Monday, December 31, 2007

Is It Over Yet?

Kill the turkeys, ducks and chickens,
Mix the punch, drag out the Dickens.
Even though the prospect sickens,
Brother, here we go again...

Tom Lehrer, A Christmas Carol
from An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer

I performed twenty-seven shows in the last 30 days and while it was an exhausting schedule, just about all of them were quite enjoyable. The shows certainly ran the gambit, though. I performed for corporate groups in country clubs and hotels, car salespeople in the middle of their showroom and, in one particularly attractive instance, people so drunk by the time I arrived that they could barely find their way back to the apparently oft-visited open bar.

I criss-crossed three states and managed to even get rear-ended by some psychotic woman as we were both stuck in a traffic jam. There was not a lot of damage to my vehicle (though it will still require a brief sojourn at the auto body shop) but, as if to prove the laws of karma do indeed exist, the front of her car was totally demolished. (Note to self: never buy a Mercury anything...)

One of the things that made some of the longer trips shorter was listening to the audio CD version of Steve Martin's new book, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life. Read by the author, it brought me back to the days when Steve first burst upon the scene. I was in college at the time and still remember guys walking around the dormitory halls exclaiming, "Well, excuuuuuuse me!" The book was also revelatory to me personally as Steve started his career as a magician and his experience with magic informed a lot of his later work, including his movies. It's an excellent book, even if you're not a Steve Martin fan, as it's a fascinating glimpse into the creative process. I recommend it very highly.

The shows were actually the fun part of the month. The not-so-fun part is the Christmas craziness that must be dealt with in the short intervals between shows. The shopping, obligatory visits to distant and quasi-relatives, more shopping, the traffic, still more shopping, and just the general mayhem that ensues at this time of can really wear you out! Some years, all of this nutsiness goes smoothly and other years, it doesn't. This year fell squarely in the latter category.

I have one more show to do tonight, then it's home in time to watch the ball drop and ring in 2008.

Happy New Year, by the way.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Dog Days of November

November is usually a very quiet month as people tend to hoard their entertainment dollars for the holiday parties in December but this year was an exception. I criss-crossed four states this month doing shows for corporate groups, colleges, night clubs, health care organizations and a charity fund-raiser or two.

The month began with some walk-around magic for a very noble cause, the CUREChief Foundation. Anyone who has been touched by cancer or knows someone who has (and that would be just about everyone) should really check out their site. It's hard to explain what they do but I believe you'll be touched by what you read.

I also got the chance to work with Jay Rodrigues again this month. I opened a show for him at a country club and we both received standing ovations from a truly great (and apparently very discerning) audience. Though I've seen his act a bunch of times (as he's had to sit through mine, also), he still makes me laugh out loud. Check out this video clip (but be warned that this is not safe for work or for those with delicate sensibilities!):

Also in November, Sandy and I had the chance to see John Fogerty. He was appearing at the Mohegan Sun Casino Arena and the show was amazing - particularly from third row seats! A tireless performer (in his 60's, no less!), he was on tour promoting his new CD, Revival. He performed most of the new album in addition to busting out most of his CCR repertoire. Great music that brought back dozens of wonderful memories. It also didn't hurt that I managed to walk away from the Blackjack tables with a hundred bucks more than I started with. All in all, not a bad night.

I probably should explain the screwy title for this post. The month ended with us adding a new member to the family. Ollie is a four-year old Brittany Spaniel that we adopted from a rescue agency in Tennessee and so far he's been a perfect gentleman. He's not too sure about me yet but has bonded with Sandy to the extent that she can't go anywhere in the house without Ollie being right behind her. We had been thinking about getting a dog for quite a while but quickly decided against going the pet store/puppy route. Plus, there are so many great dogs like Ollie out there just waiting to be adopted. He's only been with us for a few days now but I'm quite sure we made the right choice. Ollie's a keeper!

Two more days and I'll begin my descent into Christmas Party madness. If I survive, we'll talk again next month.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

October Musings...

October began with an appearance at the Harwinton Fair. It's one of the last country fairs on the Connecticut agricultural fair calendar every year and it's been a favorite venue of mine for quite a few years now.

