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Topic: Paedophilia
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 12, 2007 10:50AM)
Trust the Greeks to have a word for it. It's not funny.

It's simply a reminder that this has gone on since time began.

But it would appear in the UK to have become THE most terrible and feared of crimes. The consequence is that public attitudes combined with the excesses of political correctness that you go near a child at your personal peril.

What's the situation in North America? Has it become so ridiculous that people will pass by when a lost child of 6 or 7 is stood on it's own howling, having lost its parent?

As a parent, do you find you react naturally to comfort or stand off, in case your attentions are misunderstood?

And as an entertainer do you have to be as cautious of your behaviour as we have to be in the UK.
Message: Posted by: calamari (Jan 12, 2007 11:48AM)
This is a subject of great concern in the states. pedofiles make their way into professions that allow them access to children. clergy, teaching, and yes childrens performers. it is a most disturbing fact and there have been a number of cases involving childrens performers here in the states and some disgusting individuals have been jailed (personally I think jail is too good for a pedofile) it has been discussed before here and I think most would advise precuations being taken when performing for children so that you are not in a situation that could be mis interpreted or at risk of being falsly accused.
MTCW
Message: Posted by: Stevethomas (Jan 12, 2007 02:17PM)
When working restaurants (ballooning), when the family arrives, occasionally the parent will say to me, "my children would love to see you and get a balloon", then they'll head to the bathroom. I would never, at that point, approach the table until there's an adult there. I've seen some workers do that, and you're setting yourself up for trouble with that! NEVER be left alone with any kids in any situation. Occasionally, my phone will ring and it'll be some child who has gotten one of my coloring sheets (with my number on 'em, of course) calling just to talk with "The Balloon Guy" or "The Magician"...and you really have to just get off the phone as quickly and as politely as possible while asking to speak with an adult.

BE SAFE!

Steve
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Jan 12, 2007 02:18PM)
Whilst it makes sense to be cautious, I do believe that if you're a genuine nice guy, and are there simply to make kids happy, if you have no hidden agenda, you don't need to worry too much. Don't let the PC mob ruin your act! Steve, if a kid calls me up (it happens quite often), I'll let them talk to my parrot (OK, so it's me still, but they don't know that!). Then, once I've gotten them laughing their heads off, I'll ask to speak to Mum or Dad.
Message: Posted by: Stevethomas (Jan 12, 2007 02:48PM)
The PC mob has nothing to do with it. If the child were on the phone with you (unbeknownst to the parents in the home), and a parent approached them and asked who they're talking to..they'll say "The Balloon Guy", and to avoid getting in trouble for using the phone to call an adult, they CAN lie and say, "No, he called me"...then the parent takes the phone and asks why you're calling their child.

Trust me...this is one type situation (where it's your word against the child's) you will not win, either with the parent or any authority. NEVER be alone with a child, at all, either on the phone, at a show, in a restaurant situation or anywhere.

Steve
Message: Posted by: Jim Poor (Jan 12, 2007 02:53PM)
While I agree with the "never be alone with a child" advice. Hysteria should not rule our lives.

In the above example, it would be easy to prove which direction the phone call originated from.

Then again, once accused, innocent or otherwise, there will be the lingering stigma.
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Jan 12, 2007 03:48PM)
[quote]
On 2007-01-12 15:18, Potty the Pirate wrote:
Whilst it makes sense to be cautious, I do believe that if you're a genuine nice guy, and are there simply to make kids happy, if you have no hidden agenda, you don't need to worry too much.
[/quote][quote]
On 2007-01-12 15:53, Jim Poor wrote:
While I agree with the "never be alone with a child" advice. Hysteria should not rule our lives.[/quote]

I agree with both. In over thirty years of performing for children in all kinds of situations here in the States and across Europe and Asia, I have never even come close to being suspected or accused of improper behavior. I genuinely love each child and I believe it clearly shows. I accept their hugs, catch their kisses, slap their fives and remain open to them in every mature way. Do the right thing with care and respect and you'll be fine. I'm sure that the rare PC oddball may pop up now and then. If your character and reputation aren't strong enough to survive it...find another career now!
Message: Posted by: Stevethomas (Jan 12, 2007 04:42PM)
In your 30 years of performing, out of all the wonderfully sweet things the children have done to express their innocent love and adoration for what you do and who you are...it would only take 1 ([b]one[/b]) accusation to completely destroy all you've worked for. I too, get the hugs from hundreds of children each week, and sometimes when they've seen me perform at a school or somewhere away from the parent(s), the parent [b]will[/b] look at you in a strange way when their child runs up and hugs (what is to the adult) a complete stranger.

I also do not like all the hysteria about the subject, but it's much better to be on the side of caution, because, as innocent as what (most of us) we do is, there's always the chance that [b]one child[/b] will think he didn't get enough attention, or you wouldn't tell him the secret, and the witch hunt would start with one comment to an adult.

When a child hugs me in a restaurant, I always look at the adult to see a reaction. If it's one of fear (hey, I'm 6'3" and 240...scary guy to most), I try to shy away from [b]any[/b] physical contact...if they realize what's going on, then I know [b]they[/b] know who I am and why the child reacts like that.

Let's be careful out there, troops!

Steve
Message: Posted by: todsky (Jan 12, 2007 06:50PM)
[quote]
On 2007-01-12 16:48, Skip Way wrote:
In over thirty years of performing for children in all kinds of situations here in the States and across Europe and Asia, I have never even come close to being suspected or accused of improper behavior. I genuinely love each child and I believe it clearly shows. I accept their hugs, catch their kisses, slap their fives and remain open to them in every mature way. Do the right thing with care and respect and you'll be fine. I'm sure that the rare PC oddball may pop up now and then. If your character and reputation aren't strong enough to survive it...find another career now!
[/quote]

I couldn't agree more, Skip.
I've been performing magic for children for over 25 years, and that is exactly my philosophy.

Respectfully,
Todd
Message: Posted by: DeaconBlu (Jan 12, 2007 07:52PM)
Sad but true, I've stopped giving hugs. I've even considered stopping the face painting. It just got to the point where I was wondering 'if' the parents were staring at me. I didn't ever want that to read 'why' they're staring at me so I just stopped doing it.

I do knuckles to knuckles now, when the children rap my knuckles I pretend it hurts and it always gets laugh.
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 12, 2007 11:15PM)
The problem we're facing over here - and one of the reasons for posting this - is the increasing interference by local authorities.

I've always been careful, even forty years ago. When you have a local magician go to prison for touching up young children it has a marked effect on your business for quite some time.

For some reason it's become flavour of the decade. I'm not trivializing the problem - see my original post above - but suddenly it's become the big bad wolf and the reactions of the authorities are predictably quite stupid.

In the UK you can have a simple police check. It's not worth the paper it's written on. But it's been required and entertainers have got one. All it says is there's no trace on the records of you being convicted of child sex abuse.

Like any check of anything, it's only good on the day of issue. There is another, more thorough check used by the local authorities for teachers and the like. Trouble with that check is it takes many months to complete. New teachers can be sat at home for weeks on end waiting for their check to be completed.

Local authorities are now requiring this Enhanced Check for anyone at all working with children and vulnerable adults..

Recently the Police Authority issued guidelines in which Punch & Judy shows were not required to have a check because the show doesn't involve any children being in contact with the performer.

Some authorities are ignoring this. So I'm waiting for mine. By the time I get it some local authorities will be requiring an updated one!

The police want them to last up to 5 years whilst local authorities quote 1, 2 or 3 years. they're all different.

Do you have this sort of nonsense in North America?
Message: Posted by: rossmacrae (Jan 12, 2007 11:43PM)
[quote]
While I agree with the "never be alone with a child" advice. Hysteria should not rule our lives.
[/quote]
Yeah, but ... when dealing with the public in great numbers, you're bound to run into the occasional complete crazy. Someone who would claim you practically raped their kid if you come into any contact with them, from a touch to a smile to your favorite funny line ripped out of its context and twisted into some imagined sick meaning. And unfortunately, since this irrationality always comes as a complete surprise when you have no such thing in mind, the first one to scream "foul" gets the credibility and the one who tries to explain (you) always looks at least somewhat guilty.

That's why professionals - doctors, lawyers, police and more - develop protocols, standard ways of buffering your interaction. In the performer's case, a protocol should probably involve asking the parent EXPLICITLY first before interacting with the child, and I'm sure some wiser folks will think of some more details.

It's a shame that it has to be that way - toward the end of the years I would be a Santa-for-hire, the first thought in my mind got to be "hands in plain view at all times" and I started really worrying when cute teen girls would want to sit on Santa's knee - it really started to sour the whole experience for me.
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 13, 2007 05:06AM)
So are you saying that much of this is media driven paranoia?

