Wizards Hollywood

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Guest » 11/17/02 09:25 AM

Is it true that Wizards Universal Studios has closed??? Forever or just for a period of time??? If anyone knows answer me, its a pity that this happened.
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Postby Guest » 11/18/02 01:13 PM

Yes, it's true. Closed for good as far as we know.

Scotto
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Postby David Alexander » 12/12/02 11:00 AM

You will forgive me that I shed no tears over the closing of a venue that paid its close up magicians a pittance, instead of a reasonable fee for their time and talent. I know of one young man who was delighted to get $10 an hour to work there and another person who occasionally worked the place told me the top pay was $14 an hour.

The guys who parked cars probably ended up making almost the same....and how much talent and study does that take.

I've been reliably informed that another very famous name pays his workers $100 for an eight hour shift...and yells at them if they take too many breaks.
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Postby Guest » 12/16/02 11:51 AM

Daviid, I can not agree with your point. It is a great way for a younger magician to get exposure and if he is any good additional better paying shows. Nobody forces anyone to take the gig for $10-14 and I am sure the guys who did either appreciated the money or figured in the exposure.
I personally thought that Wizards was a good night out and I always hate to see magical entertainment having to shut its doors......
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Postby David Alexander » 12/16/02 01:26 PM

Having been a working professional magician for over 30 years I've heard the "exposure" and "experience" rationale many times before. Bottom line, it's a hustle...a way for a booker to pay the talent less than professional rates.

This hustle has been used for decades on aspiring artists, writers, entertainers, you name it. When I started back in the early 1960s I worked a number of coffee houses with folk singers. I was always paid, more often the singers were not. While a few owners ran an ethical operation, many ran a hustle.

They would hire one local "name" and pay them a as little as they could. Everyone else on the show worked for "experience" or "exposure." That is, nothing. The owner of one club even installed a good sound system and traded "demo tapes" for weekend gigs. Some aspiring singers worked many weekends for nothing, supporting themselves by washing dishes, waiting tables while the club owners made money from their naivete. It still happens today.

The point being that the businesses were run as professional entertainment venues - and the customers charged accordingly - but the talent was hustled into working at amateur rates...or worse, for free.

In my early days I heard the description "showcase" from more agents than I'd care to count. If I had a dollar for every low-paying gig that was called a "great showcase" I'd be able to retire. You can "showcase" seven days a week for free in some areas. It's nonsense...a non-sexual version of the casting couch where a low fee is the goal instead of sex.

There are still plenty of places a young magician can get "experience" and "exposure" other than a professional venue that relies on an unethical hustle to keep their labor costs down. If no one was willing to work for peanuts, then the bookers would have to pay a decent rate. Unfortunately, there are always people willing to sell themselves cheaply for whatever reason, so the hustlers alway have a ready supply of pigeons.
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Postby Brian Marks » 12/16/02 02:34 PM

I could not disagree more. There is a high supply of perfermers and very little demand for them. While $10/hr is not a record for a magician, a person segueing from amateur to professional can make some money working out his craft in front of real people. When such a person gets good, he can enter in to higher paying gigs. A good title for such a position might be "entry level" .

As for other performers, I am a comic in NYC. The pay is non-existant if you want to work here. Comics get paid for traveling not for showcasing in NY and LA. You can't throw a rock in LA with out hitting someone in the biz. Some call it a scam but its just economics.
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Postby David Alexander » 12/16/02 08:41 PM

Actually, there is a high supply of people who think they are performers, a large number of bookers who are willing to take advantage of them, and a large portion of the public that doesn't have enough experience to know quality from the mediocre. The good performers are driven out by the mediocre and the overall quality drops, the public is re-educated into accepting less for their money because they don't know any better.

The place to learn craft is in front of audiences who would not normally pay for a show: churches, retirement homes, charities, etc. When youve learned the difference between satisfying your own needs and satisfying your audiences, then youre on the road to professionalism. When you can deliver a performance with a consistent level of quality, then you should be paid a reasonable fee instead of being ripped off by some hustler who includes you with all the other wannabe hacks who dont have a clue as to what theyre doing.

