Finally an opaque scarf is thrown over his head to cover everything The readings continue in greater detail

"Well, it's Lucio. You can check it out when you get the photo back. And I think a rather unexpected thing happened on this boat. Something or someone fell overboard at one point. It's something you always associate with this boat. Is that right?"

"Yes," says the girl, absolutely astonished that he could know this. He repeats the demonstration with several more photographs, revealing details not onfy of the picture but of incidents and memories connected with these mementoes. How could he know?

He finishes the routine on a particularly strong revelation and, as the audience applauds, he whisks off the scarf covering his head and asks the two gentlemen to step forward. "Carefully, very carefully will you please check and remove the blindfolds." First the folded scarf is untied, next the blindfold. "Here comes the painful bit," says David as the sticky tape is gently torn from his face. The audience winces and then David, blinking in the light, takes his applause. He says, "Do you know, this is a really lucky night for me. Usually the blindfold comes off and the audience has gone!"

The two men replace the materials on the table and David shakes them by the hand. They take the various objects back into the audience as David asks the owners to raise their hands so that they can identify them.

But the performance is not quite over. He calls the two men back on stage, asking, "Gentlemen have you got anything in your own pockets with a number on it or something that

can be described?" They have. David turns his back to them and asks them to take the object, whatever it is, and place it into their outside jacket pockets. The man on his left places it into his right pocket. The man on his right into his left pocket.

And having done that David asks them to come closer and stand either side of him. He puts his hand deep inside the pocket of the man on his left. "It's a ticket. A bus ticket I think. An old one, issued on July 5th. Is that right." The man says he thinks so and then takes out the ticket for all to see. Just as David said, it was issued on July 5th.

He puts his hand into the second man's pocket. "Ah yes, this is a driving licence. Your name is Joseph Desmond. You have no endorsements and you've been driving for ten years." Once again David is correct. Both men go back to their seats as the audience applauds.

"Oh," says David to the man with the driving licence, "do you know your driving licence number?" The man says he doesn't. "Let's see if I can help." David picks up a whiteboard and marker pen and begins to write something that he doesn't allow the audience to see.

"Take out your licence. Check the number." The man reads it out, "RD 1990 44892 9900," as David turns the board around. Written on it is the very same number! It is a dramatic way of finishing a wonderful routine.

Revelations: David has performed numerous blindfold stunts but it wasn't until the latter part of his professional career that he began to feature The Blindfold Routine in his cabaret act. Magicians are notoriously intolerant of such routines. They know, or think they know, that the performer can see despite the elaborate blindfolding procedures that are employed. And having assumed that, they also assume that there is little else to discover.

But as always, David's routine includes a number of original touches that will deceive even the most sceptical and jaded audience.

The routine begins with two men volunteering from the audience. David always used two men for this routine. It may be sexual stereotyping but the tying of the blindfold seemed better suited to men than women as would the securing of an escapologist. But aside from that there was the practical nature of the finale in which David divined objects held in the men's pockets. He had tried this with ladies but dipping into their handbags didn't have quite the same effect!

The strength of any blindfold routine lies in convincing the audience that the performer really cannot see. David's goal was to create a routine in which he did not appear to restrict the volunteers in any way as to how they should use the materials at hand to blindfold him. Most routines start by having coins placed over the performer's eyes, then soft sticky dough, then tape and finally a blindfold. But does this look like an effective way of blindfolding the performer or do the different, carefully prescribed stages, seem more like a way of controlling the actions of the volunteer? David dispensed with the coins and dough and limited the number of articles to tape, scarves and a blindfold, all of which were ungimmicked.

The tape was white masking tape as sold in DIY stores and the volunteer was invited to first tear off strips and then apply the strips over David's eyes. A few criss-cross gestures indicated the manner in which the tape could be applied to cut off his vision. The volunteer was encouraged to apply a lot of it and make sure that it was pressed firmly to the face so that no possible avenue of sight remained. David closed his eyes throughout the process and kept them closed until later.

The masking tape stuck although not too firmly. Despite its appearance it lifted fairly easily from the face. Many blindfold methods demand that some kind of grease like Vaseline is applied before the tape but David never found this necessary. Working under the hot lights kept his skin moist and prevented the tape from sticking.

Next came the wide blindfold and then a folded scarf would be tied around his head. It was of double thickness and stitched so that the folds would not come undone. A triangle of cloth hangs down in front of the nose when the scarf is in place and it is impossible to see through.

Now was the time to secure some downward vision, which David did by twitching a muscle here and there or furrowing his brow causing the tape to separate. The position of the resulting gap could not be guaranteed. It might not be directly in front of him. It usually allowed vision with one eye only. But he would always manage to gain some sight. There was no set routine or sequence for this. Nor was it a matter of good fortune. It was a matter of experience and confidence. Most of all he always tried to establish a line of sight without ever touching the masking tape or blindfold.