Yes, it did go on when I was a child. It's always gone on. That doesn't change how wrong it is. The main change as I see it is that as a child I lived in a small community and people recognised you, even if they didn't know you to speak to. In those days it was clergymen and scoutmasters you had to be careful about.

The News of the World was full of Sunday headlines like 'Scoutmaster's games with his Cubs' and 'Vicar and the Choirboy' so there's nothing new about all this.


I still live in such a community but elsewhere people are strangers to one another and this doesn't exactly engender trust. Especially when community leaders start shouting about everyone being a potenial child abuser.

Yes, everyone now, male or female. It is implied that women are equally likely to abuse from infancy onwards. They just don't normally get caught so often. There have been a few high profile cases of late of women in their 20s and 30s taking young boys to bed. Young turning out to be 15 going on 16 and whatever the rights and wrongs of that, they come to light because the boys have been bragging about it and some peevish 16 year old has shopped them.

The whole thing has become completely out of hand. Now the checking requirements are being extended to any performer working to mixed audiences, even high wire acts. No exceptions as one city authority said to me before Christmas.
Message: Posted by: Stevethomas (Jan 13, 2007 05:56AM)
Take for instance one summer school/church performance I was hired to to (through an agency) in a nearby city. During one particular routine involving a coloring book, I rolled the book and used it as a magic wand to "give the helper some magic power"...tapped him on the shoulder (as if "knighting him")...a few days later, the agency called me and they had been told that I (their words) "struck a child during the performance"...now the women/teachers at the school KNEW that I didn't STRIKE him...but felt it necessary to tell the agency that falsehood. What if they'd been told that I TOUCHED a child...where would that lead?

Steve
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 13, 2007 06:11AM)
You would sue for slander unless they put it in writing and then it would be libel or both.

As I understand the legal system in the USA you could have their shirt for that.

On the other hand you might do better to arrange a meeting with the school authorities and the agent and hammer it out. If they refuse, send them a lawer's letter.

You have to clear yourself with the agent - there's more work there or should be and if you don't you run the risk of the agent quietly stuffing your prospects with other agents on the 'be careful here' premise. Agents talk. it's their self-protection instinct. Just like you talking to fellow performers.

You won't get the school back again but that's only one prospect lost. There are plenty of others out there. And they're hardly likely to go round talking to other schools about you if you've threatened legal action.

If they did, you go for an injunction, then you sue, then you retire to a life of luxury.

Hey, they could be a market for this!!
Message: Posted by: Clownboy (Jan 13, 2007 08:46AM)
Ok Tony - Are you a lawyer? You have me convinced.

I always have my spouse with me at show's and am very cautious with any touching I do.
This is where having a partner really helps!

That is one sad story Steve. I don't use an agent but the reputation one could diminish from such a statement , Just sad!
Message: Posted by: todsky (Jan 13, 2007 09:38AM)
How ironic, since the vast majority of child abuse (sexual and other) is perpetrated not by strangers but by family or close friends. Nevertheless, despite the abuses (which have, of course, gone on through history), we are now living through a time of mass hysteria and witch-hunts, and our human society (children especially) is all the worse for it because our natural and beautiful gift of touch is being turned into a crime, and this results in our further dehumanization. As children should be taught, and they probably all know intuitively anyhow, there is good touch and there is bad touch. Fortunately, here in Montreal which has somewhat of a French culture, people are less uptight and more open.
Frankly, I am amazed at how paranoid the USA and UK have become, although this does go hand in hand with the elevated levels of fascism that these two countries seem to be employing in the last five years.
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 13, 2007 09:48AM)
No, not a lawyer. I'm a showman and a survivor in a very cutthroat business. My reputation is all in my business and like most intangibles it's hard to insure. People tinker with at their peril.

That's why the old timers were sometimes a bit quick with their fists - and that sort of thing gets around too. And to advantage. Don't tangle with him.....................

We may appear sometimes toffee nosed and sound rather upper crust on occassion and fisticuffs may seem an unlikely prospect but trespass and the gentlemanly pro can bite back - unexpectedly hard.

As I said, it's called survival.
Message: Posted by: Darkwing (Jan 13, 2007 12:37PM)
I do magic for family and corporate events, I am in charge of our puppet ministry at church, and do Santa Clause during Christmas. Needless to say, I am around lots of children and you have to be super careful with children. Never allow yourself to be alone with a child, never. When I am with our puppet team, I alway have another parent with me. I am never alone in a car with a another person's child. In a classroom setting, the door stays opened. If I have to touch a child s arm, I ask permission from the child and if possible the parent. When it comes to children, put them and you on a pedestal. We do have to develop highest of standards on our self when it comes to children. We cannot allow ourselves to be put in any situation where their might be any hint of impropriety.

I do have to admit, when doing Santa Clause, the little ones want to hug Santa and want to be around him. I do allow the little ones to hug me but only with the parents permission, ask first.

Remember, children are the most precious and innocent creatures God created. It is our awesome duty to protect, reinforce, and enhance their childhood experiences and memories. It only takes one person to screw it up for us all.

I had a magician friend to get a call from a group needing a magician for a family event immedietly, within just a few hours. When he ask about the circumstances, the contact person said they had a magician booked but was told just a few hours before that he was in jail in another city with charges of child pornography and child sexual abuse. So needless to say, we do have low life scum among childrens entertainers looking to prey on our children.
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 14, 2007 10:57AM)
Back to the question.

Are local authorities insisting on you being police checked and certfied before they will permit you to perform for children/families at events over which they have some control?

Are they imposing this directly or by stealth?

By control I mean not only their own events but those where they exercise approval, permission or license?

Let me give you an example of stealth.

Local halls in the UK - usually owned by the village or other organisiations in the community i.e. they're all independent.

They have to have a license to operate. Within that license a local authority will impose conditions. Certification of children's entertainers is becoming one of those conditions.

Already in place are conditions about what an entertainer/magician may or may not do in the performance. No animals, birds fish etc. So don't take your doves and rabbits. What your assistant may or may not wear. No hypnotism. No telling fortunes or crystal gazing. It goes on and on.

Do you have these sorts of problem?
Message: Posted by: eddieloughran (Jan 14, 2007 12:26PM)
Going back to the beginning of the thread.

Checks on magicians and those working with children has nothing to do with PC.

It's because a school employed a caretaker without checking his background and he murdered two children.
After that nobody in their right minds would allow children in their care to be with someone who hadn't had at least a basic background check.

The danger of offending teachers or parents is shown by the assalt/tap story.

We really must be careful and not argue that times haven't changed.

Mr James talks of suing those who speak badly of us; think how schools feel when you may put them the the same position.

We may not like the changes that involve us but we must face up to them !
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Jan 14, 2007 12:56PM)
I have no problem with seeking out the perpetrators of evil acts involving children, and I'm happy to go along with people's opinions. But as has been stated above, ther is a "good" way and a "bad" way to touch children. Now I personally have no idea how to touch a child in a "bad" way, so this problem (so far) has never come up. I am regularly left alone with the kids while I set up. The parents must trust me, to allow this, and I reciprocate that trust by behaving in exactly the manner they would expect.
It's simple, and it's like an extended family. In effect, folks regard me as a friend, and know that I am safe to be alone with their children.
Personality is an important factor, and some entertainers may not engender that level of trust, for whatever reason. (Most of us are rather shy underneath that magical exterior). If you don't feel comfortable with being alone with the kids, then simply tell your hosts you need at least one or two adults present at all times. That's what I do for events like weddings and Christmas Parties.
Message: Posted by: TomBoleware (Jan 14, 2007 01:29PM)
Here in the states we have a law protecting those teachers and caregivers who report suspected child mistreatment. You can’t sue. Even if you could, it would most likely ruin your career. What school would hire someone that sued another school.

Working with children is a big responsible, it better be taken seriously. One misunderstanding and your life will never be the same. Be careful out there.

Tom
Message: Posted by: SpellbinderEntertainment (Jan 14, 2007 02:33PM)
Rossmacrae wrote in part:
That's why professionals - doctors, lawyers, police and more - develop protocols, standard ways of buffering your interaction. In the performer's case, a protocol should probably involve asking the parent EXPLICITLY first before interacting with the child…
--------------------------------

Darkwing wrote in part:
Remember, children are the most precious and innocent creatures God created. It is our awesome duty to protect, reinforce, and enhance their childhood experiences and memories. It only takes one person to screw it up for us all.
--------------------------------

Thank you gentlemen for two wonderful posts and contributions to this very real topic.

