Taking it to the Streets

Discuss general aspects of Genii.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 05/17/07 05:06 PM

In 1979 (or so) I saw Harry Anderson give a lecture on Street Magic. It remains to this day one of the most informative magic lectures Ive ever seen. He was not yet a big star. In fact, he had only fairly recently gone legit (mainstream; indoors; whatever label you want to put on working in clubs instead of on the streets). He really knew his stuff and passed on a great amount of knowledge to those in attendance.

Of course, that was back in the day when Street Magic was just that: Magic performed on the street for an audience of more than a few (or so the performer hoped) and always for money (or so the performer hoped).

Today, someone of my generation cannot say Street Magician without explaining exactly what is meant by the term.

To be clear, Jim Cellini is a Street Magician. David Blaine is not. He never has been and likely never will be.

Gazzo is a Street Magician. Criss Angel is not; never has been; likely never will be.

Jeff Sheridan is (well, was) a Street Magician. Cyril is not; Im fairly certain that he never has been; and likely never will be.

But ask todays average magic enthusiast to name some Street Magicians are and youre likely to get the latter names before the former. And thats a damn shame.

Street Magic has a glorious history and its a shame that the name of this venerable performance art has been corrupted by a form of magic that has little or no resemblance to it.

I honestly believe that another name must be associated with this new style of magic; one more appropriate to that style. When I think of what David Blaine did on his specials, and now what many others are doing, the term hit and run comes to mind.

Wanna see something cool?

Bite quarter; spit quarter back together; revel in the reaction. Find next target.

Thats not Street Magic. Its Hit and Run Magic and I think thats a perfect name for it.

Now if there was just a button that could be pushed.

Dustin
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Postby Guest » 05/17/07 05:12 PM

:whack:
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Postby Guest » 05/18/07 04:25 AM

:whack: :whack: :whack:

John S
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Postby Guest » 05/18/07 07:31 AM

I have always thought that "guerilla magic" was more appropriate.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 05/18/07 08:04 AM

And in some cases, gorilla.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Guest » 05/18/07 08:06 AM

Yes a gorilla thumping would be an approriate comparison in many cases. Unfortunately I have seen this in other venues too.
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Postby Guest » 05/18/07 08:25 AM

Since it is magic on television, I think it should be called "television magic." To be clear, one could say it is television magic in a street setting.
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Postby Guest » 05/18/07 09:05 AM

Alley Ambush Amusement
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 07:39 AM

I have a new style of hit and run magic I'm developing, and I could use a name for it.

I ONLY perform magic for casino security cameras.

P&L
D

PS, Dustin, I couldn't agree more. Street Magic has got to be the most difficult performance art imaginable when you consider the fact that you get paid AFTER the show based on what the audience thinks it's worth.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 05/19/07 09:12 AM

Street Performing isn't that much more difficult than, say, a cabaret show. It's the bottling of the show which is the real art. Although I got to watch some of the masters in the early days, it's still something you have to get wrong a couple of dozen times for yourself.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 12:31 PM

I totally agree with the "hit and run" or the "guerilla" ideas. I hate seeing magic, an art form countless centuries old is degraded my third graders with a deck of cards and a couple of DVDs. I hate it when I see people going around performing in a Tshirt and cut-offs that think Blaine and Angel are the best magicians that have ever been on the face of the planet.
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 01:15 PM

Bravo (again) Dustin.
You and Dee helped me crystalize a thought: Has anyone ever seen these new street guys "pass a hat"? Have any of these new street guys ever even alluded to passing a hat?

To me, street magic is an actual act with a beginning/middle/end, has a point, and an attendant reality: if you stink, you don't eat (among other things) very well.

Street magic is NOT middle-class teenagers showing-off a trick they just got, momentarily shocking people with a gimmick just for fun, and then heading home to their cozy beds, regardless of outcomes.

I hate to say it, but I have become a crotchety codger (surprise!).

