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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The February 2009 entrée: Bob Sheets » » Bob Sheet, my first best job, and beyond... » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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steve spill
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I was twenty one years old when I started working as a magic bartender at the Jolly Jester saloon, owned by Bob Sheets, the hilarious comedy magician with a round face, thick neck, twinkly eyes, big moustache, and a gap-toothed smile, then known as the Jolly Jester... hence the bar’s name. He’s the kind of guy who says nice things about you behind your back.

In 1974 or 75, Bob had been hired as a bartender just outside Aspen, in Snowmass, at country-pop singer John Denver’s Tower Restaurant. Sheets quickly became a successful local legend behind the bar, mixing drinks and merriment with his comedy and magic. So much so, that the following winter, a patron sponsored Bob, and he opened his own bar in Aspen.

Bob trained me as a bartender and taught me how to use magic to sell more cocktails. “The more you drink, the better the tricks look.” One strategy, never perform a trick until all the drinks are half full. That way, when the trick is over, everyone’s ready for a new round. Patrons were unconsciously trained… now it’s time to watch a trick, now it’s time to buy a drink… Pavlov would have loved it. “Don’t applaud, keep on drinking.”

Bob was, and is, also an amazing street magician, his street show featured his jaw dropping rendition of the classic Cups & Balls. In the early days, Bob stood in front of the Jester and performed his street act. Instead of passing the hat, he Pied Pipered folks into the bar. Once inside, Bob introduced me. I sold drinks and did tricks, while Bob went outside and gathered another group. In an hour, a big crowd pressed around the bar and overflowed to the tables. We switched off doing tricks and selling drinks.

Sheets had a unique introduction service. A guy threw a ten on the bar and said to Bob “I’d like to meet that blond with the big smile on the other side of the bar.” Apparently at random, the regular and the blond were selected to participate in a magic trick. If it was a match meant to be, they’d forget about the trick and focus on each other. Bob had a million little “services” that kept customers happy.

In 1980, Bob managed to put together the makings of a magic dinner theater in the Washington DC suburb of Chevy Chase, Maryland. Sheets put into my head the notion that I ought to go to Chevy Chase too, and when the time came, I had to do it. I stayed for the next five years.

I said, the “makings of…” what we started with was essentially a declining barn nestled in a residential country-like setting. The structure was a tearoom frequented by Eleanor Roosevelt back in the day and had operated as a country inn. After a number of attempts at operating a conventional restaurant in the barn, Bob’s unconventional enterprise began.

The property was an historical landmark with the name, Brook Farm Inn, attached in perpetuity. Adding the words “of Magic” to Brook Farm Inn, was about the only name change we could get away with that made sense. Brook Farm Inn of Magic was a mouthful of a name. Although, it could have been called, Brook Farm Inn of Stray Magicians From California Who Were Last Seen Together Doing Their Thing in Aspen.

Inside the “Farm” as we called it, was a large rustic pine paneled room with a stone fireplace, beamed ceiling and deer head trophies. We kept the decor just the way it had been for the last fifty years or so… adding little more than a stage with gaudy red and gold velvet curtains and some magic posters.

Bob and I did a two-man, hour-and-a-half stage show, we called Magicomedy Cabaret. The lights dim, and a hush falls over the crowd as Sheets takes his first gulp of a flaming torch. As he becomes more gluttonous, licking up the flames like a dripping ice cream cone, the audience… convinced at last that he is not in danger… begins to laugh. “You laugh now,” Bob tells them, “5000 years ago, you’d have made me chief.”

Bob and I say “thank you” to our floating lady volunteer for her assistance. As the applause subsides we hear a big commotion at the back of the room. A round jolly man fainted and fell off his chair. He’s spread-eagle on the floor. Maybe it’s a heart attack, nobody knows. The guy is lying unconscious next to his table, and we’re frozen… What should we do? We take an intermission.

Ten minutes goes by… we go back on stage and say to the audience, “Help is on the way. Do you think it’s appropriate to continue the magic show?” The answer is a unanimous yes. They’re whistling, hollering, clapping.

The siren of an approaching ambulance is heard… becoming louder and louder. We continue performing… the paramedics arrive and start using an oxygen device, the guy’s shirt and pants are ripped open for heart massage, and at the same time we’re doing our Mr. & Mrs. Houdini routine. The audience continues to laugh and applaud our onstage antics as the guy is wheeled to the ambulance and whisked away.

We always shake hands with the crowd after the show, someone says, “Isn’t it too bad about that man? Say, you guys have a great act, Bob, that trick with the toilet plunger and egg is really something, and...” I’m not sure if it was an uncaring audience or we were uncaring magicians, but one thing is for sure… the show must go on.

