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ScottL
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Hi Don,

Haven't talked to you in a long time. I hope all has been well with you. Hopefully, I'll be at the Wisconsin State Fair on Saturday the 7th. I'll try to find you under the stands so I can finally meet you in person. I'll try to remember the video camera!

Scott Lowry
Todd Robbins
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Don,
If you happen to be around in Milwaukee for a few more days, I'm opening my show Carnival Knowledge at the Miramar Theatre on Aug. 19th. I'm working on getting in early to do a promo for the show at the fair. We'll see.
Bill Palmer
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According to the information in Burling Hull's book The Edison of Magic and his Incredible Creations, he was 12 years old when he invented what came to be known as the Svengali Deck. He copyrighted it in 1909 (there is a photo of the copyright papers in the book). Since he was born in 1889, that would put the invention date of the Svengali as 1901.

The book I am referring to was published by Burling Hull in 1977.
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DrNorth
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So, who sells these decks enmasse?
Smile
<BR>"For it shows things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be. But which it that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell"
<BR>~Galadriel
<BR>
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RiffRaff
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No study of the Svengali deck is complete without having read Mark Lewis' book.
Sammy Haydn
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If you say so. Personally I think that no study of the Svengali deck would be complete WITHOUT mention of this irritant's name.

INCIDENTALLY I saw a copy of this book in a magic club auction sale and I looked at it. I couldn't see one word on how to pitch the deck.
Frankly I don't see what the big deal is.


Posted: Sep 5, 2004 4:46am
---------------------------------
I have had some private e-mails telling me that the book has a fantastic routine and the stories are pretty good.
I am reluctantly beginning to wonder if have misjudged this book.
Does anybody have any comment that actually owns it? I would also like to know which dealers stock it?
Todd Robbins
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D. Robbins in Brooklyn,NY has several kinds of decks sold in bulk. A number of pitchmen would make up their own stock by taking a bunch of regular cheap decks to a printer and have them cut short. They would lay these out, matching up the cards. If they started with one hundred decks, they would then have stacks of one hundred ace of spades, one hundred two of spades, one hundred three of spades, etc. They would then take twenty five of these matching cards and add to them twenty five random card, alternating the matching and random. You then have a Svengali deck. To stretch it further, many of the decks only have forty eight cards. It's a lot of work, but it saves money. And money is what pitching is all about.
DonDriver
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Guys,
The subject was "svengali pitch" The pitch has nothing to do with the Svengali deck used by magicians. Mark Lewis book is good for learning effects with the deck. It has nothing to do with pitching the deck to layman.
Todd,I hope all went well for you in Milwaukee. I sent you a PM went I got back. Sorry I missed meeting you.
Anybody wanting to learn the "svengali pitch" check out my web site,its on my profile.
Later,Don
raymond
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I promised on another thread that I might let out a little information on this subject. I still haven't made up my mind about that yet.

However I have been working those *** cards for decades and a little advice to those who want to try it may not go amiss.

I am not going to tell you right now how to sell them. I think it might be more sensible to tell you how not to go crazy selling them!

As Don will no doubt confirm this is a tough, tough business. Hard work in sometimes difficult conditions. Can you stand for hours in the blazing sun? Can you deal with people driving you nuts all day? And they will.

Despite what you sometimes hear you can go for several hours without selling much on a few occasions. Do you have the stamina and determination to keep on going when this happens? Can you handle noise and distractions? Unfriendly neighbouring vendors? People demanding their money back? People saying they can't do the trick and demanding you give them magic lessons?

Amateur magicians hanging around wasting your time when you are trying to work? The sheer grind of doing the same trick hour after hour?
Rain?
Wind?
Cold?

Department stores taking months to pay you? People on the outside of your crowd having private conversations and you have to somehow shift them because they are a distraction?

Constant travel and uncertain income? Sometimes you will make a lot of money but sometimes you won't. Nobody tells you that.

There are indeed benefits to the business. You are never out of work unless you want to be. Generally speaking you make a good income. You get to see places that other people only dream of. You get to meet many many interesting people. You become a better magician. You become a philosopher albeit in a cynical way. You learn things as a pitchman that will stand you in good stead in other fields.

Yet it is a tough business. Let no one kid you that it isn't. If some of you are still interested then I can give you a few hints to stop it driving you nuts. The Svengali business can burn you out very quickly if you don't know how to handle it.