By their unwillingness to pay a decent performing fee, the venues that claim to promote comedy and magic actually foster mediocrity. There are exceptions to the rule, brilliant performers who shine and quickly rise, but they are few and far between. An audience in a professional venue, paying good money, is being ripped off if they are being exposed to amateur comics/magicians who arent being paid. If the audience is being charged, the performers should be paid for their time and talent, otherwise, the only person who benefits is the club owner who is hustling everyone.
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Postby Jim Riser » 12/16/02 11:25 PM

I agree completely with David. For over 35 years my policy has been simply that if anyone associated with the production gets paid, I get paid - what I'm worth. The only thing David did not mention is the offer of a "free meal" in exchange for your show. This way the establishment owner does not even have to pay cash to the performer. I've seen all of the scams and it is definitely as David describes. To the beginners in magic, I suggest carefully studying his postings and consider them to be a warning based on experience. In addition to the places listed by David as appropriate learning situations I would add hospitals.

Before any magician considers working in an establishment as an entertainer, I suggest checking with the local government to find out what is considered a "livable wage" in your location. If you want to own a car, a house, TV, a retirement, have health insurance, raise a family, get educated, etc., you will require much more than a mere $10-$14 per hour. You do the math. Do not fall for the "exposure" and "valuable experience" line. Those who make such statements are trying to take advantage of you - while making a profit.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 12/17/02 09:00 AM

Originally posted by David Alexander:
and a large portion of the public that doesn't have enough experience to know quality from the mediocre.
If an audience can't tell the difference, doesn't that mean that there is no difference, at least under the only standard that should matter?
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Postby Guest » 12/17/02 10:20 AM

I do agree with David Alexander on this subject. Over the years I have done stand-up comedy tours (and while they do pay they still pay very low), as well as Fortune 500 companies. I have worked restaurants as well AND aside from some wanting to pay only $10/hr, there is another thing to consider and that is the "perceived value" attached to your price and believe me, they do see a difference between someone who works for $10/hr. and someone who works for $100/hr. There is more to this than just that and I also understand the "other sides arguement" about a good place to work when there is no other work as well as it is good for starters BUT I still the feel that WE have the better arguement. Again, no real right or wrong here, just the way some of us feel.

PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat
http://www.stores.ebay.ca/Abstagecraft
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Postby Guest » 12/17/02 11:22 AM

I'm an amateur performer, but a seasoned business person. Early in my career, a wise soul gave me the key to pricing; "Hell, even whores charge money," which brought home the meaning of prostituting your talent (and time). Don't confuse an act of charity with commerce.

Perhaps the only thing we own is control over our time, and David Alexander's words (and additional commentary by Alberstat & Riser) are certainly to the wise.

--Randy Campbell
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Postby David Alexander » 12/17/02 01:10 PM

A bit of clarification for Bill Mullins: I said a large portion, but not, of course, everyone, all the time. For a variety of reasons, a high quality performance should be the goal every time a performer walks on stage regardless of the possibly erroneously perceived quality of the audience. The experienced and intelligent performer does not drop the quality of his performance if he thinks the audience is beneath him. To do so means ultimate career failure. Besides, wheres the satisfaction of performing on a mediocre level?

In discussion with my mentor Frakson, Jack Benny said that a quality performer always delivers his best, regardless of the size and quality of the audience because thats what the audience paid to see. There is an implicit contract between the audience and the performer. Those who dont understand that dont belong on the stage. Beyond the ethics of giving an audience what they paid for (regardless of what the performer is being paid), you never know who is watching. It only takes one person to hire you for more work, or give you a break and change a career.

As an example of not prejudging an audience: Last Saturday I worked a dinner for a steel company. They hired me for an hour of walk around and then the stand-up act. They were raucous, rowdy, and more than a little crude. A less-experienced performer would assume that these people would not know quality if it bit them on the ass. A less-experienced performer might slack off, slide through his performance, or worse, go into combat with the audience.

I sensed that these people had a different way of having fun and that what they were saying was not said in a mean-spirited way. They werent hecklers, just highly vocal, making comments about co-workers, not me. They were not an easy audience, especially after two hours of drinking. To give you a sense, when I asked a pretty young woman the name of her card she replied, 69. I waited for the laugh to die and then said, No, not your hobby sweetie, the name of your card. Another very large laugh.

