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IMG_4962If you have always dreamed of being the world’s greatest magician, it is always helpful to get as much advice and guidance as possible from someone who has been there and done it all before. Now I have experienced the difficulties involved with trying to go from a local entertainer to an internationally recognized magician, I have decided to share some of my top tips for any aspiring young magicians out there;

  • Practice, practice, practice – The number one rule for any magician is to put in as much practice as possible, everyday. You will never become the best unless you put in the time, and it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become a great magician, so be prepared.
  • Learn from those around you – It is a good idea to find out what magic events, clubs or groups are taking place in your local area, and get involved as much as possible. You can learn little tricks and tips from watching others, and interacting with fellow magicians to share insights and experiences.
  • Perfect your presentation – Being able to put on a great show and ‘wow’ the audience is what it is all about, so once you are confident in your tricks and illusions it is vital to dedicate a large amount of time perfecting the presentation of your show. You want it to be as memorable and inspiring as possible.
  • Perform to the public – Practicing your performance in front of others is essential if you want to impress on a bigger stage. The more often you can do this the better, as your confidence levels will go up. You can put on shows for your friends, family, local clubs, schools, talent competitions, and anywhere else that will let you perform!
  • Find your USP – In order to separate yourself from the rest in the world of magic, you must have a unique selling point. This means that people will be able to recognize you for a particular skill or trick. All of the great magicians have had USP’s which is what people remember them for.

The only other bit of advice I can give to you is that you should never give up on your dreams, and if you want something enough, you can always succeed in the end. There have been times throughout my life where I have been discouraged by people and advised to give up and do something else, but I always knew this was what I wanted more than anything else and I have enjoyed the rewards of persevering.

Macy's SeattlePeople often ask me what made me want to be a Magician, and to be honest I don’t have a simple answer to that question. There are many things that made me fall in love with the art of magic, and it is something that I have been fascinated with ever since I can remember. Other people in school were aspiring to be astronauts, race car drivers and firemen, but I knew that all I wanted to be was a great magician. Sometimes it is hard to put into words the reason why you are drawn towards something, but sometimes you just are and there is no real explanation as to why. I remember all of my teachers and friends saying that it was a stupid and silly idea, and that I would need to get a proper job when I grew up.

Well here I am, and I have made my dream a reality. If you are a young person who has dreams of being something or doing something, such as becoming a magician, then I would say that you should follow your dreams. It does not matter what anyone else tells you, if you know in your heart that you have a calling in life, then this is what you should strive for.

I spent hours and hours when I was growing up, just practicing on my own in my room. I was so determined to succeed that I kept on going, even though everyone thought I was mad! It is important for people to be committed to carrying out their dreams; otherwise they may go through life wandering what might have been. This does not mean that you should not still study hard and achieve in other areas of life, as you never know where life will take you or what other opportunities may come your way.

I have now been living the dream for a number of years, and I truly feel completely contented. Nothing gives me more pleasure than the excitement of stunning a crowd into silence and watching them, become mesmerized by the illusions that I have created. As well as the excitement of the shows, I have loved every minute of the tours that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. It really is a blessing to be able to travel the world and meet so many amazing and interesting people along the way. Obviously, not everyone can follow in my footsteps as they are not magic, but I would urge anyone who has a dream, to follow their heart.

If you can’t get your show to, at least number three in it’s field, you could be in real trouble.  Things aren’t like they used to be.  Competition today is global.  Here on Princess  Cruises I’m not just competing with other magicians that we all know.  Nowadays, Princess is receiving press kits from magicians all over the world.  Often times, these guys are good, they’re polite and willing to work for less money.  You have to be able to stand up to the best in the world, not just the best in the U.S. If your show is not number 1, 2 or 3, it will be on the down-side soon. It must be distinguishably excellent, or it will eventually become a casualty of competition. The goal is to do the work once, and have the money flow in for the rest of your life.  This is what recording artists do.  They work really hard to lay down that one song that’s a hit.  Then they can live off the residuals for the rest of their life.  So, for my time, what good does it do to create a great show and eventually have it succumb to its competition?  The U.S. Economy is in dire straits, and experts say it’s going to get worse, not better.  Will there will be more recessions in the future? Can your show sustain a stream of income for you that will survive ten recessions? When times get tough, agents and buyers gravitate toward quality. Make sure the quality of your show is simply outstanding.  Before you design your show, stop and analyze your competition. Ask yourself, how your show compares. This is how companies operate. Bob Welch,the one time CEO for General Electric, has one major tenant: “Whenever we buy a new business, if it’s not in the top 5% in it’s field, we won’t buy it.” You’ve got some illusions. You’re working. That’s great.  But it’s not enough. In North America alone, I can name sixty competitors with illusions and a show too. Where would you fall on this list? If you were an agent or buyer, with all of these to choices, who would you choose?  You have all of these acts fighting for the same market-share. Magicians so often tell me that they try not to watch other magicians.  I think this is poor advise.  I watch every magician I can.  You should go to their web-sites. Look at their videos. Ask yourself how you compare? What are these other magicians saying? What are their: features, benefits, claims, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats?  What are yours?  Only by approaching things from this pragmatic point of view can we hope to be successful in our magic careers.