Other than Siegfried & Roy, we were the only male magic duo out there. At least that’s what we thought, until the day… magicians Penn & Teller, known at the time as Penn Jillette and/or Teller, came to one of our shows. Relaxed and uninhibited we swap stories and our counterparts are friendly, funny, and comfortable to be with.

The following day Bob and I went to see the guys perform at the Renaissance Fair in Cumberland, Maryland. Surprisingly, they’re also into oral magic and, like us… Penn & Teller perform their own versions of the classic fire eating and needle swallowing feats. They weren’t bad. I wonder whatever happened to those guys?

Flash forward to 1998, Penn & Teller are on stage doing all their classic routines here at Magicopolis, my very own magic theater in Santa Monica, California. Bob Sheets is also an opening night star, and then, we can’t get rid of him. Sheets does shows here for the next twelve months. Magicopolis audiences enjoyed laughing with Bob until their sides hurt and nausea overtook them…

So did TV audiences when Sheets made local and national appearances on news and entertainment programs to promote Magicopolis. He always knew the perfect trick to do, and the perfect thing to say. This sensitivity to the feelings of his audience, was, and is, in every joke, every routine.

As you may have gathered, I am very fond of Bob’s skill as a performer and his brain. I borrow liberally from my friend’s brain. I quote him often and to excellent effect. Until recently, I was certain that Bob had never quoted me or had a need to.

However a month or so ago, I called his home and got his voice mail. It was Bob’s voice saying just three words, “Leave a message!” I was surprised… he had appropriated the message I had been using for years, which was, “Please leave a message.” His was one word shorter than mine, and I think ruder, but the fact that he thought enough of my message to appropriate it, was for some reason strangely satisfying.
travisb
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Great stuff. Thanks.

-Travis
BobSheets
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Thank you Steve,

This just isn’t fair.

Performing and being partnered with one of my all time favorite magicians and call him one of my very best friends is a delight and one of the many gifts from magic I have been fortunate to receive.

We should really do some writing together. It would be too easy and too much fun. Maybe one of the magazines might like that? Bob.
Fred Johnson
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Bob how did you and Spill meet?
BobSheets
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Fred,

I remember it well. It was at the Hollwood magic convention, I think a one day event. I performed the "Heba Haba's sugar trick" and we met and hung out for the day. We might have just seen each other at the Castle when I was 18, I lied about my age, and the Hollywood convention was after I'd moved back from Chicago. I was 22 then I believe. Five years later he was the first magician I called to work with me in Aspen at the Jolly Jester after the Tower Magic Bar. We always had a connection and are such different performers that it gave us a very wide appeal.

bob.
Fred Johnson
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I mentioned Aspen and seeing the Sugar Trick in my other post, the only other Jolly Jester trick I recall was Spill doing the Slydini trick on my dad. I was around 21 and had just become interested in magic not long before and you guys didn't seem much older than me but you were so accomplished. How young were you and how did you get started and what drew you to bars? Girls?
wsduncan
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Quote:
On 2009-02-15 22:46, BobSheets wrote:
We should really do some writing together. It would be too easy and too much fun. Maybe one of the magazines might like that? Bob.

You may have heard that M-U-M is under new management.

I'm just sayin'
Jonathan Smith
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Bob this thread talks about places you founded like the Jolly Jester, the Farm, and Magicopolis. Bob please tell us how someone just creates a magic place out of nowhere. Sounds like they just appeared out of thin air. That is a really good trick that you did more than once. What's the secret?
BobSheets
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Complete stupidity Mr. Smith. I just never knew any better. I can and will write a bunch about this. I just have to pee. Later. bob.
steve spill
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Before I sat down to have breakfast this morning I had not intended to write much more on your Chef Special Bob. After all, it is YOURS. My plan was to rehearse some new stuff at Magicopolis.

I was having the last spoonful of oatmeal when I read Bob's lame "have to pee" excuse for not answering this dude's question. You've been taking a leak for like five hours...

Come on Bob! Tell everyone about the start-up dinner theater in charming Chevy Chase Maryland. Introduce everyone to the wonderful assortment of eccentrics and comical characters… from drunken chefs, naked waiters, complaining neighbors, and don't forget to include the weird stuff.
isaacfawlkes
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On 2009-02-16 12:56, BobSheets wrote:
Complete stupidity Mr. Smith. I just never knew any better. I can and will write a bunch about this. I just have to pee. Later. bob.


