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Kent Wong
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One of the things I love about street magic and watching buskers is the originality of material and presentation. In the City where I live, we have at least 3 festivals each summer that are geared towards busking. It's a great time to watch a variety of acts from all over the world.

Over the course of the last few years, however, I noticed a trend. We would usually get at least one magician at each festival performing the cups and balls. For me, this is a real treat since it's one of my all time favorite effects. But, invariably, every one of these magicians was performing the Gazzo routine. In fact, the routine presented in each case even went so far as to use many of Gazzo's lines, word for word.

Now, don't get me wrong. I absolutely love Gazzo's routine and watching him perform it is watching a true master in action. But whatever happened to originality? It actually got to the point where I overheard some people around me say, "Oh, I saw this one last year. He's going to produce a giant melon from under his hat." And then they left.

Imitation is a sign of flattery, but originality is a sign of genius. Has Gazzo really taken over the world?

Kent
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Harry Murphy
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I guess at a Busker’s Festival where there are maybe a half a dozen magicians doing the cups and balls using the hat load. The crowd might get jaded rather fast even if the routines were somewhat different. Even without the hat load the trick is about the final cup loads.

I suspect the crowds at a such a Festival have seen all the chain, straight jacket, and rope escapes too. They have seen the chain saw juggling and the knife, plunger and apple routine(apple eaten during juggling) and it all becomes a bit of an old standby. Ho hum…

Maybe in an area where busking is commonplace the crowds see a number of performers doing the Cups and Balls. I look and I have a difficult time finding them. I was in New York City recently (two weeks ago) and hit Central Park and later Washington Square. There were chalk artists aplenty (they were great!) and a few musicians, even an opera singer. There were no magicians to be seen and no jugglers for that matter. Maybe my timing was way off. Maybe they are all in Key West for the summer season.

I went to a Street Festival in Canada a few years ago and every juggling act was pretty much the same. Even the high-boy unicycle riders tended to do the same stuff. I don’t know who originated the bits but it seems that everyone uses them. There was only one unicycle rider that was different and he did a straight jacket while on his high-boy! There was only two magicians and neither did the Cups and Balls!

Unfortunately (or fortunately) most street performers do their work in isolation. They learn a bit or routine and refine the timing so that it works for them. Gazzo has given/sold his hat load and many use it. I have seen four different buskers over the past three years using the hat load as the finale to their cups and balls act (two with melons, one with a large slow pitch soft ball, and one with a small rabbit). Only one performer did it like Gazzo and, by the way, it was Gazzo!

A number of the buskers I’ve watched doing the cups and balls over the past several years (Johnny Fox for example) perform multiple loads (four, five, or six) and don’t use the hat load. Most of the routines that I watched relied heavily on the pacing and effects of the Vernon routine (including Gazzo’s). One might argue that everyone copies Vernon.

The only time I ever played a Street Festival (maybe ten years ago now), I took some time and found out who else was performing there and tried to find out what they performed (I was familiar with some of the acts). I dropped my cups and balls routine because three other performers were doing the Cups and Balls. I was the only one there doing the rings.

I’ve had spectators who have seen my act several times tip what’s coming. Sometimes shouting out, he’s got baseballs under those cups! I just smile and plug along.

Honestly, I have originated nothing, oh my script is pretty much my own but still has tons of elements borrowed. I wish I was original, but I know I’m not!
The artist formally known as Mumblepeas!
RobertBloor
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Not even Gazzo's hat load is original. He himself details it on his Scoundrels "On the Cups" video.

I perform the floating card in some of my shows. Ask Gazzo where he learned that one.

Really stop and think about "originality" in magic. Last I checked, Gazzo's "original" effect is Cups and Balls.

Go figure.

Robert
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Harry Murphy
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Actually, Gazzo does not claim to do any original magic. He often credits (in lectures, books, and tapes) his sources. While many of his jokes and lines are original to him, he freely admits that some are not. They have been picked up here and there over decades of performing.

His act has evolved to the unique status it now has based on his personality and presentation not his tricks.

The originality is all in the character and the act. That cannot be duplicated.

He has taken the Vernon Cup routine and modified it to fit his needs over the years. He has added wand spinning flourishes to add character, eye candy (important on the street), and because he can! He punched up the final load sequence to more loads than was being seen when he started performing in the day and added the killer hat load. In all his genius is figuring out what actually works on the streets. He will be known for his Cups and Balls because of the influence the routine he uses has had and is having on workers.

One cannot minimize his contribution to the art of magic in general and street magic specifically. His books and videos will leave a legacy that will be referenced in years to come (rightfully so). While he stands on the shoulders of giants we (I at least) stand on his.
The artist formally known as Mumblepeas!
Michael Baker
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Is anyone surprised that many would take it to task to imitate him in a similar environment? I mean, don't you think they see it as a path to success paved with overflow gold.

