OFFICIAL I.C.O.M PAST LESSON ARCHIVE
I.C.O.M Online Spotlight 10/97-12/97
Ronald J. Dayton
Several suggested roads of travel toward an elusive goal.
Choose on day out of the week and set aside a certain amount of time for yourself. If you are not in the mood when the say arrives, simply reschedule the activity for another time. Do not put if off indefinitely.
Find a room or area where you will not be disturbed. Have paper, pencils…possibly even a tape recorder of cam-corder available to record data, then begin. List all titles, concepts and effects that come to mind. List them all. Do not interrupt the flow of thought with negative dismissal. Consider all ideas to be valid. List as many as you can. Really push yourself! Use one thought to fuel another. Then, when no more ideas or spin-offs come, stop and take a break. Walk away. Have a soda or a cup of coffee, whatever it takes to relax just a bit, then return concentrating all you efforts and knowledge into finding workable methods for the effects you have listed. Again, accept no negative thoughts,. Every solution, no matter how bizarre, should be noted. You’ll be amazed at the incredible amount of material you mind has unearthed. Finally, when you are done, the sorting and sifting process begins. This is best left for another time or day. If you have put a sincere effort into your brainstorming session, you should be pretty well spent. Cleanse your mind for several day, then go back to the material and approach it fresh. Attack it as though it were someone else’s thoughts. Study it. Revise it. Pick it apart! And as always, keep the best and leave the rest.
After several such solo brainstorming sessions it is good to bring at least one other party into the picture. Choose a friend in magic whose opinion you trust and whose magical background is solid. He will be an impartial, objective aid. Things easily overlooked by you will often be obvious to them. Two or more heads are always better than one. You will likely be very pleased with the abundance of ideas and methods you arrive at.
It is interesting, too, to arrange a day during which two or more individuals schedule solo brainstorming at the same time. Later, all parties involved get together to work on their findings. It’s fun to compare similarities in thought, to discover the sharp contrasts as well. It is a form of creative comradery which stimulates the thought processes as well as anything I know.
So! We have looked at what I call solo brainstorming and delayed review of concepts. What is left? Brainstorming in its purest and most enjoyable form! Follow all the guidelines. Select a time, place and format, then get together with several friends. Remember, no criticism of ideas is permitted, Push you mind and will to the fullest extent. Get as many ideas for effects as possible, Use your ideas and those of others to create new variations. List all desired effects, and possible titles for those effects. Yes, titles alone can be a very positive springboard. If there is any doubt in your mind, it may be heartening to know that Jerry Andrus often begins with a name for an effect, then creates the effect and method from that starting point. This is his first step. Phase two consists of brainstorming to list every conceivable method for accomplishing the effect. Finally, he reviews the selections and chooses the handling/combination of methods which will create the desired illusion. Brainstorming works because it is a ‘no holds barred’ situation. At the start, nothing is deemed to be wrong. This gives your mind free reign.
You now have your homework!… “Good Luck”
Bobby J. Gallo
How to Perform Effectively in All Situations
What is Commando Magic?
Before we begin our discussion into the title proper, let us imagine, just for a moment……
The house lights dim. Tension mounts within the vast auditorium that seems to be overflowing with countless anxious faces. A figure dressed similar to a hotel bellman is seen walking up and down the theatre lobby selling programs describing the star of the show that everyone has travelled miles to witness in-person. Suddenly, a hush falls over the audience. The orchestra begins to play, the stage lights burn a myriad of multi-color as an elegantly dressed man strides to the center of the stage from the wings to thunderous applause! What follows is a night not to be soon forgotten. Birds are pulled from the air, women are put into large boxes and are cut-in-half. An automobile is vanished right in front of the audiences bewildered eyes! For a finale, the graceful wizard levitates his beautiful assistant and receives his standing ovation as he bows behind the smoking footlights.
Does this scenario sound cliche? Does it sound romantic? Most importantly, does it sound Familiar? I believe that most people on the street would answer in the affirmative to the first two questions. They would however respond with a resounding NO to the third. But why? Isn’t this what most people envision a magicians performance to be? Maybe so, for the above scene is not fictitious. The magicians name was Howard Thurston, and the performance described actually happened………. in the early part of the 20th century!
Now I know that there are many readers that may be thinking. There are entertainers of all sorts that perform in auditoriums custom designed for live performances in todays world. Just look at Stage magicians in their lavish Las Vegas casinos. Look at vitually every television special and notice that gorgeous room that they do their live pieces in. It must seat somewhere around Five Thousand! After all, is not this the ideal situation for any entertainer to be in?
