Under Impossible Conditions

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Postby Guest » 07/25/05 10:27 AM

While performing at my restaurant gig last Saturday evening (Lula Cocina Mexicana in Santa Monica, Calif.), I ran into a fascinating situation. I wonder how you would have reacted.

Three stunning thirtysomething women were sitting at a table in the bar. After an hour, they beckoned me over, and asked for some magic.

They turned out to be quite nice, not bimbos, and fairly intelligent, but clearly, out for a good time. After a couple of pieces of magic, I went into my center tear. When I got it right, they went crazy, and everyone in the cantina noticed it. They asked for a repeat, but I begged off.

"I've got something even better," I said.

I bent a signed coin and they loved it. Then I made it magically appear in a Sweet & Low packet. But then they asked for the center tear again.

"Oh, I've got something even better," I said again.

I performed a variation on Voodoo and they loved it. But they were still insistent that I read their minds again. So I thought: Okay, change the method.

So I brought out some billets and performed my own three-billet switching routine, using a one-ahead glimpse instead of a center tear, with three thoughts. They loved it, screaming and whooping and having a great time.

And after that, they had an even greater hunger for mindreading.

"Do one to me," one of the sisters said, quickly grabbing a billet from a small stack that I had left on the table and writing something on it.

My mind started racing through all the billet methods I knew, wondering how I could improvise. There was a beer bottle on the table, and I considered switching the billet and slipping it into the bottle, then glimpsing the stolen billet at some other moment.

But then the woman popped the billet into her mouth and started chewing. Everybody at the table broke into hilarious laughter because she was obviously out of control, but I was stunned, not knowing what I would do now.

"Actually, I'm not sure I can do it, because I'm kind of depleted," I said. "If I read minds over and over again, it starts giving me a headache, and everything gets fuzzy. Let me do one last one, a grand finale."

So I performed a silverware bend, got a great reaction, and started to walk away.

"Oh, we are SO not done with you!" the chewing sister said, grabbing my wrist and pulling me back. Then she wrote another thought on a piece of paper and popped it into her mouth and started chewing.

One of the sisters saw how her sister was getting out of control, and pressed a $20 bill into my hand.

"Show us one last grand finale," she said.

So I showed her--what's it called?--Card Jumps Out of Deck by Invisible Thread. I killed one last time and they let me go.

But I wonder: What, in your opinions, can be done under those circumstances, when the audience takes control of the situation? Obviously, these are impossible conditions, for the magician must always have control for his magic to work. I pulled it out, I think, with happy customers who tipped me nicely and let me beg off. And they weren't mean. But what do you do in such situations?

Postby Fred Zimmerman » 07/25/05 10:58 AM

Hi David,

It sounds like you performed admirably under the conditions. I'm sure there will be many voices who claim, "If you were a competent performer, then you would NEVER have allowed things to get this out of control." (Add stentorian tones here)

However, in the real world of cocktail entertainment, there are occasions when spectators get nutty. In this case, while the situation was certainly a little odd, what with the billet chewing and all, it still seemed as though you were holding your own, and in control of your own performing choices. That's key. It also appears that others in the group commiserated with you about the out-of-control sister, so that's also a plus. If the whole group were going crazy, perhaps you should have bowed out. But then again, I wasn't there, so that advice is specious.

Hindsight is alwasy 20/20, and we can all sit and say, "Well then, I would have performed so-and-so...or this would have been the perfect time for my personal so-and-so..." However, when you're in the middle of it, it is sometimes difficult to keep your head above water. After all, you don't want to offend customers or the client and blow your gig.

I think it sounds like you did great. Personally I would have probably chickened out sooner and begged off with remarks that I need to work the rest of the crowd. The fact that you stuck with it and gave the audience a great time means you just gained invaluable experience.

Now, the real question is ... are billets Adkins-friendly?

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Postby Steve Bryant » 07/25/05 11:08 AM

A fascinating problem.

