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Tim Ellis
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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.
TrickyRicky
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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.
Tony James
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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!"
Tony James

Still A Child At Heart
KC Cameron
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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.
Tony James
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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.
Tony James

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DJBrenton
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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?



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.)
Tony James
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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.
Tony James

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DJBrenton
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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.


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.


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'
DJBrenton
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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.


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.


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'.
Tony James
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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.
Tony James

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magicgeorge
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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
KC Cameron
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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?
DJBrenton
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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.
DJBrenton
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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?
Tony James
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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"
Tony James

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DJBrenton
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"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.
Tony James
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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.
Tony James

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MagicalArtist
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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.
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