Last Friday, I did the show. Here?s what happened:
The house was fabulous, with a winding path to the house and, inside, split levels and high, expensive windows. When I walked into the house, it turned out to be a party of highly accomplished professional African-Americans. The hostess works as a high official in the city attorney?s office and, it turned out, is on a first-name basis with the mayor.
I was immediately introduced to the targets, Michael and Gay. They were plump fiftysomethings with a warm manner, and I thought of them as venison, deer who didn?t yet know that they were destined for the dinnertable. Within the hour, the group of twenty--old friends who had known each other since high school and grammar school--had settled into chairs in the living room and were ready for a show.
I started off with a story to enhance my credibility: I had spent the past five years, I said, studying with shamans in indigenous cultures, trading my sleight of hand for the secrets to their real magic. I handed out the photographs of my recent visit to Vanuatu. I told spooky stories about native magic. It bestowed upon me instant credibility.
?I?m not asking you to believe,? I said. ?I?m not even asking you to have an open mind, although if you do, you?ll be a lot more entertained. And if you have a closed mind, this is really going to piss you off.?
And with that, I launched into my show. Michael, the husband, set himself up early as a skeptic, vocally coming up with some cockamamie theory about how I did my first trick. But that made me smile, because that would just sweeten the victory when I slayed him at the very end.
Early on, I set up my effect, The Wishing Bottle, which is an original effect (to be featured on my new DVD to be released in March). I brought out a narrow-necked bottle with some billets in it.
?This is a wishing bottle,? I said. ?You wish for things, and just like coins in a fountain, they might come true. Is there anybody here who would like to wish for something for someone else in the room??
Immediately, a man raised his hand and wrote something down on a piece of paper, which I warned him not to let anyone see. Then I stuffed the billet into the bottle, clearly without looking at it, and I went onto the next effect.
As I proceeded through the show, Michael the Skeptic was able to come up with no other theories as to method, because he was at a loss. I went through a couple watch tricks, and then, in the middle of the show, I asked someone to name a two-digit number?he named 22?and I handed over a sealed envelope that the spectator opened. The note inside correctly predicted 22, and Michael was slain.
Being educated blacks, this was a unique audience. They were thinkers, to be sure, but they also had that charming characteristic of black audiences that makes them more able than white audiences to express their amazement and enjoyment. They were having great fun, and they were letting their faces know it.
For the grand finale, I performed some direct mindreading. It?s my 3-billet routine (a commercial effect that is available from Denny & Lee), which is stunning and which upped the ante even more. Finally, it was time for my grand finale. I brought up Gay, whom I had used only once before during the show.
?The way that I accomplish all this is through visualization,? I confessed. ?I see through people's eyes. I see what they see. So I'd like you to visualize something yourself. I?d like you to visualize?well, how about a location. Can you visualize...well, let?s say the front of your house. Do you have a house? Good, visualize that, and we'll stand back to back and--there aren't any mirrors, are there? Good. You draw and I'll draw at the same time."
This back-to-back presentation was something that Pete Biro had suggested to me while chatting about it at Dean?s Shoppe. So we drew while the music played. When we were both done, I asked Gay to hold the picture against her chest and face the audience.
?Can I have a peek?? I asked.
She showed me her clipboard. I looked and, strangely, it was clearly a different house. I looked again. Different roof, different garage, different style. Oh my God, what had gone wrong? Had the reverse phone directory been wrong? Had my Chicago friend photographed the wrong house? What was going on?
And then the woman gasped.
"My God!? Gay exclaimed. ?That's my OTHER house!"
It turned out that they owned two houses, one in Chicago and one in Los Angeles. She had drawn her Los Angeles house, as it turned out, and I had drawn her Chicago house. And fortunately, it wasn't considered a mistake, but instead, the ultimate hit.
The audience was in an uproar, expostulating and exclaiming.
"How could he possibly know that?" Michael the Skeptic said. "The numbers trick was great, but this is the ultimate!"
I decided to wrap things up on a high note.
"Well, that's the best that I can do," I said. "I want to thank you for inviting me into your house," blah blah blah. They applauded, but strangely, they wouldn't stand up. They were stunned, thinking about what had just happened.
"How do you do that?"
"I can't figure it out myself," I said. "It's a mystery."
"That?s absolutely amazing."
"That's really good."
"Hey, what about the bottle?!" somebody finally called out.
"Oh yes!" I said. ?The wishing bottle? That?s just a wishing device, it wasn?t something that I could know. However?wait a minute?I do hope you get that convertible car."
There was a collective "Ohhhhhh!!!" A hit.
It was a delicious show, and I didn?t want it to end, so I accepted their invitation to hang around and have some food and drink. It was, after all, an invitation to do some marketing.
And so, while drinking some Champagne, I had a one-on-one conversation with Michael the Skeptic. He went step by step through the show, and couldn?t stop talking about how amazing it was. Eventually, he said something enlightening and helpful regarding his thought processes.
"I mean, how could you know that? I mean, even if [the hostess] had tipped you, how could you know what the front of our house looked like? Because [the hostess] hasn't even seen the front of our house!"
I?d like to thank all of you here on the forum who helped me enhance my client?s New Year?s Eve party. The advice that was offered was certainly quite valuable. It?s clear to me that pre-show work must be used only to enhance other effects, and that you have to keep a few key factors in mind.
You have to avoid an encyclopedic recitation of facts, as someone has mentioned. You have to take care not to leave bread crumbs that your audience can follow. You have to know that the audience?s minds will always go toward the Internet, if you don?t take care to throw them off that trail. Diego, I haven?t yet been able to use cold reading to my advantage, so perhaps that?s the next frontier for me.
Another thing also struck me. Certainly the pre-show effect was the best effect of the show, but only by an inch or two. The other effects?psychokinetic effects, direct mindreading, clever cold reading?are very nearly as strong. If you perform them right, they have no idea of the method. By using pre-show work, though, I was able to think outside the box and take everything one step further.
And economically, it?s practical to do pre-show work only when you?re getting a big fee. The research involved took me about six hours over a period of two weeks, and who can afford that on a regular basis if you?re doing a low-paying show?