I also managed to squeeze in a few corporate shows this month. I did two afternoon shows for the employees at Stanley Tools at their world headquarters in New Britain. I also had the chance to work for Insurity at a very posh event held at the Mohegan Sun casino.

The balance of the month, particularly for the last week or so, featured both stand-up shows and walk-around magic for Halloween parties for both family groups and adults. Almost every one of them was a blast except for one family show at a very upscale country club in Westchester, New York. The adults were under the misconception that the entertainers (there were several other performers there besides me) were there to babysit for the children, freeing them to swap the latest gossip in the back of the room. This created a noise level that made it just about impossible to perform. (At one point, even the children turned around and asked the adults to keep it down!) This isn't the first time I've run across this particular phenomenon and I know, in trading war stories with other entertainers, that it happens fairly often. This level of rudeness always leaves me puzzled but, of course, I was raised indoors.

Sandy and I got another chance to see Loreena McKennitt as she extended her tour through New England. We managed to score second row seats and it was quite a difference experiencing the show that close in a smaller venue than much farther back in the cavernous Radio City Music Hall. Check this out:

I also got the chance to watch the guy in front of me do some research on his iPhone during intermission regarding the various odd instruments in use. It was such a cool gizmo that I ended up picking one up several days later. I know this puts me dangerously at risk of shopping at the Gap or frequenting the local Starbucks but I'm just going to have to chance it.

On to November...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

September's Gone

Fall is rapidly becoming more evident in these parts and as we have annually for the last five years at this time of year, we bid a fond farewell to the amusement park today for another season. I am happy to report that Sandy and I went out on a high note this year with four standing-room-only shows, a marked contrast to last year's final day which was totally rained out. We're looking forward to taking the family show to the Harwinton Fair this coming weekend with two shows each day at 1 and 4 PM.

September was busy for me with a number of private shows, including one for Verizon in the heart of Boston's financial district and another at Eastern Connecticut State University. It wasn't all work, however, as Sandy and I got a chance to get into New York City and spend some time with Louis Falanga, the president of L&L Publishing (he publishes my books) and also Joshua Jay, one of the finest young magicians working today (Louis produces Josh's instructional DVDs). We were able to take in an exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History that Sandy's been dying to see and also, thanks to Louis' ticket procurement skills, we were able to get 5th row orchestra seats to see Wicked literally five minutes before curtain. It was truly a great day.

Speaking of difficult tickets, thanks to our good friend, Jim Spinnato, we were able to attend an invitation-only concert at one of the local casinos to see Heart last week. The Wilson sisters were in fine form with Ann featuring a number of songs from Hope & Glory, her excellent new solo album. Speaking of new albums, I'm really looking forward to Bruce Springsteen's new one, releasing on Tuesday. It's going to be great if its first single, "Radio Nowhere," is any indication of the quality of the rest of the tracks.

By the way, the new album's title? Magic, of course!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Summer's Over...

August was a blur as Sandy and I found ourselves performing at two country fairs, an RV campground, possibly the largest backyard barbeque I've ever seen (there were hundreds in attendance at a private residence!) and, most strangely, in the middle of an indoor baseball field. I also had the opportunity to perform some close-up magic for the returning students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Sandy and I returned to the stage at Quassy Amusement Park by the middle of the month and we'll be continuing there with four shows a day every Saturday and Sunday through the end of September. Following that, we're looking forward to going back to the Harwinton Fair during the first weekend in October where I've performed for fourteen years!

We did manage a couple of getaways here and there, including a day trip along the Connecticut and Rhode Island shoreline and another oldies concert, this one featuring Deep Purple, Blue Öyster Cult (more cowbell!!) and Edgar Winter. And, if that concert didn't make me feel like an old fart, my oldest daughter turned 21 this month, officially confirming the fact.

However, as the great entertainer, Maurice Chevalier, was quoted as saying, "Aging isn't that bad if you consider the alternatives."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July Round-Up

This month began very inauspiciously when a raccoon that was roughly the size of a Sherman tank decided to play Frogger while I was driving home from a late-night show. It ran right out in front of my vehicle and by the time I saw the furry mutant in my headlights, it was way past too late. I felt bad at first but much less so when, the next morning, I discovered over $800.00 worth of damage to whatever plastic material passes for a front end these days. When the insurance adjuster asked me if anyone was hurt in the incident, I was compelled to mention that the raccoon had probably seen better days.

