Te Bah Pla and Name Discovery

That's "Alp-hab-et" backwards and is a demonstration that David performed for guest Peter Cook on the second show of the series.

It's one of those unusual mental party-pieces like Day For Any Date or Lightning Calculation that enhances the performer's image as a mystery man. In this case David uses it as an introduction to a piece of mind reading in which he tries to divine a name that Peter Cook is thinking of. Except he can't just read his mind. Telepathy, after all, has yet to be proven. "No," explains David, "it's more complicated than that."

He picks up a pad and asks Peter to write down the alphabet. "But there's just one snag, Peter. I'm going to ask you to write it backwards." Peter Cook, former comedy partner of Dudley Moore, looks stunned. It's obvious that this is quite a challenge and not the sort of mental work he had prepared for. Nevertheless, David carries on, offering to help. "We'll try first together. You write, starting with Z of course. The next one is Y. Then ?"

"I haven't a clue," says Peter. And he probably means it. Which provides an opportunity for David to demonstrate. "Well I'll write it backwards and at the same time try to recite it forwards. Sounds ridiculous. It looks like this."

He begins by writing down Z but saying "A." Then he puts down Y but says "B." Then he speeds up a bit, writing down the letters of the alphabet, one letter at a time in reverse order, on the pad whilst reciting them forward. The camera merges two pictures, combining them in a half dissolve. There's music in the background as we see the backwards writing on the pad and simultaneously we watch David saying the alphabet forwards. It's a curious mismatch of vision and sound and looks incredibly difficult to do. Applause greets the final letters A and "Z."

David taps every letter on the pad, starting with the last and working back to the first, reciting the alphabet to show that he has indeed written down every letter correctly. It's been an interesting prelude to the main demonstration.

He reminds Peter that he asked him to think of a name. Male, female, Christian name, surname, it doesn't matter. What does matter is whether he has told anyone about the name. Peter gives his word of honour that he has not told a soul.

"And that's genuine isn't it. You see, as we've been talking all day it's very hard to convince people that this is so. But I can assure everyone that I really don't know at this moment what you're thinking of." He repeats that he can't demonstrate telepathy but he can try something else. He asks Peter not to give himself away as he calls out the letters of the alphabet backwards. "The reason is so that you don't anticipate. If I go forward, you know the next letter. Backwards is more confusing. So what I'll do is this. I will recite the alphabet backwards. When we get to the first letter of the name you're thinking of, try not to react. In other words don't twitch your eyes. Don't breathe too quickly. Don't blush. Don't blink. It's hard to do. Don't give yourself away."

David asks Peter to close his eyes to make it easier to visualise the name. Then he begins to call out letters of the alphabet, backwards. As he does, the camera closes in on Peter's eyelids. They are flickering like crazy! He really can't keep them tightly shut for a moment, adding credence to the presentation. This really is difficult and the audience is now watching along with David to try and discover the thought-of name.

David reaches the letter "P" and then doubles back. He calls the letters again, "S, R, Q, P." Clearly he has found something. Peter's eyelids continue to quiver. The audience watch out for any telltale clues. "Don't confirm to me if I'm right or wrong. My instinct at this moment is that you are thinking of an S or an R." David circles one of the letters he has written down.

"Please think of the second letter of the name you are thinking of." David starts again with the last letter of the alphabet and works his way backwards. "Peter I could be wrong. You can tell me now. Was the first letter R?"

"Yes," says Peter.

"The second letter O?"

"It wouldn't be our director, by any chance, would it? Royston Mayoh. Is the name Roy?" Peter says it is. Not Royston Mayoh but a friend whose name also happens to be Roy.

Revelations: Writing the alphabet backwards while reciting it forwards looks extremely skilful but David says it can be learnt within an hour. You already know how to recite the alphabet forwards (we hope) so you need only learn to write it backwards. David did this by converting the alphabet to a list of easily memorised words (or sequences of letters that could be remembered as words).

It's a personal list of words that mean something to one person but will mean nothing to another. David's list starts with ZYX. That's fairly obvious and he didn't need any mnemonic or other device to remember that and hopes you won't either.

The next two letters are WV. To recall those David made up a word "W7aVe" and memorised that. Instead of RQ he recalls "ReQuest." For PON he remembers "uPON."

MLk is transformed into "MiLK." While JHG becomes a long "JiHG" as in "jig," a dance. These links may seem arbitrary but they work for David.

FED is "FED" as in fed up or feeding. Finally "CBA" he imagines as an American radio station. That's half a dozen or so nonsense words that once they are linked together in a story will stick in the mind. A little music and thoughtful camera work produced a convincing demonstration.

