Friday, October 02, 2009
So, two weeks ago I found myself in the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, CA awaiting my flight to Vegas, where I would then transfer flights and end up, once again, in Denver. This time, however, I was booked in Castle Rock, Colorado – a much shorter drive from Denver – where I was booked for the first time at Joe and Carol Givan’s Theatre of Dreams.
Now, I don’t know how often any of you travel, but I’m sure that if you’ve been in an airport anytime since 9/11, then there has been a chance that your carry-on bag has been opened and searched at one point or another. If not, then you’ve undoubtedly seen that occur to someone else.
I’m a professional magician. I’m that “someone else.” My carry-on is always opened and searched. And who can blame them, really? Magicians tend to carry items that are a bit out of the ordinary from the commonplace traveler. So naturally, on this most recent trip, as I pass through the metal detector waiting for my carry-on containing the bulk of my act to come through the X-ray machine, a female TSA grabs my bag and walks toward me.
“Is this your bag, sir?”
“Yes, it is.”
“I’m going to need to take a look inside.”
“That’s fine,” I reply as I retrieve my briefcase and put my shoes back on.
The scene that followed was very humorous to watch. Her back was to me, blocking my view of the actual case. She pulled out a rubber chicken and placed it aside. Next came a bag of about a dozen sponge balls, two of my “Superman” outfits that I use for the finale of my act, and a beat up looking mayonnaise jar containing a gelatinous blob in it that I use in a card trick that I call “Grandpa’s Brain.” She rooted around in the bag a little more, not bothering to remove anything else, then very carefully and precisely put all the weird curios she had just removed back into the case and closed it up. She turned back to me and handed me the bag.
“Here you go sir, thank you,” she said. “And let me say that this was, by far, the most fun baggage check I have had all year.”
The flight to Las Vegas was brief, as always. From Burbank to Las Vegas, the flight time is just over 30 minutes – 40 at the most. You literally get into the air, the flight attendants take your drink orders, and the pilot comes on the P.A. saying that they are beginning their descent into Vegas before you are served your Coke. The subsequent flight to Denver was a little longer, and uneventful, and I’m always thankful for “uneventful” flights. I fly a lot, and I’m fine with it. I enjoy looking out of the window and taking in the sights as I fly to my destination. So I’m not afraid to fly, but if I let myself dwell too much on the dynamics of it all (IE hurtling at 700 miles an hour through the air, 35,000 feet above some remote mountain range in a very heavy metal tube that has no business being up 35,000 feet in the air – and staying there for hours at a time), well…it can start to get to me.
Ted met me at the Denver airport and we drove back to his apartment. As we drove out of the terminal parking lot on the long stretch of road leading to the freeway, Ted told me to keep an eye out for a particular sculpture that greets drivers as they enter or depart the airport. No sooner had he mentioned this, when I saw the sculpture in question. A giant blue mustang with searing red eyes, rearing up on its hind legs, loomed in the distance. As we drew nearer, Ted told me the history of this piece of art. First, it seems that many Coloradoans (is that the proper term for people who live in Colorado?) are not pleased with the sculpture because at night, the red eyes glow. They can be seen from quite a distance, and it apparently makes the horse look possessed.
Secondly – and even more weirdly – the path this sculpture took to finally end up here in Denver was one fraught with turmoil. In 1993, this sculpture was commissioned by the city of Denver. The job went to a New Mexico artist by the name of Luis Jimenez who worked on it for a few years, but then abandoned the project for some reason – perhaps other more pressing projects. The airport opened in 1995 without the sculpture. According to Ted, the city took Jimenez to court when more time passed and they still didn’t have their sculpture. The city of Denver won the case, and Jimenez went back to work on the piece. One day in 2006, while working on the mustang in his studio, a piece of the unfinished sculpture fell from it’s holdings and killed Jimenez! It had to be finished by Jimenez’s sons, Adan and Orion. The sculpture was installed a little over a year ago, and now people hate it.
You can’t make this stuff up!