A few of those posting here are living in a dangerous fool’s paradise.

We live in a world-wide, litigious, paranoid, and prejudiced society for the most part.
It is as if Orwell’s vision of “1984 becomes less fiction and more fact each day.

We MUST each seriously consider and develop our own standards and protocols,
and those policies must err on the highly conservative side.

Whatever our personal ethics, or affection for the young, we live in a new world….
a world which is potentially more dangerous for both the child and the entertainer.

Parents and caregivers are watching more than ever before…
and watching with new eyes,
eyes trained by Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer.

The times for even a gentle tap on the arm, or a friendly wink, are gone!

As a performer who is an openly “single gentleman of a certain age” I come under even greater scrutiny, and at times suspicion, than most of you.

Yes, I continue to entertain at family events, but the rules have changed,
and in the USA (and it seems the UK more so)
you are guilty until proven innocent.

The word of a disgruntled child
who did not get picked to help on stage,
will be taken with more weight
than your thirty-year spotless reputation as an entertainer.

I simply felt I must echo the words-to-the-wise above…
--Never be alone with your young audience members,
--Never allow any physical contact with children you don’t know,
--Always check-in with the parent in charge.
Period.

My two-cents,
Walt
Message: Posted by: Darkwing (Jan 14, 2007 03:44PM)
[quote]
On 2007-01-14 15:33, SpellbinderEntertainment wrote:
Rossmacrae wrote in part:
That's why professionals - doctors, lawyers, police and more - develop protocols, standard ways of buffering your interaction. In the performer's case, a protocol should probably involve asking the parent EXPLICITLY first before interacting with the child…
--------------------------------

Darkwing wrote in part:
Remember, children are the most precious and innocent creatures God created. It is our awesome duty to protect, reinforce, and enhance their childhood experiences and memories. It only takes one person to screw it up for us all.
--------------------------------

I simply felt I must echo the words-to-the-wise above…
--Never be alone with your young audience members,
--Never allow any physical contact with children you don’t know,
--Always check-in with the parent in charge.
Period.

My two-cents,
Walt

[/quote]

Walt,

I could have not said it better, myself. We as entertainers have to do it better and with the highest ethics. Anything less is trouble waiting to happen.

David
Message: Posted by: todsky (Jan 14, 2007 04:12PM)
Tony, here in Montreal, Canada, we haven't become paranoid enough yet to require children's entertainers to be 'certified'. I feel sorry for those of you who have to work in such a climate of fear in the USA and UK.
Message: Posted by: Snidini (Jan 14, 2007 07:34PM)
You SAM members may or may not know this, that it has become so bad with paranoia, that SYM teachers/advisors must fill out the required SAM informational sheets and have background checks on them before they can teach/participate in the youth of America magic programs. Then if that isn't enough, there must always be a minimum of two, not one, adults present when meetings are taking place. Hopefully you will see how hard it is to get a SYM group off the ground in many of the clubs around the US. Just curious, but does the IBM require this form of protocols?

Boy Tony, you got 'em stirred up on this one mate. Great post.


Snidini
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Jan 15, 2007 02:15AM)
Tony, things aren't as bad down in my part of the UK. I now have a "police check", but for many years I didn't, and even now, not a single school or public venue has ever asked to see my CRB check certificate, or even if I have one. I work at dozens of schools, nurseries, government-run families projects, and hospitals. Hospitals are the only places where I'm asked for the CRB check.
However, I have had problems with local authority gigs in the past, because they take forever to pay. Mostly now, I avoid any bookings that will be paid for by my local authority directly.
There is a local magician who last year was arrested after hitting a child during a show. He continues to work at schools and playgroups, much to the surprise of many. To read the story from both sides, it's clear that the magician was in the wrong, but no one has actually taken any legal steps in the matter.
This is a difficult and highly emotive issue, and there are no right answers. It seems like the deciding factor here is luck, as whatever precautions you put in place, you can never be sure what might happen....
So I prefer to make sure my behaviour tells everyone at all times that I'm no threat to kids. Whilst that may work for some, it won't work for everyone.
Doug
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 15, 2007 05:30AM)
Thank you for your help. Would you please tell me if I'm right about this.

From your replies it seems to me that you are under social pressure about your conduct and dealings with children.

However, you are NOT under local or national goverbment pressure as we are in the UK.

Have I got this right?

In fact, our pressure comes from rules rather than legislation. There's no law here to say you must have a Criminal Records Bureau Disclosure Check if you entertain children. It's local government who say we will not employ you for the day at our event if you don't have a check.

Or, we will not permit you to work in public, in the shopping mall or outside in the square, unless you have a CRB Check.

And in some cases, we will not lisence other people's events unless they demand a CRB Check from you.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (Jan 15, 2007 06:14AM)
Not yet, but I see it coming...

The Catholic Church requires all adults who are involved, in anyway, with the church must be "CAP" trained. This require a background check, fingerprinting, and an all day seminar.

Also to be a Boy Scout Leader, every adult must be trained and have a background check. If a Catholic Church sponsors the scouting troop/pack, then all adults must also be "CAP" trained. So that means I had to be certified twice.

In the last year, I've seen this issue being pushed very hard by these two organizations and expect it to expand to our profession eventually. I predict in the not to far distant future, all Children Entertainers must have a background check and updated on an annual basis.

Dennis
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 15, 2007 07:58AM)
So your driving force is society and not authority. Have I got it?

Therefore, organisations are implementing some obvious form of control and check on a voluntary basis.

So the impetuous should result in your local government following rather than leading? Am I right.

Whereas here in the UK it's local government which is leading and imposing its requirements in those areas where it has direct control and including its requirements as a part of granting the authorizations essential for independent activities to function.

As a consequence, just like you independent organisations are applying these requirements too, in order to be seen to be doing something and in a self protection move.

Sorry - I'm not trying to be contentious or cynical. It's unacceptable and for every good reason needs to be prevented.

But it has become flavour of the decade and the application of preventative measures has become a very large sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Of course, you may not agree.



Talking about this someone asked me why I thought there was so much bother. Whilst there are many reasons, not the least of which is media hype, here in the UK the motivating force is personal fear at local government level.

I think a lot of this local government zeal stems from management fearing they might be caught up in something 20 years hence, and taken to task.

That's happened/is happening to their predecessors, many of whom are accused of either complicity, or covering up or dereliction of duty for not knowing about what was going on. It's a catchall situation.

And there are a still a number of high ranking people in all church faiths and other organisations who are probably feeling vulnerable. Not because they were directly involved themselves, but because they knew and did nothing.

And how do the innocents prove 20 years on that they didn't know?

Hence all the measures now being introduced, not quite so much to protect vulnerable children and adults, but to safeguard 'The System' and all who sail in it.

Fine if it protects the vulnerable but I would prefer it was an Objective rather than a consequence.
Message: Posted by: todsky (Jan 15, 2007 11:09AM)
Your last post is quite informative, Tony. I would have to agree that a lot of the over-zealousness is probably due to people in positions of organizational authority who don't want to be in a position of liability. If the concern was really for the children, I think there would be more emphasis on empowering children, rather than protecting adults.
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 15, 2007 03:03PM)
"Quite informative" ? Todsky.

I would have preferred that word which I see used here in almost every paragraph of every post. Except, yours of course.

The word is "Awesome" though I'm far too modest a chap to use it myself.

What exactly does it mean?

I know, "Quite informative." Thank you Todsky.
Message: Posted by: todsky (Jan 15, 2007 04:24PM)
Tony, what the $%#@^&! are you talking about?
Message: Posted by: Stevethomas (Jan 15, 2007 05:31PM)
I think you neglected to tell Tony how great and all-knowing he is. You have to do that, and always walk out of the room backwards to show your reverence to him. Remember that, or you could be beheaded.

Steve
Message: Posted by: mcharisse (Jan 15, 2007 06:35PM)
My wife is a child-abuse investigator here in the US, and I mentioned some of the concerns first raised in this thread. She agrees it's risky to touch or hug children these days, if only because such actions can be misinterpreted. False accusations have been made by well-meaning people in the past. As a newspaper editor, I've dealt with a couple of stories like that, though never related to magic. Of course if parents are present, and give permission, there may be less reason for concern. As I think back, though, on many years of doing magic, I can't think of any contact with kids, other than leading them by the hand onstage, or shaking hands with them or positioning them in front of the audience. Those, we think, are fine. Like anything else in magic, if there/s a reason for the move its OK, but an unexplained hug or touch might raise unjustified spectator suspicions.
Message: Posted by: todsky (Jan 15, 2007 06:35PM)
Steve, I'm not sure if Tony's all-knowing, but he is quite informative.
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 15, 2007 08:37PM)
Don't worry Todsky, true Englishmen find it slightly difficult to accept compliments and tend to react much as I did - with humour, often against oneself.