[Unexpected tangent here:]
When the movie "[censored]" came out, and everyone was wowed by Tom Cruise's "flair-handling" of bottles ( :sleep: ) my boss at the time (a very busy restaurant/bar) used to rant, "Did you see how much booze he spilled?! And the whole movie he never rang up one drink! He never even went near a cash register!"
I have come to feel something similar about these roving gangs of quarter-biters, under the impression that flash is all that matters.

What is their motivation other than highjinks? Lord knows I love highjinks--just don't delude yourself that they are deeply meaningful, unforgettable, transformative, world-shaping events. They usually ain't.

Flash without substance; Flash powder in a pot--boom--nothing left but smoke that quickly dissipates and a lingering odor.

P.S. I also must admit my irritation at the usage of the word "street" as an adjective..."This one is cool--it's totally street!" Give me a break.
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 01:34 PM

The distinction between passing a hat and ambushing them with a camera crew is interesting.

Something about the implied promise to appear on a TV show appears to do wonders.
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 01:50 PM

Right on Jonathan.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 05/19/07 01:56 PM

I can think of two Ambushers who pass the hat (I think I'm mentioned them before).

I remember seeing on two or three occasions a magician in Leicester Square in London who worked by approaching small groups or couples, much as one would at a strolling gig, performing a set and then passing a hat. The sightings were spread over a couple of years, so I'm assuming he wasn't that bad at it.

In Dublin Owen Lean has made a living performing this kind of magic in (I think) Grafton Street. Apparantly he obtained a degree in magic performance through it, and was profiled briefly in Magic a few months ago.

I do concede that two in a couple of thousand does not make a particularly persuasive statistic.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 02:15 PM

Thank you Ian--I am surprised and impressed.

I really am glad to hear there is some good around--even if it is 5,049 miles (or 8,125 km) away. :) (San Francisco to Edinburgh--thank YOU Google distance calculator!)

As in any area: the cream usually rises (just like Hemingway said--har har)...

P.S. "Street Sense" is favored in today's Preakness Stakes...
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 03:34 PM

I beleive that a lot can be learn in this strolling style or whatever you want to call it. You learn the basic presentation and performance that, if you choose, can evolve into being the basic knowledge that you use to get paying gigs. It is when people get into the mind set that they should dress grungy so that the magic seems to come from someone ordinary, that is what I don't want to see.

I remember I was walking down the coast and there were all kinds of performers. This one guy had a table he set up. He grabbed his wand and loudly proceded to yell "MAGIC SHOW!!! MAGIC SHOWWWW!!!" I was curious so I stuck around to see him do several random effects with awful presentation. This is the image that some people are spreading. Deos that worry anyone else?
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Postby Ian Kendall » 05/19/07 04:42 PM

Street Performing is as close to pure Darwinism as magic gets. Either you are adaptive and get good in a hurry, or you get hungry and give up.

I was lucky enough to start in a unique situation of being able to crank out shows one after the other. For the first three days I did about seven shows a day, and each one was different, and marginally less crap than the one before. By the middle of day four I had a show that stayed pretty much the same for about four years. I don't remember my first hat, but the second was 27p...

I've seen a number of people who gave it a shot, didn't like it, or got disillusioned with a low success rate, and moved on.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 06:47 PM

Dustin; thanks in-advance for crediting me with being 3 for 3 video-wise. ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzhP9zRmlEA

P.S. Viva Sam Cooke.
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 06:47 PM

What Cyril, Blaine and Cris are doing may not fit the definition of street magic as we used to know it. However, languages change generally at the whim of the people. Definitions get added to words already in use and new words get added to languages.

I guess street magic includes the meaning of watching magicians (on tv or the net) perform out side the venue of an established theater.

I don' think we can do anything about it.

Randy
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 08:30 PM

I like callin' 'em street assassins and hallway hit men. Makes them feel tough too.
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 10:24 PM

Street Magic, or Illustrated Begging as I like to call it, is not the same as strolling. They have different ends.

When you do a strolling gig youre being paid by someone other than the audience you're working for. There is no concern to squeeze money from your spectators.

