Making Big Money

I met a lady who was a professional event planner.  She invited me to her house, which was huge. I then realized you could make a lot of money as a professional event planner.  These people know a lot of things and they have more leeway than you might realize.  From the years of the dot-com boom ’til the housing bust, Americans went on a huge party spree. From 1999 to 2007, the average cost of an event climbed from $18,900 to nearly $30,000, according to research firm The Wedding Report. But it wasn’t just about nuptials—more people hired planners for sweet 16s, bar mitzvahs, reunions, and anniversaries. But in the wake of the recession, with many folks still struggling to right their finances, the party may be over. In 2009, the cost of the average wedding cratered at $19,500; in early 2010, it rose to $23,867—still far off its high. “The last 24 months have been very challenging,” says David M. Wood, president of the Association of Bridal Consultants.  Today’s world is one of compounding complexity and digital speed.  Markets and technology are becoming globalized.  A new kind of terrorism, one with potentially worldwide devastating consequences, is creating fear in most every heart.  Think this might affect how people spend on events?  Just walk into any florist and ask, “Do you do weddings” and watch him salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs.  Communities are experiencing confusion and vertigo in values.  Families are being stressed as never before.  As a result, many event planners have had to adapt by bending over backward for today’s cost-conscious customer. Meredith Park, director of sales and event management at Central Park Events in Portland, OR, offers a range of services and prices, from coordinating on just the day of an event for $750 to full wedding planning, starting at $1,500. In fact, today’s clients can ask for just about any level of service they want. “Everything is negotiable,” Park says.

If I don’t like you, I’ll charge you more… – Most planners offer a free consult to give you a chance to get to know them and what they offer. But they’re also sizing you up. For planners, time is money; clients who change their mind a lot or lack a clear vision can eat up profit. Planners want to find out whether you’ll be easy to work with; if the first meeting doesn’t go well, it’s a red flag, says Andrea Lyons, owner of All About Presentation, in Richmond, VA.

And if you come off as someone who will be tough to work with?  Lyons knows planners who charge a “headache fee” of up to 20 percent to help absorb the extra cost of such clients. Others build limits into their contract. After working with one needy bride, Sonya Scott, owner of A Perfect Day, in Knoxville, TN, decided to cap the number of meetings with all her clients. Planner Steve DeAngelo of DeAngelo’s Catering and Events in Tigard, OR, says he and others in the area sometimes limit the number of hours spent on an event, above which the client pays extra. “You have to protect yourself from a high-maintenance client,” he says.

…But if I like you, I’ll go the extra mile – Planners often work with people at their worst; reality shows that celebrate pathologically demanding brides haven’t made it any easier. “WEtv’s Bridezilla does a disservice to the profession,” says Lyons. Candice Benson, owner of The Finishing Touch in Millburn, NJ, says she and the planners she knows have seen clients become increasingly rude in recent years. In some cases, says Fetu Escoto, owner of Starstruck Event Planning, in Prescott, AZ, “I can’t even fathom where the disrespect comes from.” As a result, planners really appreciate respectful clients and will often go out of their way to make their event special. Fred Fogg, venue manager at the Crystal Plaza in Livingston, NJ, says when planners ask for something for a good client, he’ll throw in an extra cocktail station, ice carving or even a raw bar free of charge.

Read the fine print—no, really – When planning a big event, you’re likely to sign multiple contracts: with the planner, caterers, venue operator and florists. In each case, it’s important to take time to really understand what these contracts say. For starters, make sure you know your deadlines. For example, many firms that do custom invitations will stop work if you miss a payment. “You always have to ask when things are due, what is the last possible date you can get something to a vendor and what happens if you are late,” says Lyons. Also, know the upshot of making changes. How much more will it cost to add 50 guests? If the event runs over by an hour?

Same goes for your planner’s contract. Some charge a percentage of total costs; others charge a flat fee. If your event involves travel, find out what the planner charges for travel or lodging. Some may build in a gratuity; are you okay with the amount? And think worst-case scenario: Confirm your planner has insurance and a backup plan in case he can’t make your event. “Just about anything can go wrong,” says DeAngelo.

I could actually help you save money – Saving money on a big event isn’t easy without looking like you’ve skimped.  We’ve covered this in my other blogs. This is where planners can come in. Nicole Parks won a contest to have her wedding on a tall ship in New Jersey, but she still had to pay for the reception. She says her planner, Benson, helped her save on centerpieces, which she rented from Benson rather than having them made. Benson also found her a deal on a groom’s cake and got flowers donated. “She saved me a lot of money,” says Parks.

Planners know which vendors offer the best prices, and they know how to negotiate a good deal. For example, venue operators are often willing to negotiate price, since so many of their costs are fixed. Planners can also help you save by using vendors that bundle services, like a venue that offers catering, and helping you allocate your budget. Lyons tells clients to forgo expensive accessories and spend on lighting, which is cheaper, since it has a big impact. With good lighting, no one will think twice about where the fancy linens or centerpieces went, she says.

Chemistry is everything – People start planning weddings a year or more in advance, so if you’re using a planner, you’re going to be seeing an awful lot of that person. Couples should be smart about whom they choose. For starters, she needs to be able to listen. “If you meet a planner, and they talk 99 percent of the time, that is not the right person,” Benson says. Couples should take time to shop around, reading reviews online and checking references. How well did the planner get what the client wanted and execute that vision? A great planner is someone who can turn clients’ ideas into reality, not mold them to her own tastes. Another key measure, says DeAngelo, is how smoothly events run and how the planner handles problems. Bottom line: If it just doesn’t feel right, keep looking.

The Internet is your friend, not mine – When Roopa Kalyanaraman Marcello got engaged, the 31-year-old New Yorker knew she wanted to plan her own wedding. “I have pretty particular tastes, and I wanted full control,” she says. She became a devoted reader of wedding blogs like Brooklyn Bride and, where she found cool ways to do her invitations and table numbers. When it came time to look for a venue, caterer and DJ, she turned to online forums, mostly on, for reviews of vendors and to connect with other brides, who e-mailed her about their experiences. “Thanks to all of the online resources, I could pull it off myself,” says Kalyanaraman Marcello. It’s no surprise wedding planners aren’t exactly fans of sites like The KnotIndiebride and, where couples can sometimes get bad information and develop overblown expectations of what a planner can deliver. In fact, for some brides, planners may get cut out of the picture completely.

I can get you a huge break on a venue—not that you’ll ever see it – Some planners claim the discounts they can get you with vendors—the venue, caterer, florist, band—will make their services essentially pay for themselves. Be skeptical. “I’ve never done an event where the discounts were so high that the client didn’t need to pay additional money out of pocket,” says Lyons. Some vendors will indeed extend discounts, as much as 10 percent off the top. Escoto says she can get a hotel’s bridal suite comped for a night or a 10 percent discount from some vendors. “When you have a relationship with someone, you are going to give them the best possible price,” says Scott Hornak, CEO of Craig Scott Entertainment, which provides musicians and DJs for parties. But not all planners pass on these discounts to clients. Benson says it’s important to ask whether  your payment is the only income from your event. Otherwise, those discounts—which can really add up—will end up in your planner’s pocket.

You’ll want to check my references – Event planning is a business with almost no barrier to entry, and in the current hiring climate, plenty are giving it a try, says Shane McMurry, founder of The Wedding Report. Inexperienced planners may not have many vendor contacts or understand how to keep costs in line with the budget. And they can get in the way at an event, says Hornak, since they may not have a feel for timing or adapt well if something goes wrong. So how do you know a planner has enough experience? For one, those who have worked for other planners before starting their own business are likely well trained. You can also look for membership in industry groups like the Association of Bridal Consultants, which has multiple levels of membership based on experience and ongoing training.

