Sylvester The Jester has a fallout with the Magic Castle

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Tom Frank » 06/06/05 01:44 AM

Hey Tom, this is the Email I got from the Magic Castle. I can't believe it! After working there for nearly 20 years and recieving 12 nominations for performer of the year. 8 for parlour 2 for Palace one for Comedy and One for lecturer of the year. I guess all those people who voted for me don't count as much as the compaint letters. I have called Dale Hindman, but he hasn't called me back.

Your pal, Dan the Man (Sylvester The Jester)


From: "Ron Wilson" ron@uncannyscot.com
To: "Dan Sylvester" sylvesterthejester@hotmail.com
CC: "Dale Hindman" dhind7252@aol.com
Subject: Last week's show in the Palace
Date: Wed, 1 Jun 2005 21:20:37 -0700

Danny,

I regret to inform you that I will no longer be able to book you to perform in the Palace of Mystery. We received many complaints from unhappy members who saw your act and even the host last Monday night approached me to tell me about the complaints he had received. Both Milt and Dale were present. One of the letters I received from a member was extremely bitter about your act, also criticizing whoever had booked the show.

Please contact Dale if you wish to take this matter further.

-Ron-
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Postby Chris Aguilar » 06/06/05 05:47 AM

I've seen Sylvester's act and enjoyed it. I wonder what the specific complaints were?
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/06/05 08:55 AM

Some years back I put a show together with Sylvester, David Williamson and Bob Sheets (boy did that ROCK)... anyway... I got complaints from some of the IBM "brass" that Sylvester's production of a "lump of ear wax" was OBJECTIONABLE... "How could you book him."

I told the complainers to "take a flyin' leap."

I hope this gets straightened out in Dan's favor.

There aren't enough CREATIVE GENIUSES in magic, we don't want to lose any of them.
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Postby Dave Egleston » 06/06/05 04:15 PM

Dan performed at Gerry Griffin's CALIFORNIA MAGIC AND NOVELTY COMPANY DINNER THEATER a few months back, where there is a very specific rule prohibiting "inappropriate" content.

Sylvester got a standing ovation and Gerry got several requests to rebook Sylvester as soon as possible.

I saw Dan perform at a WMS over 10 years ago at a comedy competition and there were complaints from the balding silver hairs about the very thing Mr Biro pointed out - Ear Wax Production - for crying out loud. Some of the same folks who complained about ear wax could later be seen puking their unused alcohol into a public toilet later that evening. That's more appropriate....right?

Sylvester may be the most unique performer in magic, for the the Magic Castle to disregard that creativity by refusing to showcase him any longer is reprehensible.

Maybe we should just learn to produce doves and back palm cards from here on out.

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Postby Pete Biro » 06/06/05 04:25 PM

I think we need to talk to the Castle BOD MEMBERS and get a hearing of some sort. There has to be a compromise.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 06/06/05 04:29 PM

But what was the "infraction"? Must have been cool.

As everyone knows, there were similar complaints when Harry Anderson first did the needle through arm there.
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Postby mark » 06/06/05 04:32 PM

Dave, I think an even better idea would be to leave them with the magicians they seem to want. You know, those guys who are willing to work for little or nothing (because we're supposed to be willing to sacrifice for the art, ya know), and provide nice, quiet, safe little acts. Perhaps that way they can maintain the high quality of magic that has been in some of the rooms I've seen in the last year. Let's just quietly faze out anyone who might smack of creative or 'objectionable,' and chase those types to Vegas to work with creative types like Penn & Teller and Mac King. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if Mac were to pull a Fig Newton out of his zipper in the Castle? My goodness, they might just ride him out of town on a rail.

Please tell me that what created the big to-do wasn't something as stupid as the ear wax gag. Please tell me that Dan got excited and slipped up in his vocabulary or something that can be repaired. I hate to think that we are going to go through this whole 'who decides what is appropriate' discussion again.

Dan, we're pulling for you, and as has already been stated, we cannot afford to lose one of the few individuals in our ranks. What is happening here?
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Postby Tom Frank » 06/06/05 06:19 PM

If you guys really have a problem with this, use the emails I posted and tell Ron and Dale what you think.

Let's help Dan get the respect he deserves. 21 shows in a week at the Castle for $700 and they treat him like this.