David used a similar routine when working the Variety Theatres in the 1950s. The volunteer stood on stage, his eyes closed, as he called out letters of the alphabet. At various points David would circle letters on a large board. The volunteer didn't know which letters had been circled but the audience could see them and used them as clues to try and work out the name. Sometimes he wouldn't even bother to circle all the letters. If someone revealed that their name was Richard and the letters R, 1. C had been circled, and his hand hovered over the letter H, well, audiences could figure that out for themselves and applauded David for his efforts up to that point. Not revealing the name completely was an added convincing touch.

The name was known to David before the demonstration, just as it had been on his television show. Peter Cook had written the name down earlier in the day. He hadn't told anyone the name and said so on the show. The audience took this to mean that he had just thought of it. They knew nothing of any writing or other selection procedures. To the audience it looked as if David discerned the name through some process of reading body language and facial expressions although no such claim was actually made.

In his Variety Theatre days David used the routine as an advertising stunt, promising to give £100 to anyone whose name he could not guess. It was a hook to draw the audience in but one day someone did actually walk away from the theatre £100 richer. It happened after David had circled three letters on a board, A, I and R. Unable to come up with any more, or guess the lady's name, he admitted defeat after arranging the letters so that they spelled "Ira." He tried to guess that it was Irene or Irmgard but gave up. He then asked for her name. In fact it was Ira. David had been right but didn't know it. A section of the audience leapt to his defence and started to boo the poor young woman. He had guessed the name, he just hadn't recognised it. Who ever heard of a name like Ira?

Ira was in fact quite an unusual name at the time in England. Nevertheless, David said that she had won honestly and he was pleased to hand over the £100. The boos turned to applause at his sense of fair play. The story, together with a photograph, appeared in the next day's newspapers and for the rest of the week the theatre was full! And yes, it had all been planned.

Drinks Prediction

Not all of the paperweight predictions involved David having to discover information prior to the recording. On some occasions the chosen items were forced which meant that the prediction could, as claimed, be made well in advance of the show. It was on these shows that David would, if pressed, let members of the production team in on the finale, showing them the inscription on the paperweight. It helped maintain the illusion that all the predictions were made before the show.

One such routine made use of Magicians Choice, a technique described elsewhere in this book. It's worth recording here as a real world example of the technique in action. It begins when David hands guest Max Bygraves a glass paperweight as a memento of the show and then offers to show him one final effect.

There is a drinks trolley nearby, laden with bottles. "W ill you please take a few and put them on the dining room table," says David. Max takes bottles, two at a time and places them on the table until he has a half-dozen. "Fine, would you sort them in two halves." Max divides the six bottles into two sets of three.

"Now, I'm going to ask you to stand by the table over here. Will you take one from each group and hand me one." Max takes a bottle in each hand and then decides to give David the one in his right. I Ie looks at the label as he does, asking whether he needs to know what's in the bottle. "Well, it's easy to see," says David, reading the label, "You've handed me the port." Max agrees.

"Quite honestly, would you think it was possible, when I asked vou to take all these drinks, to know which ones you would pick beforehand?" Max admits that it seems unlikely. "Then I asked you to divide them into two groups of three. Again, neither you nor I could possibly know which three would end in which group. And then 1 asked you to pick up two and you could have picked up any two. And finally I asked you to hand me one, and again it could have been any one. But you handed me port." This gets another affirmative from Max. "And of course I knew this right from the start."

Max takes the last remark as a joke. David may claim he knew which bottle would be chosen but he hasn't yet proved it. He asks Max to pick up the paperweight, turn it over and read the inscription on the base. Max laughs, suspecting what is to come. "I'm not going to believe this," he says. He reads out the inscription, "To Max Bygraves, Thank You For Choosing The Port In My Television Series."

Revelations: You'll find a detailed breakdown of Magician's Choice in the chapter devoted to it but a couple of points are worth noting as it is applied to this specific performance. The first is a clever subtlety that begins the routine. When Max was asked to take bottles from the trolley and place them on the table, the port was among those he took. However, he could very well have left it on the trolley. What would have happened then? Simple, David would have continued the next stage of the routine with the bottles on the trolley and ignored those on the table, as if they had been discarded rather than chosen. When it transpires that the table will be the arena in which the effect will take place, David asks him to move closer to it.

What is so ingenious about this handling is that the first elimination is invisible, even to magicians. The routine appears to start either with the bottles on the table or those left on the trolley. Don't underestimate the power of this apparently simple bit of business. It lays the foundation for what is, to the audience, an astonishing prediction.

