Permission for me to share this article was kindly given to me by Bev Bergeron. It certainly shows the showmanship of some performers and how they can always seen to grab the spotlight.
BLINDFOLD DRIVE TO DALLAS
The year was 1959 and the month was September – that time of year when the Texas Association Of Magicians hold their annual Convention of over 1,000 amateur and professional magicians – meeting to view shows and exchange ideas. That year’s conclave was to be held at the Statler Hotel in Dallas, Texas. Two hundred and 50 plus miles to the south is the city of Houston where Bill Siros and Gene de Jean (McIntosh) where plotting to pull a major publicity stunt in conjunction with the convention. Bill Siros was a former carnival performer who had settled down to own and operate a successful sign business in the oil city. Gene was then in his mid-twenties and had been a student of Bill’s since his early teenage years. Now that Gene was older, his views of his talents had grown. He considered his magic ability to be equal to anyone’s in this world. Bill saw where this kind of thinking was going and often used his older knowledge and experience to maneuver Gene into funny situations, funny to others, but many times not so funny for Gene. The Dallas convention would turn into one of those times.
Bill had convinced Gene that in order to top a publicity stunt that Bill had orchestrated in 1957 by floating a lady down the streets of Houston TX, Gene would have to drive a convertible automobile, while blindfolded from Houston to Dallas. At first Gene was not buying the idea from the older pro. His thoughts, which were true: it was too far to drive with a blindfold on and the Texas heat in September was too much to be tolerated in a car with the top down. Bill admitted that was true, if it had to happen that way. The solution: After the committee taped the blindfold over Gene’s eyes and he was on his way out of town, it would be a simple move to just pull over somewhere, remove the blindfold, raise the convertibles top and turn on the air conditioning. Then the happy trip to the outskirts of Dallas where the procedure would be reversed for the short drive to a hero’s welcome outside the hotel. Gene bought it. However, it just didn’t happen that way. After the committee did the blindfolding and checked the car out as OK for the drive, the Houston police stepped in to help with the traffic control to the city-limits – there Gene was met by the Harris County Sheriff department.
And so it was, all the way to Dallas. As the car passed from one county to another, a different police department greeted them and escorted the magician on his way, thus, making it impossible for Gene to remove the mask and turn on the air-conditioning. It was hot! Gene perspired all the way using his talents to control the car and his temper to the front of the Statler Hotel. As he pulled into the driveway he breathed a sigh of relief as he thought to himself that it was a lot of trouble doing the driving, but he will bask in the reward of front page coverage and television stories of his successful drive. A smile came on his face as he could hear better than he could see with the restricted view, that the trick blindfold offered him, of the cheering crowd.
As the car pulled up in front of the hotel, photographers and television cameramen ran to positions themselves for a shot of the hero. Gene opened the car door and with a blindfold still in place, stepped from the car ready to whip back the mask to reveal his smiling face. But alas, before he could remove the cover, Bill Siros stepped up and placed his hand over the blindfold so that Gene was caught and said, “Don’t anyone attempt to awaken this man without me doing so. It would be to dangerous for him. He is under my power and could not have performed this magnificent drive if I had not hypnotized him in Houston!” The cameras ran. But all the stories and pictures were of Bill Siros hypnotizing someone and causing him to drive a car from Houston to Dallas blindfolded. Gene’s name was not even mentioned and all the pictures had his face covered with a black mask and Bill’s hand.
1998 & 1999 APCA
Campus Performer of the Year