If I work for the venue, it means I don’t work for you – These days, many venues and caterers offer in-house planning services. And it can often be a great deal. The planners at Crystal Plaza, for example, handle everything from décor to catering, theme coordination and music. “There’s no charge for it; we offer it as a service,” says venue manager Fogg. Lisa Hopkins, director of catering at the Houstonian hotel in Houston, has two full-time staff who help with event coordination, and DeAngelo says he has long offered planning services through his catering business. But look before you leap. Often planners provided by a venue aren’t just working for you; they may also be there to protect the venue and make sure you follow the rules. If you want to use the planning services of a venue or caterer, DeAngelo says, make sure you fully understand their role—and their loyalties—first.

Magic Art

The Magical Art, in other words “the magician’s art,” appears to be a separate art, distinct from the world of ordinary mortals. Some speak a different language, they have a knowledge of a kind which is only known to a small percentage of the world’s populace, and the majority of such magical folk enjoy every minute of belonging to this fascinating art of magic.

Whatever is done magically, whether it be as a professional, semi­professional, amateur, writer, or inventor, the magical fellow or lady is rewarded in some way. It is not always the fee that is important; there are many other ways of being rewarded besides cash in hand. The professional works for his fees; he has to, it’s his living, and without the fees he starves. The semi-professional has the best of both worlds; he enjoys his normal occupation with its regular income, plus the pleasure of performing magic whenever he feels like doing so, and also getting paid for his services as a magician. The amateur often performs for charity, giving pleasure to his less fortunate fellow humans; his reward is personal satisfaction at doing a good job, and giving enjoyment to others and raising money for a worthy charity.

With regard to magical writers, someone once said, that magicians write because they are no good at performing. Try to tell it to Billy McComb, Ken de Courcy, Henrique, or Dai Vernon.  Like magic itself, writing is another bug which, once it takes hold, it is difficult to shake off. Who wants to shake it off anyway? It is a very satisfying occupation. A little initial success, which only comes as a general rule after many rejections, spurs one on to further renderings of the written word. The writer’s reward is often a cash reward, but many do it for the love of it. The writer receives personal satisfaction at getting his ideas published, and knowing that his written work is there for further generations of magical folk to read (or wrap their fish in).

Yet another breed is the inventor. Most of them are not only magical inventors, but general inventors, striving to bang the gong and hit the jackpot. Even if they never achieve this goal it’s been great fun trying. Usually the inventor is after financial reward, although this is not the driving force behind his thinking. In the beginning it is the sense of achievement which is the driving force behind the inventor. If he is successful in selling his invention, then he knows that he will get his reward by way of royalties or lump sum, provided he’s is a businessman, not a fool who allows himself to be swindled by an unscrupulous manufacturer. Patenting is very important; if the inventor has a patent for his invention then he is pretty well immune from exploitation.

As I mentioned earlier the magician’s reward does not always come in cash. There is the case of the Chiropodist in Shropshire, England who performs the Cut and Restored Rope (not the Cut and Restored Corn) for his clients. His clients increase in numbers, business increases, and there is no doubt that all things being equal, there will be some, patients who would prefer to come to him (to see a little magic) rather than go to the opposition down the street. This Chiropodist throws a little magic in as an extra, gets great pleasure in doing it, and in a round-about way receives his reward.

I came across an optician in Newport Beach, CA who is an expert in “severing his thumb.” Children preferred to come to him to have their eyes tested, in order to see him perform this feat. His reward, pleasure in giving enjoyment to his child clients, and at the same time increasing his clientele.

The young company representative who mixes his magic with his business calls, letting his customers see a few miracles now and then, keeps his name to the front in this way. Not pushing his tricks at the customers, and so by making a nuisance of himself, but using it when the suitable opportunity occurred. Customers remembered him more than they remembered other representatives. When he entered the store assistants would shout to the owner or manager, “The magic man is here, sir.”  The young representative enjoyed doing the odd trick her and there, and no doubt his turnover increased because of it.

A salesman applied for a position with a well-known furniture polish company; and among the many things he entered upon his application form were the words “I am a member of the Magic Castle.” When he arrived at the firm’s head office he was ushered into the waiting room where there were 15 others waiting to be interviewed. The young salesman was the first to be called in to be interviewed for the position of Area Manager. He sat down in front of the Managing Director, who upon perusing his application form said, “I see you are a member of the Magic Castle. I’ve always been fascinated in magic.” The Managing Director produced a pack of playing cards out of his drawer and the young salesman and this Managing Director were doing card tricks for around half an hour. Then the Managing Director said, “Good Lord I am supposed to be interviewing applicants for this job, not doing magic. Do you want the job?” To which the young salesman replied, “Yes sir.” The Managing Director then said, “Well, if no superman comes through that door after you, and all things being equal, the job will be yours.” He got the job and stayed with that firm for 12 years, and there is no doubt that magic helped him to land that position of district manager, quite a large reward for knowing how to perform a few card tricks accomplished with sleight-of-hand.

Magic puts people who perform it in exciting situations. My friend Robb Wienstock, works for a marketing company called Westrock.  He is the district marketing manager.  Robb uses magic when calling on different clients.  Because he is works for a big company, they take him seriously and he is able to book many shows that other full time magicians wouldn’t be able to.

Rovi, the Welsh Wizard, got into a New York State penitentiary (to perform). The incredibly inventive Gregory Wilson set off for Europe on a lecture tour. He set up his stall in the streets of Paris, and performed in a Paris restaurant, earning enough to cover all his expenses. Business with pleasure you might call it.

Felix Graf Von Luckner, known as “The Sea Devil” in the First World War, was described as a humanitarian because although his surface raiders sank 86,000 tons of shipping, he always allowed crews to abandon ship with the cat before putting the ship down to Davey Jones’s Locker. The “Sea Devil” was also a magician, and was always welcome onboard the Kaiser’s Flagship to entertain visiting royalty and top brass, Von Luckner was a very popular man and his magical stunts increased his popularity. His rewards were certainly not for cash. Like almost all magicians he was an extrovert, and he made it pay off in so much that his social engagements among the country’s elite were in abundance.

Yes there is no doubt magic works wonders in all sorts of ways. The other day I took my cat to the vet. The vet said “Well, what’s the trouble?” And I told him that he needed to be declawed and that he needed some eye drops. He said, “Anything else troubling the cat?” and I said (knowing he enjoyed magic), “Yes, he has trouble here,” and pulled a fan of playing cards from under the cat’s stomach. He rocked with laughter, and when I said “How much do I owe you?” he said, “Oh $600 less $595 for the entertainment – that leaves $5.00  and I’ll toss you for that.” I won the toss. Yes, it pays to do magic.

Whether you’re professional, semi-professional, an amateur, a writer, an inventor, an escapologist, or even just a plain honest-to-goodness magic nut; whether you reside in the UK, the US, or the Third World, you are all wonderful folk, and whether you do it for LOVE or MONEY you’re are all part of this Magical Art.

Direct Response

Everybody is promoting events on the internet these days.  But what about postal mail?  Is it really cost effective to promote an event with direct mail?  When I got started promoting my magic career, there was no internet. The postage cost to mail a one-ounce, first-class letter was 22¢. Now, it’s up to 48¢.  I used to have a threefold brochure listing “Magic For All Occasions” that I would mail by zip code.  There was so little competition then that I would actually get calls from just mailing these.

But hold on un momentito. The per capita income of the U.S. when I started back in 1984 was $2,231…and…the per capita income now is about $25,400. That means, first-class postage has risen in price by 617%…but…our average per capita income has gone up.

