Really bad watch steals...

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.
Adam Brooks
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Really bad watch steals...

Postby Adam Brooks » September 15th, 2003, 8:40 pm

... and what you can do about it.

I'll say this straight up, all this is is a story that happened to me about two years ago that has been replaying in my head over and over the past, and what I should have done.


Ok, I spent 5 months studying/vacationing in Australia the later half of 2001. During that time, Pat-Trick (Nigel McCullagh) organized and held a one-day magic convention called the Magic Malarkey. There was a magic competition, with some truly pathetic competitors. One of the performers who competed (he shall remain anonymous) reminded me a lot of the "high five" guy from Seinfeld, except with blonde, spiky hair, leather skin and perfect teeth. Imagine a male stripper dressed in a cop outfit. That's him.

Anyway, his magic was terrible, and at one point, he was scanning the front row of viewers (which I was in) for a [censored] he could steal. I immediately knew what he was aiming for, so I moved my arm forward very deliberately on my thigh, pushing my sleeve back and exposing my watch, and like a fly to honey, his eyes shot down to my wrist. He came over to me, and did the most awkward watch steal I've ever experienced.

Now, since this was during a competition, I just played it up as best I could when he made throw my hands up and say "Oh, he got my watch!" in my best actor voice at the end of his 'act'.

After the watch steal, I had the following thought, but instead, my conscience got the better of me:

After the watch steal, I should have waited until he got back into his act, then asked my friend sitting next to me if I could borrow his watch, put it on, then waited until he wanted me to expose my wrist. Then I would have, and he would have been so unbelievably confused, and everyone would have a huge laugh at his expense.

Stupid conscience...

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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Guest » September 16th, 2003, 9:52 am

I've had somebody do that to me--that is, somebody with magic knowledge purposely screwing with my show. It was one of the most malicious things a stranger's ever done to me.

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Brian Morton
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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Brian Morton » September 16th, 2003, 2:58 pm

So, because a guy had an awful act, that's a reason to mess with it and make him appear even worse to an audience?

Remember, no matter how good you get, you may always appear to be awful to someone else, or even just have a bad day. Is that a justification for someone to mess with your act, Adam?

There's really no excuse for this. If the guy is that awful, quietly walk out to the bar and wait until the next act comes on.

[returning to lurking]

brian :cool:

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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Guest » September 16th, 2003, 3:26 pm

I agree. Sabotaging another magicians act is pretty low and is even worse when it comes from someone who should know better.

I'm glad you listened to your conscience.

Adam Brooks
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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Adam Brooks » September 16th, 2003, 4:08 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with you guys. I know I said "stupid conscience", but you guys are absolutely right. The guy worked at his act, and like Groves said, it would have been "extremely malicious" if I had done what I was thinking of doing. And I consider myself a fairly consciencious (sp?) person.

In the world of coulda/woulda/shoulda, I tend to find more negative instances than positive.

Sticking with constructive criticism,

Adam

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Pete Biro
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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Pete Biro » September 16th, 2003, 4:16 pm

At the end of his act how did you realize your watch was gone? (I know you knew it was gone, but what was his way?)

And... to stick your watch out for him like you did is a bad idea too... it's like you were a volunteer STOOGE.

He should have had to work at it.

Even thinking about screwing up someone's act is a bad idea.

I find it amazing how many magicians think that when they are called on stage to help start performing.

That's why, when we were producing convention shows, to the dismay of many magical vip's we would put layment in the first few rows.
Stay tooned.

Adam Brooks
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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Adam Brooks » September 16th, 2003, 6:24 pm

At the end of his act how did you realize your watch was gone? (I know you knew it was gone, but what was his way?
He had me put my hands in the air, and repeat after him:

"Oh that (his name)... that crazy magician... he's so good... he got my watch."

So my naked wrists were in the air for everyone to see.

And yes, Pete, I was a volunteer stooge. He was scanning the front row, vamping for about 10 uncomfortable seconds before I "helped him out". Yes, it would have been better to let him work at it.

Actually, that raises a question:

When I was in high school (and college), whenever the teacher asked a question of the class, people would rarely raise their hands; mainly a fear of others' judgment of intelligence. Anyway, if you didn't raise your hand, you may have been considered dumb. If you did answer the question, you were considered a know-it-all. Most of the time, the teachers knew this, and were able to ad-lib, i.e. either coax an answer out of the students, or answer it himself without making the students feel dumb.

Now, if a magician gets to the part of his act where he needs to find someone to do a watch steal, and he's looking around, and can't find anyone wearing a watch in the front row, and suppose you're sitting in the front row with your sleeve covering your watch, and you can tell he's looking for a watch, what do you do?

