Dear Friends in Magic,
Welcome to my bi-monthly magic newsletter (second Sunday, every other month). Reactions to the first issue were terrific. Thank you for your interest and feedback.
A quick bit of housekeeping: some of you mentioned that the first issue went into your promotions tab. This is easily fixed. If you are reading this on your phone or tablet, simply hit the three dots in the upper right, then hit “move to,” then hit “primary.” If you are reading on your computer, simply drag this into your “primary” tab. But onward to . . . .
A BIG IDEA
In recent years, I have found it extremely useful to draw a distinction between real-world magic and, well, its opposite. I didn’t create this distinction—it’s been around for a long time. But what is it about, and why does it matter?
A big part of it, I think, is that real-world magic aims toward and works especially well for non-magicians. That is, the people most of us perform for most of the time. People out and about in the world: in restaurants, at corporate cocktail parties, on the fly, at private parties, at public shows—people from all walks of life and every income level. Most of them have never met a real magician and are excited by the prospect.
In my experience, most non-magicians are wide-open for wonder. They are likely to giggle, laugh, or exclaim at the magic moment (“No way!”). They are charmed and delighted by magic that relates to their lives. All this makes real-world audiences great fun to perform for and play with.
At the same time, such audiences can be demanding. They get bored easily by too much talking, joke-y blather, or someone who sounds like a car salesman. They get cool quickly if they aren’t involved in a meaningful way. They might get frisky if the performer has no “command.” They don’t like feeling “tricked” by a show off or wise guy.
One thing this all means for me and my magic show business is that I am always on the lookout for outstanding pieces of real-world magic.
Indeed, not all magic is created equal, and especially not in this regard. So many tricks in the vast literature and video record of magic are created by magicians for other magicians: to sell to them, to fool them, to feed their puzzling minds, to establish credit, to exercise one's own creativity, among many others. And of course most of them are underdeveloped in terms of presentation or script. All of this is a far cry from really being able to win with non-magicians in the real world.
Do you recognize the gap I am talking about? Between magic created for magicians and magic that will charm and delight the whole wide world of non-magicians? What are your special pieces of real-world magic? Also, where do you go to find and learn such material?
For me, I love to study books and videos by what I call “lifers”—people who have been paying the bills for a long time by performing in real-world venues. (For instance, I just finished Al James’s terrific book on restaurant work, Conjuror at the Table, Magic, Inc. 2017). Oh, and when you study these materials, don’t get too focused on the technique. The real-world success of these lifer routines has to do with pretty much everything else.
IN THE STUDIO
When you receive this, I will have just completed two months of big shows and major events—in Las Vegas, on the road, and in my home city of Memphis. After a couple weeks of rest, I will get back to work on a new stage routine (“The Spirit of Houdini”), several close-up pieces, and then set off for New Year appearances in Dallas and beyond.
Recently, Memphis Magazine did a feature story on my work. I thought you might like to read it by clicking here.
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT . . . .
Every morning at 11:00 at the famed Peabody Hotel in Memphis, a group of five or so ducks are escorted from their rooftop roost to a special elevator that goes down to the lobby. From there, they walk on a red carpet to a luxurious fountain where they paddle about all day. At about 5:00 p.m., the ducks walk back to the elevator and go up to their roost. Every day.
It’s just ducks walking, right? Absolutely not! For years, the Peabody has made this their feature attraction.
There is a “Duck Master” who is splendiferously adorned with a red tailcoat, wielding a beautiful cane that sports a hand-carved duck head.
The ducks do not “walk.” Please! They march!,This is, we learn, “The March of the Ducks—a grand Peabody tradition that’s over 85 years old.”
We are told that Presidents have witnessed the procession, from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush.
The lobby and overlooking balcony is mobbed every day: hundreds of people sit there for hours in eager anticipation, spending thousands of dollars on food and drink while they wait.
And then, finally, the Duck Master blows his whistle and the John Philip Souza march begins: it’s time!!
One by one, the ducks jump onto the edge of the fountain and shake off the water. The audience squeals with delight. The ducks waddle down the red carpet to the elevator, the doors close, and the audience bursts into raucous applause and then floods into the surrounding shops for souvenirs.
Every day, twice a day. The Peabody Hotel knows how to make a show.
MYSTERY SCHOOL MINUTE
About every three weeks, the School posts a new short video from me with an idea designed to feed your head and inspire your hands. My most recent one, from early December, is titled “Good Words.” You can view it here.
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
The big news this season has been the release of our two new books: my Life Magic: Ideas and Mysteries and George Parker’s Performing Magic with Impact. The sales have been very strong for both books, and I have been receiving wonderful feedback from readers.
The reviews are just starting to come in. In the November issue of Vanish Magic Magazine, Jeff Christensen gives a detailed description of Life Magic and concludes: “I highly recommend that you pick up this thoughtful book.” With my tongue firmly in my cheek, I recommend you do, too! In light of my previous reflections, I also want to mention that “The Friendship Game” (in chapter 2)—is one of my current real-world workers.
For either of these two new books, and many fine books and exclusive routines, please check out our newly revised, upgraded website.
When this arrives in your inbox, many readers will be at the end of their holiday season and many others will have it front of them. And of course the New Year is not far behind. I wish every one of you a healthy and restful holiday time. I hope you “feel the love” and give the love during these wonderful days.
Thanks for being part of my network. Please share my newsletter and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think.
See you in February with all the latest!
Dean of the McBride Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press