Mentalism's new face

Instead of mentally projecting your mentalism thoughts, type them here.

Postby Andrew » 04/01/04 08:20 PM

Based on the work of some newly-published authors -- books and dvd's that have been widely praised -- I think I see a new face on mentalism. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this new look. It's all about using words to suggest, subliminal principles to create illusion -- as opposed to using tricks. My feeling is that tricks are harder to create -- that it's easier to claim you will fool someone with words. It's easier to fill up a book with a lot about presentation, then ask 40 dollars for the book. But people are not stupid. I mean audiences aren't. It remains to be seen whether the magic/mentalism crowd that purchases the linguistic and other phony stuff will have the sense to spend their money on something worthwhile. Just a few mutterings.
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Postby Guest » 04/01/04 08:44 PM

"...easier to fill up a book with a lot about presentation"(!)
If you feel "the trick" is more important than words that effect a presentation, those who have seen Dunninger or Fogel, would differ. A different ballpark for some, but John Edward has intrigued/compelled a huge following, without using a single prop ! One can see this from different angles, but most remember, (especially when it comes to mentalists) the voice and presentation. I would rather have one ounce of Fogel's command of words, than a solid-gold epic slate.
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Postby Andrew » 04/01/04 09:24 PM

I'm not talking about slates or awkward props. I hate that sort of thing, too. I'm happy with pieces of paper or spoons that bend. Let's just not fool ourselves into thinking we can alter a spectator's consciousness with verbal ploys. The art of mentalism, to me, is to invent clever misdirection and innocent-looking props along with effective presentation. Presentation alone doesn't do it -- unless you want to claim powers. Do you?
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Postby Guest » 04/02/04 12:25 AM

Depending on how good the presentation is, there is no need to claim powers, people will take it, where they want to. Some claim powers, some don't have to.
"The goal is to be convincing to those who believe, but still mystifying and entertaining, to those who don't." (Anton LaVey-1997.)
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Postby Andrew » 04/02/04 08:45 AM

My point is there seems to be a trend toward lack of inventiveness on the part of the people who sell their ideas at exorbitant prices -- and if all you get is some claim that mumbo jumbo is going to alter people's consciousness, that doesn't cut it.
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Postby Guest » 04/02/04 02:39 PM

Originally posted by andy:
... and if all you get is some claim that mumbo jumbo is going to alter people's consciousness, that doesn't cut it.
Unless the mumbo jumbo actually works, at least a reasonable percent of the time. Personally I have my doubts... but the books are selling, and I haven't yet heard anybody say that it's unequivocally a bunch of crap.

I would love to hear impressions from folks who have read these books or who use this type of material.

- Jason Bay
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Postby Guest » 04/02/04 03:32 PM

Lets face it, when you break mentalism down, its sad. The presentation is what sells it, without the gold covering, its sleights and peeks.
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Postby Andrew » 04/02/04 03:41 PM

I don't think it's sad at all. The challenge is to come up with new subterfuges that simulate mindreading. The best effects are FIRST grounded in hidden moves THEN ENHANCED by presentation. In works released recently, we're reading that we can fool our audiences with presentation alone. Enough is enough. Gotta get more creative.
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Postby Guest » 04/02/04 04:45 PM

Andy, would you mind listing a couple of the books that you're talking about? If you don't think it would end up offending the authors too badly?

I'm interested in checking them out if possible, to see just what they have to offer.
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Postby Andrew » 04/02/04 10:01 PM

I'd rather not name book titles or authors. But it's recently published stuff -- books that stress linguistics and suggestion -- that take that approach to mentalism to an extreme. Often, it's authors who promise their effect is not a pipe dream.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 04/02/04 11:08 PM

Any tool that works is worth the investment. End of story. However, selling tools that don't work is, well, wrong. So I don't think the issue is in value, but efficacy.
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Postby Guest » 04/03/04 12:58 AM

I have a feeling i'm one of those authors you are refering to and all I could say is you might chose to ask Andrew Baroch from Voice of America radio if my phone effect is a pipe-dream or not.
I recently did it to him...
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Postby Q. Kumber » 04/03/04 10:01 AM

I suspect Andy you are referring to the published works of Derren Brown and Luke Jermay.

