Midlands (UK) magician Paul Saint (stage name of Paul Fisher) was “turfed out” of a bar for bending forks. Worse than that indignity, he was placed into quasi-custody by the local police and held until a background check could be completed.
Only after determining Mr. Saint was “clean” was he permitted to step out of a police van and enjoy what was left of an evening with friends.
His story started like most silverware bending leading to police custody tales go. Mr. Saint joined a group of pals at the now-infamous Après bar in Lichfield. He performed what must have been a very convincing fork bending routine and was “given his marching orders by a burly doorman.”
Most readers of Inside Magic have been tossed out of a bar for performing magic tricks but usually because closing time had come and gone. The door is closed behind you and you move on in search of different venues with ample impromptu audiences to be had.
Mr. Saint has been performing for more than ten years and he was no doubt familiar with the well-established routine. That was when it all got weird.
Mr. Saint told a reporter for The Sunday Mercury, “The police vehicle came screaming up the street and an officer jumped out.
“He said he’d had a complaint about me bending up some forks. I told him they were my own forks and was about to get some out of my pocket when he told me to get in the van.”
We have attempted to retrieve a recording of the UK-equivalent of the 911 call leading to this confrontation. How does one complain about someone “bending up some forks” in a way that would send a police van “screaming up the street?” Perhaps because the UK does not permit handguns, they consider all potential weapons with equal ferocity.
In fact, here is a transcript of a call we just made to the Mystic Hollow, Michigan 911 service. Compare it with the reaction of the Midlands’ police.
911: 911 Emergency, what’s your emergency?
InsideMagic: Hi, there is a man in the restraint bending forks. He is about two tables away and . . .
911: Doing what?
InsideMagic: Bending forks. He holds them and then he strokes them and the tines bend all kinds of different ways.
911: Is he stabbing anyone with them?
InsideMagic: No. But he has done it with three forks already and I think he is going to bend another one unless someone stops him . . .
911: What do you mean ‘he strokes the forks’ and they bend?
InsideMagic: he tells the people at the table to look at the fork, he takes his finger and runs it along the fork, and it bends.
911: Is anyone injured?
InsideMagic: Not yet.
911: Sir, has he threaten to injure someone with the bent forks?
InsideMagic: Not directly.
InsideMagic: Sort of.
911: Sir, I don’t have time for this. How has he ‘indirectly’ threatened someone with a bent fork?
InsideMagic: I’m just afraid someone will try to eat with one of them and it’s kind of dark in here and they could pierce their . . .
The manager of the Après confirmed that Mr. Saint was booted in an over-zealous effort to make the world safe from bent silverware.
Fiona Williams, director of Après, claimed that the fork was a security issue – despite the bar serving food and having its own supply of cutlery. She said: “It is our policy not to allow objects into our venues which can be a danger to the general public.
“That man was not organised as a magician, nor did he announce himself or his intentions to perform as a magician to our doorstaff or management.
“Our actions were conducted in the interest of the public. We have to protect our customers and knives and forks are a security issue.”
Her statement begs the question; could someone use pseudo-mystical powers to bend spoons and if so, would these spoons be sufficient cause for an arrest? Is a bent spoon a “security issue” in her book? What about chopsticks or, worse, those little plastic ears of corn one sticks into each end of a corn cob to facilitate eating said corn by rotating the cob in front of one’s butter coated puss. And flambé? What of flambé?
The world is different today. We recall with fondness when Li’l Tom Hardy literally brought down the house in Joliet, Illinois with a poorly executed cigarette routine. As he always says, “thank goodness no one was really, truly and permanently injured.”
The local fire investigator concluded similarly, “we are very fortunate Mr. Hardy is not well-known; at least not in Joliet. If more than a handful of folks had attended the show, there could have been a real chance of panic and injury. In fact, we’re lucky Mr. Hardy’s act did not hold the interest of those who did show up. There was only about a handful of paying customers still in the club at the time of the fire.”
The point, though, is clear. Any magic trick can be a security issue if handled by the unpracticed or un-sober. We are not suggesting, however, society should arrest every magician brandishing a fork, knife or pad of flash paper. Just the ones we do not like and would like to have arrested anyway.
Yes, some magicians should be arrested and if it requires authorities to trump up charges like “fork bending” or “knife color changing” to get them off the street, that is okay in our book. The problem, however, is identifying the magicians deserving of indeterminate custody and perhaps a good dose of ‘night stick probation.’
We could start with those magicians who purchase knock-off effects. We could provide all law enforcement officials with access to the true owner of each effect. For good measure, we could provide copies of brochures and catalogs of known knock-off sources. Then, when investigating a utensil bending or knife through coat incident, the officer could go through the magician’s other effects to identify any offending items for which atonement is required.
We might also go after those who use the same type of card force more than once in a set. No penalty for the Criss-Cross Force or the Hindu Shuffle. However, use either twice and you are booked for Open Mike Night at the county correctional facility even if your name isn’t ‘Mike.’
Tricks with mouth coils spread more than 62 percent of all disease in the United States. Surely this is one of the biggest threats facing America today.
The magician can either pass disease by flinging his or her sputum whilst producing the paper coil from its spit-soaked holding position within the mealy, over-heated bacteria-laden mouth of the Typhoid Mary of the Performing Arts. Nevertheless, as true in so many things, if the spit doesn’t get you, other things will. Scientists have duplicated the disgusting launch of mouth sores and mature oral polyps of up to 50 feet. At least Gallagher’s audiences know to wear raincoats. The average attendee at a birthday party never suspects the bountiful paper streamer hitting them square in the face has more bacteria per square millimeter than the pine bench found in any Major League dugout. (APA Journal, March 2009, “Streamers of Streptococcal Pharyngitis: The Unintended Communication of Strep Throat by Magicians.”)
Even worse, many magicians do not re-pack their mouth coils at the end of their show. Usually these very wealthy or lazy magicians insist on using a new mouth coil each time they perform. These wasteful wizards leave the spit-soaked multi-colored streamers for the cleaning crew or curious audience members. In a recent study conducted for the American Pediatric Association, physicians documented seven cases of “mouth coil re-packaging” by children leading to infection or nausea. Id.
The APA study reported that in each case, the patient recovered the spent mouth coils and tried to pack it completely into their own mouths. As one disgusted doctor commented as he was skillfully exacting a soggy streamer from the gullet of an eight-year old female patient, “when does it end?”
Do not misread us. We are in favor of civil liberties so long as they do not permit activities we dislike or for which we can justify a reason for arrest. Should they have arrested Paul Saint for bending his own forks in a pub? Perhaps not but it is difficult to draw clear lines when one is scribbling madly to marginalize people one does not like. This is the price we as a society must be willing to pay if we desire the kind of justice we all secretly desire.