Re the chewed billet problem, IF you were loaded for the following, you might:

1. Ask her to concentrate and write your impression on another billet. Ask her to reveal the word, and show that you have captured her thought (via nail writer).

2. Say that you have no idea, and ask for the word. When she tells you, say, "No, really, what did you write?" When she repeats the word, say, "That is sooo weird." And then do Paul Harris's "Deep Astonishment," proving that you had predicted the word. (But then they would probably NEVER let you go!)

Re extricating yourself from the table, the best way to end and the way I prefer to end in a bar is to do David Acer's "Ghost in the Machine." You must walk the entire party over to a machine (juke box, cigarette machine, whatever), having announced that you can do your LAST trick only there "in the light," and then do not return to the table with them.
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Postby Curtis Kam » 07/25/05 02:05 PM

Nice going, and as has been said, that's life in the trenches. The lessons here that I see:

1. "Give the Lady what She Wants". They want mindreading, give them mindreading. If you're going to perform mindreading effects, it makes sense to know what you're going to do if they really like it. You'll recall that once they had their hearts set on mindreading, nothing else mattered. I've noticed the same. In hindsight, several card tricks can play as mindreading, so you had a lot of options.

2. "Verbal Judo" Sticking with mindreading, but changing roles would define an ending. In other words, the (just invented) "grand finale" is one of them (or all of them together) appear to read your mind.

3. "Consult the Swami" the swami is the ultimate out, as has already been mentioned. But if you are not skilled in this, perhaps you could:

4. "go for the laff": While the lady is chewing, you scribble something unintelligible on a slip of paper, and pop it into your mouth. Sell the gag, "Okay, you're not going to believe this--show everyone what you wrote." She removes the soggy, chewed mass from her mouth, and opens it out the best she can. You then open yours and claim they are a perfect match. They can't blame you, the chewing business wasn't your idea!
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Postby Danny Archer » 07/25/05 02:33 PM

... I would have predicted a stomach-ache in the very near future ...
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Postby Guest » 07/25/05 10:12 PM

I was hoping for thoughtful replies, and I got them!

Steve: Oh, the nail writer advice is great. I've never gotten into a nail writer, but that's kind of a one-behind device, isn't it? Maybe I should start carrying a nail writer around with me....

Another similarly useful device is No/No., the T.A. Waters prediction in the envelope. I perform this at shows, but don't do it much walkaround because, a) It takes a lot of preset, 2) It's hard to carry around, what with the tacky glue, and 3) It takes a lot of prsset. But I suppose I could have resorted to that.

Curtis: Oh, that "going for the laff" thing is just great. I'm hitting my forehead right now, saying, "I shoulda thought o' that!"

I suppose a mentalist can always justify asking a spectator not to destroy a billet by saying:

"We need this as proof afterward, because sometimes I get it right, but people say, 'No, you're wrong!' And unless I have the proof, I'm screwed."

I guess I could have also resorted to the Invisible Deck, although I never carry that around with me anymore because it's just not satisfying to me, since it doesn't challenge my sleight of hand skills; it bores me. I know it's a great pro tool, but sorry, guys, that's me.

Another aspect is that they were really quite gorgeous, and I was putty in their hands, although I tried not to let it show. I found it hard to leave because a part of me was wondering when the one on the left was going to give me a deep French one, although it never happened.

It's fascinating to do this 20/20 hindsight, although it was one table out of maybe 20 that I did that night, and you can't be perfect at every table.

Thanks for allowing me to turn this incident over this way and that in the light....

Postby Guest » 07/26/05 01:21 AM

Let me get this straight David... you performed for 3 hotties in a bar, you killed, you got tipped 20 bucks, and you wanna know what you are doing wrong??????????? You should have done your "Glorpy" routine. Duh...

