The Guilt of the Semi-Pro Magician

The Show Ended Around Easter

I am sitting by the gate in Calgary on my way back to the United States and have been searched beyond repair and recognition but that is fine by me.  In fact, I offered one of the security folks that I am more than happy to consent to a full body, cavity search. 

 

They declined even though I offered to supply the examination gloves ? I think I have a latex allergy so it?s better to be prepared than have a bad rash to help remember an awkward security procedure. 

 

Read On . . .

 

I tried again with another person I mistook as a guard and apparently have caused some sort of international incident by allegedly propositioning the equivalent of a Den Mother from Holland.  I have much to learn but I have learned much. 

 

Penn & Teller?s comments at the recent Magic Live seminar are the reason for today?s ramblings.  I have been thinking about their approach to performing magic since their address in Vegas two weeks ago.  Their argument ? if you want to be a professional magician, you must be a professional magician ? makes sense on so many levels.  It condemns and encourages me. 

 

Usually I run from such hackneyed truisms like the Pillsbury Doughboy runs screaming like a Pillsbury Doughgirl from an unimaginative pastry chef. But the duo went on to explain by examples from their own career.

 

They resolved early on to not perform for ?drunks? and to never, ever accept a day job. They also resolved to seek out opportunities to build their ?flight-time.? Their desire to learn by being on real stages in…

The Show Ended Around Easter

I am sitting by the gate in Calgary on my way back to the United States and have been searched beyond repair and recognition but that is fine by me.  In fact, I offered one of the security folks that I am more than happy to consent to a full body, cavity search. 

 

They declined even though I offered to supply the examination gloves ? I think I have a latex allergy so it?s better to be prepared than have a bad rash to help remember an awkward security procedure. 

 

Read On . . .

 

I tried again with another person I mistook as a guard and apparently have caused some sort of international incident by allegedly propositioning the equivalent of a Den Mother from Holland.  I have much to learn but I have learned much. 

 

Penn & Teller?s comments at the recent Magic Live seminar are the reason for today?s ramblings.  I have been thinking about their approach to performing magic since their address in Vegas two weeks ago.  Their argument ? if you want to be a professional magician, you must be a professional magician ? makes sense on so many levels.  It condemns and encourages me. 

 

Usually I run from such hackneyed truisms like the Pillsbury Doughboy runs screaming like a Pillsbury Doughgirl from an unimaginative pastry chef. But the duo went on to explain by examples from their own career.

 

They resolved early on to not perform for ?drunks? and to never, ever accept a day job. They also resolved to seek out opportunities to build their ?flight-time.? Their desire to learn by being on real stages in front of real audiences meant they would take almost any performance opportunity, anywhere. 

 

In his role as moderator, Mac King commented that he agreed with the ?flight-time? analogy.  

 

They described how they?d pack up their B210 station wagon and hit the road to do shows wherever and as often as they were possible.  They found that the money came to them as they were willing to take on shows ? a novel concept.  By vowing to make their money only from their magic, they were forced to perform often and improve.  

 

The notion of ?flight-time? makes sense to me.  The pilot sitting next to me must have thousands of hours booked that have allowed him to see almost every circumstance, every emergency, every stretch of boredom, and the experience to know the difference.  He knows when he should be worried about a ?funny noise? or just laugh along with the inappropriate sound or say ?excuse me.? 

 

Mom, on Way to D.C.

As a trial lawyer, we had a rule of thumb that until you?ve tried 25 cases in front of a jury, you were still a rookie.  An old Southern Judge told me at the start of my practice, ?Son (he wasn?t my daddy, it?s just a term of endearment, I think) until you?ve tried 25 cases, a bomb could go off in the courtroom and you wouldn?t notice.?  (I am pretty sure that judge was not my daddy.  He was appointed by Eisenhower and my mom hated Eisenhower?s Kansas roots and his Vice President.)

 

I said earlier that Penn & Teller?s comments not only encouraged me but also condemned.  If I consider myself a magician ? and I do ? shouldn?t I be doing it full-time?  Can there be a part-time magician? 

 

I haven?t figured that part out yet.  It seems that there are professional magicians like Penn & Teller, Mac King, Lance Burton, Trixie Bond, David Copperfield and Whit Haydn; and there are hobbyists like me, and anyone who is not part of the above list or who do not derive 100 percent of their income from the performance of magic. 

 

 There is a dramatic drop-off from Professional to Semi-Professional but almost no difference between Semi-Professional and Hobbyist.  I do not think Lance Burton worries about what he will do if that whole Monte Carlo thing dries up.  Penn & Teller commented that because they derive all of their essential income from live performances, anything other than the live performance revenue is gravy. 

 

A professional airline pilot ? like the one next to me, finishing his third bourbon (straight-up) ? cannot just walk away from his job during his performance.  (Actually, I don?t know if this pilot next to me can walk away from the bar, much less his job). 

 

You are smarter than I am and certainly more disciplined.  The only way I could ever get good at anything was to be forced to practice for fear of public embarrassment.  I learned to use a Palmo Ball because my partner decided it would help end a segment of our act.  I thought I knew how to use a Palmo Ball and could even fool myself in the mirror.  It was a different story once I was on stage in front of our rehearsal audience.  I flashed more times than I care to admit; and I care to admit my flashing as much as the next guy ? but not the pilot.  

 

I haven?t told my wife and kids yet but I am debating whether I should just let the house go into foreclosure, buy a van, get a couple of big illusions and hit the road.  Sure, we?d starve for a while, or a couple of years; but the flight-time would eventually train me to either perform in an entertaining manner, or to go without the allegedly appropriate dental and medical attention.   

 

I am joking of course.  There is little chance I will be able to convince my family to leave the affluent indulgences we have here in Mystic Hollow like color television, water, basic cable, or the sound of small arms fire from the double-wide next door.  Perhaps it is a choice I should have made years ago; before I took out the student loans.  

 

I am inspired, though by the people who have taken the leap without looking back.  Rick and Suzan Wilcox mustered up their courage and credit to buy an abandoned theater in the Wisconsin Dells where they perform their stage and close-up magic.  Buying, advertising and running the theater were daunting tasks.  They did not have a large cushion of cash to help them should the theater fail.  Fortunately, their new mortgage provided daily motivation to be the best performers in the theater they were personally refurbishing.  

 

The Show Ended Around Easter

I admire people like Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox.  I don?t envy being under the pressure they have accepted but I know they love what they are doing.  My world tends to be black and white with never any gray.  Somehow, though, I have to find peace in my middle-ground position.  I am not a professional and I do not log the flight-time one would expect of a professional like the duos Penn & Teller and Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox.  In my black and white world, this means I am short-changing my craft and removing the motivation I need to constantly improve.  

 

It is hard to admit but I am willing to say it here: I am not Lance Burton and because I am not willing to hit the road like Penn & Teller or invest my life?s savings into a theater like Rick and Suzan Wilcox, I will never get the practice or motivation to be like Lance Burton.  There, I said it.  I?m not happy about it, though.  

 

I have to wake up the pilot and help him to our flight.  It?s time to go. 

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