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Tony Iacoviello
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What does “Psychic” mean to the General Public in the US?

This has throughout history been ever-changing and ambiguous with different terms used and different ideals. For this posting, I’ll stick with the period from approximately 1975 to present (my active period doing these events).

The media (radio, film, and TV) have essentially shaped the public’s perception. Prior to the 1970s, the image of a psychic was essentially that of old gypsy woman Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) from the 1941 movie, THE WOLFMAN, and the Svengali type character (as depicted by John Barrymore in the 1931 film of the same name) although cleaned up a bit.

In the 1970s, Uri Geller captured the publics attention and imagination, and psychics changed from the mesmerist Svengali and old gypsy woman image to that of the attractive, captivating person who could do amazing things.

It was in this time frame that many of the concepts used for marketing “psychic entertainment’ came to light. It was acceptable and expected for a ‘psychic” to be able to do amazing things, read minds, bend metal, and of course, tell fortunes. The magician/mentalist turned psychic fit right in.

Richard Webster refined the work on these types of events, taking “pipe dreams” published by Nelson and others, and turning them into a workable format, the Psychic Tupperware Party format.

In the late1990s, the public perception changed again. A woman named Youree Dell Harris (although she went by other names as well) became a TV sensation due to her appearance on infomercials as Miss Cleo. Talk shows seeing this interest, increased the ‘psychic” exposure on their own shows bringing on many different psychic “readers”; and the public associated “psychics’ with “readings”.

If one looks at the list of “popular” psychics, one will find that all of them are known for their readings, and that is what the public expects of them. Whether it be John Edward who does readings by contacting spirits, or any other psychic or medium. (In fact, they all refer to their sessions as “a reading”.)

During this time, “psychic readers” expanded their business of “home parties”, the general public wanted readings. They were in direct competition with the magician/mentalist offering psychic parties. The only difference was, the “psychic readers’ fit the publics perceptions and expectations, the Magician/Mentalist no longer did.

The Magician/Mentalist working as psychic entertainers either adapted and became what the public envisioned as a “psychic” or would not be hired (more than once).

Unfortunately, the manuscripts and information on this type of work did not keep pace with the times. Little, if anything, written in the past 10 years has kept pace, and most is a rewriting of what has come before, and is essentially useless for the psychic home party market. There are a few exceptions (and we all know who they are); but for the most part, what has been put out was put out by someone who does not know the business at all and is regurgitating the same now outdated information. Or it was put out by someone who worked the market before the recent changes took place.

The topic of Psychic House Parties has been discussed on the professional forums and the concensus, even by those who promoted the demonstration before readings format, that in order to work, the format should be readings. That is what the client wants and expects.

Tony Iacoviello
MentalistCreationLab
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Tony, This is a good topic and should be discussed. I may be one of the exceptions to the rule you mentioned. For me most of the connection with the attendees of the Psi party is built during the introduction portion of the evening where I perform a few simple demonstrations that use nothing no paper, pencils or other magical type of gimmicks or gaffs.

Now here is my point. Why would anyone go up to a "psychic" that they do not know at a party and not knowing if this person in fact has any "psychic" ability or "mystic" ability?

That's where the new concept bothers me, in fact its bothered me since the early 1990s when this way of thinking started to come about. As you are aware that there are two schools of thought about this subject and I am of the opposite view point or maybe the old school way of my thinking just kicks in to much.

Here is another point, While I agree in part with what you so elegantly stated, the point I would also like to make is that in the 1980s this set up portion of the evenings experiment was way too long. In fact, about double the time length it should have been. In addition, as Mark Lewis says again and again there are not a lot of venues for mentalist. Psi parties are a good way to offset this lack of venues for performers like us mental types.

If you take a look back at the time length that I know you are aware of you may start to have an new look about older type of psi parties. Think about the question above and it may influence your opinion about why the old methods still work very well.

Also, was is this new way of thinking about psi parties set as a trap?

So that the younger performers would fail by only doing readings at parties. As you well know these traps and traps like this have been set and are ready to spring into action long before you or I were born.

Some of the old timers set these plays into action once magic and mentalism started to go mainstream back in the 1950s or earlier so they could maintain there work level.