That is the prevailing question.
Is this the ideal situation for any modern day working performer to be in? The answer for most of us would have to be yes. It most certainly is. However, the harsh reality is, that if you are not a world famous touring illusionist, or a comedian that has just been booked on a network television special, these performing situations will be far and too few between. Then what are most performing situations like? Where do magicians, comedians and even musicians find themselves when they are booked to entertain an average audience? I’m glad you asked that question. And in the following paragraphs I will do my best to answer it.
While brainstorming for possible titles to this book*, I thought of numerous names. Names ranging from the brash to the obscure. Names that I will not list here because I may well use them in future volumes! Endless days were spent in search of that meaningful introduction that will be the embodiment of what is contained herein. Then out of the blue the title hit me. “Commando Magic!” It seemed so fitting, so appropriate. It really is a name that embodies every aspect of the magic that through the years, I have been required to perform for one reason or another. This is a term I have used during many occasions when I was called upon to perform in situations that can only be described as “Less than ideal”. What could these venues possibly be you ask? Well, for instance, performing on a dirt hiking path in the middle the woods! Doing a show in the middle of a football field during a windstorm. Exhibiting superb sleight of hand in the corner of a crowded cafeteria during lunch time with my back against a window and no sound system! (It’s hard to compete with macaroni and cheese with fish sticks!). How about entertaining in the middle of 100 cub-scouts on the dance floor of the local American Legion hall because the room on the stage was taken up by the bingo machine! Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, I may not be meeting you personally, but I know you are probably a professional entertaining on what I have termed “the magical front lines.” If this does not sound familiar, you either (a): Most likely have an exclusive contract a hotel in Las Vegas, or (b): you are an amateur performing only in the places where you want to be. (ie. a show your local club may put on once every two years).
Now, I do not want to get anyone bent out of shape so early on in this book*. There is absolutely nothing wrong with amateurs performing with other amateurs in their local talent nights. However, that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about full-time professional entertainers performing in professional venues. Contrary to popular belief, these places may not always be a glamorous or glitzty as many may believe. Which is why when called upon to entertain in todays modern world, we must take on the persona of a commando. A commando that has been given the task of doing entertainment in a location that can be hostile at times. Hostile in the sense that the weather is working against you, hostile in sense that rude audience members are inclined to break into discussion groups during your routines. It may be that you have no backstage, no dressing room, no pre-show privacy whatsoever! There may be no stage lighting, or even worse, full florescent lighting, bad sound, bad visibility due to the fact that there is no stage. No room in which to put a side table, or if you are a musician, your instruments and amplification equipment,. and the list truly goes on and on. It is these situations that call upon us to be commando
After reading the above there may still be a great number of people that still do not know what a commando is. Thus, they may not know my full meaning when I coin the term, “Commando Magic”. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a commando as (a) a small fighting force specially trained to make quick, destructive raids against enemy held areas. (b) A member of such a force. In other words a commando is the person who can go into any situation, regardless of the obstacles, and get the job done with quality results. After all, is that not what we are all striving for as performers? To be well received by our customers when we are working in a paid performance? So “Commando Magic” simply pertains to the performer who is prepared. Prepared to walk into any venue with the confidence befitting a true professional entertainer. A performer who is ready for any situation and developed a reputation for being that way. Such a performer would be in demand wherever his given talents may wish to take him. Our audiences may not be likened to enemy held areas, (although some may!) nevertheless the general idea is the same. If we are to be successful in the “Real World” of entertainment, we must view ourselves as commando performers.
At this point allow me to give my readers an account that happened to me during a booking for a charity stage show. I was booked to perform for around 200 people in an outdoor setting at a gathering after which I was to do some walk around magic. When I arrived it was raining. Naturally, I assumed that a tarp would have been set up for my performance, or maybe that the show was being held under a Pavilion of some sort. When I arrived at the performance sight I looked around only to find that there was not one good place to perform or be seen by the audience. When I introduced myself to the person responsible for booking the event I inquired as to where I was supposed to work the show. To my horror, I was directed to a large boulder protruding from the ground on which there was a person preaching. This rock was not a large flat object like a mini stage, This rock came to a point and I had to balance myself on what seemed to be the summit of this large mountainous object. In this situation I had no place to put a table of any sort. No place to put props, no electrical facilities of any kind for my portable sound system. It was raining, so any equipment that I could not physically hold in may hands would have been ruined. My angles were virtually non-existent and my case out of necessity had to be placed five feet away from me.
