“Mr. Magic trying not to be noticed…”
After a slight dry spell of 30 odd years Mr. Magic is booked twice. I’m wearing Great Grandpa Bill’s 1957 Vintage DORMANS Southern California Tuxedo (I finished my UCLA Theatre Degree because he made me promise I would…Thank You Grandpa). Oh and thanks for a fabulous Tux that’s gone with me to 14 Academy Award Ceremonies (Dad’s a Member) & to England & now I’m a Magician in it yet again. You’re talking to the former youngest member of the Los Angeles Magician’s Club when I was 10 years old (after my Dad TV Script-Writer Ben Starr’s MR. ED episode was shot on-location at the Hollywood Magic Castle).
Herein lies Mr. Magic’s tale of wonder, woe and awe…
Part 1.) Webisode
‘Webisode’ in Background Performing means “cost effective Internet shows.” Cheap cheap. I accept an incredibly low Union Rate with no prop or costume bumps today so that I can be slightly paid as a professional Magician for this on-line show that no one has ever has heard of (but which stars a wonderful semi-famous Indy Film Queen). We meet mid-day at the Crafty table & both agree the yellow cake is delicious but it needs more chocolate butter frosting. Now.
Earlier at 6:30am I pull up to the Hollywood location parking lot in a downpour. The drenched PAs with attitude at the gate know nothing (1st bad sign) and expect me to have my car double parked and locked behind someone who will not be leaving their key. “Don’t worry we’ll figure out the parking later” one yells. “I’m Mr. Magic & have a trunk load of expensive tricks & props. I’m only working a few hours in one scene.” “Oh. Wow. Ahhhhh.” they cunningly respond. “I’ll park on the street” & spend 10 minutes looking. In a Tux, while balancing umbrella & dragging large heavy propcase, I walk 4 blocks to the theatre. “Hey Craig, Mr. Magic has arrived. Take him Back Stage to set up” booms over the in-house system. “Lookin’ sharp” says a guy who points me to Wardrobe’s oh-so-blond 50ish Stylish Department Head. She asks “Where’s your Accoutrement?” I answer “I don’t know what that is.” “A Top Hat dear” says Miss La Dee Dah Frenchyness. Oy Vey Frenchie. I had already told them on the phone two days ago I didn’t have a Top Hat. “I work without a hat” and patted my scalp. I lied. She bought it. Ha Ha.
Backstage I watch with glee (the word … not the show) while the bitchy PA who hassled me in the parking lot is forced by the Producers to wear a ridiculous Huge Pink Cow Head & Costume because an Extra bailed out. During filming she keeps accidentally walking her Big Head into scenery. It sounds loud like “THONK!” It is hilarious. She is so pissed off & Production keeps her in the outfit longer because it’s very funny. She is dizzy at this point & spins around a little bit losing her barings. No one is helping her or cares. Karma thy name is Cow Pie, humble on the side? Suddenly the Cute Male Lead jumps pointing to a cockroach the size of Milwaukee & squeals “Is that thing real?” Duh. Theatre. I cover it with a tissue & stomp. Bug Be Gone by my Wizardry Tricks works with a hard flat shoe.
The 2nd AD was very nice. Not everyone else was. How’s that for diplomacy? This photo is on-set Back Stage at a real theatre with very little crawl space. The Leads are about to go on in a Vaudeville Show (yes can you believe it?) & they walk & talk past me before their big entrance. I’m juggling scarves & trying not to be pushed around because, for whatever reason. I am suddenly invisible to actors & crew members. Oh yes there’s a Cow stealing my focus. What? Are we doing GYSPY with the Caroline the Cow number? Moo Moo Moo Moo? Just then, 2 Huge Grips walk by me as I finish setting up my Magic Act (some Tricks dating back to my childhood) & these cut-from-the-football-team-in-high-school galloping galoots (I said it) kick both my tables over & everything goes flying. These Apes don’t turn around or acknowledge that I’m picking up pieces of broken wood chips from Magic Tricks (which I will fix later with wood glue & paint). Okay I am going to be a professional. I hold my tongue & find the very nice 2nd AD. Wow, he totally listens, gets it & makes this announcement “Everyone please watch the Magicians’ stuff as you walk by. This is his Living people.” I should be so lucky, pooh pooh. During one shot I drop a scarf but it still works in this scene because I am supposed to be practicing before the show. No biggie. The Director asks the European Cameraman how was the take. He grunts “The Magician dropped his rag” (roll your ‘R’s and say the word “dropped”. That’s it. You got it). Dropped my rag? We did 11 takes & I repeatedly hit ‘toss behind back’ & ‘double double’ scarf juggling catches without fail. In a tiny space with a bitchy Pink Cow & several Bully Boy Grips. Off with my head. Oh and fella? News Flash Eurotrash: When they’re made out of silk and are day-glo bright circus colors they’re called Scarves not rags. The nice 2nd AD sees all this, knows I’m knocking myself out & compliments my great array of props that I’ve re-set out for their best camera advantage. “You are dressing the set. It looks good.” He understood my stuff is a lifetime of valuable experience. That said, the best part of the day was getting this picture taken & not getting locked into that parking lot in the daylong rain. As I am leaving during the never-ending storm I see all the other Extras just figuring out now that a drenched PA still has to find where their cars are & what crew had what keys back & forth & oh look Mr. Magic’s already in his car parked wisely on the street. Hmmmm that Car Heater feels cozy. Abra Cadabre Windshield Wipers take me away. Alakazam the Magic Man.