P.O. Box 973
Newbury Park, CA 91319
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Just before hitting Santa Barbara, one driving this route will come to a small beach town called Carpinteria (no, not the carpet store...that's Carpeteria). I have driven this way many times in the past and know the area fairly well. There is a very nice looking, and, by all appearances, well-kept Motel 6 right along the freeway. Now, I've never stayed there -- I try not to stay at Motel 6s. Not that I have anything against them; I've used them when the situation arose and it was necessary to get a quick room during a trip, but I just prefer getting a few more frills than a bed, a light bulb, and an aluminum towel rack for the money I spend.
That's why I was shocked to see the price for a room at this particular Motel 6 in Carpinteria displayed in big bold numbers: $99.00!
Really? $99.00 for a Motel 6 room?! When did that happen? And where the hell was Tom Bodett when all of this went down? Tom used to say in their commercials, "We'll leave the light on for you." Well someone has to inform him that Motel 6 has changed their slogan to "We'll leave the meter on for you."
$99.00. Crimony pete!
P.O. Box 973
Newbury Park, CA 91319
Monday, December 22, 2008
It was just her incessant whining!
It seems like every time I turned on that show as a kid, and even now, as an adult, when I try to endure an episode, I can't get past her whining and crying to Ricky. She's crying because she can't be in Ricky's show. She's whining because she can't go shopping. Shes sobbing at the outcome of that particular episode's "wacky mix-up" with that inhuman, high-pitched "Wwwhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" thing that just grates my nerves. And I don't think it was all just Lucy. I think that it was her crying coupled with the domineering and controlling nature of Ricky that really turned me off. Lucy cried and Ricky did nothing to get her to shut up! Instead he just continued to exercise that macho and suave Cuban persona that got him into trouble even OUTSIDE of the show's plot lines. I understand it was a different time then, and that it was a "man's world." This was what allowed Ricky to strut around unchecked, oozing his Cubanness in public and over the airwaves exciting American women into a frenzy causing them all to want to get a hold of his maracas. No one questioned that he was out thumping other women's bongos in real life behind Lucy's back. It was almost EXPECTED of him. Men did these things out in the open then.
And, so, because of his arrogance and her whining, I prefer to appreciate Lucy's comedy through isolated clips of her classically funny routines.
So where was I?
Oh yes! So I was at Ren-Mar Studios in Los Angeles shooting Masters of Illusion. This is a 13-week series consisting of different magicians presenting different styles of magic in each episode. The show is supposed to debut on January 5th on Fox's MyNetworkTV, and I was lucky enough to be included in the 6-day shooting schedule, as were a lot of my performing friends.
By the time my shoot day rolled around, it was Thursday of that week, and by this time the producers and crew members had had three days to understand how they wanted the whole production to roll that day. We all had our production assistants, and mine, Ryan, was very helpful in getting me whatever it was that I needed.
We all had a dress rehearsal on stage for the production crew and the director. Mine was at about noon. Because my performance clothes were in the wardrobe department being pressed and my shoes were being shined (thank you, Ryan), I walked through my 10-minute set in my street clothes. A crew member stood in for the volunteers that I would have up on the stage during the actual shoot that night in front of a live audience. I ran through the two routines I would be performing later that evening, and had the crew laughing st my antics, even though they were somewhat downplayed for the rehearsal. My big finale, when I disrobe to reveal my Superman-style outfit with the chosen card emblazoned on my chest, was reduced to me holding up the costume on a wooden hanger and announcing to the unseen director, "...And I end up wearing THIS."
The director's voiced boomed down, as if from Heaven, "That's great, Shawn. There's just one thing I'm going to ask that you do tonight."
"Because we haven't cleared the rights to your music, I'm going to ask that you don't talk over the music when it's playing tonight."
I should explain for those of you who have never seen my act. The finish to my show is a routine I call "Magicman" where I attempt to find a volunteer's selected card over and over again. My attempts to locate the card become more and more extravagant and more and more strange with each card I find. None of them are the selected card, however. Finally, music from the movie Superman begins to play and I disrobe, in the style of Superman, to reveal the correct card on my chest. It's kind of like what it would look like when Superman, himself, switched from Clark Kent into his crime-fighting alter ego if you were allowed in the phone booth while he changed. Except for the fact that Clark Kent is in a LOT better shape than I am.
