The Blue Ridge Chronicle

November 2012  Ring #320     The Blue Ridge Magicians

 President            Eddie Tobey “Tobini”

Vice President      George Buckley

Treasurer           David Clauss

Sgt. at Arms       Jim Champion

Secretary          Dennis Phillips

The November Meeting is the annual ELECTION of Officers!

Also THINK Christmas Banquet and our annual gift swap and steal!

Ring Report  October 2012  Meeting

October is Trick or Treat month. It is also the month for our annual Swap Meet and Flea Market.  This year again, Mark Fuller from the Roanoke Ring brought up a van load of “treats” with some great prices.  It is fun to have fellowship with a member from another ring. We get to see a different set of tricks!  Also showing was generous George Buckley. He had props, tapes and books to sell but also kindly demonstrated and gave away his original Ring and String routine and his Virginia Shuffle. Brian Bence had a table and he always brings interesting props and routines. Brian showed President Tobey how to bend a large nail with his bare hands. President Tobey also blew the dust off some old props and routines and had a table. Many other members came by for the annual fun. Some in the ring observed the changing nature of magic props. In years past, magic flea markets were filled with brightly colored tubes and red boxes with Chinese dragons. Magic was identified with stage magic and its big chrome rings, silk scarves and splashes of color. Today’s shift in magic equipment is more toward cards, coins and street magic.

Dennis Phillips

 Dennis Deliberations….     

Editorial and Comment

By Dennis Phillips

My recent “Deliberations” about the difficulty of making a full time living with magic and the associated variety arts generated a few suggestions. There were several that offered some good tips on salesmanship and booking shows on a part time basis. These suggestions can also be applied to full time work. Thank you, if you wrote to me.  Brian Bence (Ring #320) offered some great advice. He is a very successful salesman of office document systems.  He stays as busy as he wants doing magic in his local area on a part time basis:

Bryan writes:

Since I have been in outside sales for over 12 years now and in a front line roll with customers for over 25 years… I have learned a few things…

 ■You must have a great product.

■You must believe in your product.

■You must always be personable and enthusiastic.

■You must differentiate you from the competition.

■You must have superior follow up and support after the sale.

■You must be ready to correct any issue immediately.

■You must be involved in the community.

■You must always be ready to ask for a referral!

*Notice how the word YOU is key…the customer doesn’t HAVE to do anything.  Remember the customer doesn’t buy a product or in this case a ”show”…they buy YOU!

Ask yourself these simple questions…

■Did everyone seem to have a good time?

■Did I receive any sincere compliments after the show?

■Did anyone ask for my card after the show?

■Do I feel good about my performance?

■Did I take time to talk with the organizer and others after the show?

■Did I thank my audience and those who hired me?

How many of us follow up with a “Thank You” card after the show?  I try to consistently do this and it is a vital part of the entire process.  Again, making the customer feel special is the key.  I guarantee most or your competition is NOT doing this…just my two cents.

I suspect that being out everyday in the office environment gives him an opportunity to distribute his magic business cards and that helps generate knowledge of his services.

 One other professional I know works several “Kiddy’s Nights” at restaurants as a way to get his business cards out and give previews of his show.  Nothing like getting paid to advertise!

 Another letter was encouraging on the hobbyist part-time angle but very discouraging about the full-time prospects:


 Lot‘s of good advice in your last column…. but it won’t make you a dime as a full time magician..

You’re very right about one thing: If a magician is willing to work 20-50 times harder marketing than doing the show, he may be a success — as a professional marketer!

 Let’s look at music: Does Justin Bieber spend 99 percent of his time and effort hustling up his gigs?

 NO.  Performing artists (singers, bands, dancers, actors) hire agents, managers and a hundred-and-one flunkies to do all that work for them.

 So why are magicians so bent on doing everything themselves?  I’ll tell you why: THEY CARE… BUT THE PUBLIC DOESN’T GIVE A RAT’S POSTERIOR ABOUT MAGIC!

 Not these days. It is a dead and dying art. Its over! What with the Internet, theater movies, television, and thousands of live entertainers (mostly in music) coming in annually, the TRUTH of the matter is that everyone today is SATURATED with entertainment!  The last thing they want to do, in 2012, is go out looking for “vaudeville novelty acts” of a bygone era, which is what magic essentially is.

 I may be wrong here and there with the details, but I think I’m in the ballpark.

 Just look at the Linking Ring Magazine every month: It looks like a “museum piece”, always talking about, and celebrating the PAST! Where are the exciting NEW ideas for 21st century, and beyond? Is the relentless onslaught of technological marvels and distractions making magic of the past OBSOLETE?  I think it is — in the minds of today’s audiences. Genii, Magic Magazine are all living in the past, in a world that no longer exists or all their success stories are in other countries.

 Even musicians are having a heck of a time making a good living these days.  Just look at the people who come on American Idol and the X-Factor: Ultimately they ALL fall by the wayside, to be carved down to ONE winner — who goes on to do well … for about a year or two… and then they disappear. Never to be heard from again.

 Just give it up!  Sure keep a suitcase for an occasional kiddies show if that is what you like to do. Have an attaché case with some mentalism and walk around, but give up the idea of making money with a stage show… It is a waste of your time and talents.  In fact, it is for most decent magicians. Apply all your marking skills to something that will generate a cash return. Johnny Carson went on to make a fortune on talk TV. He could still be doing Hippity-Hop Rabbits and the Die Box in Nebraska.  You are too talented to waste your  time beating the dead horse of magic!