It's wrong and we can make a difference!
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/06/05 06:23 PM

I'm going to personally speak with Dale and Ron face-to-face asap.
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Postby Paul Green » 06/06/05 08:10 PM

Originally posted by Mark Jens:
...with the magicians they seem to want. You know, those guys who are willing to work for little or nothing (because we're supposed to be willing to sacrifice for the art, ya know), and provide nice, quiet, safe little acts. Perhaps that way they can maintain the high quality of magic that has been in some of the rooms I've seen in the last year. Let's just quietly faze out anyone who might smack of creative or 'objectionable,' and chase those types to Vegas to work with creative types like Penn & Teller and Mac King. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if Mac were to pull a Fig Newton out of his zipper in the Castle?
While I think it is a shame about Danny being "excommunicated", and needs to be investigated further; I take exception with Mark's statement.

Mac King did appear at the Magic Castle and did produce Fig Newtons from his fly. He was awarded high honors from the Academy and would certainly be welcomed back at any time. Penn & Teller were awarded high honors from the Academy, too. They, too, would be welcomed back to perform.

Those of us that have been lucky enough to appear at the Magic Castle have never done it for the money. There is a tremendous amount of prestige attached to working there. Further, many of today's super stars of Magic got their start at the Magic Castle and return to give back to the Magic Community (trite, but true).

The magicians that perform at the Magic Castle are generally the best in the business. I think that my performances are worthy of being there. I don't consider what I do as a "quiet, safe, little act". It is good Magic. Just because someone is edgy does not mean that they will not asked to appear. The venue dictates that our performances be in "good taste". Creative people do not have to be "objectional".

To return to Danny, I think that he is entitled to some kind of hearing. I want to know more.

Respectfully,

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Postby NCMarsh » 06/06/05 08:59 PM

I have not seen Mr. Sylvester's show...so I'm not in a position to confirm any of this from personal experience...I was at the Castle last week, however, and did hear several people talking about how bad, in their view, Mr. Sylvester's show was. They were NOT offended by anything in Dan's show, they did feel -- however -- that Dan simply was not connecting with his audiences and that his attitude was that this was his audiences' fault (again, I am reporting the views of others, not offering my own judgements)

Several months ago, I was talking with a performer who shared the bill with Dan at the Palace for a week. I was expecting, because of Dan's reputation, to hear raves about his work. I was surprised when this performer said that Dan bombed virtually every night and that it weighed down the entire show.

I have no idea what actual complaints were made to Mr. Wilson et alia -- and I do not post this to disparage Mr. Sylvester -- but, the conversation here so far has assumed that members were complaining because they were offended...it sounds to me like there may have been other reasons...

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Postby Bill Duncan » 06/06/05 09:19 PM

Dan Sylvester is a truely giving artist and one of the few originals in a field filled with people who think creativity is using a different color ball on the end of your zombie stick.

If the Castle really has members who think Dan's act is inappropriate in any way I recommend refunding their dues. Magic already has too many dried up, humorless relics.

This makes me madder than the TSA thread!

Go get 'em Pete!
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Postby Tom Frank » 06/06/05 10:14 PM

You wanted it, here it is. This is a clip from one of the complaint letters. The elderly gentleman this guy is refering to was Billy McComb.

The host of the main show was an elderly gentleman who made jokes about magic, but never actually performed any magic. If I wanted to see stand-up, I could have gone to the Comedy Club. The opening act was a marionette, entertaining, but still no magic. We kept waiting for the
marionettes to do some magic, but nothing. Then the main act was someone that was billed as a cartoon. Well, he certainly was a joke, Again, no magic tricks to be seen. His act looked like something you would see at Chucky Cheese, It was embarassing to say the least. There wasn't any
magic to be seen in the entire show. I find it hard to believe that the committee that approves the acts/performers would allow such a childish performance that did not include any actual magic acts.
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Postby Guest » 06/07/05 01:58 AM

Well if thats true then who ever programmed the evening should stand at some fault. What we find interesting and what others find interesting are two different things. Remember you can't please everyone.

Now is it not true but Harry Anderson offended some people at the Magic Castle with his needle through arm routine and he was told to keep doing the routine.
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Postby Guest » 06/07/05 05:26 AM

Is He burning out or is this just a case of a patron not liking the show? How many complaints has Dan recieved in the last few times that he has worked the Castle? If he has had many complaints then something should be done, though I don't know if blacklisting him is the correct course of action. Maybe a suspension.

