The Sane Viewpoint Of Exposure

By Fulton Oubsler Editor in chief of Liberty

It has always seemed to me that the people who make the loudest noise about exposing are those who have the least to lose by it. Most squawking about exposure comes from amateurs who make their living at something else, and many of them would starve to death if they had to depend on their talents as magicians to earn their bread and butter. On the other hand, I have never heard any professional magician—and I have enjoyed the friendship of many of the greatest performers of my time—complain about exposure. It never seemed to damage their box office receipts.

I recall vividly a discussion I had on this subject with the late Howard Thurston just a few months before he died. He was performing at the Metropolitan Theatre, in Boston, and just across the street, at the Bradford Hotel, I was giving my weekly talk over the NBC Blue Network. Following my talk, some of my Boston friends gave me a little party, and I asked Thurston to attend it. We talked into the small, dark hours. It was our final talk on this earth, and I remember well how we reviewed various in-►tf cidents in our long friendship, which had begun in 1912. At one point dur-¿q ing the evening I asked Thurston what had been the effect upon him of the ® Camel cigarette ads, in one of which an important Thurston Feature was exposed—sawing a lady in half. He laughed sardonically. "It doesn't mean <35 a thing," he declared with great emphasis. "In my presentation now, I always refer to the Camel Ad, quote it, and state the explanation which they gave. Then, I do the trick, and manage to convince the audience that the explanation was not right—and there you are." Thus spoke the showman.

As a member of the Society of American Magicians, I have ruthlessly suppressed exposure in all the magazines under my editorial direction. Only recently I published an article by the most famous of all American dramatic critics, George Jean Nathan—a piece about Dante. In his article, Mr. Nathan exposed a dozen famous magical feats. In every case, I deleted the explanation, leaving the sentences unfinished, and an asterisk brought the reader's eye to the explanation that the secret was taken out at the request of the Society of American Magicians. I did this, not because I believed it was a service to magicians, but because I respected the obligations which some of my fellow members seem to flout with impunity.

I believe that exposure seldom, if ever, kills a good trick or illusion. It needs only the showmanship of a Thurston to enhance the value of the trick through the advertisement of the exposure. It has been my experience that more secrets have been revealed by the poor performances of amateurs, who squawk at exposures. Their inaptitude with thumb tips, pulls, die boxes, egg bags, spring flowers, dye tubes, changeover bags, and other stage paraphernalia is excruciating to behold.

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Exposure seldom clicks with the public. They don't remember how the trick is done, not very often at any rate. Now, the Camel campaign recedes into the years, who remembers how the sawing of a lady in half was done? But, when it does take, when an illusion is so completely exposed that almost everybody knows it—as for example, the mirrors of the headless lady or the principle of the Svengali Deck, on sale in every jimcrack shop—even then it should not be a death blow to magicians, but a challenge.

Let me give another example to show what I mean: My profession is story writing. As an author, I write stories, and as an editor I buy them. Now, there are tricks in story telling as in every other trade, and these tricks are just as valuable to us story tellers as the Si Stebbins or Nicola Systems are to the magician. Yet, there is not a college in the United States, not a high school, not a correspondence school that is not divulging our secrets to all and sundry. The result is that as Editor of Liberty, for example, I received in 1940 more than seventy-five thousand manuscripts. As we published only about twelve hundred manuscripts during the year, you can see that there are too many amateur authors, just as there are too many amateur magicians. This, however, has not greatly damaged good writers. They still sell their stories, and they are not worried about the competition, nor are they worried because the mechanics of plot construction may be had for the asking. It is still true that the art of story telling depends only slightly on plot mechanics as compared with the personal gifts of the author in imagination and expression.

As I view it, the same thing is true precisely of the magician. Dante is a delightful performer, and his personality puts it over. That was true of Houdini and of Thurston and of Keller and of Theo. Bamberg and of many other great magicians I have known. You might publish a page article in a newspaper telling just how Houdini got out of a packing case, but the next day Houdini could play that town and make the people believe that black was white and the exposure a defamation of character. To put it plainly, I think that exposure is viewed too seriously by magicians. It is not because of exposures that magic does not flourish. It will flourish with great performers, and the mediocre will continue to be mediocre, and the public will continue to be bored with mediocrity whether you have exposure or not.