If this post scares some of you off that is a very good thing. Only those who have the mental toughness for such a life should be the ones to try it.

There. Now how do you all feel about it?
MagicalPirate
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Can't be any more difficult than 6 years of selling children's toys and novelties at fairs and festivals. I found that most places look the same as the other places you have been and the road between stops can be long and tedious while your better half sits in the passenger seat and sleeps. Its not all glamour and the money can get eaten up in travel, living and eating expenses quickly. Don't forget the rent for your space and the cost of your stock. Can be great fun and a real bear to put up with all at the same time. If vending is your thing go for it. This year I'm working on getting booked for entertainment, tired of the up and down income. You can take over my spot.

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raymond
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Told you everybody.
And of course with toys and novelties there are more things to carry and set up!
And more things for the kids to steal!
Still, at least you don't have to go crazy saying the same thing all day.

If you have showbusiness in your heart you have a double curse. You will be doubly frustrated with your work.

I have always thought that to be truly successful as a magic or other kind of vendor you should have no showbusiness aspirations whatever. I am afraid that the two do not mix very well.

There. That should eliminate 90% of the people on this board that want to sell Svengali decks.
drwilson
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Raymond,

I found out this summer that you can make more money per hour running a single-O sideshow than you can pitching Svengalis and other slum magic, largely for the reasons that you outline.

On the positive side, it is unbelievable what it has done for my stamina. I used to be a real Prima Donna before I would go on for a half-hour stage performance in a mixed program. Now I say to myself, this is nothing. I'm working inside, all these people are sitting down ready to have fun, and I just have to do half an hour.

After a twelve-hour day with the wind blowing dirt all over everything in your tent, parents dropping off their kids at your joint for a free show, magical beginners hanging around for lessons, and fruitcakes handing you tracts telling you that cutting 24 cards short is working for Satan, you start to realize that inside work for paying customers is the soft life.

I am really glad to have pitched Svengalis, and will do it again from time to time.

Full-time? No, thanks. I really have to admire the folks who can do this full-time.

Yours,

Paul
raymond
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Actually I think that the people giving out tracts are correct. You ARE working for Satan. I know him well.

It is good training for trade show work. Your description of how easy other types of shows are in comparison is very apt here. Trade show work is considered hard but it is very easy once you have been a Svengali pitchman.

The hours are shorter, the days are few, the breaks are more frequent and the people of a higher class and less trouble. The money is much, much higher too.

For some reason magicians have a romanticised notion of this life. I have come across many who are all eager to try it with great excitement. After a week the excitement fades very rapidly.

Yet once you have done it for a long period you can't stop. It is like a bug of some sort. It gets in the blood and you can't give it up.

I don't need to do it any more but I have to do it.And the more I don't need to do it the more I want to. I don't understand it.

I love it and I hate it.
DonDriver
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Well this thread is way off track from my first question but most threads seem to go that way.
Guys I "love" the pitch business and pitching Svengali's.I don't have to wait for the phone to ring.I get to work anytime I want or don't want.
Yes you have to put up with some "bull" but what out their don't you have to.As for NOT having "showbusiness" to pitch..BULL!!!The pitch is a SHOW and much much more.You have to have showmanship to pitch anything.The lessions you learn pitching far out weigh anything one has to put up with.
Well theirs my story and I'm stuck with it....I mean sticking to it...sticking to it !!!
Don
drwilson
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Don,

I have your videotape and I would never say that your pitch is not showbusiness. Throw in some dancers and you could play Las Vegas!

When I was a kid there were guys at the fair pitching blenders. These were pretty new at the time, they had a mirror set up over the counter so that everyone could see. At the end they gave out little cups of their health drink that they had made with the blender (the smoothie of today). I must have watched this pitch ten times. You bet it was a show!

Yours,

Paul
Todd Robbins
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A good pitch is entertainment. It is important to remember, though, why you are doing it. And that is to get the geetus! It is truly show BUSINESS.

It's interesting to note that Penn Jillette speaks fondly about watching the waterless cookware pitchmen work at fairs and credits them with teaching him to sell with his talk.
DonDriver
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Quote:
On 2004-09-29 06:18, raymond wrote:

If you have showbusiness in your heart you have a double curse. You will be doubly frustrated with your work.

I have always thought that to be truly successful as a magic or other kind of vendor you should have no showbusiness aspirations whatever. I am afraid that the two do not mix very well.