You can please some of the people some of the time and as far as I'm concerned that's enough to show a profit. --Mulica
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Postby Tom Frank » 06/07/05 06:49 AM

It seems that many of you feel the same way I do. I am asking you to take action! What I would like you to do is write a letter outlining your feelings as why you think Dan is a benefit to the Magic Castle and why he should be able to continue to work there. Email it to "Ron Wilson" ron@uncannyscot.com and "Dale Hindman" dhind7252@aol.com

Then post it here. The day Dan got the email from Ron he called me on the phone. He was upset. Believe me, Dan doesn't work the Castle for the $33 a show, he does it for YOU. He loves magic and works harder on his act than anyone I know. I lived with him for 2 years. When I heard his voice the other night, I could feel his pain. I asked him if he would mind if I tried to do something about it. Now I am asking you all to show Danny what the "Voice of the people" means. More importantly, lets show Ron & Dale.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 06/07/05 08:23 AM

Before everyone gets all hot and bothered, we're missing a LOT of details here about exactly what happened at the show, or shows, in question. We don't know what transpired, or how Dan behaved. Without that knowledge, beating your chest isn't really going to do anything.
I saw Dan at FISM in Den Haag do a show that went completely down the toilet and he got pissed off on stage and used some foul language that in turn pissed off the audience.
It's possible a similar thing happened at the Castle, and if he used the kind of language we heard at FISM, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if he got banned.
So, until there are some more details about the shows in question, I suggest everyone remain calm.
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Postby Tom Frank » 06/07/05 08:36 AM

Fair enough, sorry if I was out of line.
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/07/05 09:31 AM

When I work the Castle it "IS" for the money.
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Postby Brian Morton » 06/07/05 09:55 AM

Yeah, but Pete -- for you, it's a short commute.

brian :cool:
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Postby Pete McCabe » 06/07/05 10:23 AM

I saw the show last Wednesday.

The guy who complained had a very valid point. There wasn't really much magic at all in the Palace show. If you go to the Magic Castle and see the big show in the palace, and there's not much magic in it, of course you're going to complain.

This is not Dan's fault, obviously.

However, in the show I saw, Dan's act didn't go over too well. It didn't exactly bomb, but the audience reaction was tepid. Nothing he did was inappropriate (there has been no suggestion that this decision was based on anyone feeling that Dan's act was inappropriate, so I'm not sure where this idea started.)

Still, I've seen worse acts in the palace. But I haven't seen any of those acts that were worse get booked again, either.

Now, I respect Dan's creativity. When I first saw his show about 7 years ago (at the Convention at the Capitol, I think) I thought it was incredible. Unfortunately the show I saw last week was not nearly as good as that first time I saw him.

And I understand that any performer can have a bad night. But if the show I saw was typical, I would not be surprised if the Castle thinks that Dan is not delivering a show their audiences want to see.

I don't know Dan personally, but I've only heard good things about him as a person. Unfortunately, it's very hard for the Castle to weigh that factor in choosing its performers.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 06/07/05 11:28 AM

Tom's post is an amazing example of the art of spin. I was at the castle the week of the performances AND I saw the show. I also overheard several of the comments made by members AND guests. I also have read Ronn's email and been to the Castle website where it lists Sylvester as performing in the Parlor, but not the Palace - the venue addressed in the email in question.

I think Tom is doing everyone a great disservice by allowing this misrepresentation to stand, and I encourage him to set the matter straight before things get out of hand.

And as others commented, in spite of Sylvester's reputation, the shows that week at the Castle fell totally flat. Part of this was due to Sylvester's placement on a bill with no magic. Due to a last minute cancellation - a far more interesting story than the one we are now focused on - the show was filled with a fabulous pupetteer. However, with him and McComb being funny, but doing no magic, many left the largest room of the Castle feeling as if they had been deprived from seeing any real magic. Sylvester's act may use illusory techniques, but to an audience it is a variety turn. Further, in that room, it simply played poorly. 8 minutes of strong material, spread out over a tepid twenty two with no audience connection at all.
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Postby Larry Horowitz » 06/07/05 11:56 AM

For what it's worth, I will verify Richard's account of the show at FISM.
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Postby Brian Glicker » 06/07/05 01:49 PM

I really like Dan's act and have for a number of years, however I was at the show the first night it was on, Monday, and there was a middle magician instead of a puppet act and Dan's act still fell flat. Around 4 or 5 of his effects didn't work (battery problems?) including exploding cake and art pieces. Is it his fault gimmicks failed? In my opinion it's always the performers fault for such failures - there has to be an out and there wasn't.
There was never an issue about working blue, or profanity, or unsuitability. The show didn't do well - the audience reaction was non-existent - and, to be honest the performance was poor.
I am at the Castle every Monday and the regulars all agreed. I'm sorry but in this case I have to side with the Castle.
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Postby Guest » 06/07/05 02:31 PM