Bottom feeders are not just on the street, by the way.

~michael
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RobertBloor
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Quote:
Harry: One cannot minimize his contribution to the art of magic in general and street magic specifically. His books and videos will leave a legacy that will be referenced in years to come (rightfully so). While he stands on the shoulders of giants we (I at least) stand on his.

I don't want my previous statements to come off as a pot shot at Gazzo. No way.

The original poster spoke of originality and it just struck me that so much of what Gazzo does, technically, is not original.

His presentation is one among the best of the best. He gets away with what others (myself included) could only dream of.

Some of his lines are his, yes. I would never be caught dead cracking homosexual jokes like he does. (I'd get killed. He gets a laugh).

But then I digress...Cellini even mentions on the Art of Street Performing if you hear a line, if it works, use it. (that's paraphrased)

Robert Bloor
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Harry Murphy
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Robert, I didn't mean to imply that you were taking a shot at Gazzo. I was agreeing and supporting what you said.

In terms of performance style, I lean more towards a Charley Edwards (does anyone remember the old guy?) or even a little Jim Cellini than Gazzo in performance style.

I do sit in amazement at what he gets away with. I think that it is years of polishing the act that lets it work for him. I've watched Gazzo literally dozens of times (Maryland Renaissance Fair back in the day!) and my jaw hangs open at what he gets away with.

I don’t care how paved with gold the road seems to be, I can’t walk it! Yes, I can, and have done a hat load finale to my Cups and Balls (more a Sam Berland timing than Gazzo’s) but I doubt if anyone would even think that the routine I perform was based on Gazzo’s. Heck, I don’t even have much of Vernon in my little routine. The routine a cut and paste from bits of Gibson/Blackstone (Sr.) with a touch of Scotty York and maybe even a little Tommy Wonder! I do know that none of it is original to me!

Just call me “Catfish Harry the Bottom Feeder!!” LOL!!! I think I like the name and may even build a character to fit it. It would even fit the Redneck character I perform!
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Michael Baker
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Harry, I hope you didn't think I was taking a shot there. Doing the cups and balls is not doing Gazzo. Doing a hat load is not doing Gazzo. Doing the egg bag, the tossed out deck, the cups and balls, producing a fruit salad on the table, including from under a derby, and all the while spewing rough edged one-liners with an English accent may be getting a bit close.

But Gazzo is not exclusive in this regard either. There were, and still are, tons of Chris Angel clones, David Blaine clones, Harry Anderson clones, Lance Burton clones, etc., as there were Henning clones, Blackstone clones, Cardini clones, and Houdini clones. The list goes on...

When I worked in a magic shop, if there was a magician on TV, it was a no-brainer to know what was going to sell good over the next few weeks... whatever was used on the show.

If someone becomes so well known for a character style, a performing venue, and perhaps a particular trick (or tricks), to the point of becoming iconic, then coattailers are bound to happen. Creative twists are more rarely seen in the worst of these. Same thing happened in the restaurant magic business. Although it is less likely a specific performer was being imitated, a flood of new restaurant magicians hit the scene, and there were some similarities in style and especially material that gave good indication that a formula was the true quarry.

"What tricks should I do for table-hopping?"

It is no different here. The Café posts are filled with these kinds of questions:

"What tricks should I do as a busker?"

"What tricks does Gazzo do?"

"What kind of cups, or wand, or pouch does Gazzo use?"

"What does Gazzo say when he does this?"

"How does Gazzo hold his hand when he does such and such?"

This is showing no signs of independant thinking. This is showing a desire to do what works for someone else, without understanding why it works.

I'm not saying that we all must be 100% unique... gleaning from the field is totally acceptable. That's called research. That's taking advantage of what infomation is out there and available to us. But, like that term paper we all had to write in school... once you do the research, you have to develop a slant for it, based upon your own point of view... and then you have to put it into your own words.

Anything less than that, as a bare minimum, is failing.

~michael
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RobertBloor
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Michael,

You bring up some questions that are definitely asked and answered many times over.

ANd Harry, thanks for the reply. I was shocked the first time I saw Gazzo Uncensored (which I'm selling btw for others to now enjoy). Now I found most of what he says and does funny. Some of it crossing the line. But that's my own personal taste and wouldn't say he shouldn't do things. But yes - I marvel away.

If he didn't have a British accent he'd be dead.

Robert
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,"
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Harry Murphy
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Michael, I didn’t think you were taking a shot but making a general (and correct) observation. It tickled me and got my little ol’ pea brain a perking. I’m always looking for a character. James Stewart (the actor) once said in an interview that he found the character in the hat. I would search the proper hat and let the character flow from that. I find the character in the name. My old acting classes kicking in!!