I've seen Luke lecture and the effects he performed, all based on linguistics worked.

Derren Brown fools the hell out of most magicians because his routines are shrouded in multiple layers of verbal deception, even when he has other means at his disposal. One effect, relying entirely on linguistics was described in GENII last year by Barrie Richardson as the best card effect he had experienced.

I wouldn't want to rely on linguistics for all my effects. One thrown in here and there can only add to the effectiveness of your performance, like throwing in a self-working card effect (or using fake cards) amongst the routines relying on skill.

Having said all that what you, I or anyone else thinks is only opinion. You and I will only answer the question by performing for audiences.
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Postby David Alexander » 04/03/04 12:16 PM

Much of this discussion helps define the demarcation between magicians and mentalists. The thinking is generally different, with mentalists, successful mentalists that is, primarily concerned with presentation and effect, how it looks and sell to the paying audience. Amateur magicians are more concerned with having a clever method and fooling other magicians, which to a working performer, is largely a waste of time unless amateur magicians are your audience.

Fogel was marvelous AND entertaining. With nothing more than a billet switch he could do an entertaining ten minute bit with the audience eating it up. Yet he could often tell if there was an amateur magician in the audience because there would be isolated applause just after the billet switch.

The primary ingredient for successful mentalism is an interesting personality. Dunninger had one, Fogel had one, Koran - to a lesser extent than Fogel - had one, a few others also, but not many.

Both Docc Hilford and Quentin Reynolds do five to six minutes with a pocket handkerchief, each in their own way. Both routines - Docc's remains unpublished to date although he did teach one or two friends - are fine examples of personality interacting with the audience through a well-devised presentation. Written on paper, they are dry...seen in person they are marvelous.

I have Luke's book and I too questioned the efficacy of what he writes, yet one of the best, most successful mentalists in the US recently returned from the UK and told me he saw Luke do several things out of his book...not once, but three times, all successfully.
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Postby Guest » 04/04/04 10:07 PM

The power of Derren Brown lies in the psychobable. How many Brits on other forums believe that derren actually uses nlp and hypnosis to achieve his work? A TON! Whats the truth? I suspect the man has more gadgets then a James Bond Movie, and is just a whitty crafter of his personae.

As for Luke, I can't say much, I never seen him perform nor have I talked to him. But his effects are nice and covered in psychobabble as well. It raises them to a more modern realm.

The presentation is what raises a medocre trick into a stunning effect. If you doubt this, I highly doubt you've read Maximum Entertainment which is highly recommmended for performers (Which will elimate 98% of the readers of my posts).
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Postby opie » 04/05/04 09:44 PM

Andy, would you mind expanding on what you meant a couple of posts back? What exactly is the point of modern mentalists/psychics, other than to make money off a bunch of young people who think they can spend a lot of money to buy a few routines and become the next Kreskins or whoever the hell they envision in their dilusions?

I can actually see the value of a humorous mentalism routine, but how long are people going to buy into the dilusional diarrhea that is being excreted upon the public these days?

Hey, there are a lot of young kids buying into this crap (no pun intended).....

Hey, and I am not trying to start any gastro-intestinal erruptions from anybody; I am just trying to find out what Andy thinks....