From what I've heard from other performers with music who participated in the Masters shoot, NONE of our music had been cleared and all of us will have substitute pieces playing -- pieces that the production DOES have the rights to -- in the final edited version of the show. This is a fairly common practice, and it didn't bother me at all. I mean it would have been GREAT if MY music played during my segment, but a comparably dramatic piece will do. The reason I had been asked not to speak during the music was because they will have to remove the track with my music to substitute their own, and if I had been talking during that time, my voice would disappear with the music, and home viewers would see my lips moving, but nothing would be coming out. Actually not MUCH different from my EVERYDAY life, now that I think about it...
Anyway, once my rehearsal was over, I had the rest of the day to just prepare for my evening performance, write, watch some of the other rehearsals, and wander the studio. I decided to pack up some of the props that I wouldn't be needing that night and load them into my car so I would have less to clean up after my evening performance. As I walked across the studio to the lot where I parked my car, I walked by a very attractive woman who, I could tell by her provocative style of dress, was probably shooting something in the studio across from ours. She was engaged in conversation with a director or producer or manager or something, and as I got closer, we made eye contact briefly. As I passed, my mind raced to place her face. Was that Britney Spears? I walked out the front gate of the studio and made a left to walk down the street to my car. Holy Crap! There was a line of about 100 teens and young adults lined up outside the studio.
Yep, it was Brit, all right, and this group was here to be a part of her new M-TV video that they were shooting in the studio across the way.
Our audience was let into the studio at about 6:30 PM, and we all began to prepare for the shoot. We got our performance order and we went to make-up. As we drew nearer to the beginning of the evening's show, Ryan appeared and informed me that the sound department would like to talk with me. It seemed that they were trying to decide on how to wire me up with a microphone so that I could be heard during my entire routine. Remember now, I was going to be taking off my clothes during my performance, and I have one more line to say to the volunteer after I'm left standing in my "Superman" costume. It was that ONE LINE, and how to mike me for it, that was giving the sound department headaches. They could give me one mike, but if they attached it to my coat, my coat will then be shed, and I would have no mike for the final line once I was in my costume. If they attached the mike to the COSTUME, the next question was where to hide the transmitter. It couldn't be put into my jacket, because, again, the jacket will be coming off, and we don't want the transmitter just hanging there. And even then, if they attached the mike to the costume, it would have to be under my outer layer of clothing for most of my act, and that would make for unsatisfactory sound quality. We discussed various options, and I was excused while they thought about it.
I was called back to the sound department many times, and each time we all found it more and more humorous, because every time I went there, they would have a great idea, and as we discussed each idea, we would realize that it wouldn't work after all, and I would be excused again. Finally, a resolution was discovered. I would be fitted with TWO microphones. One on my outer layer of clothing, and one underneath attached to my costume. When my jacket came off, the first mike would be discarded with it and when I was standing there in my spandex outfit, the second mike would already be there ready to take over. Problem solved.
Now came the hilariously awkward process of wiring me up while standing in the spandex outfit. Thank God no one was backstage with a camera, because the last thing I need is a video popping up on YouTube showing me with my pants down around my ankles while two very muscular and beefy men shoved a transmitter encased in a makeshift pouch of Grip's tape into my red Speedo underwear and ran a small microphone wire through a popped stitch in my costume located precariously close to me bum, up my back and over my shoulder to be clipped on the collar of my spandex costume. An odd looking scene to the random passerby, to be sure.
When this particular episode airs, look for the transmitter sticking out of my butt.
Masters of Illusion was a great experience, and I was very happy to be a part of it. The entire production staff made my 12-hour day there very comfortable and all of the producers made a point of telling me how much they enjoyed my set.