Luckily, the rest of the month was much better as I managed to perform an array of shows in backyards, city parks, and even one or two engagements that were actually indoors. One of the notable shows was one Sandy and I did for the city of White Plains, NY as part of their Sounds of Summer program. We performed at Battle Hill Park, which has the distinction of being the place where the Battle of White Plains was fought during the American Revolution. It was a cozy little park located right in the middle of a quiet neighborhood and the show was attended by area families out to enjoy a balmy summer evening together. It was quite enjoyabe to perform for them.

My youngest daughter, Heather, turned 18 last week and we had a party for her at the Señor Pancho's location in Prospect. Attended by lots of family and friends, it was a good opportunity to just kick back and celebrate another milestone. I also got the chance to spend some time with my older daughter, Rebecca, who's out on her own now and is about to reach a milestone herself as she turns 21 in August.

By contrast, I felt younger as Sandy and I attended a concert, also last week, called Hippiefest. The bill featured a plethora of oldies acts including The Zombies, The Turtles, Mountain, Felix Cavaliere (of The Rascals fame), and others. However, the audience featured more bald spots than a corn field that's been visited by aliens. It was a great show, however, particularly if you remember buying music on black, circular, plastic things.

In August, we're looking forward to performing at the Montville Fair this upcoming weekend and the Wolcott Fair later in the month. In the meantime, I'm keeping a sharp eye out for suicidal wildlife.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Breezing Through The Windy City

I had a ridiculous schedule for the last full weekend of June which had Sandy and I criss-crossing Connecticut and Massachusetts before winding up my final grad party performance in the wee hours of last Sunday morning. This gave us just enough time to pack for a lecture in Chicago on Monday night.

We flew into O'Hare with only about two hours to spare before the lecture for the Conjuror's Corner Magic Club which meets in the suburb of Roselle. It was a very enthusiastic and warm group and Sandy and I felt very welcome. We went out for a bite with a bunch of the local magicians after the lecture (great food!) and the following day, before flying back, we were treated to a tour of the city courtesy of Ozzie Maldonado, who is a Chicago police officer in addition to being a very serious and focused student of magic. We had a great time, particularly when Ozzie took us over to meet Tim Felix at Midwest Magic, one of the largest magic shops in the country (that's Ozzie and I at the shop.) It was too short a trip but we certainly made a lot of new friends.

I'm looking forward to some down time in July, starting with a Stevie Nicks concert tomorrow night (I know, I know...I'm old.) She's currently on tour to support her new Crystal Visions compilation and Sandy and I are looking forward to the show.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Here, There & Everywhere

Things continue to be busy, busy, busy.

While I have no pretensions of ever working Radio City Music Hall, I can at least now say that I've performed across the street. Last week, I journeyed into the Big Apple to perform for executives from Ernst & Young at a very tony midtown restaurant. It was a great group and we all had quite a bit of fun. Getting in and out of Manhattan can be a trick in itself but the trip was relatively painless once you get used to dodging the tourists who all seem to be looking up at the buildings rather than where they're going.

I also performed for Quinnipiac University's freshman orientation on two consecutive Saturday nights these past couple of weeks. This is the third year I've been a part of this event and the kids are always a ball to work for. The university provides entertainment and activities for the incoming class while they're getting the lay of the land. This is presumably to cut down on the number of freshman walking around with a dazed look in their eyes - probably the same look I had the first day I attended Boston University sometime back during the late Triassic Period.

I'm off to do a comedy club show in Massachusetts with Jay Rodrigues in a few hours...and then my schedule starts to get really nuts. June is certainly a hectic month every year but eventually the craziness comes to an end - unlike The Sopranos...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Getting Busy

There's a dichotomy inherent in blogging. When things are busy and interesting, there's no time to write about them. When things are quiet, there's all the time in the world to post but nothing to write about.

You can determine from the relative inactivity here during much of May that things have been very, very busy. Sandy and I started our season at Quassy Amusement Park and the new material is beginning to break in very nicely. We're still working on a new illusion that isn't quite ready for public consumption just yet, but we're hoping to have it out on the brand new Lakeside Theatre stage before the end of June.

