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.
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!”
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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!)
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.