I would also like to say that these traps are still being set in many forms. So one must look at the concept objectively from both sides and decide what is right for them. What do you think?
TonyB2009
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This is interesting stuff. I have tried both ways - demonstration and readings, or readings on their own. For a house part I much rather do a demonstration first. At the moment I am talking to a promoter about doing regular nights in pubs. And I want to include the demonstration. But whether that is for me or the audience I don't know. It will be interesting to see what others think.
Mindpro
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I too find this interesting and my thoughts I'm sure won't be popular here among magicians. I think the whole "readings" perception is of our own doing. Yes, that is really what a psychic is doing for someone that seeks their services, but even that is more than the laymen sees. Simply put, the general public consults a psychic to see what the psychic sees in their future - period. They don't think about "readings" or methods, they just want to know what the "gifted" psychic can tell them about theirselves.

We tend to over complicate things. Here's where I'll lose you. They see a psychic as a special "gifted" person that has an ability or supposed ability to see the future. This is in and of itself the unique talent or ability. Who on earth would believe that just coincidentally a MAGICIAN who does "tricks" also is a psychic? They work against themselves in so many ways. If you were psychic why would you even be playing with "magic"? If you had a real ability why would you use a "pretend" ability, something that everyone knows is a trick, illusion or slight? Something that is not real. Why?

Why is psychic entertainment part of the magic arts? I understand, but to a laymen who you want to believe in what you are doing, why use methods or any kind of association with something that is fake, unreal or a trick to the general public?

This is also why I pesonally don't like it when a performer combines magic with mentalism. If you are really a mentalist why would you do linking rings, a card trick or heaven forbid a full scale illusion? For all the magic in a performance you're asking the audience to suspend their disbelief and then when you switch to mentalism they're supposed to believe you and your "abilities"are real. Talk about a confusing message that works against the performer and the views of the general public.

Tony is correct, at least in modern times, a psychic is a clairvoyant, someone who sees the future. Look at Jeanne Dixon, for generations that's what she's done, and that's why people have lined up to see her for years. Look at Sylvia Brown who sells out in Las Vegas. Just a lady in a chair, no tarot cards, palmistry, tea leaves, stones or anything, just her gifted ability. I believe that's what the majority of the public at least in America thinks. Look at all her appearances on Montel Williams, she just sits their a gives the perceptions she's getting or receiving. That's what the public see as a psychic. I also believe this is what an audience expects when they hear someone is a mentalist or psychic entertainer.

I know the very first time I went to see a psychic and she pulled out cards, stones and other "accessories" she lost me at that exact moment. I also get psychometry, but I want to know plain and simple her visions without all the nonsense delivery. After my "reading" appointment everyone was outside discussing how they had doubts about this particular psychic (and other's) ability because of the "toys" they brought out. The general consensus was that everyone expected a psychic to "get a vibe or vision, without all the other stuff. As soon as it was brought out her credibility was lost or greatly reduced for many of the people I spoke with.

Yes, there is a entire culture of new age people that the use of the different reading methods plays quite strong, but Tony addressed this as the general public, which is what I am referring to. Now this may be different as so many things are on the other side of the pond and I'm sure in other countries such as Israel and Eastern regions.

So I believe this is what's expected at a home party as well - a person telling what they see in someone's future - a future teller.
Tony Iacoviello
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Bill:

There is no conspiracy, the only real issue is the one that permeates magic and mentalism, people passing of pipe dreams and what they think “will work” as the real thing. If you go back through history, the “old” way was that of ‘private readings” and “group readings”, no trickery, this was (and still is) done by many of the top names in the industry. The use of “effects” in the environment was the attempt to capture the interest that Uri had captured.

Without doubt, the father of the modern psychic party as done by magicians/mentalists is Richard Webster. It is his structure that most all other people have copied in their manuscripts, and has been the standard format. Even Richard has come out and said, throw out everything except the readings, which is what they want.

Here is the most difficult thing you can do: Query your guests and ask them if there was something you could change in your structure, what would it be? This has been done by some of us working this venue, and almost unanimously the response has been, “spend more time with you during the reading.”

The cold hard fact is, no matter how amazing your other items may be, they cannot compare with a good reading. The reading is personal and just about the person you are with, they will recall that for the rest of their lives. To be honest, the reading is why people are there, they hear there is going to be a psychic, they have questions and they think, “What will he/she tell me?” There is a little fear mixed with anticipation coupled with curiosity.