Part 2.) Johnny the Magic Clown Show
Booked for 90 kids & adults into a one-night-only theatre production with the same 15 minutes of Old Fashioned Magic Show Razzle Dazzle that I’ve been pulling out of a hat since I was watching black + white TV. I splurge for this show & buy “Hippity Hop Rabbits” (a classic big stage size Trick). My lovely Sister was my Magician’s Assistant in childhood but she’s been selfishly replaced today by a dear lifelong friend. We are a smash. We open dancing jitterbug to The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back”. First trick with the Rabbits gets laughs & we’re off. Please note New Yellow-Jacket Clown Shoes & Kimono I bought in Kyoto. My Pants have new patches. They told me in advance “No Make-Up it scares some kids” (easier without it & much less set-up time). All the kids seem to love the Act except the 3 rude ones who never stop texting. While leading ‘Simon Says’ I trick each of them quickly out of the game. “You’re Texting? Simon Says you’re Out!” has never been more pleasure to utter & my timing with each punk gets laughs. Magic Clowny says cram it kids.
My Finale…the Harry Houdini “Ash Trick”. I ask if any youngster knows him & a few did! Hope for the future! I explain that “over 100 years ago, Houdini was married & taught his wife all his tricks so she could be his Assistant. One day she claimed to know everything. Harry asked her to think of anyone in the world & write their name down, burn the paper & bring the ashes to him. I’m going to do the same thing now & show you what happened.” I thank the adult volunteers who, before the show, wrote down all 70 of the children’s names. I ask one of the Mom’s to please pull one name out of the hat. I turn my back & walk up stage while she secretly points out which kid was chosen, per my instructions. We burn all the names (yes I brought an extinguisher & yes there was almost too much smoke). Like Houdini I role up my sleeve & gently rub the ashes over my arm as letters start slowly appearing. A young boy in the front row starts spelling out in gasps “A!” “N!” “A!” “ANA! It’s ANA!” The room bursts into an ovation as Ana leaps up from her seat & cries “That’s me! I’m Ana”. She wins the Grand Prize Gift Toy as I walk up & down the aisles showing the thrilled kids the word “ANA” on my ashen skin. People go nuts. Very exciting for me. Houdini’s Wife was blown away too & supposedly never presumed his mystical real talents again. Oh and the texting kids walked out of my show early. I yelled at their backs “Simon Says Adios!” & got another laugh at their misbehaving expense. And those kids missed the Ash Trick (& when they heard something big happening came running back in too late. Ah life’s lessons). Text at your own peril at my shows children. In the Dressing Room later a folksy guy with long hair & a guitar says “Man I never saw the Ash Trick before. Totally amazing.” Thanks. All it takes is practice. Since age 7.
Part 3.) Visiting
I walk into a room with 300 Background Performers all hoping to make a great impression on the 3 Casting Directors we will be “Visiting” with for the next hour. I am in my Tux & wearing my just purchased Top Hat, white gloves and brand new Magic Wand. Everyone gets to introduce themselves quickly. At my turn I say “Hi. I’m Mr Magic … John Starr. I’m trying not to be noticed.” Hold for the big laugh & decide not to pull the hidden 25 feet of neon coil color streamers out of my mouth because I don’t want to overdo it. Knock wood you haven’t heard the last of Mr. Magic, your Extra man in Hollywood.
P.S. In case you missed my one-minute speaking role I present for your brief viewing pleasure “John Starr on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS”. http://www.youtube.com/user/JohnStarrTV?feature=mhum
Please feel free to watch this YouTube Link repeatedly throughout your already busy days.