Commando Magic by Bobby J. Gallo

The Original Commando Magic

“How To Perform Effectively In All Situations”

Bobby J. Gallo

(c) Copyright 1994 B.G. Entertainment
All Rights Reserved

Introduction to the reference guide:

In the beginning, Commando Magic was just to be a single “audio tape”. However, after reviewing it and getting feedback from other sources, it became apparent that a reference book was needed to fill in some knowledge gaps that the tape due to it’s short length, could not accomodate. To answer further questions, and replace the tape with lists and the original audio scripts that the student may wish to refer to again and again. However, due to the fact that many would prefer an audio format, the tape will be made available only to those who purchased the book by writing the author. It will become apparent to those who have both Commando magic formats that the wording on the tape does not exactly match the wording here in the reference guide. The reason for that is because things sound different when read aloud as opposed to read silently in book format. I chose to alter certain passages in order to come across better on the tape. The original meanings however should remain the same. Also, at many times during the production of the audio, I ran on “off the top of my head” and subsequently added text in to the scripts at a later date. This explains many grammatical errors in the tape as well as mispronunciations. (my English teacher would be flipping out!) The reason for all of this is that I wanted to come across believably, just like we were sitting together batting these ideas around in an impromptu setting. For these and many other reasons, virtually no editing of the tape was done.

Chapter One

The first question allot of people may have in there mind is the classic quote of this industry, Why another book on magic? After performing for over a decade I finally feel the need to put pen to paper and expound my fertile thoughts about performing in the “Real World”. Notice I said Performing, and not just doing magic tricks. This is a book about performance and all of its allied characteristics. Sure, there will be routines that I have developed within these pristine pages, but more important, there is a philosophy. One that has grown into a conviction through trial and error. One that has been developed while working in the trenches of real world entertainment. This book is written from the perspective of a magician. For that is what I have been since the beginning of my show business career . So, much of the material covered will deal specifically with magic and its allied arts. However, because of my extensive experience in the world of Stand-up comedy and nightclubs, it is not just the magician that can benefit from these pages, but any working entertainer from comedians to ventriloquists to singers. As a matter of fact, any “Live” performer, for the fundamental principles all remain the same no matter what you do. If there are living breathing people in your audience this book will apply, Just ignore the magic routines!

To the beginner, I hope that this book will prove a launching pad for their success. To the Professional looking for further insight into this complex world of show business, I hope that my thoughts and materials will spark your own ideas to understand why I call this book Commando Magic. Of course, there will be those that will read this and dismiss many of my writings as outlandish or not practical, but if you ponder this book and then apply it, you will see that it is worth many times the price you have paid. Consider this a pilgrimage to the guru on the mountain. Consider this Magical boot camp, or just consider this book sage advise and information. of course I like anyone else in this world is constantly changing and growing. I think of new and different approaches to entertainment everyday. This book is a compilation of the knowledge that I have amassed up to this point in time, but I am sure that a decade from now I will have refined many of the statements I am about to make. So the reader is invited to take what he wishes. Then work it out to make the best use of it according to his or her own performing persona and style. If you disagree with what is here, no problem, you will see in the chapters that follow that disagreement is part of the world that we are in and certainly part of the field of entertainment. But I think that I’ve bantered enough here. And I do not want to give away anything prematurely, so as many an adventuresome story has started, “Let the journey begin!”

Chapter Two

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 practically overflowing with countless anxious faces. A Figure dressed similarly 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 roaring 20’s!

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 the famous illusion teams at their lavish Las Vegas Casino’s. Look at every magic related 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 cable 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, your either (a): Most likely have an exclusive contract with the Tropicana hotel in Las Vegas, not unlike that of Seigfried and Roy as stated prior, 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 glittery as many more well known performers have played, whether they are past or present. 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 performers.

After reading the above there may still be a great number of people that still do not know what a Commando is. Thusly, 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 Salvation Army 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 tarpon 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 likes of Indiana Jones and Star wars 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”.

