What is it with the Svengali Pitch?

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Brian Morton » 02/11/03 09:00 AM

Okay, folks -- a question.

Seeing as we're constantly plagued by the Ego From Toronto who claims the greatest pitch in the history of recorded time, and the Chief Genii concurs, saying that it is one of the best he's seen (and Richard -- he's apparently planning on using you in his blurbs). Even David Regal posted here recently, asking how to see the RealMedia file of Lord VoldePitch...

What is the big deal about a routine to pitch a trick deck?

Is it because magicians, as performers, don't necessarily have "product" to pitch to laypeople, and need something to sell for "added value," a la Eddie Fields and horoscopes?

Is it a link to an old carny tradition, and we love the idea of a spiel, a bally, to bring 'em in and turn the tip?

Is it one of the few legit and honorable ways ways we can bring people into the world of magic (Both Jamy Ian Swiss and Whit Haydn cite "Presto" Johnson's Svengali pitch in the subways of New York as early formative influences) and card magicians?

Or is it just about the money?

What is it about the Svengali Pitch?

The floor is open.

brian :cool:
User avatar
Brian Morton
Posts: 387
Joined: 03/12/08 11:43 AM
Location: Bawlamer, Merlin

Postby Pete Biro » 02/11/03 11:17 AM

You want the REAL KING of the Svengali Pitch?

Marshall Brodien.


NOTE: Some years ago (hmmmm all my stories seem to start this way) I was visiting Marshall in Chicago. He asked me if I wanted to see his new warehouse.

We drove out to this H U G E building... inside there were Svengali Decks (TV Magic Cards) on pallets--piled to the ceiling... looked like SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSAND of 'em.

I asked, "Gee, do you think you maybe ordered a few too many?"

To which he replied, "This is only half the order."

'nuf sed :D
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Pete Biro » 02/11/03 11:20 AM

Reminds me of two things.

Rocco told me they have now sold 4 Million D'lites.

Old Orben joke. Guy goes into a magic shop and sees a thousand thumb tips on the shelves. Says to the owner, "Gee, you must sell a lot of thumb tips."

"No," was the answer, "But a guy that came in here two weeks ago sure did sell a lot of 'em."

:p :p :p
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Brian Morton » 02/11/03 08:15 PM

Okay, Pete -- so they sell.

But what's with the pitch?

Interested parties would like to know...

brian :cool:
User avatar
Brian Morton
Posts: 387
Joined: 03/12/08 11:43 AM
Location: Bawlamer, Merlin

Postby Pete Biro » 02/11/03 09:58 PM

Pitch? As in Pitchman... I guess you would call "the pitch" the routine one uses.

BTW, how do you do italics?

is this in italics? :confused:
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Brian Morton » 02/11/03 10:12 PM

Yup, you've got italics...

And I ask, "what's with the pitch" as in, "what's the big deal about it?"

I see it as, "it's another trick deck. It makes laypeople think 'if I had a deck like that, then I coud do those things. magic is just another silly thing where it's all about the props."

Now I realize that a) it's NOT all about the props, and b) this sets up the spectator who thinks it's all done with the deck when you get a normal deck and proceed to do wonders with your charming personality and the killer chops you've busted your can working on for the better part of a decade ...

But why are name magicians, people whom I respect and envy, all agog over the sales pitch styles of selling a trick deck?

Deep down, still wondering.

brian :cool:
User avatar
Brian Morton
Posts: 387
Joined: 03/12/08 11:43 AM
Location: Bawlamer, Merlin

Postby Pete Biro » 02/11/03 11:39 PM

A guy with a good "pitch" can make a good living at it.

One of the great "pitchman" in England was Ken Brooke... One thing he stressed in his work. "I would never sell the Svengali Deck because a punter (customer) would buy it, and when he got home to show it to his little boy he probably couldn't do it. So I only sold simple self-working FLIK BOOKS. (The one you flik through the pages and show them blank, then flik through and show pictures, etc.).

He also "pitched" the Dutch Looper (mechanical flap version of the three card trick). Again, easy to do.
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Guest » 02/19/03 09:09 PM

I am going to attempt to answer this question:

"But why are name magicians, people whom I respect and envy, all agog over the sales pitch styles of selling a trick deck?"

The thought process may not be the 'deck' in general. It may be the thrill of the chase. The sale. The ability to make mounds of people say "YES" to something we have to offer. Now take the 'deck' out of the equation and put a magician in its place.
If a magician can take something from the Svengali Pitch that they could interpret into selling themselves...then they could get more people to say "YES" to hiring them for a show. Just because they want to see and learn the Pitch does not mean they want to suddenly become pitchmen. It can easily be used as a lesson to sell yourself. Like many sales courses available, you take away what fits you best and develop that into a style or personality that helps helps sell you.
It could be that people who you respect and envy aren't all agog over the sales pitch styles of selling a trick deck...instead, simply looking for ways and ideas of selling themselves.

Just another way of looking at it...outside the box.


Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/19/03 09:16 PM

A good pitch builds excitement, it compels you to buy. It builds up an irresistible URGE to buy. You MUST buy.
And, it must be ingenious, twist itself in humorous ways. And it must be delivered by someone who understands the preposterous nature of the pitch. Ricky Jay did the "candy pitch" in On the Stem last year and it was extremely enjoyable.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 21576
Joined: 07/18/01 12:00 PM
Location: Washington DC

Postby Guest » 02/19/03 10:16 PM

I once saw a video of a guy called Dave Walker doing a svengali pitch.
A long demonstration. About 12 minutes.
He actually exposed the secret but not really.
He said that "every other card in the deck was cut shorter" It was actually a play on words meaning every "other" card being the "other" cards in the deck ( not every alternate card)
Very clever, I thought.
Mind you it was a shame to expose to the public the fact that the cards were cut shorter.
He also said that the backs of the cards were coated with a "magnetic finish" which made the cards stick together.