As Pete suggested, you could make him work for it. But how does one get the spectators' wrists exposed without arousing suspicion? Definitely doable, but a bit daunting to an unseasoned performer.

Or, thinking from the magician's point of view, you could just skip the watch steal and move on. That means that the reveal, however it fits into the rest of the act, will have to be altered mid-show. Again, very doable, but daunting.

So, being a knowledgable audience member, is it sometimes okay to help a brother (or sister) in need in order to preserve the flow of the individual's act?

I find it amazing how many magicians think that when they are called on stage to help start performing
I know I suffered from this for a long time: not being able to turn off your "magician" switch when you're watching another magician perform, or worse, when you are called up to help.

Recently, I realized that, for myself, it's not a matter of turning off the magician switch, it's more turning off the technician switch. As long as I'm not worrying about the passes and the bobo switches and the attention direction, I can still appreciate the stage presence, the attitude, the flow, and most importantly, the performer.

Ok, I'm done.

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Pete Biro
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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Pete Biro » September 16th, 2003, 8:04 pm

Good response... It is not an easy call, and the performer has to work work work work and get that experience.

To know there is not anybody you see wearing a watch means you don't always do it.

If there are laymen and you are one of a few magicians in an audience it is really best to NOT be a helper, pass on it, say you are not feeling well, or you have a bad memory and might forget the card, whatever...

Anyway, as Roc says, Onward :genii:
Stay tooned.

Guest

Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Guest » September 17th, 2003, 1:18 pm

The best magician audiences I've ever performed for:

*Robert Baxt: He always starts applause when desired.
*Johnny Ace Palmer: He will always take a classic force or cut to a crimp.
*Nick Carifo: He will always readily tell you when he's been fried.

I've learned from all of these guys.

Carl Mercurio
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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Carl Mercurio » September 17th, 2003, 2:36 pm

Yeah, I forget where I read it, but it was when I first got into magic in the 1970s and there was a list of things you are never supposed to do. Come to think of it, the list might have been the oath you take when joining the IBM. Anyway, it was something like never reveal the secret, never repeat a trick, never mess up another magician's act, and a bunch of others. I've always stuck by these rules....

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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Carl Mercurio » September 17th, 2003, 3:01 pm

P.S., my good buddy Michael Chaut does a watch steal. In his act, the person is on stage the whole time. Michael steals the watch, loads it in a box, some time passes, and then he gives the spectator a "present," which of course turns out to be the spectator's own watch. So one night at Monday Night Magic, Michael opens the box, holds up the watch and says something like "so are you missing your watch?" or whatever he says to get the guy to realize his watch is gone. The guy pulls up his sleeve and he's wearing a watch. Turns out he had put one watch on in the morning, forgot about it, and put another on before he went to the show. The guy was wearing two watches! For some reason, this was a lot funnier to the magicians in the crowd than everyone else....Or maybe the guy was a magician trying to mess things up on purpose. Hmmmmmmm... :confused:

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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Rene Clement » September 17th, 2003, 3:53 pm

At a Magic convention some years back Steve Fearson was performing close-up and used me as his volunteer. He had a little difficulty removing my watch , but I played along busy examining the coin or whatever prop he handed me. He took what seemed forever to get the watch off. I think many in the audience were giggling, but I maintained my focus on the prop. He finished the trick he occupied me with and sent me back to my seat. He ended his set and I am waiting for the finale where he produces my watch and he leaves the room. I got up and ran down the hallway after him asking for my watch back.
He was very apologetic to me as he took my watch out of his pocket. If this wasn't a magic convention, this could have been a really awkward position for Steve.

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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Dave Cox » September 18th, 2003, 2:06 am

On the topic of "bad" watch steals - in the early 80's the great Harry Blackstone Jr. was playing somewhere in Central Illinois (or, perhaps, St. Louis), and my father took me on the long drive to see him. My good ol' dad, also a magician, was chosen to be part of the committee. He played along, and I remember my amazement when, late in his routine, after DOING A ROPE TRICK! the Great Blackstone held up my father's watch. On the way home, I asked my father how in the heck (I was a wee lad) had Blackstone gotten my father's watch? My dad said, "Well, Harry Blackstone Jr. is the son of Harry Blackstone Sr., and is part of one of the greatest magical families in the history of magic. They perform miracles that have been passed down from father to son for two generations. They know the carefully guarded secrets to wonders that have kept their audiences of thousands upon thousands delighted and enchanted for most of this century. Like the Great Malini, Harry Blackstone Jr. knows that there is a perfect time and a perfect place for each miracle to occur. And, when the time was just right, he leaned over, ever so carefully, and, at just that split second, in the carefully modulated voice of a true magician, said those transcendental magic words: 'Give me your watch.'"