Postby Guest » 07/26/05 03:07 PM

I like the nail writer idea above, but, as a last resort, I would say, "Okay, I cannot really read minds; I am a 'contact' reader, and I have to touch the paper on which you wrote...Perhaps, if we were to get mouth to mouth for a moment, I would get some ideas about what you wrote..."

If you cannot take it from there, you have no business working bars...hehe....

...Just kidding; you handled it the best you could, and that it what it is all about....I have done a lot of bar magic...it is tough...


Postby Guest » 07/27/05 09:41 AM

Originally posted by Eric Buss:
Let me get this straight David... you performed for 3 hotties in a bar, you killed, you got tipped 20 bucks, and you wanna know what you are doing wrong??????????? Duh...
You're right, Eric, sorry.

Postby Guest » 07/28/05 05:32 AM

Well, this is exactly the kind of situation you get yourself in when you're clinging so desperately to your magic tricks rather than actually learning how to do MENTALISM. Sorry, but that's the hard cold truth of it all.

A Mentalist... more specifically, a person that knows how to do Readings, would know how to manipulate this kind of situation and nine out of ten times, turn it around on the person being such a pain... Aside from Muscle Reading techniques that could be incorporated there are progressive anagram approaches that would reveal the "area" that the question pertains to i.e.; love, money, travel, etc. (see the LEATH Technique by David Lees as an example).

As one who is experienced as a Reader, I'd put a person of this kind on the spot by walking right in on them and getting "real" with them. Granted, I've got a few decades under my belt and know how to do this and invoke the kind of emotional response I'd want... in this case, tears of remorse.


Yep! But she'll NEVER screw with another magician or mentalist ever again out of fear of being put on the spot in such a vulnerable manner again.

I know many in this forum frown on such tactics and especially work as a "Legit" Reader but that's their problem. I do what works for me and it rarely involves card tricks. :rolleyes:

Postby Guest » 07/31/05 08:18 PM

I believe Mr. Browning is misinterpreting the situation...at least as I see it. From Mr. Groves more than adequate description, the ladies were NOT being antagonistic, rather 'the liquor was talking' and they were having a good time and possibly flirting (I say 'possibly' because we ARE talking about David Groves here).

Unless I'm interpreting his post wrong, Craig's advice seems to be: 'go on the attack and put her in her place'. I couldn't disagree more.

A true professional (whether a mentalist, reader or even cardworker) will find a way to keep control of the situation--entertain the inebriated sirens and gracefully depart at the earliest opportunity. To take a defensive approach as Mr. Browning suggests would seem to violate the very reason you were hired in the first place.

As a veteran performer myself, I believe that any other response is frankly irresponsible to your client.

David, you used your wits and resources and exhibited grace under fire. The only way you could have handled it better was to walk away with at least a phone number.

Mick Ayres

Postby ADG » 07/31/05 10:40 PM

David.....what were you thinking? I would have traded in the $20 for a big French one....know what I mean, Vern?....Just ask!....you'll never remember the $20, but I guarantee that you'll NEVER forget the big French one...Alex
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Postby Guest » 08/01/05 10:36 AM

Originally posted by M. Ayres:

Mick Ayres
Really? What instrument do you play?

Postby Guest » 08/01/05 10:39 AM

Originally posted by Craig Browning:
I've got a few decades under my belt and know how to do this and invoke the kind of emotional response I'd want... in this case, tears of remorse.


Hey, this is where I work. I don't poison the water here.

Postby Jonathan Townsend » 08/01/05 10:54 AM

Originally posted by David Groves:
Originally posted by Craig Browning:
[b] I've got a few decades under my belt and know how to do this and invoke the kind of emotional response I'd want... in this case, tears of remorse.


Hey, this is where I work. I don't poison the water here. [/b]
Is billet reading a procedural thing? Do they have to use a certain pencil? Or write only AFTER focussing on the thought?