Rofl That is so Bob. I remember a "dinner" at an MAES convention in Carlisle Pa many years ago. Bob was having dinner with a group of us from Ring 20 and he was just hysterical during the entire meal. At one point he sees someone he knows come into the resturant. He screams to the, jumps up on his seat, and jumps over the booth to say hello. We all ****ed ourselves laughing. It was by far one of the funniest moments of my magic career.

Thanks for just being Bob.
Fred Johnson
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Bob I can see Mr. Smith's question was probably too complex to answer here. But this should be easy to answer. Aspen, Maryland, Santa Monica, they're not very close together. How do you decide where to open a new place?
steve spill
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I was on stage here at Magicopolis rehearsing some new stuff for our show when I received a phone call from Bob. That was about five minutes ago. We chatted about the lovely reception Bob is getting from his Guest of Honor gig here at the Café and he asked, actually demanded, that I post a bunch more stuff because he doesn’t want people to leave while he fools around and takes a bunch of extra time thinking of things to write…

The way he put it was “….Steve could you fill in for a while?” What a big baby. Come on Bob, these are questions about you, there’s nothing to study for here.

Anyway, there are certain memories he asked me to talk about from those early days behind the bar in Aspen that are for the most part pleasant, but they were all about Bob, nothing about me. Sooo, in effort to keep my buddy Bob happy and amuse everyone and myself for a while I’ll contribute my Aspen Ted Kennedy story.

Winter 1977 Ted Kennedy became a regular at The Jester and frequently brought family and guests, like Senator Tunney, in to see our magic. Bob was kinda blown away when the Senator and his young girlfriend, dropped by The Jester to pick me and my girl up for a double date. The youngest Kennedy brother seemed to be cut from a different cloth then John and Robert, whom I admired. He was kind of a drunken boob, but the opportunity to go to the Paragon disco with him was an experience I didn’t want to miss.

We got there at last call, Teddy persuaded them to stay open for us… “I’m a !@#$%^! senator, I could be president.” The DJ stayed to spin tunes and Kennedy borrowed the phone. Soon his entourage arrived through the back door and Teddy was dancing in his underwear.

Another night, another after hours party... the same thing happened at The Jolly Jester. “I’m a !@#$%^! senator, I could be president.” Our friend, visiting math teacher and magician Eddie Goldstein, asked “What can be done to improve education for the less fortunate?” Stumbling around in his boxer shorts, Teddy repeated his chant, “I’m a !@#$%^! senator, I could be president.”

Every time I heard him say it, it made me laugh to myself... Not because I thought it was funny, but because it reminded me of another phrase associated with Teddy…

In 1969, Volkswagon prided itself in the unusual fact that their car actually floated on water. Soon after the Chappaquiddick tragedy, National Lampoon magazine ran a parody ad that had a picture of a Volkswagon… floating… and one of Teddy in an inset saying, “If I’d driven a Volkswagon, I’d be president today.” That always cracked me up.

There you go Bob. Please don't ask me to talk about the Yoga Lady, Upside Down Mararitas, or the biggest tip I ever got.
BobSheets
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Now who's the baby?

The AVYAGA YOGA LADY. Eddy Goldstein just died every time she came in. You tell it Steve it's absolutely hysterical. Upside down Margaritas started in the Jolly Jester and grew to you know what at the Brookfarm. Tell it. I don't remember your biggest tip. Since I became an owner I was immediately out of the tip position so you may not have wanted to even tell me this one. Come on. I promise to fill in the holes I remember. bob.
steve spill
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Okay Bobby, or should I call you Huck Finn. Anyway for Eddie I'll tell the Yoga Lady story and for you I'll tell the other stuff. I'm sure everyone reading this wonders why I'm bothering.

The fact is I owe Sheets, he taught me how to have fun doing magic without making money. Nobody knows how to make magic and not make any money doing it better than Bob Sheets. Acually you won't think that when you hear my big tip story. All the following are happenings from Bob Sheets' World Famous Jolly Jester in Aspen, Colorado.

One night I opened the bar and the first person through the door was an attractive young girl. She asked, “Are you into yoga?” In a fraction of an instant she was on the floor going through various contortions. I excused this rather bizarre behavior as part of the phenomenon of people saying strange things and behaving even more strangely at The Jester.

“Why don’t you get up on the bar so we can get a better look at what you’re doing?” She swiftly whipped off her clothes and did so. Now she’s wearing a sheer leotard as she happily continues her exercises.

There was a beautiful girl rolling around on the bar. Her legs were knotted behind her head intertwined with mangled arms. The growing audience applauded, she raised both legs straight up on either side of her head, then went into a human crab position. Thereafter she visited The Jester every couple weeks. Her many performances never failed to be crowd pleasing events.