The rest of the routine worked smoothly. Max was asked to divide the bottles into two groups. As you'd expect with six bottles he divided them equally. David then said, "Will you take one from each group..." leaving the slightest pause before completing the sentence with "... and hand me one." And those last four words were used because he could see that Max had picked up the port bottle. Whether he handed over the port or chose to retain it, the sentence could be adjusted to suit either situation.

The recap served to emphasise the straightforward nature of the choices made and reminded the audience that Max had chosen one bottle from more than a dozen on the trolley. From the audience's point of view the effect is practically impossible to work out. There's an unusual postscript to this story. Max laughed with surprise when the prediction was revealed but as he and David walked off the set he said, with even greater enthusiasm, "How the hell did you do that?" He was utterly baffled. "Too late," replied David. The show was over; any congratulations now would go unheard and unbroadcast.

David wasn't being ungrateful but he was disappointed that Max's obvious and sincere show of amazement was saved until after the recording was over. David didn't book all of the guests for this show but, he says, that it is an aspect well worth thinking about. Some guests, like Max, are great raconteurs but not necessarily the best spectators for a television magic show. They are more used to getting reaction than giving it. The guest booker will try to envisage how a particular celebrity can enhance the entertainment value of a show but they will probably not be able to assess the way they react to the magic. Will they be embarrassed at being deceived or delighted to be fooled? And, more to the point, will they show it on camera? Max's late reaction was no fault of his own. David was working all hours to prepare the series and because of the immense pressures on his time some aspects of the show didn't get the attention they deserved. Not that you'd know this if you watched that routine on videotape. Ah, but David knows and he's never forgotten it.

Quartered Magic Square

On the third show of the series, the theme was numbers and David performed a version of his Magic Square routine. It begins with David asking for the assistance of four volunteers. "I'd like two couples to help me," he says, specifying that they should enjoy numbers and have reasonably neat handwriting. The audience applauds as four people volunteer their help.

Turning to one of the men he asks, "Do you know anything about numerology?''

"Well, I will ask you to give me your birthday and 1 will explain something about numerology. What is the date of your birth?"

"The 18th of September 1949," says the volunteer. David breaks the date down into four numbers (18, 9, 19 and 49) and writes each number boldly onto four separate boards. Each one is about 18 inches square, arranged on stands across the studio. He walks back to the volunteer who is standing next to an even larger white board also mounted on a stand. He copies the figures onto the large white board as he explains that in numerology the digits are added together to produce a lucky number. In this instance 1+8 + 9 +1+9 + 4 + 9 = 41. "Now, if you get a double number, you add those together again. 4+1=5. Therefore your lucky number, according to numerologists, would be 5. If you didn't know it before, you know-it now!"

"Now my job is to try and guess this gentleman's lucky number," says David, pointing to the second male volunteer. Since he hasn't mentioned his birth date, such a guess would in itself require some luck. "I can't guess the birthday, that's impossible. But I can guess the year, near enough. It would be about 1922, no I'd say 1921?"

"No," says the volunteer.

"How many years am I out?"

"Just one."


"Let me think now. 1920 and looking at you, you could be a Leo, although I don't believe in astrology but it's around about that time. Don't tell me yet. 1 would guess, and 1 could be terribly wrong, that you are a 7. Now you don't know that do you? Let me try to work it out for you."

David turns to the audience and makes his pronouncement official. "My guess is that this gentleman is a 7." He asks for his birth date. It's the 7th June 1920. David realises that his guess as to the man being a Leo was wrong, that would have been July rather than June. Nevertheless, the audience appreciate he was close. He writes the separate digits of the date across the white board, 7 + 6+ 1 +9 + 2 + 0 and adds them together to get 25. But, just as before, he then adds the two digits, 2 + 5, to arrive a single figure, the number 7. "Which is exactly what I said to you beforehand." The audience applauds and the volunteer looks duly impressed. But this is just a preliminary to the main effect.

David asks the four volunteers to walk over to the smaller boards and flip them around. On the other side of each board is a 2 x 2 grid. Also attached to the boards are holders containing marker pens, which the volunteers are now invited to pick up.

One of the volunteers is asked to point to one of the four squares on his board. "Would you put in there the number 49. Make it nice and bold." He quickly turns to another volunteer and asks him to point to one of the four squares on his board. He does and David asks him to write in the number 20. Moving rapidly from one volunteer to another lie asks each of them to choose squares on their boards and then gives them a number to put there. Within a short













I 122 12} 124 125 126 127 132 133 134 135 136 137 I 142 143 144 145 146 147 I 152 153 154 155 156 157 J" 164 165 166 167

118 119 128 129 138 139 148 149 15« 159 168 169

I 122 12} 124 125 126 127 132 133 134 135 136 137 I 142 143 144 145 146 147 I 152 153 154 155 156 157 J" 164 165 166 167

118 119 128 129 138 139 148 149 15« 159 168 169

space of time all but one of the squares on each board is filled.