So, when you adjust for inflation, it is actually cheaper to buy a stamp now than it was more than 30 years ago. Trust me, for a “certain” reason, this is going to be a very exciting piece of information (after you finish reading this blog), which pertains to you. But, meanwhile, just for fun, let’s examine the cost of buying a first-class stamp each year all the way back to 1900.

In 1900, the cost of a first-class stamp was 2¢. It stayed at 2¢ for 16 years! Then, in 1917, the cost went to 3¢… which was a 50% increase. It stayed that way for two years until 1919 when they dropped the price back to 2¢!  You know what’s weird? When they went from 2¢ to 3¢, it was a 50% jump in price. But, when the price dropped back to 2¢, it was only a 33% reduction in price. Does that mean you could buy stuff for $20 and sell it for $30 (a 50% jump in price) and then buy it back for $20 (a 33% reduction in price) and thus make a 17% profit? (50% minus 33% equals 17%)?

Somehow, I know this ain’t so…but…it sure would be a neat way to make money if it was so, wouldn’t it? Anyway, in 1919 stamps were selling for 2¢ again and they didn’t go up until 1932 when they rose to 3¢. After that, the rate of a stamp stayed at 3¢ for 26 years all the way to 1958 when it started selling to the tune of 4¢ a piece. How long did that 4¢ figure last? Only five years this time. In 1963 stamps increased to a nickel (5¢) a piece. Five years go by and, in 1968, they are charging 6¢.

That rate only lasted three years. In 1971, stamps soared to 8¢ each. Again, only three years pass until the next price increase. In 1974, 10¢ would fetch you a first-class stamp. A mere one year later, the going rate hiked to 13¢. After three years of selling at 13¢, in 1978 the price of a first-class stamp advanced to 15¢. In 1981, 19¢. In 1985, 22¢. In 1988, 25¢. In 1991, 29¢. In 1995 they advanced to 32¢. In 1999, up a penny to 33¢. In 2001, up another penny to 34¢. Then, in 2002, the price of a first-class stamp went up to only 37¢.  In 2007 it went up to 42¢.  Now it’s 48¢.

What does all this translate to?  First-Class Postage Stamps Are Now The BEST Bargain You Can Get Your Hands On,(as any direct marketer worth his salt can tell you). About 10 years ago, only seven out of 100 pieces of mail were what Gary Halbert called “A-Pile” mail. That’s mail which is, or which appears to be, a first-class personal letter. By making sure all my letters got into that A-Pile, I had an enormous advantage over nearly everyone else selling by direct mail.  Today that same advantage is humongous!

People hardly ever send letters anymore. Instead, people are using email. In fact, I bet now, only about one out of 200 pieces of mail are (or appear to be) A-Pile mail.  In a blog I wrote years ago, I described how, when I was a little boy, the phone rang at my Grandma’s house and the operator would say, “You have a long distance call.” The entire household would come to attention. Someone would say in a hushed tone, “Grandma, it’s long distance!”

The impact of a long distance phone call in those days was tremendous.

Nowadays, of course, a long distance call is so routine, nobody gives it a second thought. Even an international call doesn’t cause much of a flurry anymore.  I’m a big user of FedEx.  They love me.  I don’t use FedEx because of their speed of delivery. No, I used FedEx because of…The Impact A Federal Express Package Has On A Recipient! This is especially true of someone who doesn’t work in an office. Even today, FedEx packages are given enormous attention by a person who receives one at his or her house. Now, because of that tiny percent of letters which are actually real letters…You Can Get A Similar Impact To Promote Your Event For Only 48¢!

Let’s add some grease to the frying pan.

I realize event planning and direct mail may seem like two different things at first blush, especially when everyone who is promoting is doing it online. But think about how little competition you have by using postal mail.  In a mailbox you’re up against three or four other mailbox messages.  A person’s inbox, however, is literally cluttered with junk mail.  You’re up against 30 other messages.  The expenses of catering, venue procurement and arrangement of all the other little details can seem overwhelming, but I think you’ll agree that correctly promoting it is far more important.

Studies reveal that nothing consistently drives money and business more than direct mail. Now if you’re of a certain age or you’re very online oriented or you believe the media you would think that nobody’s mailing anymore and that nobody’s reading direct mail.

There is a directory of major mailers and what they mail. Franklin Templeton Investments, Fred Pryor Seminars and Franklin Covey are listed here. These are all people mailing in the millions and millions and millions of pieces of direct mail. It is impossible to believe they’re all idiots because direct mail has metrics. It has real metrics. I mean if you send out a thousand pieces advertising your client’s party you know what you get back.

Hardly anybody does non-metric direct mail. In all other media, there’s a bunch of money spent on brand building and image advertising. And all the stuff that an argument can be made for it without being able to manage its effectiveness. But not so with direct mail.  I personally receive a ton of it because I make sure I stay on every list known to man. I have yet to get a direct mail piece that doesn’t ask for my response. All the direct mail I get asks for response. It’s the only media like that. Therefore it’s the only media where really everybody knows what they’re doing.

Television also has direct response folks there. But there’s a ton of people who aren’t direct response folks who are using television but not measuring what they’re getting from it. It’s the same with radio, with print, and with every online medium. Every place else but direct mail – the brand builders, the image advertisers, they’re there. They are not in direct mail. Why do you think they’re not in direct mail?  Because it is so ruthlessly manageable. So it is the last place any of them want to be. Are you starting to see why you need to be promoting your events through direct mail?

It’s the only medium where everybody who plays is playing based on hardcore response measurement and return on investment. 56% of chief marketing officers are “not prepared to be accountable for return on marketing investments.”  These are Fortune 1,000 guys. 63% said that marketing return on investment will be an important measure of success by 2017. It’s not quite as bad as Obama’s plan to cut the deficit in half by 2040, but the idea that marketing ROI may finally be important by 2017. So I guess these guys are all going to retire because less than half felt capable of managing its increased importance. Now these are their self assessments.

Can you imagine this?

I do a lot of trade shows and a lot of private shows, and direct mail is a huge part of why I get so many of these shows.  My rule is, if you can’t measure it, don’t do it! Take that money and go do something with it that you can hold accountable. Buy more decorations, buy a list of ideal attendees to the event and hire telemarketers to call the list.  At least you’ll have some return on your investment.

Like it or not, Event Planners are small time promoters in comparison.  Big corporations like Sony are the real players.  But aren’t they also wasteful with their budgets?  It seems to me that the bigger they are, the smaller the percentage of their budget that they devote to media that can be held accountable. It’s sort of a unique relationship between even big direct marketing companies. So the next time you see a first class postage stamp, think about the most cost effective way to reach your audience.  Direct mail may be a smart move for you.  A great place to go for resources on all of this is Every Door Direct Mail.

The Magic Of Baltimore

In 1729, Baltimore was an unincorporated town composed of less than 3,000 buildings and 12,000 residents. By 1791 the big-shouldered boom town was bustling with ship riggers, barrel makers, carpenters, and flour merchants. It wasn’t until December 31, 1796 that the 67-year-old town of Baltimore was officially converted into Baltimore City.  In his booklet, “Magic in Early Baltimore,” Milbourne Christopher noted that the first conjuror to perform in a Baltimore theater was Signior Falconi. During the 1780s, the Italian illusionist dazzled the locals with his amazing feats of legerdemain. One of his most impressive wonders was a Turkish-garbed automaton, which answered questions by way of signs, and predicted the numbers on dice rolled by volunteers from the audience. While Christopher noted that other nameless traveling sleight-of-hand artists had no doubt performed in homes and at the local taverns prior to Falconi’s appearance at the Old Theatre, local magicians were a rarity between the years 1700-1900.