This was a pitch made specifically for selling purposes.

I don't think it could be used in a show.

Postby Guest » 02/21/03 12:38 PM

I own the book and have seen the video clip that Brian Morton refers to.
I think it would be inaccurate to describe it as a "pitch" as everyone seems to be doing.
It is a routine not a pitch. There is no advice on selling the cards either on the video or in the book.
On the other hand the Dave Walker video and book that I referred to earlier is indeed a pitch rather than a routine designed for performing.

Postby Guest » 02/21/03 01:20 PM

It is very informative for magicians to understand how a pitchman draws and holds an audience. These same skills can be used by a magician in drawing and holding an audience in similar situations, such as street magic, or trade-show work.

It is just as valuable for other performing situations--I always assume that my audience is about to walk off any minute, even if they are a seated, paying audience. I want to engage them and hold them riveted--spellbound--every second. The techniques and ruses of the pitchman can help us a lot in this and other ways.

The pitchman, like the three-card monte tosser and shell game man, uses his carefully constructed words and phrasing to control the thinking of the audience. This is very useful for the magician, who also needs to be careful about how he solicits, avoids, or shifts the "agreements" he makes with the audience.

The mouse pitch, svengali pitch, purse pitch, soap pitch (made famous by Soapy Smith in the 1880's), and medicine pitches are all extremely valuable learning resources for any magician, sales person, or in fact, anyone with an interest in advertising, persuasion, and marketing.

Postby Guest » 02/21/03 01:50 PM

For the record, [censored] is selling a handling. There is no pitch included (well okay maybe a smidgen of a pitch).

This handling is the best handling for someone who actually pitches these slum wonders I have ever seen.

My first job was hawking these suckers at Salisbury Beach here in MA. When I was 12. My first pitch was that Marshall Brodien commercial darn near verbatim. I sold a bunch of these decks.

Off an on I have pitched decks, sqiggles the worm, wonder mouse, sponge bunnies, and a host of other slum, for almost 20 years.

I have seen other handlings and much of the material in the booklet I was familiar with, but this routine laid as it is end to end and shown as prescribed is a jaw dropping, eye popping, visual even to those who have seen the deck before. Mr. Lewis for all his faults has in my opinion really put out the masterwork on the handling of this deck.

But, if you want a pitch to go with it youll need to go elsewhere. There are some very good ones on the market. The Expert at the pitch table video springs immediately to mind. Eddie Fields also had a fairly standard pitch included on the Day with Eddie Fields video. Mr. Fields had obviously slung a few of these decks in his day. But to be honest, I agree that the pitch master of them all was Marshall Brodien. I still hear, Its easy once you know the secret! every time I see one of these decks and it still makes me grin.



Postby Pete McCabe » 02/21/03 02:03 PM

A friend of mine once wrote a country/western-style song about Marshall Brodein. My favorite line: "Just tap the deck, and fool me again."
Pete McCabe
Posts: 2094
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Simi Valley, CA

Postby Guest » 02/21/03 02:10 PM

I had an uncle who was a pitchman. He sold vegetable slicers, stockings, pens, paint pads, flower holders, glass cutters etc;
He never sold magic or card tricks. He thought it didn't take in enough money.

He told me a few things about it. He said it was essential to move people as close to the counter as possible. Also to pull the crowd in tight so that the people at the front cannot escape. It is very important to stop people walking away because if one walks away, especially near the front you can lose the whole crowd.

He didn't have a lot of eye contact with the crowd. He didn't want them to feel singled out. However, when he went in to close the sale he looked at them straight in the eye. Why? He said it was important that they didn't start to walk away when he mentioned money. This was at a crucial part of the pitch and if one person walks away at this juncture a lot of money can be lost.
He felt that by looking straight at them it influenced them to wait until he finished.

There are also other little tricks that pitchmen use to hold the crowd until the end. Little bribes of things to come in the same way that TV people try to put in little teasers to get you to come back after the commercial break.

He described something known as "nodding them in"
He would say "you'd like one?" and nod. The nodding would have a contagious effect on the crowd and influence others to buy. I have watched pitchmen at work and the best of them do this nodding thing.

If someone is on the verge of buying but not quite sure a pitchman will start to wrap up the goods and this pushes the hesitant person over the edge. Putting something in a bag entices people to buy for some reason.

Creating excitement in the same way an evangelist does is another key to selling to a crowd. A sort of mild mass hysteria.

The most valuable thing a magician can learn from a pitchman is timing. The best of these people time their words to perfection. Not too fast and not too slow. Lots of pauses in the right place and at the right time.

I once saw an article. I cannot remember if it was in Genii or Magic Magazine. I think it was by Bill Goldman. It related how he and another trade show magician made acquaintance with some pitchmen who invited them to come and see them work.
They didn't on the grounds that these characters
were a trifle disreputable. I think this missed opportunity was a mistake.
A trade show magician can learn a lot more from a top pitchman selling vegetable slicers than he ever will from a magician.
They can certainly learn a lot about stamina. Pitchmen never stop for breath whereas magicians who work the street or trade show situations seem to need more breaks.
My uncle told me the secret of keeping going was water. Drink loads of it. Gallons in fact.
You will never tire if you do that.

Return to Close-Up Magic