 

Happy Sailing

 

“The well-dressed man is he whose clothes you never notice”. – W. Somerset Maugham

Don’t dress like a juggler’s assistant

I’m no fashion expert, but I have tried many styles and am old enough to know what works. I was lucky enough to catch the heyday of Beatlemania, the emerging pop-culture of television, hippydom, the rise of importance of Silicon Valley, Los Angeles decadence during the ’80s… and… most importantly… the radical changes in fashion that have taken place over the last thirty years. I’ve been guilty of poor fashion choices too, but I feel there’s no better way to learn how the world works than to roll up your sleeves and get filthy with experience. I’ve been stupid, smart, cursed, lucky, broke, well off, mocked, worshiped, hated and loved in this business

On cruise ships we have lavish production shows that the cruise companies pour enormous amounts of money into. Looking at their brilliant costumes and working on ships as long as I have, I soon learned how they achieved this look. Silvia’s Costumes is who makes their costumes. And if money’s no object this is where you want to go. Now Silvia doesn’t come cheap. For me, until I’m mounting my own show in a Vegas hotel with investors, Silvia’s a little out of my budget. So I looked to foreign manufacturing.

My first discovery of getting clothes made abroad was twelve years ago while performing in Asia. I took a ten day vacation to Bangkok, Thailand to change my visa and discovered many tailors willing to make almost anything for ¼ the price of the states. So, I had a boat-load of show costumes made at amazing prices. In hindsight, these costumes didn’t really have the flair that I was looking for, but I was very pleased with the sheer volume of costumes that I could get, and my show desperately needed upgrading in this area.

Last year this time one of our ports of call was Kusadasi, Turkey. Now I must admit that before I went there I thought, “who would want to go to this place”?  But I am a coffee addict and had wanted to try Turkish coffee for many years now. You know, the kind that could put hair on your chest?  So out I ventured out into the abyss once our shipped docked. I always prefer docking to a tender boat situation because you can get off the boat so quickly. Didn’t find my Turkish coffee, but the streets were filled with vendor selling numerous things from Persian rugs (hand made on the premises), fake watches, exotic art and leather goods. Very interesting. As I strolled up a quaint street I was taken back by an amazing display of suits in a store window. I mean they just looked so chic; like they were right out of GQ magazine. I walked into this place and was greeted by wiry energetic guy with black hair named Fevzi. He reminded me of a Turkish Peter Pit.

I immediately noticed the “flair” in his suits. Then he told me he makes them all himself. Soon I met his wife Nedda who was in the back sewing. She asked me if I wanted anything to drink. Now was my chance for that famous Turkish coffee I’d heard so much about. I couldn’t resist. She mad one for me. It had a mint taste to it and was stronger than onions. It’s so powerful, after you drink it there’s sludge left at the bottom of the cup. Well, there’s still the same amount of hair on my chest but I was wired and began thinking how great some of Fevzi’s suits would look under stage light.

For the most part magicians, myself included, look like acrobats in mid-career change.   So here was my chance to finally look fashionable on stage with out paying the Beverly Hills price tag.  What impressed me most about Fevzi is that his suits were so contemporary. He’s not somebody who goes out and tries to become the most famous tailor in Turkey. He’s more like a “quiet trade secret” for those few of us with fashion needs beyond the drab. He’s one of those people you’ll rarely ever get the opportunity to find unless you travel to Turkey. (Another perk of working on cruise ships).  Well, Fevzi made a very slick black custom fitted suit out of a denim material that i just love.  It looks great on stage, accentuates my physique and feels great on my body.  I still use it in my main stage show here on The Diamond Princess

Happy Cruising!

Today we’re at sea.  Actually, we will arrive at Glacier Bay National Park for “scenic cruising”.  This means we don’t get off the ship, which just pull up close to the glaciers to view them.  This is quite breath-taking, but happens at about 7 am.  That’s a little early for me, so instead I’m up at 10 am and decided to write to all of you.  I want to talk to you about performing illusions on cruise ships.  A mere two or three decades ago the only illusions magicians were performing on ships on ships involved vanishing themselves when asked to host activities. Box magic on cruise ships was pretty much unheard of. Lounge seating, low ceilings, bad angles and lack of storage space made anything beyond a roll-on table, a headache. Props had to fit cabaret space requirements. Oh, a few brave souls trucked out sub trunks, broom suspensions and zig-zags. Some even performed them – usually on dance floors. But, sure as God’s sunrise, you’d never see things like a Disembodied Princesses or an Asrah Levitation.