Even in the History of Conjuring and Magic, the internationally known Baltimore magic historian, Dr. Henry Ridgely Evans, conceded that by the early 1880s local amateur conjurors were still “as scarce as hen’s teeth.” At that time there were only two or three wielders of the magic wand, including Evans himself. May 16, 1908 became a landmark event in magic history.  On that date, at Baltimore’s Ford’s Opera House, illusionist Harry Kellar handed over his wand to Howard Thurston, naming him as his successor. From that moment onward Baltimore would become known as the “Magic City.” 

From the 1900s to the late 1960s numerous magic organizations would be formed. There were such groups as the Society of Baltimore Magicians, the Order of the Wand, the Pyramid Magic Club, the Magicians Club of Baltimore, the Phantom Magic Club, and the Yogi Magic Club. Early in this period, two of America’s most unique conjuring groups would also be formed: theDemons Club of Baltimore Magicians and the Society of Osiris. These two clubs were created no doubt in response to the stage performances of magicians Harry Kellar and Howard Thurston, both of whom took active and inactive roles in the organizations.

What separated the Demons Club from all other Maryland magic clubs was that it was the only group to posses its own headquarters. Although the group was formed on the evening of December 7, 1911, at the home of Arthur D. Gans, they didn’t move in to their own club house until September 17, 1917.

It wasn’t long before the walls of the Demons’ clapboard bungalow were crowded with handbills and autographed portraits of famous prestidigitators. At the far end of the small building, next to an upright piano, was a fully equipped stage, complete with scenery, curtains, and footlights. The construction of this theater was quite an undertaking, with all of the work being completed by its members. In honor of the close association between the Demons and illusionists Kellar and Thurston, two miniature private boxes were erected on opposite ends of the proscenium arch, in which hung large photographs of those great artists.

Famed magicians attended some of the Demons’ banquets, ladies night programs, charity functions, and magic shows, and they were invited as special guests to perform on the small stage. Among those who accepted were: Carl Alexander, Theodore Bamberg(Okito), Harry Blackstone, John Calvert, Dante, Harry Houdini, Chester Morris, Bill Neff, and Howard Thurston.

Ever since its founding, Thurston had more than a zealous interest in the Demons Club. In 1912, he was elected honorary president of the fraternal organization and, starting on March 26, 1914, the Demons held annual banquets in honor of America’s foremost illusionist.

At a banquet held at Kernan Hotel on January 31,1917, Thurston told the crowd that there were three days each year to which he looked forward to with special interest: when his show started on another tour, when his daughter returned home from school, and when he was a guest of the local Demons. After that dinner, the guests went to the Auditorium Theatre to enjoy Thurston’s performance.

On December 13, 1923, Howard W Jackson, Mayor of Baltimore City, and other state and municipal officials graced the most unique Thurston banquet. Arthur D. Gans, who was dubbed “The Official Baltimore Ohio Magician, “arranged with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad officials to have their new Martha Washington dining and club car sidetracked at Baltimore’s Mount Royal Station. When the Demons party arrived with Thurston, the ticket agent presented Thurston with a ticket to KELTHURMA, a destination derivative of the names Kellar/Thurston/Magic.

Everyone boarded the train for the extravaganza. Gans, who had worked for the Baltimore Sun papers as a proofreader, arranged with the newspaper to prepare a special edition for the occasion. The glaring four-column headline to this “fake” edition of The Evening Sun read “Scandal Narrowly Averted at Thurston Banquet of Magicians,” and it contained humorous magic articles to fit the occasion.  Before departing, Thurston joined the group to smoke Baltimore & Ohio Cigars. Earlier that year, Thomas Chew Worthington III, a semi-pro magician and a relative of Henry Ridgley Evans, along with several other local magicians became disenchanted with the Demons Club of Baltimore Magicians, mainly because they were admitting non-magicians into the organization.  And soon March 2, 1923, Worthington held a gathering of fellow conjurors at his home and, acting as chairman, he explained how he wanted to create a new magical society composed “exclusively of magicians.”

Admission into the organization required applicants to pass a rigid magic test. It is interesting to note that Worthington’s good friend, Howard Thurston, thought the exam was too difficult, however, they did not change it. These students were not snobs, they just didn’t welcome casually interested curiosity seekers. Worthington referred to men with a passive interest in conjuring as “the peeping toms of magic,” and the Society of Osiris did not want to saturate itself with mere joiners.

Much like the Demons, the Osirians held annual banquets, many of which paid honor to Thurston when he performed in Baltimore. To show his devotion to the Osirians, Thurston once told Worthington that if the Society of Osiris were located in New York, “he would be an active member and attend regularly when off the road.” Magic historians around the world are familiar with the famed Worthington collection.

Over the years, whenever they played Baltimore, such noted performers as Thurston, Blackstone, John Calvert, Cardini, Jack Gwynne, Doug Henning, Paul LePaul, John Mulholland, Robert Orben, and Mark Wilson visited the shop. Many of these wizards performed for free on the tiny stage that was built from discarded planks of Ford’s Opera House stage, the same stage floor where Kellar handed over his mantle to Thurston.

Where I live, in Las Vegas, we have a beautiful brick and mortar magic store called Denny & Lee Magic.  The owner, Denny Haney has two stores; One in Las Vegas and one in Baltimore.  Denny is extremely helpful and their service is extraordinary. In August 1985, magic hobbyist and lawyer Paul Wolman, owner of P.W. Feats, a party and event planning service, purchased the Yogi Magic Shop. Although the future for the store looked very bright, a series of fires led to the eventual demise of this legendary Maryland establishment. Its founder Phil Thomas died on July 2,1998.

As a youth, Phil Thomas had met fellow conjuror Henry (Hen) Fetsch, as well as another boy magician, Milbourne Christopher, while attending meetings of Boy Scout Troop #42 in Baltimore. Fetsch was a relatively newcomer to the hobby of magic, but by the time he had seen magician Paul Rosini perform, he found his avocation. Henry lived on Crystal Avenue, which was about a mile from the homes of Thomas and Christopher. As Fetsch’s magical career progressed, he became a prolific inventor, writer, and performer of his original magic.  Most of Hen’s conjuring inspirations came about while working his shift as a senior operator in the power transmission department of the Baltimore Gas & Electric Company. Every hour on the hour his sole responsibility was to look up at a clock and, after reading some meters, jot down technical notes. With 55 minutes of idle time between the next meter readings, Fetsch daydreamed about magic and created new tricks. Although he invented numerous conjuring effects, including “Magic Spell” and “Chance of Eternity, “his greatest magic creation was “Mental Epic,” still in wide use today, but rarely ever credited to Hen Fetsch.

Fetsch had a typewriter at the BG & Epower station and when he wasn’t critiquing a new publication for the Yogi Magic Shop, or writing articles for the various magic periodicals, he was working on his own magic publications. Two of his books, Magic with Canes and Milk Pitcher Magic, were extremely successful, despite the fact that he went in to debt financing the latter publication. He also presented magic lectures in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, and Canada. The highlight of his “Who’s Fooling Who” and “Fetsching Magic” lecture tours was a trip to England and Scotland.

Magic historian Eddie Dawes still recalls the show.  The Hen Fetsch lecture was one of the finest he ever experienced. Afflicted with heart disease, Hen suffered from a series of heart attacks towards the end of 1960. Conjuring was such a part of his life that he told his only child, Nancy, “If I can’t do magic, I don’t want to live. “Hen Fetsch died on New Year’s Day, 1961, at the youthful age of 48.  Born on March 23, 1914, Milbourne Christopher developed an interest in magic at the age of six when his father taught him a magic trick using a piece of string. From that time forward, magic dominated his life. During his teenage years, Milbourne teamed up with his boyhood friend Phil Thomas, and for sever­ al years, the two performed together and promoted themselves with the slogan:”Mil and Phil Will Fill the Bill.”

