Books Before 1900


Discoverie Of Witchcraft Was Not The First

Ronald J. Dayton

Our present day world of magic, almost without exception, heralds the 1584 work of Reginald Scot’s ” Discoverie Of Witchcraft “ as one of the monumental dates in conjuring history. It is not the intent of this article to diminish the importance of his work. Quite the contrary. But from a historical point of view, it may be of interest and importance to I.C.O.M. members to find that other books came before. I am certain that there are many historians and collectors out there who are already aware of these facts, but the novice or casual magician may not be as informed.

The earliest written account on magic appeared in the form of an Egyptian text known as the Westcar Papyrus. This was dated about 1799 B. C. and purportedly detailed a magic performance before King Khufu, or Cheops approximately one thousand years earlier.

A book titled ” A Manifest Detection of Dice Play “, offered as an anonymous work but later credited to Gilbert Walker, appeared 1552. It gave an extensive disclosure of cheating at dice as well as card-sharping methods. A second edition appeared in 1580, and a final printing 1850.

Four years later ” Natural and Artificial Conclusions ” was written by T. Hill. It contained what would be known in modern terms as parlor magic and scientific oddities. Additional copies were released in 1570, 1581 and 1584. It seems it was quite popular. Of all copies…as of 1955, only one copy of the 1581 release was known to exist.

Possibly the best known and most highly lauded text, Reginald Scot’s ” Discoverie of Witchcraft ” appeared in 1584, a full twenty-eight years after Hill’s ” Natural and Artificial Conclusions.”

The first printing of Scot’s book angered King James to such a degree that he had almost all copies burned. As a consequence, it is an extremely rare book indeed for first edition collectors. Later editions were printed in 1651, 1654, 1665, 1886 and 1930. A new expanded edition is now available to magicians of the ’90’s.

Originally known as ” The Anatomie of Legerdemain, by Hocus Pocus Junior,” in 1634…known today as ” Hocus Pocus Junior “, became the accepted model for conjuring books for centuries to follow. In 1734 ( approximate ) the ” Whole Art of Legerdemain, or Hocus Pocus ” was released by H. Dean.

Beginning as a serial in ” Every Boy’s Magazine, under the pen name of Professor Hoffmann, Angelo Lewis created material which would later be assembled as the classic, ” Modern Magic.” This was followed by ” More Magic ” in 1890.

The French were also busy with printed works on magic. In 1784 H. Decremp offered ” Magie Blanche Devoilee.” The year 1853 produced a work by J. N Ponsin titled ” Nouvelle Magie Blanche Devoilee. ” Portions of this word were later translated by S.H. Sharpe and presented as ” Ponsin On Conjuring.” J. E. Robert Houdin wrote ” Confidences d’un Prestidigitateur ” in 1858. This was later translated into English as ” The Memoirs of Robert Houdin.”

Leaving the European front we also found magic alive and well in America. The earliest known U.S. book on magic was H. Dean’s Hocus Pocus, printed in Philadelphia in 1795. Close on its heels was W. Pinchbeck’s ” Expositor,” 1805. 1830 brought ” Hocus Pocus by Nickerson. “Ventriloquism and Legerdemain Exposed ” was an anonymously written book in 1834, and the ” Humorous Magician Unmasked ” was done by Engstrom in 1836. A large book on magic, illusions, automata etc. was released by A. A. Hopkins as ” Magic, Stage Illusions, Etc.” in 1897. This year also found the release of A. Roterberg’s ” New Era Card Tricks.”

All of the above information is historically accurate, gleaned from the minds of some of the finest members of Britian’s Magic Circle. Exerps taken and re-worked from Will Dexter’s 1955 work,
Famous Magic Secrets.II*

The Ron Dayton Comedy Magic Gallery

The Ron Dayton Comedy Magic Gallery

Comics as well as magical works of art

Our esteemed colleague, Ronald J. Dayton is not only a prolific magical scholar, but an accomplished cartoonist as well. If these comics seem familiar, it is because they are the same ones found throughout I.C.O.M. For those searching for their favorites, we have assembled them here in one place. So sit back relax and laugh! By the way, all comics are copyrights, so please do not post them on other websites….Thank you!

As Memory Serves by Ron Dayton

As Memory Serves

A Historical Look at Inventions & The People Who Created Them.
Ronald J. Dayton

ATTABOY. . .Jack Hughes

BANG GUN…Harry Leat
BOOK OF THE MIND…Peter Warlock
BLENDO.. .Frank Ducrot
BOTANIA.. .DeKolta

CARD FRAME ( sand )…Bosco
CARD BOX.. .Roterberg
CARD IN WALLET…Schwartz & Himber
CENTER TEAR ( mental )…Martin Sunshine
CHOP CUP…Al Wheatley
COIN WAND…T. Nelson Downs
CLIPPO…Will DeSieve
CARD CHANGER…Shigeru Sugawara

DIE BOX… Davison
DRAWER BOX.. .Ponsin
DYE BOX ( pop corn style )…Tommy Windsor

EGG ON FAN…Sterling

FORGETFUL FREDDIE.. .Melbourne Christopher
FICKLE NICKEL…Cornelius & Gann
FICKLE FIRE.. .Kikuchi

GWENDOLYN ( mechanical duck )…Clarke Crandall
GYPSY CURSE…Emerson & West

HAUNTED PACK ( improved )…Lou Tannen
HIMBER RING…Persi Diaconis
HIGH SIGN…Christopher & Rawson

JET SET…Neil Foster


LEWISCONE.. .Ken Lewis

MAD, MAD, MATCHES…James Rainho
MAGIC MANOR…Sid Lorraine


OUT TO LUNCH…Cummings & Ellis


RICE BOWLS ( disc )…T. F. Fritz
RICE BOWLS ( double wall )…Brahman
RING FLITE…Doe & Koran

SILK BOY…Peter Warlock
SILK CABBY…Tom Sellers
SILK FOUNTAIN.. .Marconick
SOFT SOAP…Doc Hallock


TOPIT…Harold Comden
TIP OVER BOX…Jack Gwynne
TWILIGHT.. .Paul Harris



WORD-AMATIC…Sam Schwartz
WILD CARDS…Frank Garcia
WUNDERBAR…Steve Dusheck Jr.


Visitors are welcome to add their names and creations to this list… Be a permanent part of magical history here at ICOM!

Paper Plate Novelty Masks

Paper Plate Novelty Masks

Concept and plate designs are the origination of Ronald J. Dayton. All rights are reserved. May 1994 Copyright.


Ronald J. Dayton


At some point-in-time in the not too distant past, magician Tony Baronio was inspired by a creative, un-named author who had developed a series of hats (hats, crowns and numbers ) cut from a single folded paper plate. The hat designs Tony created in turn, inspired me to take a closer look at this novel concept. The new collection of masks you have just begun reading about is the end result of ‘my experimentation.

Each design is clearly illustrated. Basically, you are simply cutting along the dark, solid lines drawn on the interior area of the folded plate, and removing the shaded portion. In some instances, dotted lines, indicating mountain and valley folds have been suggested to offer greater dimension to the finished mask.

The masks are made for the size of a child’s head, If you are using white paper plates, the child may color or paint their own individual mask, consideration should also be given to the use of paper plates which are manufactured in full solid colors.

If you can fold a paper plate in half, If you can make a light pencil outline of the design you wish to make,,,and if you can safely operate a pair of scissors, then this is a unique presentational offering you can do!

Ronald J. Dayton
Begin with your paper plate folded in half. forming a semi-circle with the folded edge represented by the straight edge to the right, Fig. la. The dark interior solid lines within the plate indicate where your cuts are to be made.

In figure 1, the shaded portions are the areas of the plate which will be removed. The dotted lines indicate various folds allowing the mask or sections to hinge forward, or back and up through the rim of the plate as needed for certain designs. Others will allow you to add dimension to the finished mask.

Figure two shows the plate opened out flat after all the cuts have been made. Figure three illustrates how the head band is formed by swinging the band back and up, perpendicular to the mask itself.