Some other memorable moments that happened backstage:
+ David Williamson, one of the funniest comedy magicians out there, watching escape artist Mark Cannon onstage from the video screen backstage with a very "concerned" look on his face while Mark attempted to escape his restraints before a bed of knives plummeted down on him. Williamson stood there with his arms crossed, intently watching the screen. As soon as Mark's first hand was freed after much struggling, Williamson's expression changed to one of relief as he said, "Oh good! He's going to be all right! He'll be fine." He looked at me and said in an accusatory tone, "YOU wanted to see the spikes drop, didn't you!"
+ Magician and funny man Dave Cox walking down the ramp backstage leading from the performing area to the crew area, and, wearing patent leather shoes, slipping and going down right on his butt. I thought, witnessing the fall and heading over to see if he needed help, that he might be seriously hurt. He was fine and was able to perform his funny Evil Hypnotist Monkey routine that night.
+ Illusionist Nathan Burton's dance team being seriously fooled by a "lead choreographer with the production" (really an imposter played by an associate of David Williamson's) that wanted to go over all the girls' dance moves and disapproving of much of it.
+ Spirited conversation with my friends Jonathan Levit, Johnny Ace Palmer, and Bruce Gold, all three of them great magicians and a part of the series, during dinner before the evening show.
Great memories, lots of fun, and we got to shoot a TV show together. Is this a great job, or what?
P.O. Box 973
Newbury Park, CA 91319
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Hence, the trip to
Hence, the trip to
I met with the committee and had a very good interview. I didn’t tell many people about this whole process while it was in the works, and it was in the works for a long time. It began back in late May when the thought initially entered my mind. Was this something I wanted to do? Could I run an entire magazine? How would I balance this responsibility with the rest of my magic career? The more I thought about it the more I realized that, yes, this was something I DID want to pursue and something that I would be good at. I could make it work.
So began the whirlwind of preparation that consumed the next three months of my life. Making travel arrangements, putting together five copies of a portfolio consisting of my past writing and editing work, completing a resume, preparing for the interview, participating in a follow-up interview over the phone in August by a committee member who had not made the Louisville trip, and then, ultimately, waiting for the committee’s decision. And oh, did I wait. I waited and waited. I waited well beyond the time-frame that I had initially been told the committee would be making a decision. When I contacted someone from the committee just to check in and to see how things were progressing, I was told that they were “nearing a decision.” This delayed decision started to become a problem, as I had put a number of projects of my own on hold and didn’t commit to anything new with associates or clients. Other performers who I have worked with in the past would question me about my availability and I would have to give them vague answers and temporary commitments without really explaining why. And, if you've followed this blog, you've no doubt noticed that I haven't been posting as frequently as I have in the past.
Well, the call finally came in about three weeks ago. I was told that I had been one of the top three finalists, and was actually considered “number two” of the three, but the job went to another applicant. That applicant is a very good magician and a wonderful writer named Michael Close. He will be the official editor for M-U-M as of January 1, 2009. Since the announcement has been made, I have also heard that the SAM is cutting back on the budget of their magazine and that Michael will be going in at a disadvantage that the current editor never had to face. It will be very interesting to see how Michael handles the budget and staff cuts. As someone who almost had the position, I have to say that it was probably for the best that I DIDN’T get it after all.
So, my secret’s out. Thanks for bearing with me and putting up with the lack of posts over the past few months. If you are a fellow performer who has been trying to contact me or “pin me down” on something, I apologize. Things are back to normal now, and I intend on continuing at an even greater force than before this all began.
Friday, April 25, 2008
You see, for some reason our illustrious leader has decided to come to Hartford -- to this very airport -- and therefore, I had to beat the roadblocks. I woke up at 7:00 with the intent of taking my time to finish up some last minute packing, grab a bite to eat, return my rental car and stroll leisurely to my gate.
Then I switched on the TV.
The local news breaks in between the Today show announced that "rolling roadblocks" would be taking place after 10:30 near the airport. "Rolling roadblocks?" Holy crap! So much for the leisurely trip to the airport. You know that if they're stating 10:30 as the beginning of these roadblocks, they're actually going to be preparing for them at around 9:30, and there will be good ol' Shawn sitting in bumper to bumper traffic swearing at George Bush...more than usual.
