Friday, July 27, 2007
Grab your suntan lotion, umbrella, beach chair and sunglasses; in just a few days, I'll be taking my first vacation in five years! My wife, Betty, surprised us all by renting a beach house in Monterey Dunes in Northern California. We did this about five years ago (the last vacation I took), and it was a great time. The house is right on the beach, so all we have to do is walk out the back door and we are there! All my kids will be going, and we'll probably take a side trip over to Santa Cruz and cruise the Boardwalk. It will be great just sitting on the beach with nothing to do but relax. No cell phones, no laptop; nothing but the ocean waves to soothe me.
The beach house
The view from the deck
Thanks for all the emails about last week's blog about Magic Heroes. It was great to read many of your letters and stories shared.
A scene from the 1st Annual Hocus Pocus Swap Meet & Get-Together
Mark your calendars! We've set a date for the 2nd Annual Hocus Pocus Magic Swap Meet & Get-Together, and we've already begun booking the talent. I don't want to give away too much, but if this year's numbers from the first one were any indication, this one will blow that one away! We got so many positive and exciting comments about the last one that we can't wait to host the next one. Even though it may seem early to you, mark your calendars for Saturday, January 19th, 2008. More details will follow but one thing's for sure: SECURE THE DATE!
So next week, there will be no blog but it will resume the week after. Hope you all enjoy your weekend.
Until next time,
Friday, July 20, 2007
We all have them. That certain person or persons that inspired us to take up the art of magic. As a kid growing up in Fresno, we had no magic shop, the library had no magic books, so consequently, I knew nothing about magic. Until one special day. It was a Saturday afternoon and my mother called me in to watch a TV show called the Magic Land of Alakazam! At 6 years old, I had never seen anything like this before, and I was instantly hooked! The show was hosted by a gentleman we all know as Mark Wilson and his lovely wife and assistant, Nani Darnell. Even the advertisements for that show were exciting to watch. After my first viewing, I remember asking my mother how to learn how to be a magician. She had no idea, and so we began to search out our local area for anything magic-related. Nothing came up, unfortunately.
The next Saturday, however, I was glued to the TV set again as the next episode of the Magic Land of Alakazam aired. This became my standard Saturday routine regardless of what I was doing or where I was; I immediately went home to tune it in. As I began sending away for magic catalogs, I would pour through them at the end of each episode hoping to find those exact tricks Mark and Nani had just performed. I was able to purchase some of the magic tricks by mowing lawns and delivering newspapers in my area. We all have heroes, mentors, or those we look up to. It is rare when you actually get to meet them in person. Even rarer is it when you get to call them your friend. I can't even begin to imagine the thousands of magicians that were first inspired by them as I was.
Just the other day, Mark called me on the phone just to see how things were going and to tell me one of his funny jokes. If somebody were to have told me when I was a kid watching his TV show that Mark and Nani Wilson would be in my life as they are now, I would have absolutely died and gone to magic heaven. I'm sure that as many of you read this, you are inspired by the Wilsons as well. They are responsible for all the magic you see on TV to this day! Mark and Nani were pioneers of the art, bringing it to the public's attention and helping to garner the respect it deserves.
Whether it was one of their several TV shows, technical advisors to TV and movies, amusement park shows, trade shows, theaters, and even helping to bring the Chinese Acrobats to America, their enthusiasm for magic has never, ever wained.
In January, when Hocus Pocus hosted its first Swap Meet & Get-Together, Mark and Nani were our honored guests. They spent their entire day signing autographs, taking pictures, lecturing, and answering questions about all their many projects. It's easy for me to say that, had it not been for Mark and Nani, I may have never gotten into magic at all. I can't thank Mark and Nani enough for what they've done for me and the art of magic. Their friendship is one that I treasure and still find it hard to believe possible to this day.
Mark and Nani Wilson are and will forever be my magical heroes.
Until next time,
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thanks to Mike for taking over last week's blog. It was very entertaining to read, and I'm sure many of you can identify with those gigs that don't quite pan out as expected.
1969 was a good year. 400,000 people attended Woodstock, Richard Nixon was in the White House, Jethro Tull played on the radio, Apollo 11 was up and running, I was only 14 years old, and gas was only 26 cents per gallon! Oh, and the 1969 Chevy Nova was created, and everything was groovy.