Chapter Three

The Learning Process

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 I did 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 the day 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, milk tumbler, 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 out of 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 for 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.

Chapter Four

1. 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.


It could be said that having a large touring stage show is every young entertainers fantasy. Many performers have attained this goal. But who are these people? Certainly we can see these men and women just by clicking on the television. Going to Atlantic City or Las Vegas. Many of the top paid Casino performers have financial backing and sources of revenues that allow them to stage these productions. It is true that some have started from nothing and have built their careers to get where they are today. Being a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, I truly believe that it is possible. But it must also be recognized that many of these stars have had backing right from the very start of careers, thus accelerating the process dramatically. So if it is in your heart, do it, but also try to look at things realistically as far as what your more practical approach towards breaking into show business may be.


While I have know Illusionists that were able to perform up to four isolated gigs in a given day, It also usually killed them physically and they were limited to engagements that they could drive to quickly. It is just a natural disadvantage of large grand illusions that they are not easily transported therefore ones availability, adaptability and accessibility as a touring performer can possibly suffer.

Other factors:

It is no secret to many fellow performers that I have known, know that I have always been just a bit envious of stand-up comedians and singers. Envious in the sense that these individuals can enter the stage and entertain an audience using nothing but a microphone. Of course it takes skill and years of rehearsal to attain any amount of competence, but the underlying fact of that matter is that they “DO IT”!. and that’s what matters.

With this in mind, let’s ask the next logical question. Why is it that magicians have never been able to apply this to their own craft? Why is it that in magic, The magician “MUST” share the stage with clutter and props that hardly ever impress the people watching them performed?(don’t you just love all of these rhetorical questions?). Can the magician be as , or dare I say it, more entertaining using little or no props? What’s the answer? And the envelope please……rrriiiiiip…..And the answer is, Yes!

At this point let’s get down to the bare bones of Commando Magic. A magical performer does not need anything but himself to put over a stellar performance. It is not necessary to scour the magic catalogs constantly buying prop after prop in order to develop a solid commercial act. Each and every performer must reach from within himself to provide his or her audience with unparalleled entertainment. If an entertainer absolutely must have big objects on stage, use people from the audience! Do effects that require assistants from the crowd, after all you must always bear in mind that people are props! By having audience members come to the stage to assist in a routine you make your performance grow in large proportions. Think about it, a magician can levitate a girl and it seems large, But I can do a mental routine, put five chairs on the stage, fill them with people, (who, by the way are working for free) and all of a sudden I am doing magic that is five times larger that the magician who is floating his high paid assistant! After the show, I have nothing to transport except my small case carrying the essentials. And as I have always said to my personal colleagues, if I need to use an animal, there are plenty of them in my audience! ( That’s a joke!) But even with all of these reasons aside, there is yet more points to be made in favor of the modern day performer who practices the art of Command Magic, (we’ll call them Commando’s) Many of these reasons were born in my mind during actual performances not unlike those stated earlier. But also, ideas were created out of sheer necessity, after all necessity is the mother of invention to coin a classic phrase.
There came a point when I was searching for that ultimate act. a situation I am sure 99% of my current readers find themselves at the moment they are reading these words. But I’m not saying that like it’s a negative. For in truth, perfecting a craft such as magic or for that matter, any variety art, can take a lifetime to achieve. I was searching for an act that would be both humorous, considering that I am a Comedy Magician, and also had to be commercial, so that it would be palatable to a paying public. Lastly, it had to give me, the performer, the peace of mind that comes with knowing that I could depend upon it no matter what situation I was thrust into. For there are other considerations one must take into account when one is a full-time professional entertainer. Such as the business end of performing and how a Commando act can benefit you in this area as well. One must also think of the performers energy level when they are working. When I was carrying a large amount of paraphernalia to each show I was so exhausted by the time I hit the stage that I could not perform to my full potential. There were times that I had to transport my show in 100 degree summertime heat. When I started the performance I was sweating. At the other extreme there were times that I had to move everything in sub-zero weather, hoping and praying that I would not trip and fall on the ice breaking an ankle on the way to the engagement. But probably the biggest problem came when I was booked to do a very prestigious show half way across the country and all of my props absolutely had to be there on time! It should also be noted that I had no way to ship the props where I was going ahead of time and everything had to be carried from the airport into a car that was picking me up, to the hotel, back into the car, to the venue, back into the car, back to the hotel, and the following morning to the airport. But it does not stop there, at that airport I had to board a small two prop commuter plane to a different part of the state where my whole show had to be unloaded, put into a rental car, where I drove to a major corporate office to negotiate an upcoming performance, back into the rental car, to the airport, unload the show and fly home. Now tell me, could I have done all of that transporting a ton of props? I believe you can answer that question for yourself.

