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Slappy
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North Hollywood, CA
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I was at a very nice party here in the Hills and the host/hostess provided strolling entertainment. One particular entertainer happened to be a very accomplished juggler/magician. My wife and I had seen his act in the Palace at the Magic Castle a week or two prior (he KILLED, by the way), so I was pleasantly surprised to see him there. However, I was struck by how difficult a time he was having. Like most parties people were spread out and talking in little groups. It was obvious he was having difficulty getting anyone to pay attention to him without actually interupting conversations...he would approach a small group and just hover...I was thinking he might have fared better just finding a corner to perform in and wait for the crowd to come to him...however, he felt pressured to try and mingle due to his agreement to provide "strolling entertainment". It made me think that it would be virtually impossible to perform anything but the most superficial, stunt, type magic effects under those circumstances (I'm thinking Prohibition, Cig up Nose...) anything requiring presentational timing would be impossible. The thought of "strolling" under those conditions is truley frightening. How do you guys do it???
"Help, I've got a silver ball stuck on my thumb"
close-up
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EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE & EXPERIENCE
Robert Apodaca
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We don't do Sam The Bellhop for strolling. That's the key.
TheAmbitiousCard
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The realities of the strolling magician.
The dreaded "hover". Seems scary doesn't it.


There are many solutions, tricks, scams, to HELP solve this issue.
Most involve some common sense, psychology, and an understanding of human nature.

1. Join in a conversation. Then do magic when it comes up.
2. Lie. "Hey, suzie told me to come over here..."
3. "Did anyone drop a white knife..."
4. Start juggling in a corner.
5. "If you all don't mind, I'd like to show you something interesting".


People will respond to any of these in a positive way. It's up to you to eventually spot a type of person and match them up with a technique that works. You need to check your ego and your feelings at the door and realize people aren't going to be receptive just because you're there.

Some people are nice and notice that you have something you'd like to say/do.
Some people are nice but a bit shy and might not acknowledge your presence.
Some people are jerks and see you hoving and simply enjoy watching you fester and they prolong a conversation as long as possible so you feel good and uncomfortable.


Confidence is the key, in my opinion, and it all comes from EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE & EXPERIENCE.
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S2000magician
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As Frank mentions, there's a knack to determining the receptive guests at a party, one only acquired through experience. Such a guest may be standing alone, or may be in a group but not be talking to anyone, or may be in a group and chatting, but be looking about the room.

How did his attire compare to that of the guests? I find that when I'm dressed a step above the partygoers it's a lot easier to approach a group and gain their attention. ("Is this guy here to offer us hors d'oeuvres? Refresh our drinks? Validate our parking?") If he could be mistaken for another guest he's all the easier to ignore.

Frank's correct about checking your ego and your feelings at the door, but he missed one: you also need to check your reticence; if you cannot approach a stranger and start a conversation - even a simple, "Hi, how are you doing this evening? I'm Bill. And you are . . . ?" is sufficient - you should find another line of work.

As for what he could perform, there's a lot more than "superficial stunt-like" magic in a (competent) strolling magician's repertoire. To name a few:

Card to Wallet
Card to Shoe
Card to Any-Other-Odd-Place-on-One's-Person
Coins Across
Coin Through Silk
Color-Changing Knives
Coin Flurry
Number Two Pencil
Recapped
Crazy Man's Handcuffs
Twisting the Aces
Dr. Daley's Last Trick
Spellbound
Spongeballs
Copper/Silver Transposition
Floating-Darned-Near-Anything
Professor's Nightmare
Ring on Wand
Any Ring & String Effect
jay leslie
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Then there is the other possibility,
You start - and everyone crowds around you, at which point you are happy that you have a custom made vest with 47 pockets filled with a gizzilion tricks.

Try getting the name of someone in group A... then go to group B and tell them that So And So wanted you to show them this trick (pointing at group A)(as in a previous post. this works) Drop a dollar and pick it up saying "I believe this is yours" then go right into the 1 to 100.

And don't forget Ball Manip. You can burst in with a 5 second trick then if you are well recieved expand the routine for as long as 5 or 6 minutes... even if there is a lot of noise. Usually, I like to do a few quick ball sleights and circulate quickly then return with cards or coins.