I have a very English sense of humour where one says one thing whilst actually meaning the exact opposite.

I am also fascinated by the word 'awesome' which in English English would be reserved for something quite extraordinary such as a massive volcano erruption, or being invited to take tea with the Queen.

When we suggest - as Steve as pointed out - that people should walk backeards out of a room you know we are kidding.

On the other hand if you don't know then it's amusing to watch people bumping into the furniture as they exit!

Keep smiling through!
Message: Posted by: todsky (Jan 15, 2007 08:45PM)
Thank you for clearing that up, Tony. No offense was taken, I knew there was some Brit humour buried in there somewhere. You are indeed awesomely informative.
Message: Posted by: Eric Leclerc (Jan 16, 2007 03:19AM)
I once read a story on this site that gave me chills. It was about a man (a Café member) who was at an adult party once, (attending not performing) and the kids were getting rowdy..So he decided to go to his car and get some balloons to make baloon animals for them.

When he started twisting them, he heard a comment from a woman "what kind of man carries balloons in his car?"

It has given me chills ever since I read it a while back. I have changed my philisoshy on performing for children differently since I read it.
Message: Posted by: AaronTheMagician (Jan 16, 2007 03:51PM)
[quote]
On 2007-01-16 04:19, Eric Leclerc wrote:
I once read a story on this site that gave me chills. It was about a man (a Café member) who was at an adult party once, (attending not performing) and the kids were getting rowdy..So he decided to go to his car and get some balloons to make baloon animals for them.

When he started twisting them, he heard a comment from a woman "what kind of man carries balloons in his car?"

It has given me chills ever since I read it a while back. I have changed my philisoshy on performing for children differently since I read it.
[/quote]

.: sigh :.
leave it to a woman to mess things up...

Just kidding.
But no, really.
;)

------
I work with far more kids on almost any given weekend than I even knew existed. The Plex (my employer) hosts birthday parties and such (much like a Chuck E. Cheese without the large rat running about and the mechanical stage show) and I entertain for all the parties I can get to in a given day.

I read above that someone had said, and I fully agree: If you are genuine and mature in your dealings, there will be no problem. I'm the parents and the kid's best friend from the moment the party starts. Occasionally, I even play games with the kids in the adjoining arcade. The building itself is tagged with the 'Safe Place' logo, so parents know that the people working inside are there to ensure that everyone has a fun, safe time. If you are one of the kid's best friends just because you're really that cool, the parents don't worry. If I ever think the parents are worrying, I give all the kids some extra game tokens and stand around and make small talk with the adults for a few minutes. (Just so the adults can get a chance to get to know me on their level. It's a trust thing).
Much like the "Circle of Trust" on the film "Meet the Parents," you have to let everyone know simply by your actions, appearance, and conduct that you are a protector, and everyone's best friend. It seems like there are no secrets.

This may not make much sense, but after one show that didn't go well in the beginning (a year or so back) I was telling my boss about how horrible the kids were, and that the parents just sat back like I was the baby sitter and would handle it all.

He said to me, "Were you being their friend, or their magician? People don't disrespect their friends. Ever."

Mull that over a bit and reread what I typed above, it'll make a little bit more sense, I hope.

Anyway, that's my $0.02. ;)
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 18, 2007 11:35AM)
Tell me what you'd do in this sort of situation.

You're not far from your pitch where you're working and there's a little child crying. Age 3 or 4, maybe 5.

What do you do?

Ignore it and hope it goes away?

Look hopefully at passers by and ask 'Is this yours?'

Speak to the child 'Shut up and go away'?


What would you do?
Message: Posted by: todsky (Jan 18, 2007 11:50AM)
Aaron, very nicely put.

Tony, being somewhat of an interventionist by nature, if the child was alone I'd offer to help.
Several years back, outside of a bus station, I came across a crowd of people in a circle, all staring at a man lying down on the road. At first I thought it was a movie set, but then I realized that the man had been run over by a bus, his body was horribly crushed, and everyone was just staring and doing nothing. So I went over to him, put my hand on his head and spoke gently to him until the ambulance arrived. He died there, but I hope at least he heard some comforting words before passing on. It was just the right thing to do. So is helping a child in distress, regardless of how others might misconstrue a kind action.
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 19, 2007 04:27PM)
Every once in a while during the season on the showgrounds there's a lost child, standing close by my show. Not often but two or three times in a season. they are usually 4 or 5 years. It's different if they're older.

I look around. See if I can see anyone looking. I approach the child and treat them like I would a child helper in my magic shows. I give them space and get down to their level. I talk.

What happens next depends on the response and the circumstance.

In my experience parents are not usually far away. In a panic child and parent may have looked but not seen so the last thing I should do is cart the child off to an official point. They're usually miles away.

My next move is to engage another adult, preferably female. Get the child to look -it stops them crying. If there's no sign of the parents I first ask the child if they would like to go higher up and look. They usually say yes.. So I pick them up, saying what I'm doing, onto my left shoulder and let them look. I'm careful where my hands go.

Do you know almost always they spot each other pretty quickly. And the presence of the woman defuses any concern.

As a father I know what I would have had people do if they found my daughter when she was that age.

But tell that story to people afterwards and you'd be surprised - or not - how many say they would have left the child there, crying, rather than become involved.
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Jan 19, 2007 04:43PM)
Tony
I was doing walkaround at a local family day celebration, and I saw a four year old girl crying, I asked why she was crying, and she told me she was lost, so I took her over to the mike, and announced that there was a lost mom in the audience, and Wendy is looking for her. The mom showed up, and thanked me. We might be blow this out of proportion. I think that as long as you keep in the back of your mind that everybody is watching every move you make a simple act of kindness is still OK.
Al Angello
Message: Posted by: Darkwing (Jan 19, 2007 11:01PM)
[quote]
On 2007-01-19 17:43, Al Angello wrote:
Tony
I was doing walkaround at a local family day celebration, and I saw a four year old girl crying, I asked why she was crying, and she told me she was lost, so I took her over to the mike, and announced that there was a lost mom in the audience, and Wendy is looking for her. The mom showed up, and thanked me. We might be blow this out of proportion. I think that as long as you keep in the back of your mind that everybody is watching every move you make a simple act of kindness is still OK.
Al Angello
[/quote]

Al, again you have shown that you are truly a scholar and a gentleman.

My best to you.

David Williams
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 21, 2007 04:46PM)
The other aspect I think you've always got to guard against is the child and children who want to join you wherever you have you a 'private' place.

Sometimes it is behind a curtain or screen, maybe a stack of chairs, anywhere you can find some cover to set props unobserved. Sometimes there isn't anywhere so you set under cover of your table, if you use a roll-on or su type table.

With my Punch & Judy it's the frame of course - the booth as the punters know it. They're all hotspots.

When I was working Spain for a couple of years I had a base at one place and worked out at others. My base had a decent sized dressing room with a workbench and tools etc just off the stage. No one ever went into that dresssing room. Children would come and knock and I would send them to wait by the stage and I'd come out and see them. A previous magician always invited them in. Not me.

Some years previously a magician at home was caught and gaoled for abuse. Seems a number of little boys had been touched up over the years before someone spotted what was happening and the boys were finally believed. Every magician in the area lost business. The phone went very quiet.

Now here's a funny thing. This fellow had worked under some show Brand Name - I forget what he called the show. Not his own name anyway.. Whatever - he came out of gaol after two or three years and started up again! He couldn't get the business so he sold it to another magician who ran it for quite a while. I don't know how he managed that but he did.

So you see why from past experience I'm very very alive to the damage accusations can do to ALL our businesses.

In those days people weren't watching. Now they're turning over stones to see what might be there. Tough business being nice to children.
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 23, 2007 07:08PM)
Here we go again.

a report this weekend of a local man goaled for abusing children. This one's a clown.

Well, I say that but you wouldn't think he was. he was a volunteer at a children's group and dressed up in joke shop gear. Anyway he's off the scene.

As a local magician compalcently mentioned to me it's all right. He wasn't a magician thank goodness. I'n so pleased about that.

I wonder if potenial punters are going to be really reassured about that too?
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 30, 2007 05:23AM)
Do you find that when someone local is found guilty of offences against children that this affect your enquiries?

Is this just new enquiries?

