Our Point: Help Your Brother or Sister Magician

 

How Could We Ask Her?

The Pittsburgh Live website carries a pithy but nice feature on magician Gregor Strucaly and his introduction to our art. But it also teaches us all a valuable lesson about being available for our brother or sister magician with a word of support.

The article begins with the blow-by-blow depiction of his transformation from serious to comedic magic.

In 1991, Mr. Strucaly contested for the top prize at the prestigious Magi-Fest in Columbus, Ohio. He planned to perform his version — a serious version — of the Rabbit from the Hat. The trick was to be done just like he had rehearsed it with the rabbit a week before.

The reporter picks up the action :< /p>

He displayed the empty top hat to the audience. He reached in for the fur ball and — presto!

But it didn’t come out. It was stuck.

“One leg falls out and starts kicking,” Strucaly said. “The audience roars with laughter. I turned the hat upside down and tried to shake him out. I was nervous as all heck, not knowing what the heck I’m going to do.”

With nothing else to do and a lump forming in his throat, he turned it into a comedy act — he rolled his eyes a few times.

He eventually got the rabbit out — after threatening to cook him.

Strucaly got enthusiastic cheers for the recovery.

“Other magicians came up and said, ‘How did you train your rabbit so well?’ I said, ‘We’ve been working on that for months.'”

Mr. Strucaly did not win that night. But he did learn to experiment with humor, and he did receive a meaningful word of support from one of his fellow magicians. “Ray Wozniak, a mentor from the International Brotherhood of Magicians chapter in Greensburg, saw in Strucaly a natural gift. Wozniak urged Strucaly to stick with the comedy.”

How important was Mr. Wozniak’s vote of confidence?

How often have we watched a fellow performer stretch a bit, and perhaps not fail but not succeed? We are all sufficiently well-trained in our art to criticize or admonish a brother or sister. Are we also competent in the very important human skills sufficient to build-up and support?

1913, a young man was trying his hand at picking locks as entertainment. By all accounts, he worked just as hard studying the locks and handcuffs each evening as he did at his day job in the garment factory. After studying, practicing, and developing his techniques, he decided it was time to try his act out on the road. He had some experience performing magic in front of audiences — in that way he was like Mr. Strucaly. He previously tried the professional ranks with his card manipulation act but found little reward. The handcuffs and lock picking would be a stretch for the young man — a move into a new arena of magic.

As he took the stage at the Keith’s Theater in New York City, his hands trembled, his brow was drenched in the…

 

How Could We Ask Her?

The Pittsburgh Live website carries a pithy but nice feature on magician Gregor Strucaly and his introduction to our art. But it also teaches us all a valuable lesson about being available for our brother or sister magician with a word of support.

The article begins with the blow-by-blow depiction of his transformation from serious to comedic magic.

In 1991, Mr. Strucaly contested for the top prize at the prestigious Magi-Fest in Columbus, Ohio. He planned to perform his version — a serious version — of the Rabbit from the Hat. The trick was to be done just like he had rehearsed it with the rabbit a week before.

The reporter picks up the action :< /p>

He displayed the empty top hat to the audience. He reached in for the fur ball and — presto!

But it didn’t come out. It was stuck.

“One leg falls out and starts kicking,” Strucaly said. “The audience roars with laughter. I turned the hat upside down and tried to shake him out. I was nervous as all heck, not knowing what the heck I’m going to do.”

With nothing else to do and a lump forming in his throat, he turned it into a comedy act — he rolled his eyes a few times.

He eventually got the rabbit out — after threatening to cook him.

Strucaly got enthusiastic cheers for the recovery.

“Other magicians came up and said, ‘How did you train your rabbit so well?’ I said, ‘We’ve been working on that for months.'”

Mr. Strucaly did not win that night. But he did learn to experiment with humor, and he did receive a meaningful word of support from one of his fellow magicians. “Ray Wozniak, a mentor from the International Brotherhood of Magicians chapter in Greensburg, saw in Strucaly a natural gift. Wozniak urged Strucaly to stick with the comedy.”

How important was Mr. Wozniak’s vote of confidence?

How often have we watched a fellow performer stretch a bit, and perhaps not fail but not succeed? We are all sufficiently well-trained in our art to criticize or admonish a brother or sister. Are we also competent in the very important human skills sufficient to build-up and support?

1913, a young man was trying his hand at picking locks as entertainment. By all accounts, he worked just as hard studying the locks and handcuffs each evening as he did at his day job in the garment factory. After studying, practicing, and developing his techniques, he decided it was time to try his act out on the road. He had some experience performing magic in front of audiences — in that way he was like Mr. Strucaly. He previously tried the professional ranks with his card manipulation act but found little reward. The handcuffs and lock picking would be a stretch for the young man — a move into a new arena of magic.

As he took the stage at the Keith’s Theater in New York City, his hands trembled, his brow was drenched in the nervous perspiration he had hoped to hide and now only tried to keep from his eyes. His voice warbled slightly as he walked to the front of the stage and made his offered his challenge to any member of the audience to bind him in such a manner to make escape impossible.

The young man looked into the crowd and in the front row saw the kind faces of his friends. Some of the other members of their de facto magic club were in attendance that night. He was no longer performing for strangers, he was among friends.

While history records only the victories because the victors write history, the human heart and the pulse of humanity carry the stories of minor triumphs that appear as losses. The young man’s act did not go as planned that evening and certainly no one could have guessed the second-hand version of the Milk Can Escape would jam at a crucial moment. But as a friend noted in the eulogy given two days later, “we’d told him a million times to stick with cards; but oh, no. He’d say, “I know everything. I’m the next Houdini.”