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Postby Guest » 04/05/04 10:43 PM

Average salary of a mentalist? $1500 for a show. Not bad. Corporate and college bookings? Sounds nice. I bought in.
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Postby Michael Kamen » 04/06/04 12:58 PM

Originally posted by Diego Domingo:
Depending on how good the presentation is, there is no need to claim powers, people will take it, where they want to. Some claim powers, some don't have to.
"The goal is to be convincing to those who believe, but still mystifying and entertaining, to those who don't." (Anton LaVey-1997.)
I am not familiar with Mr. LaVey's writing, but Nevil Maskelyne wrote in Our Magic circa 1946 (p. 110): "A legitimate magician never deludes his audiences as to the character of his performance. He makes no claim to the possession of powers beyond the scope of physical science. Neither does he, while rejecting the suggestio falsi, substitute in its place the suppressio veri. That method is one frequently adopted by charlatans in magic, who refrain from committing themselves to any definite statement on the subject of their powers. . . The distinguishing characteristic of a legitimate magician is his straightforwardness. He makes no false pretenses, either by suggestion, implication, or reticence. . ." Mr. Maskelyne goes on to define magic as (to paraphrase) the simulation of "supernatural agency." To purport by "suggestion, implication, or reticence" to do other than to simulate seems to qualify as unethical behavior under his definition. Profitability not in dispute.
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Postby Guest » 04/06/04 02:04 PM

How dilluded we can get when we read books, and don't practise what we read. Why turn an astounding effect into trickery, like dc's flying, by saying yeah its a trick, theres wires?

No need to disclaim or claim. Just DO!
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Postby Guest » 04/06/04 03:34 PM

I agree, "just do(it)". Again, much of this discussion,(repeated many times in the past)should define what venue/premise you are working in. A satanic/witchcraft church like LaVey? Or a comedy club? Or___?
Part of the focus, some have on disclaimers is the self-importance of thinking that what they are performing, is believed as true. Sometimes that can be true, but also, (sorry to break your bubble), but no matter WHAT you do, others will only regard it as entertainment or dismiss it, as a trick. I have been with groups watching Kreskin or John Edward, some in the room saying they have the possible/possible, the others saying it's all a lot of crap, how can you watch this junk...and neither side paying attention to the other, not comphrehending why/what the others can't see.
Give them a good show.
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Postby Michael Kamen » 04/06/04 05:37 PM

If the Anton LaVey refered to was the same one who founded the "Church of Satan" (who I understand took/take themselves quite seriously indeed), then this really speaks directly to the point. If we think that simulating supernatural powers in that context "is all good," that might well be perceived as an affront to believers themselves, apart from any other ethical considerations. I know only a little about NLP, but I understand it is about changing people's thinking/belief systems. Surely that is not to be confused with magic as performance art.
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Postby Guest » 04/06/04 07:23 PM

Depends what you perceive to be "performance art".
In many ways, religion can be ultimate theater, as is changing people's thoughts/beliefs, as a politician or salesman can, and elevate their abilities as performance art.
The lines can be very blurred and is up to how you perceive it.
LaVey was looked at from many different views...some who thought he was an evil, dangerous man, some who felt he verified organized evil, and to others, merely a entertaining,self-created, huckster.
When I saw him a few months before he died, he was more into cutting up jackpots about circus, carnival life, magic,etc., instead of being visited by the "cape and candle crowd", who wanted to discuss rituals, curses, etc.
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Postby Guest » 04/06/04 09:45 PM

I love the quote: It is not our job as mentalists to educate or enlighten, our job is to simply entertain. The coating of NLP and hypnosis adds a level of covering our tracks so that we can achieve a hightened effect inwhich the method, and sometimes the memory of what happened is blurred in mystery. We strive for the ultimate mystery, Don't we?
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Postby Brad Henderson » 04/06/04 09:58 PM

I just re-read Andy's original post, and I think, respectively, it misses the point. He claims it is easier to use words to create magical deception than tricks. I think we are confusing means and ends. As a performer of magic or mentalism, one of my jobs is to create a successful deception. A magical phenomena should be perceived as having been produced. Now, the means used of obtaining that goal should be the most effective in our arsenal. If that technique is sleight of hand, great. If it is a secret device, wonderful. If it is the use of crafted communication and psychology, beautiful.

