Billy Mccomb – William Reminisces

Columnist:
Billy McComb

William Reminisces

It was somebody like Goldin who was greatly shaken during a sally forth into the audience to have an amateur magician attract his attention. He had, up his coat, the amateur said, a large duck. He thought it would be nice for Goldin to abstract the duck and the audience would be very impressed. Goldin thought he was a nut and by-passed him. But the man was insistent. This served to remind me of how really it is not to anybody’s advantage to attempt to “help” a magician. Particularly a pro, who has got everything mapped out and jigsawed so that it flows.

NOT WORRIED! Terry Seabrooke has a Note Routine which relies greatly on the by-play with the owner of the note and the frequently voiced opinion that he might never see it again. On one occasion, he borrowed the note and asked the man if he was worried about its non-appearance. After were to follow the usual hilarities. But this night, it didn’t go that way. When Terry said, “Are you worried about your note?” the man replied, “Not really. It’s part of your fee!” And the audience were thereby deprived of the funnies which usually followed. Now he takes care not to get a committee man from the throng.

SWITCH IS SWITCH! I had a magician once give me a folding half-crown for the “Coin in the Bottle”. You would think that would be a tremendous help. Frankly, it threw me more than slightly. All the patter bits that fitted into the various movements which had been the same, night after night, along with my timing, could have been shot to hell. Strangely, and much to his surprise, I used his folding coin just as I would the ordinary borrowed coin and switched in my own folding half-crown. For a start, his method of banding mightn’t be the same as mine, I thought, and might not take the punishment mine takes in the routine. So really, he didn’t help in any degree. Also, as a magician, many of the people present may have known him and though I had parked the coin as a special one with him for use in the trick.

RINGING THE CHANGES On another night, a magician in one of the nightclubs presented me with his Himber Ring when I was starting out my Himber Ring routine. I’m used to my own ring and I know where it opens and also how easily and how much snap is required to close it. So, again, I just used his ring as an ordinary ring and switched it for my Himber Ring. He probably didn’t even know I had switched it and thought he had provided me with a ready-made miracle. For a few moments at the start of the routine, he actually had me thinking like mad and when you do things till they are second nature, it can be a bit throwing.

“I’VE HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE” It’s all rather like doing several shows a night. Sometimes you get the frightening feeling that you have said the same thing a second time. I’ve seen comics actually in this predicament, though, as a magician, you have the flow of the trick to help. After all, you can’t be holding a rice bowl filled with water and not know that you have already produced the rice. A poor comic doesn’t have this guide. If you are performing in the same place where there are two “houses”, it’s quite often a fair thing if you have a good, solid change in the act, if only to help you out of having this very feeling.

HAZARDS! And HOSTESSES Over the years that I have worked nightclubs, I have about 10 acts wherein each trick has been done at least a hundred times. One appearance in a nightclub, I changed every night because business was poor and I wanted to keep on the right side of the hostesses so that I had the attention of what few customers there were. If a hostess keeps seeing the same stuff, night after night, it is only common sense that, sooner or later, she will start talking to the customer she is with out of pure boredom…and you lose his attention.

Another hazard is when the hostesses clip how the tricks are worked. They have their eye on the main chance. They are there to see the customer drinks a storm and has a happy evening. Conversation must be bright and often, these girls act as semi-psychiatrists. Many of the customers come in after a hard day negotiating big deals and they want somebody who will say, “How clever you were” and “Did you really say that to the boss”. Lots have wives who couldn’t care less so long as they can holiday with the kids in Majorca every year…so you have a mild psycho case on your hands. This is no kidding, I’ve seen it happen. Or maybe a deal falls through and the boss has to be faced tomorrow, so the lad goes out on the town to forget till the fateful meeting next day. Often you can occupy their minds with a few close up tricks if the girl finds it’s heavy going, and I’ve had customers come in again and ask me to join them, just to say, “Thanks…I was a bit in the dumps last time I came in”.

WILLIAM THE PALMIST! I remember one guy with two women who asked me to come to his table and do a bit of pseudo-palmistry for one of his companions whose boyfriend had been carted off to jail that morning. She was downright fed up and he thought a bit of the old “I see a bright future in front of you” stuff would gee her up. She finished up being the life and soul of the party and everything ended pretty happily. One isn’t too happy with this sort of procedure but, If more people bent over a bit to make others happy, the world could indeed be a pleasanter place. I like people and, as such, you can get terribly involved.

APPEARING DOVES-and VANISHING LOOPS! But, back to the girls catching the magi’s tricks. One magician did the Channing Pollock-type dove act. The girl noticed that, as the wire-loops vanished in the front of his coat, the doves appeared. Being no dozer, all was revealed. So, she had great fun pointing this fact out to her customers who would watch this phenomenon nightly, greatly intrigued…the more so since the lad was a good magician and you just couldn’t see the birds being loaded into the hanks…just the wires vanished!!! That’s a trouble in many show where you just have to accept the set lighting they have for their cabaret presentations.

With any luck, you will never ever work a nightclub…try and keep it that way. You’ll be the saner for it.