Christopher delved deeper into the history of magic as he completed his studies at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and the Maryland Institute. Fresh out of school, Milbourne got his first writing job by convincing the editor of The Baltimore Press to hire him on the strength of a stack of articles on magic history he’d written.

The newspaper folded, and following a series of engagements in the Washington area, Christopher left for Europe, where he performed in nightclubs with comedian Freddie Sanborn. He toured Berlin, Paris, and England, and then in 1937, he began the first of what would be nine tours of South America. By 1954, he made a Broadway debut at the Longacre Theater with a one-man show entitled Now You See It.

On May 27,1957, Christopher put together and performed in the first network television magic special, The Festival of Magic. The NBC show rated six in the Nielsen ratings, and the program was also shown in Europe. The high­ light of his appearance was a much-promoted “Bullet Catch.” It received national attention and Christopher repeated the effect on BBC’s David Nixon Show in England. The Baltimorean who pioneered magic on local TV, with a 26-week with a 26-week run on WAAM in the early’50s, went on to produce and star in eight television specials.

Christopher’s contributions to the literature of magic have not been equaled by any performer. He was the editor of M-U-M, Hugard’s Magic Monthly, and Magical. Although Christopher appeared in more than 70 countries, it was through his writings that he shared his tremendous wealth of knowledge on magic with magicians around the world. He had written more than 24 books on the deceptive arts.  Among them are such classics as Houdini: The Untold StoryPanorama of MagicHoudini a Pictorial Life, and The Illustrated History of Magic.

His many awards included the Silver Wand of the London Magic Circle, a fellowship in the Academy of Magical Arts, the Royal Medallion of the All India Magic Club of Calcutta, the IBM Star of Magic, and SAM Magician of the Year. In 1975 he was elected to the SAM’s Hall of Fame.

Christopher amassed one of the world’s largest collections of magic memorabilia, including prints, paintings, photographs posters, playbills, and books of past greats in the field.  Particularly  well represented is Houdini, and it still stands as one of the largest private collections of Houdini memorabilia. Active in magic till the time of his death, Christopher died on June 17,1984 at Mt. Sinai Hospital, of complications following surgery. Christopher was buried in Baltimore.

During their early years, the three Baltimore youths, Phil Thomas, Hen Fetsch, and Milbourne Christopher, were affectionately called “The Little Demons.”They joined each and every fraternal organization for magicians and rarely missed a gathering, whether it be the those of the Demons Club, the Society of Osiris, the Kellar-Thurston SAM Assembly No 6, or their “very own” Yogi Magic Club. Living and breathing conjuring 24 hours a day, the three youths thought nothing of hitchhiking to far-away New York to catch a magic show, visit the dealers and shops, and attend that city’s magic club meetings. Because the three lads were obviously inseparable, vaudeville veteran George Reuschling (The Great La Follette), also from Baltimore, once labeled them “The Unholy Trio.”

Two of the presentations of the 31st Annual Magic Collectors’ Association Weekend which will be held in Baltimore this April 27 – 28th will address the influence of Christopher, Thomas, and Fetsch on the American magic scene. Other Baltimorean conjurors who will be honored are Dr. Henry Ridgely Evans, Thomas Chew Worthington III, Edgar Heyl, Dantini The Magnificent, and Rob and Johnny Eck. You can read all about Baltimore’s rich magical history here.

To Learn Or Not To Learn Event Planning

Each year I attend The Red Diamond Congress to learn.  Sometimes I even purchase a booth and exhibit.  This event is also known as the Exhibit & Event Marketers Association or The E2MA. This year it took place at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld.

This year’s conference was dedicated to highlighting the fascinating world of enterprise engagement in business and its many strategies and tactics.   The event was designed to help organizations in all areas of business profit from this emerging new field that many experts believe will rival advertising in scale.  There were co-located education and exhibit programs addressing key areas of engagement.  This brings us to a question:  Should you take an event planning course?  After seeing just how technical this field has gotten, I think you’ll find the answer to be a qualified “Yes.”

Although I’m not really an event planner, I have worked with a great many of them over the last 30 years and have been slowly educated on the unfaltering exactitude of pulling off something as temperamental as an event.  In a lot of ways it’s like the magic shows that I do.  Entertainers like myself spend every waking hour and minute fretting and tweaking everything right up ’til the second the applause starts,  just so they can come off with the illusion of effortlessness.

Planning an event could be a hectic job for many and people may find it difficult to coordinate everything to manage a single event. Some people are such perfectionists that they demand everything up to the mark and require experts to manage their big events. The event planning industry has become the perfect solution for such individuals.  Many people are busy with their jobs and cannot take out time to arrange their personal events, or maybe because of the race and competition, others prefer to seek help from professional event planners to make their events successful.

This is the reason the industry of event planning is flourishing and many people have chosen this field as their profession. Because of this booming industry, many schools are offering event planning courses for up and coming people in this field.

If your curiosity has piqued and you’re wondering what these courses are, they’re basically training programs that cover the arrangement of any event. These courses are available through different programs in event management, event planning and meeting planning. There are different levels of the courses available. You can take them from the certificate to the advanced degree level.

The basic object for these courses is to make the student learn to organize and plan all the aspects of different types of events including food, décor and location. There are different types of courses available in event planning; some courses cover all the basics, some focus on specific events.  A few course examples include meeting planning basics, event promotion and marketing, and event design and production. Another course is about catering and some courses are about weddings and social events.

While there are many schools available for event planning or training, there are also many online courses available. The online courses provide you with informative lectures and classes; students just might need to go once or twice to the school for the tests that cannot be taken online.  These courses offer a good way to learn more about managing different events.  Students are trained to handle the event in a perfect manner and get success in their professional life.

It is a fact that many people who are related to this field have not taken any courses in Event Management and planning before printing up business cards and setting out in this field.  I think, however, it is better to learn some basic skills from an institution to work in a perfect manner.  Many people who are already working in this field prefer to take some short courses to learn more.

So I embraced the E2MA community of exhibit and event marketers.  These people are driven to benchmark the business value of face-to face marketing events and explore new tools, new technologies, and new techniques that can optimize face-to-face marketing.   By facilitating discussions among all industry stakeholders about important issues, the Red Diamond Congress is dedicated to developing “actionable ideas and solutions that can provide for industry growth and success.”

Bottled Up

I received an email from Alexandrite Arthur Jameson asking about The Multiplying Bottles Trick.  He wanted to know if I thought it was a good trick for him to perform in his stage show.  Since he took the time to write me and ask about it, I thought I’d include my response and a darn good routine for all of you peruse.  If you’re not familiar with the trick you can view it here.  The Multiplying Bottles, I am told, is credited to Arthur P. Felsman, a well-known Chicago Magic Dealer of the early part of the century.  It laid dormant then until the 1940’s when it was revived by Percy Abbott.  I first witnessed the effect presented by Paul Daniels on a video. The production of nine bottles from the two tubes seemed like a novel trick.  I made mental note that here was an item for future consideration. The price of the set kept many from buying so I knew that once I had my own I would have few competitors.  My dear friend Peter Pit did a great Multiplying Bottles routine.  You can see all of his magic on a DVD called Memoirs.