Now I am not discounting the impact of what Ron and John call a “casual little miracle”, but even as they say, they are not needed if you are a good reader.

You ask, “Why would someone come up to a psychic they don’t know?” I say, the psychic being there is the primary reason they are there (we are talking about a psychic party, not an event where you are hired to do walk around feats and possibly some readings, or the parlor psychic themed show, there is a difference). Once you sit with the first person, everyone is curious, when that person rejoins the group, the questions fly, and if you are worth your fee, the excitement build, and keeps building as more people go through the process. They want to hear what each other were told. This is all they talk about all evening; anything else you did is essentially forgotten.

During the 70s and 80s, the format was to do a show this was thought to impress them and build credibility, what followed were 5 to 10 minute readings, or a group Q&A. The problem with that format is people are there for the readings and feel a bit cheated, in the Q&A, there is no private time, and less than 10 minutes does not seem like enough, especially when they are paying a good sum to be there. The performer thinks, I did a show and the readings, I’m happy. As it turns out, the show meant little to nothing to those wanting readings (which is now the sole reason people attend the events now). So, Richard, John, and a few others worked on and promoted the concept of a short class, teach them something psychic that they can do. This can work, but it has to be done quickly else it turns into a “lecture” and people fall asleep, plus it does take away from the time that could be spent reading.

Now here are the differences between magician/mentalists and psychics (discounting certain readers who fall into a separate category):

The magician/mentalist doing a psychic party will show up, mingle, get to know people, do some sort of pre-reading event, then do 5 to 15 minute readings for the guests.

The psychic will show up and introduce herself, be introduced, go to the room she is doing readings in and perform 30 to 60 minute readings for each of the guests.

The magician/mentalist will work this type of event a couple times a year.

The psychic will/can do several of these a week, every week of the year (until she needs a break).

Tony
Tony Iacoviello
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Mindpro:

Most readers use cards or some other oracle whether they need them or not. It provides a visual reference/focus point for both them and the clients. It tends to put "most" people more at ease to have something to look at and relate to.

Tony
Mindpro
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Oh, I understand that, but my point was I don't believe the general public does or expects that.
MentalistCreationLab
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"The psychic will show up and introduce herself, be introduced, go to the room she is doing readings in and perform 30 to 60 minute readings for each of the guests." At a psi party (laughter)

Okay, let me toss out some numbers. 30 minute reading time, let say on the low end 10 people that means the psychic is there for 5 hours. Now the last one I worked had about 25 people. The one before that closer to 50. The fact is a normal party is about 20 people and in this area less than 20 is nothing more than a cook out or dinner. Not to mention the standard length of a cocktail psi party is about 4 hours. So the psychic not going to make time for everyone is that what your trying to say.

Now apply this to a realistic number of say 15 people times 30 minutes each....Let me just say no one wants to be at a party that long to wait for a psychic or other entertainer.... Talk about why the guess wont leave.


The other thing that is most people will not show up to a Night club bar till about 11 pm and they close at 2:30 am. Just showing the time spent at a party based on the average set.And most of those are out by 1:30am....I worked in the bar biz when there was good money to be made serving drinks. Good place to study people.

Now one last think then I will shut up. People go to a party to mingle with there friends. The readings are just a bonus given to the friends of the host as a gift. Something to break up the party and add a bit of flair. Unless its a new age party then it is expected to have a shaman, mystic and or psychic.
Tony Iacoviello
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Your not doing psychic house parties, see paragraphy 6 on my 9:11 post.
Moderncelt
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Tony et al: The home party is my primary gig. Batchelorette party, the birthday, the holiday party, the graduation, the "hey I found a psychic, we'll grill while you wait your turn" party. I offer to do a 15 minute talk on pendulums, but at least 90% of the time the host just wants me to set up, and jump right into it. I've pretty much got a 10 minute palm reading down, for when I need to fit a certain amount of guests into the paid for time. If it's a smaller party of 5 or so, I can easily expand a reading to fill the time available.

That said, I agree with your assessment that the parties are not looking for an "opening act". They came to have someone tell their fortune, read their palm, cards, bones etc. So, I do that. I try to make the party as easy as possible on the host/ess, I dress nice, I arive early, I show the guests a good time, stay longer if necessary, and all I bring fits in one valise case and my signage. I always bring a few things, should I need them (i.e. Riggs Beautiful Butterfly, billets etc) but I almost never get to break them out, and I have come to realize that that is ok.

