Continuing on with odd photos on my office wall... this is probably one of the oddest!
It was taken back on, possibly, my first lecture tour of the States (2002?). After doing a lecture to a great crowd in Florida one guy heard we were going in to Busch Gardens and said he worked there. So, after we did the roller coasters and got our adrenaline rush, he took us backstage to meet some of the amazing creatures he worked with. It was quite the VIP experience!
Looking at the Busch Gardens website now, it seems that the Dolphin theatre must have been replaced shortly after our visit, so that makes this photo even more special.
I wouldn't mind going back to Tampa some day soon, after all they have some of the top coasters at that park, but they also have this wonderful exhibit.
Many of you know that I'm a big WWE fan. A long time ago (as you can tell by the poster behind me as it has the WWF logo) I was lecturing through the USA and one of the stops was New York - so I took full advantage and made a trip to Times Square especially to visit the newly opened WWF restaurant/nightclub. This was even before Criss Angel took up residence in the venue with a show which, by all reports, was actually better than his current Luxor show.
It was quite an experience to visit this newly minted mecca of all things wrestling. Very exciting because it was fresh and new and I was there... but all very disappointing because it was, in essence, just another manufactured theme restarant (like an 'Irish O'Murphy's' pub or something).
I guess my feelings were pretty much shared by the WWE Universe because the venue has ceased to be. Now it's gone, replaced by another themed restaurant, the Hard Rock Cafe.
The year was 1990 and, as a post 'Magic Week' celebration, Andrew Gill and myself took a trip to Fiji. Of course we didn't pay, a client of mine hired us to entertain at his resort so the "holiday" was on the house.
When we arrived it was more than just a show at the resort. We had arrived at the height of the annual Sigatoka Festival and I discovered that I was the special guest!
It was a river festival, so Andrew and I were paraded up and down the river in a boat as the locals cheered and Andrew, feeling he wasn't working hard enough, kept "accidentally" falling out of the boat much to the delight of the riverbank crowds.
Fiji, like may tropical destinations, has "Fiji Time", which means everything starts about an hour later than it's scheduled. So one night, when we were told the top chief on the island was coming to see our show, we decided to start even later than usual (as we knew the more important you are, the later you turn up) and to do an extra long show.
An hour and a half after starting time he still hadn't arrived, so we decided to start anyway. The normal 45 minute show was stretched out to an hour and a half and we did every trick we could think of. Then, just before we started the last trick, there was a great fuss and hullaballo as the chieffinally arrived!
He was ready to see the show.
Simple, they told us, just start again.
We couldn't do that so while Andrew was on I ran about grabbing things from the kitchen, the hotel office, the supply cupboards... anything I could think of that could be handy for a trick. Andrew and I did another hour filled with half-remembered, improvised tricks that everyone (thankfully) really enjoyed.
The chief was very happy - which meant everyone was very happy too.
Especially us - when the marathon show was finally over!
At 9am we arrived at the China University Magic College convention ready to judge the competition,
but first we had to do an interview with CCTV.
I have no idea what I'm doing... they just gave us lines in Chinese to repeat. It was very weird.
Not quite as weird as the randy Sponge Bob Square Pants that was sharing the dressing room with us
So the competition began - with a bunch of cute kids to start with, to stage acts, to close up acts. Then it was lunch and returning again to judge more acts until around 5.30pm
After that it was preparing for the big Stage Gala Show - and by big, I mean 14 acts!!!
Scheduled to start at 7pm, it started late at 7.30pm and went on without an interval until at least 10.30pm! I was the second last act and the audience was still wildly enthusiatic for magic (thank goodness!) What was most bizarre was they encouraged the audience to tweet during the show and displayed all their messages on the video screens live during the show! I guess it stopped them from using their phones to film it...
Here's a shot I took from the stage during the curtain call.
It was a wildly busy and exciting day, and the enthusiasm they have for magic is overwhelming!
However, it's very late and we have an even bigger day tomorrow with lectures and the Gala Awards Show.
If you ever want to feel insignificant on this planet, spend a day driving around Beijing. There are so many people everywhere it's amazing that anyone can muster up the drive and ambition to stand out from the masses and succeed in their chosen field.
Today we drove to the fabric market where some of the magicians planned to get some material and have some suits made.
After a long drive to a nearby part of the city (I have no idea how long it took, I fell asleep) we arrived in the fashion district.
It didn't take that long for the magicians to realise they had no idea what they were looking for amongst the mountains of every type of fabric imaginable.
Nevertheless, we strolled around for a while before heading off to a nearby (30 minutes) restaurant for a lunch of China's famous 'Hot Pot'.
From there we were off to the tailors at Ya Show Fashion Complex. Only 20 minutes away, but I'm pretty sure it took over an hour. This was a multilevel bargaining bazaar filled not only with tailors but t-shirts, souvenirs, electrical goods, and pretty much anything you can imagine.
