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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The January 2010 entrée: Pete Biro » » Magic Cellar » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Tom Cutts
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Hi Pete,

It was long before my time, but San Francisco had a full blown magic bar for a while. Any great stories to tell from your days (nights) at the Magic Cellar?

Cheers,

Tom
Pete Biro
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Here's something I wrote for an upcoming book.

One of the things that happens when you’ve spent 50-plus years in magic, and have a scatter brain like I do, is you come up with lots of ideas.
Some are crazy, and never to be used, others make it into your acts.
I say acts, plural, in that for me, I had to come up with lots of material thanks to repeat bookings.

The earliest steady bookings for me were working The Magic Cellar in San Francisco.

If you aren’t familiar with the Magic Cellar, a brief mention is worth including.
In the 1960s and early ‘70s, there was a famouse and popular nightclub in San Francisco named Earthquake McGoons. It featured the music of Turk Murphy’s Dixieland Band.

Turk was a vintage car collector and kept his cars in a rented warehouse. The story goes that one day he bumped the wall and knocked some boards loose only to find, behind the wall, a huge collection of old theatrical trunks.
It turned out the trunks had belonged to Carter the Great, and following his death his family put them there in storage.

Murphy, and his piano playing partner, Peter Clute managed to buy the collection and moved it into the cellar underneath Earthquake McGoons. The material was uncrated and served as ‘decor’ for The Magic Cellar.

A group of the shows massisve trunks served as seating and a number of the illusions were all set up around the room, much like a museum.

Included were a sawing in half, a Davenport Spirit Cabinet the Million Dollar Mystery (minus the mirror tube), a Spike Cabinet, and many other illusions and props. A number of costumes and posters were also displayed, including the leather jacket worn by Houdini in Australia when he was the first person to fly an airplane there.

Once set up, the Clutes, Peter and his brother Cedric opened for business, hiring local magicians to entertain.

Notable performers that got their starts at the Magic Cellar were Martin Lewis, Vic Kirk and Harry Anderson. Many pro’s that happened to be in town, would often come by and perform.

The office for my day job, advertising art and photography, was but one block away, walking distance.

I became one of the regular performers. We would do at least two shows a night on stage and in addition several close-up shows nightly.

We found out that most of the patrons stayed to watch both shows, so one had to have at least two half hour acts every night. Much like cruise ship work. The audience stays and the acts have to be able to change their material.
This was great training.

Tom: does that answer your question?
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
Tom Cutts
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Northern CA
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Hi Pete,

Always fun to hear about that piece of SF magic lore which was before my time. Any stories of performers and their performances which stopped by when the cruise ships were docked. I know Vic Kirk was known for this.

Cheers,

Tom
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