Perhaps the pad of paper is sensitive to toughts? And that paper was depleted?
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Postby Guest » 08/02/05 07:23 AM

Originally posted by David Groves:
Originally posted by Craig Browning:
[b] I've got a few decades under my belt and know how to do this and invoke the kind of emotional response I'd want... in this case, tears of remorse.


Hey, this is where I work. I don't poison the water here. [/b]
Perhaps my wordage in the previous post was a bit strong and one of the follow-ups actually conveyed what my intentions would be e.g. REGAIN AND MAINTAIN CONTROL.

I've dealt with lots of grabby drunks over the years and know that you must play their game to a point. I also know that if I can put such a person on the spot and give them reason to pause, we both win.

There are numerous ways of doing billet work and as Cassidy has pointed out, when you seem to be going through the same proceedure but you change the method on the patrons (in this instance, the one's challenging you) then you throw them off the beaten trail and destroy their "theory" as to how you are doing what you're doing. Nine out of ten times, they believe you somehow glean the info on the billet, so have an alternative at hand... "Be Prepared!" as the Boy Scouts would say.

I tend to use slips of paper torn out of a cheap pocket styled notebook kept in my shirt pocket. This device allows me the freedom to do normal billet work as well as two different Impression techniques -- the Pocket Medium idea found in Cassidy's writings and the built-in gaff, as it were, found in this particular NOTEBOOK (by Kerry Sommers). A nice variant to this would be some of the newer ideas put forth by John Riggs via his BUTTERFLY Memo Pad and the new Tarot Card Impression device he's developed. Either one is fairly priced and priceless, in my opinion; both allowing an on-the-spot glimpse in real time.

Bottom line is, there are polite and clever ways to put a person "on the spot" and still have a win, win out come. My point in the above post, is that a Mentalism/Reader who is experienced in life, will ALWAYS have an alternate to the presentation so as to throw folks off their trail. After all, the roots of this craft come from the realm of honorable charlatans and our job is to create but one single illusion -- the idea that we may just be the real thing.

Postby Jonathan Townsend » 08/02/05 07:34 AM

Originally posted by David Groves:
...quickly grabbing a billet from a small stack that I had left on the table ...
The lesson begins.

What was learned?

Is it sensible to leave out bait?

Can one bait the trap?
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Postby Allen Tipton » 09/21/05 11:07 AM

David, what an awkward position to be in. I think probably you were tempted to go on too long.
However. look up pages 5 to 8 in the George Anderson book, 'It Must Be MIndreading', published by Magic Inc. The chapter is entitled 'No Questions WRITTEN' Anderson's ideas and technique might prove useful to you in a possible embarrassing situation.
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Postby Guest » 09/22/05 10:57 AM

Given the charged nature of the interaction and the fact that the billet was destroyed, I might simply have stated to the woman, "As attractive as you are -- and as intriguing as that proposition may be -- I regret to say that such conduct would be frowned upon by the management."

If she denies that she wrote something suggestive, I would say that I read THOUGHTS, and the one I received most strongly was the one to which I responded (while, of course, trying to avoid any embarassment for the lady).

Actually, in the situation described, I think one would have a better than 50% chance that she DID write something suggestive.


Postby Spellbinder » 09/27/05 02:23 AM

Opus is right, David. The billet "proof" works both ways. She can't prove that she didn't write whatever you want to say she wrote, and the sexually suggestive answer would get a laugh from everyone at the table if you phrased it well. If it ever happens again, and in a bar, it might, you are ready to respond.
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Postby NCMarsh » 09/30/05 08:35 PM


Your suggestion is very good -- thanks for offering it.


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Postby Andrew » 11/24/05 10:02 PM

I recently contributed an effect called "The Mintalist," which comes in handy when some flirty lady pops a billet in her mouth. Ask her to breathe her thought to you. To think of one word... no, one letter of her thought. You take out a breath mint strip dispenser, apply one strip to your mouth, and right off your tongue, the strip is turned over to show her thought-of letter.
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