A change in direction

When I first started performing magic shows at the tender age of 14, Christmas was the golden time of year for bookings. At that time the majority of dates were Children’s parties and on a good weekend one might be able to notch up 8 or 9 shows. As young as I was, even then, I realized that this kind of work in that many dates was close to a weekend in Dante’s Inferno. However, you still spent the other 11 months waiting for December to roll around.

When I arrived in Los Angeles at the stately and mature age of 21, I quickly realized that kid’s parties were no meal ticket; in fact they practically didn’t exist as a species. So I began performing at business parties as the employees celebrated the holidays and NewYears Eve also became another golden payday. While these weren’t my favorite kind of dates, they certainly paid the bills.

At that time Susan and I shared a gigantic old house in South Pasadena with two other tenants and our share of the rent was only $80 a month. Even back then that wasn’t a great deal of money, and we practiced an acutely planned form of economy to keep things in the black. We knew the exact day and time of day when our favorite fresh foods hit the discount rack at our local market. As you can imagine these Christmas shows for businesses were a huge boon to the budget.Christmas parties were usually a chaotic nightmare and working to drunken employees was not the audience that any sane minded magician craved. New Years Eve was the same, but even more so. January was usually also a fairly fertile source of revenue, which combined with December was the source of nuts and berries for the upcoming drought that inevitable followed these two bonanza months.

As the years went by I gradually became less and less dependent on the holiday season as a potential cash cow. In fact at this current stage in my life it has become an extremely quiet spot in my datebook. I almost never spend a New Years Eve pulling cards from lemons or linking finger rings and I really like it this way much better. It does give me a certain existential satisfaction to be far enough along in my career to be able to spot these milestones.

I can remember almost by the year the degrees of change that entered my life as a performer. I remember when I stopped doing strolling magic (never a favorite pursuit for someone as private aMe) and then I stopped performing even formal close up shows. 26 years ago I performed my last week at the Magic Castle.

By the end of the ’80s I had to (rather reluctantly) say goodbye to the Comedy Club world, as they began to fade away. By the mid-nineties the golden era of corporate work had begun to seriously dry up. It is customary to say that it was 9/11 that sunk this lucrative market, but truth be known, it was fading fast even before that fateful date. Now corporate events are a much rarer and more appreciated gem in my datebook.

This February I celebrate my 60th birthday, I don’t actually turn 60, till a year later, however I think it wise to celebrate the event a year early as I may feel in a much less celebratory mood in 2012. I suspect that birthday will be day of quiet contemplation and a double dosage of  Zoloft. Possibly washed down with a toast of Armagnac to this particular ‘performing idiot.’

As you proceed through your performing career it becomes easier to spot patterns and trends in our rear view window. They build up a database of knowledge that remains ever valid, the same gigs are going on, and it is just the names and locations that have changed.

I plan to use this accumulated knowledge in another direction. During the ‘found’ year I have created between my two 60th birthdays I am making a new transition and hope to bring all my skills and talents back into focus. Susan and I are forming a small ’boutique’ agency booking comedians and magicians. This will allow me to end the never-ending travel that I have thoroughly enjoyed in the last decade during which I have concentrated on the fertile cruise ship market. A year should prove just about right to set things up correctly and get them right. I plan to focus on my writing, lecturing, developing talent, and marketing the act that has supported me so nicely throughout the years. I will never fully retire from performing because in that way lies a short cut to an early ‘shuffle from this mortal coil.’

While I have dropped the occasional hint about this new direction in my various writings, I have been exceedingly coy about my exact plans. I have no desire to turn into a ‘magic factory,’ in spite of my deeply held respect for the visionary Andy Warhol. No, my idea is to keep things small and pay attention to the quality without being seduced by the quantity of my future work.

I do however take this opportunity to invite any of my readers to become a part of my future plans. Drop me an email and let’s see if we can unite in a useful way in our ongoing paths.

My email address is  Nicklewin1@me.com

~ by Nick Lewin on January 6, 2011.

One Response to “A change in direction”

  1. Me…Me…Choose me. I want to be a part of these plans.

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