Signed ——

 Wow!  I read that with mixed emotions. What is the classic definition of “mixed emotions’?  Watching your mother-in-law drive your new Mercedes off a cliff! 

 Next a retired professional, who I have known for many years, wrote:


When I was pushing telephone promoted shows (before they became a thing of the past in the 90s) , I realized I was making 10-15k for myself producing the show and another 3k for actually doing the show and doing the show was taking up all my time. I decided that if I were to stay in the business it would make more sense to just pay a local decent magician a couple hundred dollars to do most of the show. I did enough to keep it professional looking.

 Magic, as we knew it is gone.  All the stuff is made in India and China and bought on-line so the brick and mortar shops are gone. Almost all the performing venues have closed. The general magician-illusionist is gone.  If you narrowly specialize in one area you can work.  There are cruise ships and theme parks or having your own resort theater. There is work out of the country, especially in Asia. There is a little corporate convention work still left. You have to find a niche market.

 I like to say that we are back to the 50s. The Internet is this generation’s “television”, the new and emerging technology. The difference is that in the 50s the economy was growing. The emerging reality is that there is little growth in the near future for America. That means less discretionary income for most people and fewer opportunities for a generalized magician to find enough work.

 Signed —–

 The new Internet marketing is done with meta-tags and targeted ways to get a “Search Engine” to bring your name forward. Find any book you can on optimizing the hits your website gets from search engines.

When someone types your city or regional area and the term “magician” you want Google to put you on the first page. It is almost a full time job managing it all…When you learn that skill, you can make a whole lot of money selling your Internet services as well as magic show!

 But also you need twitter, and every social media plus a Facebook Fan Page. 

 Like many pro-magicians tell me: “Why do magic? You can make far more money just selling something that most people want. One Canadian Magician who I have known for a long time moved into being a stage hypnotist.  THAT was very big in Canada, if you know the Peter Reveen story.  Now my friend  is no longer doing stage work but selling Hypnotism as a “Stop Smoking” technique. He is doing very well!  He is doing it mostly over the Internet!   The thought of watching your computer screen and being hypnotized is eerie.  He has a web-site with embedded videos accessed through a password that you buy. Most of his techniques are canned and managed by his server.

 Most of the best magicians who love to entertain disdain tossing around baloney. They can’t compete with the hustlers who know the marketing angles. Many got sick of designing and printing and sending out large mailings (weeks of labor) always having to think of different ways every Christmas season to tell people how great they are, when all they wanted to do was SHOW them. They got sick of knowing that 99 percent of the brochures were just put directly into the garbage.

Think about it!  Musicians never have the job of bragging about how well they can play an instrument, or sing, just to get the work. That doesn’t make a lick of sense.

That’s why so many burnt-out magicians near the end of their careers start doing the mail-order Internet magic thing, or lecturing and writing. The big challenge is not to end up late in life bitter, cynical, and angry with the world — and yourself!

 I have known far too many magician-illusionists who had nothing else as a line of work and ended up crawling inside of a bottle and drowning themselves in liquid destruction. Some hustled all the way to an old age in bitter poverty.

I wonder how David Ginn, the respected super-hustler, got through living in his area of the country without everyone there getting sick-and-tired of his constant mailings, year after year after year.  But even he had to supplement his income by regurgitating everything he created, and knew, to the magic world throughout his entire adult life. Ginn does offer value in all that he does and that is one key to survival. It is obvious that he loves what he does.

 I am reminded on the long slow demise of one of the greatest illusionists, Servais Le Roy. He first performed his now classic Asrah levitation in London in 1914. It is the perfect illusion and the best levitation in the history of magic. I can be seen performing it on You Tube:   

 The female assistant lies on a couch and Servais covers her with a sheet. She then rises into the air, and finally the sheet is pulled away to reveal that she has vanished. Le Roy is also credited with developing the Modern Cabinet, the Palanquin and the Costume Trunk illusions. These are all classic illusions that I have built and performed.

 In William Rauscher’s book about Servais Leroy, “Monarch of Mystery”, on October 19, 1930, Le Roy was hit by a car walking across the street in Matawan, New Jersey. He was in the hospital with multiple injuries for nine days. He partially recovered and continued to invent, create and occasionally perform. By 1930, vaudeville and the large traveling illusion show was fading into history. A few niche performers (Blackstone, Willard, Calvert, Virgil) lasted beyond Thurston and Carter’s deaths in the mid 30s. 

 On June 6, 1940, at the age of 75, Leroy performed his full evening show at the Heckscher Theatre in New York City. LeRoy was performing for the first time in years. His show and performing style was horribly outdated. His physical ability was greatly diminished.  Having only a single rehearsal with a new and inexperienced crew, the show was a disaster.

 Le Roy’s show and props ended up quietly rotting away in his small garage and back yard in Keansburg, New Jersey. In 1949 the worthless remains of his once great show was hauled away as trash. Life ended for Servais Leroy in 1953, not with a bang but as the end of long slow downward less-than-magical demise. 

 He never realized any profit, in his lifetime, from his creativity but his creations live on and continue to be performed.

 Dennis Phillips







About blueridgemagiciansring320

Secretary of Ring 320 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians located in the Western Virginia.
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