There's another surprise in store. Each 2x2 grid comes away from the board. The two male volunteers collect them and take them over to David who assembles them on a larger board on the left side of the studio, making a larger 4x4 grid. "As you can see we are now constructing a very large square."

Anyone familiar with David's Magic Square routine will realise that this is of a similar nature. A Magic Square built piece by piece. There are twelve numbers on the board and four empty spaces yet to be filled. David walks over to the board on which he worked out the lucky numbers. The board opens up to twice the size, revealing a large chart filled with over one hundred numbers.

He invites one of the ladies to come forward. "Just with your hand, would you circle an area of the board very quickly." She does and David marks it out more carefully with a marker pen, drawing a large circle on the numbered board. "You started here and where did you go?" She points to the area. "And then?" She indicates the perimeter of the circle as David draws it. "Okay, well you could have chosen any section of this board." She agrees.

The second lady is asked to come forward and wave her hand over the circled numbers. David asks her to open her hand as she does so and then stop in any area she chooses. She does and places her fingers on the board. "You are actually pointing to a specific number. I meant you to point to some numbers, but do you want that particular number?" She nods and David circles it. It is number 95.

"I appreciate your help very much. I'll tell you about this number in a moment. In the meantime could we have a very large round of applause for our four volunteers." The two couples return to their seats and then David continues. He apologises if he has to turn his back and ignore the audience for a few moments but he needs a little time to think. Music plays, he concentrates and then quickly inserts numbers into the empty spaces on the 4x4 grid.

The audience has waited patiently. David now has sixteen numbers on the board. A lady from the audience has selected the number 95. What can it all mean? Now is the time to find out. I le indicates the four columns of numbers in the 4x4 grid asks a lady in the audience to choose one. She picks the third column from the left.

"Let's see what happens." David openly totals the numbers in that column, asking the audience to add them with him. They total 95, the chosen number, and the audience applauds. "Now at this point you're wondering what would have happened if she had pointed to another column." He adds up the numbers in another column. They also total 95. In fact every column adds up to 95. The audience start to applaud but David tells them to save it because, as he soon shows them, all the horizontal rows also add up to the number 95!

Other combinations of four squares also total the chosen number. The four centre numbers, the diagonals, the corners, in fact there are 32 different ways of arriving at the number 95. "Let me just juggle these up a bit," says David, breaking the big square down into its four smaller. 2x2 constituents. "You'd think that when you start shuffling these around, things are going to change." He rearranges the pieces of the board and then totals the numbers in one of the columns. It still adds up to 95. All the columns, rows, diagonals, corners etc still add up to 95. Now that is a Magic Square.

He asks the gentleman who revealed his birth date at the beginning of the show to stand up. "1 was just going to ask you to remind me of the birthday but you don't have to because we wrote it down at the beginning." David walks over to the four boards arranged across the stage and one by one flips them around to bring the man's birth date (18-9-19-49) back into view. There are now four numbers facing the audience. David adds them up, 18 + 9 + 19 + 49 = the ubiquitous 95. More applause.

"Ladies and gentlemen," says David pointing to the board, "that is a Magic Square. Its been known for generations. But what has never been seen before, and I can assure you that you are the first people to see it here tonight, is that I've managed to incorporate somebody's birth date within a Magic Square." He points to the centre four squares on the board, 18, 9. 19 and 49. Look familiar? 'They should, it's the man's birth date - the 18th September 1949!

Revelations: The formula for constructing the Magic Square is described elsewhere in this book but the presentation is recorded here to show just how flexible the idea is. Omitted from this description is the fact that David once again used the various masks to highlight the different combinations of numbers. Those with a penchant for numbers might want to explore the possibilities of making the square up piecemeal and then rearranging it as David did on






























this show. In this case the birth date appeared in the four centre squares bur it can also appear in the four corners (it can in fact be made to appear in any of the 32 arrangements but most do not make for a dramatic revelation). The technical working in either case is just the same.

The force of the number 95 was incredibly convincing and is a technique that David has used on many occasions. The lady volunteer had no idea what she was about to do or what the consequences of her actions would be. Although, with hindsight, it seems obvious she was choosing a number. David never actually said this. What he did do was ask her to come forward to the board and wave her hand around in a circle. He didn't ask her to choose any part of the board so, naturally, she walked forward to the most convenient area. David was standing in front of one half leaving her the other.

The wave of the hand was natural too, and David knew from experience how large an area she would be likely to cover. Large enough to include the number 95, which, as it happened, lay at the volunteer's shoulder height. David has prepared other boards filled with random numbers, the vital ones of which are located at similarly convenient points for forcing.