In Street Magic youre performing a free show and then laying on a guilt trip sufficient to spur the audience into giving you something for what you just gave them for free. At best, its a hustle, at worst, its a grinding way to make a living.

Charlie Miller once told me a story about something that happened to Francis Carlyle. Seems Francis was doing something in a bar that had been visited by another performer earlier either that day on in the week. At some point in his set Francis asked a spectator for a $5 bill. The guy had been a victim of the previous busker whod walked away with the bill. The guy stood up, said something like, Here it comes, referencing the hustle of the money, and proceeded to knock Francis over a table.

I prefer subscribing to T. Nelson Downs dictum regarding being paid to perform: The more they pay you, the more they will respect you and enjoy your show.
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Postby Guest » 05/19/07 11:04 PM

Not "pass the hat"?....Actually when Blaine is on TV, he passes a BIG hat, called commercials...those who don't like him, move(click) on...those who do, stay tuned.

I have seen some good street (level) performers, but in the electronic public square and along the information highway,Blaine has formated HIS concept/persona on a global scale.

No one understands television better than David Blaine
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Postby Ian Kendall » 05/20/07 02:07 AM

David,

When you said; "In Street Magic youre performing a free show and then laying on a guilt trip sufficient to spur the audience into giving you something for what you just gave them for free. At best, its a hustle, at worst, its a grinding way to make a living."

I'm assuming you are talking about bottling a hit and run show. Because if you are talking about real street performing, you couldn't be more wrong.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 07:36 AM

Malini and Jarrow are two of my favorite 'illustrated beggars'.
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 11:48 AM

David, while I have great respect for you I think your statement about street performers, and I'm talking in the Cellini and Gazzo sense, is not only inaccurate but rather rude. I hope you didn't mean for it to come out as negative as it did.

Domingo, your statement about Blaine is very interesting and actually makes sense to me. Thank you.
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 01:24 PM

roving gangs of quarter-biters
:D Very Funny... like a zombie movie.
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 01:37 PM

If there is no fee agreed to in advance from a third party hiring the performer, then the money must come from the audience, either before the show by the purchase of tickets, or after by "donation." This latter condition is a rather haphazard way of getting money from an audience.

I'm not knocking the skill of Gazzo or Cellini or any other street performer, nor am I attempting to be rude to anyone. I'm making the observation that if the money is not agreed to in advance, then pressure must be put on the audience to part with money to pay for the show. In that light, any group or organization that relies on donations, essentially begs for their money. It may be couched in sophisticated direct mail pitches, but it's still begging.

If a street performer's audience thinks the show is worth something or have been guilt-tripped into making a "donation," they throw money in the hat, otherwise, they continue watching for free or walk away. The more successfully pressure of one kind or another is put on the audience, the more money is collected. Every successful charity knows that which is why the like to put pictures of doe-eyed waifs on the covers of their brochures.

Absent any discussion of the quality of their performance, if street performers are not entertaining beggars...or "beggars who entertain," then what are they?

Are they, in the words of Blance DuBois, people who "rely on the kindness of strangers?"
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 02:05 PM

Anyone who's seen enough street magicians, from Europe to the US to Australia, as I have - will know that David Alexander's description is completely accurate. It's like defamation; it can't be offensive if it's fair comment.
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 02:13 PM

I must agree, there is some brilliant work that goes into street performing, and we 'noblize' it on forums for a reason...probably as part of our training we should all spend a year on the streets...

but,

It does seem like a very difficult way to make a living over a long period of time.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 05/20/07 03:01 PM

At the risk of entering 'rant mode', I beg to differ with David on pretty much every level of his post.

To say that Street performers are beggers is, as has been said, ignorant and insulting. At best, it shows that David knows nothing about the subject in question, and at worst, it indicates an unwelcome prejudice against a group of performers. I can't believe that it was meant as a compliment...

It seems that there has been an awful lot said lately about 'Buskers' (to use a shorter term, and to distinguish from the Blaine crew) by people with no real experience of working the streets. As such, the comments are based on an outsider's viewpoint, with as much validity as the layman who says, upon being offered to choose a card, 'I've seen that one...'