I picked up a few fun t-shirts for myself at around $7.50 each as well as a souvenir, but I did resist getting the official Beijing souvenir T-shirt
I really don't think the first thing Australians would associate BJ with is Beijing...
No suits were tailored today, and we headed back to the hotel through Beijing rush hour and, after a quick meal at the dodgy Irish Pub across the road, I'm settling in for an early night as I prepare for the CUMC Magic Convention starting tomorrow at 8am
I should be asleep but I know if I don't update this now I'll never do it.
Today started early because our host wanted us to experience the Dinosaur Land as guests and, if we dared, go on the new 4D roller coaster.
First stop was the wet log flume ride... sort of low rent version of Universal Studios Jurassic Park with moving dinosaurs, dark areas, fog, and a sudden drop down three stories with a big splash as the end.
Thankfully we were provided with full body raincoats, including little plastic bags to cover our shoes.
A few more adventures followed as we explored the bizarre couplings of dinosaurs and medieval knights
Watched people get turned inside out
Though we were on a VIP tour and could skip lines and get on any ride instantly, none of us chose to ride this one... but we all rode Dino Mountain, an indoor roller coaster in the dark (think Space Mountain) and then watched a 4D version of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
Then came time to go on the 4D roller coaster Dinoconda.
Suddenly, I was the only one interested in riding it despite the fact that we could avoid a three hour line. Graciously, our host Borg Yuan accompanied me on the ride and screamed like a girl all throughout it ;)
How serious do they take their coasters in China? When you get off you are confronted by the vomitting bin.
After that adventure it was off to lunch at the dumpling cafe and then a quick visit to watch the bird show (with macaws, cockatoos, budgies and even an emu) before taking the bus to ride something even faster than the 4D coaster - the new bullet train.
At speeds of over 300kmh we travelled the 961 kms from the Changzhou station (pictured above) to Beijing in just under five hours.
Then we were bussed from the station to our hotel at substatianally slower speeds that seemed strangely so much faster...
All through the journey I had a craving for tacos. No offense to Chinese food, it is great but I've had it non stop since I've arrived and I just had this weird desire for Mexican food which, realistically, I knew would go unfulfilled.
Then, at the hotel, I found a Texan Bar and Grill and thought to myself "At least I can get a steak dinner..." But what did they have on the menu...? TACOS!!!
So I go to bed tired after a long, speed filled day, but with a very happy stomach.
These are the posters advertising my show and Arthur Trace's show here at Dinosaurland.
(Insert humorous caption here *g*)
Another four shows back to back and it's feeling like a gym workout! I'm only doing four tricks (razorblades, bill to banana, Runaround Sue and the 6 Card Rap) but my show is running at 30 minutes. I have a feeling the translation is doubling the length of the banana routine but, surprisingly, it's one of the highlights of the show - for me as well as the audience.
I have no idea what the translator (Borg Yuan, who is also the booker, pictured below) is saying, but when the Chinese ladies reach into my pocket and feel the banana the reactions are off the charts! One lady, after diving in five times finally pulled the banana out and was so shocked she threw it in the air and in landed in the moat in front of the stage. (Yes, our stage has a moat in front of it...) It was hilarious.
Another lady, when I asked her to hold the banana up so everyone could see it, held it in the middle and slowly tightened her grip until the banana split open at both ends and started oozing everywhere. Again, I have no idea why she did it but it was hilarious!
The humidity here today was even worse, but Borg delivered on the promise of some talcum powder and, though my arms looked even more ghostly white than usual, I was able to perform Runaround Sue without any technical problems.
However, doing a 30 minute show, then having a 30 minute reset, immediately followed by another 30 minute show (repeat) is pretty exhausting even under the best of conditions, but performing in this weird dinosaur cave theatre with non-existent air conditioning is extremely challenging.
The best thing, however, are the audiences. They are really loving the shows which is absolutely staggering to me. Maybe it's one of those enigmas like how the French really love Jerry Lewis?
I'm also pleased to report that I'm being very well looked after and we get taken out to dinner every night with several of the other magicians who are doing street shows in the park.
The picture below is an example of the little magical touches we encouter even in restaurants. It's a tomato rabbit. How cute!
It's 10am and I think I've finally had enough sleep to be able to get up and do four shows... leaving here in two hours time.
Of course, looking at this beautiful hotel room, you know I really don't want to leave...
But one look outside my balcony and I'm not only overlooking a golf driving range, but a huge theme park complete with roller coasters, waterslides and lots of screaming guests (I can juuust hear them if I open my window).
It's hard to see due to the omnipresent Shanghai mist... and I can hear fireworks going off right now.. at 10 in the morning..
There are several other magicians here as well. The only one I can remember from my meeting last night at 3am is Arthur Trace.
Tomorrow we're leaving for Vegas and the IMX but we have wrangled a few "days off" to visit The Magic Castle on the way. So, if you're in the LA area and you want to say g'day, we'll be in on the 19th and 20th catching up with friends and hanging out in the most magiciany place on earth.
After that, it's Vegas baby and three days of non-stop magic!