Ringling Bros. Forces Elephants into Retirement

Elephants Doing their Job for the ManWe don’t know where you, dear reader, come down on issues related to animal acts.  No matter what side of the festooned teeter-totter you rest your ideological load; it is interesting to note that Ringling Brothers has announced they are phasing out their use of elephants.

Some see this as a win for animal-rights, others as a passing of a glorious era of circus history.  We prefer to see it as another effort by the Man to suppress the worker.  True, Karl Marx makes only three references to elephants in his Das Kapital (and one of them was a 19th century equivalent of a shout-out (a “Was geht ab, Elefantenmensch?“) to his buddy John Merrick, the so-called Elephant Man).  But Marx saw this coming and warned the proletariat to be hip to what was sure to go down.

Marx pointed out that labor is the essential capital in all economies.  That is axiomatic in all businesses as well.

In a circus – especially a traveling circus – elephants do the lifting and moving of six or seven men.  They wear specially-fitted harnesses to erect tent canvas on the main poles, moved huge sleds of equipment and – if the Disney film is to be believed – put out fires or help humans shower with the spray from their apparently very clean trunks.

If the Man can replace expensive labor with cheaper labor, the costs are realized on the bottom line and the Man wins.  If the more expensive labor is provided by the elephant, the elephant loses.

The elephant has lost its job for the same reason white-collar workers approaching their mid-50s lose their jobs – there are cheaper alternatives.

According to figures we just made up, it costs the same to feed one elephant or seven men.  And unlike elephants, there are no advocacy groups pushing for better treatment of the human labor force.  In fact, psychological studies we are inventing out of whole cloth show that on the spectrum between cute animal and human,  the closer one gets to the human side, the less concern or empathy is felt for the subject.

We are not above the temptations facing the circus and admit we used a variety of animals in our acts over the years.  When we started out, we used doves but found they were of limited value.  They did not help us set-up or tear-down the act, could not (or more likely, would not) lift any objects heavier than twine, often refused to wear the expensive and custom-tailored harnesses we provided and they made a mess at inopportune times in hard to clean places.

We moved to rabbits, then weasels (both alive and dead), then cats, then dogs and finally Portuguese Pot-Bellied Pigs.  All but the last species proved unworthy of our trust.  The pigs were slightly larger than their cousins, the Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pigs, far more industrious and true to their breeding had the ability to sting with their dangling tentacles.  The pigs took to the harness well and were very smart.  In fact, they were so smart that we were forced to discontinue our relationship with them after they subleased our home whilst we were on a business trip, screwed-up our credit by falling for a Nigerian investment scam in our name (either a smart or not so smart move, we’re not sure) and got our new car dented during a late-night Taco Bell run.

The Man wants the lowest cost labor source and will do what is necessary to procure and keep that source.  If it means firing some elephants just before they qualify for pensions, force them to buy insurance on the open market and apply for unemployment insurance, the Man doesn’t care.  There are plenty who will take that job.  If it means hiring younger, less intelligent or experienced animals to do the work for less money and fewer benefits, the Man is all over that idea.

We understand there are 18 elephants currently earning a pay check, three hots and cot from Ringling now set to be turned out to a central Florida pasture.  They likely have not read the news reports and have no clue they are about to be canned.  The circus, it appears, will let them be surprised on that final day.  They’ll be getting ready for the first show and the Ringmaster will stop them as they walk towards the arena entrance, “Whoa, big guy! Where do you think you’re heading? That’s for performers only.”

The elephant will look confused and try to swipe its keycard on the scanner like it had done for so many years only to find he is now locked out.  He will turn towards the Ringmaster and with doe-like eyes seek clarity.

“We’re going in a different direction,” the Ringmaster will say with a somber, conciliatory tone.  “It’s not you. We need to cut costs across the board.  Even I had to take a cut in pay.”

Now the elephant will watch as the other acts file past him to enter the ring to begin the show.  Some will look at the elephant with pity – knowing what is happening – others will look on with confusion.

Perhaps tears will well in the big eyes as the mighty former employee sways and looks longing at the ring, its big ears perking up at the sound of the band beginning the anthem.

Slowly, and predictably without violence or any resistance, the big elephant will turn away from the entrance and walk towards the van in which he will travel to forced retirement.

“Think of it as a blessing,” the Ringmaster will offer for no reason other than to placate his own dark, complicit soul.  “No more early mornings, heavy lifting or late nights.”

The elephant will barely acknowledge the Ringmaster, perhaps leaving a large, appropriate gift in the sawdust behind him as he moves into the brisk air and his new life.  He will likely be pre-occupied with his own feelings of guilt or shame or disappointment or anxiety and will therefore not notice the six or seven new “temp” workers joining the circus on this their first day.

New Magic Prison Drama Close to Reality

Inside Magic Image of CellmateWe are very excited to announce that we are close to wrapping a new deal with an online video service for our series about magicians stuck in a women’s prison.  Black is the New Black will follow the life behind bars of four, formally dressed magicians who are housed in a medium security prison for crimes they likely committed but did for good reasons.