The grand class vessels of present day come equipped large stages, sporting state of the art lighting instruments, full production crews to meet your show’s every requirement and sound systems that would even rival some of Las Vegas showrooms. Some stages even have ice rinks! This month I’m performing aboard the beautiful Diamond Princess, cruising the Alaska. It’s funny but her stage is bigger than the posh-as-posh-can-get Sporting Club in Monte Carlo, today’s port of call where so many magic greats have performed – Salvano, Norm Nielsen, Channing Pollock and Finn Jon to name a few. Much of this is going to be shot through my ‘illusion prism,’ but I think you’ll find that if one stomachs what an illusionist has to(lighting, cases, assistants, costumes, rehearsals and storage), a stand-up show is a piece of cake on ships.

I was last on this 180,000 foot vessel two years ago doing the Mexican Riviera.  Channing Pollock once told me, “We magicians must furnish glamour”. Nowhere is that adage more true than in performing illusions on the high seas.  Most of you already know something about performing on cruise ships. Some, I’m sure even make their living doing so. I’ll take a leap and assume that most who do present a “parlor act;” or as I call it, forty-five minutes out of a brief case. I’ll tell you right up front that I’m not one of you. I learned a lot assisting Chuck Jones, and if you’re going to call yourself an illusionist, you need to actually roll those turkeys out and perform illusions. Due to some sado-masochistic love I have for illusions which only Lanny Kibby understands, I much prefer doing a full illusion show on to a stand-up show on ships. You parlor guys get the same money I do and don’t even have to hire an assistant. This probably sounds very appealing, and many of you will call me stubborn, but there’s just something so much more fulfilling to me with he whole illusion thing. You see, now you’re competing with the ship’s production shows – and they have a cast of 18! Can you imagine how good it would feel to equal or surpass the energy and/or reaction of those shows with your little boxes? That’s a worthwhile goal if you ask me, and one that makes me bound out of bed in the morning. I just get a charge out of presenting large illusions to an audience, and what better place to break in a new illusion than on a ship? Expenses are low or non-existent. You’re guaranteed an audience(and a captive one). You’ve several days before the next show to “tweak,” and perhaps the most attractive factor nowadays – little or no expenses. Yes Sir, free rent, free food and you don’t have to buy gasoline. Come to think of it, just that last one might be reason enough to do ships.

Your typical ship schedule requires you to do two completely different 45 minute performances. These performances take place whenever and wherever the cruise director wants them. That’s about it though, the rest of the time is yours to do whatever your little heat desires. It’s important to be seaworthy. Your illusionary choices should meet these five requirements. They should be: entertaining, performable in rough seas, workable with one assistant, repairable with basic tools and packable into flat cases. These points are pretty self-explanatory. What I really want to talk about is love. – Yes love.

Suppose some newcomer came to me and wanted to know the single most important thing he could ever learn about this noble pursuit of performing magic on cruise ships.

Is there a single principle that’s that critical? A stand alone consideration which is truly supreme above all others? You bet there is. And, I can communicate it to you in just two words:

Love Magic!

Listen to me, I have a degree in marketing from USC. To quote the all-time marketing guru, Gary Halbert:

“No One Can Ever Be A Success Who Sells Something Of Which He Is Not Proud!”

I know you know plenty of people who make plenty of money selling crap. So what? Money is only one (and truly not the most important) of all the ingredients that make someone a success. And… making money (even millions) while losing your self-respect leads to a dry rot of the psyche and a constant patina of despair that dulls the fabric of your life.

I remember something David Copperfield once said at a lecture he gave to The Magic Castle Junior Magicians, of which I belonged. A youngster asked him about the tribulations of making ends meet with magic. David paused only for a second, looked at the kid and quipped, “Do you want to do magic or do you have to do magic?” And so it is. David HAD to do magic. It was an obsession far exceeding the bounds of a hobby. Those who have it in their heart will find a way. Period. A lot of times it’s just a matter of asking the right questions. How can I make this work? How can I get a stool made for the suspension using the resources on a cruise ship? How can I get show costumes made in Turkey?, etc. I like these kinds of challenges. Illusion road warriors like Peter Gossamer call it “Macgyvering”

A genuine love for your art will not only come through in your show, but in your evermore important ‘off stage persona’. Yup, sorry to break it to you, but if you want to get invited back and actually make a living working ships, you have to be a nice person. Cruise ship entertainment directors do not care how slick or original your show is. One blip of an attitude problem and you’re toast. There’s too big a pool of decent human beings for them to pick from to put up with primadonnas. And we all know a few, don’t we?. Ever notice how seldom they work cruise ships? Hmmm.

And I know, yo u’ve got the fastest sub trunk of the 21st century, and your goth illusion show really rocks. You can be “totally original” till the cows come home. But as long as your market is for people who vacation on cruises; they don’t really care all that much if you invented everything you perform. Remember, it’s a ship not a magic convention. That’s not to say that you should do boring magic – but simply that, above all, cruise lines want to work with people whom they like. Speaking of people I like, our vivacious Princess cruise staff, just stopped in to check email too and invited me for lunch in the Santa Fe dining room. So, I’m going to close for now. I guess sometimes it is all glamour.

Happy Cruising!

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