I totally agree with what you are saying. Unlike our friend at the top of the page, I don’t get to see all that many magician performers outside of a convention (I don’t go to that many) or the day spent at the Renaissance Fair (then I’m seeing the same performers I’ve been watching for over 20 years, including Johnny Fox and at one time Gazzo).

I remember a few decades ago that Al Cohen had a dozen Needle Thru Balloon props sitting on the shelf and gathering dust. He pitched it to me and I bought one (I generally bought anything that Al said was good!) and started using it in my kids show. Then this goofy, skinny, Canadian magician name of Doug Henning did a TV special and performed the trick! BAM!! Just as you stated, Al sold out the next day and could not keep the prop on the shelf for the balance of the year! I was one up on most of the guys. I knew that it didn’t take a special clear balloon and used any color that came out of the bag!

Anyway, this has been an interesting thread.

Robert, I enjoyed watching you perform (I bought your DVD). You were performing around my old stomping grounds (over 40 years ago that is!). Good show and good handling of the spontaneous things given to you by your audience.
The artist formally known as Mumblepeas!
John Sturk
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I'm very new to busking. I was sort of forced into it when I was hired to entertain at an outdoor shopping mall for this summer. I've been working here since May, and, having never busked before, I immediately sought out materials in an academic fashion: Gazzo, Eric Evans, Cellini (book + DVDs), and Chris Capehart.

When I perform, I close with Cups and Balls. I certainly started with Gazzo's, because it was honed and made for street work. I think, after 3 months of doing 5 shows a day, 7 days a week, I have a routine influenced by Gazzo, Vernon, and Cellini, but one I can confidently say is not a 'clone' of any of the above.

I would recommend to the folks concerned with originality to look into Whit Haydn's essay on the topic here: http://www.scoundrelsforum.com/index.php?topic=58.0

I'm also reminded of something that Billy McComb says often about any of his marketed effects: "Try it my way first." Because Billy (and Gazzo, too) have worked the same routine for years, they've worked out the bugs, and there are reasons for why they do it the way they do. To change a routine of theirs simply to "make it different" is taking steps backwards, rather than building on their shoulders.

I know I base my performance style on the likes of Billy McComb, Whit Haydn, Bob Sheets, and Doc Eason, with more names added to the list as I meet more like-styled magicians, but its the blend of all those and adding my own personality that make me unique, and make us all unique.
Bill Palmer
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It's kind of funny. Gazzo is a friend of mine. He is a heck of a street performer. When he got hired to come down and work Scarborough Faire, the people who hired him didn't even take into consideration the kind of reactions some of the more conservative visitors to the faire would have. Then they asked him to censor his act.

I understood both sides of the problem. I was the ED of TRF for two years, and we had an act there that would peel the paint off a barn. They cut back the second year they were there. And they were a great act.

But they shouldn't have hired him, knowing that his material was a tad strong for the crowd. I'm glad they did, though. I might not have met him if they hadn't!

Gazzo is Gazzo. There is only one like him, and anyone who tries to be Gazzo is going to miss. It's like all the guys who have licensed the Ded Bob act. There is only one Clark. And that's a fact.

Puke and Snot did the same thing, and the acts that bought the rights were pale imitations of the real thing.

Regarding originators -- Michael Marlin originated a lot of the things you see on the street today. He is a heck of a juggler. And as creative an artist as I have ever known.

There was a guy working at Scarborough the first year I was there, who did a bunch of Michael's material. I went up to him after the first show I saw him do and asked, "When's the last time you saw Mike Marlin?"

"I don't know Mike Marlin."

"Well, you know his act. You were doing some of it." And I told him what some of the lines and bits were.

He said, "Those are all stock bits."

"They weren't when Michael wrote them in 1975. I helped him on a couple of them"

Talk about slinking off into the bushes!
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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Jim Wilder
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Quote:
On 2006-08-19 13:39, magicman845 wrote:
But, invariably, every one of these magicians was performing the Gazzo routine. In fact, the routine presented in each case even went so far as to use many of Gazzo's lines, word for word.

Now, don't get me wrong. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Gazzo's routine and watching him perform it is watching a true master in action. But whatever happened to originality?

Isn't there a saying about nothing new under the sun? Gazzo, in my opinion, has been one of the most influential magicians to real working magicians in a long time. In purest form, the effects performed by Gazzo are also performed well by others in magic. I believe the magician's point of view sees an unrivaled performance of Gazzo and it translates for them that the tricks/effects make his show. This is not the case.

