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Topic: Too old to perform?
Message: Posted by: phonic69 (Jun 18, 2004 07:40AM)
An unfortunate incident has recently alarmed me and has prompted me to post once more on the beloved magic Cafť.

I was witness to a magician, well into his 70's, performing at a magic dinner recently, and he was awful.

This gentleman has been performing magic for well over 40 years but now time has taken its toll; his lines were dated, his manipulation was rusty and his impact as a magician was diminished.

Worryingly, some of his effects were exposed to the audience as he did them, making them uncomfortable and giving away the cherished secret that is so important to magic.

My question is this - when should you stop performing magic, and how should you encourage those who persist in performing well past their best to give up?

Thank you,

Saxon
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jun 18, 2004 07:49AM)
Re: [b]but now time has taken its toll; his lines were dated, his manipulation was rusty and his impact as a magician was diminished. [/b]

If you are wearing a tux, and your audience isn't... a top hat... cane... doves... sawing a woman in half... 70's music, hairstyle...Phil Collins music...

Nostalgia has its place. In entertainment it can be quite reassuring. I will not condone bashing others because of their target market.

I might, perhaps, if asked, suggest to a person who is missing their market that they check how well they are reflecting the values and images of their target market.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (Jun 18, 2004 08:54AM)
Offer to video tape his performance and give him the tape. Let him make come to his own conclusions.
Message: Posted by: phonic69 (Jun 18, 2004 11:35AM)
The problem is that he, and others of his generation, are stubborn and unwilling to change what is for them, a good act. (I appreciate that is an over-generalisation but from my experience it is a truism).

Mr Townsend, I agree wholeheartedly that nostalgia has its place in magic, but my point is that this is not a slick and well rehearsed dedication to the past, but rather an attempt to relive the past that falls short on impact because, simply, he is too old to perform.

Age impacts on us in many ways, from reduced dexterity and movement to failing memory. In the art of magic, both are important prerequisites for a successful performance, and without them, the art of magic suffers.

Why don't older magicians see this?
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Jun 18, 2004 12:26PM)
My feeling on seeing a lot of the older magicians I know is that they have probably forgotten more about magic than most of us know.

I respect the years put in, and dues paid. I have also seen performers in their 70's or 80's who come alive on stage, and perform with more dexterity and class than people half their age.

Old doesn't mean dead. I think the best suggestion was the one to tape the show, let him see it and hope he picks up that the rust may be showing a little.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jun 18, 2004 12:28PM)
Re: [b]... my point is ...[/b]

on another thread, about bad words...

and as to your 'point'... most people don't see very much or very well. Or in the exact case of your statment... 'hear'.

Please be considerate in what you point out to them and how you make your point to them.
Message: Posted by: JimMaloney (Jun 18, 2004 12:38PM)
There's no such thing as "too old to perform." Just take a look at people like Billy McComb, Jay Marshall, and John Calvert. If you can still entertain and fool your audience, then do it.

How to approach others who you think shouldn't be performing? My advice: Don't. It's not your place. Unless you're friends with this person and the subject presents itself, you have no right to tell someone else what they should or should not do, no matter how much they suck.

-Jim
Message: Posted by: Moonlit Knight (Jun 18, 2004 01:36PM)
I knew a man who performed until his passing (he lived into his early hundreds). His fingers were crippled with arthritis and he knew that he was no longer able to perform as he might have before I had met him. His presentations, when I knew him, consisted of self-working effects that were still impressive to the audience but I remember hearing others describing him as being skilled in slights during his younger years. His love of performing and the looks on the faces of amazed spectators and participants was more important to him than the slights once used - I learned a lot from him. The most important things are that itís good to know and perform all the slights you want but the wise will know when to change the methods to suit the various performance conditions imposed - and you are only as young as you believe yourself to be.

So, with that, Iíll say perhaps you should not look to assist him out of magic but in changing his focus on what to perform. After all, if magic is his love, you may not be simply assisting him in getting out of the art but into his grave.