We did a substantial business serving upside down margaritas. No glass necessary. Customers laid their heads on the bar, mouths open. With a bottle of Triple Sec in one hand and Roses’s Lime in the other, I poured, then, quickly switched the two bottles for sweet & sour and tequila, and completed the task until mouths were overflowing. Customers just had to sit up and swallow.

Regulars brought friends in from far and wide for our margaritas. If they winked and tipped in advance, the newcomer would get a special upside down margarita. When they sat up their face was met with a cream pie... actually it was a coffee filter filled with whipped cream.

One night a wasted patron asked me, “What’s the biggest tip you’ve ever received?” “Two hundred dollars,” I replied. “Here’s three hundred dollars” said the intoxicated dude, as he handed me three crisp hundred dollar bills.

Then he drained his glass as he said, “The next time someone asks you that question, tell them it was three hundred dollars and that I was the one who gave it to you. By the way, who gave you that two hundred dollar tip?” He almost smashed his glass when I said, “You did, it was last week."

So read everything Sheets has to say during his reign here as Grand Poobah Guest of Honor and say goodbye to your old life, and prepare yourself for a Sheets transformation. As the serpent said unto Eve, "Eat up, chippie... and welcome to Sheetsville."
Jonathan Smith
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Give me the apple I want to be Bob Sheets and Steve Spill.
slyhand
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I remember getting one of your upside down margaritas. I ended up with a mouth full of whipped cream and a funny non-PC comment after wards. I would always bring back a noob to sample one the next time I came in.
Loved the stage show and the pumpkin pie/shoe bit.
I am getting so tired of slitting the throats of people who say that I am a violent psychopath.

Alec
steve spill
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That’s disgusting. Bob was pretty crazy back then, but I’m sure he felt he was making art. Besides Sheets’ original drinks, like the one you had, Man Juice, he also made a lot of crazy Heba Haba style drinks.

“Want a lime in that gin & tonic?” Bob pretended to take a lime out of a waste basket, wash it off, and drop it in the drink. “Don’t worry, the alcohol will kill any germs.”

When someone ordered a beer we didn’t have, like, say, Moosehead Ale, Bob responded, “no problemo.” He opened and poured a bottle of Budweiser… then, with a felt tip pen crossed out the word Bud… and wrote Moosehead. “One Moosehead, drink up.”

“This is the craziest bar in town.” At least that’s what one smartly dressed young man told his equally decked-out friend. They ordered Heineken drafts and the first fellow secretly let me know there was a newcomer present.

Just as the beers were served, I accidentally knocked one over. The stranger jumped to his feet to avoid ruining his clothes while his friend burst into uproarious laughter. The knocked over glass was a fakeroo with solid contents, a means of initiating strangers to the fun at The Jester.

The gag over, I removed the fake glass and served real beer. The instigator didn’t notice the switch. “Look, it’s a fake beer,” so saying, he grabbed the newly served glass and threw the contents into his friend’s face. Those were the days…
BobSheets
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I guess now would be a good time to start.

It’s fun to think and talk about the Jolly Jester because it was wilder and crazier than the Tower or the Brookfarm. It really was out of hand.

You entered the long saloon, because that what it was, on one end and there was a beautiful long bar of South African Mahogany on the right with a huge mirror behind it. It really was the best looking bar in Aspen. It had been painted black and we, the new owners, stripped and found out about the unbelievable wood underneath. It just took your breath away.

There were washtub lights above the bar and four feet behind the stools, on the left was a long bench to sit on with a ledge that ran atop the bench that was just wide enough, if you were young and a little athletic, to stand on. So your view was of a place with people sitting on the right, standing on the floor, sitting on the bench and standing on top of the bench from one end to the other. A sea of people running all the way down and up the sides of the wall all most to the ceiling and facing the same way towards the action.

We would announce that “we were about to start a set and there would be no drinks for ten minutes so get em now.” That would take 20 minutes, with the beating rock and roll music thundering, to serve everyone with 3 and 4 bartenders including myself pumping as fast as we could. Then we would start.

The music stopped dead and the three washtub lights were turned up to last call brightness and everyone stopped dead and turned to face the bar. Two Magic Castle Brats were about to tear it up. The show was on.

There never was or ever will be another Magic Bar like this one!

I have to pee. bob.
steve spill
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I joke about Bob, but the truth is he's a good friend and a true visonary and I get giddy every time I think about The Jester. When I worked at The Jester I was able to learn from Bob, now you, the blessed, can learn from Bob's wisdom with very little effort at all, by simply partaking in his Chef Special here at the Café. Bob, you ought to get help for that bladder problem.
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