Are Large Props Really Larger than no Props at all?

At first glance, this question seems to make no sense at all. However, when you stop to think about it, what is a grand illusion? Most illusionists and magicians would agree that a grand illusion is a feat of magic that involves people. A magician twirls around a big box and whammo! A beautiful assistant pops out. Great Magic? It sure is, however it takes allot of work and expense as stated earlier. Most importantly, it cannot be done in “Most” current performing situations. Now picture this, The magician is going to do the classic bank night effect. But in this case instead of strolling around throughout his audience, having spectators pick the various envelopes supposedly containing the large cash prize, he invites all of them upon the stage. Our situation is now this, a stage filled with, let’s say, five people, each holding an envelope. This entire trick now takes on grand illusion status. It uses five people, where the appearing girl only uses two (magician and assistant). The stage is now filled with five people, all involved with the magic in some form or another. As each person rips open their respective envelopes, they react to the outcome thrust upon them of whether they are a bit richer than moments before. Comedy, drama and magic are interwoven all throughout the effect. Finally, the last person makes the choice, the audience holds it’s collective breath, and the final person makes the revelation of whether or not they foiled the magician. The audience has been thoroughly entertained, the spectators are mystified and the magician has worked for at least ten minutes. Dare I say it, has the bank night effect become larger that the massive production box which takes a U-haul to transport, costs thousands of dollars, and only lasts about one minute? That question is truly a matter of personal preference, but is one was to ask me, I would reply that I have been using a bank night type of effect with great success in my stage show for years now! That is just one example of how minimalist magic can be used effectively for large numbers of people. The golden rule is “People are props!” For every person that is on stage, you have equalled using a Zig-zag or the like as far as props are concerned. Are the Rockettes at Radio city Music hall in New York City considered to be a small production? Of course not, but what do they consist entirely of? The answer is people. The Rockettes are a large number of people on stage dancing, that’s it! People can make any parlor trick into a grand illusion. It just takes creativity.

At this point I am sure that there is a number of readers that would suggest that a bank night type of effect lacks the “flash” of the production box. And that it would not hold the attention of the younger members of the audience. True, the younger members of the audience may not be entertained by this “mental” type of effect. However, one can adapt this principle to any type of magical premise. How about doing the classic rabbit from hat effect using four children on stage? Instead of just producing the rabbit, the performer produces a number of strange items for each respective child to hold. This all leads to the smash climax of the animal production! (using the “spring” type animal) The overall picture is that of a number of children filling the stage each holding strange props while the magician towers over them in the center holding a live animal. Most spectators watching would call that a very big trick. I know, I have been doing this exact routine in my family show for years!