Like Orange is the New Black, Black is the New Black will feature a varied cast of characters designed to touch on the many personalities one can expect to encounter in a women’s prison.  There will be humor, drama and great close-up card routines.

We say we are close to wrapping up the deal because we have a friend who does independent contracting work for one of the big on-line video businesses who said our idea has the interest of some of the people he knows from that company.  Yes, we still need to work out the contractual details but that is the lawyer’s problem.  We are busy working on the pilot episode of what we hope will be a 13 episode purchase.

We need to work out minor concept details such as why four tuxedo-wearing magicians would be imprisoned in a correctional facility that exclusively houses female prisoners who wear prison uniforms.  We also need to develop all of the characters but here is a sneak preview of what we have so far:

The Magicians:

Lord Magique – the putative leader of the four magicians.  Always proper and slightly British with a wry smile and mischievous eye.  He has a rejoinder for every comment and is a master of card tricks.  We see the pilot opening with him enduring the 21-Card Trick as performed by one of the female cellmates and then establishing his dominant role on the prison wing with a devastating Ace Assembly into an Omni Deck.  The Omni Deck will be a bar of soap because glass bricks are forbidden in prisons according to our extensive research.  We’re keeping it real.

Deedle – Lord Magique’s former assistant and now a performer in his own right.  He is subservient but wily.  On the outside, he worked as a street performer and gained internet cred by escaping from dry cleaning bags that were certified as being unsafe for children.  He is a small man with big dreams.

Tray Langston – a descendent of magic royalty.  The fifth in a long-line of great, globe-trotting magicians.  He performs as silent act and maintains his silence even in prison.  His work with doves brings joy, amazement and nourishment to his fellow cellmates.

Vingus the Dingus – on the outside he was a con-artist and on the inside he is no better.  He keeps the crew stocked in the essential supplies that are tough to get in prison; such as cigarettes, thimbles, dice, billiard balls, playing cards, balloons and Oxycontin.  He is the one to know but so tough to know well.

The Guards:

Teresa “The Hun” Hunsucker – tough enough to chew nails and spit the nails made smaller and sharper by her razor sharp teeth.  She is not bright but makes up for it in her no-nonsense spirit.  Her motto, “Take No Prisoners” is both ironic and prophetic.

Wilhelmina “Mena” Schultz – is petite but potent.  She knows what convicts think because she was one herself – for 20 years.  Through a quirk in her work-release, she now guards the women (and magic men) she once lived among.  Nothing gets past her.  She exemplifies Tough Love but without much love.

Flora Fontana – the new girl on the guard’s team.  Flora is fresh out of an ivy-league college with a heart full of hope and a head full of crazy notions.  She had to decide between working with her father’s Wall Street hedge fund or becoming a guard – she choose to follow her dreams.  She falls for some of the oldest tricks in the book – literally – but shows the kind of naïve innocence that is sadly lacking in most modern-day depictions of female prison guards.

Warden P. Neal – to be played by a Paul Lynde type, Warden Neal will be a perfect example of why our prison system is broken.  Vain, egoistic and socially challenged, he will also serve as the perfect comic foil for inmate and wise-cracking guards alike.  Will probably have a really bad toupee too!

Inmates:

Darla Jean – former swimsuit model and now serving time for making illegal copies of Sports Illustrated to send to her extended family.  She is the girl next door if you lived next to the Playboy Mansion.  Not a stereotypical “dumb blonde” because, as she notes, “I am a brunette.”

Wilma Rubble – a former (?) gang member being held as much for her own protection as society’s.  She ratted out her gang’s leader and now she needs to hide among the general population while she does her time.  Each tattooed tear drop on her otherwise angelic face tells a story – some of them hilarious!

Vivian “The Viv” Vandersleet – a debutante with a weakness for formally dressed men and Oxycontin.  She has more in common with Flora than she cares to admit and envies her freedom.  She makes escape attempts each week that would put Houdini to shame.  Need to resolve costuming issues related to her preference for the “preppy perp” look.

Maggie O’Hara – salt of the earth girl with a smile for everyone she meets – likely because of her head injury in a botched prison escape attempt.  She is clumsy, awkward and could come into enormous money upon her release thanks to the life insurance policy she took out on her recently departed husband.

We will, of course, keep you up to date on the progress we make on this sure thing.  It is going to be big and we will be incredibly wealthy, powerful and bejeweled.  We cannot wait.

Jamie Allan Kicks of iMagician Tour with Escape

Inside Magic Image of Jamie AllanMagician Jamie Allan received wonderful press in today’s edition of The South Wales Evening Post.

How do we know that?

Our Welsh neighbor does not wake until noon and when he does, he hardly seems interested in the goings-on of his native land.

That is why we are so familiar with the writing in Evening Post newspaper.  He gets it delivered each morning at 5:30.  We are able to read it with leisure, enjoy our morning Diet Coke (without lime, thank you) and low fat generic pastry strudel fresh from the toaster oven.  We re-assemble it and place it back in front of his apartment door and no one is the wiser.