Here's what a busker has to do; he has to identify a pitch, he has to generate an audience and he has to entertain that audience to the point where they _want_ to pay for the show. If we existed solely on 'guilt trip' money, we would all have starved long ago. If we relied on coercing people to pay for entertainment noone would get a ten pound drop, or a twenty dollar drop (I've even heard of a fifty dollar drop, but I didn't see it). If people were forced to pay, through the magical equivalent of a doe eyed child, the art would have died hundreds of years ago.

Busking is hard, make no bones about it. Many try, and many fail. But you cannot make the sweeping generalisation that all buskers are little more than beggers tricking people from their money. It's no better than saying all Illusionists are poseurs who let the assistants do all the work.

An example; several years ago a couple came up to me after a show to drop into my hat. With a smile they told me how they had seen my show a few years earlier, and how much they enjoyed it. I was in Edinburgh at the time, and the show they had seen was in Sydney. Do you honestly think that they paid for two shows, and remembered me enough to mention years later, if it was all about begging and guilt?

The bottom line is that good buskers entertain their audience. The really good buskers can give most other magicians a run for their money, as well. It's no secret that a percentage of an audience will walk - it comes with the territory. But those that pay, they do _not_ do it from guilt. The bottling speech is a crucial, and much studied part of a show - to reduce it to 'give me money, please' is ridiculous.

It's almost as if there is an undercurrent of 'we mock that which we do not understand'. I used to be dismissive of Kids Entertainers, until I realised the skills needed to control and keep attention of a group of small children. Now I have a very healthy respect for them. The thing with busking is that the skill is not two way; the average busker will have the 'chops' to entertain in most venues, it does not follow that a talented close up worker will be able to hack it on the street.

As Stuart says; everyone should spend some time on the street. The audience management lesson alone is invaluable, and there are many other lessons to be learned. The list of people who came in from the cold is long and illustrious - a smatterting off the top of my head would include Harry Anderson, Eddie Izzard, John Lenahan, Whit Haydn and Pete Wardell (and that's ignoring the obvious ones such as Cellini, Sheridan, Gazzo and Capehart).

I would suggest that David spend some time with a few buskers, both active and retired, and see how many of them agree with his portrait.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Ian Kendall » 05/20/07 03:06 PM

An addendum to David's question of what Buskers are; I would suggest that they are entertainers who temporarily create a venue, put on a show, and get the true value of that show in return.

Whether the hat is thirty pounds or three hundred pounds, it will be the most honest money you ever earn.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 03:12 PM

There are undeniably some great performers working in this genre. But anyone who has ever seen a standard street magic show, hearing the guy go into all the tiresome pitches and guilt-trips about tips and so on, and says it isn't akin to begging - is bloody well delusional.
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 03:46 PM

I find it fascinating that people who don't know me are able to read my mind and intentions from thousands of miles away. I have no prejudice against street performers. I was making an observation about what they are, nothing more. I say something someone doesn't like and suddenly I'm prejudiced.

With regard to the "honest money" comment - David Copperfield and Lance Burton (for example) pull in honest money because people pay in advance to see their shows. Their audiences self-select, decide to pay the cost of the ticket, set aside the time, and take themselves to the venue. They have valued the show.

I have no doubt that Ian and many others put on a skilled show, doubtless entertaining, but absent a pre-agreed upon fee, street performers and buskers rely on the generosity of strangers who didn't hire them in the first place, didn't volunteer to come to a show, didn't request anything be done for them, but are, for some odd reason, expected to pay for something they didn't order.

The spectators might enjoy the show and have had a great time, but the point remains, there was no pre-arrangement as to show and payment, so the payment comes from whatever emotional response is engendered in the spectators by the performer. Be that high or be that low, and, frankly Ian, anyone who works hard and delivers a good show is worth more than 30 pounds.

If you can make a living at it, you have my respect, but it's a hell of a way to grind out the money.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 05/20/07 04:09 PM

Joe; The difference between begging and bottling is that begging implies that someone is taking pity on the performer.