The vast majority of the designs offered here will be made in the manner explained by these four simple illustrations. The only exceptions are the RABBIT and the INDIAN BRAIDS & FEATHER. In the instance of the rabbit, the ears are creased along their dotted lines and hinged back and up through the head band so once the mask and band are positioned on the head, the ears stick up above the head. The braids of the indian disguise hang down in front of the face at each side, but the feather is swung up through the band at the back….and stands above the head at the back of same.

The plates are folded in half, eating surface to eating surface. The pencil drawing for the mask design is made on the right rear half of the plate. Experiment with various mountain and valley folds of the masks to add depth to ears, noses, cheeks etc.

Experiment too with totally new designs, and see what you can come up with. It’s a challenge, and can also be a lot of fun.

These paper plate masks are of course, good new material for the kid’s show or birthday performer… but it is also a source of entertainment for many a rainy day project. Parents, teachers, magicians and just plain everyday people can have a lot of enjoyment from this simple pleasure. It’s novel, it’s interesting, and it costs only pennies for materials. Sounds like a good deal to me!

Basic Mask Construction
fig#1 (showing text figures #1a, 1 and 2)

Construction of Headband
fig#2 (showing text figure #3)




















Co-directors Notes: These illustrations are not to scale, but will give you a good idea of how to construct the masks. This is not only a fun activity but a profitable one as well. There is an entertainer that I know of who makes approx: $300.00 per hour doing just this sort of thing at private parties… Why does she make so much?… She’s the only one doing it! …

Think about it….

ICOM Grand Illusion Suite

The I.C.O.M Grand Illusion Suite

Welcome to a forum that has been a long time in coming…..The I.C.O.M Grand Illusion Suite! Here you will find the BIG STUFF! Everything you always wanted to know about furniture moving but were afraid to ask!…Just kidding!

Seriously though, This is the forum that will discuss the workings and performance to original and novel Illusions suitable for the stage. Special thanks to Gene Poinc for initiating this forum by his generous and brilliant Illusion contributions.

We are proud to include this masterwork from Gene Poinc. It appears here rather than the Secret Passageway for two reasons. 1. It is suitable for the stage. 2. We are trying to keep all of Gene’s material that he submitted for an exclusive forum in one place. We think you will like it…. BJG

The Final Houdini Seance Revisited

By Gene Poinc

A framed portrait of Houdini is on the seance table. There is a stand to the side of the table, on it a travel-worn valise emblazoned with once colorful labels from many countries; but dominating all is the name HOUDINI.

The performer stares thoughtfully a moment at the portrait, then turns to the audience, “Contrary to what has become popular mythology, Houdini was not a great magician, certainly competent, but not great. However, he was a magnificent escape artist, the greatest showman of his times, and in the opinion of some who knew him, the greatest ego of all time. Astonishing ego. Keep that in mind, it’s pertinent,”

Looking at the portrait again, the performer says somewhat wistfully, “And, perhaps, evidence of a glorious truth, Harry Houdini died October 31,1926, so ordinary a death for so spectacular a personality. No tragic demise in an escape attempt from a straight jacket suspended high above a crowd-packed street, with subsequent fall; or in a crate beneath an ice-encrusted lake; or a failed attempt to free himself from the Water Torture Charnber gone dreadfully awry. No. Ordinary. Not the way he would have preferred his final exit to be. So ordinary. Peritonitis from an unexpected blow to his abdomen by a university student to test Houdini’s boast of being able to sustain any hit a man could inflict. It’s said he was engrossed in reading a letter, unprepared for the impact. He died a few days later, not before the eyes of a horrified yet paradoxically fascinated crowd, but in a hospital. Ordinary. No audience, only his beloved wife Beatrice, Bess to friends.

“At some point during their lives, most likely after Houdini’s cherished mother died and his grieving attempts to contact her spirit through various mediums (all exposed as frauds), he and Bess vowed that the one who died first would make every effort to contact the other if a spirit dimension and interaction with mortals were possible. They decided on a code that would be known only to them as evidence of survival. After ten years all attempts were to cease.

“Now visualize; the roof of the glamorous Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel rented by Dr. Edward Saint, Mrs. Houdini’s business manager and, in his own way a showman; the roof was to be the much publicized site of the final Houdini seance. It was a perfect night for such an effort. Oh, not the cliche dark and stormy one of shallow horror tales with banshee howls riding eerie winds, and earthbound haunts lurking in every shadow. None such. No. It was a lovers’ night of sky ablaze with radiant stars engendering awe of all creation, instilling the wonder of life and hope of love transcending the seeming finality of the grave. A cold but perfect night.”

After a slight pause, the performer opens the valise, removes a framed photograph of Bess (smaller than the Houdini one), and places it beside Houdini’s.

“This photo traveled with him when Bess could not. A perfect night for love’s reunion. Comprising the seance inner circle with Bess and Dr. Saint were two newsmen, the past president of the California State Spiritualist Society, a judge of a California high court, and two magicians: one the president of a West Coast magicians’ organization; the other a publisher, William Larsen, Sr., founder and editor of a magazine devoted to the interests of amateur and professional conjurers. Beyond the inner circle there were bleachers to accommodate three hundred spectators, an extremely large group for so intimate an occasion. But then it was Dr. Edward Saint who made the arrangements, and, as stated, he was a showman in his own right. He wanted an audience.. .even for so final and solemn an effort to reunite two lovers, one living, the other dead.”

The performer removes a number of items from the valise, placing them on the seance table. “On a table in the inner circle was a tambourine, a spirit trumpet through which Houdini might whisper the secret code to Bess, a blank pistol, a slate and chalk, a bell and locked handcuffs. Nearby, the light that had burned steadily, bulb changes excepted, for ten years. If Houdini could break through the veil of death, perhaps he would give a sign: shoot the pistol, unlock the cuffs.. .something.. .anything. One of the magicians present had suggested Houdini’s wraith be given a bit of assistance, some sly trickery. But, surprisingly for Dr. Saint, he would allow no subterfuge. “At eight o’clock the grandeur of ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ the introductory music Houdini used in his stage performances, filled the cold night air as if reaching to the heavens and what spirit world might lie beyond. After a prayer, Dr. Saint gave his invocation. He cried out to high heaven…”

(If you have a copy of the seance recording, sold about ten years ago, play a brief excerpt of Ed Saint evoking after you say, “Listen now to the voice of Dr. Saint recorded on that.. .strange .. .night”)

“He pleaded, begged, commanded Houdini to give a sign, to come forth with the evidence. His cajoling was long and loud enough to awaken the dead, and possibly do in the living. Shortly before her death in 1943, Mrs. Houdini commented, ‘He invoked and he invoked — good Lord how that man invoked!’ But Houdini did not come through; his spirit did not appear to reassure his beloved Bess of life’s continuity. All was disappointed silence. Silence. Silence. And yet, did such have to be; was something done incorrectly? Unwittingly? Consider — Houdini’s monumental ego. Would The Great Houdini, as he often referred to himself, would the Great Houdini return to, good heavens, shake a tambourine, indulge in the nonsense of a spirit trumpet? He certainly was not a horn tooter. But what of his love for Bess? Perhaps along with the love, something more was needed to make contact feasible, something that was imbued with the psychic, mystical…call it what you will…ENERGY of his heart and mind and soul.”

The performer removes a straight jacket from the valise, displays it, “Impregnated with the intense energy of his dynamic strengths and fears and struggles, his triumphs in at times a tormented life. A near integral part of himself, like a second skin his straight jacket, the foundation for his international reputation for death-defying escapes. DEATH DEFYING…along with love — might not that have been his ultimate challenge to break through, to defy, conquer, and escape, symbolized by the straight jacket — death itself? Curious premise. Or is it?”

The performer leans somewhat over the end of the seance table to give spectators a closer look at the straight jacket. The extended jacket inadvertently blocks the stance items from view.

“Imagine if this straight jacket could speak, what escape thrills I…” He is suddenly interrupted by the pistol being fired behind the jacket; the tambourine shaking as part of it shows over the top edge of the jacket; the bell ringing; the spirit trumpet contemptuously flung up and away failing to the floor. All this happens very quickly. The performer moves the straight jacket aside folding it. “Apparently Houdini did not return that seance night of lost hopes.” He places jacket back into the valise, “As for just now…” smiles ever so slightly… “who knows? Dr. Saint turned to Mrs. Houdini saying…”

(If you have the recording, say, “Listen to voices from the past…” and play Saint’s question to Bess and her response.)