In my opinion, one is never too old to perform - just possibly too old to perform the way one once did.


By the way phonic69 I like the ďFaithless" quote from the track "Reverenceď in your signature - "You don't need eyes to see, you need vision". I would like to add a quote for your consideration ďNone are so blind as those who have no eyes.Ē - by ďBOBĒ.
Think about it.
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (Jun 18, 2004 04:57PM)
Phonics 69 writes: "The problem is that he, and others of his generation, are stubborn and unwilling to change what is for them, a good act."

Now let's see; that would include me in that "generation" reference. Yet, if I'm referring to a U.S. election, I mean the Bush-Kerry one, not Truman-Dewey!

In fact, I constantly change my act to keep it timely and current.

As for packing it in because of old age, then I suppose that would apply to the late Tony Slydini, Jay Marshall, Billy McComb, Bev Bergeron, the list goes on and on.

Bottom line: What the hell has age got to do with it?
Message: Posted by: Clay Shevlin (Jun 18, 2004 08:24PM)
Moonlit wrote:

"So, with that, Iíll say perhaps you should not look to assist him out of magic but in changing his focus on what to perform. After all, if magic is his love, you may not be simply assisting him in getting out of the art but into his grave.

In my opinion, one is never too old to perform - just possibly too old to perform the way one once did."

Phonic69 wrote:

"I was witness to a magician, well into his 70's, performing at a magic dinner recently, and he was awful.

This gentleman has been performing magic for well over 40 years but now time has taken its toll; his lines were dated, his manipulation was rusty and his impact as a magician was diminished.

Worryingly, some of his effects were exposed to the audience as he did them, making them uncomfortable and giving away the cherished secret that is so important to magic."

I take it that Phonic69's reference to magic dinner and concern about exposure meant that lay people were in the audience. If so, the concern about exposure is well founded. Then again, if the effects were indeed dated as well as the patter and presentation, then perhaps little harm is done?

I'd like to echo Moonlit's thoughts: how wonderful it is that this guy keeps performing. Better to keep keeping on than to rust, with the recognition that there are, I guess, exposure and audience enjoyment risks.

I never saw Vernon perform as an old man, but I've been told that his nimbleness suffered as the years passed - which seems only natural. Whether he actually inadvertently exposed tricks while performing in his later years, I don't know (I tend to doubt it), but he would surely have died sooner if he stopped performing - at least I believe so. Magic was his life.
Message: Posted by: phonic69 (Jun 19, 2004 03:38AM)
[quote]
On 2004-06-18 13:28, Jonathan Townsend wrote:


and as to your 'point'... most people don't see very much or very well. Or in the exact case of your statment... 'hear'.

[/quote]

I think I'm right in saying that you are talking about stubbornness? If you are then I agree with you, many people are stubborn. But let us not use stubbornness as an excuse for poor magic.

Peter, I concede that there will be many older magicians in the world who still perform with all the style and class of their youth (including yourself) and I commend your ability to change and evolve your act.

But not all older magicians are as quick to change as you.

My principle fears here are that secrets will be revealed and that audiences will be turned off magic.

It cannot be debated that the man has lost his ability to perform well, and considering his significant success in his youth, I must assume that his aging has had a negative impact on his magic.

I know it's not politically correct to criticise the old, and don't think that I'm ungrateful for all that old people give us, but surely audiences today want magic to entertain them, not to make them feel embarrassed and to 'see how it's done'.

And thank you for recognising the Faithless quotation!

Saxon Moseley
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (Jun 19, 2004 05:56AM)
Phonic69 writes: "I know it's not politically correct to criticise the old, and don't think that I'm ungrateful for all that old people give us, but surely audiences today want magic to entertain them, not to make them feel embarrassed and to 'see how it's done'."

Certainly audiences don't want to feel embarrassed by (and for) some doddering old fool who has "lost it". But, by the same token, there are many, MANY more young magicians who are just downright BAD and inadvertently expose tricks, too.