What can one do in this situation? In retrospect , there were a number of different options that I could have embarked upon. The first is that I could have said no to the venue and refused to perform under these degrading conditions. However, that would have resulted in (a) Losing the fee for that date. (b) Losing the time spent getting to that date that could have been booked for something else. (c) Irritating to (and possibly losing) the client forever. Last but certainly not least for the professional working performer, (d) Ticking off the theatrical agents that booked you for the event. Because ultimately they are the ones that will suffer from your losing the customer, and you will suffer because agents, in most cases, do not book acts that give their customers any inconvenience . after all “The customer is always right” Aren’t they?
In this case I chose to make the best of the situation and do the show. Of course I could not do my whole show, but rather, only the material that could be performed in the most impossible of situations. For surely, this show or anything similar is a baptism of fire for any would be commando performer. The show was a success and the customers were very happy. And I felt that I had just accomplished a tremendous mental victory, overcoming tremendous odds in my never ending quest to entertain my audiences. The type of material that I used out of neccesity will be discussed in the later chapters dealing with situations such as these. The point is, That many times as a professional, you cannot walk away from a venue because it is inconvenient. You must do your best to do your job.
Many performers will argue that they are “artistes,”(said with a smug french accent) and as such deserve the best treatment and circumstances. Others will claim that they will only take work that is conducive to their type of act. Still more will just not work in an inconvenient venue because massive ego problems. Are any of these points acceptable? I will leave the reader to answer that question for his or herself. I will however make one point for myself. I believe the most important criteria for accepting or rejecting a show is “Making a Living!”
I once was very close friends with an illusionists whom I worked with on several occasions. He and I would have friendly chats about performing before audiences of today. He would say that as magicians we were competing with the spectacular special effects of motion pictures for the audiences attention. He would allude to the fact that magic had to be grandiose and of a flashy nature in order to be appreciated by the general public. If this were true, wouldn’t that mean that any form of entertainment would be competing with the cinema as well? If not, what forms of entertainment are excluded? Does any artist have a chance to be an entertainer with star potential without a huge production budget?
With these questions in mind, we are going to start to really get down to the bare bones, what it truly means to be a commando performer. Starting by exploding some pretty well held belief’s about what it takes to make an act work in the world of entertainment. Again, I would like to reiterate that the criteria stated in the forthcoming chapters is not designed to demean persons engaging in a particular style of presenting their craft, but rather to present an argument as to why certain approaches work better than others in the “real world”.
Ronald J. Dayton
Several suggested roads of travel toward an elusive goal.
The third, and possibly most illusive method for being creative or inventive might well be called ‘ dumb luck.’ It is that wonderfully strange way in which we accidentally stumble on, or invent something new. Truthfully, it is often ‘luck’, but, seldom ‘dumb’. This type of creativity makes use of all of the knowledge we have mentioned before. Somewhere in the recesses of our minds, we are aware of every piece of information we have ever been exposed to. The knowledge we have gained while building the strong background or foundation in magic is the spark or insight which allows us to connect ideas and make them interact. This will allow you to be looking through a magazine, or walking down the aisle of a toy or hardware store for example.. see a certain item, and immediately see an application in magic for it. It is the knowledge you have gained which will allow you to be casually playing or manipulating a card, coin, rope or what have you in your hands, and stumble upon a move or handling which is original to you. DUMB LUCK is like being in the right place, at the right time, in your mind. Opportunities will present themselves… and knowledge will give you the tools to take advantage of them.
Bobby J. Gallo
How to Perform Effectively in All Situations
The Learning Process
(Or more than you care to know about Bobby J. Gallo…!)
Allow me to begin by saying that the aim here is not to write down my memoirs, I truly believe that I am not old enough for anybody to get anything out of my life story thus far. I however must admit that it would make great material for a trashy novel! (just kidding) No, this is not to tell stories about the life and times of a young magician, but rather to give the reader an insight as to why I am so adamant about conveying conclusions I have come to in this literary work.
I started doing magic at a very young age. After viewing a guest star of the hit television series “Laugh In” doing a comedy magic sketch with Ruth Buzzy, I was hitched! I wanted to become a magician in the worst way. My formative magic years were spent searching through magic catalogs for that one trick that was going to make me a star. I recall my first magic trick being the Chinese Ring Illusion, purchased along with a nine inch wooden magic wand through a magazine called Boys Life. Dreaming endless hours that a talent scout was going to see me doing my finger chopper and book me as the newest member of the Mickey Mouse Club! However in the years to follow I learned that waiting around for that big break was just not going to happen. If I was going to be the performer of my dreams, I was going to have to do it myself. Fortunately, I believe that I learned that fact at a relatively young age.