“Mrs. Houdini, have you had the sign?” Quietly she replied, ‘No. And I think that after ten years of trying every type of seance, I am convinced that the dead cannot return, that spirits do not exist. It is over. Finished.’ She turned out the light that had burned all those years, I now reverently…turn off…the light; goodnight, Harry.’ That’s what she said then .. .what might she say now?” He picks up the previously blank slate; a message is written on it reading: BESS, BELIEVE.

“Back then some manifestation would have been so reassuring; but…perhaps, just perhaps…something was. Remember…it was a cold, brilliantly clear night, stress clear, and yet the instant Mrs. Houdini and Dr. Saint left the roof, it suddenly rained just long enough to drench everyone remaining. Just somewhat wickedly long enough to soak the group. Sudden rains simply don’t happen in California, especially out of clear skies — yet that one did. Might a man of enormous ego have chosen to return as something dynamic, as inexplicable as that bewildering storm? Something to ponder. Goodnight, ladies and gentlemen.” Looks up and beyond the heads of the spectators, almost inaudible, “Goodnight, Bess… Harry …goodnight.”

There you have it. Now as for the method. Remove the cloth and fake hand from your Full Light Seance contraption. Cross the sleeves on a straight jacket and buckle at the back. Insert the supporting rod into the jacket, bottom to neck, and secure. Attach the hand. If a regular straight jacket seems too heavy to handle comfortably with one hand, even for sobrief a time, have one made of lighter fabric such as artist’s unprimed canvas, or even denim; use leatherette rather than leather for the straps and collar. Stain it to look old and often used.

As for the objects on the seance table: only ONE slate is used, the BESS, BELIEVE message written on the reverse side which simply is not shown. Since no mention is made that a message is to appear, none will be expected; the other items like the Spirit Trumpet are interesting looking and provide distraction. The handcuffs are unlocked to begin with; handling covers the slight gap as does the tambourine which is placed leaning a bit on the cuffs. So don’t slow the pace by fooling around with two slates, showing all four sides, wiping them clean, all that needless nonsense, But some will.. – I just know some will. Sigh.

The manifestations must be extremely brief, a total surprise to the audience, soooooo, in getting the suspended straight jacket into position, make sure blocking the view of the objects DOES NOT SEEM DELIBERATE. All focus is on the jacket as you lean forward to give spectators a better look at it; then as you begin to pull back, fire the pistol, which will startle everyone. Now quickly the tambourine is shaken, part of which must show above the top edge of the jacket; forcefully as possible fling the Spirit Trumpet up and over the jacket so it falls to floor or table; ring the bell; toss the now fully open handcuffs out. Casually fold the jacket with rod and return it to the valise.

DO NOT show the message on the slate until the moment indicated in the narration.

In practice and performance, concentrate on restricting shoulder movement when animating the objects.

And  finally  a  should -I- or-shouldn’t -I situation, that being inclusion or exclusion of an idea. I like the simplicity of everything so far. . . and yet it occurred to me, if part of your performance is done seated, as you lean away from the table to put the straight jacket back into the valise, in full view the tambourine gives a shake or two. A plate lifter, the bulb pressed by your knee against the side of the table. Heh, The tube covered by a shawl said to have been worn by Mrs. Houdini at the seance, on the table from the beginning. The disciplined part of self says it’s too much, gilding the proverbial lily…… but I just couldn’t resist mentioning it. See, I’m human too, tempted to overdo such a struggle. Did I tell you the life of a magician is not a merry one? The life of a magician is not a merry one. Sigh.


Happy Halloween.

You Know Who!
Something NEW, and long awaited by the students of I.C.O.M, a levitation; comprised of tried and proven methods of two gentlemen. This is not a pipe dream! It IS an easy and affordable illusion done indoor or out. No heavy equipment or set up time, no assistants. Everything you’ll need is either worn or carried by you openly as you walk out to perform. Your out of pocket cost will be about twenty dollars. Interested? Read on:


You walk on to stage, carrying one of those cloth stand up style book bags. Reaching into its open top, you remove a 4 X 4 foot square of cloth. This foulard is held in front of you, one corner in each hand. The tips of your shoes are visible below the cloths lower edge. Suddenly your feet are seen to rise up off the floor. Your head and upper torso shift to the right as your legs lift to the left and appear together at the left side of the cloth. The lower edge of the cloth is well up off the floor. Only the cloth book bag is visible below it. Your entire body seems to be floating parallel to the stage without visible support. Slowly your feet descend as you stand erect on terra firma. The cloth is gathered up and placed back in the bag. You take your well deserved bow, grab the bag and carry it off stage.

Impossible? It would certainly seem to be. But by combining methods of a friend, Milwaukee magician Jim Geb; and a mentor, U.F. Grant, it can be done. By conditioning the audience to the possibility of self levitation, do the Balucci for them first, then follow with the Geb-Grant version. Sadly, Jim passed away last year of Lukemia. His method here-to- for was shared with only a small circle of friends. With permission from his widow Donna, in his memory, I offer it to you.


Both Geb and Grant realized the strength of simplicity for greatest impact. Jim’s portion of the levitation required two two inch self adhesive squares of velcro. One square was stuck to each shoe just where the heel began. When he stood with his legs together, the shoes became attached. He used his jacket as a covering cloth held in front of him. He slipped his right foot from within its shoe. Supported bt his right leg, he began to bend to the right, side ways at his waist. Simultaneously, his straight left leg and joined pair of shoes was lifted to the left. The illusion created was that of him floating un assisted parallel to the ground and several feet above it. Reversing the procedure allowed him to replace his jacket and walk casually away.

Grant on the other hand, took a different approach. One other item, a small step stool was in the bag with the square of cloth on top. His shoes were not attached to one another. At first his feet were covered by the cloth. He simply stepped into the bag, and stood upon the stool. As he stepped up the cloth rose with him. Only the bag was visible, creating the impressiom that he must be floating in the air. Grant used a paper grocery bag. When you combine the two mens method, a different illusion is created. The stool and foulard are in the cloth book bag. I used a cloth bag to eliminate the possibility of a paper bag ‘talking’ as your right foot steps in.

Will this effect take practice? YES, of course it will! It will take time to gain the strength and balance required. Is it worth the effort? You tell me.

Ron Dayton


Inspired by a Steve Fearson method, If the BAG in which you carry the stool had a mirror positioned diagonally in it were made of MESH … and the cloth was inside as well, a new dimension to what we have been discussing would emerge. I may be crazy, but this seems like progress.

Ron Again

A Sack of Santa
Gene Poinc
The Performer sighs, shakes his head negatively, “This being the season for jolly antics I suppose you won’t be satisfied unless you see a Santa. I could entertain you with all the wonders of my astonishing skills – but you want Santa. Dismal.”

He glances at a low platform at center stage. There is a plastic bag crumpled on top of it, but enough hangs over the edge to establish it’s in the shape of Santa Claus, one of those life-size ones you stuff with newspapers. Leaning against the platform is a large transparent red bag filled with crumpled news- papers.

Walking over to the platform the Performer indicates the Santa, “That crumpled plastic bag of vague shape. Santa. Do you realize what stupendous magic could be thrilling you if you didn’t insist on this nonsense?” He indicates the second bag filled with newspapers, “A sack full of …uh… the thou- sands upon thousands of fan letters I receive. Why thousands? Because I’m loaded with talent, but… of course… you want Santa.”

The Performer gestures toward the wings. Two assistants walk out to the platform. Shrugging, the performer says to the assistants, “They want Santa. Give them Santa. My life is not a merry one.”

The assistants rapidly stuff the Santa with newspapers. Once filled, they seat it on the low platform. The Santa is awk- ward looking, and seems as if it might topple over.

The Performer stares at the audience, “Happy? Now if I may, can we get on to important matters?” He moves quite a distance away from the platform, his back to the Santa, and begins performing skillful manipulations with cards or billiard balls while extolling his many talents. “I have performed for Presidents, for Kings and Queens and dignitaries of the world… and your only interest seems to be silly Santas.”

The Santa begins to quiver as if gradually coming to life. The performer is, of course, oblivious. “Do you understand? I am far too famous for nonsense.”