It really is a case of simpler is better. What will make you or break you is how you are able to connect to the guests, and if they feel you gave a good reading. The corporate events that I do like to have a "warm up act", but that is a whole different creature.
Natural Mystic
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Moderncelt,

How do think this concept would work for mentalism and psychic parties?

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Natural Mystic
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"You never change the existing reality by
fighting it. Instead, create a new model that
makes the old one obsolete."
-- R. Buckminster Fuller
Tony Iacoviello
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Thank you all!

There seems to be a little confusion as to what a Psychic House Party is. This is completely understandable as it is a particular type of venue and only those who have researched or worked these venues as a reader or psychic entertainer would know about them.

A “Psychic House Party” is an event normally consisting of about 6 to 10 guests (although some readers/psychic entertainers will go as low as 4 or as high as 15 or more). It is essentially an event where the host has a psychic in their home to provide short readings for her guests. There may, or may not be some sort of introductory portion of the event (lecture or demonstration). The focus of the event is readings for the guests; this is the reason for the event. These are billed along the lines of, “Spend an intimate evening with a psychic”.

This event should not be confused with performing at a party be it in a home or other where. It is a unique venue unto itself. Its sole purpose for being is for the guests to have readings.

Suggested reading on this type of venue follows:

“Home Psychic Parties for Fun and Profit” by Richard Webster (The basic guide to these events)

“Readings As Entertainment” by Richard Webster (updated new release on the topic)

Psychic Soirees (now contained in: (“The Complete Mental Writings of John Riggs Volume ONE”) by John Riggs. (Psychic Parties and small shows.)

"The Complete A-Z Home Psychic Marketing Package" by Stuart Cumberland (A guide to marketing these type of events)

Tony
Mindpro
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Since this is not something I do by I am curious, what kind (range) of money does one get for these types of events and how long do you perform. If they want to extend do you have an additional or overtime charge?
Mindpro
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Since this is not something I do by I am curious, what kind (range) of money does one get for these types of events and how long do you perform. If they want to extend do you have an additional or overtime charge? Is this profitable. I'm assuming someone pays for you to be there and the readings are free. Do you sell products - i.e. books, pendulums, premium personal readings? Just trying to get a better understanding.
Tony Iacoviello
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Pricing structure varies based on the reader, location...

I've seen people charge $25 a person, up to $200 a person (more if your a big name), I've also seen flat rates of $300 up to $1500 (the average is between $300 and $450). A reader whom I consider very poor and actually fired from a job charges $40 for a 15 minute reading, $80 for 30 minutes, and $120 for 45 minutes. This is about the average rate, I'm flexable and average $75 per person for 20 minutes, one friend of mine in another area charges $100 for the same. I will charge a flat rate ($450 for 6 people, the high end of the average rate) and if additional people are there, the cost is increased based on the per person rate.

Tony
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The parties I am usually booked for are either readings which I will use either the Tarot or a crystal ball for, sometimes both or a seance type of event or someone thinking their house is haunted, which is code for them wanting their house to be haunted. My price ranges from $250-$700 depending on how deep the pockets are. If I am hired for a party in Buckhead, the exclusive section of Atlanta, the price is usually the full 700. A college student in Athens, is usually garners the $250. I do have one standing appointment at a local country club and that is $500. As for as selling stuff, I don't. However, there was the time someone approached me after a party and, because I am from New Orleans, wanted me to sell her some red brick dust. I didn't sell it but I did go to her house with an EMF detector and told her she needed to call an electrician.
Peace

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Moderncelt
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Mindpro: I tell hosts that I have two pricing options, a flat hourly rate, or by the person. Here in Minneapolis, I've found the market bears $25 for a short reading or $125/hr. I bumped it up to 150 and my parties started dropping off. I've found it depends on if the host is paying for the whole shindig or if they are having the guests pay for their own readings.
Mindpro
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Thanks everyone for the information and details, I appreciate it. This helps me to better understand an area of the business that I'm not too familiar with. I had some initial knowledge of psychic fairs but the money isn't as good (seemingly) and a cut or flat fee went to the producer. So this helps me see the private side of this.
Stuart Cumberland
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Tony: thank you for the mention...

SC
Stuart Cumberland
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