You will find far more young magicians than old will go into a magic shop and buy a brand new trick (to them) to put in their show that night.

And that's just bad -- young or old!

I think you are concerned about just one person here, really. And I think the real concern is exposure by poor performance. In that case, I would agree with you.
Message: Posted by: DJP (Jun 19, 2004 08:31AM)
Interesting topic!

Then there come's this argument I hear from members of the older generation of magic:

"I've been in the magic business forty years and I know what I'm talking about!"

This statement is usually said to one of the younger generation when the youngster may offer some of his advice to aid an act. Maybe the advice is not suitable in some cases but the older magician being stubborn just doesn't listen to the younger performer.

Is this just an individual thing that has happened to myself or has anyone experienced this too?

As for advice giving, I tend not to say anything anymore, unless someone asks for my help.

But with this stubborn attitude mentioned in the quotation, the magician in question (in my example), is being stubborn with his presentation of magic, as in "It worked forty years ago- so it'll work now" attitude.

I guess it's an individual's problem that he thinks the material he performs is entertaining, and still keep with that attitude.

Your thoughts
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (Jun 19, 2004 08:54AM)
Yavid quotes the comment: "I've been in the magic business forty years and I know what I'm talking about!"

That may be true.

Or the person speaking may only have one year's experience but has had it 40 times and still can't get it right.

Best solution: Listen to everybody and test what they say; throw out what doesn't work for you; keep the rest.
Message: Posted by: digimaestro (Jun 19, 2004 08:59AM)
DenDowhy - you are right on.. a practical answer.


Peter - You are right about age having nothing to do with this particular problem.

One is NEVER too old to perform, or too YOUNG.

Performance is an art and it must be treated as such.

I have seen shows where someone who had a love of life and the art has turned into someone just making a buck to get by.

Yavid2001 - If someone has been in the magic industry 40 years... I would give them the benefit of the doubt as to their knowledge.

Additionally.. If I did disagree with someone like this and felt rebuffed when I had some input, I would probably do what you did and keep my mouth shut.

This would hopefully result in me being able to continue to collect the benefits of the 40 years of knowlege.

Lets face it, this is a tough industry, and I feel anyone who has lasted that long in it deserves to have some attitude.....
Message: Posted by: Jack (Jun 19, 2004 01:47PM)
Dai Vernon, Ed Marlo, Bro. John Hamman, Larry Jennings, etc... All retained their skills throughout their entire lives. The professor lived to age of 98.
Magically, Jack
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 19, 2004 06:48PM)
Much of it is mental attitude. I had a friend who was a magician and a clown -- he kept the roles separate. He was in his 70's when he passed away. He came up to me at a convention (this would have been about 1996 or so) and asked, "Where can I get a 36 inch peacock silk?"

I asked him why. He replied, "I like to hold it underneath my face when I am doing my clown act, and say 'This act is brought to you in living color.' "

So I broke the news to him. "They haven't used that line on television in about 25 years. Most of the parents have never heard it, and the kids don't know what it means, either."

I periodically go over my lines to see whether they are still relevant. Last year, I deleted all the references to Tojo, Il Duce and der Fuehrer. ;)

Regarding costuming -- it depends on whether you are doing a character or simply a person in reasonable clothing. If I'm asked to perform in Victorian costume, that's what I wear. Ditto as Merlin. In other words, I wear what the client requests. Otherwise, I use the old "at least as well-dressed as the best-dressed other person in the room" principle.
Message: Posted by: Stuart Hooper (Jun 19, 2004 10:02PM)
Really...I think we need to do a LOT with the young magician's before we start to worry about a few old ones who aren't up to snuff. Call it a priority issue, but there are tons more awful young magicians then awful old ones, and we're going to have to watch the young ones for a lot longer time. (unfortunately)
Message: Posted by: Mike Walton (Jun 19, 2004 11:03PM)
We don't have to do anything with or for anyone who doesn't want help or advice. IMHO, I think those who write that it's our duty to change the way some magicians do magic, young or old, should go work on their own magic as others with more skill and performance experience may be targeting them.