I made it here without incident, had some breakfast at Einstein's Bagels, read a little, and now here I am sitting in the corner of my gate's boarding area. The faint sound of Drew Carey giving something away on The Price is Right lilts over from the far corner as members of some athletic team from the University of Connecticut -- mostly female, it seems -- start to fill the seats.
Still no sign of George, though...
I flew here from San Diego after a gig on a private yacht for the Toshiba company. that show went great, but I was kept so busy between the strolling close-up magic I performed during the cocktail hour and then the stage show after dinner, that by the time I finished packing up my show and eating my dinner, the cruise through the beautiful San Diego Harbor was over. Oh well. More time to go back and hit the bar at the resort we were all staying at.
HOLD ON! Was that Laura?!
No, false alarm. It wasn't Laura Bush. Besides, she'd have a mass of Secret Service guys around her, wouldn't she? The lady I saw was only carrying a Shih tzu.
From San Diego, I hopped a flight to Hartford in preparation for my appearance at the University of Hartford.
Gads, what a show that was...
You know, when members of your audience are passing around and drinking from a plastic pitcher of beer, you know it's going to be an interesting evening. I bill my stage act as "the magic & mayhem of Shawn McMaster," but I gotta tell you that they had plenty of mayhem going before I showed up on the scene. The show was wild, and though I had a really good time, it was a much different type of show than I am accustomed to presenting. I found myself constantly adjusting what it was that I was doing so as to keep the audience with me. I was successful, but I definitely earned my check, as it was a lot of work. The finale of my stage act, for those who haven't seen it, involve me taking off my clothes and ending up in a Superman-style outfit. Last night at the university show, as I turned my back to begin disrobing, the audience started chanting -- CHANTING -- "Take it off! Take it off!" They were a wild audience, and we got along splendidly.
Wait a minute, there's a crowd of people coming! I swear that's George!
Nope...my mistake. As the crowd got closer, I realized it was just a couple of special needs kids traveling with their teachers and parents. That was the closest we've come, though, since I've been here.
Well, it's about time to board so I need to finish this post. Besides, an elderly couple have just sat down beside me and the woman is slightly hard of hearing and is yelling at her husband to "speak up or speak more clearly!" It's hard to concentrate and I need to beat the University of Connecticut athletic team onto the plane.
P.O. Box 973
Newbury Park, CA 91319
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Those of you reading this who are not magicians probably aren’t aware of the growing anticipation over an upcoming new magic reality series entitled, I am not kidding you here, Celebracadabra that will be debuting just under two weeks from now on April 27th on VH-1. Since word of this series first broke, speculation within the magic community about the show has been more varied and wide-ranging than Oprah Winfrey’s dress sizes. The biggest question among magicians has been, “Will it be good for magic?” With all the various “magic exposure” shows that have hit the networks over the last decade (IE The Masked Magician), magicians have understandably become a bit gun-shy about a reality show that will be teaching magic to celebrities to be performed in a competition format. I wrote about the show in the March issue of MAGIC Magazine and at the time I wasn’t allowed to reveal who the celebrities were that would be participating. Since then VH-1 has released the names, so I think I’m pretty safe here in telling you who they are. The seven stars – a mixture of both actors and singers – include Hal Sparks, Ant, Kimberly Wyatt, C. Thomas Howell, Carnie Wilson, Chris Kid Reid, and Lisa Ann Walter. They each get paired up with a “magic coach,” a professional magician whose job it is to teach his celeb a trick or routine that fits each week’s challenge. I know most of the magician coaches in the show, but two of them are good friends of mine. Actually, to be clear, one coach and the host of the show are friends of mine.
David Regal is a very funny close-up and parlor magician with a razor sharp wit. Not only is he a well-respected performer, he is also a fantastic writer of both magic texts and television shows. He has written for shows such as Everybody Loves Raymond and The Wild Thornberrys. Watch for him.
