| By Simon Lovell and Ned the Lemming|
Just recently I happened to be down in New Orleans for a corporate gig celebrating the merger of Coopers and Lybrand with Price Waterhouse. Arriving the evening before I hooked up with Johnny Rock for an evening of fun, frivolity, fine Cajun food (loved that turtle soup!) and, inevitably, magic chats. One of the main topics (once we’d skipped by the nine phase Oil and Water variants) was, again inevitably, the masked mollusc and exposure of magic in general. So much has already been written on this that I kinda felt that my thoughts would be redundant but hell, a column was over due so here goes!
I feel that the problem stems well beyond the much hyped masked mollusc and can be, arguably, dumped straight into all our laps collectively. When I was a kid I really had to search out stuff. Ken Brooke’s shop had no gaudy street banner, neither did Harry Stanley’s emporium. These were hidden away places that one had to find. Even Repro Magic with a street front sign has a locked door at all times. You have to ring the bell to gain entry to its hallowed portals. As for lessons … whew … you really had to look hard. It took me ages to find and gain the confidence of guys like Fred Kaps, Fred Robinson and Eric Mason.
Yet today you see magic shops with wide open fronts willing to sell to all and sundry. Lecturers, books, videos and effects increase at what seems an alarming rate each month. It’s out there for all to see and easily bought for a few soiled dollars. Is it, then, any wonder that a TV company would think that it’s OK to produce a show of secrets?
Don’t get me wrong here – I’m not in favor of such shows. I just question why we should protest so much when so much magic is so freely available. It is, of course, a viable argument (on the surface anyway) that those who go into a magic shop and buy something are those who are genuinely interested and wish to learn while those watching the TV show get it for free (minus a cable payment of course). But, by making our beloved trade so available, are we not open to such shows? Anyone with a buck or two, thinks the TV producer, can buy magic. We have lots of bucks, he ponders on, so we can buy as much as we like! Hell, in a sudden inspirational moment he works out, this could be a cool TV show!
If magicians as a whole kept everything tighter, if we all as a group refused to cow tow to the almighty dollar, then these shows just couldn’t be made. I don’t think the TV company are at fault here – it’s the fact that magicians (the masked mollusc is not the only one) will sell out. Ergo, I think with a Kelly Bundyesque moment of speech, the problem lies with all of us.
The solution? None that I can think of. What I do believe will happen, however, is that magic will drift underground again. The real thinkers and creators will start to keep stuff to themselves and only show it to those whom they trust. Learners will have to gain respect before the ‘real work’ is taught. Magic shops will continue to sell Thumb Tips and Rocky Raccoons, TV shows will continue (thankfully with ever dropping ratings) and masked mollusc wanna-be’s will infest our world. BUT, the real cool new stuff will be hidden away and, hopefully, nobody but those who deserve it will gain easy access to it. There will arrive, I guess, two worlds of magic. The easily accessible to those who can buy it and the new stuff – that you have to earn more than a few bucks to gain. A kinda Darwinian Jump Evolutionary thing of magic if you like. It’s a melting pot at the moment but, if we all stick together I think that we can live through this and, just maybe, clear the store house and become better for it.
As a closing side line I do have to say that I don’t agree with letter writing etc. to try to stop the show. The more we protest, the more credence we give to it. If anyone asks me if I saw the shows I reply, “Sorry I was watching a movie on the other channel.” They say, “But it’s giving away your secrets!” to which I reply, “No it’s not, it’s giving away stuff that anyone can buy in a magic shop. I don’t do that stuff – wanna see some real magic?”
Anyone can buy that stuff. Let’s stop crying about it and get on with doing the cool stuff. The stuff that remains secret. Hey, and let’s keep it secret – therein lies our power as magicians. The masked mollusc is, like the Spice Girls, rapidly approaching the fourteenth minute of his fifteen minutes of fame. Soon he will be forgotten, a rubber mask left lying on a prop shelf at Fox. We’ve survived before – we will do so again.
Simon and Ned