So it was those reasons stated above and many like them that have sold me on the ideas and theories of Commando Magic. The art of performing with a minimum of apparatus. Today each of my different acts fit into their own customized bags that are regulation to carry on any airline. These shows can play Radio City Music Hall if need be, or just as well in someone’s living room. This concept has given me peace of mind, it has made me more mobile than one can possibly imagine, and therefore, able to get up at a moments notice and play any venue offered to me (which makes me very valuable in the eyes of talent agents)! This theory has been proven in actual performances in front of audiences of one thousand or more! It works! And works well! However, it must be stated that at this point I am not the only entertainer practising this, others have in the past and are currently using this style. I believe however, that I am the first to go into this subject in such detail. These are the same techniques that date back to the Parisian artists that performed on the streets of Europe for hundreds of years, they have stood the test of time and prove the adage “What’s old is new again!” But if the reader insists on knowing exactly why this theory of “Less is More” works, it can be summed up in this chapters closing quotation take published here for the first time. Why? Because an entertaining presentation is far more powerful than any large prop will ever be, and a commanding personality is what stars are made of.

Chapter Five

Commando Magic Criteria Check-List

Writers note: among other production goofs in making the tape version of “Command Magic”. The numbering in the criteria list is all out of whack as more astute listeners may have noticed. That’s what happens when you do this stuff off the top of your head! Well, to make up for those rather humorous errors, here is an updated list of criteria for the Command Performer.

1. All of the props must pack small & play big! In other words, material that can play just as well in someone’s living room as well as the largest stages!
2. All tricks must be hand held either in the performers hands or the spectators.
3. Performance material must be angle-proof with instant or no re-set time.
4. Routines must be fool-proof (within reason)
5. No-live animals. Use animals of the “Spring” variety.
6. A smooth performance to command the audiences attention.
7. Have a portable sound system.
8. Carry extra cables pertinent to your act.
9. Carry promotional materials in prop case. Keep everything in one place.
10. Always have your date book with you.
11. Try to embellish material to get maximum stage time.
12. Carry extra routines that are “NOT” in your show. (Adult material, children’s material, etc.)
13. Have a one-man show
14. Wear performing outfit to the venue. (if possible)
15. Create a stage area, rope off an area with a silk, ribbon or rope.
16. Always have close-up magic on hand
17. Re-arrange the area to suit your needs!

Transporting the act

Writers note: in this section of the reference guide, only the main points are listed in a condensed format for easy reference. As opposed to the tape version which goes into more detail with each of the following subjects.

Look for cases in better quality luggage stores to give the act a professional image. Be sure to get a case that is regulation to “carry-on” an airplane.

Interior of bags contain “plastic storage containers” to protect the props. These cans be found in any hardware or department store. Find the containers that just fill-up the interior of your prop case. This helps to protect the props as well as maintain the cases rigidity to double the case as a dump bin. (receptacle for putting props after you are done using them in your show.)

In the main compartment of the bag have all of your show props. In any of the side pockets (assuming that you have chose a case with side pockets) Put your promo materials, and extra cords as explained on the tape.

When you arrive at the venue, place the case onto a borrowed chair, create your staging area, and your on!

Zip it up after the show and you out of there! (Unless you have an autograph signing!)

Bonus Section

In this section, I have decided to give the reader an actual routine of mine using the Commando Magic concept. My personal presentation has been excluded for reasons explained during as well as at the end of the routine, but the most important elements are here for you to study. By publishing this basic “No-frills” routine, the reader has full performance rights.

But before going into the effect, there is one point that was only vaguely touched upon in the tape as well as the reference guide. One that is actually very important to me concerning the practicality of these theories. Commando Magic in addition to letting you perform more effectively in hostile situations, allowing your personality to come to the forefront of your performance, efficiently transporting the show etc. These concepts also allow me to concentrate fully upon the dynamics and presentation of the act itself. Look back upon this book. You will see how the Command Magic concept can help you in concentrating on your presentations by freeing you mind up in other areas the show that would normally be taken up by a whole host of problems covered earlier. Well, on with the routine.

The Jardin Ellis Ring Onstage! (A perfect example of Commando Magic in action!)

This classic piece of close-up is not only neglected as far as stand-up magic is concerned, but it isn’t even being done by close-up magicians anymore. It’s a shame, because this effect is so strong that can really make people have bad dreams!