The Santa stirs and awkwardly stands up. In response to audience reaction the Performer looks quizzical and glances back over his shoulder. But the Santa has stopped his movement an instant before the Performer turns; he does not see the movement. Shrugging, the Performer continues his manipulations, babbling, “Indeed, indeed, in all modesty I would say I am by far… farther than cosmic far …the greatest magician who ever trod this tawdry earth. And you wanted to waste time on Santa.”

During this the Santa is slowly, menacingly lumbering toward the Performer. His movement is always ungainly, like a sack of newspapers trying to walk.

Again the Performer hears some audience reaction and turns, looking back. The Santa stops just as the performer turns, and stands motionless. The Performer looks perplexed. He gestures toward the wings. An assistant steps out. Annoyed, the Performer commands, “Do. ..not. ..move. ..that. ..thing. .. again!”

The assistant tries to protest that he didn’t move it, but he’s waved off by the performer.

The Performer returns to doing spectacular manipulations as the Santa once again moves ominously toward the magician, ” Are your hearts not overflowing with gratitude that I am honoring all you little, little, little people with this exquisite display of incomparable talent?” The Santa is almost upon him. “. ..with this genius rather than that Santa silliness?” The Santa roars, “Merry Christmas !” The Performer is so startled that the cards or billiard balls in his hands go flying wildly into the air, and many, many more fall from various places qf concealment in his clothes. He whirls and shrieks when he sees the Santa. In terror he dashes off into the wings with the Santa lumbering after him.



With careful timing this can be very funny. The image of this pompous – to the extreme -magician perfonning manipulations while a bag of crumpled newspapers vaguely in the guise of Santa staggers toward him is grandly ludicrous.

Ideally, make the Santa bag of a size to accommodate the assistant, who is scrunched up in the lower section (figure 1). The illustration depicts the Santa extended fully upward to show the relative size of the Santa and also to provide the reader with a design guide. When the assistant is scrunched up the upper part of the Santa bag will be collapsed around the assistant. You can make the Santa out of plastic available from a garden supply store. Draw the Santa onto the plastic twice, cut out the two Santas, and tape the edges together – with plastic tape. You can then have an artist airbrush the features and costume onto the bag. It might be possible to purchase a ready-made Santa during the holiday season. If so you may need to enlarge the Santa at the back so that the assistant can fits inside still leaving plenty of room for the stuffing of newspapers. Place Velcro strips on the inside of the Santa boots and on the soles of the assistant’s shoes. This will secure them, and facilitate walking without the shoes sliding about inside the Santa bag.

Figure 2 shows the platfonn, which is about two feet high. The Santa bag lies on top, all crumpled up, but enough of the sleeve and cap hang over the front edge to establish what it is. It appears as though it could not possiibly conceal anything.

The assistant inside the Santa bag is concealed in a well at the back of the platform. This well is represented by the shaded areas in Figures 2 and 3. The depth of the well depends on the size of your assistant, but nine or ten inches should suffice.
As the other assistants begin stuffing the Santa bag with newspapers they partially block the audience’s view of the Santa bag. During this stuffing process the assistant inside Santa is moved from the well to the front section of the platfonn. Finally, when the assistants seat the Santa on the platform, it must look awkward, almost ready to topple over like a paper-stuffed figure. All subsequent movements MUST be ungainly. It would be effective if the platform were used for other things prior to the Santa illusion so the audience becomes accustomed to it as a utility piece on which various things are put, rather than being an integral part of the presentation.

Some of you will want to produce a live Santa from the Santa bag. Do as you wish. The staggering about, awkward-walking Santa sack is a visual delight. Enjoy it and allow the audience to do the same.

Happy Holidays to you all.

Commando Magic Marketing Manual

The Commando Magic Marketing Manual

Bobby J. Gallo
Copyright 1998 by BG Entertainment

This electronic manuscript was was originally marketed as a booklet under the title, “The Bobby J. Gallo Mini Marketing Manual”. It is now here for you to benefit from. Book Four in the I.C.O.M Cyber-Magic Textbook Series For Magicians.

  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: WHEN OR IF TO GO PRO


Everyone performing magic, comedy, ventriloquism clowning etc.. at one time or another, entertains the thought of “going pro.” Most quickly lose interest in this seemingly far-fetched fantasy when they consider that they have to “Continually” perform shows in order to make a living. Thus, their enjoyable hobby remains just that, a hobby. This book has been created to address the situation that most aspiring professionals find themselves in. To plant the “seeds” of a professional performing career. I personally perform over 400 engagements annually and have been doing so for quite some time.

The basic techniques that I have developed to achieve this level of business are all contained in this book. Furthermore, these techniques do not require the entrepreneur to spend large amounts of money. Most of the ideas and projects require minimal expense, along with time and creativity. But all are proven methods, which, if followed, will bring a financial return worth thousands of times the price of your membership in I.C.O.M!

I have endeavored to pull no punches in describing various venues, situation and scenarios. This may not be the popular approach, but it is the realistic one. I have been there, many, many times. I’m sure that many readers will take what I have to say in many cases with a grain of salt, that’s fine. I feel that the ultimate teacher is experience anyway, so the student will ultimately compare what I have to impart with his or her own experiences.

I have also given the reader details describing each of the various venues that he may wish to target. (Pro’s and Con’s) I felt that this was necessary to gain a overall view of the marketing picture. The explanations may seem similar to what would be read in my text, Command Magic. Indeed, if one were to get togenecessary with a fellow magician of any experience and hear him talk about certain venues, you will notice that along with giving tips on how to break into any given market, he will also give you the in’s and out’s of working that market as well. The two truly go hand in hand.

Please read this section thoroughly. Read each chapter then re-read it. Then when, and “Only” when you are ready, go out and build a business as a Professional Entertainer!

Bobby J. Gallo


If this isn’t the first question on the would-be professionals mind, it should be! Because this is not only the first question to ask oneself, but also the most important one he or she will ever make concerning the subject of a show-biz career. There are many things to consider when one is planning to go professional, and we will try to cover the most important ones in the following paragraphs.

QUESTION #1: Is a professional career in performing what you really want? There are pros and cons to this question let us first consider the positive aspects.

As the Rock Band “Rush” once wrote into their song called “Limelight”, Living in the Limelight is the universal dream. For most people, this would have to be the actual case. Any performer will tell you, there is no feeling quite like that of a thunderous round of applause, laughter, and the general fruits of the material you have (hopefully) created. However, This dream, and the reality of it, certainly have their respective ramifications. The life of a performer certainly is an adventure in every sense of the word. In what other career can one Travel to places that he or she otherwise would never otherwise visit? Meet people one would never otherwise meet? And in the case of magic, do things only fantasy characters from the realm of fiction and comics could do? The answer is, None. The art of entertainment and magic in particular stands alone when it comes to the timeless rewards of fame, excitement, and the purpose of this I.C.O.M section, Fortune!


I was once approached by a student of mine who expressed the desire to become a semi-professional. (semi-professional, a magician that earns 50% or less of their overall income performing magic) Not intending to be harsh, I quickly reminded him that he had only been in magic for two years and in my opinion, was not in an appropriate position to demand financial compensation for his “budding” talents at this time. The reasons are numerous for “any” approaching the thought of professionalism from this time-frame. Let’s examine the first reason.

Except in very, very rare cases can anyone be ready to do a “Professional” level show after only a couple years of amateur experience. The performer “Must” have a polished act in order to place a monetary value on same. I advised my student to do as many “Free” shows as he can possibly do in order to polish himself in front of an audience. (something by the way a professional entertainer should “never” do as I will explain later) I told him that as long as he is not charging for his services, he will not be judged by the sponsors of the event as to his abilities as an entertainer. This gives the would-be professional the space to find out who he or she is onstage. The creativity to find out what material works best for that long road ahead. Mistakes, painful as they may be to the beginner can be taken with a grain of salt as long as you are donating your services. If the audience is not paying for your show, you have every right to do what you want for them without fear of rejection.