We've also started our high school post-prom and post-graduation party season. Both Sandy and I have a number of high school functions over the next month. I usually do close-up magic for the seniors while Sandy does palm reading. A lot of magicians dislike this market but I have a great time with the kids.

This year, I had the unusual circumstance of performing at my daughter Heather's post-prom party. Unfortunately, her date had an early start at his job the following morning so they didn't make the party (at least that's the story I heard...) As it turns out, they've re-hired me for next year and since Heather's a Junior (her date was a Senior), I still have one more chance at embarassing her at a school function. Speaking of which, where does the time go? It just doesn't seem possible that my youngest daughter is going to proms...

In other events this past month, I had the opportunity to work with Jim Spinnato, one of the busiest (and funniest) hypnotists in the Northeast. Though he's one of my closest friends, we've never really had the chance to perform together. I opened a comedy club show for him last weekend, doing about thirty minutes of my adult magic show. Unfortunately, we had one less-than-model citizen in the audience who was a bit outspoken during my set but really hit his stride during Jim's show. Luckily, the management had the foresight to escort our friend to the door before everything got too far out of hand and Jim was able to bring his show to a successful conclusion.

Weirdness is by no means a rare circumstance in this business, however. For example, just the other day, someone inquiring about close-up magic for his private party actually asked me (cue Twilight Zone music) if it was necessary to interact with his guests. Really! I couldn't make this stuff up! Whenever something like this happens, a line from one of my favorite movies, As Good As It Gets, pops into my head. Jack Nicholson, as the splendidly cantankerous Melvin Udall, in response to a bothersome knock at his door, says, "Sell crazy someplace else. We're all stocked up here."

I'll try to write more soon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Day Off

Last Friday started off as a much-needed recreational day but it quickly began playing out like something right out of The Out-of-Towners as Sandy and I tried, against numerous obstacles, to get into New York City to see a concert. (Of course, I'm referring to the original 1970 film with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis; the 1999 remake with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn sucked canal water.)

In the film, Lemmon and Dennis play George and Gwen Kellerman, a hapless Midwest couple trying to get to a job interview in Manhattan but one thing after another - plane delays, transit strikes, even a mugging - stands in their way. Likewise, Sandy and I had tickets to see Loreena McKennitt at Radio City Music Hall but prior to settling into our seats, I had some emergency dental work, we were delayed in getting to the train station by an accident and then a three-mile backup and, once we finally got into the city, there were no cabs so we were forced to cancel a dinner engagement with an uptown friend before the concert.

We did finally make it to the show, however, and even with all of the trouble, it was well worth the trip. If you've never heard Loreena McKennitt's music, stop reading this right now and purchase either The Mask and Mirror (my favorite), The Visit, The Book of Secrets, or her newest recording, An Ancient Muse. You can thank me later.

On the business side of things, Sandy and I are looking forward to opening day at Quassy Amusement Park on Saturday. We have a brand-new stage, which we just checked out today, and the park did a great job. Weather permitting, we'll be doing four shows on Saturday and four on Sunday.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

No Business Like Show Business

This weekend, within one 24-hour period and across several venues, I performed alongside a chamber music trio, four celebrity impersonators (there was a Robert DeNiro, a Joe Pesci, a Joan Rivers and a Frank Sinatra), an astrologer, a mariachi duo, a clown, a yo-yo expert and a steel-drum band. This is not to mention the guys with the animatronic jungle animals at the high-end fundraiser with the circus theme who were giving rides to the attendees.

There's a camaraderie that exists between entertainers - particularly variety artists - that I've never encountered in any other profession I was involved with prior to performing magic full time. My 12 years in radio, for example, was hallmarked, with one or two exceptions, by backstabbing sycophants who would constantly be jockeying for advantage and position. This was a day at the beach, however, when compared with the time I spent working at an advertising agency. A horrifying number of people would lose their jobs without any warning just because one client decided to "go another way" with their campaign. Definitely not recommended for the faint of heart!

Entertainers, however, have a totally different mindset and even when their talents lie in completely disparate areas, there's usually an immediate rapport that develops. Working with all of these professionals this weekend made me realize how lucky I am to be able to meet and be counted amongst such talented individuals.

