"Entertainer" v.s "Amateur"

Discuss general aspects of Genii.

Postby Guest » 11/05/07 09:00 PM

Hello everyone,

I've read a few good arguments in relation to the difference between what makes a good performer and an amateur but the descriptions have been a little vague because they were only somewhat related to the main issue being discussed. So, I have 2 questions:

1) In your honest opinion, what do you think are the biggest differences between the "Entertainer" and the "not so entertaining?"

2) If you actually perform (not just practice), what qualities do you feel make your show fun to watch?

Have Fun!

Anthony R.
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Postby Guest » 11/06/07 05:16 AM

Originally posted by AnthonyR:


1) In your honest opinion, what do you think are the biggest differences between the "Entertainer" and the "not so entertaining?"
Simple. A flashing bunny tie pin or a tie with playing cards on it denotes 'not so entertaining'.

It's a rule I have followed for years and it's not been wrong once.

;)
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Postby Guest » 11/06/07 06:44 AM

QUOTE]Simple. A flashing bunny tie pin or a tie with playing cards on it denotes 'not so entertaining'.

It's a rule I have followed for years and it's not been wrong once.

;) [/QB][/QUOTE]

With on notable exception:
Bill Malone

Richard
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Postby Guest » 11/06/07 07:17 AM

I don't think you can compare a
entertainer to a amateur.

because amateur entertainers can
be entertaining...to a point.

if its the amateur vs professional...
or anything else there are valid
examples and definitions.

or even amateur vs hobbyist.

there's something else I wanted to
write but its waaay to early in the morning
for the quick thinking part of my brain
to kick in.
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Postby Guest » 11/06/07 07:38 AM

Originally posted by Richard Tremblay:
QUOTE]Simple. A flashing bunny tie pin or a tie with playing cards on it denotes 'not so entertaining'.

It's a rule I have followed for years and it's not been wrong once.

;)
With on notable exception:
Bill Malone

Richard [/QB][/QUOTE]

Oh my. Now that's gone and ruined a rule that has served me well for years!! Damn you Malone.
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Postby Guest » 11/06/07 07:48 AM

OK here's the thought I was trying to get at.
After reading the CBC blogging rules on the
Ryerson Review...

I can see a top on

"Amateur" vs "Seasoned"
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Postby Guest » 11/06/07 07:55 AM

Originally posted by mrgoat:
... A flashing bunny tie pin or a tie with playing cards on it denotes ...
a certain intent to communicate and a willingness to be wear ones wand (or rabbit) on one's sleeve while "on". It's costume. The actual question is whether the character acts in a way that appears congruent to his costume - and to what effect?

As noted, that sort of loud works well for someone whose persona is also "out there" or "on" and whose material in performance is interesting/boisterous/magical enough to be congruent to that costume.

Congrats to Bill and all the others who enjoy the neon sign (think "party") approach.
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Postby Guest » 11/06/07 07:57 AM

Originally posted by mai-ling:
...After reading the CBC blogging rules on the
Ryerson Review...
May we have a link please?
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Postby Guest » 11/06/07 08:05 AM

Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
Originally posted by mai-ling:
[b] ...After reading the CBC blogging rules on the
Ryerson Review...
May we have a link please? [/b]
Not that the Ryerson Review has anything to do
with this topic Jonathan, but for you i'll post
it.

I only read it because I read Joe Mahoney's
blog and he's super awesome...

anyway here's the link:
http://www.rrj.ca/online/706/
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Postby Pete Biro » 11/06/07 12:38 PM

pro or amateur status hs NOTHING to do with being ENTERTAINING. You may be a great entertainer and skilled magician but don't have the motivation or need to go into being a full timer (pro).
Stay tooned.
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Postby Amos McCormick » 11/06/07 01:20 PM

Originally posted by AnthonyR:

1) In your honest opinion, what do you think are the biggest differences between the "Entertainer" and the "not so entertaining?"

2) If you actually perform (not just practice), what qualities do you feel make your show fun to watch?
My answer to 1): Does the audience CARE what happens? In my opinion, a true entertainer grabs and holds the audience's interest, much like a good book. One of the best examples of this is the way that Jonathan Pendragon "fills" the entire auditorium and captures the audience with a card trick!

2): I don't...
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Postby Brandon Hall » 11/06/07 04:23 PM

Connecting with your audience
"Hope I Die Before I Get Old"
P. Townshend
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Postby Guest » 11/06/07 05:20 PM

1) In your honest opinion, what do you think are the biggest differences between the "Entertainer" and the "not so entertaining?"