Seems like Todd and Paul agree with me as well as Teller.
Don
raymond
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I agree 100% that you do not have to wait for the phone to ring. You can work whenever and wherever you want. There is great freedom in the pitch business.

I am not sure it is really showbusiness although sometimes I con myself that it is so that I can keep going. However the mentality is different. You are not trying to entertain. You are trying to sell. The entertainment is incidental. Sure the more you make them laugh the more they buy. But this is not always the case.There are certain places where the more you make them laugh the more they WON'T buy.

There was one top knife pitchman I knew who never cracked a joke or even a smile. When we asked him about this he growled "I'm a grafter (pitchman) not a ******* comedian!"

A lot of UK grafters now think they are in showbusiness since the days of TV infomercialls. They aren't really but they think they are.

I still maintain that showbusiness proper and grafting do not mix very well. If you are grafting the phone will NOT ring anyway. You have no time to promote yourself.And no inclination because your mind is somewhere else. Your mentality is different.

If you wish to be a grafter be a grafter. If you wish to be in showbusiness proper (sorry I have to put it that way) be in showbusiness.

You can try to do both and you may succeed but it is a very awkward mix.

You really have to do one or the other. Otherwise one affects the other.

I don't practice what I preach. I wish I did.

One thing I do agree on. If you are a good pitchman you will be a good magician. It doesn't work in reverse quite the same way. Some of the worst Svengali pitchmen I have ever seen have been magicians and some of the best have been non magicians.

Why do the non magicians make good pitchmen? They don't want to be in showbusiness. They just want to make money. Which gets us back to where we started.
drwilson
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Speaking only for myself, since I play a medicine-show pitchman and con artist when I am doing magic, doing an actual pitch or being a sideshow talker adds authenticity to my magic.

I agree that if you were a stage illusionist, it would be hard to mix that with being a pitchman.

Yours,

Paul
raymond
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Actually some stage illusionists DO pitch magic from the stage!
Stan Kramien pitches from the stage as do others. Of course it could be argued that they are illusionists that do a pitch rather than pitchmen who do illusions.

Jimmy Dixon is a pitchmen who does an illusion show. He pitches the mouse from the stage. Yet I class him as a pitchman rather than as an illusionist since that is what he is at heart emotionally and mentally.

We are in danger of getting bogged down in a semantic discussion. I am far more intrigued at Don's statement that he actually ENJOYS being a pitchman at all times. Perhaps this is an exaggeration. Even on his tape he makes reference to the danger of your brain becoming "tapioca pudding"

This has happened to me many times. Too much of the Svengali deck can make you a nervous wreck. There are indeed times when it is very enjoyable but there are also times when it is hell on earth.

I showed Don's tape last night to a shrewd magic dealer who made astute observations about it. I told him that Don enjoyed his work. The dealer who has had pitch concessions in an amusement park said "if he said that it means that he doesn't do it every day. He must ration the times he does it. If you do it five or six days a week all the time year in and year out you are going to get burnt out. He may do it weekends only or just the odd time here and there."

I have found that the less I do it the more fun it is. The more I don't have to do it the more fun it is. The more money I make the more fun it is. The more the people laugh the more fun it is. (However there are certain places and circumstances where people don't crack a smile-that ain't fun!)

I think the key to it is don't take it too seriously and don't do it too often. I deliberately ration myself to an absolute maximum of 150 days a year now. In practice it averages out to about 100 to 120 days.

I can earn my basic needs for the year by working this amount of time and the rest of the time I can pursue other showbusiness venues which bring in the real money.

However other showbusiness work is subject to ups and downs. The Svengali business is always there. You can work whenever you want or need to. That is the beauty of the business.

However if you want to make a career as a REAL professional pitchman who does nothing else then I would recommend you do other non magic products. That is where the real money is in pitching. Things such as non stick pans, Vegetable slicers,flower holders etc;

Svengali decks are great and if you are a magician you will lean towards it as a product but the other lines will take far, far more money.

I once spoke to Jerry Spalding of Jesco (a big pitch company) who told me that years ago he tried to get Dave Walker onto other products since they take more money but he couldn't do it. Dave stuck to the magic. Magicians do. They probably shouldn't. They like to kid themselves that they are in showbusiness. OK. We won't go there again.

I once asked a pitchman who did all sorts of products which was the best line he had ever worked. He wasn't really sure. I then asked him which was the worst. With a mischevious grin he stared at me and said simply "the cards"

You can make a good living with the cards but you ain't gonna make a fortune. If you are young and you want to be a full time pitchman proper it can be the greatest job in the world. However take my advice and do other more lucrative products. Let your love of money override your love of magic where this is concerned.