When I saw Sylvester's act on television years ago, I enjoyed it. So, I was looking forward to seeing it in person at the World's Greatest Magic Show in Vegas early last year. To say the act bombed is an understatement. It was tedious to sit through. An audience member in front of me commented, "That one needs a lot of work." Perhaps the act has lost its freshness or novelty. While I have the utmost respect for Sylvester's creativity (the idea of the act is great and the ideas behind the individual pieces are also great), the execution of the act that I witnessed was anything but satisfactory. Maybe it's time for a new act. With Dan's creativity, I'm sure he can bounce back with a newer, stronger act.
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Postby Tabman » 06/07/05 05:50 PM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
Some years back I put a show together with Sylvester, David Williamson and Bob Sheets (boy did that ROCK)... anyway...
That's right Pete, and I had hired on as show director that year or the year before. Was that when we were running the shows three times over three days??? Comedy Club?? Anyway, Sylvester was great that weekend. Imagine the show with those three guys in it and you did it!!!! Thanks for letting me be there.

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Postby Pete Biro » 06/07/05 07:53 PM

Them wuz the daze T-man!
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Postby mark » 06/09/05 01:48 PM

Perhaps in light of our recent illumination, all of the sound and fury might have been alleviated if there had been some magic on the bill. Perhaps if the act (or performer) is starting to become stale it might be time to communicate directly with the performer. I think this goes beyond the issue of whether Dan 'bombed' or the problem was with the booking. If there are items that are not going over, or there are several props that are misbehaving it might be time for a friendly and caring conversation rather than abrupt and hurtful e-mail. Wouldn't a situation like this one be better served by a meeting of the minds that says, "gosh, these people have eaten a decent meal, and are in the mood for some great magic - we need to provide some." Followed up by, "hey, listen, I have been watching your act, and you know where you used to do that bit... and it got this type reaction? Well, the timing has fallen off or something, because it isn't... Oh, and what's the deal with your Fetzer gun? Is it batteries, or electronic, or what? Is there anything I can do?" You know, talk with one another, instead of relying on that nice, safe, but sometimes hurtful form called e-mail. Does this situation really call for a sweeping statement like, "you will not be working in the Palace of Palatial Pleasures anymore." Hey, I will admit to an emotional response the first time, but isn't there something that might be learned about communication through all of this?
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Postby Tom Frank » 06/09/05 05:50 PM

Dan's letter to Dale sent June 2nd and 5th

Dale,

I left a phone message for you last week but have not received a reply. I wish to have a copy of these complaints about my act which the Castle received from various members. (The complaints for which I have been expelled from performing in the palace.) And If you would be so kind, I believe as someone who has been working there 15 years, perhaps, an explanation as to why these complaints hold so much weight, is also in order.

Needless to say it had been a difficult and stressful week there. Which should be noted by the fact that one performer quit opening night. But none the less what I don't understand is how these complaints could hold any weight with castle when I have been nominated performer of the year 9 times in the parlour with the same act and twice in the Palace. Not to mention all the other awards. And TV shows. The AMA cannot decide to book people or not book people based on the very limited and often self-serving tastes of a few members or guests. That seems to me to go directly against the Castle's stated purpose.

Again I am just on a fact finding mission. If you do not wish to explain yourselves, fine but I feel I am legally and morally entitled to a copy of those complaints.

Incurably, Daniel Sylvester
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Postby Tom Frank » 06/09/05 05:53 PM

Sylvester the Jester's messege to YOU

Hello everyone out there. I don't believed I have written much on here if I have at all. So if I sound a bit awkward, well this is kinda new to me.

First of all I'd like to thank you all for your comments. They have been very kind and helpful, even loving. And I appreciate them all of them even those that were critical.

There is not much more to this story then what you have been told but I will try to clarify things. It is true that I had, what was for the most part, an awful week in the Palace. And on many shows it did fall flat. The reasons for this is not as others have suggested , that my act doesn't work in a big room. Last October I performed for 6000 a day everyday for a week in Beijing and the show was a hit. As it was in hundreds of other places. On the other hand I have had my share of bombs too in rooms big and small. This is always because of the same reasons (emotional stress). I have always suffered from these moments of high stress and experienced them many different venues. But a few bad shows doesn't make the me a bad performer nor make my act bad and it didn't keep the members from nominating me for performer of the year 9 times in the Parlour, twice in the Palace and once for lecturer of the year. But this last week in the Palace was by far the most stressful Ive ever experienced. Evidence of this might be noted in the fact that the opening act quit on the first night. And the cause of that was never rectified. In any event, I know some folks don't get what I'm doing. And some folks may not like it. I accept that because that's what art is all about. Some think Piccasso, is a genius others hate him. Some think Prince is great others cant stand him, the same with one of my heroes, Andy Kauffman. Not all languages are understood by all. Art is this way. There is nothing that is universally loved or hated but a hell of a lot that is just...well, digestable. Now if you were to read the mission statement of the AMA, it was formed for the advancement of the art of magic. The Advancement!!! Not the stagnation. Magic Must Diversify, like other forms and Evolve if it is to survive.