2) If you actually perform (not just practice), what qualities do you feel make your show fun to watch?
1.) Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you what you meant to ask was "What makes an entertaining act/person entertaining?" Connecting with the audience is integral, and presenting material that makes people think, care, and enjoy themselves.

2.) Mike Caveney has a great response to this that I've always remembered: We constantly talk about routines or acts that are "commercial", but it can be tricky to pin down exactly what that means. Canveney sums it up perfectly: A commercial routine/act is one that people will want to see again.

Similarly, if you perform, your show is fun to watch if people come up to you after the show and say "Damn, that was a fun show to watch."

Seriously, how else?
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Postby Guest » 11/06/07 07:20 PM

As far as question #1 goes, I completely agree with everyone in here that says a show is most "entertaining" when an artist knows how to connect with his/her audience.

However, what attributes do you guys feel enhance a stonger connection with the audience?

The reason I ask these questions is becaue I find it interesting to compare answers with my "Theatre Arts" students and see if both worlds of "dramatic actors" and "magicians (also actors) share common ground regarding these questions on theory.

Take care!
Anthony R.
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Postby Guest » 11/06/07 10:01 PM

Amateur magicians perform to entertain themselves. Professionals perform to fill their audience's needs.

People like to be validated. A pro will connect with an audience in a validating way, establish rapport, and interact with the audience in a way they find interesting. It's about the audience's experience, not the performer's needs.

Enthusiasm plays a large role as does the abiliyt to instill a sense of expectation. I've written elsewhere about this. It has to do with the motivation of the performer. Audiences can often sense why a performer is on stage and act accordingly.

If you walk on stage, smile, and say sincerely, "Good evening, I'm glad to be here," and the audience understands that you mean it fully and completely, you're half way there.
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Postby NCMarsh » 11/06/07 10:21 PM

However, what attributes do you guys feel enhance a stonger connection with the audience?
The biggest is liking them...

Frakson's mantra before hitting the stage was "I love the people...I love the people"

part of my warm up is to visualize particular, specific things about individuals in the audience...and, while i'm picturing those characteristics, i'm going through an internal dialogue about how much fun these people are, and how excited I am to get on stage and share with them...how much fun we're going to have together

however the individual performer gets there, the key is that when you radiate authentic warmth to them...they give it back to you...and I think that's the single most important element of connecting

I also think that how we connect well has little to do with theory, and a lot to do with experience...flight time is king


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Postby Guest » 11/07/07 06:13 AM

Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
Originally posted by mrgoat:
[b]... A flashing bunny tie pin or a tie with playing cards on it denotes ...
a certain intent to communicate and a willingness to be wear ones wand (or rabbit) on one's sleeve while "on". It's costume. The actual question is whether the character acts in a way that appears congruent to his costume - and to what effect?

As noted, that sort of loud works well for someone whose persona is also "out there" or "on" and whose material in performance is interesting/boisterous/magical enough to be congruent to that costume.

Congrats to Bill and all the others who enjoy the neon sign (think "party") approach. [/b]
Totally right. It denotes something. That something is, to me, a cheesy, naff d'lite using sort of act. The type that would use 'Hold out your hand, not the clean on' and 'Empty your mind, that was quick'. etc.

I am not sure that Malone's act is 'congruent' to having a tie with playing cards on it...

Maybe it's a British/American thing, but over here the magicians that wear flashing bunny tie pins or a playing card covered tie are the sorts I would avoid at a conference. :)

Not that this has much to do with the topic. :D

Damian
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Postby Guest » 11/07/07 08:28 AM

Frakson, like most high-level professionals, understood that we communicate on a variety of levels simultaneously. Setting one's mind to the proper level - his mantra before performing - was one of the more valuable things he taught me. I was happy to pass it on to Nathan and to write about it here on more than one occasion. I understand that Thurston did much the same before his performances.

Smiling at an audience, actually looking at them and smiling with a sincere expression is also highly important. When the audience understands that you don't want to be anyplace else but there, with them, sharing what you do with enthusiasm, they will respond in kind.

However, to make this work, you must understand the difference between enthusiasm and "neediness."
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Postby NCMarsh » 11/07/07 11:48 AM

I was initially writing a much longer response to Anthony, spent about 45 minutes on it, then realized it was way too much and cut it down.

I then posted, only to find that while I was writing and editing David had said what I had been trying to say, but in a much fuller and, frankly, better way.