He drew a line around the perimeter of the imaginary circle the volunteer had made. At this stage, all he required was that the number 95 is within it. He could single out this particular number using a simple process of elimination. But first, in order to reduce the options still further, he would cross out all the numbers that the line of the circle passed through. This would leave about half a dozen numbers remaining.

The final choice of numbers is usually worked with the second volunteer who steps forward and places her hand, palm open, on some numbers. David then includes or eliminates them according to the result he wants. He can arrive at the force number very quickly, dispensing with entire rows in one fell swoop. In this instance the lady placed her hand exactly on the number 95. Being scrupulously fair, and knowing exactly how far he could push the volunteer, he asked her if she was sure that was the number she wanted. She said yes and another miracle was on the road to completion.

Many magicians look at this type of routine and conclude that the performer got "lucky." Often they are the very performers who never seem to have any of the luck that seems in abundance when David performs. But it is never a question of luck. David never creates a routine in the hope that somewhere along the line he will get lucky. That would be absurd. His strategies are clear and straightforward. Only he knows the plan and that gives him the edge. The ladies in this routine were unaware that choices had been made until David told them. They were circling numbers, touching numbers and while it seems that they could be doing nothing else but choosing a number this was never said until David had the result he wanted. As can be seen in many of his routines, spectators often carry out actions the true nature of which they do not know. And then, when it becomes known, it seems so obvious. What else could they have been doing except, in this case, choosing a number?

The Human Calendar

The last show of the series was themed around memory, a topic close to David's heart. He has been interested in memory techniques since his earliest days, employed them in his work and lectured on the subject on numerous occasions. A large proportion of his time has been devoted to conducting seminars on memory for some leading international corporations. Many of his techniques were described in his book A Question of Memory, which was published by Jonathan Cape in 1988. For over ten years he has been closely associated with the World Memory Championships, an annual event that takes place in London. I le has featured a number of memory feats in his stage work. More often he uses memory as a secret aid. But in this show a demonstration of pure memory seemed to be appropriate. He knew that stage displays of memory are not in themselves entertaining. The initial claim that you can memorise a deck of cards or the names of everyone present gets the attention of the audience. But as soon as you've called out the first half-dozen correctly, that interest wanes. It's more or less taken for granted that you can remember the rest. In seeking something a little different he devised the following. It has a totally unexpected finish that runs counter to the predictability of most memory demonstrations and for that reason is worth recording here.

It starts conventionally enough. Everyone in the audience writes their name and birth date down on a card and these are collected. Someone picks out a bunch of them and David openly reads their contents and then lays them out, writing side up, on a card table. This all takes place during the warm up as he chats with the audience. "I've tried to remember as many of the names as I possibly can," says David explaining what he has been doing.

He walks away from the table so that he can no longer see the cards. Then he calls out a lady's name and asks her to come forward, "So that we can identify you." Another name is called, again a lady and she too comes down from the audience onto the studio floor. A third name is called and that person stands with the other volunteers.

One by one he calls out other names, each one being acknowledged by its owner who then joins the growing group next to David. Now for a change in strategy. David approaches one of the volunteers and asks for his name. He says it is Baron. "Peter Baron," says David immediately, adding the first name, "Would you like to go to number 1" He points to a painted number on the studio floor, the first of a semicircle of twenty numbers across the studio.

He asks the name of the man next to him and gets him to stand behind another of the numbers, 16. This procedure is repeated, every one of the volunteers being allocated a different number. Eventually they are standing in a line but there is a gap here and there. David calls out the number at one of the unfilled positions. "Number 17. Could we have Leonard Rawlings please?" A man stands up in the audience and comes forward to take his position. Several other numbers are filled in the same way until twenty-four people, more than there are numbers on the studio floor, are standing in a line. David has recalled every name on the chosen cards.

It's enough to warrant the applause that follows but there's more to come. I le stands in fronr of the line up and turns to the audience. "I have put them in a specific order. What I've tried to do is put them in their correct numerical order according to age. So we start on this side with the youngest person..." But before he can go any further there is a burst of laughter from the audience. It's clear to anyone that the youngest person of the group is not standing at the beginning of the line. And as for the lady at the end. well, she certainly doesn't look that old.

David smiles. "No no, I'm only kidding. To be a bit more serious, I have not only tried to remember their names, both first and last names, but I have also tried to remember their birth months. Let's see if I'm right." He turns to the volunteers. "Could I ask all the Januaries to step forward please." Four people at the left hand end of the line step forward. "All the Februaries." The next three people step forward. "Any March?" One person steps forward. "April?" No one moves. "May." The next person in line steps forward. David calls out each month of the year and in ones, twos and threes, the volunteers step forward. They are all standing in calendar order, from January to December.

