INTERVIEW: SIMON LOVELL Exclusively for: GeMiNi: The Greater Magic Network
By: Mark Stevens 07/04/96
I found the character of Simon Lovell to have much in common with the date I interviewed him – July 4th. Although Simon is a Brit, he shares similarities with the Fourth of July festivities, most notably as a firecracker. Like a cherry bomb Simon can be loud, abrasive, shocking, demanding of your attention and he always goes out with a bang.
We met at the Farmington Marriot about 20 minutes away from Hartford, Ct. The setting was classic for Simon, a dark, ominous and cool place with a cave-like atmosphere. Not more than 15 feet away was a bar along with a barkeep that made the rounds for us.
Simon ordered a draw of beer, and a pack of Marlboro Lights 100’s as I unraveled my legal pad, and searched for an adequate writing utensil. I began to feel those minor “discomforts” that accompany interviewing someone you’re meeting for the first time.
The interview consisted of two meetings on two consecutive days. At the very least you will find Simon Lovell a man of convictions. Simon Lovell is a man of little compromise and strong convictions. Simon Lovell will polarize you into one of two extreme’s — you will either like him a lot or not at all. Simon wouldn’t have it any other way.
MS: Well, I tried to think of a different way to ask this question, but ultimately decided to take the unoriginal and shortest route – How did you become involved in the art of magic?
SL: Once I went into Ken’s shop (Ken Brooke), and all of a sudden to our surprise he took ill and fainted. I dialed emergency services and shortly thereafter he came to. As the paramedics wheeled him out, he looked at me and John Fredko and told us to take over the shop …
It didn’t quite hit us at first, our thoughts being focused on Ken’s well-being, but after we found out he was OK, we realized we were “it.” There we were in charge of one of the greatest magic stores ever — even if it was only for a few hours. That had a profound, positive effect on my furthered interest in magic ….
MS: Yes that would be an amazing experience. Is there any one person who got you interested in magic in the begining?
SL: Actually, the person who really was responsible for my interest in magic was my Grandfather – and the funny thing was – he wasn’t a magician at all?
MS: What? Then how does a non-magician get someone interested in magic? Isn’t that impossible?
SL: Not at all — he was a master gambler. He taught me double-lifts and many other card-sleights and even though it is not considered magic it’s in the same genre, or it is a sibling of the art of magic.
MS: Do you have a preference for a particular style or category of magic?
SL: I prefer comedy and close-up – In fact I have worked the comedy circuit for years – that is a real challenge, try integrating magic and comedy for 1 hour… not easy…
MS: How does comedy and magic differ compared to England?
SL: The first thing that comes to mind is the “TIMING” is completely different. I remember one of my first “gigs” in the US was a comedy show, and I said to myself “no problem,” I’ll do my act. Very quickly I realized the lines that usually produced hysteria and laughter were doing nothing. The timing was way off.
Another difference is the venue where magicians go to practice, perform and polish their skills. They had clubs in England, in the US they don’t have as many.
MS: Any other differences you can share?
SL: Magic in England tends to be more conservative, not so much flashes, 20 dancers, lights, fog and theatrical effects — just pure and natural.
But, magic is better responded to here in America…
MS: What advice do you have for magicians working to improve their art?
SL: Put everything you do into it. Every effect, every routine, every detail has to be 100 percent effort. If you do less your cheating both yourself and the audience.
I notice a lot of magicians’ style and mannerisms to be too technical, method-oriented instead of creative and risky magic is an “art” damn it! Not a routine! True “magic” happens in your head, or the spectators’ head. Magic doesn’t happen in your hands, or in their sleeve — it happens in the head.
“Magic isn’t a Fred Kaps wallet, it’s “Holy shit, how did the card get into his wallet?
MS: What is the most common mistake magicians make?
SL: Magicians worry about “How do I do it?” Instead of “Why” do I do it? There in lies one of the biggest problems — there has to be a reason. Magic intrinsically is an illogical thing, but you can do it at least in a logical way.
MS: What’s more important to you — an audience remembering you or the tricks you perform?
SL: I would rather them remember me than the tricks I perform. It’s essential to create uniqueness about yourself – separate yourself from the masses.
MS: Let’s continue on with being unique, how do you separate yourself from other working magicians, in say — your fee?
SL: Recently I saw a discussion on a magic network about “pricing & charging.” One man suggested calling all the other performers in your area and “asking” them what they charge and then discount your cost $5 – $10 lower.
No, No, No! Magic is an “art form” not a “green light special!” It is not a guy selling ice cream.
MS: Many would agree with you but what if, hypothetically, a man calls you and says he can book a magician in the area for $40 – $60 less than your charge. What would you say to that man?
SL: I would say – Go ahead book that discount magician and take the money you saved and buy some extra booze, cause your going to need it to cover up your pain when you find out how bad the guy is …
Again, I say it over and over – “Keep the professionalism in magic.”
MS: What if any drawbacks do you see with the modern magic scene compared to when you were starting in the art?
SL: Magic clubs and to some extent technology has hurt magic by making it’s precious knowledge and sought-after magicians too easily available.
MS: I’m sorry, what do you mean?
SL: In the old days you would hear about a great magician over and over and this allowed you to build up respect and desire for that performer. Then it took another two years to track down a magician who was respected and another six months to prove to him you were good enough to have him show you a few effects.
