Listen, I had a weird childhood. I don’t mind saying that and I don’t think my parents will begrudge me this opinion. They were there, they should know. First of all, I should mention that my father is a professional magician. That means that I grew up with some different concepts in my day to day life that other people were not privy to. Let me break these down for you:
1) Prejudices — I hate, hate, hate David Copperfield (the geek who married Claudia Schiffer for a time, not the book). With a passion. And I’m still not entirely sure why other than the fact that “anyone with enough money and time can build an illusion. It takes true talent, skill, and dedication to do sleight-of-hand magic.” Do you think I came up with that on my own? As a child? I can assure you that I did not. And yet I adhere to it because over time I have come to believe that this is true. And so I hate David Copperfield. I also think David Blaine is crap not because he’s not good at sleight-of-hand, he is, but because he has no patter and a creepy stage/street presence. Basically, my father set the standard and everyone else falls short. The only other magician I’ve liked is Mike Tanner and, huge surprise, he took lessons from my father.
2) Words and concepts — This is a pretty substantial section, so I’ll break it down like a good grad student.
a. Do you know what magic rope is? I do. It’s thick, white rope that comes on 100-foot spools. It’s used for, hold on, rope tricks! There are pieces of it everywhere, in different lengths! It is not to be used in place of regular, non-magic rope, ever, unless there is just the most dire situation IN THE WORLD and no regular rope to be found.
b. As a child there was a place in the house called the magic closet and it had nothing to do with games or an overactive imagination. Oh no. This place was real and it didn’t do anything special, like transport you to Narnia or turn into a giant cave. It held magic stuff. It was overflowing with magic stuff. Scarves, coins, cups, balls, rope, cards (regular decks and special decks, but always Bicycle cards), wands, paper, raccoons, and various other things. Sometimes it also held office supplies, like envelopes (some of which were so old that they had our original Slidell address on them), business cards, etc. So a common occurrence in our house was to hear someone scream “Where is that (insert thing needed) that I’m looking for!” and receive the answer “On the third shelf of the magic closet, next to the box of red silk handkerchiefs!”
c. Speaking of which, red silk handkerchiefs are kind of what you think and, then again, kind of not. They’re not stuck in pockets and not at all fashionable. They are used for magic tricks, nothing else. They have turned many loads of laundry bright pink because of my father leaving them stuffed deep inside his pants pockets.
d. Until I was at least 10, I had no clue that flashing had anything to do with naked people. I thought it meant that you mistakenly let a piece of coin shine through your hand, or didn’t cover something properly with a larger motion. You know, it meant you screwed up your trick and your entire audience (or just the one loudmouth) might figure out how you did it.
e. Rocky the Raccoon is a spring puppet and my father is probably the best at it. Ever. Again, I’m way biased but I don’t care. The mean thing is, though, that no one told me it was a puppet when I was little. I just thought that it didn’t like me and slept all day until Daddy came home and made it wake up and play with him. When I was given a de-springed Rocky at age 5, I hated him and so I cut off his ears. That’s what you get for never playing with me, crappy meanie raccoon!
3) Memorization skills — By the time I was 6, I could recite entire portions of my father’s routine, sometimes so effectively that it was embarassing and I would shout it out (unintentionally) during a show. Even now, at age 28, I can hear a certain phrase and suddenly an entire routine will start playing out in my head. For example, I recently heard someone, somewhere say “Don’t be fooled.” What I hear is ” . . . if all he can do is this. This isn’t real coon juggling, anyone can do it. It takes no skill whatsoever.” Yeah, seriously. And then he drops one of the juggling balls, throws Rocky down and yells “Fetch!” This will continue to exist in my head until I die, I guarantee it.
4) Compatibility — I honestly think that one of the reasons Courtney and I even decided to date is that for a time she was magic assistant to Mike Tanner. She knows enough about magic and sleight-of-hand that she can join me in criticizing other magicians and understands most of what I talk about. Do you know how rare that is? To have someone that understands these concepts from your childhood? VERY, VERY RARE. These are just my father’s contributions, and just the magic ones. There are also musical, culinary, and attitude contributions and I haven’t even mentioned Mom yet. I’m just getting started. But this will serve as a good introduction.