I never practice what I preach. However I am here not to do the preaching and let you do the practicing.
DonDriver
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Well said raymond!I can't agree more.Kitchen products sell much better than magic..NO QUESTION.I have pitched them,but they are NO fun to pitch and when its no fun its REALLY hard work.I have fun pitching Svengali's and that makes it easer and I don't get "burned out" as fast.(and yes I just pitch on week ends now)But when I was out all the time I still loved it...REALLY!
If any of you guys wants to get into the kitchen pitching bussiness U.S.Jesco is always looking for pitch people to work stores.You must be willing to travel.If you turn out to be a good pitchperson you can make big money,($1,000.00 a week)
David Walker hires and trains at U.S.Jesco.Give him a call at:1 800-509-0436 ask for David Walker.You can tell him I sent you or check out their site:
http://www.usjesco.com
Later,Don
P.S.raymnon I sent you a PM days ago,please read it,everything is cool.Don
raymond
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I didn't get your PM, Don.
Send it to my normal e-mail address. I think you know where to find me.

I nearly posted the same info about Jesco here myself but you beat me to it. Great minds think alike.

I had a talk with some of the Jesco people when they showed up in my city. That is how I found out where Dave Walker was. They were telling me stories about him which made me smile.

I was very impressed with their operation and I would heartily recommend a young person with fire in the belly and adventure in the heart to get in touch with them. Think money and forego your showbusiness aspirations for a while though. You can't do both. You can't be traipsing around the country and trying to promote yourself as a magician at the same time.You will learn to be a better magician anyway no matter what you pitch.

I was told by one of the managers that the workers actually can earn more than $1000 per week if they are any good. I can vouch for this after 40 years in the pitch business.I know what pitchmen make.

One of the wonderful things about working for someone else is that they have the worry of the business and you just show up as a rent-a-mouth.

I do know that Canadians will be hired by Jesco too. They will arrange work visas and even medical insurance. If I were younger and wiser than I am now I would join them myself.

The UK equivalent of Jesco is a company called W. Selkin. I don't know where they are.Nottinghman somewhere. Do a search for them.

The Jesco girl manager amused me greatly when I asked her if they had any real pitchmen working for them as opposed to the young people and aspiring actors that they use. She made me laugh when she said "Oh,we don't want them! Jerry and Dave keep hiring them and we keep firing them!"
RonCalhoun
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Don, I met Jerry (Jesco owner) some four or five years ago. He's friends with Jay Mashall and he use to pitch the decks years ago. If Jerry doesn't know who was the first, I doubt if anyone does. You may want to contact him.
Number 1 Winner of the Café Search Engine Trivia Contest. https://www.weddingstorytelling.com/[/b]
DonDriver
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Ron,
I just got back from the Wisconsin State fair pitching with David Walker.Jerry was their and I met him for the first time.What a great guy he is.David broke Jerry in pitching the Svengali decks years ago.
David said Micky McDuggle was the first to pitch the Svengali deck.David's pitch is shorter than Micky's and mine is shorter than Davids,but the same "key" words in all three pitches.So I think David knows better than anybody as he has been at it for over 50 years.(and still going strong)
Later Don
Mr Grey
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I once met a woman Svengali worker (not many of those around!) named Diane Baker.

She was a great believer in a long pitch. She said "the longer you take to get the money the more money you take"
abigkahuna
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[quote]
On 2004-03-09 08:27, historian wrote:
Constantine, how many decks did you sell and how much did you sell them for?

Since this thread is about the history of the deck I will cut and paste the article from alt.magic with certain edits.
Give me a few moments.

Here is the history as requested.This is the alt.magic message referred to. I have edited out certain parts of the article.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Regarding the Svengali pitch. The deck was invented in the early 20th
century by Burling Hull. A few people think he didn't invent it and in
fact he was often known as Hurling Bull. I am however quite sure that
he did invent it. Someone on the magic Café said that Joe Berg invented
the pitch. He didn't. Joe Berg was a magic dealer and never pitched
Svengalis in his life even though he was quite an inventor.

The deck soon came into the hands of carnival people and street
pitchmen. I consider the deck to be NOT the property of magicians
since they know virtually nothing about it. It is the property of
pitchmen since they know more about the deck than magicians do. Some of
the finest Svengali pitchman know nothing whatever about magic.