Max Maven pointed out that of the 4, I believe, methods one can use to create a magical deception only psychology can be used alone to effect such a goal. All other methods require psychology as a counterpart. In other words, psychology is an element of all "tricks." (Additionally, "trick" is a poor word as it is too general to be applied in context to Andy's post. I assume he uses it to mean something to the effect of a secret action or device. )

It stands to reason that exploring this most essential of techniques would not only prove fruitful, but be required.

So, using psychology in order to effect a magical phenomena is no different than using a "trick," further it is essential to the process.

As to the question of value, I reiterate my first post. If it works, then it is of value. Of course, there are certain perks to a purely psychologically based deception, such as the lack of props, etc. But ultimately we must ask ourselves what is the best means for conveying the magical phenomena we wish to be perceived. If the tool accomplishes our goal, then it is priceless.
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Postby Michael Kamen » 04/07/04 10:28 AM

Interesting observations Diego. The behavior you described strikes me as one of the clearest possible images of what Maskelyne describes as a charlatan. Leaving that aside. . .
Originally posted by Diego Domingo:
Depends what you perceive to be "performance art". . .The lines can be very blurred and is up to how you perceive it.
True enough and speaks to the variety of outcomes toward which one may apply the tools. I should have specified "performance art for the purpose of entertainment." In this sense, the entertainment outcome is an ethical boundary, one that both magicians and mentalists happen to usually adhere to. Am I a paid entertainer, mercenary, missionary, psychotherapist, or cat burglar? Depends on who is paying, how much, my ethics, and of course what I want to be -- otherwise the skill-sets overlap somewhat. Any manipulation (digital, technological, or psychological), may be better suited for some tasks (or calling) than others. That said, I agree all methods should be on the table for an entertainer designing effects.
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Postby Andrew » 04/07/04 09:16 PM

Let me state more simply what I've tried to say before: It's my belief that most good mentalist effects are really the result of effective sleights: switching billets, for instance -- or verbal sleights like miscalling the contents of a billet. The mentalist's presentation should help eradicate suspicion of sleights. The PRESENTATION ALONE -- without an underlying "trick" -- is generally not effective, in my opinion, no matter how much hubris we display with our wordplay.
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Postby Guest » 04/07/04 10:35 PM

There are many "good" effects, usually made good, by a good/strong presentation. There are some poor/boring effects, like making a key bend 1/4 of an inch, made sensational by a master showman like Geller.
Ricki Dunn claimed he once watched Dunninger, and his first effect was revealing a chosen card,
from a deck of cards. He failed , guessed wrong, but his presentation/build up was so strong, the audience gave him a standing ovation, as if he had been a trapeze artist, who had attempted a quadriple somersault without a net!
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Postby opie » 04/08/04 05:23 AM

Andy, it is refreshing to read a post of a mentalist who understands that a fifteen-minute Haunted Key routine produces a little too much methane and certainly does not justify a $1500 fee. (Obviously pyro and mentalism effects do not mix...).

Who do you know who gets, OFTEN, a $1500 fee for a performance? Who does anybody know who does?

Anyway, I thank you for pointing out to the young folks here that they cannot just buy some of the expensive psychological compost and expect to come out smelling like a rose.

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Postby Guest » 04/08/04 06:58 AM

I book at least one corporate gig a month at usually more then $1500 depending on services rendered. With the performance, I will usually hire a psychic reader or two to work the crowd priavtely and give readings.

Any one Interested?: 708.268.8403

Whats mentalism with out presentation? Think of a 3 digit number. Ok its 1-2-3. Im great look at me. Now I have a super mind and you dont.
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Postby opie » 04/08/04 07:22 AM

Congratulations....

So, what are the services rendered?

How many others do you have to pay out of the $1500, and what is your usual net, just for you?

What do you do for a living? Surely, making less than $1500 per month on mentalism gigs, you have to have other income...