I've traveled with Gazzo and have been around him in many situations and have seen him perform in various situations. Gazzo can entertain a crowd with a paper bag.... in fact, ask him to perform his vanishing coke bottle routine. Gazzo is the exception in many cases it seems. This is due to his performing ability, not the effects he uses. If his vanishing coke bottle routine gets out, expect to see that at next year's festival.
RobertBloor
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Quote:
Harry: Robert, I enjoyed watching you perform (I bought your DVD). You were performing around my old stomping grounds (over 40 years ago that is!). Good show and good handling of the spontaneous things given to you by your audience.


Harry,

Really? I think you're totally full of it now.

I appreciate the comments. You used to perform out here in New Mexico? Wow.

And yes, the handling of some of the audience things was spur of the moment, which is what makes street shows my favorite. (And with about 65,000 people on the field at any one time, a potential disaster is always lurking)

Thanks!
Robert
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Michael Baker
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Quote:
On 2006-08-19 23:53, Jim Wilder wrote:

I believe the magician's point of view sees an unrivaled performance of Gazzo and it translates for them that the tricks/effects make his show. This is not the case.

Bingo!... and therein lies the real issue. Simply performing the same tricks as another magician, whether that other magician is Gazzo or anyone else who is successful, will not insure success for the imitator. In most cases, it spells failure. In rare cases, a performer may hit upon a novel style that renders well-known and popular effects uniquely their own. But in most cases, a person who is driven to perform certain effects because they work well for another is generally not overflowing with the drive or insight to be unique.

The point missed by many, but directly hit by Jim, is that performers like Gazzo are unique in spite of the tricks they perform, not because of them. Those that miss the point see the tricks as the magic bullets. They fail to realize that those bullets are useless without the gun. They also fail to see that many other bullets will work equally well through the gun.

If Gazzo had never picked up a set of cups and balls, I have no doubt that he would still be well-known as a great entertainer. People like him could make other people laugh by using a lug wrench and his own wit. I know, because I have seen him do it.

Gazzo is, in the simplest terms, an interesting and entertaining person. Things become interesting and entertaining when he uses them. Not the other way around.

Of course, I concede to any reasonable exception to this. As per Mr. Sturk's referral to Billy McComb, a student of a master who has been advised to duplicate the master's style, should be given the latitude to do so. A situation such as that would simply allude to teaching technique, and not a lack of individuality, as is apparent in other manifestations of imitation.

~michael
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Gerald
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Great, insightful, thought provoking comments! Let me echo these and add a little extra thought. Comedy Rising Card, Vanishing Hank, Tossed Out Deck, Egg Bag, the Cups and Balls with a pouch, multiple cup loads and a hat load have certainly been done before. It is Gazzo himself that hasn’t been done before, nor will he ever be “done” again. He is a unique personality. But then, we all are.

Gazzo’s lesson is a simple, but profound one: a performer’s job is to discover “who he/she is as a performer”, explore the entertaining aspects (assuming there are some Smile ) of his own personality and use magic as a vehicle to project that personae to the spectators.

Wisdom from two thousand years ago (sometimes attributed to Socrates) says it best in only two words: “Know thyself.”

Thanks for considering my “two cents.”

Gerald
ed rhodes
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Quote:
On 2006-08-19 16:57, RobertBloor wrote:
Quote:
Harry: One cannot minimize his contribution to the art of magic in general and street magic specifically. His books and videos will leave a legacy that will be referenced in years to come (rightfully so). While he stands on the shoulders of giants we (I at least) stand on his.

I don't want my previous statements to come off as a pot shot at Gazzo. No way.

The original poster spoke of originality and it just struck me that so much of what Gazzo does, technically, is not original.

His presentation is one among the best of the best. He gets away with what others (myself included) could only dream of.

Some of his lines are his, yes. I would never be caught dead cracking homosexual jokes like he does. (I'd get killed. He gets a laugh).

I think it's the accent!
"He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad." - Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche
SeaDawg
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The other day when working the street I was paid the "great compliment". One of my audience volunteers came forward and as she did so told me very loudly and very succinctly, "You really are an entertainer".

Once we get the fact that we are entertainers with magic as a delivery vehicle our shows naturally progress to a new level.
Crazy people take the psycho-path thru the forest...
Bill Palmer
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If Gazzo didn't have the accent, he'd be a shorter Harry Anderson.

Seriously, a lot of performers never find themselves. They spend their entire career "chanelling" other performers. The first step is to figure out who you are, that is, what your persona is. Once you have that, then your persona will write your lines for you.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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ROBERT BLAKE
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I like the c&b but when I started to perform on the streets in 1990, the 1 trick I did not want to do wasthe c&b because everybody did it. seems that if you start with streetmagic everybody thinks you have to do the c&b. I closed with hen fetsh card in balloon, but done with jumbo cards.

I like the thinking of gazzo. I am working on a tossed-out-deck routine. so I look around and found gazzo's and like som of his touches. I will combine it with other ideas to create a routine that suites me.
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