"So far so good but let's quickly check up on how we have done with their actual birth dates." David walks up to the first volunteer and asks him to quickly call out the date and month of his birth. It's the 4th of January. 1 le moves to the next in line, it's the 10th of January, and the next, the 14th January. It's a rapid-fire finale with one volunteer after another calling out their birth date and confirming that every one is in the correct chronological position. Now you can applaud.

Revelations: Our revelation starts with a confession. As indicated at the beginning of this chapter, David had been working under a lot of pressure and this new routine didn't work as smoothly as he'd hoped. He actually got two of the volunteers in the wrong positions and one man he forgot entirely. David considers this a disaster but, to be honest, when I first saw this show on television I presumed it was just the kind of glitch you'd expect in any memory demonstration. David doesn't agree. The routine should have worked perfectly, the way he intended it. Despite the less than 100% performance on this series, I think you'll agree that it really is a terrific routine. The performer remembers twenty-four names chosen at random and then somehow sorts them into birth date order. It seems unfathomable even to memory experts.

When I watched this routine on television I had presumed that David had some mnemonic system for linking the names to the birth dates and then arranging them in chronological order. I also thought it would be extremely difficult to do, requiring an enormous amount of memory management. I was wrong on both counts. This is one of the cleverest memory routines I have ever seen. The method has been pared to the bones and the effect is all out of proportion to the technique used. Surprisingly, it is well within the reach of even those who have never previously dabbled with advanced memory techniques.

During the warm-up everyone in the audience wrote their name and birth date on cards. These were collected, dropped into a large bowl from which someone picked a handful. David had placed twenty numbers across the studio floor. In the event twenty-four names were selected. He decided to work with all twenty-four names rather than appear to be restricting their choice.

David told the audience that he would try to remember as many of the names as he could. He took each card, read its contents and then placed it face up on the tabic. What the audience didn't know was that he was actually laying the cards out in chronological order. It was done in stages. 1 le sorted through the cards, took out all the Januaries and placed them on the left of the table. Then the Februaries and so on. Later, if necessary, the months were sorted into date order. He had plenty of time to do this and was carrying on a conversation with the audience at the same time. It might surprise you to know that lie was making no attempt to memorise the contents of the cards at this stage.

At the finish the cards were lying on the table in the correct sequence. He turned them face down and asked someone to boldly number the back of each card (there were twenty-four). Now, with a number assigned to each card, he would genuinely memorise the names (totally ignoring the birth dates), again chatting to the audience all the while, telling them all about the show. The main point is that David now had the names memorised in chronological order and each name was keyed to a number.

If you're interested in memory you'll find mnemonic techniques for memorising names in books devoted to this subject including Davids own .4 Question of Memory.

On the television programme David began by telling the viewers that members of the audience had written down their names and birth dates and that some of them had been chosen at random. I le was going to try and remember as many of them as possible.

He called out names from his memorised list at random and when there were about twelve people on stage he began to direct them to stand at the numbered positions on the studio floor. Several spaces were left vacant and David called out the appropriate names from his memorised list. At this stage he had done more than he had promised. Instead of trying to remember as many as possible he had succeeded in remembering them all.

He made no mention about recalling the birth dates written on the cards but now was the time to remind the audience of this additional data. It's implicit in the routine that he has somehow not only remembered all these dates but also managed to mentally arrange them in order. That's the unique bonus of this method, an unexpected and incredibly impressive finale in return for no memory work whatsoever.

David says that just as audiences will tire of a performer reciting a large number of memorised items, so they will also be disappointed if someone makes a claim and then fails to fulfil it even if he forgets only one or two items from an enormous list. The audience wants blood. That's why he always tells the audience that he will try to remember as many as possible. When he eventually finishes by remembering every item (or in the case of this routine, remembering something they didn't anticipate) the audience is even more impressed.

In Variety theatres David performed a memory routine in which he asked the front two rows of the audience to take out objects from their pockets and hold one in each hand. He'd look along the rows and examined the items, "Let me see what you have. That's a coin, what kind? And the date? A driving licence, could you read out the number? Any endorsements?" The volunteer called out the details, David memorised them and moved on to the next in line. Later in the routine the recollection of these many details would have a tremendous impact on the audience but David says that in fact the additional information actually made the items easier to remember.

