Las Vegas magicians do not have it easy. We read recently of their struggle to not only make it to the strip but to stay long enough to get on a billboard or two. Schadenfreude , or the delight in the misfortune of others, is an emotion we loathe and consequently eschew with a fervor.
(Actually, we don’t have a position on schadenfreude. But had a bet with a woman we met at a McDonalds that we could use the words “schadenfreude ,” “loathe,” “eschew” and “fervor” in one sentence. Look who’s taking home the complimentary Big Angus with Cheese, Miss “I-Have-to-Work-the –Drive-Thru-Cuz-the-Manager-Confused-My-Botched-Tattoo-with-a-Positive-TB-Test”!)
David Copperfield agrees with Carrot Top, Nathan Burton, Terry Fator and Barry Manilow: Vegas is a tough nut to crack and once cracked, tough to eat the pieces of or live in – assuming one could live in a nut, cracked or not. Sorry, the metaphor voices took over again and because we are typing this on an Olivetti Lettera 22® typewriter in the backseat (or “bedroom”) of our 1978 Volkswagen Fastback (or “mobile home till things get straightened out at home”), and we have no white out (or “Wite-Out”) we are unable to correct our copy as easily as one would if one were using a computer or even a more up-to-date IBM Tech III Ribbon® with IBM Tech III Cover·up Tape®.
But we cope and innovate rather than bemoan the difficulty we face erasing. In fact, we came up with a motivational speaking aphorism on this very subject that we hope to trademark and design an entire three-day seminar around, “Don’t Erase. Face and Embrace.” Maybe we will make it a two-day seminar with an optional third-day “Instructor’s Intensive Institute” where the newly enlightened can learn to use our soon-to-be patented techniques to make “Big Money from Four Word Phrases.” (We follow the motivational speaker’s writing style-guide and do not count the word “and” when identifying ground-breaking new movements or earth-shattering, proven methods of procuring riches).
Not having the ability to erase is not quite like losing one of the essential senses. It does not make our other abilities stronger, just slower and more forced (as in writing style being forced – with constant parenthetical explanations for awkward sentence structure or tangent chasing).
Returning to Vegas, however, we were encouraged and not because of schadenfreude to read that it took David Copperfield years to break into the Vegas market. Even though he had the talent, the look, the illusions, the world-wide fame and connections, it wasn’t until Bill Cosby agreed to co-headline with him that he joined the stars on the strip.
“I couldn’t break into Vegas,” he recalled in a recent interview. “I was already on network TV but for some reason I couldn’t get in — I mean, Tom Jones didn’t want me as an opening act. I just couldn’t break in.”
But once you make it, staying there becomes a daily struggle.
“It’s not the same kind of commitment of the audience (that you get elsewhere),” said Copperfield, who performs multiple shows per week at the sprawling MGM Grand.
“(On tour), people will have bought tickets three weeks before … and they’ll think about you and they’ll think about the show and they’ll look at your TV specials, and then they’ll come to the show really excited to see just you. You’re the coolest thing in town at that moment. They’ll react accordingly. It’ll be like a rock concert.
“Here in Las Vegas, the decisions are made a day before or the day of…. You really have to be on the top of your game, because you’re not going to be able to coast on the fact that they love you so much you can do anything.”
That constant struggle to introduce yourself means there is no “me-time,” no “sick-days,” and no “I couldn’t get a good night sleep in the back seat of my 1973 Volkswagen Fastback despite the fact that there are no seatbelts to make for a lumpy bed.”
“No matter if I’m sick or I’m tired, I gotta remember that’s the one time they’re going to see me and they’ll remember if it’s a good show, hopefully for a long time,” said Inside Magic Favorite Magician Nathan Burton, currently headlining at The Planet Hollywood. “(Shows) open and close all the time. They come and go. Only the strong survive in Vegas, to be honest.”
We would have driven to Vegas to write this story but we’re kind of between venues at the moment and it is very hard to find high-octane, leaded gasoline for our mobile home. Once things get straightened out, we will be back on the road (actually we’re just on the side of the road now, so we’re close, sort of) with the ability to erase, edit and convey relevant news stories from the world of magic.