Whit “Pop” Haydn is to Magic what Marconi was to communication. He is a legendary performer with the skills of a ninja and the charm of a religious idol. In a word, we think Mr. Haydn is pretty impressive.
We recently saw his performance for Magnetized Water at The Junkyard in Simi Valley, California (“Simi” is pronounced “see – mee” and not “seh meh” or “Sigh My” as we learned from about five people along the way).
He was in full character as Pop Haydn extolling the virtues of his latest discovery. With illustrated charts and graphs, he explained how Magnetized Water matches up with the body’s own natural polarity. It was a fantastic routine filled with genuine magic and a convincing sales pitch.
Even more exciting, for us, was the well-developed character of Pop himself. He is a treasure from an earlier century who readily admit his inner hustler tendencies but promises to lie only once per show. Once that one lie quota is met, he will shade the truth and perhaps be less than candid but promises to never lie outright. You have to respect an honest con-man.
We met Mr. Haydn aboard a ship decades ago. He was performing for the huddle masses on the luxurious over-sized yacht and even called upon our bride to be his assistant in his famous Four Ring Routine.
We were more excited than she at his choice and her performance. Our beloved eschews the spotlight and despite her elegance on stage, was happy to return to the relative anonymity of our stage-side booth.
“You were on stage with Whit Haydn,” we exclaimed with a mouthful of caviar.
“Who is Whit Haydn? Is he famous?” She asked, dabbing away the delicious roe from our lips, chin and tie.
“He is the man,” we offered proudly.
“Oh, the magician?” She asked.
“Yes. Yes, that is Whit Haydn and you were on stage performing his Four Ring Routine.”
“He seems very nice. Why can’t you do magic like that?”
We admit that she was very young at the time and it was likely the champagne and fluster talking. Nonetheless, she continued to sing his praises throughout the rest of voyage. Despite our natural jealous nature, we could not begrudge her crush-like admiration for Mr. Haydn.
To see Mr. Haydn perform is to forget about magic entirely. We tend to have a critical eye when watching other performers. We are not critical but we do see flaws in sleights that can distract from the overall experience. Mr. Haydn reminded us then – and now – of Dai Vernon or Slydini. Natural without forcing the impression of being natural.
He is at home as Whit Haydn or Pop Haydn and invites you to marvel at the things he shows you just as he marvels at them.
How does one learn to be Whit or Pop Haydn? Surely there must be an easy method to perfecting all of his skill and personality? Can’t one buy a DVD or download to learn every trick and mannerism?
YouTube has about 1,200 videos teaching one how to levitate for friends and webcams so shouldn’t there also be a way to learn to be a master of the craft?
We checked. There is no easy way.
Mr. Haydn just released a book, Stories of a Street Performer, that we hoped would give us everything we needed to become him. He describes his development as a performer in the then-nascent niche of Street Magic. It does not teach us how to be Whit or Pop Haydn but it did teach us very valuable lessons.
He did not have YouTube to teach him how to draw a crowd, avoid law enforcement’s well-intentioned efforts at keeping the sidewalks clear, keeping a crowd or earning his keep. He performed in bars and in front of shops in New York finding what worked and what did not work. His book is a treasure trove for magicians and performers not because of the magic tricks taught but the process he used to develop the tricks and his personality.
He does teach a couple of incredible effects that are more than worth the price of the book. We have used his method of telepathy (Impromptu Card Code: A Routine for the Blind) frequently and with great success. His routine is proven and well-honed by hundreds (maybe thousands) of real-life performances. His take on the classic Squash! inspired us to dig out our prop from the back of the dresser drawer and use it again.
Mr. Haydn’s book is written in a conversational manner – as if you, the reader, was sitting with him at one of The Magic Castle’s many bars. He writes with humility and a humble tone that is hardly what we would expect from someone so accomplished.
Stories of a Street Performer is available through Amazon as a paperback and Kindle version. We bought both and cherish our autographed version of the paperback. We tried to have him sign the e-book but the pen smudged and now we cannot tell what time it is or if someone is calling but it was worthwhile.
This is a must buy for any performer (magician or other) and a wonderful history of a pioneer in the world of Street Magic.