A few years later, Bert Pratt asked what he could build me in return for a favor, and I suggested a table for Multiplying Bottles and soon a wonderful table some five feet long, 18 inches wide, and 30 inches high, with padded upholstery like an expensive brand with a black felt top was ready for use. Not to bore you with details of the development of the routine, but let me outline the scene as it would be presented:

The curtain rises on a bare stage, excepting a portable bar off right front center with the top covered with a cloth. Behind it, close to the table, is a chair. Stacked chairs, bare tables, etc., can add to the impression that it is a nightclub; the morning cleanup session is evident by the “janitor” busy sweeping the floor. The magician enters from left, attired as a bartender with an apron around his middle, sleeves rolled up, fancy garters on sleeves, and a handlebar mustache if desired. The two exchange greetings and the performer heads for the table, asking, “What’s this?” He is told, “It’s the magician’s equipment, and, stay away!” The “bartender” roars in reply, “Ho! I can do some tricks myself,” and he lifts the cover and peeks underneath. There he finds a book, SECRETS OF MAGIC and he opens it and starts checking the pages.  The “janitor” meanwhile sweeps himself off stage and the performer, finding himself alone, casts a searching glance around and removes a pocket flask. Fortified by a quick one, he takes the cover off the table, placing it over the chair and reads aloud from the book: “The Multiplying Bottle Trick. The magician uses a bottle, a glass, and two empty tubes.” His voice dies away as he glances around again, finds himself still alone and that there rests on the table two tubes, a bottle and empty glass. He checks the book; he checks the items with gestures. Then stiffening he makes an exaggerated bow, points to the bottle, the glass, and then lifts the tubes. He exposes two more bottles. He drops tubes, checks the book, removes two bottles from the tops of the tube and starts all over again from the exaggerated bow on. This time –too many tubes! The extra tubes confuse him even more and he shoves one of them and the extra bottle over to a corner of the table. While unseen by the audience his opposite hand (left) drops below the table top over a set of four more bottles on the chair and lifts them onto the table where they too join the “unwanted” section.

He starts again -two more bottles! He wipes his brow – glances at the book – checks around for on­ lookers – takes the flask from his pocket and takes a healthy swig. He either “chokes” on this or gags, apparently spits it out, and a flash follows! He staggers back to the table and tries to start again. More bottles! Meanwhile, he places his flask on the table and covers it with a tube. He stands back and considers his problem – starts to lift a tube – changes his mind – reaches for a second – changes his mind and lifts a third tube. Here he finds a beer can! Puzzled, he glances through the tube, lifts another – a bottle of beer (squat size) – a third tube discloses a bottle of ginger ale and the fourth exposes a bottle of Pepsi. These incidentally are a set made by Richard Himber that nest (the last two) and this fact leads to the vanish of one later.  Dumbfounded by the mess he is creating, the performer  heaves a big sigh of exasperation, feels for his flask in his hip pocket, finds it gone and remembers he placed it under  a tube. He tries to remember which one. He lifts them all in rapid succession  – they are all empty!

Going back to the book, he mouths the words of instruction and shakes his head slowly from side to side. Ah! Here it is! “When you have too many bottles, you must vanish them! Marvelous,” he says, checks the book, glances at the audience and asks, “Has anyone an old bag with them?” Never mind, he finds an empty paper sack on the table under the book and shakes it open. It is unmistakably empty. Holding the bag with the left fingertips he leans across the table to pick up the Pepsi bottle. As he does so, the hand with bag drops below the tabletop, lets the bag fall to the floor and nips the open, loaded bag resting on the chair. (The flask incidentally vanished down a well as the tube was moved over it. The long bag of well resting also on the chair so that the drop of the flask is not registered on the table, etc).

The Pepsi bottle is placed in the “empty” bag, which is now well above the table, but a clink is heard and in puzzlement the poor magician gazes into the bag and slowly removes a bottle of beer, a bottle of catsup, a bottle of Coke. These are the rubber variety, but fortified with the addition of a metal washer to their respective bottoms so they will hit the table with a clunk instead of silently if just rubber. The bag now is empty – excepting for a miniature ginger ale bottle from the Himber set, which is nipped by the fingers as the bag is turned bottoms up and shaken.

Sympathizing with himself, the performer places the Pepsi bottle in the bag, then the ginger ale bottle, then stops to think, “No,” he says aloud, “Just one bottle will vanish and reappear under the tubes.” He removes the one bottle, but actually the nested two, and holds the bag up as he makes mysterious passes with his hands and squashes the bag. The bottle has vanished. Proudly, he lifts the first tube, nothing there, and likewise with the other three! He is more puzzled than ever. He gestures as he thinks back as to what he did. During this action he can also casually lift out any leftover bottle from the tubes, for believe me, once you start, the routine takes you over and not vice versa.

Finally, he decides and he holds up his finger to announce, “The bottle is still in the bag!” He opens up the bag, peers in and proudly brings forth the miniature bottle, which, leaning over the table he places at the front. “I am afraid, ladies and gentlemen,” he concludes, “this is a case of too many bottles!” He removes one more bottle from a tube and starts to walk off stage right.  Part way, he brings his left hand from behind his back and holds up for all to see a jeroboam. A grand­daddy liquor bottle, which resting under the table was easily swung behind the back as the last bottle is placed on the table.

Thus, from a promising trick of producing the Multiplying Bottle set, a routine, act, or scene has developed that has a theme, a reason, novelty and variation, and a good finish, for I have never failed to get an extra large hand when the small bottle is produced.  Here in the U.S., Famous O’Connor considers the trick his own. He uses a roll-on table and makes many steals and produces bottles till there is no more room. Danny Martin in the Northwest has the glass disappear then begins a wild search for the same finding only bottles until he wishes to bring the trick to a close at which time he “finds” the glass. His roll-on table has extendible side wings and he fills these with bottles and varies the amount with t he reception of the routine by the audience. He is my authority for stating that after a point the routine takes you on and not you the routine. Danny says he can produce as many as 30 bottles (Ah those roll-on tables:-)

My own set is the basic Abbott nine. To it I added a Comedy Passe set giving me four more bottles (and two tubes, the disclosure of which I’m sure adds to the laughs). It was necessary to knock out the liquid partition from the smaller bottle of one nest so that a squat beer bottle could be placed under the tubes, also for one of the Himber bottles. The beer can be lightened by having its contents withdrawn. So at the beginning the audience seeing two tubes and a bottle do not know that the  three are actually stacks of four bottles each nor that a fourth stack is on the chair out of sight and next to the paper bag with its four quota as well.

Johnny Platt, Chicago’s own and leading exponent of the Multiplying Bottles, has gone to the trouble of gimmicking so that his bottles all appear the same height.  However, since mine are “all different” there is no reason for such here. The routine has been used with an assistant, the magician in tux, she in briefs and her job being to daintily take each bottle and carry it to side tables (TV tables, one on each side) as the table fills.  I have chuckled over variations and additions for with so much space to hide stuff, why not do so? But the routine as outlined has settled down to a workable version and I am satisfied. However, I still dream of an elevator that would lift one more load into one tube and raise the zombie glass to its full height instead of the couple of inches that primarily show. But a straight 15-inch lift with microscopic clearance just doesn’t seem possible.  Anyway, if you chose to perform the Multiplying Bottles and PUT IN THE TIME, you will be richly rewarded with responsive audiences.

The Savy Event Planner

Would you follow cooking tips from your auto mechanic, or take tax advice from your plumber?  What about event planning tips from a magician?  I’ve been performing magic for more than 30 years, and in that time I have seen it all:  from the energetic, super-organized planner racing around with clipboard in hand, checking off everything on her list, to the stressed-out procrastinator tearing her hair out while desperately dialing every contact on her phone to see who’s available to make a last-minute run to the printer for more programs.  As I’ve stood by waiting to perform my magic for meetings, parties, and everything in between, I’ve noticed a thing or two about event planning.  For one thing, I’ve realized that event planning is no joke—it’s not a profession you can just jump into and succeed at (although plenty of people try).  Event planning takes serious dedication, organization, and a certain finesse.