Usually, the paper has little or no magic news.  But today there was a big write-up about magician Jamie Allan and his perilous escape attempt.  We were hooked and were almost caught when our neighbor woke early – likely because his probation officer was doing an announced visit or one of the many cats he has adopted got into a louder than normal hairball expulsion – and opened the door just as we were dropping the paper.  He looked at us with bleary eyes, seemed relieved that we were not who he feared, took the paper and stepped quickly back into his cat harem of mess and disquiet.

Mr. Allan recently appeared on the UK’s television show “Get Your Act Together” and as a treat for the Evening Post‘s readers, agreed to perform a special escape just for them.  The paper described the stunt as a “death-defying version of Harry Houdini’s lethal but rarely seen water tank routine.”  It is to be performed at the beautiful Gwyn Hall in Neath.

We need to check with John Cox on the history of the escape but the paper claims it has been performed by only a handful of top illusionists since it was invented by the legendary Houdini in 1911.  It is now part of Mr. Allan’s new show, iMagician: The Evolution of Magic.

Mr. Allan told the Evening Post that he had a couple of near-misses during rehearsals but is certain that he is ready to perform it live. “For this particular illusion, it has to be dangerous for it to be exciting. That is what Houdini intended and we have to stick by his principles. So I’m afraid there’s no health and safety rules for me in this act.”

His partner is not excited about him performing the effect and worries for his safety.

“But we can’t remove every element of danger completely which is why it’s such a great favourite with audiences.  But it’s also why it’s rarely performed.”

Assuming he survives the escape, it is a great start to his new UK tour in Yorkshire.

His show includes magic and escapes.  He proudly touts his Virtual Assistant routine wherein a woman “passes in and out of a digital world.”

We hope he and his assistant remain safe within this world and wish him the best of luck on the new tour.

For those of you who do not receive the Evening Post in paper form, you can read more about Mr. Allan at their website here.

Be sure to check out Mr. Allan’s very cool website here: http://www.magicjamie.com.

We have imbedded the YouTube video of his escape below:

Updated: Copperfield to Settle Labor Dispute

Inside Magic Image of World Famous Magician David CopperfieldThe industry news source The Wrap is reporting magician David Copperfield has reached a settlement in the lawsuit brought by former and current employees of his show at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Mr. Copperfield’s people correctly observed, “There are two sides to every story, and even the settlement agreement states that there was no wrong doing.  The Copperfield team settled because they prefer the employees benefit from the money rather than a three year fight where the only people that win are the lawyers.”

We know because we wear the dual hats of magician and lawyer.

A federal judge in Las Vegas provided preliminary approval of a settlement where Mr. Copperfield, Chris Kenner, Diappearing Inc. and other defendants would pay just over $550,000,00.

Fifteen named plaintiffs filed suit just about a year ago claiming they were denied overtime pay that was due to them.

According to The Wrap, the suit accused Copperfield of “consciously implement[ing] a system of coercion and deception aimed at denying employees their rights to overtime pay.”

The settlement would cover the 15 named plaintiffs as well as all “non-exempt present and former employees” who worked with the show between January 2012 and December 2013.

Under the proposed settlement, the defendants — who, in addition to Copperfield, include Chris Kenner, David Copperfield’s Disappearing Inc., Backstage Employment and Referral Inc., and Imagine Nation Company — “continue to deny liability under any of the Plaintiff’s claims.”

If the settlement goes through, class members of the suit would receive “on average $6,355.84 in overtime pay and liquidated damages,” which is “very significant when compared to similar collective action cases,” the motion for preliminary approval of the settlement says.

A fairness hearing for the proposed settlement is scheduled for May 26.

Eric DeCamps in ‘Pure Magic’ Homage to Rene Lavand

Eric DeCampsThe New Jersey Herald reports sleight of hand master Eric DeCamps will be performing his Pure Magic — A Performance of Contemporary Conjuring this Saturday at the Sparta Avenue Stage.

Mr. DeCamps will perform at 7:00 and 9:00 pm dedicated to Argentinian close-up maestro Rene Lavand.  Mr. Levand was a guest on the Ed Sullivan Show and Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show and a true legend in our business.  He passed away last week.

Mr. DeCamps has serious skills as well.  He was The Society of American Magicians’ Magician of the Year and only the second person to receive the Society’s prestigious Gold Medal of Excellence for Close Up Magic.

Mr. Levand was a mentor to Mr. DeCamps.

“He was an inspiration to so many in and out of the world of magic. I admired his artistry, respected him as a person and cherished his advice, friendship and mentorship. I am adding an additional performance piece inspired by Rene’s work. The piece is not part of the original show program. It is one that Rene and I spoke about over the phone. However, much to my sorrow, I never had the opportunity to actually show him the finished piece in performance.”

Pure Magic — A Performance of Contemporary Conjuring is a special Valentine evening edition of the Sparta Avenue Stage’s Friday Night Magic Series. Admission is $20 and  you can learn more about the event at the Sparta Avenue Stage’s website here: www.spartastage.com.

Visit Mr. DeCamps’ website here.