My first major performance was in fifth grade. My teacher found out that Idid magic and was booked for the headline spot in the school talent show. I rehearsed that act for at least a month. I then told my mother about it theday before the show that I was doing magic onstage. She could not believe that I did not tell her sooner. But many screwed up tricks shown to my family and their friends made be very leery about doing magic in front of anyone that I knew personally (a fear that I still retain in some small part to this day!) But this time it was in front of my whole school. I pulled it off,doing what must of appeared to be microscopic magic onstage! I recall doing not only the finger chopper, but an old Tenyo penetration frame, milktumbler, and if memory serves me correctly, a collapsible magic wand. All of this for about “three hundred people!” but it worked and I had myself one proud mom. The most humorous part of that show would have to be my finale. I sawed a girl from my class in half. (not commando magic) It was quite a sight when a four foot tall girl entered a black cardboard box and suddenly became seven feet tall! The shop teacher who lent me the saw was sweating bullets as I had him come to the stage to verify the authenticity of the blade. I must admit, that was showmanship way beyond my years at that time!
To this day, I treasure the memory of that show even more than current performances where I received standing ovations by a packed theatre full of college students. It was early shows like this as well as others that taught me do things on my own.
Other events in my dawning magical existence helped to train me in the ways of what I now call “Commando Magic”. Every year my neighborhood would have a carnival in someone’s backyard. I would take this opportunity to produce my little magic show for about ten cents a person. (What a bargain!) Funds which went to further the cause of magic shops nationwide! Particularly two companies called “The Top Hat Magic Company” based outof Evanston, Illinois. and House of a Thousand Mysteries out of Ft.Lauderdale, Florida I do not know whether either of these two companies are still in existence, but they helped a budding young trickster become a full-time professional.
Through the years I stopped doing magic to enter the glamorous world of rock music. I crooned and played bass guitar for the rock band Arsenal for about four to five years. Since at that time I was in high school, myself and the rest of the band were all too young to play any of the area nightclubs, we produced our own shows at areas theatres. We had great successes in the endeavors and our methods for doing shows were copied by every band in the area. Little did I know that the same thing would happen to me years later in the comedy club business, which is discussed in great detail in our tape entitled “Producing Comedy Clubs“.(Shameless plug!) After the demise of the band, I gravitated back to magic. I figured that I could possibly make a little extra money doing magic for birthday parties and local civic organizations. That’s when the long learning process reactivated that has culminated into what much of my thinking is today.
After my Pheonix-like rebirth into the world of magic, somewhere, somehow,I had the notion that the more magic props, books, and paraphernalia that I bought, the better magician I would be. Forget about honing my stage persona, forget about even learning the magic that I had already spent a small fortune purchasing. I just became an accumulator. Unfortunately, there are a great many magicians in this day and age that are accumulators. They think that if they buy “just one more trick”, they will be a star. It never works, for the real secret of performing is getting an act, just five to ten effects, and doing that particular act better than anyone else.
Next Month, Part #5
Bobby J. Gallo
How to Perform Effectively in All Situations
Who is the Commando Performer?
The Fine Art Of Commando Magic
To have big props or not to have big props, that is the question? This is probably my favorite subject about performing in the art of magic. How the reader handles this single issue alone will determine his success in becoming a commando performer. This subject of props does not just apply to the field of magic, but also of Music, and Stand-up Comedy as well. How much paraphernalia must we have in order to become successful entertainers? Does it matter, or is this just something that should be left to the discretion of the individual? Personally, I think it does matter. But before I tell you why, I would first like to talk about some performers of yesteryear, and how they handled things.
In the first Chapter, you read what is to many modern day performers, a melancholic account of Howard Thurston’s performance around the turn of the century. Mr. Thurston was a master of creating large scale theatrical productions that would take many railroad cars to transport. However, Thurston was not the only one of that era to have this mentality that bigger is better. One of the Great Hermann brothers had several Railroad cars containing their touring shows. Including of course on private car that served as his personal travelling hotel room! As a matter of fact, one vaudevillian magician was so obsessed with the “Bigger is better Mentality” that he would purposely number The crates containing his props starting with the number one hundred. This was done in case anybody working in the theatre itself saw the crates. They would then see the numbers on them and say”Wow” this guy has over a hundred crates, His show must be big, and therefore GOOD! But does this necessarily mean that this man was a great performer? And even if he was, is it this fact that made him a success?