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Postby mrgoat » 04/08/04 08:45 AM

Originally posted by andy:
Based on the work of some newly-published authors -- books and dvd's that have been widely praised -- I think I see a new face on mentalism. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this new look. It's all about using words to suggest, subliminal principles to create illusion -- as opposed to using tricks. My feeling is that tricks are harder to create -- that it's easier to claim you will fool someone with words. It's easier to fill up a book with a lot about presentation, then ask 40 dollars for the book. But people are not stupid. I mean audiences aren't. It remains to be seen whether the magic/mentalism crowd that purchases the linguistic and other phony stuff will have the sense to spend their money on something worthwhile. Just a few mutterings.
If you are lucky enough for Derren Brown to do a show in the states, go and see it. SHould change your mind.
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Postby opie » 04/08/04 08:48 AM

About what?

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Postby Brad Henderson » 04/08/04 11:02 AM

Andy, unless we are willing to discuss specific techniques in context, I don't know how meaningful this discussion can be. It becomes rather like the perennial fight on the magic cafe: which is better sleight of hand or gimmicks.

If you consider that arguement, I think most professionals would say that it doesn't matter, you use whatever technique works best. So, I cannot agree that a sleight of hand technique in a mind reading context is neccessarily better than any other technique, though given certain specific circumstances I am sure it could be.

But let's look at specifics, sort of. Luke Jermay published an effect in 7 Deceptions which I know many top flight magicians and mind readers use regularly. I will not tip the exact effect because I know some of them wish it to remain hidden.

The method is purely psychological, but it WORKS. Not only does it work, but the effect cannot be produced any other way.

So, in this case, the psychological method is of tremendous value

I have featured a magnetic/immovable hand routine in impromptu settings for a number of years. Again, the method is pure suggesstion. But it WORKS. And short of super gluing their fingers to my hand, I can think of no "trick" method to accomplish this feat.

So, again, the purely psychological method is not only of value, but better than the messy alternatives.

But lets look at your general argument and take it to a larger conclusion. You state that most effective mental routines are the results of sleights, but yet I think most professional and serious amateur mindreader/magicians recognize that psychology is required in order to effect these sleights in a deceptive manner. So if this psychology is requisite, doesn't it make sense to conclude that it is indeed the essence of what we do? And as it is the essence, is it not possible that entire effects can be based on the use and understanding of this essential principle?

Why then would effects based on this essential principle be lesser than those that rely on "tricks" when these "tricks" cannot be exacted without the presence of psychology?

As to the pricing of mentalist programs, which has little to nothing to do with the thread other than perhaps incite anger and emotion, I can say that most of my peers regularly receive more than $1500 for their programs, from repeat clients, and referrels from those clients. They work alone, and deliver a program that is intelligent, engaging, and amazing. I think most of the well posted magicians on the forum know the names of these performers. Those who do not might wish to get caught up to date before making posts based on an incomplete knowledge of today's entertainment industry.
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Postby opie » 04/08/04 11:17 AM

tsk tsk.....Speaking of psychology, I am reminded of the story about the paranoid guy who went to a ball game. Just as he was sitting down, he heard a voice way up in the bleachers which yelled, "Hey John!" Angrily the paranoid guy stood, turned, and yelled, "My name's not John.".........hehe

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Postby Andrew » 04/08/04 01:26 PM

Okay, let's get down to specifics. Suggest to a spectator that the lines on their hands are moving. But they are not moving. They can't move. Now what?
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Postby Brad Henderson » 04/08/04 01:38 PM

Well, does this suggestion work? I know several performers who use this effect often. It works for them reliably. The perception of the spectator IS that the lines are moving. Sounds like a kick ass trick to me.