I am not an event planner.  Still, after all these years observing event planners and observing the details that do (or sometimes do not) go into all sorts of gatherings, I amassed a series of notes that I eventually compiled into a list of event blunders that all event planners should avoid.  Even the best event planners sometimes find it difficult to step out of their roles as planners and look at their events from a fresh perspective.  Entertainers like me can offer some useful “outsider” advice, some of which experienced planners may already consider on a regular basis, and some of which perhaps was considered at one time, but was pushed to the back burner and forgotten.  Newbies out there may not have even considered a lot of the tips I offer.  So if you haven’t already done so, check out the blunders to avoid in the Event Blunders blog series that I wrote over the past year, but before you do, listen in as I discuss event planning with corporate comedian, online entrepreneur, and host of the informative and entertaining podcast, The Savvy Event Planner, Tom Crowl.

Tom is, like me, a corporate entertainer whose performing experience has allowed him to delve into the world of event planning.  Tom hosts a fun and engaging podcast where he invites all sorts of event professionals to share their tips for planning awesome events.  Recently, he was kind enough to invite me to the show to offer more details on some of the event blunders that I wrote about in my blog.

If you’re an event planner, your days are stressful and short, so you could use a break.  Why not sit back, relax, and listen as I talk to Tom about the things I’ve observed while performing at corporate events, parties, and meetings?  Maybe you’ll discover a think or two that you can fix before you execute your next event.  And if nothing else, you can be amused by my stories of mistakes that I made in my early days performing magic for private parties.  Go ahead, and if anyone pops into your office and chastises you for putting your feet up, tell them the truth:  you’re hard at work!

Box Jumpers

Everyone has heard of Mandrake the Magician. Well, this week I thought I’d tell you the story of Velvet Mandrake, his lead assistant.  You will get a feel for the adventurous life of a magician’s assistant.  This information was told by Lon Mandrake, her son.  In fact if you want to, you can compare her adventures with another assistant’s memoirs, those of my wife Elena.

Velvet was born in Chicago, Illinois, and was brought up in a show business background. Her mother and father were a vaudeville team in Chicago, and she was one of Mandrake’s best assistants.  Velvet had acting and dancing lessons and performed with dance lines at the Chicago Theatre and in plays, including touring plays such as “Maid in the Ozarks.” For a change of pace, in 1946, she joined Harry Blackstone’s magic show as an assistant for a season. You can read about Blackstone’s main assistant Arial Freed in this article.

It turned out to be great fun as there were several young women on the show and they got along splendidly. They traveled by train to many major cities in North America. Velvet remembers Harry Blackstone Junior at age nine visiting his father and being given candy by the young assistants after each show. Coincidentally, they also performed in Vancouver, British Columbia this particular season which many years later would become her home.

On returning to Chicago, she decided to continue with her acting career. Leon Mandrake had just performed at the Chicago Opera House for M.C.A. and was looking for a new assistant to complete his M.C.A. tour south. An agent by the name of Paul Satmders, was asked to find a new assistant for the Mandrake show. Paul happened to be Velvet’s agent. Mandrake was looking for a tall blonde assistant and Velvet was looking for a touring play. Paul talked both of them into making compromises (Velvet being only 5 feet tall, dark haired and looking 16 years old without makeup). Mandrake stored his larger illusions in a hotel basement in Chicago and set off with a smaller show of five, including Velvet. They performed first in Oklahoma City and then into Louisiana. Soon they were married in Kansas City, Missouri and had their first son in Chicago in 1948. Velvet decided that they would keep their children with them on tour as long as possible. This meant being glamorous during the evening shows and then washing diapers after changing out of elaborate costumes and removing eyelashes. Sometimes I think this is what’s next in store for Elena and me.

A year later they were in Miami, Florida where Mandrake had escaped from a prison with electronic locks, to help promote his show. Later, in Silver Springs, Florida he did an underwater escape from a locked trunk. He was handcuffed, tied with 100 feet of rope, locked in a trunk and dropped into the Springs. Velvet, eight months pregnant, was very anxious about this type of escape as it was Leon’s first underwater escape. Things didn’t go as rehearsed and Leon didn’t come up as scheduled. There had been a problem with the rope in the water and it had tangled him while he was still in the trunk. Somehow he managed to emerge and came up, short of breath and with his life having passed before his eyes. The cameraman for the movie newsreel asked if he could do it again for a better camera angle! that was the last time Mandrake did an underwater escape.

After their second son, she was performing again as Mandrake’s chief assistant. She was sawn in half with a buzz saw, shot through the middle with a steel bullet, beheaded with a guillotine, floated in mid air, ‘and was the chief distracter on the show. In contrast, she would take her two small boys to a local park to play during the afternoon.  In Dayton, Ohio after performing at the Van Cleve Hotel for five months she had their third son, in 1951.  Later in addition to performing and looking after 3 young boys during the day, the problem of schooling came up. Mandrake and Velvet extended their stays in cities and used them as bases. Even so, her daughter Lon attended 9 schools in the first four grades, with schools in San Francisco, Seattle, Sacramento, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Chicago, Honolulu, Portland, and Surrey.

In 1955 the Mandrakes used Portland, Oregon as a base and performed as Alexander the Great on television.  No relation to me.  Actually these were mind reading performances, using Claude Alexander’s name and apparatus, bought through Bob Nelson, years earlier. Velvet now had even a more demanding role as assistant because with weekly television and mentalism much of the performance had to be spontaneous and unrehearsed. The show depended a great deal on the audience and how you read them. They also performed the night club circuits as both Mandrake and Velvet and as Alexander, the Man Who Knows.

In 1955 the Mandrake’s had their only daughter. Eighteen months later they took the whole family to Honolulu, Hawaii where they performed in clubs, fairs, and the Kaiser Dome. Just prior to the trip to Hawaii, Leon and Velvet were performing in Anchorage, Alaska at the Idle Hour Club. A fire broke out in the club and the Mandrake’s complete show was destroyed except for his linking rings. Velvet lost 18 complete costumes. They were separated in the fire and Leon had suffered minor burns. The magic club of Anchorage came to their aid and lent them enough props to perform for the next couple of weeks at another club in Anchorage.  I can just imagine this having performed in Anchorage for nine consecutive summers.  Their children were in Chicago with their grandmother during this time and interestingly enough, Lon says he had a dream of his parents in a fire the night it actually happened. Velvet flew to Chicago to pick up we children and then flew to Seattle to meet Leon and from there were bound for Honolulu. In 1957 they flew to Vancouver, British Columbia. Once there, they used Vancouver as a base and performed up and down the West Coast while the children settled down to one school system (all four children graduated from high school and two went on to attain degrees from University.)

The “on the road” life continued for the family, but only during school holidays and summer vacations. House keepers were employed for the lengthy engagements during the school year.  After extensive performances in the Orient in 1967, Velvet retired from the show except to work occasionally until 1974 when they worked as a team for the University circuit until Mandrake retired in 1985.  Velvet was a magician’s assistant from 1946 till 1985 with only a few interruptions (some of which were the births of her children). Later she acted as Lon’s assistant for a show at Beth Israel, in Vancouver when his wife and partner, Linda, was having their third child in 1988.


Event Websites

You may want to consider registering a special event domain for your event. This has several advantages and makes planning easier and more effective. Whatever it is – your big wedding, any other big family event, a festival, a course/training event, a celebration event in your local community, an international seminar or conference event, a campaign event/promotion event, a school class event – it is much easier to find a proper domain name for an event website than for a permanent website. In many cases you can use the formula: [] or .net,, etc.

You can use the formula: [] or [] or for your wedding event [] or [] You can use this formula or similar ideas for domain registration for events of any kind, whether special events, annual events, or more frequent events. Think of: A course day for training: [], A sports day: [], and so on for all events. If your event is an ongoing event, year after year (don’t think of your wedding!) and you can get a really good domain name, then register this domain name, and use it year after year for the annual event. This is fine for the branding of the domain name, as well as for the re-use of printed material, internet links etc.