That is, except for the clown. It wasn't the clown's fault, though. It's just that they scare me...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Surprise, Surprise

I came home Friday night after working at Señor Pancho's in Prospect to discover that Sandy had put together a surprise party for my 50th birthday (it actually fell on Easter Sunday this year). With just a few exceptions, just about everyone who means something to me showed up, so it was a very special occasion.

I was starting to feel sorry for myself - turning 50 and all - but a gathering like this makes you realize that getting older also means that, if you're as fortunate as I've apparently been, you accumulate a lot of wonderful and amazing friends through the years. The party, combined with my good friend and fellow magic collector, J.P. Jackson, referring to me as a "young pup" earlier in the day, broke me out of my turning-50 funk.

Incidentally, I'll be performing at the grand opening of the new Michael's Jewelers location in Danbury this Friday from 5 PM until 9 PM. If you'd like to stop by and say hello, you can print out an invitation here. Billed as "A Night To Remember," this looks like it's going to be quite an event!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Two Lectures In Two Days

Sandy and I hit the road this past Tuesday to do two lectures for magic clubs in New England. The first one was for the Rhode Island Societies of Magicians (R.I.S.M.) which meets in Cranston. It was a great group and the trip also gave me a chance to catch up with some old friends before and after the lecture.

On Wednesday, we headed up to Boston's north shore to lecture for Assembly 104 of the Society of American Magicians which meets in Salem. We had initially thought about getting up there early and looking around at the witch-related tourist attractions but the unpredictable New England weather had a contrary opinion. It was raining when we left Connecticut but about 45 minutes into Massachusetts, the rain started turning into a wintry mix. Just outside of Boston, the precipitation was unequivocally snow and driving started to get a bit tricky. We stopped and saw our friends Ed and Margie Gardner at Diamond's Magic in Peabody and by the time we left there, there was a couple of inches of the white crap on the ground. Fun times...

Luckily, it's a hardy stock of people in that neck of the woods and the lecture in Salem was well attended. It was another good, receptive group and I also got a chance to catch up with my friend, Vlad, a magician with a decidedly vampiric edge, whom I haven't seen in a number of years.

Well, it's off to Señor Pancho's in Prospect tonight for some walk-around magic and then my season of shows at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center begins tomorrow evening.

Happy Easter, by the way.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


"Gratitude is the memory of the heart." - Italian proverb

Because of the unique quality of my profession, I am often asked in off moments how I became interested in magic. One of my favorite magicians, Peter Samelson, has a very clever response to this question ("I was tricked into it...") but I usually just say something very non-committal about getting started when I was a kid. While this is essentially true, my first real exposure to magic - particularly close-up magic - was the result of crossing paths with a fascinating man named Dan Tsukalas when I was about 10 years old.

Dan was a magic pitchman; he made his living selling small magic tricks to passers-by. For literally decades, he would spend the holiday season plying his trade at Macy's Department Store in New York City. When the weather broke, he would head down to Atlantic City for the summer season. Then, in the autumn, Dan would wend his way up through New England, making stops at a good number of the state and agricultural fairs that dot the fall calendar in these parts. Following that, he would head back to Macy's and begin the cycle again.

I first saw Dan at the Danbury State Fair, once one of the largest fairs in the Northeast. I always looked forward to the fair, not only because it was an amazing event but also because my parents, who loved the fair but hated traffic, allowed me to miss school so we could go on a weekday and beat the weekend bumper-to-bumper hassle. The fair is gone now because, Lord knows, we needed another shopping mall. However, in its day, it was an incredible attraction that drew attendance from all over New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Dan stood behind a demonstration counter that sat on a small wooden platform which allowed him to be about a half-foot above the crowd. Like so many other pitchmen at the fair who were selling various gizmos such as Ginsu knives and juicers, Dan had a bent coat hanger around his neck that held a small microphone which allowed him to be heard over the din of the fair.

I saw the crowd surrounding his stand and wanted to see what was going on. My parents obliged and we stood there for several moments until my parents had decided enough time had passed. Trouble was, I didn't want to go. I was seeing miracles performed, not on television, but right before my eyes - and from just a few feet away, too! I elbowed my way to the front of the crowd and stood there, awe-struck, through several demonstrations.