If someone stinks, then my guess is no one is booking him or her anyway so the exposure is minimal.

The best way to improve magic as an industry and art is to improve your own act so you will astound audiences in a more emotional and stronger manner. Make your own magic better.
Message: Posted by: Magicusa (Jun 19, 2004 11:48PM)
I witnessed a magician in his 70's do his act after my twin brother and I did our act. We both look at one another.

He was awful also. And yes, he did exposed a lot of his act.

The more I think about this, and the older I get. It come to me that we all need something to do with ourselves or we will be unhappy in life.

This was his way to keep himself happy. Without his magic. He would be at home watching TV and getting fat. And we all know that no one comes to vist an old man.
He has lost his wife of 50 yrs, and this was all he had to make him happy.

You know the more I think about this, I too will be doing magic at 70's.

Emmett
Message: Posted by: Vick (Jun 20, 2004 01:17AM)
From personal experience experience I'd say age might not have that much to do with it

Case in point - I live about 20 minutes away from Denny & Lee's Magic Studio in Maryland. Had the good fortune to be in there on a Thursday morning recently. A very talented performer (and all around good guy) I've met by the name of Joe came in said hello and invited me to come next door. A few other gentlemen came through the shop while I was there, all very nice and introduced themselves.

I went next door and there were about 10 gentleman performing for each other, one at a time. I'm 42 and was the youngest there by a few years (venture most were over standard retirement age). These guys were great, very talented, they pick each other apart (in a very fun way) and have a great time.

Sitting in with them was an honor for me
Message: Posted by: Moonlit Knight (Jun 21, 2004 10:45PM)
Phonic69 (Saxon) - Iíve been thinking about your topic again and after reading the posts, I have come up with a few ideas as to handling the possibility of letting someone know that their ability is not up to a standard that is worthy of public display. Please note - I post the following, not as an attack but as something that may be considered by all who wish to assist others in performance betterment. We must be honest with ourselves as to what the real reason is for improvement to be suggested in the first place.

There are several reasons to find a person unacceptable - whether itís their attitude, style, manner, mannerisms, appearance, age, etc.. Biases towards a person for these reasons may get in the way of viewing their skills objectively. It must also be remembered that all performers have or should have a certain persona. That style may not fit into your idea of what's acceptable but may be something that works perfectly well for them, even if you may not understand it. So, is it one of these things that's actually getting to you or is it the performance itself?

If you discover that it is the performance, then what is it about the performance that doesn't agree with you? Is it that the magic isn't magical, whether itís poorly done or simply the wrong methods of accomplishing the material used? Is it the feelings of the audience and their reaction (i.e. applauding, laughing or acting surprised simply out of sympathy) ? Or, is it that you feel your performance is being or would be hurt in some way by others people watching that person perform?

Granted - it could be a combination of things at play here, but if you were to look at this issue and be completely honest with yourself, what is the true reason? Note: Iím not asking anyone to respond to this via a post but present it as a point of private contemplation.

Now, letís say, for example, that you come to the conclusion that your performance is being hurt in some way by people watching the other performer. Well, if that is the case, get over it. Understand that not everyone who sees you perform will see the other performer.

But, if you come to the conclusion that the magic isn't magical or itís the audienceís forced reaction - then, if you can, sit down with the performer, talk to him / her, get his / her thoughts about magic and how he / she wants to impact their audience. Find out what feelings he / she wants them to come away with, what he / she wants the audience to remember and how he /she believes he / she is accomplishing his / her goal. If you happen to be in an audience of an entertainer that does not know you personally, you haven't met previously or he / she has not seen you perform, then chances are poor that that performer will listen to what you have to say - except, possibly, for an exchange of pleasantries. In fact, the performer may even get a negative impression of your conversation and assistance. Being more than a passing acquaintance may be needed, if you are not well-known.

