Arriving in Las Vegas…..

AcornWorkflow-2014.02.20 02.38.18When I hear magicians complaining about lack of work I secretly suspect that what they need is a little more imagination to keep their datebooks filled. As my teacher Mr. Gurdjieff used to say,” It is no use sitting with your mouth open waiting for roast pigeon to fly into it.” There is usually something suitable awaiting your attention — if you just look hard enough for it.

In honesty, I think magicians are one of the most resourceful of all the entertainment genres. Most of them have been putting on their own shows and promoting them since they were kids, even if we were mostly recruiting friends and family. It kinda’ goes with the turf when you are a young magician who is eager to show off his talents.

I consider the current wave of independent one/two man magic plays and performances in L.A. a very healthy and exciting new direction for the magical arts. Combined with the national development of weekly magic events such as New York’s Monday Night Magic, Boston’s Mystery Lounge, San Francisco’s Magic Dinner Theatre and Santa Monica’s Magicopolis; a whole new vitality is being breathed into the magic scene.

During the ‘70s and 80’s my wife and I were always finding suitable rooms in Los Angeles and producing special one-night IMG_7245events that featured my often rather eccentric magic offerings. The first of our L.A. shows was in 1978 when we presented a Buddy Holly séance at the Ice House in Pasadena. It was a fun evening and got us rolling in the right direction. Lenny Bruce and Elvis séances were to follow in the very near future.

Throughout the ‘80s we presented long form editions of my show on multiple occasions in other L.A. clubs including; The Horn, Carlos & Charlie’s (now The House of Blues), The Playboy Club, The Laugh Factory, The L.A. Cabaret and The Laugh Stop. In fact for a while, every Monday, we transformed The Laugh Stop in Newport Beach into the Magic Stop. We replaced the pictures of comedians with photos of magicians and added a couple of close up tables and created a fun magic event.

In fact it was the success of our transformation of the Laugh Stop into a magic venue, on its dark night, that gave Michael Callie his first thought of building the rather nifty Magic Island in Newport Beach and later in Houston. He was amazed to see his comedy room packed out every Monday, that and a couple of visits to the Magic Castle convinced him that there was a real commercial potential in magic as an entertainment product.

Maxim BillboardDuring the ‘80s I spent a great many weeks headlining in many different comedy clubs in Las Vegas. It was during a one week gig performing at the Maxim Hotel that the room manager Cazzy Cadwell and I dreamt up the idea of me presenting a one-man magic show in the afternoons. The only afternoon entertainment precedent in town was a fairly tacky mini production show entitled Viva Las Vegas that presented shows at 2.00 and 3.00 PM week.

We met with a great deal of skepticism about the prospect of paying audiences turning out for our bare bones afternoon show. Heck, the show was just myself doing an hour’s worth of my comedy show. I was however lucky enough to have a very fine director to convert my act into a full scale theatrical show, his name was Tony Shepherd and a great deal of our success was due to the efforts of both Tony and my brilliant publicist, the late Florence Troutman.

Amazingly enough our show was packed out from the first week of our run. It had always been my theory that if a day-show in Branson could bring in an audience then the concept would work just as well in Las Vegas. My initial two-month booking ended up stretching out to a run of nearly five years, and I only decided to call it quits when I discovered the hotel was closing. I wasn’t unduly upset as it had been an exhausting run performing two sixty-minute shows a day, six days a week, 48 weeks a year for nearly five years. I was actually delighted to return to my corporate and cruise gigs.

img325One of the toughest things we had to do to keep the show running smoothly was schedule a suitable replacement for my vacation weeks. Many magicians considered the two one-hour sets at 1.00 and 3.00 to be a tough gig! Amongst those who subbed for me were Johnny Thompson, Tom Mullica and Paul Kozak. Then we had a stroke of luck when Mac King filled in for a week, it was instantly clear that he was a perfect match for that market/time slot, and instantly he became my perfect wingman. After I finished my run, Mac glided right into the slot and when the Maxim finally closed its doors he continued with the format at Harrah’s. Many years later his show is still running there and has proven to be a huge success. Mac has my utmost respect not just for his talent but his stamina!

As in most of my blog posts there is something of a hidden message here. One of the joys in being a magician is going out and finding a venue where you can slot into their schedule. Whether it is for a night, a week or multiple years it is quite possible to create your own breaks and opportunities in our business. Make the most of the showrooms that already exist in your neighborhood and present them with a package that really makes sense and will work for both yourself and them. Create a win/win scenario and you will never be short of a way to advance your career, make a little money and have some fun. Be creative with your business solutions as well as your magic!


~ by Nick Lewin on April 24, 2015.

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