How about bookings?
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Feb 3, 2007 03:22AM)
So are we to take it that an entertainer in your community found guilty of offences against children has no effect on your business?
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Feb 8, 2007 10:18AM)
So, just to keep us up to speed on this delicate topic, the TV and news is full of the UK government's new proposals about Paedophiles and the Internet.

The proposal is to monitor these people and to check the websites they look at.

They can guess about certain 'off limits' sites which are supposed to be illegal anyway. But they are also checking the types of sites these people find and then find they are to their taste, right out there in the open.

No wonder the American Beauty Pageant Parade people have removed photographs from almost all their sites.

I look forward to the day when these matters are put back into context and we can get on without having to look over our shoulders and second guess other people's perceptions about us - just because we entertain children.

I wonder who the idiot magician was who once said that magicians who entertain children only do so because they're not much good for anything else?
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Feb 15, 2007 05:16PM)
Making contact with organisation about Christmas Children's Parties for their staff and yet another has bit the dust.

The local authorities have advised several national chains that should/must - it all depends quite how you interpret the wording - not organise parties unless evry adult had CRB Police check. Result. Call it a day.

Scared stiff of child abuse accusations. Quite a few national companies have closed their parties. Maybe it's just a good excuse. It's about the last remaining staff activity that's corporately organised.

There are precious few summer events any longer. Time was when companies would hold summer family fun days, barbecues and so on. Some were quite intimate but plenty were big - bands, fairgrounds, mini circus acts, clowns and enough food for thousands.

Companies stopped spending a few years back and it hasn't picked up. Even 'big' corporate launches have become very small beer. Certainly no one is spending very much on entertainment, even when this is slanted at the business markwet.

Have you had similar cutbacks in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere?

Or does Christmas bang on regardless?
Message: Posted by: wally (Jul 27, 2007 09:57AM)
Does anyone in uk have a problem with getting a CRB check because you are self employed??
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jul 27, 2007 05:10PM)
No, it's not a problem Wally but you cannot apply for and obtain a Criminal Records Bureau Check on your own behalf. You need to go through an appointed organisation.

They will send you the forms. There is a standard check procedure which - depending on who you talk too - is either sufficient or insufficient. Most local authority people are fairly unimpressed by it unless it is very recent.

The other check is what is known as an Enhanced Check. They dig deeper and it is this check which is used for teachers and nurses and any other person who has direct and close contact with both children and vulnerable adults as they are described.

You will have to produce various documents and proofs of identity and provide all your addresses for many years back without any gaps.

To save you mailing your passport and other documents there is an additional set of forms allowing you to take these documents and identity proofs to the Post Office for on-the-spot formal verification. There is a separate fee for this facility.

If you work under a stage name or names you will need to include these and - would you believe this? There's no provision for it!!!

There is provision for a woman to have any number of name changes - either as a consequence of marriage or cohabitation - but not for a man. Ignore this aspect and simply use the space as best you can to establish that in addition to your certified name you are also known as The Great Candelabra or whatever you are known as.

Otherwise the final certificate won't connect with you as you're known.

Time was when your British Passport accommodated these aliases under an 'Also known as' section but no longer.

Then you bunk it all off to the authorised organisation and await the outcome. It usually takes a while as there are thousands of these checks being processed.

Do read the fine print VERY VERY carefully. You must only use a BLACK ballpoint. Some black ballpoints are not as black as others and they will reject your application if they consider your writing not to be sufficiently black.

I know. It happened to me!

When eventually it arrives you will be disappointed. £60+ on and it basically says it is not worth the paper it is written on.

There is no responsibility taken for accuracy, it reflects only England and Wales - not Scotland or Northern Ireland - and is only good on the day of issue. After that you need another one.

Go on their website and you may be surprised how little value is attached to any check they issue. As for a life, if you are lucky you may get three years out of it. Some local authorities won't accept 6 months.

Just remember Wally, these checks have little to do with protecting children.

They are there to protect local authority workers from accusations sometime in the future of neglect of duty as a consequence of accusation of abuse by someone who at present is a child.

That is what has happened recently over accusations of abuse twenty years ago and people in post then are now being held Io account over what they knew or should have known about what was going on - even though they were never personally involved.

Look at the case in court at this time where the accusations go back several years and the other one recently involving priests from Ireland ordering children for abuse and travelling to England to abuse them.

Paedophilia is currently the Bogey Man of anyone involved with young children in the UK.

I get the impression America is far more relaxed about the subject.
Message: Posted by: Daveandrews (Jul 27, 2007 06:43PM)
Personally, I just get on with my job as I have done these past thirty years, but remain VERY aware.

I am not a 'touchy feely' person, have never wanted a child to sit on my knee, never given children hugs and in this way (unconsciously) have prepared myself for the Child Protection Act here in the UK. Sounds cold, doesn't it,but that is how I am and always have been, about other people's children.

I do entertain the children and they laugh and do everything I want them to do (as do the adults). In fact most adults are totally unaware of what is going on, legally, to protect their precious ones and the majority of them just haven't a clue about the safety of children that WE are all SO CONCERNED ABOUT - until 'it' happens to their child.

There are so many things that, as a Boys' Brigade Captain, I cannot do with the children - but put that in a birthday party situation with a family, and anything goes. No limitations - they do what they want to do.Sit them down on the floor to eat from their party boxes, let them leap up and down on a bouncy castle, no matter how many are leaping up and down, or climbing over the walls heading for a possible broken leg !!!! That and more we can't do that as a Boys' Brigade.

Not sure where I am going with this, but I do feel very strongly about the whole subject.

Best,

Dave
Message: Posted by: Mumblemore (Jul 28, 2007 10:08AM)
Glad people are posting about this (Tony started an important thread). I agree with mcharisse that this hasn't been a problem in "lesser" contact with kids related to staging (leading them to position, shaking hands, etc.). But I've also seen kids "clam up" for no reason and frankly have decided to do no "Instant Magician" or other tricks with closer contact than that because I don't want to give parents any perception of impropriety whatsoever (however ridiculous and even ill-spirited their perceptions may be - and if you get paranoid parents, an increasing problem in the US where we coddle kids, "blame" others, and sue people routinely - they come up with some wild ideas, and blame the magician for whatever ill humor their kid is suffering). Most parents are still good-natured and welcoming of professional and friendly human contact as part of a show. But the days of dismissing little girls from stage where magician asks for a kiss on the cheek (this is in DVDs like Malloy's "Silk Flight" for example), are long over. Dennis is right about scandals in US "branch" of Catholic Church and Boy Scouts threatening to affect this further. I think that in US, the post-9/11 environment is a lot less trusting more generally. I've seen this in other peoples' treatment of my kids. . . Good thread.
Message: Posted by: Andre Hagen (Jul 28, 2007 12:30PM)
Good thread but frightening!

Never had a problem over the years, but I'm wary these days. As much as I would like to do Fantasy or Instant Magician, I just can't bring myself to do it.

This problem has always been around. The present hysteria is the outcome of the media reporting every sordid instance, but if it heightens parent's awareness (and ours) it's good for everyone.

Thanks for bringing this up Tony.

Andy
Message: Posted by: TRUMPETMAN (Jul 29, 2007 06:36PM)
I recently went through the intensive background check required by the SAM to become an assistant leader for the local chapter of the SYM. They interviewd more than a couple of my employers, co-workers, and friends. Now that I have been given the green light and "certified", I find it to be an added bonus that the parents enjoy finding out about. I mention it in most of my phone conversations with prospective clients for birthday parties. It is definitely an added peace of mind for the parents. I understand their worries completely, as I am a dad myself.

Mark Pettey
Naples, FL
Message: Posted by: Tim Ellis (Jan 2, 2008 03:44PM)
I wish there was more action and less talk on this topic here in Australia.

When I first got into magic, the local club would not admit members under 16 (or maybe 18, I can't remember). So they started up a group for teaching kids on weekends and one of the three teachers was a magician who'd recently served time for an "improper relationship with a minor"!

Of course, I only found this out ten or twenty years later and I was so angry at my "fellow magicians" who'd put us all at risk. (The man had behaved very improperly to several of the group and had some over at his house on many nights. Several are now severely confused adults).

The excuses from the other magicians were "He'd served his time" and "It wasn't my business". One of the three teachers was an ex policeman, apparently put in place to keep an eye on this guy, which he did at the classes but obviously couldn't during the "after class meetings".

Fast forward to ten or fifteen years later and another magician, who was also known for this behaviour but never charged, was applying to rejoin the club. A mother put in an unofficial complaint about him approaching her son inappropriately at a meeting and the complaint ws discussed privately by the club's committee.

One member of the committee leaked the discussion to his friend, the re-applying member, who then brought it up during the next club meeting and accused to committee of victimising him.