With Mentality in mind. Let us coin a term to be used in conjunction with this way of thinking. We’ll call it, “The Box & Prop Mentality”. The word “Prop” refers to large apparatus.(bigger than a breadbox). The word “Box” I believe is self-explanatory. For many performers, this is not said in a derogatory way. Certainty, Illusionists that perform on a grand scale “MUST” adhere to this line of thinking. After all, this is what they are all about. Putting on massive shows with dancers and fire and flashing lights. There is no doubt that there is a massive market out in the entertainment industry that demands shows such as these. Therefore, the demand must be met with qualified Illusionists that have rehearsed for years in order to accommodate the venues geared towards these types of shows. But what are the drawbacks inherent in this style of magic should a person choose to pursue this very difficult path? Let us examine them in detail. What is bigger, the performer or the Box?
When I mention bigger, I am not only talking about physical size, but also of the mental picture that the audience is drawing from the performance. In other words, what does the audience come away thinking? Do they say, Wow! what a great trick! or do they say, What a great magician! Is the Illusion so grand, that the audience does not even remember the person performing it, or is the performer so dynamic that the audience, in their mind, views the Illusion as being second to the awesome person presenting it? these are the pertinent questions surrounding the performance of Grand illusions. If one is to perform them. He or she must be far more dynamic, in overall audience appeal, than the magical effect itself. That is no small order! For in order to do this, everything from dance to speech training may be necessary to put oneself above their apparatus. However, the same really is true of all entertainment, The performer himself must always be the central focal point of the audience. But this especially holds true for the Grand Illusion and allied forms of entertainment.
Ronald J. Dayton
Several suggested roads of travel toward an elusive goal.
Simply inventing for the sake of invention is not enough. Clever is nice, but useful is better. If you are determined to be creative from the standpoint of developing new effects.. do your best to give the magic community something they can work with. Something with which to entertain. Put forth your best effort to create something of genuine value to you, your compeers, and the people they perform for. They call it, desire!
Part of this desire motivated creativity must surely lurk within our subconscious thoughts. That could be why, from time~to time, a new idea is conveyed to us in the form of a dream. And, just as it is possible to learn things while we sleep via suggestion or audio tapes, perhaps it is possible to condition ourselves to be inventively creative while we sleep as well. This will not happen easily at first, nor is it a sure fire approach.. but it is fun to experiment with, and can be fairly productive too!
To condition or program your mind for subconscious creativity, you must simply saturate your mind with general thoughts and specific solutions to a chosen problem. It is, in a way, a form of pre-sleep brainstorming. When you retire for the evening ( for me, it helps if I stay up late and go to bed in an over-tired condition. The restless state seems to promote dreams.) your conscious mind will rest, and the subconscious remains active. Sometimes you will be able to very vividly see the working solution to your chosen effect. At other times, random thoughts, methods and effects will be visualized.
If you are lucky enough to awake shortly after the dream, record all information immediately. Try to be as exact as possible. Keep a pen and paper/ tape recorder on the night stand within easy reach.
Please do not confuse what I am saying with ‘pipe dreams’. Dream related invention is simply a way of tapping into your sub-conscious creativity. This may be a source you are presently totally oblivious to. But the bottom line is, it works! All through your day you are adding stimuli to the subconscious mind. It could easily be that all of our senses play a part in this process Visual and audio stimuli to be sure affect the subconscious, but couldn’t taste, smell or touch also act as some sort of mental catalyst?
Something which may be of interest to some of you might be the April 1987 issue of Omni magazine. The cover title reads; HOW TO CONTPOL YOUR DREAMS. The center section of the magazine is called The Omni Experience and has four full pages dedicated to the dream experience, how to enhance it, and how to control where it leads. The information brought to light within the pages of Omni was only a small part of a decade long study conducted by psychologists Stephen LaBerge and Jayne Gackenbach through a series of four exercises, the prospective Lucid Dreamer. ( One who is aware he is dreaming and controls and recalls what he is dreaming actually learns how to attain a Lucid Dream)
In yet another exercise outlined within the pages of Omni, you learn how to condition yourself to attain a state of Dream Flying. Why learn to fly? For several reasons. First of all, it is considered to be one of the basic forms of travel while in a dream state. Secondly, it creates a feeling of freedom. Thirdly, once mastered, the rather frightening travel form will dispell your inner most fears. You will become a free spirit so~to-speak and be capable of anything you care to imagine.
This may all seem a bit far fetched, bizarre or unreal. Please do not dismiss it completely The goal you wish to reach is attained only by keeping an open mind to all possibilities.
Next Month: Part #6
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