That's no surprise. David has been doing this, in front of audiences, for decades longer than I have been alive...

and that gets to a point that I think is absolutely critical:

The most important difference between "entertainer" and "amateur" is experience

David was very generous in sharing the Frakson mantra with me (and, I am sure, with many others a fact I didn't note in the first post because I wanted to avoid the appearance of name-dropping) and in sharing it on the forum

A few months ago (long after David had talked with me about these issues and I understood the major problems with coming on for your own reasons) I performed ball manipulation on stage for the first few times...

after each ball appeared, I looked up at the audience with a smug, sh*t-eating grin...like the kid looking up: "see what I drew mommy?"...beaming..

it was awful and embarrassing...and, I think, unfortunately necessary...

silent manipulation was a major departure from anything that I had done before...it was a risk (what if I looked ridiculous -- the fat guy in a suit trying to move to music)...and, even though I knew it was bad theater, my body projected that uncertainty and need for approval to the audiencebecause it was there and, under the circumstances, there was no way for it not to be there

I had to get this performance of this piece out of the way...it was something so outside of my normal comfort zone as a performer that whenever I first did it I was going to be needy...because I needed to know if this was the kind of thing that worked for me

Thus, I dont think that the balance David talks about comes from understanding the difference between enthusiasm and needfulnessI think it comes from having hundreds of hours in front of thousands of different audiencesyou no longer need the approval of the audience, you know that what you have and who you are is worth sharingand you can relax and have fun together

But, that doesnt come without first doing the work of experience
When you are first performing, you are exposing yourself...standing out...taking a risk...and to do that without subconsciously wanting the audience's approval is, I think, impossible


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Postby Guest » 11/08/07 04:00 AM

Firstly, many of you in here were correct about the inaccurate title I created for this topic. It would have made more sense for it to be named "Great Entertainer" v.s. "Mediocre Entertainer." Thank you for your keen observation.

Next, I think we've all made very valid points. All of these thoughts are tools that will deffinately add more depth not only to our art but to our characters.

In my opinion, there is usually one other element that magicians almost always leave out when asked a question like "what's the difference between a "Great entertainer" and a "mediocre entertainer?" How about being ourselves? Whatever happened to making our performances unique to fit in with who we really are? Don't people want to experience something different or something that they've never seen before? Isn't this the most important aspect of connecting with the audience whether we're on stage or communicating in person (as long as what we do or say is appropriate)? Honestly, how many performers do we see and say... "Wow! I've never seen that before!" Even if you're not aiming for the so called... "shock value," does your performance really present what you want it to express (which is who you are as an artist)? Or are we just blindly following tradition that one man/ or woman started a long time ago? How many times have we said to ourselves "this is so unbearable to watch!" because we knew the character the performer was trying to emulate did not fit in with his or her real self? We believed that person tried so hard to be something that they were not (in other words, "poser").

I also believe experience is essential because it keeps us relaxed and prepared. However, even though someone may have "Dai Vernon's" cups and balls routine down pat and presented confidently for 35 years exactly as Dai Vernon did does not necessarily mean they are entertaining because it is something that has already been done (even up to this date) many times before. Even though someone may have their facial expressions, hand gestures, charisma, professionalism and the rest of their body movement down pat for 35-40 years just as taught in a variety of showmanship literature does not necessarily make him/her entertaining because it is something everyone has already witnessed before.

I'm implying that maybe it's time for a change. Isn't time we finally stepped out of the box and said, "what box?" Please do not mistake me for arguing that we should perform improv (unless you are confident in your abilities to do so) but I believe we should take time to find out who we really are and present it through our magic.

The most entertaining people we've ever seen have always had a uniqe quality to them... something that makes them standout. They walk, talk and act differently. They're just a totally different color than black and white. Some people refer to them as "not human." Why? Because they're willing to do things mediocre people aren't willing to do... which is stepping out of their comfort zone and taking risk!

I'm not saying any of our opinions are wrong because we have a right to act however we please but I think we have a responsibility to ourselves to be ourselves if we are to express our true character and creativity to its fullest potential.

Take good care.
Anthony R.
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Postby Guest » 11/16/07 08:42 PM

IT IS REALLY VERY EASY TO TELL A AMATEUR MAGICIAN FROM A PRO......PRO MAGICIANS ALWAYS HAVE BUSINESS CARDS WITH THEIR NAME,AND THEN BELOW THE NAME IT SAYS IN BOLD TYPE "PROFFESSIONAL MAGICIAN"
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Postby Guest » 11/17/07 06:16 PM

Originally posted by KRAMIEN:
IT IS REALLY VERY EASY TO TELL A AMATEUR MAGICIAN FROM A PRO......PRO MAGICIANS ALWAYS HAVE BUSINESS CARDS WITH THEIR NAME,AND THEN BELOW THE NAME IT SAYS IN BOLD TYPE "PROFFESSIONAL MAGICIAN"
That's true Kramien... most of the time.
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Postby Terry » 11/18/07 11:42 AM

Great vs Mediocre performers

In the various entertainment fields, there are individuals who stand head-n-shoulders above others in their particular field.