What's your problem with it?
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Postby opie » 04/08/04 01:43 PM

That trick would be worth $50.00 to me....provided I did not have to go out and buy another whatever amount of money in materials to rig whatever it is that I need to make the person believe....I surely would like to know who, by name, these people are who can do that trick...opie
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Postby Nicholas » 04/08/04 01:49 PM

One of the simplest mental effects I do, one that gets a huge reaction, is based on a fairly basic form of magician's choice. It's straight out of Knepper's Miracles of Suggestion. I have personally done 2 hour "shows" using props that are totally ungimmicked (stones, candles, etc.)and using only suggestion and psychological ploys to accomplish the effects. However, I think that most types of performance situations actually require more variety. Yet, in contrast, some magicians present a whole act without uttering a single word (like a dove act I saw recently). I guess there are many ways to skin a cat. Thanks for the opportunity to interject my thoughts.
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Postby opie » 04/08/04 03:10 PM

Northwest Penn....first-time poster....

I remember my early posts on several forums and how I felt that I was intruding....You are not intruding. As a Penn-State resident, you have in you the in-bred permission to say your say. I thank you for doing so...

You summarized everything nicely....There are times when words are too much and only a look or a smile is necessary. These are the tools we use to hopefully make our presentations ENTERTAINING, but hopefully not BORING.

I think the underlying argument, which is purely opinion on both sides, is moot and is just an excuse for some of us to blow off a little steam....Anyone who considers himself to be right in this "argument" is foolish. Hell, I have been wrong at least twice in my life--once, when I would not allow my eighth-grade female classmate/neighbor to spend the night one night when both our parents were away and the other was when I started trying to have a serious conversation with mentalists/psychics....

So, just try to take everything in, with the understanding that opinions are like that ever-opening-and-closing muscle at the end of the alimentary canal....everybody's got one.

And, keep in mind also what you well know: All opinions are equal, except some opinions are more equal than others, depending on who is talking, or, in this instance, blowing in the wind.

(I hope I did not mix my metaphors)...hehe...opie
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Postby Guest » 04/08/04 08:00 PM

Hey opie, Obviously the suggestive methods you describe are not surefire effects, but merely a tool in the repetuare of a mentalist. The power of a true mentalist or entertainer in general is to use evrything at his disposal. i.e. Suggestion, peeks, etc. I don't want to give anything away here.

Now I have to ask, have you ever performed for money? Are we playing big bank takes little bank? I don't believe my financials are any of your business. I have to advise you to get a good financial planner, that is if you do make a living performing. When times are slow, they're slow. But around holidays (especially easter), business picks up and you can make surplus to live off of.

Since you asked. I have been performing for a few years and I am truly a newbie for paid performing but if you truly interested:

-I have a stage show that will run monday nights at a Nightclub called "Down from the tracks", in Union Station. I am on hiatus for the next two weeks , but will have the stage ready to go again in 2 weeks. ((Political changes to the owenership of the club)) If you would like to see true suggestion in action, stop by. You seem like an arm chair expert who has no basis for his arguement, and probably who has never performed especially for moeny.. Or at least you sound very ignorant to concepts you have never tried.
-I also do a few private parties.
-I do some roving mentalism at various nightclubs in downtown chicago with a promotions company (who for booking reasons shall remain nameless)who promote upscale venues through out Chicago.
-I perform through out the streets of Chicago as a "Busker", in fact today was my first day of the season! It's fun! Interested call me and I'll send you the dates.

As for the corporate gigs, it depends on the client. The questions always arise who the client is, how long they want you for, walk around or stage, but thats the average fee. I have been paid a lot more then that. The most I have gotten paid off of a gig was a rebook for a mortgage lender. It was lets say way more then my average charge, why? BECAUSE I GOT TIPPED WELL! They enjoyed my suggestions so much, they tipped me nearly twice my normal fee!

If you want extras like readers its more money. Would you like a brochure? I think I have been open enough with you, so please, please, put up some money and book me or mind your own business. But in the name of mentalism, I'll even comp you a ticket next time your in Chicago to see my stage show.

As always
Respectfully Yours...

P.S. As for who can pull off suggestion, a compitant performer. I have done it several times, but find the palm lines effect to be like Derren Brown's invisible deal in that you have to choose your spectators very cautiously. Its called audience management look it up in Amateur Magicians handbook, Tarbell, or Greater Magic.
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