Each year, I was allowed to pick out one souvenir from the fair and usually, I would wait until we had seen just about everything before making my choice. I didn't want to pick out something too early, only to see something even better later on in our explorations. However, this year was different. Dan was demonstrating wonders with a deck of cards that he promised any one in the audience could do, too - even kids! To prove it, he picked out the nearest kid; it happened to be me. He had me riffle the cards to show that they were all different. Then, he had me riffle them again but this time, they had magically all changed to the same card! I didn't know how I did it but that didn't matter. I had performed this miracle myself. It also didn't matter that we had only been at the fair for about a half-hour. I had found what I wanted to bring home.

In the years that followed, Dan's stand would be my first stop at the fair, and from year to year, being the gracious man that he was, he always pretended to remember me. He would always ask me what I bought last year and then he would show me a new trick he thought I was ready for. What's more, he would always take a few moments out to personally coach me on the method of this new miracle between his demonstrations.

When the magic bug bit, it bit hard and a year was a long time to wait to learn a new trick. So, I eventually turned to the public library for magic books. (There were five; I know because I took them all out several times each over a summer.) I then discovered that there were magic shops that had catalogs and they would send you tricks and magic books in the mail if you sent them money first. Shortly after, my father became ill (and that's another story) and we stopped going to the fair. Nevertheless, my magical education had begun.

That's why I am always more than happy to help youngsters who ask about getting started in magic when I perform for them in a restaurant or when they watch Sandy and I work at the amusement park. For better or worse, it was one man's encouragement - a personal interest that went far beyond selling a kid a magic trick - that started me off on the road to where I am today. I'm not a wealthy person, but I have a wonderful family, I live comfortably, and I love what I do for a living. And, as my father always used to say, if you love what you do for a living, you never have to go to work!

There's a postscript to this story. Almost twenty years would pass before I saw Dan again. I had been performing professionally for about a year and had discovered that a chapter (or "Rings," as they're called) of the International Brotherhood of Magicians met in a nearby town. I showed up at one of their meetings and there, sitting on the other side of the room, was Dan Tsukalas. As it turned out, he traveled all over the Northeast but lived just a half-hour away from me.

I immediately went over to him and, as would be expected, he didn't know me from Adam. He informed me that he was now retired and I shared with him that I was now a professional magician and that he had sold me my first magic trick. He nodded and smiled and then said, "I sold David Copperfield his first magic trick, too!" I returned the nod and smile, but was somewhat disappointed that this man I had held in such high regard would spin a tale like that to impress a stranger. We parted company and that was the last I ever saw of him.

Several months passed and I was watching The Arsenio Hall Show (which would date this to about 1989 or so.) David Copperfield was one of the guests and Arsenio asked him how he gotten his start. My eyes widened as he began to tell a story about being in Macy's Department Store in New York City when he was a young boy and his mother buying him his first magic trick from a pitchman there...

Dan Tsukalas passed away in 1999 but he will always be someone very close to my heart.

Thanks for everything, Dan...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

On The Road

As I mentioned in my last post, Sandy and I spent last Saturday as dealers at the New England Magicians Convention, which is held yearly in North Haven. Sandy displays and sells her hand-crafted cloth items for magicians while I sell instructional DVDs from L&L Publishing, a company that I do quite a bit of freelance copywriting for, in addition to some magic effects of my own creation.

It's always a great time and gives Sandy and I a chance to catch up with good friends and others in the business. The attendees are always an interesting mix of professionals, semi-pros, amateurs and hobbyists. Sandy snapped this picture of me along with two very good friends, Jim Spinnato, one of the funniest hypnotists in the business, and David Oliver, a fine magician with an awe-inspiring stage act. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to count great performers like these two guys as friends.

On Monday, we headed to Long Island and a flea market/auction for magicians sponsored by a local magic club. We had a table at last year's event and did moderately well, which is why we accepted the invitation to return this year. This is the kind of event that most attendees would have benefited from had they actually brought along some money but, unfortunately, it was quickly apparent to us that not everyone had gotten that particular memo. I took a quick picture of Sandy behind our dealer table with my camera phone during the interminable auction where once again, "thrift" seemed to be the watchword. To make matters worse, it was a two-hour drive each way.