Sometimes David would start by using a folded paper handkerchief. This would be laid over the eyes before the masking tape was applied. It was not as messy or as bulky as dough or cotton wool but served a similar purpose, to protect the eyelids from the tape.

Volunteers would be invited to use any other materials they might have to hand to blindfold him. It's possible that someone from the audience would hand over their own scarf. It didn't matter whether anyone took up David's offer but it was an important part of the routine that he made the offer and that the audience remembered it. The message was that you could blindfold him anyway you like. It was a way of convincing the audience that sight played no part in the routine and judging by the comments David received after the shows it always worked.

People asked if he could read with his fingertips. "No," said David, "Can anyone?" They wondered whether it was really telepathy or if somehow he sensed auras. David pointed out that it could not be telepathy as most of the owners would not even know the numbers on their driving licences or credit cards. And if indeed it was something to do with sight then surely he must have some kind of X-Ray vision? As in his other routines David never made claims. The "scanning" of the objects and careful touching of them might well lead the audience to believe all sorts of things but David gave no explanations himself for the phenomena. He was never billed as The Man with X-Ray Vision or as a mind reader or telepath. He did the impossible and allowed the audience to reach its own conclusions.

Not being able to guarantee which particular line of vision he had, David had to improvise the handling of the objects. Sometimes he would be able to see them as he turned his head towards the table. Other times he could only see them momentarily when held at the right angle. Whatever circumstance arose he would take a glimpse at the object, memorise certain key features and then make sure it was held at arm's length when it came to the actual revelation of details.

The patter shows how each reading is very similar to a "cold reading." The purpose of the exercise is to get the owners of the items to say, "Yes" to as many things as possible. Even when David got something wrong he would get a "Yes" on the next question. For instance:

"The photograph is in colour and was taken about three years ago."

"No," says the owner of the photo, a young girl in the front row.

"Well, it was certainly more than a year."

"And it is in colour isn't it?"

David had merely restated what he already knew but it brought the subject back on track and developed into another series of positive answers.

Note too how each psychic examination of the object began with the empirical and then moved to the personal. Every woman in the audience may have owned a lipstick but only a few may have had a Revlon 84 and there was only one to whom this three-quarter used lipstick could possibly have belonged to. Likewise a reading of a business card would begin with a general physical description, of its logo for instance, but it was the revelation of the name that got the final applause.

There were subtleties too when it came to reading the objects that would lead the audience away from the thought that somehow sight could be responsible. To determine the colour of a lipstick he would secretly open it in one hand and smear a little of the lipstick on one finger. Then he'd transfer the lipstick to the other hand and hold it out at arm's length. No one would suspect that it was the empty hand that gave him the clue to the colour.

Similarly he often found an opportunity to glance at the table and note the objects on them before they were handed to him. Although he had stressed that printed items, especially photographs, should be handed to him face down, very often the volunteers would place them face up on the table. A glance could reveal an amazing amount of visual detail; shapes, colouring, patterns and so on. If he called for an object and he saw the man reaching for that particular one, David immediately turned away and took the object behind his back. With the object hidden from view he could divine all kinds of details, further convincing the audience that sight was not responsible for the information he revealed.

The photographs provided different opportunities and more personal stories. Many of the revelations were inspired guesses based on experience gleaned from handling hundreds of photographs during his career. But every photograph also contained a number of useful clues, for instance, the paper it was printed on, the amount of wear and tear, the subject matter. It was surprising how many photographs actually had writing and dates on the back. Today there are many photographs that have a date printed on the front. All provided ammunition for David's cold reading. But the biggest secret of all was that David had found a way of reading the photograph without ever turning it towards him. And the secret was light.

He usually worked with a front spot and when the photograph was held out towards the audience, at a certain angle, the spot would render it virtually transparent. He could see right through the photo and see the picture from the back. The technique was so effective it was almost embarrassing. The image could be seen with the utmost clarity and all David had to do was ensure that the two men standing near him didn't get the same clear view that he was getting. It doesn't work with Polaroids but was one of the major factors that made the readings so baffling.

The rest was creative thinking about the possibilities offered up by the image and the showmanship required to sell those possibilities back to its owner. The subject of the photograph, the age and even the voice of the owner were all clues as to its origin and meaning.

The goal was to imply that he was revealing more than could possibly be known by simply examining the photograph.

In the same way that the volunteers would often bring up objects he had told them not to bother with (lipsticks and combs) they would sometimes place the photographs face-up on the table. Again a glance at the table provided all the information he needed. When it was time to deal with the photographs he would say, "You did tell me there were some photographs."