I like to control my entire appearance which starts with the very first phone conversation. I will pick and choose when to start and finish based on the schedule. If there are other distracting activities I may not take the job. If they want me to work while people are eating I will also pass. Sometimes it's better to point the client in another direction if I don't feel they will get their moneys worth. I sleep better at night knowing that everyone is happy and feel better about charging higher rates when the occasion arises.. and most importantly I prompt the host to tell their guests, in advance of the event, how they are going to have an unbelievable sleight of hand artist at the event. By the time I show up, I like to know that people are aware I'm expected and hopefully some of them will be excited to see what I'm going to do.

I don't believe it's the tricks that make the close up magician... It's how well you interact with the audience. The same thing holds true for a photographer. The photographer who does not interact with the audience can only capture the candid shots that are availible. The photographer who says "Smile.. Oh that's a great smile.. this will be a great picture!) will have more people asking for their business card because they took interest in the experiance the customer is having.... as oppsed to... someone who is wrapped up in the technical aspects of their craft.
patrick flanagan
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Slappy rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. I imagine the Hollywood party scene is a bit more tame, what with Paris breaking rocks and Lindsey starring in "Rehab Part II".
Approaching people with confidence is not always easy. I try to approach a group when the conversation is waning, introduce myself, and explain why I am there. Then I ASK if they are interested in participating. I try to avoid saying...watching...I want them to be actively involved in the process. If my judgement is off and I appear to be interrupting the conversation, I politely apologize for interrupting and procede with my introduction.
My approach works for me. It allows me to feel comfortable in, what really is, an unusual situation. Rarely, are people approached/interrupted by someone who wants to entertain them. Unless they have seen you performing for other guests, their reaction will usually be hesitation. If I am comfortable and confident in my approach, indicating to them with a few brief words and actions that I am not going to embarress anyone...it isn't going to cost them money....and it really is something you are going to want to see....then, I should be able to lessen their resistance.
patrick
Brady
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Well, let me throw in the way I do it. Remember, you are a performer who has been paid to be there. You are one of the staff; you are not one of the guests. So, act like one of the staff. Walk up to a group and act as if you are the person in charge. Frank is absolutely right about what you wear. Have on something a little nicer than the guests. Walk up to a group with a big smile and say something like, "Hi is everyone enjoying our little event?" "Yes? Good! My name is XXXXX, and I am part of the entertainment this evening, I am the magician here tonight. May I have the privilege of entertaining you for a few minutes?" If you have a big smile, confidence and a true enthusiasm from the heart, you will go far with this approach.

Another approach: go to a table and start dealing cards, when people come over to see what you are doing, go into a poker deal routine.

I find I have far better luck with the former.

Regards,

Brady
tboehnlein
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Gaining confidence is the most important element, but after that s2000 is dead end being dressed a notch above the guest will definitely help, additionally advising the guest that you are there as guest entertainment on behalf of the hostess benefits greatly. effects should be short, direct & able to stand alone.
S2000magician
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Quote:
On 2007-06-14 18:06, Brady wrote:
Frank is absolutely right about what you wear.

Is he, now?

;)
Jaz
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Interupting conversations is not the best idea. Many people may be there to network. Some talk may be quite important to them.

I feel sorry for the guy having to 'hover' but that would seem to be the respectful thing to to for guests in a meaningful conversation.

To my thinking it would be best to approach those folks who aren't engaged in such activities. There must be some idlers and idle moments when you can approach.
Slappy
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Good point about dress, Bill. He was dressed like a typical street performer...literally right off the street...so maybe if what he was wearing screamed "performer" he woulda' had an "in". It works for Whit Haydn
"Help, I've got a silver ball stuck on my thumb"
TheAmbitiousCard
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Quote:
On 2007-06-14 18:11, S2000magician wrote:
Quote:
On 2007-06-14 18:06, Brady wrote:
Frank is absolutely right about what you wear.

Is he, now?

;)


Come on, Bill. Let me have the credit. I'm a nice guy.
Come on......

I'll buy you a beer.


Slappy, what do you mean... "right off the street?". That sounds like a huge error on his part.
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S2000magician
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Quote:
On 2007-06-14 20:07, Frank Starsini wrote:
Quote:
On 2007-06-14 18:11, S2000magician wrote:
Quote:
On 2007-06-14 18:06, Brady wrote:
Frank is absolutely right about what you wear.

Is he, now?

;)


Come on, Bill. Let me have the credit. I'm a nice guy.
Come on......