The company president helped set the tone. As I was cutting open the lemon to find his vanished hundred dollar bill, he stood to my right loudly yelling,S**t, I dont believe it, several times.

I gave as good as I got, but not in a combative way. I let them have their laughs and then topped them, but I didnt put them down. I worked with them, not against them and we all had fun, but it did require that I was on my toes for the entire performance. This is not a performance style for the faint of heart. When I was loading out a woman walked up to me and put her hand on my shoulder, saying, My husband has been an executive with this company for seventeen years and Ive never seen anyone hold their own with these guys like you have.

Was it a great show? By my regular standards, no, but in terms of what the audience wanted, yes. Everyone had a good time and that is what they will remember long after theyve forgotten specific tricks and I was paid a fee just under four figures. I was told today that the company president thinks I am worth what they paid, so everyone went home a winner.

A final example: Years ago I was helping Marvyn Roy with his Crown Jewel act. Marv and Carol were working Bimbos 365 in San Francisco and I was across the bay at the Hotel Claremont. For several nights I came over, sitting in various places in the theatre, taking notes about what loads flashed, etc. On one night there were two couples in the audiencefour people in a theater that sat well over 500. Marvyn and Carol worked at full intensity regardless, giving those four people what they had paid for: a professional caliber show.

There are no excuses for giving an audience less than your best.
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Postby MaxNY » 12/17/02 02:20 PM

I am not familiar with "Wizards". Why did it close? How long was it open? What kind of establishment was it?
---From reading the above posts, it seems that they hired inferior personalities... but was that the reason they failed?
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Postby Brian Marks » 12/17/02 02:52 PM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by David Alexander:
[QB]Actually, there is a high supply of people who think they are performers,[QB]

No there is a high supply of performers. As with anything in life a few people are better than the rest. The only difference is to put on a better show than everyone else who's trying to. Complaining about people who should not be performing is a waste of time and writing someone off too soon has occurred too many times by people who think the are in the know. It has happened to Chris Rock, Colin Quinn and Ed Norton. They were told they would never make it. A performer should better spend his time perfecting his own act instead of worrying about others.

As for the scams you mention for the rest of the performing world. Many movie executives who have never been involved in the creative part of making a movie are in charge of the green light. They often green light the most horrifically bad movies because they are supposed to make money. This filters into TV, Theater, comedy clubs, the list goes on. I spend little time worrying about this as I pursue a comedy/acting career.

As for Wizards, I don't really know the place as I live in NY but paying people $10/hr to have an amatuer magician perform is not a crime, a scam or anything else to worry about. If Wizards could only afford amatuer, theyl only get amateurs. As you can see, they went out of business.
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Postby Pete Biro » 12/17/02 04:16 PM

Wizzards was a glitzy theater in the Universal Studios complex. It had the ususal gift shop, etc. and had a lot of Birthday Parites, etc. It "appeared" to be a big buck operation.

Many of the really good performers worked there. John Carney, Jade, etc. etc.

I know the owner, Fred Wood, pretty much gave up on the place when his wife died.

The payscale? I don't know. I do know that our kids enjoyed going there and those that I spoke to enjoyed the place as well.

Nobody likes to see a place fail. Perhaps the rent escalated? I don't know.

I have no comment on the other messages as I didn't know the business side.
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Postby Shawn Farquhar » 12/18/02 03:29 AM

I can't believe how far of topic this furom can get. I believe the question was:
Is it true that Wizards Universal Studios has closed??? Forever or just for a period of time??? If anyone knows answer me, its a pity that this happened.
To this question the answer is YES and in comment it is a terrible shame. I am both a close up and stage performer and the loss of any magic venue is a terrible thing.

I neither worked there nor did I attempt to work there but I can say the pay for a stage performer was reasonable for the market and that Fred Woods was flexible in his booking practices to allow acts to leave to earn better dollars elsewhere.

I know of two close up performers, professionals, who both enjoyed the venue and reaped a number of additional engagements as a result of working there.

