Monday, November 06, 2006

The life of a street magician

Friday night worked Hollywood & Highland. Nice sets, nice people. . . real freak scene. Costumed characters take pictures with tourists for tips. So it's not uncommon to have The "Terminator" with half his face ripped off revealing the machine beneath, carrying a shotgun in my audience or the "Grim Reaper" or "Luke Skywalker".

The new sound system works great. These are LOUD places I work, often with another amplified act right next to me. I'm not competing with these acts, rather; I understand that there is an audience for every act and it's part of my job to enlist them.

It's hard to not feel intimidated when the act next to you draws 10 times as may people. It might be a a break-dancing / acrobatic troupe, or a magician / juggler. You have to feel good about what you do. I do a good show but don't gather huge audiences. It's the way I was taught. Bang'em out. I did 4 shows to his one. Who made more money. . . who cares.

Got a nice tip from a young man who watched a couple of my shows. He works security at a nightclub and said he would pass my card on to someone who wouldn't call me. He didn't really say that, but that's what I heard. It didn't matter anyway cause he gave me a nice cigar to enjoy and a couple bucks. A real fan of magic I guess.

You never know what your going to see. While queuing up for a 2-4PM slot on the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade, I saw a bunch of storm troopers. Nutty huh? The promenade is a much more relaxed pitch than Hollywood and Highland. You don't have traffic at your back, but it can be backed up with street acts every 40 feet. Once again, LOUD as you weave in and out of pedestrian traffic. Another picture perfect day in LA.

Here is the sunset from the 9th floor of my parking garage in Santa Monica. I love this view and always relax for a few minutes before getting out of the car and unloading my stuff. Brought Buster out here last week to take a sunset walk on the beach. It was Halloween night. I blew off working so that we could spend some time together. It was a beautiful evening, a super sunset, where the sun just fell off the edge of the earth. Nice walk. . . he was unimpressed.


Sunday I headed out to Venice Beach. I hadn't worked there in over 20 years and was a little nervous. I didn't have a permit and the spot I had picked out didn't really feel legal. It was just too good. I banged out my first show a little after 11AM. It was early in the day and the traffic was light. It would pick up nicely. The show went well and afterwards a French magician/juggler introduced himself to me. He was visiting and doing shows at Venice Beach for the the last couple of weeks. He confirmed that the spot was not a legal spot. I was going to pack up and find a new spot when an old homeless drunk talked me into staying. He assured me that he would speak on my behalf to the authorities if that situation arose. I stayed and agreed with the Frenchman that I would not start at the same time as him. Staggered shows make it easier for crowd gathering. He ended up getting a HUGE crowd! I study the patience that is involved in the gathering of a crowd this size, but find it hard to waste a lot of time in my own work. Get the crowd, Keep the crowd, Get the money, turn it over, do it again. that's just what I was taught. I need to slow down and really look at the other approach. I would like to work for bigger crowds.


It was interesting to talk to him. When I told him how humbling it's been working in LA, he was glad to hear it wasn't just him. We both agreed that this is about as tough an environment as we had EVER worked, and we both are well traveled. While he was glad to be leaving for San Diego today, I explained how I really wanted to figure out this city and by doing that and conquering the obstacles of human nature here in LA, everywhere else I go. . . should be a lot easier.


A lot of things can shut you down in the business of busking. A cop, a store owner, a fist fight. There are lots of spontaneous events that just occur and make you call it a day. Here is one of those instances. A car backs up into a fire hydrant and sends a jet of water shooting up in the air. I'm glad that I had just finished my show. You can't compete with that. I packed up my act, just in time. Hundreds and hundreds gallons hitting the street and heading my way. A lot of the arts and crafts people displaced.

I called it a day, went home and cooked steak and potatoes for Polly and the boy.


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