However, this all changes the day you put a price on what you show them! All of a sudden you will be held to a certain standard. How high is that standard? That depends on what you are charging them. This can be a catch 22. If your fee is too low, you are hurting your fellow entertainers who are trying desperately to make a living. You also run the risk of the persons hiring you who think that you are not all that skilled due to the fact that you are only charging a pittance. On the other hand, if you charge the going rate in your area, you had better be good! You must be on a par with your competition and must be able to deliver a product that is well worth the money people are paying you. If you don’t, you will face rejection of the worst kind. Your reputation will be damaged, and you do the entire field of professional magic irreparable harm. Am I sounding too harsh on this subject? Not really, one has only to be in this field professionally for a short time and they will soon realize the truth to these words.

So what is the point of all this? simple, rehearse, this is your chance to do charity and free shows for family and friends before attempting to trek into the marketplace. Become a polished magician that deserves to be compensated for his or her efforts. Even the average birthday party gig deserves an entertainer that has put in the time and effort to give the audience something worth paying to see.

One final note on this subject. My student had related to me a talk he had with his aunt. She told him he would be great performing for children’s parties and that he should get business cards. Without being disrespectful to anyone’s aunt, people like this don’t know what they are talking about. I hear this all the time, that young children are suited to be entertainers for other small children. Nothing could be further from the truth! Becoming a seasoned children’s entertainer takes years! Unless you approach a family show just right, kids can chew you up and spit you out! Unfortunately, the aunt that is trying to encourage her nephew is going to end up putting him into a situation that is going to crush his ego and ruin his self esteem as a performer in the end.

I think my readers get the point.


This is a section that very few entertainers, even pro’s think about. It is very important to ponder this aspect of dividing performances into the following two categories for the sake of targeting your markets. “All” shows, regardless of what they are, where they are located, who hired you etc. can be divided into, CASHFLOW GIGS, and PRESTIGE GIGS. Lets examine each one and find out what makes them so unique and important in its own way to the working pro.


A cashflow gig is your basic magic show that is booked locally and is performed for the sole purpose of making money and paying the bills. These shows “do nothing to further your career other than provide you with venues to continually refine your act and of course, make money”. It is interesting to note that a great many magicians will go their entire career performing nothing but cashflow gigs. Not that there is anything wrong with that, certain entertainers reach a level that is conducive with their abilities and this places them in a situation best suited for them. In a way it is the natural order of things. Not that they are not able to attain greater levels, but that they are content to work the smaller circuits with the benefits that are contained therein. Is also important to realize that, in very rare exception, ALL professional entertainers regardless of prominence find themselves performing numerous cashflow gigs in order to make a living. After all, bills have to be paid. And far and away, there are more cashflow gigs available than prestige gigs. Therefore, everyone should expect to do them.

Many times during a performance, people will come up to me and ask when I will appear on any one of the many late night talk shows. They ask this with the assumption that the day I appear on one of these shows, I will no longer have to perform at the local birthday party or civic club. They are usually stunned when I state that even “if” I was lucky enough to land one of those prestigious spots, I would still be there performing at the civic club or party. After all, I explain to them, those appearances happen once. And even then, they do not pay very much contrary to popular belief. (Its called scale) They benefit you in different way which I will explain later. So, after a dynamite television appearance, I still have to work don’t I?

What are the shows that would be classified as cash flow gigs? Lets first list them, and then we will take a look at what the benefits of working them are.


  • Birthday Parties
  • Civic and Private Organizations
  • Banquets and Social Functions
  • Store Grand Openings
  • Restaurant Magic
  • Magic Bartending
  • Clowning
  • Magic Demonstration (Dealer)
  • Fortune Telling (Readers)
  • Any other time where an agent books you do be nothing more than a “throw in” to a large event. (roving magician at a festival, etc.)

Birthday Parties:
The most bountiful and vast amount of work available to the professional magician. Many pro’s perform nothing but birthday parties their entire career. Unfortunately, the party circuit has also found home to young (and many times old) in-experienced hobbyists who neither have the necessary experience or knowledge to handle the numerous children they are confronted with. The stereo-typical “Bungling” magician has in large part, been born out of the birthday party circuit due to these well intentioned professional wanna-bees.

However, the benefits of working the party circuit are numerous. Let’s take a look.


  • There is a plenty of party work for the magician, there will always be a new generation of children growing up and parents will forever need entertainment at their kids special day.
  • There is very little pressure. Once a solid kid show is developed, it becomes second-nature, and will serve the entertainer his entire career.
  • Advertising for parties can be done on a shoe-string budget.
  • Actually a great way for the working professional to refine his act further and further, preparing the way for more prestigious work.


  • Once established in the birthday party circuit, it is a hard rut to break out of even if one wants to. The steady flow of work makes entertainers very comfortable and complacent. (which is fine for many!)
  • You will NEVER be “rich or famous” working solely birthday parties………..period.

Civic and Private Organizations:
A small step up from the birthday party. The organization show such as a “Boy Scout Blue & Gold Dinner” has certain advantages not found in the standard birthday party.


  • These show pay on average %25 more than your standard birthday party. So they are financially more appealing.
  • You are usually performing before a much larger group of people and frequently have access to stage facilities. (even a small church basement stage is better than a residential living room)
  • You are more likely to have the opportunity of developing material more conducive to stage work that may benefit you in the future.
  • More people watching means more opportunities for word-of-mouth advertising.


  • They are not as plentiful as the standard birthday party and require more of an effort to market.
  • Due to the fact that you are usually required to perform a larger type show (even if it is merely the addition of a small sound system) You will have more to carry in than you would with a birthday party and thus may not be able to schedule as many jobs in a given day due to time constraints.
  • The performer will frequently find that in Civic halls, the stage area is cluttered for one reason or another and not usable. There goes that perfectly planned stage act!
  • You will NEVER be “rich or famous” working financially organizational shows………..period.

Banquets and Social Functions:
These are a cross between the above two categories. Banquet shows will often find the entertainer in the same situation as the organization show. He will often be working on floor level on a dance floor of some type in a catering hall almost completely surrounded. And the Social function is merely an adult version of a birthday party that may or may not be held in a private home.


  • Like the organizational shows, these gigs pay on average %25 more than your standard birthday party. So they are basement more appealing.
  • The fact that you will usually be performing on a dance floor gives you the opportunity to develop a cabaret act that may be beneficial in the future.
  • More people watching means more categories for word-of-mouth advertising. (Banquets mostly)
  • Performing for adults gives you the develop to expand and develop an adult show. (mentalism, cards, manipulation, and material that would go over the children’s heads.)


  • These can be among the toughest gigs to work. Rarely does the host of the party give any thought as to the needs of the entertainer. You will work many times surrounded and will have to develop material that is totally angle-proof. (Did I say that you can do manipulations?)
  • You will NEVER be “rich or famous” working banquet and social function shows………..period.

Store Grand Openings:
They sound great don’t they? One would think that because the opening is grand, so is the gig. Unfortunately that may not be the case! These are cashflow gigs is the truest sense of the words. Let’s see why.


  • You can tell people you did “such and such’s” grand opening and put the company name on your resume’
  • There is a slim, one in a million chance that the chairman of the board of the company will see you and like you so much that you will be featured in the stores national television commercials. Then again, you probably have as much luck playing the lottery no matter how good your act is.
  • Hey,…..Its money!


  • You will probably work the entire day at an hourly rate that is a fraction of what you normally earn doing a birthday party. Furthermore, if it is booked through an agent, you will earn even less.
  • You were hired as a nameless, faceless entertainer to add ambiance an a bit of excitement to the grand opening. Remember, the store is the star, not you!
  • You will NEVER be “rich or famous” working grand opening shows………..period.

Restaurant Magic:
This venue is a very much sought after market for the magician due to the fact that it one of the last frontiers of the close-up artist.


  • It is a very relaxing and professional atmosphere to perform in. (provided it is not a fast food joint!)
  • Time at a Restaurant gig will sharpen your close-up skills tremendously.
  • It is usually steady work lasting many months at a time..
  • It may be possible to get some positive publicity out of this if you can get the management to help you out a bit. Restaurant magicians are regularly featured in the press and may be able to build a patron following.


  • People are there to eat. You are a secondary attraction at best.
  • Except in rare cases. You will work at an hourly rate that is lower than your standard rate for a one hour birthday party show. (The security aspect of steady work can usually balance this con out)
  • You will never get rich working restaurants, but you may become well known in the area. And that is worth something.