John Wayne - he embodied most people's idea of the American Spirit. Agree or not, he is still listed in the top 5 of favorite American actors.

Elvis Presley - his charisma and ability to make you feel the song captured his audiences. Okay, the looks and shaky leg helped. . . . .

Cassius Clay - you may know him as Muhammed Ali. The greatest boxing orator who could live up to the hype in the ring.

Garth Brooks - the Elvis of country music. Like him or not, his songs connect with the audience and takes them on the emotional roller coaster.

All of the performers mentioned above had the ability to make their audience invest not only their money, but themselves into the performance. They made you care.

Most magic "performed" today is little more than eye candy.

Copperfield's Snow illusion is an example of the emotional hook. When the little boy and DC walk past each other, it gives the visual impression of the boy becoming the man and then the snow bringing out the boy in the man. It touches people on the emotional side.
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Postby Dave Andrews » 11/18/07 03:38 PM

For me, and I love the 'simple life', Pete Biro said it all in his post above.

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Postby Guest » 11/19/07 09:46 AM

I think that amatuers may be entertaining as well. I am one of them.

What seperates amateurs from hobbiests from profesionals or from beginners is there intent and seriousness

In my opinion an amateur is someone that takes magic very seriously and has teh intent to maybe go somewhere with magic while a hobbist is someone that treats it like just another hobby and not a passion. Where a professional has the intent on making a living from magic and treats it with a unique approach
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Postby Guest » 11/19/07 03:25 PM

And yet, Glenn, there are a vast number of amateur magicians I would rather meet than many of the working pros. Some (not all) working pros compromise their standards to do stock material. They are hacks. They get the money but they don't shine in any way.

I'd rather spend a day with Steve Freeman, than three months with most working pros.

And don't forget, despite some limited pro experience, Dai Vernon was effectively an amateur his entire life.

Joe
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Postby Guest » 11/19/07 07:25 PM

There are amateurs who occasionally play impressive dates. Vernon was one of them. He couldn't continue because he had shocking stage fright. He hated the pressure.

He was surely a great magician and magical thinker, though.
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Postby Guest » 11/20/07 06:43 AM

Glenn,

Having seen the booking slips for a number of Vernon's bookings for Frances King, he was primarily hired to cut silhouettes at private homes. Occasionally he would be booked for "silhouettes and card tricks." Vernon may have changed the reality later.

The Harlequin Act was a failure. Vernon had little sense of stage presentation. One review I read had him doing the act straight through, without pausing for applause.

Vernon made his living as a silhouette artist, occasionally performing magic for money. I think it is a stretch to call him a professional, in the same category as some you mentioned, including your father.
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Postby Guest » 11/20/07 10:13 PM

Amateur ... Professional ...

Where does "Artist" fall in this spectrum?
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Postby Guest » 11/20/07 11:20 PM

Originally posted by Hannibal:
Amateur ... Professional ...

Where does "Artist" fall in this spectrum?
Do you mean a scam artist or a BS artist?
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Postby Guest » 11/20/07 11:23 PM

Originally posted by Glenn Bishop:
Sorry Joe but Dai Vernon was a successful performer for many years. In the book Programs of Famous Magicians by Max Holden. Dai Vernon was listed as a Private Entertainer.

His act at this time was Cups and balls, sponge trick, torn and restored cig paper, ring on a stick, card effects and he closed with the linking rings.

He was booked by Francis Rockefeller King and did many successful shows for her booking office for wealthy people.

Although I do not think that he was aggressive in going after shows. He did not do those shows for free. And as far as I know he did not hold very many day jobs over his life to scrape by.

I still don't consider Dai Vernon an amateur magician and that is my opinion.
I've done dozens of corporate events and trade shows on an ad hoc basis, and even some TV (plus too many restaurant gigs to count). My act is as professional in delivery as most anyone else's, and I get paid good money (in fact, better than most, because I can knock back work). But, like Vernon, it's never been my main line of income. Therefore I would class myself as an amateur.

Same as Vernon.
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Postby Guest » 11/20/07 11:31 PM

Glenn, to give you another example, there are a dozen or more magicians who work almost exclusively for other magicians. They are dealers cum convention performers. People like Lee Asher, Jay Sankey and Aaron Fisher.

