If you are a magician, here are some names you should know. If you are not familiar with the work of these performers, it is to your loss. They all were, or yet are, treasure troves of magical knowledge and information.
Ali Bongo. Karrell Fox. Jay Marshall. Billy McComb. Warren Stephens. Pavel. Trevor Lewis. Hank Moorehouse. Marvyn Roy. Johnny Thompson. Fukai. Jupiter. Fantasio. Norm Nielsen. Shimada.
Why this particular list of names? Because, relating to them, something happened to me that I never would have dreamed possible. Somehow, someway, I have enjoyed knowing each of these individuals personally. Some have mentored me. All have instructed me. Most became friends.
Recently I was in conversation with a young magician and found myself talking about how much I have learned from these great performers.
I said, “It is still hard for me to comprehend, that I actually got to know these people. When I began in magic, these people were in the stratospheric level of magic. Although I hoped to one day see them in live performance, I could not imagine, and it did not even cross my mind, that I might one day talk to them. Yet I got to know them all. At one time or another, I have been in shows with them all.”
How did this happen? After saying what I said to the young magician, I asked myself that question. How could it be that I ended up knowing these people?
I do not know that I can fully answer the question, but realization of one critical truth came to mind. It is a truth which I am sure is a big part of the answer. I listened when these people spoke!
Whenever any of these individuals said something to me, I paid attention. When they criticized, I took it to heart. When they made suggestions, I tried to apply them.
I let them talk. Most experienced performers want to talk. They care about passing on what they know, but they do not care about sharing with those who do not properly value their insight.
I further explained to my young magician friend, “Several of these people were really hard on me.”
In particular, Marvyn Roy and Hank Moorehouse “took me to the woodshed” on more than one occasion.
The first time I met Marvyn Roy he went through three pages of notes on a legal pad, all of which were about things I was doing wrong. (We had hired him to critique our act.) He loved what Mary was doing. He had a lot of problems with me. As Marvyn went down his list, I felt like curling up on the floor and crying like a baby, but I didn’t. Instead I did my best to try to understand what he was telling me.
Marvyn seemed to understand this. From that day forward, he never charged me a dime for his counsel, but advised me again and again about my work as a magician. He still calls me on the phone to see how I am doing and to remind me of things he taught me. When it comes to showmanship and presentation skills, Marvyn is my most influential mentor. I am greatly indebted to him.
Hank Moorehouse helped me understand show structure and the business of the magician. He was a straight-forward man who pulled no punches. He was a powerful man in the world of magic and more than a few people were afraid of him. To me, he was like a father. If he did not like something I did, he directly told me. It didn’t matter who was around to hear it, if I displeased him, he unloaded on me. When he did unload on me, I accepted it. I tried to apply everything he taught me. In spite of his frank approach, maybe because of it, I loved him dearly.
Both Marvyn and Hank seemed to think I was worth their time. They took the time necessary to give me their opinions. It may be the biggest reason why they did so is because I really did care about what they said…and they knew it.
To various degrees, depending on how often our paths crossed, all of the magicians on my list have been my teachers. What an amazing thing to learn from such people!
There is a lesson in this. It is not uncommon for young magicians (and older ones too), upon meeting famous performers, to want to impress the star. As soon as the opportunity appears, amateurs (and even some pros) launch into talk about their own shows and what they are doing. Rather than listening, they talk. They forget that, when talking, one is rarely learning. Those who talk are mainly reciting what they already know.
It is much better to learn what one does not know. For this to happen, the mouth should close and ears should be open.
There is also the problem of not accepting well-intentioned feedback. More than a few times I have seen young magicians, when receiving what is meant to be constructive criticism, immediately go to work justifying and/or excusing themselves. When the young magician does this, the experienced magician stops talking. The young magician closes the door on what otherwise might become a unique and wonderful mentoring relationship.
In my experience I have discovered that most successful magicians are passionate about their art. It matters to them that other magicians might care to understand and appreciate their art. Therefore, they will talk…if a person listens.
My advice…if a star or famous performer ever offers you critique, consider it a compliment and listen to every word. Do not try to explain “why it went wrong this time,” or “normally I would have done it differently.” Do not attempt to defend yourself. Just listen and do your best see things from his point of view.
If such a person ever starts talking to you, do what you can to let him carry the conversation. In doing this, not only can one learn a lot, one can also make some great friends.