Give the Boy His Magic
I ALWAYS TRY to end up with something logical and inspirational. Since this may be your first magic catalog, my December 1986 M-U-M column takes us both back to my early days....
MAGIC BY NOW has been a part of my life since I was eleven years old. As I reflect on those first few years of seeing and learning the art, I recall how exciting it was.
Already I had been amazed at school by a magician who actually made a boy from the audience disappear. Lin Shimp, a high school boy across the street, had shown me the first three tricks I ever saw---the Cut & Restored Rope, the Cups & Balls, and the Siberian Chain Escape. By the time I got the magic bug, Lin's interest had waned, so he not only taught me the tricks, but he gave me the props as well.
Mark Wilson's "Magic Land of Allakazam" had just started on network TV, so each Saturday morning I sat glued to the set to see what Mark, Nani and Rebo (Bev Bergeron) would do next. I was being educated (I didn't know it), and I loved it! In short, like every typical boy magician, I lived and breathed MAGIC on a daily basis.
From my sixth grade to twelfth, my family lived in three different houses. In the first I contained my magic props in a suitcase, then added a box, then in a footlocker in house #2. My bedroom in the second house came with a long floor-to-ceiling set of shelves eight feet wide, and as the magic grew, so it spilled outside the footlocker onto the shelves. I was buying lots of props by the time I was sixteen---doing shows for $10, $15, $25---and I never threw anything magical away.
The third house gave me more room for magic--two sets of shelves, floor-to-ceiling, one for books and one for magic, plus a large walk-in closet where more magic stuff found its way. In addition, more magic props were strung out in the basement and the attic. And I still never got rid of anything (your basic pack-rat magician).
From sixth to ninth grade, the magic was tied up in a friendship with classmate Marty Walden. We tricked each other, practiced escapes by tying each other up in ropes and chains, and did your first free AND paid shows together as a team. Those years were truly fun. When Marty drifted away from magic at age 14, I carried on alone, still doing my tricks.
TWO IMPORTANT THINGS stand out to me about the magic activities of my youth:
First, magic gave me a real sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. I had previously taken two years of piano and two years of guitar lessons and could play neither. I hated to practice, for one thing. I wanted to be Elvis or Fats Domino, but I didn't look, sound or play like either. But those ads in the back of Boy's Life magazine said it all: "Be the life of the Party! Become a Magician!" I read them, I ordered those catalogs and tricks, and by golly, it worked!
I didn't look or sing like Elvis in high school. I was short and fat until the eleventh grade growth spurt that put me over six feet and shed 25 pound--but I could amuse and amaze my friends and enemies with magic!
At a church gathering of you one night, somebody said, "David, why don't you do a few tricks for us?" I had just performed at a birthday party that afternoon, so I hauled my equipment out of the car and did 45 minutes!
Magic shows paid for clothes, gasoline and dates my senior year in high school, and later, for about half my college education, my Mom and Dad footing the other half of the bill. Magic, you see, made me a somebody, and I thrived on it night and day.
THE SECOND THING that stands out about my boyhood involvement in magic is that my parents, Helen and Frank Ginn, ALWAYS SUPPORTED my interest in magic and never put it down. They watched my tricks, however badly performed, and even had me perform for their friends who came over to the house.
It wasn't unusual for Mom to tell me several days after a show some good comments she had heard from someone who had been in my audience, helping to build my confidence in me. And Daddy was always helping me with the equipment, loading, hauling, giving me his valid opinion of this or that. Any criticism they offered was always done in a constructive, sensitive-to-my-feelings manner.
And to this day, I am thankful to the way they accepted and encouraged my sincere interest in magic, comedy and showbiz. Their support made a real big difference in how I turned out as an adult.
So what did magic do for ME as a kid? Lots of things, but I'll just share nine of them:
(1) Magic encouraged me to read more. I always loved reading and books for stories and adventures, but magic made my reading take a more practical slant: my reading became a quest for knowledge of how to do tricks and illusions plus learning how to perform them. This wasn't just reading for fun (which it was and which is also fine), but reading to do something real and practical and concrete.
(2) Magic got me into meeting people, talking about shows, tricks and so on. It gave me an identity, something interesting to be and relate to others.
(3) Magic put me out in front of crowds, talking and projecting, teaching me how to deal with an audience. It improved my public speaking ability, my stage presence and mannerisms that eventually became David Ginn on stage.
(4) Magic caused me to think logically and organize things into patterns---the tricks themselves, the routines, then the shows as a whole. personally, I think this ability has carried over into my writing books and articles as well as my organization of lectures and workshops. If only I could keep my office at home this orderly!
(5) Magic made me practice, and I liked that because I achieved results in my performances. I loved music, but the repetition of piano or guitar practicing bored me. Somehow, magic did not.
(6) Magic taught me about the mail order business. What fun it was to get tricks and books in the mail as a kid. And what a disappointment to get things that wee not good and to have to deal with that. I learned to order from the good dealers and not to waste my money on the not-so-good ones. I learned that the way to treat people best in any business -- and I learned this as as a customer--was simply to follow the Golden Rule.
(7) Magic gave my young life direction -- a goal to work towards. Practice a new trick for the show. Prepare the show for a church party. Read about magic to learn. Watch TV magic to study presentation as well as enjoying the tricks themselves.
(8) Magic was my way of getting high. I didn't need tobacco, alcohol or drugs. Magic was what made me feel good, besides the good I felt just being alive.
(9) Magic earned me money. Yes, as I started doing paid shows for birthday parties and church functions---$5, $10, even those big $25 shows---I earned cash that paid for lots of things in high school and college.
A friend of mine told me he paid his way through college by doing shows. Then he dropped magic for 20 years until he had kids of his own going into college, at which time he rekindled the hobby and started doing shows again to help pay for those college education's!
Yes, when other kids my age were out playing sports, I was practicing magic. When other kids were out stealing hubcaps and radio antennas, I was doing magic. In high school, when my friends were working at grocery stores or hamburger joints for $1.35 an hour, I was making $20 in 30 minutes!
MAGIC---you must see---was the best moneymaking, character-building, personal-enjoyment and good-for-others hobby EVER INVENTED! And in my own case, magic evolved into the most wonderful occupation possible for me.
One day a school teacher asked me after a show: "What do you do in real life? She meant, besides magic, did I have a real 8-5 fob? I laughed heartily and smiled, not offended but actually amused.
"Lady," I said with a grin,. "this IS my real life--doing 400 shows a year, writing books about magic and comedy, lecturing to magicians and clowns at club meetings and conventions and workshops. With all this magic work and my family life---I don't have time for a REAL JOB!"