There was a natural interest in the sort of objects that people had in their pockets and plenty of entertainment value and byplay was had from the little details that came with each of them. For the revelation David turned his back to the audience, so that he couldn't see the objects, telling the volunteers to lower their hands as soon as he called out the item they were holding. "We started at the end of the row with a coin, a two shilling piece, 1946. Over there we had a packet of cigarettes, Players I believe, with five left in the packet etc." He called the items out at random, pointing to the area of the audience from which it came. People put their hands down as the items were recalled and the audience would start applauding. But it wouldn't be full-hearted because David always deliberately left one volunteer out. His back to the audience he would extend his arms as if expecting his final applause. When it didn't materialise he would say, "What's the matter?" and. usually, someone from the audience would call out that one man still had his hand up. David would glance over his shoulder briefly and then turn back. "Oh, of course, the driving licence. Sorry, your driving licence was number 7283769, you have two endorsements, isn't that right Mr Williams? Don't get caught again!" The audience burst into applause, louder than before.

It's akin to the trapeze act in the circus, failing before he succeeds. Or the juggler dropping a club before making an incredible record-breaking attempt. You need to make the audience believe the task is truly difficult if they are to appreciate it fully. You also need to build in entertainment devices to keep their interest. David recalls that the famed memory man Leslie Welch would use a plant in the audience to make sure the act ended on a high note. Welch was extremely knowledgeable about sports and could answer most questions from the audience but a finale demands something more. A prompted question, such as "What are the last tw enty winners of the Derby?" gave him a very dramatic finish to an extraordinary act.

At business conferences David would have everyone write their names on numbered slips of paper which were dropped into a bowl. Someone mixed them up. took a handful out and placed them on the table. The slips were opened and David memorised them using a mnemonic. Someone could now choose any slip, call out the number and David would reveal the matching name, or vice versa. It was an effective presentation and used genuine memory skills to make it work.

Later David found an easier way of doing the same effect. Quite often there was a list of the people attending the conference or dinner available prior to the show. David would get hold of the list and take, say, twenty-five of those names, write them down on slips of paper and memorise them. Even in doing this he could choose either the most interesting names (from a presentation point of view those which were complex or humorous are obvious examples) or those that would be the easiest to remember.

During the presentation David explained either that everyone had written their name on a table card or, better still, that the company had placed all the names on slips of paper. Those names were in a glass bowl. A volunteer mixed up the papers and then tipped them onto a table. David shuffled these slips around to mix them further. He had the twenty-five memorised slips hidden in his hand and secretly dropped them onto the table close to the pile. He continued to shuffle, keeping track of those he had memorised. Then he sliced the pile into four quarters, running his finger between the slips like a knife cutting a cake. All the memorised slips were in one quarter. He then forced that particular pile. The slips were opened and David made a pretence of memorising them. The rest was presentation.

It was a method that enabled David to claim he had memorised the names of everyone at the conference. Instead of memorising all 200, as he used to do, it made sense to select just a few. Once he had called out half a dozen correctly, apparently selected at random, the audience were convinced of his memory skills. There was no need to do more. Any additional information about where the attendee came from, or which department he worked in, et cetera, all went to make the presentation more entertaining. One thing to remember about memory feats, and David has learned this from bitter experience, it doesn't matter how many names you memorise, the only name the spectators are interested in is their own. As Dale Carnegie said, "The sweetest sound, in any language, to a man is the sound of his own name."


1 recall watching The Mind of David Berglas with great interest. About the only other television performance I'd seen of David's was his 1972 Press Club Prediction. I wondered what other miracles he might have to offer. I was not disappointed.

David on the other hand was. He is not fond of this particular series and it wasn't until recently that he was able to view it calmly. He thinks that many of the routines are drawn out and that he wasn't, for a variety of reasons, at his best. I on the other hand, knowing nothing of the production process, saw some marvellous and thoroughly baffling routines. Like any amateur magician, I watched television magic shows to see what I might learn. From David's show I learnt almost nothing in terms of technique. How could 1? I hadn't a clue as to how any of the material worked. Nor did anyone else I spoke to.

The show was broadcast on Channel 4 and directed by David's friend Royston Mayoh.

The cast and crew of The Mind of David Berglas; David points out the fallacy of a "one-man show" by revealing some of the people behind the scenes. David stands at the centre. Royston Mayoh, the director, is lying on the ground at the left!

They knew each other from the television show This Is Your Life (on which David made a total of eleven appearances including, of course, the programme on which his own life was featured). David also appeared on a David Nixon show, which Royston directed. It was at a dinner party at Nixon's house that Royston watched an impromptu performance by David and asked why he didn't have another television series. The truth was that he had made a decision in the latel960's not to appear on British television. His children were going to school and he didn't think it would be good for them if their father continued making frequent appearances on television. He had seen too many show business children badly affected by their parents' fame.

