Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Magic Castle
I am having a great time at the Magic Castle. Two of my heros were in the audience last night. Mark Wilson, who produced and starred in "The Magic Land of Alacazam" on television when I was a kid, ; and Bill Link, who created an wrote such great television shows as, Columbo, Burkes Law, and countless others. Both are grand gentlemen and great talents in two different disciplines.  I have a peripheral love of magic and writing, and admire them both for their talents. I am proud to be their friend.
I don't work at the Castle very often, and should visit more when I am not performing. However, I do have some great memories of great times there. Some that stand out: the memorial service for Di Vernan, and the pre-death wake of Billy McColmb to name only a couple.  And one more that may shock some of my more critical detractors. (I am talking to you Anonymous "with disappointment... 7:11AM")
I am not sure of the date, but I know it would have to be the late 70's or very early 80's. Jeff Dunham was performing at the Palace of Mystery.  Jeff Dunham hadn't moved to Los Angeles yet,  he was unmarried, and one of the few vents to perform the Castle. To get the Magic Castle gig at all was a testimony to his ability.   The Castle was at the the time a place to be seen by LA shakers and movers.  Jeff was making all the right moves and getting people there to see his act.  
At the time I was sort of an itinerate mentor to Jeff Dunham. We grew up in the same town and went to the same high school, and shared some of the same gigs locally, at different times.  We discussed the art form in detail over the years.  I remember we both sat in my dressing room at the Casa Manana Theatre in Ft. Worth, Texas for my entire break.  I had to rush to get on stage for the second show. The differences that we had toward the art form always made for an interesting discussion.  
So, I came to the Palace of Mystery just to see Jeff Dunham perform.  I had not seen his act in a long time.  He was using a McElroy figure back then.  It was a good act.  I remember distinctly that I had never seen anyone use the McElroy upper and lower lip movement with such dexterity. There was another level to the mouth animation that was and still is quite unique. He didn't use the upper lip just as a gesture or expression, he actually used the movement to accent the proper syllables. I suspect this is how the McElroy's intended it to be used.
After the show I went backstage.  It was my turn to spend the break between shows in his dressing room.  After a while Jeff wanted to show me something that he had been working on.  On the table was a "rocks size" bar glass filled with water. He grabbed his figure and began a conversation and while continuing the conversation drank the glass of water.  I had never really seen that done before and have not since. Usually it is done with a trick glass or gaffed props, but until that moment I didn't know that it was really possible to do.  As I suspected Jeff Dunham had found the only solution I thought was possible to actually accomplish that trick. It was a matter of timing glottal strokes and swallowing within the context of specifically chosen words. I understood the mechanics but I'm not sure I could do it as effectively. It was really quite impressive. I never saw him do it again and I don't know if it ever made it into his act, but it should have. 
I doubt it would have the same effect done today in one of his stadium shows, even with the Imag. And it could never be as impressive as it was to me three feet away in the Magic Castle dressing room.
I am impressed with the brotherhood of magicians apparent at the Magic Castle.  They meet and share secrets and support one another.  They say if you get two magicians together you have a convention.  I have heard it said that if you get two vents together you have a fight. Perhaps I can be part of the solution and not the problem.  Perhaps vents should talk together in dressings rooms and not through lawyers and managers. Perhaps...
As  you were,


Mike Palma's Blog Spot! said...

I agree! Whether it is a magician sharing secrets, a vent sharing jokes or a figure maker sharing ideas and tricks of their trade, we should all be respectful of one another and we should all be able to get along! It was Frank Marshall who said, " Get three magicians together and you'll have a convention, but get 3 ventriloquist together and you'll have a fight!".

Roomie said...

As a MASTER of the art of ventriloquism, you are always very kind and complimentary to your "brothers and sisters" in the fold....nothing ever critcal, but always positive and encouraging comments....that is the reason you ARE a MASTER of your craft....that's why we love you....
Carry on,

Bob Conrad said...

I agree, getting along with each other is the secret to world peace. Jeff is a an amazing talent, he has created some beautiful and creative figures, and his success is unbelievable. Unfortunately I liked him and his act much better when he worked cleaner , but he knows his audience and it is working for him. I respect both of you as great talents and a credit to the ventriloquist community.