The Better Half or Second Best? By Andie Colombini
In many relationships, whether husband-wife, girlfriend-boyfriend or any other combination, the couple works together. Usually, in the situation of perhaps a small store or retail establishment, the couple works hand in hand, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and each using their respective strengths in the areas they find most comfortable. But usually, in these cases, both partners find some recognition and ego fulfillment in the job. In the above case, perhaps they both deal with the public, befriending their customers and helping them to find something they would like to buy, be it salami, a new coat or a computer. Sometimes working with a significant other means traveling together. If a couple publishes a magazine, it could mean covering a story together. If the couple manufactures dresses, it could mean going to Europe to see the latest fashions. Usually, in these cases, there is, especially if the relationship is going to work, a somewhat equal sharing of responsibilities and an equal amount of acclaim (both names on the by- line, both names on the label.)
In the magic business this is often a very different story. Traditionally, most magicians are men. I’m not making any judgments, this is just what I see. Now, I have not been in the magic business for a very long time nor have I studied historic magical trends, but it seems to me that the portrayal of early magicians was in a otherworldly or spirit world manner using satanic images in the publicity posters and I don’t think this was a nice place to find a lady. So what part did the female half of the couple end up with? You got it! The ‘assistant.’
Sometimes a traveling and performing magician hires dancers, or assistants, in each city as he does not have a regular partner. Maybe his wife / girlfriend isn’t interested in magic or has a career of her own. Maybe the size requirements of someone who must fit into boxes or the ability requirements of a professional dancer do not fit his life partner. But many times this helper/assistant/partner is the wife and this often times requires travel. Traveling with a magician husband can be exciting and rewarding at best and ego crushing at the worst. (Or perhaps there are even worse things, but let’s not go in that direction.) In this business, as in many of the performing are, the magician is the star and also, again as with many other performing areas, this star usually has a larger-than-average ego. This usually means that he craves the spotlight, the attention, the adulation. This can be really difficult for the hard working, sometimes equally contributing, other half of the partnership.
With Aldo and me it usually is not a problem. I am a business woman foremost. I love magic and have learned a lot, enough so that I can actually demonstrate many of our products at conventions in our dealer booth. But my real strength lies in the marketing of products, the editing of manuscripts, the photography for the books, the booking and arranging of tours, etc. In other words, the nitty gritty of the business, but not on the stage. When Aldo is performing somewhere I stay backstage to hand him props, to give him my impression of the audience’s reaction to his jokes and performance and to more or less just lend him moral support. He loves when I am there and I love to be there. No problem. But for many wives/girlfriends, they are onstage along with their magician partner, working probably as hard if not harder, and often their names do not even appear on the program. If you are a woman and a performer, this can be devastating and may put an enormous strain on the relationship.
I have met many successful husband/wife partners who perform together on stage. A few that come to mind at the moment are Pam and Johnny Thompson, Nicholas Night and Kinga and Goldfinger and Dove. I noticed that in these partnerships the wife has billing along with her magician husband. Could this be why the marriages, as well as the acts, survive? just an observation. But whether you are a partner onstage or a partner in the business, each partner needs public recognition at some level to feel that their efforts are validated. It’s not always enough for the husband to say to his friends and colleagues, “I owe it all to my wife and partner.” If the wife/partner is equal to the business or act, it is fair that her name appears somewhere in the publicity of the act. Of course this is not always the case.
From time to time I have understood this frustration. While I’m not on stage and do not have the need to share the spotlight in the performing/lecturing realm, I do like when my name appears on our products and catalogues. I am a 50/50 partner in our company, Mamma Mia Magic and, business-wise, do at least 50% of the work. While Aldo creates the magic, writes the manuscripts, packs orders and makes many of the tricks (along with performing, of course,) I edit the manuscripts, take the photographs, pay the bills, keep the books, pack orders as well, take the phone calls, book the tours, work the dealer booth, etc., etc., etc. Quite a while ago we realized that not everyone knew that Mamma Mia Magic was associated with Aldo Colombini and his magic. So, as a marketing strategy, we decided to put Aldo Colombini’s Mamma Mia Magic’ on many of our products and advertising. In the beginning it was a great idea to let magicians around the world know that when they see the ‘Mamma Mia Magic” company name, that it is predominantly Aldo’s magic. It was important, and still is, that the name Colombini and Mamma Mia Magic are connected. But from time to time I need people to know that it’s Andie and Aldo Colombini’s Mamma Mia Magic, or The Colombini’s Mamma Mia Magic. I own half the company, I work alongside my husband in everything we do (except performing) and I want some public recognition of my contribution.
Now, Im not complaining. Most people know I am half of Mamma Mia Magic. Aldo is not the kind of partner that needs 100 percent of the attention all the time. He always publicly acknowledges our complete partnership and he has plenty of his own time in the spotlight when he is onstage both performing and lecturing. But being the female half of a magician team can be hard sometimes. Especially if the male magician half needs so much attention from his fans that he cannot share it with his partner/assistant. Sharing the spotlight is no different from anything else a couple shares. We all hopefully find a good balance in our partnerships, both in business and personally, or these partnerships will not survive. Each relationship is different; we all have different needs. But traveling and working with a magician husband can be challenging as well as rewarding. I happen to be of the feminist persuasion and, while I understand that the integrity of the act needs to be preserved, the assistant (wife or girlfriend) should be acknowledged on the bill. I’m lucky. I married the warmest and most loving guy in the world. But its Andie and Aldo Colombini’s Mamma Mia Magic.