Frank, around here you're positively soggy with credit. Why should you need to drip with any more?
ChristopherM
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This thread is excellent, guys, thanks for all the contributions. All I can add is how beneficial I found Tommy Wonder's Volume 2 of the Books of Wonder and the writing on approaching and performing in strolling environments contained therein. Really made me think about the exact phraseology and tones of voice to use in introducing yourself to the guests.
Brady
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Sorry S2K, I was speed reading the thread and made that error.You get all the credit.

Regards,

Brady
TheAmbitiousCard
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Quote:
On 2007-06-15 02:39, Brady wrote:
Sorry S2K, I was speed reading the thread and made that error.You get all the credit.

Regards,

Brady


:( oh well.
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Simon Bakker
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Certainly a great thread. I think every strolling performer has had the problem mentioned in the original post. It's not a pleasant situation.

It's a good thing to let as much people know you're a magician who does extrodinairy things (hired buy the host). This can be arranged by asking the host to tell as many guests as possible in advance. I have experienced that most people want it to be a suprise that there is a magician, so this will not always work.

A second option which I employ much myself is to try to play big. Try to speak a little harder (don't scream). Start with visual, eye popping magic. Try to generate applause, and wait with effects that produce stunned silence. Even though you are performing forone group, other groups of people will look your way and want a part of the action.

Now everybody will be expecting you, they will wanna see what caused so much laughter, applause and fun at the other group. It is a lot easier to interrupt a conversation now. Spongeballs do the job in my case as an opener, then probably ropes, and a card routine which start with some flourishes. This can play very big.

I Have found that experience is indeed a vital part. If you are just beginning you have to be prepared for some very nasty, sometimes even akward situations. They will happen, garanteed. The key now is to learn from these experiences and don't give up (which is very appealing sometimes). Also be prepared that perfomance situations are never what you expect!
If you are prepared to perform magic that doesn't need a table, magic that is visual and can be performed without talking, and some stuff that can play very big you are a few steps ahead.

My two cents...

Simon
Rich B.
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Philadelphia
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I use almost the same technique as Brady. I do find momentary "hovering" in front of a group sometimes necessary...not to completely break up the conversation. I wait for the right time to say..."good evening, my name is Richie B. and I'm part of your entertainment tonight...hi mam (or sir), what is your name? Nice to meet you". I then go into an opening routine. I know some people will disagree with this, but I never say after the introduction "do you want to see some magic". Some people ask me what kind of entertainment...which I then tell them. I believe there are some shy people that would say no when asked if they want to see magic, perhaps because of a bad experience with another magician. Most times those people "on the fence" about participating with me are glad they did after my set.

After your introduction, you should be able to read the spectators reaction to whether they are going to be responsive and have a good time. Of course if they are not all that interested, thank them for their time and move on.

What is worst then after your introduction, the guest stops you and says "no thanks"? One time I started with a small group of 3 people, 2 ladies and 1 man. I start the first phase of my ambitious card to wallet, have the card signed by the guy, and the ladies leave for the rest room. The card comes to the top the first time and the guy says "hey that's great", as another gentleman comes over and starts a conversation with this guy. At this point I'm being ignored by both guys while standing there in my "famous ambitious card, first phase pose"...for about 20 seconds...which seemed like an eternity. I then moved on to another group. Although quite rare for me, this kind of stuff can happen. You can't let it bother you, just move on and entertain.

Of course the opposite happens as well. After performing for group that is having a great time, they start to call other people over and say things like " You gotta see this guy, show him the one where the card appears in your wallet". Of course I perform something else. But at times the guest will promote you.

Another technique, is that I do try to get other people that are watching across the room involved. If I notice someone watching from afar when I'm performing for a group, I will say, "hi sir...what is your name...hi John...come on over...do you know Bill...Bill's from New York...my name is Richie B. and I was just showing Bill some small miracles". A lot of times they don't know each other and you get the guests to mingle a bit. Which I think is good for the event.

One last thing, the material you perform must be all in the hands stuff...generally no tables. Most of the guests are holding food and drinks. I do get them to hold things for me in certain routines. All this stuff must be considered when performing at cocktail parties.

Richie B.
Slappy
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Quote:
Slappy, what do you mean... "right off the street?". That sounds like a huge error on his part.


He was dressed like a chinese communist in black pajama type, loose fitting, street juggler attire.
"Help, I've got a silver ball stuck on my thumb"
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