Have I gotten off the Point? No! Because I and others, who are trying new things represent that diversity. And the value of this far exceeds a few bad shows or criticisms or complaints from others. And the Magic Castle, Is supposed to be the place for just that sort of stuff. All I have done is to ask for a copy of these complaints and an explanation as to why these complaints hold more weight more than the 12 nominations; the grand prix and the Baguette d'or in Monte Carlo. Or the PCAM gold medal or 50 TV shows.

I've been a member of the castle since 86 and have worked there since then and have been paying my dues since then. Am I not entitled to some explanation? A phone call? An email? I've called! and emailed Dale twice on two different addresses. To date I have received no reply.


Sincerely and incurably, Daniel Sylvester the Jester?
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Postby Tom Frank » 06/09/05 05:54 PM

Dan finally gets a two sentence response from Dale.

Dales response just today June 9th.

These complaints were verbal, the people called us. In addition, 4 complaints were from guests, not even members. As you know, we have had concerns about your act in the past, and given the number of issues that were raised this past week, it is prudent that we not book you in the Palace with that act.

Dale
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Postby Steve V » 06/09/05 07:06 PM

Let me cast my worthless vote, I think it is a darn shame that they did this to Dan. It is embarrassing and really out of line considering his act has been so well received so often and recognized by the very organization that now gave him the boot. Looks like the first steps in what some were concerned about, the Magic Castle aiming to please guests at the loss to magicians.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 06/09/05 08:48 PM

Anyone else find it creepy that Ron's and Dale's personal emails are being publically posted? Is this the mature way to handle things?

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Postby Robert Allen » 06/09/05 08:53 PM

Disputes in show business rarely strike me as mature :( .
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Postby Brisbin » 06/10/05 02:07 AM

Amen to Robert Allen. Any voting in showbiz should be done by casting your money. Support the shows/acts you like. It's no different at the Magic Castle. It just doesn't make much sense to mount letter campaigns if you are not directly involved.

On an only slightly related note, I would support any move to establish a program for the treatment of M.T.S. "Magic Tourette's Syndrome". 12 steps for those of us who occasionally break out in uncontrolled swearing when we're stressed and the tricks start to go south.
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Postby Guest » 06/10/05 08:36 AM

Hey Mr. Biro...

What did you find out, in your investigation? Who complained? What was the specific nature of the complaint(s)? I have a real problem buying that one specific performer was singled out of a group of performers on the same show....There seems to be a lot more not being said than being said....Was Dan set up?

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/10/05 08:54 AM

Originally posted by Brad Henderson:
Anyone else find it creepy that Ron's and Dale's personal emails are being publicly posted? Is this the mature way to handle things?
Brad
Yes Brad, creepy and more. What is the purpose of the thread to start with? A notice that Dan and the Castle management are in disagreement? What specifically could we do to offer any assistance to the parties involved?

The issues between the principal parties are easily clouded by outside matters of artistic, personal and political agendas.

From what I've read, the Castle as moved Dan off one program pending a revision and review of his act for use in that venue. From there, I have no idea about the personalities or outside issues involved.

I wish Dan and the Castle the best. -Jon
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Postby Brian Glicker » 06/10/05 09:16 AM

Could someone explain why Tom Frank is posting messages (allegedly) from Dan. We are hearing one persons side of the story (Tom's) and we are supposed to believe what is said. It would carry more weight if Dan actually said what he wanted to say instead of using a mouthpiece.
Secondly, one bad show I understand, two bad shows - OK, but we are talking 18 shows (1 Monday, 2 Tuesday and 3 Wednesday - Sunday) actually 19 if you include Sunday Brunch. That just doesn't happen to a performer unless there are basic problems.
Dan is still booked in the parlor in two weeks, is he going to perform? The castle certainly hasn't cancelled him. People go to the castle to be entertained - I have spoken with many, many, people there about the week and it just wasn't entertaining - it was embarassing.
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Postby CraigMitchell » 06/10/05 09:57 AM

The FISM performance also stands out as a major blight ...
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 06/10/05 10:53 AM

It appears that Dale said he is no longer going to be booked in the Palace, which would leave the other theaters in the Castle open.
I'm sure Dan is stressed out by all of this, and I wish him well in his week in the Palour!
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