Fraud and Fun

I read an interesting statistic this morning. According to some study, only 17 percent of magicians admit to using their magic skills to bilk money from unsuspecting saps. The study didn't say "unsuspecting saps" but my word processor suggested "unsuspecting saps" when I typed in "innocent victims."

I spoke with a magic friend of mine about this statistic and his reaction was contrary to mine. He thought the figure was too small and I thought it was too high. He reasoned that every time a magician does a show without adequate practice that is using magic to take money from their clients.

Oh, I said, if you're going to interpret it that way, I agree. If you mean that you are using sleight of hand or faux-psychic powers to take money outside of a show, I think it is much lower than 17 percent.

My friend reminded me of a mutual friend who used her mentalism tricks to make money doing Psychic House Parties (this was before they invented Botox and the Botox House Party concept).

Technically, a house party psychic isn't "duping any saps," just providing entertainment. Our friend went a little further than just entertaining tarot readings, though. She would sell subsequent one-on-one sessions to some of the guests that appeared wealthy and gullible.

This line of work became so lucrative that she quit her law practice and just worked the house party circuit. None of her private clients objected to her bills and they all seemed to find the readings accurate enough to refer her to other clients.

On the other paw, there are plenty of magicians out there would never use the faux-psychic routine because they would recognize it as unethical or close to fraud. I say close to fraud because there has to be some latitude on the issue of fraud versus entertainment.

I know I am defensive on the issue because of my recent past of entertaining on ships. I just got done with two months on the water; performing three times a day, six days a week. Now, to get additional bookings, I told customers that I was performing on ships but I didn't tell them the whole truth.

I couldn't get on any of the cruise lines – because their cruise directors are all snobs hooked into the old-boy's club famous for demanding that a performer have what they call an "act." You have to perform magic in the same way each show to prove you have an act and not just a collection of tricks.

Anyway, so I performed on barges in the Great Lakes shipping channels. I worked from Lake Michigan to Lake Ontario on barges hauling coal, ingot, scrap steel, heating oil, and trash. Because the crew of a Great Lakes Barge is usually no more than 25 men, doing three shows a day for six days a week can get boring.

If you do the same tricks each time you perform like the so-called "professionals" with their "professional acts," the guys will burn out. You could take T. Nelson Downs and shove him aboard of the Lady of the Lakes (coal tender) and after the second show, the boys would toss him…

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I read an interesting statistic this morning. According to some study, only 17 percent of magicians admit to using their magic skills to bilk money from unsuspecting saps. The study didn't say "unsuspecting saps" but my word processor suggested "unsuspecting saps" when I typed in "innocent victims."

I spoke with a magic friend of mine about this statistic and his reaction was contrary to mine. He thought the figure was too small and I thought it was too high. He reasoned that every time a magician does a show without adequate practice that is using magic to take money from their clients.

Oh, I said, if you're going to interpret it that way, I agree. If you mean that you are using sleight of hand or faux-psychic powers to take money outside of a show, I think it is much lower than 17 percent.

My friend reminded me of a mutual friend who used her mentalism tricks to make money doing Psychic House Parties (this was before they invented Botox and the Botox House Party concept).

Technically, a house party psychic isn't "duping any saps," just providing entertainment. Our friend went a little further than just entertaining tarot readings, though. She would sell subsequent one-on-one sessions to some of the guests that appeared wealthy and gullible.

This line of work became so lucrative that she quit her law practice and just worked the house party circuit. None of her private clients objected to her bills and they all seemed to find the readings accurate enough to refer her to other clients.

On the other paw, there are plenty of magicians out there would never use the faux-psychic routine because they would recognize it as unethical or close to fraud. I say close to fraud because there has to be some latitude on the issue of fraud versus entertainment.

I know I am defensive on the issue because of my recent past of entertaining on ships. I just got done with two months on the water; performing three times a day, six days a week. Now, to get additional bookings, I told customers that I was performing on ships but I didn't tell them the whole truth.

I couldn't get on any of the cruise lines – because their cruise directors are all snobs hooked into the old-boy's club famous for demanding that a performer have what they call an "act." You have to perform magic in the same way each show to prove you have an act and not just a collection of tricks.

Anyway, so I performed on barges in the Great Lakes shipping channels. I worked from Lake Michigan to Lake Ontario on barges hauling coal, ingot, scrap steel, heating oil, and trash. Because the crew of a Great Lakes Barge is usually no more than 25 men, doing three shows a day for six days a week can get boring.

