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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Too old to perform? (3 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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phonic69
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An unfortunate incident has recently alarmed me and has prompted me to post once more on the beloved magic Café.

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

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

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

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

Thank you,

Saxon
Jonathan Townsend
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Re: but now time has taken its toll; his lines were dated, his manipulation was rusty and his impact as a magician was diminished.

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

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

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

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

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

Why don't older magicians see this?
Neale Bacon
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My feeling on seeing a lot of the older magicians I know is that they have probably forgotten more about magic than most of us know.

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

Old doesn't mean dead. I think the best suggestion was the one to tape the show, let him see it and hope he picks up that the rust may be showing a little.
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Jonathan Townsend
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Re: ... my point is ...

on another thread, about bad words...

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

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

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

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

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

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


By the way phonic69 I like the “Faithless" quote from the track "Reverence“ in your signature - "You don't need eyes to see, you need vision". I would like to add a quote for your consideration “None are so blind as those who have no eyes.” - by “BOB”.
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Peter Marucci
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Phonics 69 writes: "The problem is that he, and others of his generation, are stubborn and unwilling to change what is for them, a good act."

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

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

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

Bottom line: What the hell has age got to do with it?
Clay Shevlin
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Moonlit wrote:

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

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

Phonic69 wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

And thank you for recognising the Faithless quotation!

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

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

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

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

I think you are concerned about just one person here, really. And I think the real concern is exposure by poor performance. In that case, I would agree with you.
DJP
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Interesting topic!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your thoughts
David
Peter Marucci
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Yavid quotes the comment: "I've been in the magic business forty years and I know what I'm talking about!"

That may be true.

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

Best solution: Listen to everybody and test what they say; throw out what doesn't work for you; keep the rest.
digimaestro
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DenDowhy - you are right on.. a practical answer.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best way to improve magic as an industry and art is to improve your own act so you will astound audiences in a more emotional and stronger manner. Make your own magic better.
Magicusa
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I witnessed a magician in his 70's do his act after my twin brother and I did our act. We both look at one another.

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

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

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

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

Emmett
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