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.