If you do the same tricks each time you perform like the so-called "professionals" with their "professional acts," the guys will burn out. You could take T. Nelson Downs and shove him aboard of the Lady of the Lakes (coal tender) and after the second show, the boys would toss him and his coin pail over the side.

When I am pressed by booking agents on my shipboard magic experience, I usually engage in a healthy bit of "puffery."

 

 

Booking Agent: So you worked cruise lines?

 

Me: Sure, yeah. I worked on lines that cruised.

 

 

Booking Agent: What ships did you work?

 

Me: What do you mean?

 

Booking Agent: You know, what were the names of the ships you worked?

Me: When?

 

Booking Agent: When you were doing magic on cruise lines.

Me: I only worked one cruise ship at a time, I never worked two or more cruise lines simultaneously. They were usually separated by huge bodies of water and I am not really a true magician that can magically teleport himself to other ships.

 

 

Booking Agent: I am not making my self clear.

Me: No, I like girls.

 

 

 

Booking Agent: What?

 

Me: I thought you said I was a . . . Never mind.

 

 

Booking Agent: Tell me the name of one ship you worked on.

 

Me: The Edmund Fitzgerald.

 

 

Booking Agent: The "Edmund Fitzgerald"? Are you sure?

 

Me: You need to get out more.

 

 

Booking Agent: I do get out. I have been booking cruise ships for the last 20 years.

 

Me: I don't know why you are getting all defensive. I am only trying to help you.

 

 

Booking Agent: I am not being defensive. How long were you on the Edmund Fitzgerald?

 

Me: Plenty long. Put it this way, I only pack for three days and by the time I got off the Edmund Fitzgerald, I was chafing, in big pain and smelled like the floor of a bar.

 

 

Booking Agent: So, what were the ports of call?

 

Me: Oh, you know, we'd sail to different ports and areas; here and there, to and fro.

 

 

Booking Agent: Did you go to the Caribbean?

 

Me: Yes.

 

 

Booking Agent: On a ship that you did magic on?

 

Me: What?

 

 

Booking Agent: Did you perform on a Caribbean-bound ship?

 

 

Me: I just told you I was chaffing because I had to wear my tuxedo for three weeks. Doesn't that answer your question?

 

 

 

Booking Agent: No, not really. What does chafing have to do with a Caribbean itinerary?

 

Me: I give up, what does chafing have to do with a Caribbean itinerary?

 

You get the point. I know that not all magicians are as glib as me and they may lack the confidence to lie to get a job, fearing that "someone will find out" or "they'll catch me." But that does not mean what I do is unethical.

I am just like my psychic home party friend: I am telling people what they want to hear. She doesn't really communicate with the dead to advise on issues of the heart, she just says she does.

I don't really have any experience in performing for more than one or two people at any one time, but the booking agents don't want to hear that. They want to hear that I did two months on the Queen Elizabeth II and ten years at the Monte Carlo in Vegas.

They want to hear it, I tell it, and they pay me. My friend's clients want to hear that their cat has channeled over the River Styx to forgive the clients for backing over them in the driveway; or that Moses believes they should wear more "Autumn Colors"; or that Elvis watches them when they shower.

So, one man's fraud is another man's marketing plan. Would your client really want to tell the gathered audience at the next trade show:

"Our magician comes to us directly from the coal barges floating up and down the St. Lawrence Seaway and has barely practiced most of the store-bought tricks he is about to show you tonight. But, he put them all together and they fill about twenty-five minutes; so put your hands together for . . ."

 

Here is my standard introduction. I send it to my clients before we even close the deal because it helps to push them over the edge. You can use it if you'd like.

Tim Quinlan has been performing for more than fifty-years. He comes from a long line of magicians and is the grandson of the great Harry Houdini. He comes to us direct from his record-breaking run at The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. Siegfried and Roy worked as Tim's opening act.

 

He has invented every major illusion performed today and starred on several network television shows and films such as: Dukes of Hazard; American Idol; Gone with the Wind; and his Oscar winning role as Max the Hall Monitor in the ABC After-School Special: Why Do I Feel So Weird? The Puberty Tales.

 

So, put your hands together and get ready to be amazed by the act Nobel Prize Committee recently called "spectacular."

That's just me, though. Your approach may differ.

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