Very interesting to read the opinions of magicians who saw my recent Letterman appearance. I've never read a message forum before I admit that naturally my reactions are mixed. It's tempting to want to defend some of the criticisms-but instead maybe just a few explanations would be interesting.
I met Letterman socially in Martha's Vinyard and spent about a half an hour showing him an assortment of close up mentalism and magic effects. He was apparently impressed and called about two weeks later to schedule me for the show. Somebody wondered if Richard Gere had arranged my appearance since I had done three movies with him but it was just a coincidence that he and I were on together. There was no time on my short segment to set up the harder hitting mentalism that had impressed Letterman. I assume the strong build up he gave me was because of the strong mental stuff he had seen when we had unhurried time together. I agree that nothing I performed lived up to the build up I received, but I appreciated it.
The producers wanted me to come out and get as many tricks in during the five mintues as possible in a sort of machine gun fashion. They wanted something very fast to open and a couple of gambling effects top close. I was instructed to give Dave straight answers if he asked me anything. There were a number of stories I was supposed to be prepared to tell but none of them came up.
Most of the time that we perform a color change we are asked if we are palming the card. I find that almost every layman knows about or thinks he knows about palming, that's why I use it as a sucker set up for the color change-I realize that some magicians think I'm tipping, and I respect that opinion, but I would disagree.
I didn't want to work across my body to the weak side but the producers needed me to do a desk piece and so I adjusted as best I could. I was told that the cameras would shoot from overhead directly down on me and I was not provided with any kind of monitor. I know you could have driven a truck through my finger breaks, but I didn't worry about it because of what I thought the camera angle would be. I know that brilliant artists like Gregory Wilson or Earl Nelson and many others would have done flawless get readys no matter what the camera angle, but I didn't bother at the time. I don't think it mattered to laymen as they didn't know I had a double loaded and I would guess that the breaks didn't register with laymen as significant. I understand the concern of the purists however.
Reset 21 I published in the early 80s as I was inspired by the Earl Nelson routine and while performing it came up with the gambling angle and the 4 blackjack layout at the end. I agree that my redention of it on Letterman was terribly rushed. I agree that it should be done slowly and I have a great set up story that goes with the routine. I noticed I was losing Letterman's attention because we were out of time and the stage manager was making hurried gestures so I blasted through it. Quite frankly I expected them to cut it because we were out of time, and I was surprised to see it stayed.
I also threw away the stack of chips/ quarters. I had some success back in the day with the stack of quarters and I had the poker chips reamed out by Johnson Products years ago to hold 6 quarters. The bare handed vanish instead of a cone is always a nice touch-but my guilty hand was going to be on the right facing the camera so I had a ditching problem. There was no time to do it justice, but they had been set on his desk and I couldn't just leave them, so I made the change and moved on quickly. I have a set up story for the coins across about increasing your bet under the dealer's eye, but no time for that so again it was rushed. Frustrating for me too.
Somebody said I was nervous, which was funny to me but curious that I came across to that magician that way. I love performing, especially on TV and I've never been nervous in my life except perhaps during blackbelt tests for obvious reasons. I was excited and happy to be on. One friend said I should not have smiled so much, but I was having a good time.
Television appearances have never made or broken my living as a magicians so I just decided to go on and have a good time. I used to worry so much about what magicians at the Castle would say that I did very very risky stuff on TV, often with no net. I used to put a set together as if I were performing for magicians instead of a television audience-and magicians were never terribly supportive afterwards so now that I'm older I decided not to worry about it. Ironically here I am answering magicians' criticisms. Guess some things never change.
So I agree that I rushed through the effects. Somebody mentioned that maybe I should have done just one or two hard hitting things and I would have loved that, but it's not what the show producers wanted. I agree about the finger breaks-who wouldn't, but I don't think they mattered to anybody except my fellow magicians-I would have been more vigilant if I had known that they completely changed the camera angle from the rehearsal to the taping.
I was frankly surprised that nobody even mentioned the "think of a card" routine which was a gutsy undertaking and for which there is no pretty out. The strength of that one effect, for me, outweighs the shortcomings of anything else I may have done.
The way I perform all of those effects live is very different from the rushed manner in which I presented them on the show. I realize that magicians may not be sympathetic about that, but I'm sure they can understand.
What else? There were a few other hunches I thought I'd respond to... I took my first handful of magic lessons over 30 years ago from Paul Green. I was an instructor at the Chuck Norris Karate Schools to put myself through college and Paul was a popular magician working around LA and was one of the Castle's early performers, as you know. We traded karate lessons for magic lessons and it changed my life. Paul was a brilliant teacher, had a great nose for effects, was sincere and serious in his practice of magic, and saved me an incredible amount of time because he knew a great trick when he saw one and I believe passed that judgement on to me. I've had a number of influences over my 31 full time years in the business. Charlie Miller and I were extremely close friends and spent a lot of time together back in the 70s. Alan Wakeling took me under his wing for about a year. Earl Nelson was always a hero of mine. Ricky Jay and I lived a few blocks from each other in Venice for about a year and had a mutual friend in Jeff Altman. David Roth's coin work made me crazy, so I paid a lot of attention to it. Juan Tamirez made me want to slit my wrists he was so good and entertaining, and I'm a big fan of Gregory Wilson. I think that Jonathan Pendragon for my money is the best all around magician I've ever known. I've seen him kill close up, parlor, and stage. We've been friends for over 30 years and though he's a difficult guy by anybody's standards he is a true genius by mine. I don't know how I got off on this- Bob Kohler is obviously brilliant and Michael Weber's knowledge and ability is extraordinary! I've just done another TV appearance which I'm going to take more flack about than this one I'm sure. I felt it was a disaster and I hope nobody sees it, but I don't think I'll be that lucky. I have another major TV spot coming up in December and I'll try to put together some cool stuff, I'll try to keep the little finger breaks little, and I'll try not to rush if that's possible. Thanks for your interest no matter what your take-I just spent an evening in New York with JB Benn and he confided that on his wonderful travel magic show that is now airing that the producers used takes he didn't agree with, etc. so it's always a bit tough. Just like working close up, some sets go great, and some not as great-but on live TV we don't get any feedback or do-overs and the one take is it. I'm sure you guys can understand that the conditions aren't ideal and we can't see how it went and adjust. I take magicians' comments seriously and at the same time I don't want to be so focused on the detail that I miss the big picture.