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Topic: Inspirational Performers and Performances
Message: Posted by: suspectacts (Oct 1, 2004 04:33PM)
As a full timer and 18 yr veteran of the streets, I have fond memories of great street performances and great performers I have met.

I was reminded of one last week when Danny H. mentioned seeing me doing close up one night at Faneuil Hall after coming out of a Max Maven show at the comedy club near by. It was someone I saw years before I did my first street show.

I was still in high school and was visiting Philadelphia and one night I took myself to Market Square, a quaint part of town that was rumored to have street performers. After strolling around without much luck, I came across a circle of people watching a performer under the light of a street lamp. He was a big guy - loud, funny and a bit hairy; with a beard and ponytail. He was performing the linking rings with a routine that was keeping the whole crowd laughing.

Well, I squeezed myself to the front of the crowd, plopped down in the front row and watch until the end, and then a whole second show.

After passing the hat for the second show, there were just a couple of people wandering around. Certainly not enough for a whole audience, so instead, the guy did something truly magical.

Instead of sending the 5 or 10 people away, he brought us all in close, took out a deck of cards and did some amazing close up routines. It was great! After he finished, people tried to give him money but he said 'No thanks. This stuff I love so much, I do it for free."

It obviously made it impression on me because years later, after I had been working on the streets for a couple of years I decided I would do the same thing; I would do my 'big show' - jugging, magic, fire-eating, whatever, but at the end of the night, if anyone was still around I would pull out the really cool little stuff and share it with whomever was left hanging around.

After reading Danny's post, I searched my business card file and just today finally found the old business card for this memorable Philly street magician: Cowley and his Congress of Crazed Conjuring.

And, God Bless Google, after 5 minutes I found him, out in LA, still performing.

So Rich, from a young impressionable performer, many thanks.
Message: Posted by: JamesinLA (Oct 1, 2004 06:47PM)
Great story. What was the rest of his act besides the rings? I'm in LA so will look him up. I love doing close up myself on the street--except I certainly DO accept tips for it. In fact, I get a bigger percentage of fives from close up than from my bigger shows. It may be because it's happening in their hands plus perhaps because you're giving them more one on one time.

Message: Posted by: RiffRaff (Oct 2, 2004 10:45AM)
Cowley wrote a book on busking.
He's also posted on these boards.
Message: Posted by: Danny Hustle (Oct 2, 2004 04:06PM)

Great story and thanks for sharing it.


Message: Posted by: JamesinLA (Oct 4, 2004 01:29AM)
What's his book called? Thanks.

Message: Posted by: RiffRaff (Oct 4, 2004 02:37PM)
Hit the Bricks.
Message: Posted by: kOnO (Oct 5, 2004 06:54AM)
You can contact Mr. Cowley through his web site.


Message: Posted by: Rich Cowley (Oct 5, 2004 10:45AM)
Wow, I'm famous!

For the record, suspectacts, the place was called NewMarket; it was an outdoor mall surrounding Headhouse Square (2nd and Pine Streets, for you locals)...

To answer JamesInLA: My show rarely had more in it than opening with the Linking Rings and closing with a straitjacket escape. Occasionally, I'd throw in a Brainwave, a short rope routine, or the like. Those pieces were merely "hooks", though; the show averaged about 25 minutes, but most of it was riffing off the audience and making the most of a "live" experience.

suspectacts is right; when the crowds were lean, I'd sit on the steps leading up into NewMarket, put my tophat brim-down between my feet and use it for a (very small!) table, and do whatever closeup things came to mind. And yes, more times than not, I wouldn't solicit toke for those shows; I just did it for good will, and reminded folks to check back later (and bring their friends, and their wallets!)

Once this thread started, a lot of folks have written to me trying to locate a copy of Hit the Bricks. I'm sorry to say the book went out of print years ago; *I* don't even have a copy! -- The book was therapy for me; I'd just gotten divorced, and a friend of mine suggested I write a book so the coming winter wouldn't seem so long. He was right; focusing on the craft I loved was "just the ticket"! -- The book was just a series of essays on my experiences out there; frankly, nowadays it's pointless to search for the book - you can read similar stories in this forum for free.