Note that you can write the domain name of the event in different ways, using capital letters to make the domain name more readable (the capitalization of the letters in the domain name doesn’t matter). Only if you refer to specific pages other than the home page you need to have an exact match for the letters. This is one of the good reasons, too, to go for a completely new domain name. You only get help from the domain name registration if you also set up a website.

In the big picture to register a domain and to have it hosted is a very small part of the expense for all events. If you are really on a shoestring budget, consider a service like Wix or The registration costs as little as $15 per year and you can set up a free website without any extra costs. This web hosting company allows you to upload 20 MB of web pages on the free account just for your cost of the domain name registration. That is more than enough for most event websites. Just be careful with the graphics, including pictures. All the graphics have to be optimized for web use for the lowest possible file size. This shouldn’t give you any problems.

So what do you use event domains and event websites for? In your event planning make use of your event website to tell about: What is the background of the event? If it is a special event, then why is it a special event? Where, when and for whom is this event? Will it cost something and how will people register to participate in the event? Are you expecting presents or are there other things guests have to prepare for?

The website after the event should also be a part of your event planning. Most visitors will use the event website after the event, so remember that in your planning. You can post photos from the event – this is a very popular aspect of any modern event, so plan for that. You can incorporate the photos on your event website or you can link to a special service that makes it easier for you to upload the event pictures after the big day. I have put some of the best offers together here and some services are free

You can highlight special messages, lessons learned, info for further work, cooperation and event planning; maybe even try to coordinate all events after the common big event. I am sure you have many more ideas already to be included in your event planning. Just remember for all events: plan in time, that makes everything much easier for yourself and for other event participants.

And please, don’t close down your successful event website just a few months after the event. Visitors will first arrive in numbers to websites after some time. If possible, include in your event planning some years of hosting of your event website and keep your event domain as long as you can.


Twentieth Century philosopher Elbert Hubbard said, “I love magicians because they are honest men.  They tell you they are going to fool you and then they proceed to do exactly that.  But no matter what happens at the show, when you get home you will still have your watch, your pocketbook, and your appendix.  And that is more than I can say for some of my non-magician acquaintances.” As someone who deceives for a living and with all of the politicians in the news lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about deception; namely lying.  You could say that I lie for a living.  But like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, I lie within an agreed frame for entertainment purposes.  Some have no “frame” and lie for selfish gain.  In an ideal society there would be no need for lies, but we live in a world of deception, and whether you want to play or not, you’re in the game.  The question is, do you want to win?  I thought it might be useful to share how I know whether or not someone’s telling the truth in everyday life.  Who knows, it may come in handy some day.

People can develop deception detection.  However, police departments usually do not provide more than a day of training for their detectives, if that, and the available research shows that you can’t improve much in just a day.  There are signs of deception.  Once you realize that you’re being lied to, should you confront the liar immediately? Usually not. The best approach is to note the fact in your mind and continue with the conversation, trying to extract more information.  Once you confront someone who has lied to you, the tone of the conversation changes and gathering additional facts becomes difficult. Therefore, wait until you have all the evidence you want and then decide whether to confront the person at that time or hold off to figure how you can best use this insight to your advantage.

There is usually body language that gives a liar away.  He or she will make little or no eye contact.  A person who is lying to you will do everything to avoid making eye contact.  Physical expression will be limited, with few arm and hand movements.  What arm and hand movements are present will seem stiff and mechanical.  Hands, arm and legs pull in toward the body; the individual takes up less space.  His hand(s) may go up to his face or throat, especially to the mouth, but contact with his body is limited to these areas.  He is also unlikely to touch his chest with an open hand gesture.  He may also touch the nose or scratch behind the ear.  If he is trying to appear casual and relaxed about his answer, he may shrug a little.

There are also emotional states associated with deception.  The timing is off between gestures and words. If the facial expression comes after the verbal statement (“I am so angry with you right now” … pause … and then the angry expression), it looks false.  The head moves in a mechanical fashion without regard to emphasis, indicating a conscious movement.  Gestures don’t match the verbal message, such as frowning when saying “I love you.”  Hands tightly clenched and a statement of pleasure are not in sync with each other.  The timing and duration of emotional gestures will seem off.  The emotion is delayed coming on, stays longer than it should, and fades out abruptly. Expressions will be limited to the mouth area when the person is feigning certain emotions – happiness, surprise, awe, and so on – rather than the whole face.

In deception interpersonal interactions will give signals.  When we are wrongfully accused, only a guilty person gets defensive (see my blog Wrongly Accused).  Someone who is innocent will usually go on the offensive.  He is reluctant to face his accuser and may turn his head or shift his body away.  The person who is lying will probably slouch; he is unlikely to stand tall with his arms out or outstretched. There’s movement away from his accuser, possibly in the direction of the exit.  There will be little or no physical contact during his attempt to convince you.  He will not point his finger at the person he is trying to convince.  He may place physical objects (pillow, drinking glass, et cetera) between himself and his accuser to form a barrier, with a verbal equivalent of “I don’t want to talk about it,” indicating deception or covert intention.

There is a lack of precision of language with lying.  Actual verbal content will shift.  The liar will use your words to make his point. When asked, “Did you cheat on me?”  The liar answers, “No, I didn’t cheat on you.”  In addition, when a suspect uses a contraction – “It wasn’t me” instead of “It was not me” – statistically, there is a 60% chance he is truthful.  He may stonewall, giving an impression that his mind is made up.  This is often an attempt to limit your challenges to his position.  If someone says right up front that he positively won’t budge, it means one thing: He knows he can be swayed. He needs to tell you this so you won’t ask, because he knows he’ll cave in.  The confident person will use phrases like “I’m sorry, this is pretty much the best we can do.”  Watch out for the good old Freudian slip.  He depersonalizes his answer by offering his belief on the subject instead of answering directly. A liar offers abstract assurances as evidence of his innocence in a specific instance.  For example: “Did you ever cheat on me?” and you hear, “You know I’m against that sort of thing. I think it morally reprehensible.”  He will keep adding more information until he’s sure that he has sold you on his story. The guilty are uncomfortable with silence. He speaks to fill the gap left by the silence.  He may imply an answer but never state it directly.

Implication and how something is said shows how true it is.  The liar will have a deceitful response to questions regarding beliefs and attitudes take longer to think up.  However, how fast does the rest of the sentence follow the initial one-word response?  In truthful statements a fast no or yes is followed quickly by an explanation. If the person is being deceitful the rest of the sentence may come more slowly because he needs time to think up an explanation.  Watch out for reactions that are all out of proportion to the question. The liar may repeat points that he has already made or be reluctant to use words that convey attachment and ownership or possessiveness (“that car” as opposed to “my car”).  The person who is lying may leave out pronouns and speak in a monotonous and inexpressive voice.  When a person is making a truthful statement, he emphasizes the pronoun as much as or more than the rest of the sentence.  Words may be garbled and spoken softly, and syntax and grammar may be off.  In other words, his sentences will likely be muddled rather than emphasized.  Statements sound an awful lot like questions, indicating that he’s seeking reassurance.  Voice, head and eyes lift at the end of their statement.

Liars have a psychological profile.  We often see the world as a reflection of ourselves. If you’re being accused of something, check your accuser’s veracity.  Watch out for those people who are always telling you just how corrupt the rest of the world is. Beware of those asking you if you believe him. They may respond with, “you don’t believe me, do you?” Unlike our politicians, people who tell the truth expect to be believed. I don’t “expect” to be believed when performing my magic show.  After all, I’m trying to put an illusion across.  When it comes to everyday life however, let us protect our “watch, wallet and appendix” from those Elbert Hubbard referred to as less than honest.