On the upside, I made at least enough dough to pick up God of War II this week. A good video game, particularly one with a mythological theme, is one of my few vices. As they say, growing old is mandatory but growing up is optional!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Quick Update

My last post was a few weeks ago but time commitments have prevented me from getting around to blogging. I'll try to be better...

Since my last post, I've added the Southbury location of Señor Pancho's to the lineup. I'll be performing there as part of their "Kid's Night" promotion on Tuesday evenings from 6 to 8 PM. Stop by and say hello! I'm also continuing at the Prospect location on Saturday nights and Monroe on Wednesdays.

Speaking of Monroe, I was there last evening and had the pleasure of performing for a lovely family. Among the group was Ashley, a very cute but shy little girl who barely whispered her name to me when I asked her what it was. While they were on their way out, one of her family members mentioned to me that she wanted to have her picture taken with the magician. So, thanks, Ashley, and please come back and visit us at the restaurant again and we'll do some more magic!

Last Saturday evening, I performed my stand-up adult comedy show for an environmental group at a country club in Bristol. Comedian Jay Rodrigues opened the show and though he was a tough act to follow - he's a very funny man - I had a great night. On Sunday afternoon, it was over to the Emblem Club in Naugatuck to entertain the ladies at a Tea and Card Party. It was a wonderful afternoon and an hour of strolling magic went by all too quickly. On Monday evening, I was the featured entertainment for another ladies group, the church ladies guild in Manchester, and though the turnout was a little less than expected - mostly due to temperatures in the teens that evening - we all still had a great time.

Things have been a bit hectic this week as, besides performing, Sandy and I are getting things together for the New England Magicians Convention this weekend where we will both be displaying in the dealers' room. I'll fill you in on that next week.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Restaurants Redux

"Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in." - Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather III

I began my career as a professional magician performing tableside magic in restaurants and bars. When I started out, there were only a few other magicians doing similar work and they were in different parts of Connecticut.

My first experience with this venue was a loud nightclub that also did quite a bit of late afternoon/early evening business, a time popularly known as "Happy Hour." I performed from 5 to 7 PM every Friday evening under atrocious circumstances. The D.J.-generated music was loud and the people were generally cranky, much more content to badmouth their bosses than select a card. Somehow I persevered, managing to entertain at least some of the patrons no matter how loudly Robert Palmer was screeching that he was addicted to love.

My most significant tenure in any restaurant to date was an amazing 12 years as the house magician at the Chowder Pot III restaurant in Branford. I developed a fairly large following there and generated huge amounts of private work. Alas, real life does have a way of interfering with more important things. There was an internal shakeup and a new manager was hired, and just a few days later, it was all over. (Interestingly enough, just a few short months after giving me my walking papers, the new manager was handed his, proving that the Karmic wheel is ever turning...)

After the Chowder Pot, I concentrated mostly on private work, with quite a lot of it coming from entertainment agents. I did want to keep my hand in restaurant work, however. After all, I had written a number of books on the subject that were well regarded by others in the profession. So, I worked at a number of restaurants in the area intermittently including two country-themed restaurants, Amarillo's and Chute Gates Steakhouse and Saloon. Both had a common owner and while Amarillo's is no more, Chute Gates is alive and well and I still perform there at least once a month or so. Great food, nice people and if you like country music, you'll be in heaven.

The point of this entire post - and the reason for the Godfather quote above - is that I've just started performing at a new chain - Señor Pancho's Mexican Restaurants. There are four locations and I am currently appearing in two of them - at the Prospect store on Saturday nights from 6 to 8 PM and the Monroe location on Wednesday nights, also from 6 to 8 PM. These restaurants are designed from the ground up to be fun places to eat. There are mariachis roaming around and now there's some magic.

I've been performing at Señor Pancho's now for two weeks and all of the initial reactions have been great. The most significant thing about the experience so far is that it reminded me of how much I enjoy performing in restaurants and how much I really did miss it. In the meantime, Sandy and I are gearing up for our fifth season at Quassy Amusement Park. We're working on a classic illusion for this summer - but more on that later.