I got tired of winters in Philly, so yes, I'm out in Southern California now. When I moved out here, I got out of the magic business for about 12 years (got into the technology trade), and retired a couple of years ago. As any regular visitor to the Magic Castle can tell you, I'm now a familiar face there, doing tricks for anyone who'll stand still long enough. It's a great life; I recommend it to anyone!

suspectacts, thanks for remembering my show, and thanks so much for your kind words!
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (Oct 5, 2004 11:00AM)
When I was at the Castle, Rich Cowley did magic for me and it was great. He is one of the best performers of magic and a treat to watch because he makes magic an art like we read about Vernon, Malini, and Leipzig...

Rich you should consider writing another book because I would want to buy it... You have a life of magic of great stories and experience that should be in print.

You ware one heck of a fantastic act and a great person too!
Message: Posted by: Werner G. Seitz (Oct 5, 2004 11:02AM)
Rich Cowley
The impression your act and person had on people didn't come out of the blue.. :)

Why not write a book(let) telling about your experience re busking and your philosophy and thoughts on your life in magic..

If you can throw in a couple of tricks you feel are original with you, fine. But the most important part, to me, would be hearing more about what YOU experienced when working.. :)
Just discovered, *bishthemagish* almost asked/mentioned exactly the same independently :)
Message: Posted by: suspectacts (Dec 7, 2004 10:30AM)
OK folks here we go again...

This month I did my first cruise ship gig and we "sailed" out of New Orleans so I had a couple of hours to walk around when we were in port.

One morning I headed out with the comedian on board (the incomparable Rick Starr) and found our way to the French Quarter. After lunch at the down and dirty (in a good way) Clover Grill, an institution of the quarter, we found a street that had been closed off, Decatur I think, and on it, were a couple of people just setting up to work.

There were any number of street blues and country groups, a couple of statue acts, but on the next block I found what I was looking for. Tall and lean and dressed like a 1940's dandy, Brian Bloodworth was just getting started.

I did not know him, but I could tell from the gear that he was going to be good, so I hung around to see him 'get into it'.

Man, what a treat! The guy is top notch. Coins, cards, ropes but most memoriable, some of the best sleeve and Topit work I have ever seen. And when I say Topit I have to tell you he showed me later he doesn't even bother with the gimic anymore. He can flick and toss stuff from his right hand across his body, and directly into his left arm sleeve: $%#, man!

He also completely stung me with a salt shaker appearance to end his card to wallet routine. Just killer!

So if you are ever in N'Orleans make sure to hunt this guy down. You won't be disappointed.

Peter Gross

PS Brian ends each show with a very impressive card fling - and days after seeing him I remembered a guy doing the same thing at the nightlife/mall area of Dallas. Does anyone know if Brian used to work there?
Message: Posted by: bwarren3 (Jan 19, 2006 07:57PM)
Any relation to Mike Heckenberger from VA????
I agree why not either resurrect the old book and add some new stuff or just re-publish the old book. You would probably be surprised how well it would sell.
I'm trying to teach Merlin to read so some pictures would probably help. He's got the backs of the Boris Wild marked deck down pat, but he still prefers the forcing deck of one of the cards that he already knows how to say....
Message: Posted by: Rich Cowley (Feb 7, 2006 10:50PM)
Bill: I'm proud to say that, among my 14 cousins, Mike Heckenberger is one of my favorites!

Re-publish "Hit the Bricks"? Naaah. There's little I say in there, that hasn't been said other places, by more-skilled authors. -- My publisher suggested I write the book that year (1989) to combat the Winter Blahs I get after each season on the streets; that year's doldrums were even worse, as I'd just gotten through a messy divorce. The book was fun personally, but hardly important.
Message: Posted by: judeh (Apr 27, 2019 09:11PM)
[quote]On Oct 2, 2004, RiffRaff wrote:
Cowley wrote a book on busking.
He's also posted on these boards. [/quote]

Any idea where I can find it? I didn't think he published anything.

Message: Posted by: RiffRaff (Apr 27, 2019 11:04PM)
As Mr. Cowley said, the book is out of print.
Very hard to find.
Good luck on your search.