Friday, September 22, 2006

Meeting Magicians

I can remember well the first time I met an actual honest to God celebrity.
Not a celebrity like a guy who played guitar on a local TV show each week. No, I'm talking about an absolute living legend.
His name was Henny Youngman. You might have heard of him. He was a legendary comedian.
He came to my home town as the headliner to celebrate the beginning of the artistic season of the Heritage Theater, and I was all a buzz. At this time I was a student of comedy, a collector of comedy albums (on vinyl) and to me the name Henny Yougman was like someone uttering the true name of God.
The night of the performance a man I know on the cities arts council, who knew I wanted to meet Henny, told there would be a signing after the show. Whooha!
So the show went on, and at the end Henny said he was selling books of his jokes and would sign them for charity. I stood up, got into line with my money, and prepared to meet greatness.
I will admit now that I ran through all the possible scenerios while standing in that line.
"Hello Mr. Yougman."
"How are you Mr. Youngman."
"How's the tour going Mr. Youngman?"
Meanwhile other people in line were yelling things out to Henny.
"Where are you headed next Henny?" Someone yelled. Notice this guy actually called him "Henny" while I was thinking "Mr. Yougman."
So the line moved, and I got closer, and finally it was my turn.
I handed him my money.
Henny took it, and wrote his name in a book, then handed it to me.
I took the book.
Then I nodded my head.
Than I left.
Did you notice that? Could you imagine that?
I didn't talk. I didn't do anything but nod my head. I left an idol of mine behind and all I did was hand him money and nod.
To this day I still go "Man I was so stupid." Because I was.

Years go by. I find myself in Vegas standing in line to meet Lance Burton. All I could think of was meeting Henny Yougman, and I promised myself I would not, WOULD NOT, do that again.
So I stood, and waited, and finally stood in front of the man.
"Hello." I said. So far so good. I am one word ahead.
"Hello, how are you?" Lance said in a calming southern drawl.
"I'm fine, thanks." I handed him a poster I had purchased for him to sign.
"What's your name?"
"Where are you from?"

"Ah, Toronto Canada. I hear it's a nice place."
"If you like that sort of thing." Aha! A joke! This is going great!
"What did you think of the show?"
"It was spectacular."
"Well thanks for saying so." He handed me the poster back.

I held out a playing card and said "Would you mind?"
He took it. "Sure. Are you a gambler or a magician?"
"what kind of magic do you do?"
"Mostly family stuff."
He handed the card back. I held out my hand to shake his and he shook it. My wife held up a camera and Lance saw it and stood.
"Oh, a picture. Let's do this right." He leaned in and so did I. Jen took a picture. He sat down.
"Thank You very much Mr. Burton."
"You're very welcome. Enjoy your stay in Vegas."
I joined Jen and we walked away. When I was far enough away so I didn't look like an idiot in front of a legend, I pumped my arm and went "Yesssssssss."

These days I am comfortable in front of the stars of magic. Most of he time I remember that I am, now, a contemporary of these men and women and therefore on a pretty level playing field. Sometimes I call them "Mr.", sometimes just by their name. Sometimes I have something to say, sometimes I don't so I just say that I enjoy their work and leave it at that. Most of the time I have been treated with respect and the person I am talking to is as nice to me as I try to be to them. Sometimes they are not (Yes, I'm looking at you Gaeton Bloom) and I walk away disappointed, but on the whole magicians I have met are all good people who appreciate a little talk with an admirer.
On at least one occasion my true assessing of a magicians column in a magazine started a great conversation that, unfortunately, couldn't go on as long as I would have wanted.
The secret is always be nice, be polite and be interested. Follow this and you will be rewarded.


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