Until recently, we thought there was a problem with being a magician.
In our youth, we participated (but never won or even came close to winning) talent contests. Singers and modern interpretive dancers usually got the first, second and third prizes. We stood on stage at the end singing the then-popular talent show song “Up with People” and tried to match our dance steps with those around us – in the back row of the talent for the evening.
As we aged – like a fine ball of wine or a bottle of cheese – we thought often about the differences between the variety acts. If a singer is not a good singer, she or he can still sing. The audience will wait the three minutes for the song to end and applaud politely.
If a dancer is a bad dancer, the audience will do the same. But if a magician is a really bad magician, he or she is not performing magic at all. He or she is just doing things on stage that have no amazing effect on the audience. If a magician exposes a trick, there is no magic. It is not like the situation of a bad singer or horrible dancer. They are still singing and dancing. The magician is just opening and closing boxes, sticking things into or pulling them out of tubes or holding his or her hand awkwardly whilst pointing at the other paw.
The worst-case scenario for the magician is an audience that will not play along. A card magician faced with an audience member who will not take a card; or who will take a card and then promptly forgets it. Singers do not face this problem. There may be audience members who want to sing with the performer from their position in the audience, and that is usually welcomed. They even have a term for it – a sing-along.
Additionally, we doubt there are relatively few singers or dancers accused of being in league with Satan. We don’t get that accusation as much as we used to; perhaps because we perform in the amateur rooms at the Magic Castle and folks coming to the Magic Castle either do not believe all magicians are in league with Satan or they do believe it and it does not occur to them to mention it.
Singers and dancers are accused of satanic links only when their lyrics or dance steps directly reference satanic sources. Actually, we can’t think of a recent dance act accused of being inspired by Satan since the late 1950’s when the Blink Twins were thought to be “Stewardesses to Hell” because of their dance routine where they allegedly “invited the audience to take a flight to the ‘Hottest Place on Earth.’”
We spoke with Sandra Blink in the late 1960’s and she said the controversy was “ridiculous but did bring additional bookings” in the Southeastern states. They even had little devil tails added to their stewardess uniforms, she said. The tails added nothing to the act and were soon dropped because of the pain they would occasionally cause when they did splits on the “runway” portion of the stage. Ironically, Sandra was the older of the Blink Twins. She was two years older than her sister, Samantha, who passed away in 1965. Our point is that they weren’t really twins.
Additionally, we would note for the record that the “Hottest Place on Earth” could not be Hell because that is thought by most religions to be someplace other than on earth.
Rich magicians – and we know of one or two – have the added problem of flaunting their wealth. A singer or dancer can wear rich looking clothes but then, again, so does the average magician. Many wear tuxedos or fine dresses as part of their performance. Even the most expensive deck of cards is within the price range of the poorest magician. We’ve seen great magicians kill with a roll of toilet paper. There is no easy way to demonstrate to the assembled crowd that you, the magician, are richer than them.
We were performing recently for a very nice crowd. They had diamonds and fancy bags made by people in Europe and were wearing evening wear we could only dream of owning – the male evening wear especially. All we had was a deck of cards and a used, worn deck at that. Sure, we spent $3.75 for the deck and added accouterments that cost us an extra $1.25, but there wasn’t much else we could do to show that we deserved to be in the company of very rich people. We tried to use big words and talked about performing around the world (not that we have but we are not above lying to impress a stranger) but at the end of the night, we felt we had failed in our mission to demonstrate that we deserved to be in the company of those people we wanted to entertain.
But the evening was saved by a drunk audience member who slurred/whispered something complimentary towards us. And, surprisingly, that was enough. We dropped at that moment our jealousy of the dancers, the singers, the rich purse owners, and fine dressers. We had, with our gimmicked deck, impressed one person. It did not matter that the speaker could not form consonants or conjugate – who were we to judge? All that mattered was one person was impressed and apparently entertained. We realized at that moment that having low standards for satisfaction in one’s work is a blessing and we have been so very blessed.