As good as their magic may be, since they don't work 90% of the time for a lay audience, I would also class them as professional lecturers, but amateur performers. And I don't mean to say their work is amateurish. Merely that, for me, the definition of a professional is someone for whom the majority of their income is generated by performing for the PUBLIC.
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Postby Guest » 11/21/07 03:53 PM

Well Glenn, you're entitled to your opinion, and now you know mine. On this matter, I agree with David Alexander's analysis.
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Postby Guest » 11/21/07 04:04 PM

Originally posted by Hannibal:
Amateur ... Professional ...

Where does "Artist" fall in this spectrum?
Unfortunately too many magicians consider themselves to be artists and boast about their "art". Magic in itself is not an art, but only becomes such if the performer is an artist.
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Postby Guest » 11/22/07 09:59 AM

Well Glenn, you're entitled to your opinion, and now you know mine. On this matter, I agree with David Alexander's analysis.
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Postby Guest » 11/22/07 10:21 AM

This thread covers spanned out a bit from the original posting as they sometimes do but I have a couple of bits to add.
-Regarding the professional v. amateur definitions - some say a professional is one that gets paid and the amateur does not. Another is that a pro claims it as their job v. an amateur who is simply an enthusiast/hobbyist. Notice no mention of quality in those definitions.

Regarding their respective 'acts' a great quote said it well to me, I think I read it in an old Genii... which is "professional does the same act for different audiences an amateur does a different act for the same audience".

regarding entertaining v. not so entertaining (again - culled mostly from magic and showbiz lit)...it is a matter of engaging/involving the audience and it can be done in basically a physical way and/or a mental way.

without a dissertation...some do it by physical means (audience involvement by participation of some sort)and mentally by engaging the thinking (how'd he do it?, imagine this.., etc.)

I think most agree that the entertaining v. 'not so' effects and performances are the ones with that have the longer effect on one or more of these aspects (memory, emotion, souvenir, etc)with again no mention of quality - I was entertained by some bad acts just like I was by some good ones but I liked the good ones better.
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Postby Guest » 11/23/07 12:00 AM

Originally posted by Glenn Bishop:
I dont believe he gave up doing shows or he was an amateur because he had shocking stage fright or couldnt stand the pressure.
Well, you might not believe it, but old timers from the New York magic scene have told me as much.

Originally posted by Glenn Bishop:
I saw him lecture and he was great and he was over 80 years old. He also did not look like he couldnt handle the pressure of lecturing...
There are some amateurs who are very comfortable lecturing for magicians, but go to pieces in front of a lay audience.

There are some professionals who are fine in front of a lay audience and get the shakes in front of magic audiences (mostly because they respond in unfamiliar ways to the material which can throw you).

I think that Vernon was the former, but in later life became more comfortable because there was no real pressure. He was like Miller "America's House Guest": feted and supported by many fans and friends.

But so what? Look, Glenn: I'm not dissing Vernon. I think he is a legend in magic. Saying he was a talented amateur for most of his life is not an insult. At the same time, he was a brilliant thinker and an interesting observer and chronicler of the times. You shouldn't feel the need to defend him, because I AM NOT attacking him.

Okay, now you know my opinion.

Best

Joe E. Pike
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Postby Guest » 11/23/07 05:41 AM

Originally posted by Joe Pike:

I'd rather spend a day with Steve Freeman, than three months with most working pros.
Amen to that.


Originally posted by Joe Pike:
And don't forget, despite some limited pro experience, Dai Vernon was effectively an amateur his entire life.

Joe
Vernon was definitely an amateur magician, no matter how much glenn Bishop wants to spin it.

I do have a question for Mr. Bishop. Since you grew up with the various great working magicians, what differences have you noticed between the professionals of yesteryear and the pros of today? (Please don't use Vernon as an example because he was not a professional magician in the sense that everyone else is thinking. Thanks.)
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Postby Guest » 11/23/07 08:18 AM

Originally posted by Glenn Bishop:Sorry - I am not in the habit of totally ignoring Dai Vernon's success as a performer and how he made his living in his early years in New York.
Actually your habit seems to be ignoring the fact that he was an amateur magician. Yeah he did some shows and all of that stuff but he was an amateur, no doubt about it. Definitely one of the most influential magicians regardless. He invented the Vernon Touch of all things.
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Postby Guest » 11/23/07 09:39 AM

I think Joe Pike had you in mind when he wrote this:

Originally posted by Joe Pike:
I'd rather spend a day with Steve Freeman, than three months with most working pros.
To answer your question, Vernon was never a professional magician. You can make up any fact you want but everyone else knows that he was a very talented thinker that invented such great items as Spellbound, the wand spin and, of course, the Vernon Touch.
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