As I had mentioned weeks before, Max was getting his new 1969 Chevy Nova looked at by our mechanic. After a full day at the shop, the thumbs up were given and I guess I don't have to tell you that Max is now the proud owner. Last Friday, I took the day off and Max and I polished up the chrome rims and began detailing projects on the car. I have to say, this car has a lot of get up and go. We drove it around for several hours and had a great time. I want to say I'm very proud of Max as he has saved his own money over the past several years and purchased the car himself without any help from Mom and Dad. He still has quite a bit of money saved up and will continue to customize and accessorize his car. He's continually online finding parts and pieces to add to the car. Then he gets Betty to place the order for him. Every day, he waits for the UPS truck to arrive. He even came in with Betty to work the whole day at Hocus Pocus to earn some extra money and wait for UPS again. It will be another 9 months until he is legally able to drive, and he hopes to have a lot of the work completed before then.
The last couple of weeks, we've had many visitors here at Hocus Pocus, some of whom were either on their way to or coming back from the recent IBM Convention in Reno. We always enjoy visits from fellow magicians, especially those who haven't visited our new location yet. The longest trek was made by our good friend, Chris Kenworthy, all the way from Maryland. Believe it or not, Chris arrived Monday afternoon of this week at about 3:15 PM and left Tuesday at 11:30 AM! Now that's what I call dedication and loyalty. It's always great to see Chris, and I only wish his visit would have been longer.
Monday night, we hosted Japan's Fukai, who did an outstanding lecture. We had a great turnout of over 50 people, some of whom came from as far away as Los Angeles and Sacramento! All those in attendance had a great time. One of the more popular items was Fukai's Funny Flying Flower, which we were fortunate enough to pry a few of them away from Fukai while he was here the next day. Because each one is handmade by Fukai personally, when we sell out, we'll have no more. If you are interested, check it out on the web site and order one now before it's too late.
Yesterday was my daughter Renee's 24th birthday. Boy, where has the time gone? Tonight, we're all going out to dinner and then back home for cake and ice cream for everyone but me. I have now lost a total of 205 pounds so that makes it easier to pass on the cake and ice cream...
The weather here has been slightly unbearable starting the Fourth of July. Starting at 105 degrees and working its way up since, we've finally seen a little bit of a break. Today is a very bearable 92 degrees and the next month will most definitely be the worst of the year. August in Central California is akin to weather on Venus, it feels like.
This weekend, we're hoping to catch the new Harry Potter movie, and I'm sure Max will want to take another drive in the car. Most of all, we'll all just try to stay cool. To bad we can't get gasoline for 26 cents per gallon...
Until next time,
Friday, July 06, 2007
Summer has officially arrived!
Hi, everyone. Mike Giusti here, hijacking the blog while Paul takes some time off to be with his family. He promises to return next week with details of Max's car and his Fourth of July experience. Let's just say that Max is very, VERY happy.
As for me, this Summer has proven to be more than I can handle. At least so far. I'm looking at the temperature right now, and it's already 100 degrees well before noon! Allow me to explain when I say this Summer is proving to be more difficult than I anticipated: The Fourth of July had me performing two different gigs in the late afternoon and late evening. The first gig was a Fourth of July Celebration performing magic and comedy and the other, a Fourth of July party involving playing music.
Same place, two years ago and 10 degrees cooler!
Now, the third of July was a nice 98 degrees. It was bearable. Performing outdoors that day would have been uncomfortable, but do-able. As fate would have it (or God has a sick sense of humor), the next day, it jumped a whole 10 degrees to a searing 108! Very uncomfortable and incredibly difficult to perform outdoors. Since it was at one of Fresno's most prestigious country clubs, dressing your best is expected, and I will be truthful: I was dreading the time that I had to start my set. Not because I don't like performing, I just don't like performing outdoors in this kind of unfortunate weather. But, I put on a positive mind-set, set up in the heat a couple of hours beforehand, and when I was finished, I knew that the actual gig would be difficult; my shorts and short-sleeve shirt were soaked with sweat and I had to abandon a couple of the effects I was planning for different ones. This meant I had to drive back home and get the props and myself ready. Since the closer I had planned would not work in the heat and wind, I had to abandon it for something far more challenging, especially in the heat: the strait jacket escape. It never fails to get laughs. "I can do this," I thought to myself, "Just forge ahead and not pay attention to the heat." Can you see where this is going?
