I see that the person who set up this blog for me and who made the first post under my name said there would be excerpts from my most wondrous memoirs “The Lives of a Showman”. However in reality so far there hasn’t been a single excerpt! Well I suppose I had better remedy that right now. Here you are. This describes my adventures when first starting out in showbusiness in London, England.
At the time there was a weekly theatrical newspaper called
The Stage (it is still in existence to this day). It had all sorts of
advertisements in a category called “Entertainers Wanted.” The
depressing thing was that you would often see the ads worded
something like this: “Variety acts of all kinds required. (No
magicians.)” It amuses me now to think about it, but at the time it
wasn’t amusing in the slightest.
Eventually, I happened to see an advertisement requesting entertainers
to audition. This time the ad didn’t say a word about not
wanting magicians, so I thought it might be worth a try. Accordingly, I phoned the number in the paper and was told to report for
an interview prior to an audition being set up. I was told to bring
any photographs I had of the act. In those days photos were the
most important part of your promotional material; they were more
important than any literature you had.
I took down the address and prepared to be on my way the next
afternoon. However, my sense of navigation became somewhat
askew, and I got lost. I came to a tiny street called Swallow Street
where there were two nightclubs side by side. One was called the
L’Hirondelle and the other was named the Stork Room. For some
reason, which I can no longer recall, I was convinced that the
L’Hirondelle was the place where the auditions were being held,
so I wandered in with great anticipation.
There was a small, empty hallway; nobody seemed to be
around. It was beginning to dawn on me that perhaps I had come
to the wrong address. Just then a small, dark, important-looking
man appeared out of nowhere. I found out later that he was the
owner of the nightclub. So many years have passed that I have
quite forgotten his name, so for the purpose of this story I will call
him Mr. Mustapha. He was of Turkish origin.
He looked at me and said, “We are closed until the evening.
Did you want something?” I replied, “I have come about the
auditions advertised in the paper.” His puzzled response was,
“What auditions? What paper?” I said, “The Stage newspaper. It
said you were having auditions; I phoned up about it.”
He answered, “I don’t know anything about auditions. You
must have come to the wrong place. Are you an entertainer?” I
replied, “I am indeed,” whereupon he inquired, “What kind of entertainer
are you?” I told him that I was a magician. He pondered
for a moment and said, “I need entertainers. I don’t know if a
magician would be suitable here, though.” I told him that my act
was a little different from most magicians, since it consisted of
nothing but card tricks. I told him that the card tricks in question
could be seen from a distance and appreciated by large audiences.
He didn’t seem convinced.
My salvation had always been the close-up magic, so I immediately pulled out a little pocket trick and showed it to him.His eyes widened; I could see that he was impressed. I then did a card trick and I could see he was sold. He said, “I’ll tell you what. We have an early show at 10:00 p.m. and a later show at 1:00 a.m. Do your act here tonight at the earlier show and I’ll see how well it goes over. If it works out I will hire you.” He explained that I
would not be paid for the evening; my performance would be an
I agreed to this and was quite pleased with myself. I left the club
deciding not to bother locating the place where I was supposed to
do the audition that was advertised in The Stage newspaper.
I shall continue this saga in future blog entries. At least it will give me something to write about. I will probably post the next entry tomorrow. You will be able to see how I fared at my first show at this particular nightclub.