It is not a contradiction for me to add that I am against exposure on principle. I don't want to know how an actor makes up. I don't want to understand the mechanics of my radio. I am interested only in the quality of the programs as they come through the loud speaker. I shall never have anything to do with exposure, nor will I permit it in any book, magazine, or play with which I have any connection. As you may remember, my play, The Spider, was about a magician, but there was no exposing. Certainly I shall never give any aid or comfort to what I consider to be a reprehensible practice, but my reasons for considering it reprehensible are as stated, and I really think that the agitation among magicians about exposure and exposing is a great waste of good adrenalin.

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Diamond (AD). And, being out of hie mind at the time he bought her the BIGGEST DIAMOND (Expanding Ace) in the CASE (Show card case). He took out of his pocket a ROLL (take a bread roll from pocket), and peeling off two TENS (10S-10C) and a couple of FIVES (5D-5H) he paid the crook -I mean he paid the jeweler for it. The crook -I still mean the jeweler, said, 'The rest you can pay just like alimony, eight (8S) dollars per month.'

"Jack left the store and on his way home stopped in at his CLUB (3C) for eight (8D) or nine (9S) beers and a high-ball (take small rubber ball from pocket and toss in the air). ihen he had something to eat. He ate (8H) and ate (8C) until he became sick (6D). Just then the clock on the wall struck ten (10H) and standing in the doorway was Officer King (KS) of the amy

with two six-shooters (6K-6S) in his hands. Looking straight at Jack he said, 'Get your plane (blank card), the enemy is coming.'

"Jack rushed to the flying field and took off. It was as dark (black painted card) as the deuce (2H) when suddenly a shot (bring out a liquor shot glass) rang out. (Smash glass) Seven enemy planes came into view. Jack's heart (3H) was thumping violently. Machine guns were spitting fire — and the applause, I mean the noise, was terrific. Officer King (KC) was wounded but already he had brought down two enemy Aces (AH-AC). That left only five (5S) of the enemy and before (4D) you could count to ten (103) Jack downed two (2D) more.

"All this while Jack had the diamond (3D) ring in his pocket. The enemy must have known about it because they chased him out over the Wolf river where they shot off his pants - I mean propeller. Jack had to bail out and while he was floating downward through space the diamond (9D) dropped from his pocket into the river. For two (2C) minutes everything went black (black card on both sides) and then he found himself safely on the shore's edge.

"The next night Jack went to see his little queen ('Little Duke' size QC). He told her how he'd dropped the diamond (7D) in the river during the battle, hut said that he would swipe -I mean buy her another one. However, she said, 'Jack, dear, we've been denying (9C) ourselves happiness long enough, so let's commit suicide -I mean, let's get married.' They hunted up a preacher who said those famous words, 'Ashes to ashes, dust to dust' and pronounced them insane - I mean, married.

"Jack was feeling rather flush (KH-QH-JH-9H-7H) so he gave the preacher five (5C) dollars for his part in the crime. When the happy couple got back to the asylum, I mean, the bride's home, they were greeted with a full house (4C-4S-4H-JS-JC) and from six (6C) until seven(7S) a delicious supper was served in the spacious cell, I mean, spacious dining room. Jack was treated like a King (KD) and his Queen j(QP) was, too (2S).

"During Bupper both of them received the surprise of their lives. The main course was fish from the Wolf river. While eating, Jack related his loss of the diamond ring. Suddenly his wife, who had taken a fish from the tray (3S), shouted, "Look, lookJ" AND WHAT DO YOU SUPPOSE THEY FOUND IN THE FISH?"

(You hear whispers 'the diamond ring') "No, not that, my friends. They found BONES!" (And as this is said you take three or four dice from your pocket, shake and roll them across the table or floor.)

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