If you do get a chance to discuss the above with the performer in question, then the following answers may be received (Iíll go through a couple possible responses and how they might be handled):

1. The performer may not know - if this is the case, then put forth your thoughts as to what you seek in magical entertainment. Then see if he / she agrees or can add any comments, therefore, you may be able to better yourself as well.

2. The performer may be firm about what he / she wishes to accomplish and what affect of what he / she does should have upon the audience. If this is the case and you discover that their wishes are not manifesting themselves, then simply explain that you fear that he / she may not be getting the desired reaction and if he / she would like, you could assist him /her in bettering his / her response. If he / she rejects, then leave the performer with a video of his / her performance (if you have one) to view at his / her leisure. If not, offer to tape one of his / her performances. If he / she rejects, then donĎt push it, just tell the performer if he / she changes his / her mind, he / she can contact you.

Now, the responses received may be different then the brief outlines I have presented, so you will have to adjust. You must be objective in your approach, deciding what's best for his / her well-being in the performance and what works for the audience they want to reach. Also, donít be so caught up in his / her stuff that you offer nothing of your own for critique. This exchange of ideas may be the biggest and best help you could ever get.

Yes, some people can lose their faculties when they get older, therefore making a performance more difficult. Iím not denying that fact but I will not say that everyone ages in the same way.

I doubt many of us here would seriously recommend that you encourage an elderly individual to simply stop performing because of their age and inability to perform as they might once have or because they may use dated material - but, I could be wrong.

Just some food for thought.
Message: Posted by: vinsmagic (Jun 22, 2004 12:31AM)
Phonic 69 one day you will be in your seventies if you are lucky enough.
At least he is performong and not wasting away in some retirement home.
This old gent loves his art and is living the moment
So please do not try and take this away from him
vinny 65 years old (young)
Message: Posted by: phonic69 (Jun 22, 2004 06:11AM)
It's never to late to learn, adapt and alter your act to make it more suitable and 'magical'. I want to help him make his act better, not take magic away from him.

Moonlit Knight, thank you for a substantial and significant post. My worries about his act are that his material no longer suits him now that he in his 70's (he still attempts complex manipulation that he managed with ease in the past but that now look bad).

Should our acts adapt with age?

Saxon
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (Jun 22, 2004 07:41AM)
Phonic69,
You say this performer was at a "magic dinner".
I'm going to assume that this was a magic club.
In that case, I have to agree wholeheartedly with Vinny, that the man is doing his best for a group of like-minded individuals, so don't take that away from him.
It would be different if he were performing for a lay audience.
The whole point of magic clubs should be that they are places to be bad in front of people who are forgiving; then, when you get to be good, you can perform for lay audiences.
Conversely, when you eventually lack the ability to entertain lay audiences, you can still perform for magic groups because they understand (or they should!)
cheers,
Peter Marucci (same age as Vinny)
Message: Posted by: phonic69 (Jun 22, 2004 12:09PM)
It's true that, to a magic audience, his exposure doesn't really matter, but it scares me that he also performs for lay audiences as well.

Saxon
Message: Posted by: Moonlit Knight (Jun 22, 2004 02:18PM)
Phonic69 wrote "Should our acts adapt with age?"

Well, itís my belief that a performer should change and evolve their performance, when appropriate. This change should not be predicated upon age alone, but upon the performers ability. For example - if a young performer suffered some sort of accident or illness in which the ability to perform was limited (if even for a short time) then, I believe, the performance should be modified to reflect the personal impediment or condition, without drawing undue attention to it or assisting the audience in losing the magic. An older person may find it advantageous to do the same, if their ageing is found to be limiting their abilities. But, it must be remembered that this decision depends upon the person's willingness to change and not our desire for them to do so.
Message: Posted by: Reis O'Brien (Jun 23, 2004 05:26PM)
Phonic69, why do you suddenly think it's up to you to stop this old feller from performing? Who gave you that authority? Why is it even your business?

So the old geezer doesn't have the chops he once had. I imagine that he's still doing the best he can with what he has to work with and the audience probably perceives that. He may only be getting polite applause, but to him, it is applause just the same. And frankly, some of the specs may find it quaint seeing an old guy still giving it a go.