When the shouting died down, half the committee quit the club and never went back. His membership was accepted by the new President who had similar leanings.


I know this all sounds bizarre, but you'd be surprised what people will turn a blind eye to rather than risk "getting involved" in. I have spoken out about this subject several times here in Australia and as a result, there is a small segment of very anti-Tim Ellis feeling here.

Even in Sydney, one of the club presidents from years ago was a known (unconvicted) offender. People all seemed to know about it but laughed it off with "That's just him" and turned a blind eye rather than cause trouble. One magician did make a little noise about it and was visited by police at his home, who told him to lay off! They were friends of the very influential chap!
Message: Posted by: DJBrenton (Jan 2, 2008 07:24PM)
How easily a reputation can be given or lost. In my hometown there's a magician/childrens entertainer who most of the other local entertainers won't give referrals to as he 'has a thing for young boys' apparently. This 'thing for young boys' is actually that as a gay man, aged 21, he dated a 17 year old boy/man. 15 years later they're still together but the stigma still remains in the entertainemnt community. Imagine how long a single false accusation could blemish your career for.
Message: Posted by: Tim Ellis (Jan 2, 2008 09:11PM)
It's absolutely true. You need to get your facts right, but in the process I've seen literally dozens of young lives changed for the worse while these men get their jollies.

A few years ago we had the pleasure of getting one magician off the street. Everyone knew what he was into. He'd get drunk and phone his friends and tell them, in detail, about his recent exploits. Sometimes he didn't even need a drink. What did his friends do? They told him to stop TELLING them!

Eventually, he molested the kids of one his magic colleagues. (A third colleague was told by the pedophile what he'd done, that guy told me and I had to tell the father). At first, the father didn't believe it. Eventually, he couldn't deny it any longer when his kids verified what had happened. Charges were finally laid, the guy went to jail and to this day still has no concept that he did anything wrong.
Message: Posted by: TrickyRicky (Jan 2, 2008 10:37PM)
We had an incident of the same nature in Ontario a few years ago. The person went to jail for a few years.
This person apparently performed at lots of Fairs in the local area.
I was informed that the following year all the Fairs stayed away from magicians.
I too had a Fair canceled the booking. The reason was of what happened the year before.
Tricky Ricky.
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 4, 2008 08:27PM)
This is one which for all the reasons discussed, won't go away.

I have had a request from an event I've worked previously, for my CRB certificate. Frankly they don't want it but their license to operate is granted by the local authority and they are making the granting of the licence conditional on everyone involved in entertainment being checked.

No legal requirement. A condition.

Now think about this. What about the fairground people. fairgrounds rent an area on the showgrounds and run rides and side stuff. Children go on those rides. the staff - all sorts, all types, all ages - the staff are in much closer contact with the children than are the acts.

Do they require them to be checked? I believe some councils have suggested it and the fairground people's response has been in words of four letters - or thereabouts. Result: they seem to be exempt. No one quite knows.

Perhaps entertainers should suggest the local authorities should " - off!"
Message: Posted by: KC Cameron (Jan 5, 2008 02:07PM)
I believe there is far more paedophiles than most think, and I personally think it would be great if it were the law to have a background check. Certianly this is not the solution, but it is going in the right direction. I am saying this because I was approached by three "friendly older men" and one woman at different times as a child and a young teen... Thankfully, nothing happened, the men but that was due, to a large part, by luck. The woman liked to smash me (and other boys) against her rather large chest (at church, no less) in a "hug". The adults talked about it (we boys actually complained) but no one wanted to rock the boat. Eventually she picked a favorite.

I am careful where I touch a child (head,arm, hand, shoulder, back, foot), ALWAYS in another adult's presence, and there always is a reason in the show to do it). I don't hug the kids, but let them hug me,and I ruffle their hair. Most kids want to have human contact. In one routine I ask what the first thing a pretty assistant does with a magician (kiss) and pose to be kissed. I always choose a child too short to actually be able to kiss me on the cheek, and they usually go "Yuk" (to them I am not quite handsome as I know I am). This leads to a little comedy, but I don't dismiss them for not kissing me. On occasion the child will try to kiss me on the cheek, but they are too short.

The problem I have is many times the kids follow me out to my car. I try to keep a close eye on this to nip it at the bud, but it is a problem.
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 6, 2008 05:12PM)
The relationships between entertainer and child is a complex one but there should be one golden rule which if implemented will resolve all your problems.

Never touch a child.

There is no need and no purpose is served by doing so.

if you require a child to do something, demonstrate. It's terribly easy. If you want them to stand in a particular position, point to where you want the.m Reach over and place your finger on the floor. Be patient. Get it right.

But do not manhandle them into place. if only those who insist on doing this could see how bad it looks from out front. Far worse than it actually is. That's often because a child will pull a face when manhandled. Wouldn't you?

This is nothing new to me. I have always performed without ever touching a child and I've been doing it for a very long time. If you have some effect that you cannot perform without handling the children, cut it out.

And it doesn't matter if the child is only three or even ten years old. All will respond to you pointing or demonstrating. I've just done a party for three year olds and no one had a problem standing where I needed them to stand.
Message: Posted by: DJBrenton (Jan 7, 2008 05:12AM)
[quote]
On 2008-01-06 18:12, Tony James wrote:


Never touch a child.

There is no need and no purpose is served by doing so.

if you require a child to do something, demonstrate. It's terribly easy. If you want them to stand in a particular position, point to where you want the.m Reach over and place your finger on the floor. Be patient. Get it right.

But do not manhandle them into place. if only those who insist on doing this could see how bad it looks from out front. Far worse than it actually is. That's often because a child will pull a face when manhandled. Wouldn't you?

[/quote]

TBH I'm not sure this isn't over-reacting to the problem. I doubt suspicions are ever raised about an entertainers conduct on stage, it's how you counduct yourself off stage that could raise eyebrows. Physical contact with children on stage is NOT always wrong and CAN have a purpose. There are two specific times I can think of where I actually use contact for comedy effect.

First is a bit of business where I ask the child to stand on the other side of me and almost haul them by the hand round my back, leaving them there. Imagine my surprise when they don't reappear on the other side. Every time I use this, the child immediately latches on to the idea and remains hidden to my bafflement. Eventually I claim to have made them vanish, at which point they generally make themselves obvious again. Always performed to much laughter, and I'm sure not raising any concerns about my conduct.
Second is using small children as supports to get on a (for example)rola bola. Obviously this isn't for straight magic performances but the principle is the same. A hand placed on a childs head supposedly to support your weight can give be quite humerous.

Of course it would be a completely different thing to help a child dress in a dressing-up routine, but common sense tells you what is appropriate.

The real concern is avoiding anything but the most obviously innocent contact off-stage. There, I agree, there is no reason to have physical contact unless it's shaking hands ( which again can be done in a comedy style on stage.)
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 7, 2008 05:29AM)
Don't kid yourself about this one.

A notorious case right here on my patch some years ago was mirrored recently by a clown. Both went to prison. Fondling boy's genitiles through their trousers during the act.

It went on for a long time, partly masked by the performers body. Adults thought they were mistaken.

That sort of thing, apart from its unacceptability, affects everyone's business in an area and the mud sticks for quite a while.

Quote: "I ask the child to stand on the other side of me and almost haul them by the hand round my back"

I have seen many performers treat children like this, dragging them literally around the stage, pushing and pulling them to one side or another and all in the name of 'laughs'.

It's undignified, unpleasent and unneccesery. If you have to resort to that type of manhandling in order to gain cheap laughs, then the act is seriously wanting.

There is a word called 'respect' - clearly this shows no respect for an individual. I wonder what the reacrion might be from a large adult rather than a small child?

Or perhaps one wouldn't take that sort of risk.
Message: Posted by: DJBrenton (Jan 7, 2008 05:59AM)
[quote]
On 2008-01-07 06:29, Tony James wrote:
Don't kid yourself about this one.

A notorious case right here on my patch some years ago was mirrored recently by a clown. Both went to prison. Fondling boy's genitiles through their trousers during the act.

It went on for a long time, partly masked by the performers body. Adults thought they were mistaken.

That sort of thing, apart from its unacceptability, affects everyone's business in an area and the mud sticks for quite a while.[/quote]

How is pointing to someone who did something unacceptable an argument as to what IS acceptable. In the case you quote, it was not misconstruction of his actions that was the problem. That is what's being discussed, how to behave in a way that won't be misconstrued without.


[quote]

It's undignified, unpleasent and unneccesery. If you have to resort to that type of manhandling in order to gain cheap laughs, then the act is seriously wanting.