Fortunately Opus 13 came along and as David disappeared from the television studios of Great Britain he became incredibly famous in Holland. Other European television work followed and he had soon achieved his aim of working consistently and yet being relatively unknown to British television audiences.

Royston was impressed with David's skills and offered to develop a television show with him. And so in the 1980's, with his children no longer at school. David began thinking

about a new series. It took two years to work out a format and Royston had just booked a studio in London when fate intervened. He had been made Head of Light Entertainment at Tyne Tees Television in Newcastle. He offered David a choice, either he could wait out his appointment, say two to four years, after which they would do the show in London, or, he could do the show in Newcastle.

The London studio was small but David had all his contacts nearby. In London he would have no trouble getting anything he might need for the show whether it was equipment or personnel. However, the Tyne lees studio was much larger and Rovston's position as Head of Light Entertainment would carry a lot of weight. After some thought, David said, "Yes." The production went ahead and David found himself taking trains and planes to Newcastle twice a week. It was a decision he has always regretted.

As is his fashion he worked to do something new. Many of his classic routines had been fine-tuned and that extra something added. A lot of the other material, including the finale of each show, was so new that much of it was untried. Television is always a high-pressure environment but on this show David was working especially hard. Getting the materials and people he needed was far more difficult than even he had anticipated. He knew no one in the area when the show started and on more than one occasion he even recruited suitable volunteers on the long train journeys from London to Newcastle. As usual lie kept his routines and methods a secret from the production team but this seemed to convince people, especially Royston, that David did not need much help in putting together his performance. The schedule was punishing and rehearsals brief. Some items barely received a walk-through and that for the benefit of the cameras rather than David. Royston clearly thought that David was a real wonderworker.

Royston proved to be a playful fellow on the set (the final show photograph with the production team shows Royston lying on the ground staring up at the ceiling) and while it might have kept the spirits of the crew up, it did little for David whose problems were growing worse as time grew short. Sometimes the high spirits got in the way. One of the riskiest tasks was that of getting the information he required for the paperweight prediction. Guests were only in the studio for one day and David had to make time in his own busy schedule to force an object or get the right information. This might only happen a short time before the actual recording began, barely enough for the engraver to do his work. Sometimes things were cut a little too tine and David recalls one incident in which he and the guest of the day were seated at a long table in the hospitality suite. Royston came into the room, suddenly jumped up onto the table, which was laden with food, and walked right along it and up to the guest who was an old friend. There was a loud crack as he trod on David's script. Royston took no notice, he was busy saying hello, but David knew that his clipboard, which was hidden in the script and on which he had just secured some much needed information, had just been broken into pieces. After Royston had left he had to find another way of securing the same information.

The clipboard was one of David's own devising and, aside from this one incident, has served him well over the years. It is just a simple write-on wipe-off board with a sheet of paper clipped to it. There is no carbon yet David has a perfect copy of whatever the volunteer has written. The secret, which he developed with Brian Barnes, is a fine graphite powder and the discovery that the surface of the board picks up an impression left by the writer that can later be uncovered by the performer. It's a forensic process, graphite powder being scattered onto the board before being tipped free. It clings to the faint impression and reveals the writing with perfect clarity.

David was astounded to discover that the board contained another peculiar property when used in conjunction with a dry marker pen. During a show a volunteer could write his thoughts on the board and then having memorised the information wipe the board clean. David picked up the same board and started to jot something down. Then he appeared to change his mind and wipe the writing away. What the audience didn't realise was that he was actually wiping the board with cotton wool containing graphite power. The marker pen had left a faint trace that the graphite now made visible, providing an exact copy of whatever the volunteer had written. It made for some remarkable effects. David did briefly market a limited quantity of the board (together with everything else required for its use) during some of his lectures but this is the first time it has been described in print.

Looking at The Mind of David Berglas today, David believes that some items are too long and still cringes as he remembers last minute changes that forced him to do rethink routines in order to accommodate revised camera angles. But he's observing the show from within. From outside, it remained a great showcase for some remarkable routines and soundly baffled a new generation of magicians who thought they knew everything.

If there is one real regret about the show it is that one of David's suggested guests could not make it. To be truthful no-one on the production team believed the guest would ever consent to appear on the show. When David put his name forward they did not believe he would ever return their calls. They were right. They were rebuffed at every turn. Their requests never made it through to their intended target, being easily diverted by an overprotective and cautious personal assistant. So David made the call himself and left a message. And to everyone's surprise the guest himself called back and said yes, he'd do the show. A date was set and the shooting of the series rescheduled to accommodate it. But sometimes the world has other plans. Death intervened and that appointment was never kept. Who was the guest? Perhaps one of the greatest magical figures of our century. A true master of illusion: Orson Welles. Now what a show that would have been.

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.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment