Prof. Vincent Sacco Links Magicians, Politicians

Inside Magic Image of Dr. Vincent Sacco - Sociologist and MagicianDr. Vincent Sacco of Queen’s University’s Department of Sociology is the go-to guy when it comes to criminology, the deviant mind, the suspicious motives and what sociologists would call “other.”

So of course, the first words out of his mouth upon meeting a reporter for Kingston EMC would be “Want to see a magic trick?”

The esteemed professor believes there is a similarity of method — if not motive — between magicians and their evil counterparts in the non-magic world, politicians and advertising executives.

“The basic principles of how a magician fools you are the same ones that the advertiser and the politician use to fool you,” said Dr. Sacco.

In a recent presentation to the Toronto Alumni Association titled “Nothing Up My Sleeve: What I Learned from the Great Magicians,” Dr. Sacco performed magic in support of his thesis.

“I’d never performed magic in public before,” he said. “I even included the bending-a-spoon trick.”

Like many of us addicted to this profession of deception for entertainment’s sake, he was hooked as a preteen.

“In those days, you’d have to order magic supplies from the back of a Popular Mechanics magazine,” said Sacco. “I remember someone in one of the magic magazines saying that young magicians spend half their lives waiting for the mailman.”

When we read that quote, we knew this guy was one of us.

“I like to understand the psychology of effects and the history of magic,” he said.

Dr. Sacco grew up in the Niagara Falls area and  loitered at the late Gene Gordon’s Magic Shop in Buffalo, New York every few months and stayed in touch with the Master Magician and name sake of International Brotherhood of Magicians Ring 12.

[Totally unrelated but worthy a click, you can see the late Pavel’s photographic history including a great shot of a very young Pavel and Gene Gordon taken during Pavel’s tour of the U.S. in 1967.  The next year, he would appear on the Ed Sullivan Show along with Tom Jones, Jim Henson and his Muppets, Patty Duke and Totie Fields.  The CBS-TV transcript of the episode lists his segment as “–Pavel (magician from Czechoslovakia) – magic act including scarf and rope tricks.”]

“When you look back, a person’s life looks orderly,” he said. “But it’s anything but. Sometimes when I’m on my way to work, I wonder what I’m doing as a professor at Queen’s University and not opening in Las Vegas.”

Interestingly, Lance Burton once mused, “Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing in Vegas performing to sold-out audiences in a theater named for me and not teaching criminology in a prestigious Canadian university.”

[Actually, that is not exactly what Lance Burton said.  His actual quote was “I always wanted to go to the Chavez school but I could never afford it when I was growing up so a lot of my learning came from magic books and watching other magicians. I was also very lucky that I had a couple of really good magic teachers.”   It is pretty close, though.]

The magician/professor has written extensively and sports an incredible curriculum vitae.

Dr. Sacco wrote what looks to be a fascinating study on why some celebrities engage in what others may consider “deviant behavior.”

We would love to read it and perhaps even pass along some of its key points but unfortunately, we were not able to purchase the article from Routledge (publisher of Deviant Behavior) or its parent publisher Taylor & Francis or any of the academic journal services.  We became irrationally angry and tried to easy our mental suffering through our therapeutic practice of magic sleights.

We have now dealt Seconds for the last two hours and are calm enough to finish this article.  We can and do accept that sometimes bad things happen with automated academic journal fulfillment systems and its nobody’s fault, really.   As we used to say in the Shaving Razor Advertising Association, Schick Happens. Of course we also used to say, “I’ll Cut You.”  But we are focusing on the positive, for now.

But, if you happen upon the first issue of 2004’s Deviant Behavior, check out pages 1-24.  The full citation is:

“Fame and strain: The contributions of Mertonian deviance theory to an understanding of the relationship between celebrity and deviant behavior.”
Parnaby, Patrick F.; Sacco, Vincent F.
Deviant Behavior, Vol 25(1), Jan-Feb 2004, 1-26. doi: 10.1080/01639620490253992

Note: the publisher of Deviant Behavior incorrectly lists the publication date as January 2010.  The article was actually included in volume 25, issue 1 in 2004.  Perhaps that was why we could not purchase a download.  But we are not going to revisit that problem.  Our inability to read what we wanted to read when we wanted to read it is a problem we own and not the fault of anyone, mostly.

Volume 25, Issue 1, 2004

fame and strain: the contributions of mertonian deviance theory to an understanding of the relationship between celebrity and deviant behavior

fame and strain: the contributions of mertonian deviance theory to an understanding of the relationship between celebrity and deviant behavior


Patrick F. Parnaby & Vincent F. Sacco
pages 1-26

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