I also know that Warren, a former bartender and magician at Wizardz, gained valuable knowledge while working there that lead him to his very successful venue "Warren and Annabelles" in Maui.

Personally, Mr Woods and his wife were very kind and encouraging to me. After my 1998 IBM stage win they introduced themselves and took me aside and gave me advice I can never repay.

In response to the magicians who accepted the gig for $10 an hour, well "you get what you pay for and you get paid what you ask for"!

Cheers,

Shawn
www.magichampion.com
Shawn Farquhar

"if you can't laugh at yourself, you're just not getting the joke."
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Postby Guest » 12/25/02 10:07 PM

I am sure losing Wizards hurts the magic community. And, I am just as sure that David (whom I have not seen in several years) and Jim (whom I hope to see in a couple of weeks) are more than 100 per cent correct in their assesment of professional fees in this business.

Jim and I live in a market (Tucson, AZ) where most venues make their money (they think) in turning tables over with new patrons as fast as they can. The value added prices of desserts, after dinner drinks and often pre-dinner appetizers that might extend a stay (and concurrent entertainment)at a table is not considered as profitable as the turn over or patrons and/or any return business entertainment might gain. Therefore any entertainment is an expense that holds people at the table too long.

David's take on professionalism in fees applies to those who want to make a full time living, as opposed to a making a "killing" in magic stardom. You may never get rich in $$$$ as a working prom but you can fulfill many creativelife dreams and work in allied areas of love and creative interest. (Look at David's work with the creator of StarTreck Gene Rodenberry and his widow while also working creatively with his magic at the same time.

It is in selling and collecting for our worth as entertainers that MOST magicians lack skill. A great double lift probably is worth only $10 an hour, unless it is put in a professional framework of entertainment, story telling and the BUSINESS OF SHOW.

It is that last part. the business os SHOW that allows the pro to decide when he is being scammed...and the newby or cross over to choose to truly be bad and shake out new material.

However, if the latter is the case -- perform under an assumed name -- but have the checks made to you! Take up only your good material under your real name -- and go full time because you love the craft and can demand your true worth!

Gregg (C. H. Mara) Chmara

P.S. (Dave - I hear R is in bad shape -- anything you can tell me? I broke contact after our last go round.)

:confused:
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Postby magicbar » 12/26/02 09:10 AM

I worked at Wizardz (as Bar Manager prior to its closing)and can second the info in Mr. Biro's post. I think the official reason is that Wizardz chose "not to renew its lease". I also know that Fred and Wanda ran the place as a team. They were a nice couple and I am sure when she passed it affected Fred's interest and basic ability to run the place.

Pertaining to the lease (and without getting gossipy), it should be noted that Wizardz was not a Universal-owned property and like other independent properties on Citywalk, they thought they weren't getting their fair share of the benefits and rights to the Universal properties. Perhaps Wizarzdz could have grown more if it was Universal-owned.

About all the talk of poorly paid acts: It was Fred's right to pay people what he wanted and a performer's right to accept what was offered. The people that made out the best were the many psychics that gave readings for an average of $30-40 per hour when the same customers wouldn't think of tipping the strollers a buck for a great 15 minute set.

Over the years Fred gave many performers a great venue and during that time more than a few got a chance to perform in a place that was better than they were because Fred took a chance on them. He had a biz to run and I know the good $10/hour guys got the extra favor of getting some of the many private parties that went on there which made the hourly rate a bit more digestable. The private parties paid a decent rate.

As for the LA magic scene? ...that is a topic for another thread.
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Postby Guest » 12/29/02 03:15 AM

Once an Amateur is getting paid he or she is now a professional. I spent 30 years of my Magic career as an amateur. When I was offered a position as a restaurant magician for an upscale place here in Vegas I was paid $500 for 40 min. and that was 50% of what the cutomer paid for my services the restaurant also made $500 on me. I spent too much time and energy too accept any less ,unless of course it was for a charitable function for free.I am still honeing my repertoire and so is David Copperfield but he doesnt charge any less .In my opinion you should get paid in proportion to the fun and pleasure you give your audience.
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