Magic Bartending:
Obviously, only adult magicians will ever be able to perform in this venue. A few people in the magical world have actually become famous performing in this setting. But they are the exception, not the rule.


  • If your act stinks, no one will care, just serve another round or two!
  • Your not there to be a magician, you were hired to be a bartender, so you will always have a job.
  • I can’t say that you will never become famous, after all, it has happened three times to my knowledge, so you never know!


  • If you think you will be appreciated for your artistry in this setting………….forget it.
  • Unless you own the bar, you will never become rich.
  • You are not there to be a magician, you were hired to be a bartender……..period.

Refer to everything listed above, under “birthday parties”…..everything. There are also two additional con’s.


  • Make-up….Nuff Said.
  • I know of very, very, very, very, few clowns in general that ever make themselves a household name. Yes, I know, there is one!

Magic Demonstration (Dealer):
I can speak from experience on this one. Over a decade ago, I opened up a magic shop myself. I can honestly say, that the quickest way to fall into magical obscurity is to become a magical demonstrator. I quickly exited that situation, But I must say that there is a few positive aspects.


  • This is a superb place for the budding magician to hone his talents without jumping into the performance market as an ill-prepared entertainer.
  • For the hired demonstrator, it can usually mean steady work. Even if it is at minimum wage.
  • Occasionally you may be able to secure some party work through the magic shop.
  • You get to play with everything, whenever you want!


  • Magic shops very rarely make money. Opening one can be a risky proposition.
  • Magician’s generally look down at other “experienced” magicians who work as demonstrators. It sometimes appears as if you cannot secure work as an entertainer. This may be wrong in reality, but it also happens to be the truth in perception. It may not be good for your image, since everyone in the magical community will see you working there. But for the beginner, it is not only accepted, it is encouraged.

Fortune Telling (Readers):
Even though this allied art of magic really has nothing to do with sleight-of-hand or illusion, it does deal with deception. It is surprising how many magicians find themselves becoming readers after years of entertaining with legitimate magic.


  • It is the ultimate in non-pressure performing. You usually deal with the spectator one-on-one and even if your reading is way off base, people so not seem to mind.
  • Some readers charge per person. Done this way, a decent some of money can be made. Usually twice what you would normally make doing the same amount of time as a magician in a party situation.
  • Other than a deck of playing card, tea leaves or some other paraphernalia, ther are no props involved. Travelling is a breeze.


  • You must realize that many people will believe what you are telling them is real! So you must wrestle the ethical questions in your own mind as to whether or not you are the dictionary definition of a charlatan…
  • I thought you wanted to be a magician anyway???

Agent events:
Agents can supply you with a lot of work. However, by enlarge, they do not pay very much at all. In many cases, they will pay you a flat fee for a job and mark your efforts up by as much as 100% to the customer! Be wary. It is best to find a reputable agent that works for a flat 20% and is willing to sign a contract stating so. Unfortunately, that is not always an easy task.


These shows will both make you money and may or may not have a long term beneficial effect on your career. Though it is a short list, it contains three venues that most professionals find themselves considering when faced with a full-time or part-time career in magic.

  • School Shows
  • Cruise Ships
  • Mall Shows
  • Church Shows (Gospel Magic)

School Shows:
What makes these gigs fall into the gray area is the fact that they are usually very large events with audiences ranging somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 to 500 people or more. They will usually pay about three times more than the average party gig. If you work out a ticket profit sharing deal, you can tack on another 25%-30%.


  • Finally, a stage with curtains and wings in a real auditorium. Performing the way it was meant to be!
  • If handled properly, a good deal of publicity can be gained from these shows.
  • If you are willing to work hard and be creative, you may even develop a safety or anti-drug, show that will make your services easier to market. However, this is not necessary.


  • You will usually deal with a janitor who has been assigned to be your technical support person. Nuff-said.
  • You cannot do any tricks with fire, the town Fire Marshall who always happens to show up will freak out.
  • No danger tricks. They are politically incorrect these days.
  • The auditorium may turn out to be a modified cafeteria with a small platform on one end. Oh, what great acoustics!
  • Many times, The stage light box will be locked and no one has the key. Hope you like performing with house lights only!
  • Hey kid….get off the stage.
  • If it is not your show exclusively, be prepared to have no set-up time. You will be following the blue-haired singing choir and will be expected to set up and go on within the time it takes for the guest star fifth grade Emcee to announce you.

Cruise Ships:
Ahhhh, the glamorous world of the cruise ship market. Adventure, intrigue, exotic locales,
romance, …….headaches.


  • They often pay very well. Many times more than you can make working close to home.
  • They look great on your resume and impress people when you say that you perform them.


  • No ever knows who you are, you are in the middle of nowhere, so publicity is limited to the ship that you are on.
  • Many times entertainers must perform other crew duties which can be a real drag.
  • You will be sailing sometimes for months a time. It is not recommended for the entertainer with a family at home.
  • Crew quarters are awful…trust me,…I know.
  • You must have a silent act to music. Many times, no one on board speaks english due to the fact that cruises attract international clientele. (See Commando Magic)

Mall Shows:
Whether or not these shows are to be considered prestige gigs are determined on how they are booked. I performed one at a local mall that had fantastic promotion. The result was close to a thousand people and spectators who talked about it for weeks on end. There are also pop stars who have made their name performing in Malls. On the other hand, if hired through an agent, you may have been hired to merely stroll in a scheduled event to your act and leave. This would make it strictly a cashflow gig.


  • They pay pretty well. You will usually make four times what you would normally make doing the same time at a party gig.
  • If the show is promoted properly, you will become a household name is that area for quite some time.
  • You will usually be playing to hundreds of people at a time. The marketing opportunities in this setting are vast.
  • With enough of them, you may actually become famous! It has happened for some!


  • Occasionally you will be asked to sell a product. There goes your well rehearsed act!
  • Do not plan to do more than one in a day. They are hard to set-up, and even more difficult to play. These shows can be quite intimidating even to the seasoned pro. Know what you are getting yourself into!
  • They are hard to book at not very plentiful unless you have a fantastic agent who books you on a mall tour and only takes the standard 20%.
  • You will have to make a substantial investment in equipment, such as a sound system and an act that can play to large numbers of people. Visual magic with lots of flash works best here. Remember, you are competing with all of the stores.

Church Shows (Gospel Magic):
This is a controversial area. Many people argue that religion and entertainment do not mix. That will be up to the individual performer. Your notoriety will be limited to the particular market that you are targeting. However, you may become very well known in that area!


  • The money you can make fluctuates depending upon the church and the area. the best way to handle these shows is to use the fundraising technique found later in this book.
  • These may be the most polite and congenial audiences you will ever have! How refreshing…
  • They will make you feel good spiritually!
  • You may become very well know within your market.


  • You will have to develop a smooth act that will ONLY benefit you in this area.
  • At times you will make no more than an average birthday party with twice the amount of work and travel involved.
  • Performing facilities will vary, at times you will have a stage, other times, barely enough room for you and your audience to fit into the hall or church basement.
  • Things normally taking up room on the stages making life for the magician rough. Bingo Machines, Choir books, folding chairs, the scenery form the sunday school play, vestment closets, book closets, alters, you name it. In other words, In my experience, the number one storage place in most churches is the stage. This must be worked out before hand. The common response to this will be them asking if you wouldn’t mind performing on the “floor in front of the stage!”


These are the jobs that 99% of all entertainers enter the business to perform. The truth is, statistically, only 10% of all people “who call themselves magicians” ever actually get paid for their services (9 out of 10 are semi-professionals). Out of this, only 1% are able to do be full-time professionals and do magic for a living (their sole source of income). And out of this small percentage, only about half will ever perform even “one” prestige gig their entire careers let alone do them for a living. That kind of puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? However, on the flip side, prestige gigs are not for everyone. They require a super polished professional act, and a personality that is conducive to your given target market. It is admirable for all entertainers to “aspire” to these venues, but one must determine there own niche in the magic field. Performing in a prestige gig before being ready will be devastating both the your ego, your business, and the market in general. They are rare unless you become a big star. Then at that point, all jobs become prestige gigs.


  • Television and Radio
  • Movies
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Night Clubs and Comedy Clubs
  • Theatres and Museums
  • Resort Hotels
  • Trade Show and Corporate Work
  • Lectures
  • Any Venue where you are working for high profile spectators. Such as celebrities or politicians.

