Prison Was Too Good for Her – Our Take on the Tony Spain Fracas

Inside Magic Image of Favorite Melvin the Magician

Inside Magic’s home base is and has always been in beautiful Mystic Hollow, Michigan.

We are stone’s throw from several other hubs of performing arts, including Puppeton, Michigan (home of the Hand Puppet Capital of the World); Nodrop, Indiana (Home of the Ball Juggling Mecca); Meltmouth, Massachusetts (Fire Eating’s Home on this big blue marble); Bisect, Arizona (the Razor High Wire practitioners’ gathering spot); and Mushgrin, Iowa (The Royal Order of Her Majesty’s Mouth Catchers of Croquet Balls built the first non-UK facility there).

We are not on the payroll of any town mentioned. Indeed, there are some in each of the above hamlets who would prefer their special gathering place remain secret and thereby more special. Each of the towns offer a wonderful opportunity to meet and greet our fellow (and the feminine form of “fellow,” fella) performers in a non-threatening setting.

In modern society, it is considered gauche for one’s breath to smell of paraffin, in Meltmouth it is expected. “It is a strange character indeed,” wrote Chris Flagler in a 1937 edition of The Meltmouth Daily Telegraph, “to encounter a citizen of this town who sports not a single blister on their lips or tongue.” There are few brave enough to brush one’s teeth with anything other than a regulation toothbrush. In Mushgrin, Iowa, you will likely not find a single such dental tool in any shop up and down the High Road. In Mushgrin, most people use a cloth towel imbued with hydrogen peroxide to cleanse their crumpet hole.

So too is Mystic Hollow, Michigan. It is expected that everything will be something other than what it appears to be. A hat is not a hat but a home to birds, bunnies, or a bountiful bonanza of bandanas and bemusement. A coin on the floor will likely stay there because it is attached with a hidden nail; the police do not use handcuffs to restrain evil-doers (alleged) but a special elixir of Magician’s Wax and Velcro attached to the almost always oversized eyebrows of the malicious magi.

So what is our point?

We cannot judge others based on our own perception of what is normal.

Two weeks ago, there was a near international crisis in the magic world over an apparent misunderstanding between a lay audience member and one of our own.

Tony Spain is not beloved by Inside Magic. Truth be told, we have often prayed that he should get a blistering fever and die — but not right away. He is an arrogant oafish bore with the ego of ten magicians fan-folded into a human vessel without any apparent skill or ability. We hailed his complete failure in Las Vegas as proof that audiences know talent when they see it and when they don’t. We did not testify in his harassment lawsuit but that was only because the plaintiffs’ attorney decided his case was proven with the witnesses he had already presented.

It is unlikely that we would ever come toTony’s defense for anything. We were shocked that his predicament actually evoked sympathy from somewhere within our hardened soul.

For those who lived under a rock or have not read any of the magic forums in the last week, here is the short version of the controversy.

Tony was finishing his second show of the night at the Lindberg Lounge at the Holiday Inn on Route 3. Residents of our town know that despite the horrible downturn in the economy resulting in lay-offs and terminations, Tony continues to be employed. We suspect blackmail of some sort but perhaps the Simmons really believe their guests want to see Tony Spain perform the same store bought tripe for which he rightly is known as our Prince of Pushbutton Prestidigitation.

As we were saying, Tony was finishing his second and last show of the evening when inspiration or madness struck. He asked a young woman to join him on stage for a “very special trick.” The double entendre was intended, noted, and ignored by the audience. No young woman was forthcoming. Perhaps it is the natural reluctance of any audience member to participate in a public display of embarrassing acts; or perhaps it was the relative dearth of audience members from which a female of any age could be solicited.

Whatever the reason, Tony was stuck. He stared out towards where he assumed the audience must be sitting hoping to see someone he could cajole into joining him. To avoid the glare of the stage lights, Tony ventured down into the audience and tried to find a proxy partner. We know from the police report that two women were asked before Miss Boston. They both politely refused Tony’s invitation and out-stretched hand.

Miss Boston was very likely the last female in the crowd of thirty or so.

Tony implored the 23 year-old dental hygienist to join him.

Miss Boston refused. She was in town for three days to attend the Michigan State Police Dental Identity Training Program at the Junior College and was then unwinding after three tense days of comparing dental records to the remains unearthed for educational purposes. She told The Mystic Hollow Intelligencer that she had “one, maybe two drinks before the incident.”

