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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » My Side Of The Screen - by Steve Brooks » » What's all the fuss about? » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Steve Brooks
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Why do magicians seem to fight amongst themselves, and seemingly at every opportunity? At a convention I once saw three magicians step into an elevator. I smiled and wondered who would be left standing when the lift finally reached its intended destination. Okay, I guess you would have to be there to appreciate the humor of it all.

The fighting and bickering in the magical arts has been going on for countless years. As someone who is also a musician, I've seen the same problem with the so-called professionals in the music business. I strongly suspect that comedians and actors are no different.

I have a theory. There appears to be one common factor that connects all these allied arts - the people involved are entertainers.
By their very nature, most entertainers were either the class clowns (ever starving for attention) or quiet and shy individuals who were never a part of the in crowd as it were. I think that these are the people who end up becoming rock stars, or grow up to be the next Bill Gates. Alright, a few may turn out to be mimes, but that's another story. Smile

Basically, I've come to the conclusion that the majority of magicians are actually geeks who have turned to magic as a way of fitting in with normal folk - and why not? Magic allows one to do the impossible! It certainly draws attention and is often an ice breaker for those folks who would normally be at a loss for words in most social situations.

But is that a bad thing? I don't think so, and here is my reasoning. While growing up during the seventies many of my classmates were getting arrested for stealing hubcaps off cars, but I was learning magic.
When a neighbor boy died from a drug overdose, I overheard my mother tell a friend; "At least Steven is reading and staying out of trouble". Again, I was in my bedroom either learning a new trick from a borrowed library book, or scanning the pages of some magic catalog that my twenty five cents had aquired for me courtesy of the post office.

Indeed, I spent countless hours reading the various descriptions of magical wonders that this small booklet of magic promised, and I could very well imagine myself receiving all those wonderful secrets, if only I saved up my hard earned cash. That usual implied that I needed to leave my bedroom sanctuary and brave the summer sun, doing chores for various friends or neighbors. Mowing lawns didn't seem so bad once I realized I would earn enough cash to finally own my very own copy of Henry Hays' Amateur Magician's Handbook! And so I did. Smile

After spending hours in front of a mirror, I finally did my first paid performance. It was for a local club and earned me a whopping twenty-five dollars. Big bucks in those days. Okay, big when your fourteen years old and the year is 1974. Smile It was a very humbling experience for me. My audience was kind and suffered me graciously. I on the other hand learned several valuable lessons from the whole affair. The first was that I needed to practice more. The second was I realized I liked being the center of attention, there was a certain rush that I felt while on stage...I was hooked. Smile

So there you go, improved reading skills, better hand and eye cordination, self dicipline and learning to speak in front of large groups are just a few of the perks that any young magician aquires along the path of becoming a performer. Whether or not the young neophyte decides to become a professional magician later in life has no bearing on the fact that he is much better for the experience of it all.

So what does all this have to do with the fighting and bickering that goes on in our magic community?
For many the idea of sharing center stage is not an option, even if its only in a friends livingroom.
Think about that idea for just a moment. You've been the center of attention for years. Now suddenly, there is someone else who can amaze and amuse others - and maybe even better! That's a big pill to swallow. Smile

Now common sense and logic might indicate that adding another performer in the equation could actually enhance the situation, and maybe even provide the opportunity for a new friendship or alliance of sorts...right? Well, one can only hope. I personally feel that part of the problem is that many people are also competitive by nature. It is not uncommon to find siblings competing for love, attention or approval from their parents. Here in The United States, most of our school systems promote various sporting events which encourage young folks to compete against one another. Though the coach my say; "It's just a game", everybody knows that the real goal is victory! Let's face it, losing is just not an option.

But why stop there? This philosophy obviously extends into the very core of our society at large. Everyday we see people competing for jobs, salesmen fighting over territories, television networks in competition with one another, and so on. The media at large has convinced generations of woman that only skinny blondes get the rich boys, and these same institutions have men believing that wearing a certain brand of cologne and owning a Porsche will guarantee you a date. Our neighborhoods are full of families that live by the motto: "He who dies with the most toys wins". I think you get the picture - competition.
Is it any wonder that we have riveralies in magic circles?

But wait! - there's more. Sure, competition is a large part of the situation, but its not the final answer to this somewhat perplexing problem. While its very true that many of us are in competition with each other, what we are really after is attention and recognition. Ah, now we're getting somewhere. When we perform, all eyes are fixed upon us, we are the very center of attention and we love it. C'mon, be honest, you know you do. While infants we cry to gain the attention of our mother. As we grow older and aquire the gift of speech and language, getting the attention of others becomes much easier. However, once we venture to places outside the protection of our homes, we quickly realize that everyone else has learned the same skills. Even worse, they have become masters and are getting all the attention! This last lesson is usual learned in pre-school. Ain't you glad you read that first magic book? Smile

Finally, we come to the idea of receiving recognition. Like competing and gathering attention, the idea of getting recognition is planted in our tiny brains at a very early age.
As youngsters in school the teacher may reward your good behavior with some kind of sticker, or perhaps a silver star.
As you mature, you may find your name in the school paper, recognizing your academic achievments. Perhaps you receive an award or trophy in recognition of your volunteer work with your local club or church. Certainly receiving a diploma of any kind is recognition that warrants a frame and a special place in your den.

Everyone appreciates being recognized for their labors. Whether its completing four years of college or inventing a new magical sleight, deep down we all want people to realize that we as individuals had something to do with receiving that award or inventing the latest magical wonder.
We have been taught from day one that recognition or rewards of any kind are few and far between and must be earned. Indeed, you must work hard before getting that silver star or special blue ribbon - right?

So let us summarize, shall we? Competition, Attention and Recognition. Seperately these are powerful factors. As magicians we generally deal with all three, especially while rubbing elbows with our peers - yikes! Three ingrediants which lay mixed in our emotional make-up. That's some heavy stuff when you think about. Shake those up a bit and you will no doubt create an explosion. Believe me when I say magicians have been creating those explosions for many, many years (It should of course be noted that not every magician in the community let's their emotions dictate their actions. However, many do).

In the old days this would occur at magic meetings, or perhaps behind the scenes of a show or convention. Feuds and fights appear in most any magical publication, even going back to the magazine Stanyon's (circa 1800's). The only difference between then and now is the internet.
Back in the day there would be weeks or sometimes months before someone would reply to an accusation or story that appeared in a magazine. Rumors which originated from the east coast might take a year or so before magicians in California would hear their contents.
These days the internet allows voices to be heard instantly.
A new sleight is seen in Chicago and you can bet the folks in Hong Kong are discussing its merits within a matter of hours...and most likely will be fighting or bickering over it!
But I digress. Smile
"Always be you because nobody else can" - Steve Brooks
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