Preston Presto is finally making magic full-time, although he is just barely making rent. It may be time soon to start thinking about getting a part-time job to supplement his income….
Preston rolls out of bed at 1pm. He was out late waiting for the nightclub to pay him after the prior evening's performance. "Stupid nightclub manager," Preston thinks to himself when he looks at the time. Often Preston is lucky to leave the bar or nightclub before 2am. He stumbles over to his coffee machine. Magic books, cards, handkerchiefs, and props are covering the floor of his apartment. The doorbell rings and Preston is delighted to see that his straightjacket has come in the mail. It’s not every day someone can say that.
Before he can make it to his bedroom, Preston is reading the instructions that come with the straightjacket. As a trick popularized by Houdini, Preston thinks it will be perfect for his retro-themed magic performance. His persona, Scary Martini, incorporates old vaudeville magician routines, shock magic, and old-school escape tricks. "I see how they do it," he says. As soon as those words leave his mouth, his roommate pokes his head in the room.
"Nice straightjacket," Barry says. "How does it work?"
Looks comfortable. We'll take two!
"Yeah, right. Do you want me to get kicked out of the International Brotherhood of Magicians?" The International Brotherhood of Magicians is, as its name suggests, an international community in which magicians can enroll to network with others in their craft, as well as share knowledge and ideas for new illusions. They do not care to have their members divulging top secret magical information to those outside the fold.
Barry sighs and resigns himself to making a sandwich. Preston is tightlipped about his routine. Revealing his tricks to anyone outside of the Brotherhood violates their ethical code. Yeah, it sounds a little bit like a cult. But no one's going to ask him to drink the Kool-Aid. Only perhaps to turn it into water.
Preston makes a call to his agent.
"Yeah, I can perform in Reno. How much is the pay? Ouch. What about a room? Okay, so that includes the cost of a room and a couple of meals."
Preston has had an agent for a year. After three years of frequenting smoky nightclubs, bars, theatres, and concerts, he has finally established enough of a following to warrant paying an agent to book gigs. Also, his website traffic and merchandise sales has skyrocketed since he opened for a famous shock magician—Robin of Shocksley. Unfortunately, some of these magicians are better at their craft than they are at picking out stage names.
Preston checks his watch. He has a couple of hours to prepare and practice before setting up at the club. He makes an inventory of all of the props he needs to load in the truck. Everything must be checked to ensure that it properly functions on stage. One time Preston got stuck while performing a disappearing closet trick. When the trap door jammed, Preston’s claustrophobia got the better of him. Fortunately, most of the audience had already gone home by the time the fire department got him out. Only a handful of people saw Preston’s tear-stained face. One of them was his girlfriend. Correction: ex-girlfriend.
Magicians practice magic several hours a day to perfect their patter with the audience, their stage presence, and the tricks themselves. Oftentimes, magicians will invite a couple of friends over to perform a free show in order to ensure that their sleight of hand isn’t obvious to audience members. And if any of them tries to get away without paying for their share of the pizza, he simply lifts a fiver out of their wallet.
Before Preston has time to try out a new coin trick, it's already late afternoon. He has a couple of hours to load his truck, update his website, get dressed, and leave out flyers for his performance tonight at a couple of local magic shops. Being a professional magician isn't as glamorous or mysterious as it's cracked up to be.
He sees some of his following filling up the seats at the nightclub. Preston makes a mental note to hand them an email signup sheet after the show. As part of his self-promotion campaign, Preston must get a substantial following in order for larger venues to book him. Booking agents want to see that you can fill up seats. And not just with the menagerie of animals you’re incorporating into your act.
Dear bunny rabbit: our sincerest apologies.
The lights dim as Preston takes his place on stage. Part of what attracted him to this career was the exciting anticipation before each show. His music starts up and he is enveloped by the smoke rolling out of his fog machine. (Magicians generally pay for all of their own props. It can cost magicians several thousands of dollars to accrue a decent amount of props for performing. This can sometimes be a problem, as it may be difficult for many magicians to even comprehend such a large sum of money.) This fog machine is Preston’s pride and joy. He hopes to someday be able to make huge national landmarks disappear, like David Copperfield has done, but very few magicians are ever able to perform a trick on that grand a scale. Not to mention the fact that you probably can't just call him up and ask how it's done. He might be a little protective of that one.
The smoke creates a mysterious atmosphere and hides some of what Preston intends to keep from the audience. He performs a card trick to get the ball rolling. Audience participation helps establish a bond that keeps them interested in his performance. He sees a beautiful blond in the audience. Sex appeal is another factor that he likes to incorporate into his show, but he can’t afford an assistant. By his request, the girl walks up to the stage to introduce herself. This is the only time that maneuver works for him.
Preston asks the girl to pick a card out of the deck to show to the audience. When she slips the card back into the deck, he'll guess her card. It's a simple trick. Preston adds his own twist by lifting up his hat and revealing the card. He then takes the entire deck and blows on it, which causes the cards to burst into flames. The audience is taken aback and starts cheering. Fire always gets 'em. The rest of his performance goes off without a hitch. Preston patiently waits to get paid at the end of the show. He isn't doing all this just for the love of magic.
While loading up his truck, he hears a voice behind him.
"How did you do that sword swallowing trick? It was unbelievable. I will never get that out of my head."
Preston thanks the audience member. Despite the late nights and difficult road to fame, Preston wouldn't give up magic for anything. Even if his throat is feeling a little raw after downing that scimitar.