Nobody can say who did the first pitch. This is lost in antiquity.
However, Mickey Mc'Dougall is the first fellow in North America who
was known for the thing. Dave Walker learned the pitch from Mc'Dougall
and has spawned various people all over America doing it his way.
Walker shortened the Mc'Dougall pitch from 20 minutes to about 12
minutes. Any book you see published in America describes the Walker
pitch. Even the Tommy Windsor book was the Walker pitch. I heard a
story (which I believe) that Walker was upset that Windsor came to see
him work for several hours and then went home to write a book on his
pitch.

However, the pitch developed quite differently in the United Kingdom.
A Canadian named Joe Stuthard travelled the world selling Svengalis.
He did not use the Walker pitch. I think a lot of the moves he
developed were original to him although I am not sure. Certainly the
pitch was different. He did the thing in England and connected with
Harry Baron the well known magician and author. Harry and Joe started
the Kaymar Magic company (which I believe is still going. The "Kay"
part was Joe Stuthard's wife and the "Mar" part was an abbreviation
for Harry's wife Margaret.

Harry was involved with Ron Macmillan of International Magic in the
early days. Somehow Ron got involved in pitching Svengalis. I am not
sure if he knew Joe Stuthard. He certainly knew Harry Baron.

Ron did things essentially the Stuthard way with his own variations.
He then spawned a whole pile of people who pitched the cards.Mark Lewis became the most prominent one. He trained many people to work
his way and when he came to Canada he also trained people here to do it
His way. Not the Walker way. His way which is entirely different.

He also trained some of Marvin's Magic demonstrators but didn't give
the whole story on the deck to all of them. However, quite a bit
seeped through. That is why I am amused that a young man on the Magic
Café said he worked for Marvin at one time and he would investigate
where the pitch came from.
Anyway, THAT is the history of the pitch.

Incidentally, Dave Walker is still around even though his health is not good, I hear. Apparently he still works cards at weekends and my source says "He tries to work as if he is still a young man. He still thinks he is 16 years old"
He must be around 80 I imagine. I saw an old photo of him with Harry Lorayne and he looked considerably older than Harry. And Harry is 75 now.
Walker helps out during the week in the office of a pitch company.
I won't say who or where since pitchmen sometimes don't want other people to know where they are. I am not saying that this is the case here but you never know.
[/quote




I used to run across David Walker every so often at fairs. The last time was about four years ago in Tucson. I picked up a tape of his a a booklet on the card pitch. David, last I heard was living in Yuma. THe past ten years that I have seen him on and off he was taking antique coins and cutting them out by hand to create beautiful jewelry. Quite a character and a very nice guy.

He had a son that I met in Reno back in 96 I think. Son designed casino interiors I think. He was helping out dad at a couple of shows with the coin jewelry.

I haven't seenn David since around 2002 and I hope he's still doing fine and all pink and healthy. A real nice and open guy.
AntonDreaming
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Hey Guys whats Up!

I wanted to post this a whie ago but couldent find the thread!!! The internet is a huge place! ANyhow I got Don's dvd and was pretty stoked. I used to sell sven decks out in salem ma for a while. I did pretty good for myself with my own pitch, but like my father says "good is the enmeny of great" and after watching Don's vid I feel I have a GREAT pitch at my side for use in the real world. This is NO pipe dream. The money that can be made from this is real and Don's advice is 100% on point. If your looking for a way to increase your income without any huge investment this could be for you. I highly recomend this to anyone who has an intrest in learning the pitch.

Anton James
Mario Morris
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When I was a kid I was a street trader I grow up as a street performer and during that time I have been a pitch man. I have trained up four lads to work my barrels selleing svens.

I don't know how I came up with the idea I just seem to fall into it. Watched a few grafters and hay presto I can do that. I surpose that is how history is lost with wannerbes like my self nicking a perfectly good idea, with grafters wanting to keep it all to them selfs.

Grafting and street performing in my mind comes down to the same thing's curiosty, crowd, pitch = SHOW.

Hear is a pic of me grafting.
http://www.streetcredmission.co.uk/Mario......3_10.jpg
Mario
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Hey guys, by chance, do you know what other name Mickey McDougall was known by?

Also, What event and what year did he first pitch the Svengali deck?

Thanks
DonDriver
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Let me think...I know the answer to that question...hehehe
Good Luck..
Don
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