Television and Radio:
The number one venues for any entertainer regardless of what they do. These two media giants rank number #1 in the prestige genre for a few very solid reasons. But instead of listing them here. Let’s do what we did for the cash flow gigs and list the pro’s and con’s of each.


  • People ultimately judge the entertainer on whether or not he/she has ever been seen on television. This is a sad fact, I wish it were not so, but it is. After a few years in the industry, you will be asked by all manner of layman a few hundred times if you have ever been on television. They may also say something like. Someday we will see you on the “Tonight Show” or something similar. Bottom line, people respect a magician who has had TV exposure.
  • In one shot, you may have performed for more people than you will ever perform for “live” your entire career! That is a pretty awesome thought.
  • The publicity you will get out of a television or good radio spot is priceless.
  • Remember, all the mega-magic stars that are making millions would be nowhere without television…….period.


  • Don’t go for the television and radio spots to make money. You won’t. Money is made by the residual work that spins off such appearances. Many times you will be doing the spot for free. At best, you will get scale which is tantamount to doing a party gig.
  • Many television shows are “live” I did three of those myself. You had better use material that is as close to full-proof as possible.
  • Expect to go without sleep the week of your appearance. These gigs are that important.
  • Work closely with the producers of the show. They rarely have magicians and will need to know how to shoot the trick correctly. (not really a con, but where else do you put it?)

Before you think that I’ve lost my mind when I mention this venue, I would like to point out that a great many magicians have made cameo appearances in movies. There are always spots open as an extra, but some have even had prominent supporting roles. There would be nothing in my mind more prestigious than being able to say that you have appeared in a major motion picture.


  • Looks great on your resume’.
  • If your role is large enough, you could make a decent buck.
  • You’ll be a bona fide, movie star!!!
  • It’s the movies!…..Nuff said.


  • If you count on this………………….I hope you like living on bread and water. The chances of scoring one of these gigs makes the lottery look like 50/50 odds.
  • If it is a low budget B-movie, you might as well stay home and get the extra sleep. I know, I have appeared in one. Trust me, you’ve never heard of it!

Colleges and Universities:
Ok, now we’re talking! this is a real market with realistic opportunities and the pay is dynamite. This is one of the most sought after markets in the entertainment industry today, and for good reason. I have been working the colleges for a number of years so I know what I am talking about when I write this info. The venue has wonderful potential, however, there are always a lot of snags in a pretty picture such as this. Let’s take a look.


  • Colleges pay very well. You can make up to ten times your normal fee with just one show!!! WOW!
  • Many times they treat you like a real star, hotel, hospitality suite stocked with food etc. And you thought they only did that for the guys who make large public monuments vanish!
  • Many top stars still work the college circuit, it is considered a premium gig.

Con’s (ok, where do I start?)

  • At times you will only make slightly more than an average party gig if it is a community college.
  • At times, you will have to stay in a dorm room and eat cafeteria food…yuck!
  • You will have to travel….period. If you think you can make a living doing the colleges while going home every night, think again. You will get to know the national airports very, very well.
  • College kids are the toughest audiences you will ever face. (I could give you stories that would make you pre-maturely grey, but that is another book)
  • You MUST be funny. The straight magician will suffer a slow agonizing…well, you get my drift.
  • Be prepared to work in a crowded cafeteria, with no stage what-so-ever. Remember, never let them see you sweat! Hee…Heeeee.
  • They are really, really, tough to book. Your best bet is to find a college agent. Trouble is, they will not represent you until you have television exposure……Yikes!
  • Your performances will be rated and sent to a national publication where they will be published nationally for all to see…..Double Yikes!!!
  • No matter how well you do, even if you get a standing ovation, chances are you will never come back the next year…..why? The college centers are run by students who do most of the booking, and quite simply, they are more concerned with variety than they are with the caliber of your act. So in other words, it takes a lot of work to book a gig you will only play ONCE!
  • See, being a birthday party magician, DOES have its advantages, doesn’t it?
  • There are other con’s, but I don’t want to scare you!

Night Clubs and Comedy Clubs:
A fair number of aspiring magicians will already have this topic in their minds when contemplating a professional career. There is a certain romance to the notion of being a night club entertainer. Look at Cardini and all of the old time supper club greats! Indeed, many people will really think that you have made your mark when they see your name on a night club marquee. I played one club in particular for over two and a half years! Let me tell you, I was a legend in the region for quite some time because of that. Both performers and the club patrons looked up to me because, in most minds. If you are good enough to be playing the clubs….you’ve got to be good!


  • It really is a boost for your image. After all, how many present say television stars have had their start in night clubs? Answer, A LOT!
  • This venue will really hone your act. You will have to be a cutting edge performer with all original material to survive in this market. But that can make you a better performer in the long run.
  • You can get tons of publicity out of this gig. We’re talking everything from newspapers to..yes, even television.
  • I can think of no other venue where an average performer can actually build a fan base! I have even had audience members present me with things like Easter baskets full of candy during the show just to show because appreciation for me. (makes me blush, just thinking about it!)
  • This market has an incredible grapevine. If you are good, word spreads like wildfire and you can become famous in no-time.


  • Despite all of the above, it is one of the lowest paying gigs in entertainment. Yes, Sometimes even lower than birthday party by as much as 25%! Further, they will expect to you travel great distances to perform for this relatively low pay.
  • Many times you will be performing for intoxicated patrons that are solely interested in ripping the entertainer apart for no other reason than the fact that they are either showing off to their date, or blowing off steam from a stressful work-week.
  • Many of today’s audiences are more interested in “Blue” material than they are in seeing quality entertainment. So do not surprised if the “raunchy” comedian gets more response than your best magic routines.
  • Club owners are a breed all their own. Nuff said on that point.
  • All in all, it is very difficult to make a living playing clubs despite popular notions.

Theatres and Museums:
These are fairly rare gigs that are usually booked through agents. What is nice about these jobs is the fact that you usually have a first-rate performing area such as a stage and tech crew. Something that is very rare these days.


  • These jobs pay well. The budget that the sponsoring organizations have permits the purchasing of top-quality acts.
  • Usually you will have a fully equipped stage complete with a tech crew to take care of your every whim…pinch me, I must be dreaming!
  • They actually sell tickets to your show! Wow, isn’t this how it always used to be?
  • There is potential for fantastic publicity here. These venues command great respect from newspapers and other media sources.
  • This is a venue where you can put on the stage show of your dreams without having to worry about angles and poor staging conditions.


  • There are not many con’s to these shows other than the fact that unless you have a dynamite agent, they are very…very…rare!

Resort Hotels:
Ahh, visions of lounge lizard singers and stunning headline entertainment in the big showrooms. Resort hotels are the staple of all the big stars! This is a venue that all magicians should aspire to. For in truth, it is in many ways the ultimate venue for what we do. As with anything there are pro’s and con’s, but when you stop to think of the potential money and status. The con’s definitely take a back seat.


  • These jobs do wonders for your resume’. Few jobs are more prestigious than resort work. If you do these jobs you will start to be identified with the best entertainers in the business. With a few resorts under your belt, you can start asking for higher wages!….no joke.
  • They pay very well. On average, three to five times what you would normally make for a private engagement.
  • There is no feeling quite like the one that comes with receiving applause on the stage of a large showroom. (I guess it’s a performer thing!)
  • This is the big time baby!


  • If you are not working the main showroom stage, you may have to be very persistent about getting on the bill of events. Many times resorts will hire entertainers as “fill-in” performers with no real recognition involved.
  • Sometimes you will have a tech crew to take care of all your needs, but sometimes you will be completely on your own to stage the whole program. But hey, what else is new?
  • Almost the entire industry is “closed” which is to say that if you do not book the job through an agency that the resort works almost exclusively with, you will most likely not book the gig at all. So the moral of this story is, if you would like to work this market, get ready to work with agents….a lot!

Trade Show And Corporate Work:
If there were one industry that has sparked the interest of aspiring professionals, this would be it. Trade Shows in particular are the among the most sought after and misunderstood venues available to magicians. I work quite a few trade shows and can speak from experience when I give you the low down on this very prestigious field.


