The Brotherhood by Mike Rogers
Magicians seem to be obsessed with criticism. I don’t mean having it or receiving it; I mean giving it. I mean FREELY giving it as if the world of magic would discontinue rotating if complaints were not flung far and wide, fast and free. Most recently we are seeing this barrage of criticism directed at the many magic TV specials of the past couple years. No show is immune. Both the one man special and the shows having several different performers can expect to be verbally stoned in Letters to Editors, Columns, and extensively on-line.
I’m reminded of a column I did on the GMN a few months ago relating to ethics in magic and the respect one performer shows , or does not show, for another. I alluded to the fact that in Europe you will seldom hear one entertainer take a poke at another, even if they are fierce competitors. This is especially true among the professional entertainers. Of course here in the US, in magic, all magicians are professional entertainers. Don’t they all have business cards, brochures, and photos proving such? There are no amateurs!
Many of those in magic will say I’m making too big a deal out of this. They will justify their negative comments by stating that the forum is, for the most part, a private forum not intended to be seen by the masses. Be that as it may an on- line post going to several hundred others, or a letter to the editor going to three or four thousand readers, can hardly be called private correspondence.
I’m not saying all the negative desultory annotations are not deserved, for they may well be. I do not watch magic specials on TV, nor do I attend many magic conventions, so I’m personally in no position to comment in either direction regarding the quality or entertainment value of a certain program. I do, however, read the on-line posts as well as the magic magazines and I’m fascinated at the willingness of magicians to light into fellow magicians with such vengeance. It brings to mind a clichÃ…You know, something about fruit not properly sweetened. When push comes to shove the true evaluation of a performance will be judged by those paying to see same. McDonald’s doesn’t ask Burger King to evaluate their product. They leave that to their customers.
Which brings me to this: The late Ernie Heldman hosted a weekly TV show called Parade of Magic from 1947 until the late 1950s. My friend, the late Gene DeVoe, used to delight in telling this story. It seems the local magicians found great pleasure in gathering around a TV each week to knock, poke, criticize, and generally make fun of Heldman’s performance and show. On one such occasion Gene DeVoe asked the assembled group, “Hey, what’s Ernie doing tonight?” The reply being quite simple, “He’s working.” To that Gene’s reply was, “And what are we doing?”