That story doesn’t really make the point we thought it made when we read it in on blog about tragic watery deaths of the inexplicably haughty and arrogant. (www.drownthedork.com). But you understand the point. We should be there for our brother or sister and support them.

We’re reminded of a comment attributed to Thurston about his time under Kellar: “Mr. Kellar was always there.”

Granted, this statement was part of Mr. Thurston’s sworn testimony given in the very first stalking case in California, State of California vs. Harry Kellar (Magician) .

But if you read the quote only and divorce from your mind the very disturbing image of the bald senior magician, on his hands and knees, crawling through the bushes around the Thurston cottage in what is now West Hollywood and barking like a dog when he feared detection, it is a good quote.

And that really is our point. It is not where something comes from, it is what it appears to be. So, it doesn’t matter that the quote came from the testimony of a thinner and more hairy magician against a larger, less hairy magician. What matters is that the quote has meaning for us.

The recently departed Prince Rainier III of Monaco — a great patron of our art — said it best though: “A magician is only as good as the magicians who stand behind him and support him with their caring hands.”

There are no doubt purists schooled in the Monaco language or whatever those people talk over there, who will take issue with the translation. We don’t care. We prefer our version over the more popular and accurate but somewhat seedy, prurient rendition evoking images of Turkish steam-baths with men who have “no wrinkles” on their hands.

And that best demonstrates our main point. You are only as good as you think you are. So if someone tells you are no good and you believe that person, you’ll likely be no good. If on the other hand, someone compliments you, and you internalize the praise, you will likely be great. David Copperfield was once asked how he got up the nerve to ask out someone as beautiful as Claudia Schiffer. His answer is instructive:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And I was sure that at sometime in her life someone had told her she was not beautiful, not stunning. I knew she could not be as sure of her beauty as we might think and that she was, probably, just like you and me — except she was a girl and taller. I told myself that if I could just make the first move, I had a chance. I figured she had probably never been asked out because men thought she was “too beautiful.”

So, I decided to break the mold and try to meet the real Claudia, the woman who had known insecurity, had worried about acne, wasn’t sure her figure would come together in time for her prom, or whatever those people have for a dance in high school. I took a deep breath, remembered we are all the same, picked up the phone and had my agent get in touch with her management group for a photo op.

Haven’t we all been there? Don’t we know what it is like to feel the anxiety of a young man or woman on their first date (with someone outside their immediate family) where manners and etiquette will matter? Our stomachs are filled with the frenetic collisions of a thousand butterflies on crack rock. Our head is spinning faster than a two-bit politician caught in some tawdry scandal involving degenerate hand puppets and what can only be described as non-petroleum-based augmenter.

We’ve all been there. We stand on stage; we look to the crowd and hope to see friends. Maybe they are friends we have never met before — but they’ll be our friends this night, this special night.

And not like the kind of friends you’ve never met before but who offer to be your friend for the night while you are in Vegas checking out some magic seminar or something.

We’re talking real friends. The type of friends who will gently grasp what is left of your burned costume and help you to a standing position. Even if you couldn’t say a word of thinks, they’d know and they’d nod. They certainly would be right to say, “you put too much lighter fluid in the pan, idiot” but they don’t. They suggest you put some petroleum-based salve on your burns, throw your shoulders back, take up what’s left of your wand, and continue on towards your dream — or, if the burns are really bad, to “go towards the light.”

Magic is like a big quilt of many different patches. Some of us are cotton patches handed down from family to family. Like being a fourth generation of the magical Hardy family. We’ve been through the wash and dry cycle and no matter how we’re attached to the other patches; we will not shrink or fade. We will remain strong and constant for the other, newer patches around us. Maybe you’d see a patch made out of rayon, or some other man-made synthetic, looking for a place to be attached. Looking for a friend.

You know by linking up with fake fabric, you risk being seen as something less than the stellar cotton patch you are but you also know you need to stretch to grow. When the quilt gets wet, being attached to the fake fabric will you to your breaking point, but you don’t care. You may lose your respect, pride, and assets you assumed were protected by a pre-nuptial agreement, but you don’t care. You have a friend. You have a synthetic, fake friend. Your friend looks better than the cloth pieces your family told you to hook up with. You know that because of the synthetics, your new friend will never change — she’ll always look the same because none of it is real. The cheap, fake fabric is attractive, though. You like that fake look. You know there is nothing there but petrochemical strands bound by some scientist in Delaware but, darn, it’s good looking strands and they’re bound just the way you like it.

We’re getting far a field, it seems.

Our point was simple but somehow we got side-tracked into seductive pieces of material yanking us all over some place where quilts normally rest. We guess that would be a “bed.”

Our simple point boils down to just this: be there for your brother or sister. Help them to be the best magician they can be and if they are better than you, maybe they will take your example to heart and offer you help. In that way, the cycle is complete.

But if they forget about how you helped when they were down, uneasy and just starting out; you will have the satisfaction of knowing you did the right thing. Plus, you’ll have all sorts of dirt on them about how pathetic they were and how they couldn’t remember which door to open on a Fraidy Cat Rabbit even with Post-It Notes on the handles. Memory of their girly-like tears of embarrassment after their failed shows will flow to your ultimate benefit.

We’ll be recording this and our other encouraging messages for distribution on our monthly Taped-Message of Magic of the Mind. If you are not already a member of our club (and we now use CDs but haven’t changed the name because we have stacks of envelopes with the old name), you can sign-up on this very website.

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