One of our heroes, United States Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo said, “Life in all its fullness must provide the answer to the riddle.” Welch v. Helvering, 290 U.S. 111 (1933).
The Welch case considered whether a taxpayer could deduct as an expense debts he paid on behalf of his bankrupt former employer. Mr. Welch claimed by paying the debts, he would improve his reputation among his customers.
Reputation is important to individual magicians and to our art as a whole. Events on Britain’s Got Talent caused magicians and lay commentators concern about our craft’s reputation.
Given that tease, let’s dive into the whirlwind that is the United Kingdom live television series, Britain’s Got Talent.
We understand from the often interesting and occasionally accurate London tabloid, The Sun, that at least one of our ilk remains in the running for the big money and fame.
Merlin Cadogan was photographed betting a cool 50 pounds on himself as the likely winner of the ITV series. He stands to win a whole bunch of money if he is right. Ladbrooke’s pegged his odds at 50-to-1.
So, let’s see: that is 50 times 50 pounds plus the original 50, for a total of something like, approximately, 25 million pounds or 250 or 25,000. We are never sure where the decimal goes when multiplying two or three digit numbers. Plus, with the conversion from British Pounds Sterling to U.S. moolah, that is approximately a wad and a half or roughly six standard fistfuls.
Regardless of the exact amount, Merlin told reporters he intends to give it all to charity.
Some might suggest he wants to sway public opinion in his favor by announcing his eleemosynary intentions but his willingness to contribute earnings from other stunts convinces us of his sincerity.
Merlin told The Sun reporter “he risks death every time he performs.”
We, on the other hand, can induce a feeling in the audience that is clinically similar to death or deep coma.
On Saturday night’s show, Merlin performed an interesting, non-store-bought escape. He escaped from chains while wearing a deep-sea diver’s helmet filled with water. The image we have posted comes from The Sun. If you look closely, it appears he is also juggling whilst wearing the helmet filled with water.
He plans to bring his career even closer to ending with a tragic finish with a unique escape. He will be raising money for a local hospice.
He told The Sun, “I’m going to be tied with chains to a chair on a beach in North Devon. For three whole days the tide will come in and go out, covering me in water, a total of six times. On the third day, I’ll escape and swim to the surface.”
All of this comes as one of the show’s judges, Piers Morgan , “moaned about the quality of the magicians on Britain’s Got Talent.”
Before the auditions for the latest season, he told reporters (again for The Sun), “I’ve seen some great magic acts and we’re all aware of people like David Blaine and David Copperfield, and we’ve seen nothing like that on Britain’s Got Talent in three years.
“I don’t know where they are, or whether they’re scared because we have a sort of anti-magician feel to the show.”
Paul Daniels knows something about great magic on television. He provided exactly that with his BBC-Television series, The Paul Daniels Magic Show from 1979 to 1994.
Last year, he criticized the selection of performers for Britain’s Got Talent on his blog. The Sun reprinted the comments in the May 30, 2008 edition of their easy-to-read newspaper.
Tonight we are to pass opinions on Britain’s Got Talent, a show that seems designed to show that in the main Britain hasn’t.
It is such a shame that they concentrate so much on showing us really bad specially-picked acts when the truth is that there are more than enough people who ARE really talented and will never be seen.
Returning to Justice Cardozo’s observation about life providing answers long sought, perhaps we will one day understand why outstanding performers are passed up for less-qualified ones. Mr. Daniels and Mr. Piers correctly observe that it only serves to tarnish the reputation of all magicians.
Justice Cardozo rejected Mr. Welch’s appeal and correctly observed:
Reputation and learning are akin to capital assets, like the good will of an old partnership. For many, they are the only tools with which to hew a pathway to success. The money spent in acquiring them is well and wisely spent.
Welch, 290 U.S. at 115-116 (citations omitted).
What a shame if Magic’s goodwill and reputation are diminished through the poor selection of contestants to a wildly popular television series.