"And they are facedown aren't they?" "No."

"Oh, before you hand them to me make sure they are facedown." The man turned any face-up photographs over and then handed the first one to David. Because he had already glimpsed it he could hold it completely out of visual range and make the most of his revelations. Occasionally the man would hold the photograph himself, staring at it while David, his back turned to him, described the details.

The scarf that was thrown over David's head was actually made up of two scarves sewn together around the edges so that they were completely opaque. Although impressive it provided no barrier to his vision. He might have to turn his head again to find the best angle but he could always see. The loose folds of the scarf would always form a sort of tunnel, pointing down in front of him. Through it he could get a brief glimpse of the object as it was transferred from one hand to the other. It gives a completely new meaning to the phrase "tunnel vision!" In the early days he used one of the volunteer's jackets in lieu of the scarf. It too made an effective looking cover but being smothered in someone's sweaty jacket is not the most pleasant place to be, hence the scarf.

Finishing the routine was an important moment. David would judge the occasion following a lot of laughter or a startling revelation and then whip off the headscarf to provide a natural applause cue. The rest of the blindfolding material was removed one piece at a time, slowly so that the audience could appreciate the barriers they presented. If the blindfold and folded scarf were tightly knotted then it was quickly slipped over the head to save time. David gave a theatrically agonising twitch as the masking tape was pulled from his face. Blinking in the light as the mask came off was not much of a pretence. Up until then he'd been in virtual darkness.

The finale continued the blindfold theme despite the fact that the blindfold had already been removed and the objects returned to their owners. The method was bold and yet extremely deceptive. After the men had placed items in their pockets David used one hand to open the pocket to facilitate placing the other hand inside. From the audience's vantage point it seemed impossible that he could identify the contents of the pocket. If they could have seen the pocket from David's position they would have thought differently. He briefly raised the object towards the mouth of the pocket and needed only a downward glance to quickly note as many details as he could before turning his head away and allowing the object to sink back inside the pocket before beginning his revelations. His hand was by that time deep in the base of the pocket, giving the impression that his fingers were "reading" the details.

He would dip his hand into one gentleman's pocket and then the other. If one of the objects contained a number he could memorise, he would save that for the finale, writing it on a whiteboard when the man was back in the audience.

Many times during the performance of this routine David revealed information to the owners of the photographs that went way beyond anything he could have known. Not only did the audience have no explanation for it, neither did David. It's true that every detail on the photograph provides a clue as to how and why that photograph was taken. It's true also that many mentalists claim to have divined information during their act that they could not possibly have had access to, suggesting that perhaps supernatural forces were at work. David doesn't claim this but it was a phenomenon that puzzled him until he met a man called Arthur Negus.

Arthur Negus was an expert on antique furniture who became famous in Britain on a long-running BBC television show called Going For A Song. It was a panel game, the object of which was to identify the age, origin and value of numerous obscure antiques. Negus possessed an ineffable charm that endeared him to television audiences and his accurate assessment of the objects on offer bordered on the supernatural. He would have made an excellent psychic, seemingly able to tell the history of any object by simply examining it.

David met the wonderful Arthur on a television charity show and complimented him on his skills. Negus pointed out that it was actually very similar to what David did, extrapolating a history from the information available but instead of reading people he was reading furniture. The wood, the polish, the scuffmarks, the minor repairs all suggested a history. But after exhausting what the physical clues had told him, he would add some other extraordinary detail; perhaps where the furniture had been kept or a description of the kind of person who had owned it. Often he would be right. His fellow experts pointed out that they too had read all the books, absorbed all the knowledge and were just as passionate about their trade as Arthur and yet for all that they were unable to match his insight. How did he do it? The only explanation he could offer was that in his time he had handled more furniture than anyone else and that his experience coupled with his knowledge and enthusiasm led him to make intuitive guesses which surprised even him with their accuracy.

Every photograph has its story and over the years David has handled hundreds of them. He has made deductions about the people or events portrayed in the photographs that could not possibly have come from the images alone. He says it is a flash of inspiration that leads the performer to make intuitive accurate guesses. It's not supernatural but it is an essential skill that can be developed by the empathetic performer who works as often as possible under every imaginable circumstance and learns as much from his mistakes as his successes. It's called experience.

Antique Collecting

Antique Collecting

ABOUT fifty years ago, when the subject of English furniture first began to be studied and to be written about, it was divided conveniently into four distinct types. One writer called his books on the subject The Age of Oak, The Age of Walnut, The Age of Mahogany and The Age of Satinwood. It is not really quite as simple as that, for each of the so-called Ages overlaps the others and it is quite impossible to lagt down strict dates as to when any one timber was introduced or when it finally, if ever, went out of favour.

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