At least, that's how I remember it.

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Steve Bryant
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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Steve Bryant » September 18th, 2003, 6:08 am

This raises the general question of whether it is a good idea to use impromptu stooges. Despite an immediate positive reaction during the show, the aftermath is that the stooge spreads the word, forever, that the magician is a hack. This is probably not the first time you have told this story. I had a lay friend who tells a similar story, also about Harry, Jr. It was also during a pickpocket routine. Harry handed him a wallet that said, "Pretend this is yours." When my friend balked, Harry whispered, "Don't f*** me up." So whenever the subject of magic comes up, my friend tells this story. The absolute worst place to use impromptu stooges (or even the Hoy test!) is the Magic Castle, because that audience of strangers you just worked for is going to be crowded in a line together for the next show, and they do compare notes.

This said, I loved your story. And Harry probably didn't mind being regarded as sneaky rather than as an accomplished pickpocket. Magicians should just be aware that they do get discussed.

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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Guest » September 18th, 2003, 9:29 am

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
...when we were producing convention shows, to the dismay of many magical vip's we would put layment in the first few rows.
When the PEA holds their shows open to the public during conventions we always try to seat the "lay audience" in the front rows too. Not only is it preferable to have your performers working for lay people BUT it is also preferable as an entertainer yourself to watch your peers working for REAL people instead of your own. You can learn from watching that as opposed to working for your own peers.

PSIncerely Yours,
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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Guest » September 19th, 2003, 2:46 pm

Two weeks ago I was with my nephews, both of who I've taught some magic, and ran into a magician performing in a booth at a flea market. We watched and I told the younger one, 10, not to say anything about magic. I didn't tell the older boy, thinking he knew better. He, of course, commented loudly "Hey, I know how to do that trick you just...." that was when I yanked him out of the crowd and away from the magician to receive a lecture on proper behavior in anothers performing arena. Treat other magicians how you want to be treated yourself.
Steve V

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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby boywholikedmagic » April 16th, 2013, 3:26 am

Regarding the fellow (Dave Cox?) who's father was magician and drove them far to see Blackstone Jr... I live in Ohio and he came to our city and performed in a beautiful old movie palace downtown. My whole family went, but the main reason was because I liked magic so. I had my grandfather's beaver top hat and a black cape my mother made for me to do my magic shows. I wonder if we saw the same show or if it was part of the same tour...

Blackstone stole a guy's watch on stage and my older brother especially enjoyed that element of the show. I always thought Blackstone was a very talented pickpocket to be able to steal someone's watch in front of hundreds of people and have nobody notice. It wasn't until I read that post did I finally realize how he did it :)

I told my wife recently about the Blackstone performance I saw as a kid and of how he stole watches... a little while later I found Mr. Cox's post and my eyes were opened ;)

I told my wife about how Blackstone happened to choose a magician out of the audience and stole his watch. My wife said how good he must have been to be able to steal a fellow magician's watch...

I decided to not tell my wife how he did it. I decided to let the magic remain where Penn & Teller say all magic truly resides: in the mind. Because in my wife's mind, Harry Blackstone, Jr. put on a performance that she never saw... and still she is amazed by it :)

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erdnasephile
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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby erdnasephile » April 17th, 2013, 4:12 pm

Carl Mercurio wrote:Yeah, I forget where I read it, but it was when I first got into magic in the 1970s and there was a list of things you are never supposed to do. Come to think of it, the list might have been the oath you take when joining the IBM. Anyway, it was something like never reveal the secret, never repeat a trick, never mess up another magician's act, and a bunch of others. I've always stuck by these rules....


I realize this is a zombie thread, but Jamy Ian Swiss had a very interesting article addressing magician's etiquette in one of the later issues of Antinomy.

He also proposed something similar to Pete Biro's idea for the Castle (i.e. forbidding any magicians from sitting in the front section of the Palace.). You'd almost certainly get better reactions and a more enjoyable experience for both the audience and performer.

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Re: Really bad watch steals...

Postby Ian Kendall » April 17th, 2013, 4:58 pm

One might extend that to all rooms. I remember waiting behind the curtain in the close up room one evening, overhearing a magician in the front row telling a lady next to him that 'this is the close up room, so he'll probably do a card trick, maybe the sponge balls, probably the cups and balls' and so on. Ironically, ignoring the sponge balls, he was quite accurate...


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