1. A Jardine Ellis Ring
2. A Length of Dowel rod about 24 inches long spray painted a bright color for visibility. (I use neon pink!)

Set-up: None

Effect: Under impossible circumstances a brass ring continually penetrates the rod as it is being held by two audience members!

Writers note: Portions of the handling are to be credited to Mohammed Bey, a great pioneer in the development of the Ellis ring.

Working: First, to make this small effect large, we are going to have to include people. I invite two spectators to the stage, one examines the rod, while the other looks at the ring. (Minus the fake which is palmed). After both have found their respective pieces of magical paraphernalia to be solid and without trickery, I have the two persons stand one to my left, and one to my right. I then thread the ring onto the rod demonstrating how the rod is smaller than the diameter of the ring. Now listen to this next section carefully & follow them with the props in your hands. I effect the penetration of the ring to the center of the wand while it is held by the two spectators. To do this, hold the ring & fake together as one between the thumb and first finger so that the ring is almost horizontal and parallel to the floor. Now holding the rod at about the center between the right first finger and thumb, and with the back of the right hand towards the audience and tilted at an angle of about 45 to 50 degrees away from you, begin to pass the rod down through the ring, still retained by the left hand. After passing it through about three or more times while you are talking and generally bantering to your audience, create a moment of misdirection. For example, I ask my spectators to check and see if there is anything hidden in their hands. It sound like nonsense but they will actually look! I comment on this, it gets a laugh from the audience, and at that moment I execute the sleight that makes this whole routine work. It goes like this. as you pass the rod through the ring the last time the right third, fourth and little fingers grasp the real ring and hide it as they slide the rod (and real ring) out of the ring!(which is now just the fake!) The fake is still visible thus the audience is unaware of the removal of the genuine ring. You are now in this position, you are holding the wand by the center containing the real ring, the fake is held by the left finger tips displaying it to the audience. Tell your respective spectators to hold each rod end while you hold the center (containing the ring) Show the fake, put it under your hand, and after a bit of byplay show that it has penetrated onto the center of the rod, while you palm away the fake. The astonishment that registers on the faces of the people onstage holding the ends of the rod is amazing and is well received by the rest of the audience who in turn become entertained by the reactions of your onstage helpers as well as by the trick itself.

After the initial penetration, the fake now hidden in the right hand is perfectly covered by keeping one hand behind your assistant standing at stage-right. Just think, you have an entire human body as cover for a 1 inch gimmick! That’s safety!

The moves are repeated a second time to effect one more penetration, after that, the spectators re-examine the props, under which misdirection you dispose of the fake, and you are clean.

The effect looks large because there is now three people on the stage, making it easy for the audience to focus in on the action. Now if there are readers out there who doubt that the Ellis Ring can be done effectively onstage, let me remind them that the linking of three borrowed finger rings (which by the way, are smaller than an Ellis Ring,)have been entertaining large audiences in college and cabaret performances by some of the top touring professionals for years.

This may seem like an oversimplified explanation, but the point here is to give you an example of Commando Magic in action. To show you how and why a routine can work with this style. If you do decide to use this routine, Just add in your own personalized presentation, and you will have a masterpiece! I have not included my presentation, because what I do simply will not work for most other performers (presentations are user specific). Seek out and dust off your creativity and you will be rewarded with a dynamite routine!

One final note; the purpose of this book was not to demean performers who use certain styles that “DO” use large props as well as those magicians who frequent magic shops everywhere. Those performers as well as the paraphernalia they use have their own place in the world of magic. Heaven knows that’s how I got my start. So for those who are not ready or do not wish to practice Commando Magic by all means do the material that you believe is you.

I hope you were mentally stimulated by Commando Magic. If you have any comments concerning the Commando Magic Tape & Book please contact me through B.G. Entertainment.

We also welcome any suggestions concerning future topics of interest to professional entertainers everywhere.

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.