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May 19 - 27, 2004
Follow Steve's performing and travel adventures, rumors, facts, gossip, news, opinions and other magic related ramblings...
The Contest with No Winners...
MOUNTAINS AND NATURE
We just had to get out of town. Too much work, not enough play. So, last Thursday, Jan and I packed the car, loaded the cooler with beverages and ice, and set off for an adventure. We drove North, up into Arizona for a stretch, a gorgeous stretch that resembles the Grand Canyon, with winding roads in between steep mountain walls of rock, clean air and bright sunshine.
SHortly after that, and about 4 hours from Las Vegas, we hit the border of Utah, God's country. Our destination was Zion National Park, a place we visited during the end of our lecture tour last year, where we were mesmorized and vowed to return. We chose a campground near the entance to the park, and pitched our huge tent. Nothing like sleeping out under the stars to bring you back down to earth...
We checked out the local pubs, a task made quite simple due to the fact that there was only 2 in this particular town, one that only sold beer, and another that was only open 2 nights a week. This was, after all, land of the Mormons. Luckily, our tent comes equipment with a bar and food supplies, so after a couple of hours hanging with the locals, picking a few pockets and hustling a game of pool, we headed to our sweet Casa de la Canvas for a cigar and a bit of mountain music.
We spent the next few days exploring, hiking and climbing, and that was before we even left the tent. Then we went to see the sites, climbing trails that wind their way through the most beautiful parts of America that you will ever see. Sheer rock walls, peaks and crevices, mountain streams, bald eagles, rattlers, ugly, fat tourists, and assorted other wildlife were everywhere.
Actually, one of the bests times we had, one morning, up on the top of a trail, looking out over magnificent rock formations and mountain ranges, we discovered that we were all alone, no other humans around. So, we got naked and sat on the top of an overlook and just listened. The sound of wind rushing around us, and occasionally the sounds of birds, but basically the sound of silence. What a rush. No sound. Nothing. Just pure quiet. Amazing. Not something you could ever experience in Las Vegas, or in any city for that matter. Pretty wild.
By Sunday, we knew it was time to venture back to reality, as The Sopranos would be showing on TV and our pal Franky Valle was scheduled to be on. The leisurely drive back down from the heavens was wonderful and by the time we could see the skyline of the Strip, we were completely relaxed and ready to be aggravated all over again by the masses of humanity.
As you know, our pal Steven Brown at Tannens Magic was a sponsor for our show here in town, and as part of his sponsorship, we ran a contest. To enter, anyone who visited Tannen's magic shop in Manhattan, or anyone on Tannen's mailing list for that matter, could submit a tape of their act. The best ones were sent off to us here in Vegas, and we were to choose the winner. The winner was to get an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas for four people, several nights in a hotel here, dinner with Jan & I, and the opportunity to perform in my show as a special guest.
Steven Brown called me a few months ago, just as the contest deadline was approaching and said, "I don't know what to do. Of all the entries, only two were even worth looking at. And, he added, that was a stretch, in his opinion.
I said, "Okay, send along the two best ones and we'll have a look."
He was being more than polite. The tapes I saw were awful. And to think that these were the BEST of the rest? My, oh my. The quality of the contest entries were not nearly good enough to even be classified as potentially good. It showed me (and Tannen's) that most of his customers are completely clueless as to what constitutes entertainment. As I have said so many times over the years, just like knowing a few jokes does not a comedian make, knowing how to do a few tricks does not a magician make.
There are obviously a lot of magic enthusiasts who frequent Tannen's, but most of them are not in the category that wouldf qualify them to perform on a Las Vegas stage. Or, if there are, they chose not to enter the contest.
To all of the people who took the time to submit a tape, we heartily thank you, and offer one word of advice: PRACTICE. Some of the tapes indicate potential, but even those few should spend a lot of time watching themselves on camera, and study those performers that make a living by entertaining people. That would be a great start on the road to making your "act" into just that: a real act. One that would clearly entertain an audience outside the circle of friends and family who are polite when they say, "Very good" at the end of one of these presentations.
I was disappointed at first (for about thirty seconds) as I had beenlooking forward to seeing some new, undiscovered talent visiting us here in Vegas. That will come, but later.
In conclusion, none of the judges felt that any of the contestants were worthy of winning the contest, as painful as that may be for some of the contestants to hear.
Stay tuned to this website for details of another contest later in the year, with a similar grand prize attached to it. In the meantime, I urge you contestants to go back to the drawing board and do a lot of painfully honest self-evaluation to assess your ability to do the one thing that all performers strive to do: ENTERTAIN.
HOUDINI MUSEUM EXPOSURE
Thanks to all who took the time to respond to last week's column on the tasteless publicity tactics employed by the Houdini Museum and the involvement of the Pendragons in their bid to create profits for the museum by increasing public awarenesss.
I repeat my pleas: BOYCOTT the museum, don't tell anyone you know about the joint, and remind anyone who brings it up that the place is a total sham. Despite their ridiculous claims, HOUDINI WAS NOT BORN THERE. He only lived there for a short time, until he realized how dull and boring the place was, and then he moved on. It is definitely not worth the trouble to drive to that dump of a town, and certainly not worth your time and money to visit the museum. THey are exposing Houdini's secrets, and for that they expect the public to venture to the place. Sid Radnor has pulled out all of his authentic Houdini Collection, and magicians worldwide are in agreement that the place does not deserve any mentions or patronage.
And as for Jonathan Pendragon, who supports the place and the exposure, (see last week's column for details), he has put forth his reasons ("excuses") for supporting the place. But aside from the money and free publicity, underneath all his justification, what is it he expects to get out of this? I'll leave the answer up to you.
Disclaimer:The opinions expressed in this or any of our columns represent the opinions of the writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Magic Web Channel or it's Esteemed Panel of Magic Advisors. (The lawyers made us say that.)
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