  • They pay very well. You will usually make five times “per day” what you would would normally make doing a private engagement. And that’s on the low end of the scale!
  • Listing the companies you work for looks great on your resume’. Trade show clients are usually very large companies, and the fact that they have hired you looks good to buyers in other fields.
  • Fellow magicians salivate when they hear you are doing trade shows. It is a venue everyone wants to get into.
  • You are treated like a real star. You will stay at first class hotels, and if you eat out with the company, you will dine in restaurants magicians usually cannot afford on their usual salary.


  • These shows are so hard to book, that most magicians give up after a short time. You must realize that the ultimate benefit is worth the initial hard work involved in establishing yourself in this field.
  • This is THE HARDEST WORK A MAGICIAN CAN DO….PERIOD! If you think that you are going to enjoy yourself, think again! You will be on your feet all day and will have to be in your magician persona constantly! There are no other venues like trade shows. It may take a week to recuperate from a four day trade show. And I’m not kidding!
  • you will be working surrounded, in the brightest light, and under the worst working conditions imaginable. You will have to be good….real good, and your routines completely polished and clean.

We have all been to them. An out of town magician visiting our local club, teaching us his pet routines and peddling his wares. Many magicians have become famous doing them which is mainly why I have classified them as prestige gigs, and I would venture to guess all magicians at one time or another have fantasized about being the one at the head of the room showing just how knowledgable he/she is.


  • The list of magicians who have become famous doing lectures that otherwise would not have been is truly a mile long. If successful, you will be on the cover of magic magazines and invited to perform at magicians conventions all over the world. Not a bad deal.
  • If you have a dynamite lecture, you will be able to sell a lot of your own materials such as video tapes, books and lecture notes.
  • The average lecture date pays about double what you would normally make doing a private gig.
  • Your peers will look up to in a way that no other venue can match. Why? I really don’t know.


  • You cannot do a lecture on the material of others. You will have to develop your own original concepts and that will take a long time.
  • You have to be REAL, REAL, REAL, good. Magicians are tough critics and will spot an ill prepared lecturer like a pack of…..well, you know!
  • Even though it pays reasonably well, lectures are an all night affair. Plan on getting home late!
  • Club politics….Nuff said.
  • Sometimes you may have a larger crowd, other times you will be playing to a few magicians and bunch of chairs. In which case, “The show must go on”.
  • This is not really a “con” as much as it is a necessary afterthought. You must looks as good as you normally would doing an actual show, because contrary to popular belief, that is what lectures are…..shows!
Special thanks to Bill Wisch “The king of Lecturers” for the final two cons!

Any Venue where you are working for high profile spectators. Such as celebrities or politicians:

Many times when you see a performers press kit they will inevitably have scores of photos of them poses with the rich and famous. I truly have never seen the real necessity of this. After all, who are you trying to sell anyway, you or the person you are posing with? An do not think that is such a stretch, Some clients you may be dealing with may actually have the budget to buy the big star! So keep the focus on yourself. However, there are times when this has its advantages.


  • Provided you promote the fact that you have performed in a specific famous place or for an extremely famous personality such as a politician who can never give you competition in the entertainment field, you will have a worthwhile piece of promotion that may look good in your press kit.
  • Hey, its fun to work for someone who you always wanted to meet!
  • If you are REAL lucky, you can make a valuable networking connection with others in the show-biz community. And that can be a wonderful thing.
  • If performing for the personality connects you in some way with a good cause, that makes you look good….Not that you wouldn’t want to be connected with a good cause anyway…right?


  • Remember…YOU are the star, other famous celebrities are your competition, remember that.
  • I have mixed feeling about people who promote that fact that they have opened for more famous stars at resorts etc. This is a judgement call you have to make for yourself.

Wow! That was a gruelling task. But I hope that now when you venture forth into each of these venues, you will have the benefit of my experience working to prepare you for the things that, YOU WILL, WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT, discover for yourself!


There are three, and only three ways an entertainer can market themselves. They are:

  • Advertising
  • Networking
  • Exposure

All of these work, and as you will see, the successful entertainer needs to employ a balance of all three. Let’s take a look at each one individually.


Advertising, networking, exposure, what’s the difference! Most people would consider these identical. However, only insofar as the fact that they ultimately “sell” the magician are they the same. The reality is, all three have their own unique features that make them all critical in different ways to the working entertainer.

In this case, we are talking about advertising, and for our purposes, we are going to narrowly define the definition. Advertising for us is “the act of trading money or services for ad space in an industry periodical or public advertising venue”. For example, advertising would be taking an ad out in the local yellow pages, newspaper classifieds, radio, or TV.

Are all of these places to advertise necessary? No, you may pick any one and it can be a significant source of bookings. The key is to pick the right ones. Everywhere you advertise, you are reaching a specific targeted audience that will book you for different reasons. The yellow pages are great for birthdays, civic events and all other “Cash Flow” gigs. Remember those? If you decide to place an ad in an industry publication (which are usually very expensive). You will be targeting “Prestige Gigs”. In the latter case, you will also notice that these ads get far less response than the Cash Flow ads. Just the nature of the beast, I guess.

Can we advertise without any expense at all? There are only two ways that I have come across in which this is possible. The first is to “barter” your services with the management of a publication. Several magicians I know have done this and I was approached myself on one occasion. So be on the lookout for people who may wish to hire you in return for advertising. It can be well worth it.

the second way is to develop a “tear tab” flyer that can be hung up on the bulletin boards of supermarkets and small shops. This may seem like “too basic” an approach, but I personally know of a magician “WHO MAKES HIS LIVING” with nothing but tear tab flyers which cost him only a few dollars to produce. If you would like to make an effective tear tab flyer, I would wager that you have a program on your computer right know that is capable of producing them. If not, you can obtain one for about $20.00. A small investment when you consider the potential returns. The “con” to this approach? It takes a real effort to post them and “re-post” them again and again. The key is to be persistent.


What is networking? Well, let answer a question with a question. What are business cards for? That’s right!…Networking. There are two ways to network. With customers, “word of mouth” and with others in the entertainment field. There are no reasons why you shouldn’t get as many business cards out to customers as possible when at a job or on the street. Business cards do you no good in the closet. Get them into the hands of as many people as possible even if they are not immediately interested in booking you. I cannot count how many times I have gotten work from cards people say have been hanging around their homes FOR YEARS!

Many people make the mistake of thinking that “word of mouth” alone can build a business. Wrong… It is a fine adjunct, nothing more. It has been my experience that word of mouth goes maybe three contacts deep and then abruptly stops. This basically means that you give the person who booked you a business card, they pass it along and you get a booking. This in turn leads to maybe one more person in the chain and then usually stops. But why? Should not this chain continue on and on? Nope, even in science, the splitting of atoms eventually stops and therefore, so does word of mouth.

There are many possible reasons for this but the most likely is the fact that many groups are self-contained. Once you exhaust all of the birthday parties and engagements in a given group or community, eveyone has seen you so they look forward to other forms of entertainent.

So to sum up word of mouth advertising is to say that “word of mouth”is only so good as your “initial” advertising.

Of course networking with the entertainment industry is a whole other ball of wax!

Networking with others in our business takes two basic forms.

  1. Networking with other entertainers onthe same level as you (other magicians).
  2. Networking with agents.

Networking with other entertainers on the same performing level as you is what we as a brotherhood of magicians should all be striving for. Competition is only in the mind, because the reality is, there is ample work for all. When one establishes a reputation and builds a solid business, there are always more calls than you can handle. But at many times, all will be asking for similar dates. This is when you can pass them off to other entertainers and in turn, when they have overflow, they can pass them off to you who may be able to fill in those empty time slots on your calander.

Networking with agents is another matter as is so many things we have already mentioned in this business. Do not try to be exclusive with any one agent. Having all your eggs in one basket is one sure way to have few bookings. “Remember, the more eggs, the fewer bookings!” When your act is ready to go public, you should strive to contact “as many agents as possible” And never, ever sign an exclusive contract with an agent. I have seen entertainers do this only to be one of many acts of an agency roster and have no hope of extra work unless the agency bestows it upon them in which case they will act like they are doing you a huge favor. Listen to the Ron London audio clip in the broadcast center for the truth regarding agents.