David; your comments, once again, seem to miss the mark. I apologise for the prejudice comment; it was typed in haste.

As for honest money and the value of a show; your analogy is incorrect - people pay to see a big show, but there is no guarantee that they will feel they have recieved their money's worth. I have heard countless times of people who, having paid for a show, felt that it was overpriced. On the street, however, you get _exactly_ what you are worth, and that is why it is honest money. Oh, and I mentioned 30 to 300 hats as arbitrary numbers that were indicative of the highs and lows. But, as I've said, my second hat was 27p, and that's pretty much what the show was worth.

As to people paying for something they didn't order, that is again showing a lack of understanding. It may be true that members of the audience did not leave the house intending to see a show (although not neccessarily - often people will come to known pitches with the express intention of wathcing street shows). However, once they stop and watch, they are actively participating, albeit in a paradoxically passive way. Noone _forces_ anyone to watch their show. People are free to walk away whenever they like. The fact that they stay is testament to the value of the show (or in may case, often because I've stolen their sunglasses, but that's another subject).

In fact, it's this bit which is so completely wrong:

"didn't volunteer to come to a show, didn't request anything be done for them, but are, for some odd reason, expected to pay for something they didn't order."

They absolutely did come to the show, by stepping up to the edge. They did request the show, by staying. They are _asked_ to pay for something they have enjoyed.

Busking is a grind, to be sure. But for the most part, it's a fun grind, and no worse than a three hour restaurant gig for less money. There is a camraderie amoung buskers that certainly does not exist in any other branch of magic (and there are great big full blown gonzo whoppers of fights, too). As for making a living - let's assume that your performer has a good pitch. He does three or four shows a day, each one perhaps an hour long. Assuming he's good, let's say he makes 75 pounds hats (at a low estimate). That's in the region of 300 pounds a day for three hours work, with no boss and noone checking what time he comes to work. There's a really good chance that he enjoys his work. He gets to hang out with friends when he's not working. If he travels to a festival, the hats can be much bigger, plus he gets to see the world.

You are right, David. It's a hell of a way to earn a living.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 08:03 PM

I have a brother who is a begger. He stands with a sign that claims he'll work for money (note, he won't), he does nothing but stand and look pitiful and tries to get money from you.

The street performers who are good (some people who claim to be performers are indeed beggers with props) are in areas where people expect to see a performer. That performer gathers a crowd and does his show, no one is forced to stop and stay, no one is forced to pay for said show. The difference is the patron pays after the event rather than prior to it. It is tough but if in the right area they can make a decent living. It is a call back to a long tradition in the art and I respect those that do it. Do you consider the museums that operate on 'donations' rather than a set price to be 'begger organizations'? I would hope not.

I apologize to you, David, if I came across as anything but surprised. I was reading into the tone, as I percieved it, and the term 'beggers' kind of shocked me.
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 09:39 PM

David wrote>>>I was making an observation about what they are, nothing more.>>>

There is no value-for-value exchange between a beggar and a donor.

In a street performance, there most definitely IS a value-for-value exchange. A show in exchange for whatever the audience thinks it's worth.

The former is charity, the latter is capitalism in a very pure form.

P&L
D
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Postby Guest » 05/21/07 01:02 AM

Joe; The difference between begging and bottling is that begging implies that someone is taking pity on the performer.
LOL. Whatever euphemistic world view works for you, dude.
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Postby Guest » 05/21/07 01:01 PM

David you said:

"I find it fascinating that people who don't know me are able to read my mind and intentions from thousands of miles away. I have no prejudice against street performers."

-- the snide sarcasm expressed here is indicative of the attitude that characterizes your side of the argument, at least you seem to share it with Joey boy.

"If you can make a living at it, you have my respect..."

-- I have no respect for beggars.
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Postby Guest » 05/21/07 01:29 PM

No one understands television better than David Blaine
Clearly you have never heard of Dick Wolf or William Peterson.
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