The gig starts. It's hotter than Hades, and the turnout is less than expected because of the heat. People's attitudes are much less tolerant because of the heat. Performing and coming up with frantic energy (which is what my act revolves around) is proving to be incredibly challenging; the heat zaps everyone's will and energy, BUT the show must go on! Throughout the act, I am sweating so profusely, my eyes are stinging as the sweat drips into them. My nose looks like a faucet as the sweat drips off of it like a broken spigot. My voice is going fast as the heat takes every drop of moisture from the back of my throat, despite the quick swigs of water and iced tea I take in-between tricks. The lines, gags, and bits of business flow from me much like the liquid which is being sucked out of my body. But there are barely any hints of laughter or hands being raised for volunteers because no one has any energy left.
Finally, after what feels like an eternity, the end is near, and the strait jacket must be donned to end the show. What was I thinking? I get the burliest guy I can find with the words, "Hammer Strength" on the front of his sweat-soaked shirt, and he goes to work strapping me in. And strap me in he does. The heat must have really ticked him off, because I can't remember the last time I was strapped in so tight. Plus, I was soaked with sweat inside the jacket so movement was limited. Forget about grabbing all the props I had lined in one of the sleeves of the jacket; the only thing I was able to procure was a fake hand after my right arm was almost locked in place while trying to escape. The fake hand drops out from the collar, and no one laughs, despite the look of false horror on my face. I look out into the crowd and people have begun to leave the show to take refuge underneath their umbrellas and watch the show from 100 feet or more away. Finally, I slam the jacket onto the ground to smatterings of applause, thank everyone for coming out, and end the show.
Almost immediately, I begin to feel dizzy and nauseated. Plus, my stomach is looking to quickly evacuate the charred hamburger I ate an hour before the show began. I sit down behind my table and breathe deeply. My girlfriend, Julie, immediately taking pity on me, rushes to my aid with iced tea and water, and like a real trooper, sees my utter exhaustion and begins to pack up my things for me while I am flooded with kids and adults, all telling me what a great show it was! Huh? Where were all these reactions while the show was going on? What planet was I on? What dimension-altering drug did I accidentally ingest before the show started?
I do have to say, throughout all this, the country club staff and entertainment director are incredibly friendly, professional, helpful, courteous, and completely understanding. They knew and understood the conditions were very uncomfortable, and they thanked me profusely for coming back this year.
Oh, but wait! I can't relax yet; I have to go back home, unpack the car and get my music gear packed and ready for the other outside show! At least, I think to myself, I won't have to be in the spotlight this time because it will be shared with three other people. At least a little pressure is off. But that's the only relief for me.
With my appropriately-named band, Train Wreck!
Julie, insistent upon going with me (although I can't imagine why; she's been with me in the heat all day), and I arrive at the party where a plethora of fireworks is going off, and there are plenty of people watching and having a good time. Perfect. This gives me time to sneak by and set up on the stage. I hear all the oohs and ahhs and anticipate a great show. Although near dark, it is still 102 degrees outside, but at least the sun is down and hopefully, there will be some relief in sight. I strap on my 20 lb. custom Alembic Series 1 bass (not pictured, by the way -- that's my Musicman Stingray bass which has a great sound but not nearly as nice and full as the Alembic), and my back cries out in agony. After twisting and turning and running around in the heat, my body is rapidly shutting down without my consent. I'm hoping this gig goes by quickly, but I realize that I still have an hour and a half of playing and singing left to go on the Fourth of July.
The fireworks are finished, and the people file in to have a seat and enjoy the music. All three of them! Everyone else has decided to leave immediately after the fireworks as the heat is much more than anyone is used to. I can't say I blame them; all I want to do myself is go home to my air-conditioned house and turn it down to 30 degrees! The music begins and we do a couple of sets with a break in between to cool off and drink something. We talk to our three biggest fans for a while and finally pack up and go home at around 12:30 AM.
Oh well, they can't all be great...
As I finish writing the blog today nearing 12:30 PM, it is already 105 degrees with no relief in sight. The thought of staying indoors and relaxing next Fourth of July sounds more and more appealing the more I think about it. On a serious note, Paul and I both hope you all had a much happier and fun-filled Fourth of July, and again, Paul will be back next week with another installment of "From the Desk of Paul Gross."
Until then, stay cool.