The host of the show is one of my close friends Jonathan Levit. I have known Jonathan for a good number of years and have had the pleasure of performing with him on a number of occasions
So, the anticipation over this show was relieved a couple of weeks ago when I received an advance copy of the first episode of Celebracadabra in the mail. First, let me start by saying I HATE reality TV. HATE it! Not fond of it at all. Not a big fan. Dislike it greatly. And episode one of Celebracadabra did nothing to change that, but I will say this. I was very happy to see how the teaching and overall performance of the magic was approached. It was not just taught in a haphazard, off-the-cuff manner like in past episodes of the horrible Circus of the Stars shows. Instead, the magic was treated like the art form that it is. The celebrities were shown failing some of the tricks, and practicing harder to get them right the next time. I have heard from people close to the production, that the stars really got a sense of what it takes to be a professional magician and, in some cases, gained a new respect for the art.
As I’ve said, Celebracadabra did nothing to change my opinion of reality shows – even when said reality show’s subject matter is something near and dear to me – but it certainly wasn’t the worst one I’ve seen. Plus, I’ve only seen one show to date, and I always give a new TV show a bit of leniency for the first episode or two before I pass a final judgment on it and decide whether I will continue to tune in. The first show kept my attention and I had only a few minor problems with it. More advance episodes are on their way, so we’ll see how things progress. In the meantime, I think you might find this show interesting. Check your local listings for times in your area. Celebracadabra premiering April 27th on VH-1. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the show.
P.O. Box 973
Newbury Park, CA 91319
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
There is a point in my act where I share my real life senior portrait with my audience. It is my actual high school picture and the joke comes at a time when I am talking about the fact that I turned down getting braces on my teeth because I was afraid of not “looking good” for my senior portrait. It’s at this point when I say to the audience, “Allow me to share with you my senior picture,” and I pull out this hideous photo of me from that era. My hair was permed at the time, I’m wearing glasses that automatically turned dark with the sun, a suit that looks to be made out of powder blue cardboard with a wild patterned shirt, and – if you look really close – you can make out just the hint of what is the beginning of a cheesy moustache. The saddest part of this is I actually walked the streets looking like that at one point in my life, and now it’s one of the biggest laughs in my act. The audience never fails to respond with waves of delighted laughter, prompting me to follow-up with the line, “Thank you all for your caring and compassion, I appreciate that.” I then put the picture away, saying, "But I digress...I'm not hear to regale you with tales from the days when I looked like Napoleon Dynamite..." and continue on with my act.
With that said, I’d like to relay something that happened to me during my recent week performing at the
“Did you know who was in your audience on that last show?”
I told him I had no idea. He then said, “Jon Heder was in the audience. He’s one of my guests tonight. He saw the show and thought you were very funny. He loved the Napoleon Dynamite joke.”
“Jon was in the audience?” I repeated as a question, still not sure I was understanding him correctly.
“Yeah,” the guy says and points to his left. I lean forward to look where he’s pointing and, leaning forward about four people away looking back at me and waving, is Jon Heder. Well, I couldn’t help it. I just started laughing. I was laughing at the absurdity of it all, and at the chances of this even happening. The absurdity that I looked like this character twenty years before the film was even thought of, that the picture of me gets as big a laugh as it does, that a movie was made that features a character that looks so much like I did then, and that the lead actor who played that role would wind up in one of my audiences looking and laughing at the picture. The whole thing just seemed so surreal.
After my friend’s show ended, Jon and I talked, and I told him how funny I thought the whole thing was. He agreed and, again, complemented me on my show. A friend of his asked me if I had delivered that joke because I knew he was in the audience, and I assured them that I had no idea he was in the audience as the lights are very bright when performing in that showroom. I told them that I had been doing this joke for many years and it was not said solely on his behalf. It was, and has been said for all this time, because I truly looked like Napoleon Dynamite.
They had to agree, and, quite frankly, I’m not sure if that’s a compliment…
P.O. Box 973
Newbury Park, CA 91319