Tony took her hand and tried to encourage her to rise and join him on the stage. We imagine that even Tony just wanted to be done with the evening at this point. Miss Boston looks to be a slight thing but has apparently the kung-fu grip one comes to associate with forensic dental hygienists. As she shook her head and repeated her protests, she clutched Tony’s four fingers with such vice-like force that the effeminate magician howled in pain.

(She recreated the grip (with a smile we might add) for the Associated Press reporter.  We have it above courtesy of the Associated Press).

Perhaps in reaction to the squeal of discomfort or out of a sadistic desire to inflict pain on one normally deserving of torture, the petite Miss Boston squeezed even harder and apparently “mushed and broke” two of the four fingers in her grasp. (“Mushed and broke” is a direct quote from the Intelligencer’s first story on the incident. They later revised it to “mashed and broke” but we don’t see a big difference and prefer the first report).

Tony yanked his paw from her grip and ran towards the stage where he tripped ascending the stairs and was rendered unconscious by a “konk to the noggin’ from a heavy brass Lotta bowl.”

Miss Boston was instantly saluted as a hero by the beleaguered audience. But like its slight representative, the audience was not from here. They did not know our ways.

Some outside our city limits expressed surprise that the Mystic Hollow Police would arrest Miss Boston for aggravated assault. But no one to whom we spoke thought the police acted out of line.

The Associated Press did not help the situation. Their “light-side,” “News of the Weird” take on the event implied our cops were either corrupt or crazy. To the reader, the skirmish was Tony’s fault and he got what he deserved.

We were surprised by the reaction, though, from participants on the magic mailing lists and forums. Presumably, magicians would see this for what it was, an attempt to take away Tony’s ability to make a living. And maybe the commentary supporting Tony came from the magicians and it was only lay interlopers who could actually see Miss Boston’s side of the story.

One ignorant forum poster suggested:

“I have never heard of Tony Spain but already think she [Miss Boston] should have “mushed and broken” his remaining fingers and toes. Magician’s (sic) don’t have a right to accost people and make them come to the stage. He is a (sic) a—— and deserved it. I can’t believe the croked (sic) cop kept her in prison for five days for doing what she shuld (sic).

Another poster — also presumably a non-magician — wrote:

“One week in jail for squeezing a hand to (sic) hard????”

We confirmed that Miss Boston was not held in prison for a week or even five days for her offense. The Judge fined her and sentenced her to the time she already served awaiting the hearing. She was only in the city jail for four full days. During that time, she had access to food, water, showers, warm blankets, and a color television. Granted, the television became useless when the local stations had to switch to the digital signal but she had at least 62 hours of available television time and she always had access to the collection of iPods and MP3 players the Chief seized over the last few years.

We asked the Chief and he affirms that he did offer the iPod collection to Miss Boston but she refused, claiming some sort of “phobia” about putting used ear buds in her precious ears. We’re not saying she was the worst of the worst but she was a prisoner. It does not make sense for the city to fork out good money to buy new headphones every time a prisoner decides they want to take advantage of the Chief of Police’s generosity.

Remember that Miss Boston is a dental hygienist by trade. She spends hours every day sticking her fingers up to the wrist into the trembling mouths of “her patients.” We find her new found fear of germs almost embarrassing for her.

As far as we know, there has been no official statement from the IBM or the SAM on the topic and maybe that is wise. The lay public does not understand that even the push-button magician needs a finger or two with which he or she may push the button as required. Miss Boston’s action typifies the violence our society now coddles and even encourages.

Should she have been arrested, strip searched, and imprisoned? Of course. In our town, no person enters our jail cell without a complete strip and cavity search. If it was good enough for Houdini, it is certainly good enough for the likes of Miss Boston.

Should she have been coerced into giving a confession to not only hurting Tony but other performers in same or similar circumstances? Yes, obviously. But the weakness of our judicial system allowed her release before the coercion could start.

Does Tony deserve to have bones broken? Yes, but not the bones in his grubby hands.

Should Miss Boston have been forced to sign a waiver of her rights to sue Tony, the police, the Simmons and their Holiday Inn, or anyone else possibly involved? Without a doubt. It was right for the district attorney to condition her release on the waiver’s execution. Freedom is not free, honey.

Most poignant was the comment of Justin Logan. The five year-old magician and heir to the Logan Magic Dynasty, spoke truth to power in his comment to the Intelligencer, “It would be like if I big her fingers off when she was cleaning my teeth.”


We are now officially done with our defense of Tony Spain. We need to take two or three showers as soon as possible — maybe this weekend.

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