There is a word called 'respect' - clearly this shows no respect for an individual. I wonder what the reacrion might be from a large adult rather than a small child?

Or perhaps one wouldn't take that sort of risk.
[/quote]

I hate to engage in argument on a forum, particularly with someone who's been entertaining for as long as I have but what you said is, frankly, patronising. The child concerned has always found it humerous That, in my view, makes it alright. I do not consider I 'resort' to this, it's funny and it works. It's also nonsense to suggest that this, in some way, disrespects the child, any more than me play fighting with my own grandchildren disrespects them but is not something I would do with an adult. The laugh is on me losing him and being too stupid to work out where he's gone. Times, and children, are changing, and what would have been seen as impoliteness in years gone by is now acceptable irreverance. Perhaps you feel that if you performed my act with your personality you would get complaints. I have never had a complaint about my behaviour and don't expect to as my style suits my personality. Children love my show, much as they love shows completely different in nature, and I find it patronising for you to assume that your approach is the only acceptable one and that laughs I get are 'cheap'. On that basis, Chaplin kicking a policeman is 'cheap'
Message: Posted by: DJBrenton (Jan 7, 2008 06:26AM)
[quote]
On 2008-01-07 06:59, DJBrenton wrote:
[quote]
On 2008-01-07 06:29, Tony James wrote:
Don't kid yourself about this one.

A notorious case right here on my patch some years ago was mirrored recently by a clown. Both went to prison. Fondling boy's genitiles through their trousers during the act.

It went on for a long time, partly masked by the performers body. Adults thought they were mistaken.

That sort of thing, apart from its unacceptability, affects everyone's business in an area and the mud sticks for quite a while.[/quote]

How is pointing to someone who did something unacceptable an argument as to what IS acceptable. In the case you quote, it was not misconstruction of his actions that was the problem. That is what's being discussed, how to behave in a way that won't be misconstrued without.


[quote]

It's undignified, unpleasent and unneccesery. If you have to resort to that type of manhandling in order to gain cheap laughs, then the act is seriously wanting.

There is a word called 'respect' - clearly this shows no respect for an individual. I wonder what the reacrion might be from a large adult rather than a small child?

Or perhaps one wouldn't take that sort of risk.
[/quote]

I hate to engage in argument on a forum, particularly with someone who's been entertaining for as long as I have but what you said is, frankly, patronising. The child concerned has always found it humerous That, in my view, makes it alright. I do not consider I 'resort' to this, it's funny and it works. It's also nonsense to suggest that this, in some way, disrespects the child, any more than me play fighting with my own grandchildren disrespects them but is not something I would do with an adult. The laugh is on me losing him and being too stupid to work out where he's gone. Times, and children, are changing, and what would have been seen as impoliteness in years gone by is now acceptable irreverance. Perhaps you feel that if you performed my act with your personality you would get complaints. I have never had a complaint about my behaviour and don't expect to as my style suits my personality. Children love my show, much as they love shows completely different in nature, and I find it patronising for you to assume that your approach is the only acceptable one and that laughs I get are 'cheap'. On that basis, Chaplin kicking a policeman is 'cheap', Timmy Mallett hitting children with a large sponge hammer is 'cheap' but children find it entertaining. Some seem to lose sight of one important thing. Children decide what is entertaining to them and whether they feel disrespected. They can also decide on whether their laugh is 'cheap'.
[/quote]
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 7, 2008 09:28AM)
Unfortunately Mr Brenton you are falling into the old trap which in the theatre is known as 'Not seeing over the floats.' The floats in UK theatre are the footlights and it simply means that someone cannot see beyond their own act. Sometimes you need to go out front and watch yourself.

Even then, some people can't see what others see. What may look funny to you will be seen as quite dreadful to others.

Never fall into the other trap believing that the reaction of an audience of children is the indicator of audience satisfaction.

The audience that matters is not the children, important though their requirements are. What's important is the reaction of the people who book you and pay you and their requirements may be surprisingly different.

Teachers at a school won't judge you on your magical ability nor on what the children like and approve. They will judge you on your initial appearance and on the way you conduct yourself. How you treat their pupils. How gentle you are with them, how you avoid making the children uncomfortable even when something disastrous appears to have happened and the rest of the audience is hooting. They notice those half hidden reassurances you provide so that no one is made to look stupid.

And here in the UK they do not expect to see you touch a child. It is socially unacceptable to touch children. Teachers do touch them but only in extremis. Start touching the children and it will go down like a lead balloon.

One of the reasons for this is the heightened awareness of paedophilia. Teachers are well trained in its diverse aspects. Some gain their satisfaction stroking or touching children's hair. Other by holding hands. And other parts of the body quite away from those so called 'private parts'.

So you keep your hands off. You are being watched, mainly by women teachers. Men are still in the minority in most Primary Schools here which take children up to 11 years. It may be unfair but most parents feel more comfortable with their young offspring being taught by women.

If you don't keep your hands off, especially in a school, you'll get a typical British reaction. Nothing, at the time. But when you've gone don't listen outside the staffroom window. You would be amazed at their reactions to certain magicians. And they don't keep it to themselves either, they talk at their meetings to their colleagues in other schools in the region. comparing notes. Out of one school, out of a number.

In my time I have seen all manner of funny routines inflicted on children by magicians, silly walks, being put into silly poses, relentless hand shaking, continual repositioning all in the name of fun. And you're quite right Mr Brenton. The children in the audience will laugh. Children are notoriously cruel. It doesn't make it right. You may be quite confident that where you are things are different. That everyone finds your antics dragging a child behind your back awfully funny and terribly acceptable.

If anyone reading this is reasonably fresh to this business, just remember. Keep your hands to yourself and avoid confusion. And treat your assistant with respect and gentleness and put them at their ease so they are comfortable. And give them space, don't crowd them, be patient and demonstrate what you them to do and where you want them to stand and encourage them with praise and make the whole experience a delight for them, their friends in the audience and the adults watching and seeing your act in perhaps a slightly different way to the way you so often see it yourself.
Message: Posted by: magicgeorge (Jan 7, 2008 09:59AM)
It's very unfortunate that in the society we live in even the word "touch" is a euphemism for something much darker.

But have things really got that bad, Tony?

I agree that I hate to see volunteers man-handled but is it really a case of no physical contact what-so-ever.

"How gentle you are with them, how you avoid making the children uncomfortable even when something disastrous appears to have happened and the rest of the audience is hooting. They notice those half hidden reassurances you provide so that no one is made to look stupid"

I agree with this but isn't a kindly hand placed briefly on the shoulder or letting a small child keep a hold of your fingers until they feel at ease on stage part of these gentle reassurance.

Teacher's aren't tabloid readers baying for blood brainwashed into misintreprating genuine normal actions into something sinister. For people like that just the fact that you are a childrens entertainer will be enough to set their cogs whirling in the wrong direction.

What bothers me more is this thread now means if you type any of our names and the word paedophilia into a search engine there will now be a result.

George
Message: Posted by: KC Cameron (Jan 7, 2008 10:12AM)
Tony, it appears your argument is changing. At first, an act is "seriously wanting" - now it is how the English teacher will perceive you. Which is it - or is it both?

If I recall correctly, you are a big fan of Mark Lewis, and he ADVOCATES such behavior (dragging a child around by the hand) in his book, (Wit or Wisdom, page 72 para 7). I can see that this advice MAY have been for an earlier time, but I would not think you thought Mark Lewis’ act is “seriously wanting”. Am I wrong?
Message: Posted by: DJBrenton (Jan 7, 2008 12:19PM)
Unfortunately, Tony, you seem to have a habit of addressing people as if you were the authority and they were the ignorant newcomer. Before I retired I entertained in schools on average twice a week for a good number of years, with repeat bookings coming out of my ears. I was the preferred entertainer amongst ( as an example) the Jewish community in my City, hardly likely if people, or teachers, were bad-mouthing me behind my back. You may have seen performers unable to carry off certain acts without offence but mine isn't one of them.Your advice is, in my view, quite correct for newcomers who maybe don't have the ability to read which children to invite on stage who will enthusiastically join in the act without embarassment. Some people can carry acts off that others can't. Each to their own. You look down on people who play it for laughs and generalise about childrens reactions. It is, I must say, arrogant of you to assume that by disagreeing with you I'm demonstrating lack of awareness of a 'truth'. It is, rather, that my expereience of what I do is different to what you would expect it to be given your own experience.
I hestitate at times to refer to my 'act' as I never really had a single act. What I had was the ability to entertain for a period of time tailored to the audience. I would not, for example, haul a shy 4 year old across the stage, but would happily shake hands with an 8 year old and pretend he wouldn't let go of my hand or was hurting me. More grist to your argument about what a poor entertainer I am, but do I care? Thousands of shows without a complaint suggest your views aren't the ones taht matter.
All over this forum there seem to be people dictating the terms under which others should entertain. One suggestion is that playing the fool loses respect with children etc. I guess these same people would have decried Tommy Cooper for appearing to be poor at magic. Others would decry Timmy Mallet for hitting children with a large sponge hammer. Still others dictate you should never, ever touch a child in any way shape or form. To all of you I say, get off your high horse and re4alise that your way of entertaining isn't the only way. As long as no child is harmed and everyone has a good time, the job's done.
Message: Posted by: DJBrenton (Jan 7, 2008 12:27PM)
As an aside, Tony, do you agree that traditional Punch and Judy shows promote wife beating and child abuse and aren't acceptable in this day and age or is this political corectness gone mad?
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 7, 2008 04:13PM)
I think the whole thing has become too politically correct. Much of it is a nonsense and we've had that conversation before on this site. The purpose of this topic was really to see how close or not are the attitudes in the UK and the USA.