Let him do his thing. It's not up to you.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jun 23, 2004 05:35PM)
Come to think about it...

One could as well post complaining that the young, uneducated, juvenile and outright immature magicians are giving magic a bad name too.

The argument goes both ways.

A bad argument IMHO. There are incompetent folks of all ages. The market makes a great manager of objective criteria.
Message: Posted by: vincentmusician (Feb 8, 2021 06:43PM)
One thing I have found is that when you perform Professionally for kids or adults, you will get an honest reaction. An audience is the best way to tell you if you are good or not. Older kids and adults have no reason to tell you that you are good if you are not. I learn a great deal from my audiences.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Feb 8, 2021 09:22PM)
You cannot teach an old dog new tricks as they say but they also say it is never too late to learn.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Feb 14, 2021 08:41PM)
[quote]On Jun 19, 2004, Mike Walton wrote:
We don't have to do anything with or for anyone who doesn't want help or advice. IMHO, I think those who write that it's our duty to change the way some magicians do magic, young or old, should go work on their own magic as others with more skill and performance experience may be targeting them.

If someone stinks, then my guess is no one is booking him or her anyway so the exposure is minimal.

The best way to improve magic as an industry and art is to improve your own act so you will astound audiences in a more emotional and stronger manner. Make your own magic better. [/quote]
Wow an ancient thread brought back to life.

This above is of course the perfect answer. But I would like to add something.

Why are we restricting this to the old generation exactly? I mean I have seen FAR more magicians who fall into the dated lines and old trick category who are YOUNG with no excuse! I personally don't think it has a single thing to do with the age of the performer. He has probably been doing this same brand of horrible magic for 40 years.

Also it might help you to understand if you just Google the "Dunning Kruger Effect". (NO it is NOT a magic trick, just Google it.) You will then find out why it is pointless to attempt to help. I suggest buying a donkey and finding a windmill.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Feb 14, 2021 09:15PM)
"Magic is a universal art form. Although it may reflect specific features of nationality, ethnicity, or religion, it thrives without regard to them, and it has developed independently in various cultures. It has survived hundreds of years of exposure and trivialization. No matter how often and how egregiously its secrets are revealed, the passage of years, a change of context, and the power of a splendid performer can rekindle an old principle to create a performance miracle."

ó Ricky Jay

https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/ricky-jay-deceptive-practice-ricky-jay-encyclopedia-entry-on-conjuring/3658/


Ricky Jays' entry is Brittanica is a good read - mind you, everything the old man said and did I thought was great.
Message: Posted by: longhaired1 (Feb 19, 2021 04:34PM)
I'm 58 now. Seven years ago I directed and performed in a circus show with a magic theme. We had an opening illusion that I needed to be tucked into. Our local theatre has no act curtain so we set up a temporary cover so I could get loaded into the illusion. A few minutes hiding under the hot lights and all seemed fine. The founder of the circus went on stage and did about five minutes of thanking the various supporters and announcements. Okay so far, but starting to really sweat. Then she introduces the board president of the theatre. She does a few minutes of announcements, after which she brings up the president of the local arts council who proceeds to talk about all the upcoming events.

I'm not sure how long I was curled up in that box panting like a dog who was locked in the car on a summer day, but hallucinations were eminent by the time we finally launched. I had a quick pow-wow with all involved parties before the next show and we adjusted the game plan, or more accurately created a game plan. When I was sweating in the box I was quietly muttering words that would get me banned from this forum.

I'm developing a new illusion for a show that I am producing and this illusion will be geriatrically modified for my lack of flexibility and heat tolerance.

Not too old to perform but way to old to go through that again.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Feb 19, 2021 08:20PM)
I read this book recently: https://www.abebooks.co.uk/book-search/title/clowns/author/john-towsen/

It goes into some of the clowns' illusions in the circus and it says that some of the clowns were ex acrobats, etcetera. It is a good book on the history of it.