Today, a kid can purchase a book/video for $30 and it’s all there — too easy! No sweat, no blood. This is one way the “I want it now” era has hurt magic.
MS: You have brought up a very interesting point … and a good argument. Maybe we can pit you against another columnist and have you debate the benefits and detriments of technology and magic. For now, next question.
MS: We have several aspiring magicians and hobbyist who come into our store and ask only for effects that are “self-working.” What are your thoughts on this?
SL: There should be no such word in magic. There is no such thing as a self-working effect. The mechanisms may be self-working but the effect isn’t.
MS: Well these hobbyists purchase the effect, read it and perform it exactly how it is written and claim to be masters of “misdirection.”
SL: OUCH! Another “BAD” word! Misdirection is a bad word, in that twilight zone episode it would of been sent out into the corn field – Your a “BAD” word.
The word should be “Direction!” Not misdirection..
MS: Please help me out here — what do you mean?
SL: You don’t want them to look away by misdirection, you want them to look into the “right” place by “direction.” Good magicians “direct” their audience to where they want them or their “eyes” to be.
MS: Who are some magicians you respect who exercise this (“direction”) practice in Magic?
SL: Eugene Burger is great at it, Tom Mullica, and Bruce Cervon as well.
SL: Allow me to tell you another story about the “casualty” of using misdirection.
MS: Please do I find it refreshingly interesting.
SL: In fact this is the first experience I had regarding the incorrect method of “misdirection.” When I was a young boy my father and I happened upon a street magician performing for the people. He did several effects and when his show finished we all clapped, as we walked away I ask my dad, “What was your favorite effect Dad?” He replied, I like the one where the guy pulled the doves from his coat!”
I learned about direction from my father. He was a gruff detective who was mentally trained to look at things differently. But it didn’t take a trained eye to spot the fact the guy was pulling the doves from his coat instead of out of “thin-air” as he was hoping you’d believe.
MS: What else can you share with magicians on the rise.
SL: Goal-Setting. Goal-Setting is very important. Practice – Take time, find the time to practice Performance – realize the importance of it and give 100 percent
MS: I have heard that you have another love in writing?
SL: Very much, I enjoy writing and in fact a large reason I came to the US was for new challenges. I had set goals in England and accomplished them so the US was the next challenge for me.
MS: Are you accomplishing all the goals you wanted to do here?
SL: Some, and others are still “works in progress.” (mutual laughs)
MS: Getting back to advice: You have often said feeling the magic is more important than seeing the magic. Explain …
SL: You reminded me of “Deter” right there, that skit from older Saturday Night Live re-runs with the German character – ” I am Deter.” “Now is the time we Dance on Sprockets.” (mutual laughs) .
Okay, basically I can cry for both bad magic and good magic — but I much prefer crying for good magic instead. What I mean is it pains me to cry for bad magic. Some people are just technicians, there is no creativity. Don’t get me wrong, being technically proficient is a major advantage and accomplishment but it’s not the whole it’s still (as powerful and hard as it is to accomplish), just a part.
For instance, some of the best magic technicians are Fred Robinson, and Jon Racherbaumer, but they also have mastery over the creative side, knowing “where” the magic is happening and implying “direction” not misdirection to the effect. Still, in a purely aesthetic aspect they are master technicians.
MS: Well, that can’t be a bad thing can it?
SL: Absolutely not, if you incorporate something else called “style.” Believe it or not some technicians don’t incorporate style. Possibly because they are not in tune to its significance. Sadly this will always handicap and prevent them from being able to go onward …
MS: You mentioned Jon Racherbaumer, he is also a major contributor to GeMiNi, tell us how you met.
SL: Whoa! Are you sure you want to know?
MS: Well I’m in it now, don’t want to lose face and back out.
SL: When I was waiting to meet Rachrbaumer I remember thinking to myself, “great this is going to be an hour or two wasted.” Several people had mentioned we should meet and partly out of a desire to be done with it combined with a sincere respect for him, I agreed. But as I was waiting I was having my doubts, not about meeting Jon, but having to meet anyone as opposed to having free time I could enjoy at the bar instead.
MS: So what happened?
SL: Well after waiting a while at a booth, I noticed a stout man approaching me with massive facial hair carrying a brown paper bag. “Oh my God” I thought, here it is, I have insulted one person to many, a religious fanatic possibly going to drop a damn bomb on my lap and kill himself in the process as I had that feeling that he was coming for me.
This large figure approached my table cast his shadow onto me and just as I feared he did indeed drop the contents and the brown bag right on my booth table. Half-frightened and half-puzzled I opened the top of the bag to see the contents contained a cool six-pack of beer immediately followed by an extended hand and the following statement, “My name is Jon Racherbaumer and a lot of people say we should meet!” “How ’bout we go to the bar downstairs?”
Well, many hours and several watering holes later, we walked away realizing we had a lot of common interest in and out of magic and our friendship remains to this day.
MS: I would like to hear more about this encounter as well as other questions, but will save that for tomorrow and part two of this interview. I hear you enjoy darts? Would you like to accept a friendly challenge.
SL: I’ll accept but I don’t know if I’ll be friendly or not …