And the answer seems to be that in the UK it has become difficult to move because of people observing your actions due to an over exaggerated sense of the acceptable and the fear that - as someone put it last year - everyone, male and female, is a potential paedophile. I think that's going it some but it does reflect certain attitudes.

In the UK it is local government which leads in so much social manipulation and the attitudes of their Child Protection Units (never heard of fifteen years ago)which determine the rules and regulations by which all people such as children's entertainers are controlled within events and bookings controlled by the local government departments including schools. It has become very prescriptive.

Whereas in the USA the local government doesn't appear to lead but leaves it to voluntary bodies to determine their own rules and regulations.Or not, as the case may be.

As we've established elsewhere the reasons for the UK attitude have nothing whatever to do with child protection. It's all down to local government employee protection. They have set up various rules, regulations and requirements in order to prevent what has happened over recent years. Namely that adults now, today have accused local government employees of yesteryear of abusing them twenty years ago when they were children, or failing to act to prevent another's abuse.

These steps have been taken to prevent that from happening again in another twenty years.

Now the other aspect - the touching of children- comes from my own experience, watching entertainers in the 50s and 60s dragging children around in the Monkey Walk and other manhandlings which were popular then. But it's become a no-no today and was already in the late 60s.

You may not like the words 'showing respect to children', 'treating as people with rights just like an adult' but that's what it's about as seen from the top down. That's what you're judged upon.

It does alter from place to place, some areas like London are red hot on touching, almost as if they are looking for an opportunity to intervene. Other areas less so.

But, and I am sorry to have to re-quote Mt Brenton again :

Quote: "I ask the child to stand on the other side of me and almost haul them by the hand round my back"

Now unless I am misunderstanding what this means it does not sound to me anything different from the old Monkey Walk, dragging the child around.

Quite apart from the sensitivities of those watching you and making judgements about you it can be counter productive to your show. Children can be very sensitive. How many of them shrink from being chosen because of what has been inflicted on another?

As George quite rightly points out:

Quote ".....a kindly hand placed briefly on the shoulder or letting a small child keep a hold of your fingers until they feel at ease on stage part of these gentle reassurance"

Of course we do this. It's essential to reassure. That's how we help the child to gain it's confidence especially when it is only three or four. it maybe their party!

But there's a lot of difference between that sort of reassuring gentleness and the "haul them by the hand round my back"
Message: Posted by: DJBrenton (Jan 7, 2008 04:42PM)
"haul them by the hand round my back"

I used that phrase because I knew it was how you would see what I do. To more accurately reflect what I see it as. I take the child by the hand and appear to be asking them to move to the other side but when behind me I stop them whilst pretending to think they've gone all the way to the other side. What I object to in your posts about it is your assumption that I don't know the difference between what a child or a teacher finds acceptable. I've never had a child not join in wholeheartedly with the gag, in fact sometimes I have to work hard to catch them behind me as they play along too enthusiastically.

You may still see this as wrong. Again, I couldn't care less. It's not about your experience versus mine. I had 20 or so years in the business and my style is different to yours. Had I suggested that people who perform Punch & Judy don't care about what damage they do to children and should be stopped because I have, on ocasion, seen performances I thought too frightening, I would quite correctly be thought over-reacting. That's what I feel about your approach. Just becauase someone with no judgement might overdo things by using the monkey walk doesn't mean that it's NEVER EVER Ok to touch a child as part of a performance. You just need judgement about when and in what way it's OK. Opinions aren't facts and you don't have some moral highground to look down on me from. I accept your right to be too scared to touch a child or to feel it shows disrespect. I just think you're wrong.
Message: Posted by: Tony James (Jan 7, 2008 05:14PM)
Now this is a little different.

So it's not as originally described. It came over very much as a physical dragging and it appears it's not that. It's more gentle. Whether it would suit my style of show is something else.

The important thing here on the Café is that there appears to be a lot of people fairly new to children's entertaining and seeking advice which is freely given, some of which is brilliant and some less so. Mr Brenton has been at it for twenty years and I for forty years, thirty-five as a pro. Both of us have seen a bit and perhaps I've seen more from longer ago and seen how styles and social pressures have changed.

We don't work the same way, that's both understandable and desirable. Any more than Punch & Judy people work the same way and I agree, I too have on occasion seen some chronic Punch shows, terrible theatre. You don't have to shut them down. They usually fade away. As do magicians.

I've seen a lot more bad magicians and children's entertainers of all sorts because they work the same grounds I do whereas there's usually only one Punch & Judy. Much of the manhandling I see today isn't intentional or Monkey Walk routines. Thank goodness they have pretty well vanished.

It's poor thoughtless production, grabbing hold to position the child quickly instead of letting them settle naturally. I see looks on children's faces that say it all about their discomfort. The magician rarely notices. They usually are so busy talking to the audience they rarely look at the child. And they are often standing far too close to be be able to see the child's face properly and their reactions.

So to any aspiring children's entertainer I repeat. Keep your hands off. But use that rare commodity, common sense. Give a child space and pay attention to it. Stand off and make eye contact with the child as well as with the audience. Managing that and taking in and working the audience at the same time as actually handling the props takes some doing, some experience.

Hopefully after twenty years you'll be good. And after forty even better.
Message: Posted by: MagicalArtist (Jan 7, 2008 06:58PM)
I agree that the situation has reached the level of paranoia among some magicians. Especially in the U.K. I mean, the idea of having to have a background check to be a performer seems to me a little extreme.

However, the fears of magicians in the US seems a little extreme too. I mean, the idea that you can't perform for a child in a restaurant without the parents present... ridiculous.

First of all, a restaurant is it public place. Secondly, if you are under the employ of the restaurant. you're part of the staff. Can you imagine a waiter or waitress refusing to talk to a child at a table? The staff knows that you work there regularly in anybody could easily identify you. If you're performing for kid and the parents approach, you would simply say “Hi, I'm the house magician in and I was showing Johnny how one sponge turns into two...look!” No problem. To think there could be is paranoia.

Furthermore, while magicians have contacts with kids, most do not have nearly to type of contact that priests, scout leaders or others have. A magicians sees the kid at a show for few minutes and then leaves. Many people are present at the time of the show so false accusations could easily be disputed. That said, it's always a good idea to have an adult present at a kid show, not to avoid accusations but simply to help keep the kids in line.

There have been at least a couple of high-profile magicians who have been convicted of pedophilia. Both extremely successful and well-known, touring around the country, featured on magic magazines, authors of books etc.. Both had more intimate contact with the kids than they average magical performer (I believe both taught some kind of a magic camp or magic classes at one time). One used his connections as a bribe for sexual favors.

As I have said, the average magician does not have this kind of intimate contact with young people. If they do, there are almost always other adults around

Also, the idea that one accusation will ruin your career is fallacious. Undoubtedly the two high profile magicians I mentioned had numerous accusations made against them over the years. This is why pedophiles get busted. They can’t help themselves and the sheer weight of accusations eventually becomes undeniable.

Kind of like what happened with Clinton. While the first woman who accused him of sexual improprieties could be doubted, within a year eight or nine of them came forth with essentially the same story it was rather hard to explain away. One can doubt an individual but a regiment?

As for hugging, I've never had a child come up to me and give me a hug. The kids love my show, laugh and have a good time but they do not hug me. I think maybe as an introvert, I have kind of an emotional distance from people that keeps me from being marked as the "huggy" type! If you don't come across as being a “huggy, touchy-feely” type then I don't think this should be a problem for you.