Screwing up in Athens, London & Vegas

Published on 9 March 2024 at 18:29

Honestly, truly, really, I've always given everything I have, at every one of thousands of gigs around the world, and I've mostly hit the mark, or more, got it right almost every time, but, hard as this is to say, not actually every single time.

Completely broke in Athens, just a kid living on the roof of a hotel that didn't know I was there, always looking for work and mostly failing, I decided, for reasons unknown, to become a street magician.

I found, maybe stole, an old deck of cards, learned a couple of tricks, and headed down to Syntagma Square, nauseous, shaking, trembling with fear, almost as if I knew what was coming. I set up my pitch, a handmade 'Magic Show' sign and a red bandana squared on the ground, outside the American Express offices, in front of a cafe. 

I got a little crowd, if that's possible, somehow, and a girl came up and picked a card, showed it to all except me, and put it back in the deck. All was well.

Then the girl, whose name I still don't like to say, even after all this time, took the deck from me and shuffled it, and I was done for, had no way of finding her card, it was over, and the crowd, who thought I was joking at first, then realised I was actually an abject failure, slowly walked away, mercifully leaving me alone, now a hollow man, barely able to stand myself.

A couple of young American girls, who had missed the show, such as it was, stopped and asked if I could show them a trick, but I barely looked up, just shook my head.

About three seconds later, two words entered my head, like a billboard, 'Go Again', and I ran after them, pulled a red napkin from my pocket, made it into a rose for one of the girls, something I had seen someone do once, and showed them my card trick, and it worked and they gave me $5, which I could just about live on for a week, and I worked, on the street, in restaurants and bars, hotels, clubs, and casinos, every day for the next year. Get up before the count is over, and go again, stay in the game, and you've always got another chance.


At The Gunnery, in The City, London, I was giving a talk to the staff of a national newspaper, a light hearted piece to very serious people, hard work, and it was going no better than ok, then suddenly they seemed to warm to me, it felt like I had them, and they were happy and laughing, more and more.

The thought 'I am a natural' crossed my mind, just a split second before the awful realisation that they were laughing only because I was flicking a big red marker pen in my hand, and methodically covering my clothes and face with red ink.

I saw the gig out, but walking back to my apartment in the West End, I was no longer a man on a mission to motivate the world, more an object of fun, humiliated, and seriously thinking of jumping on a plane, anywhere, and not coming back.

Then, at home, looking in the mirror, at my red spotted face, it was funny, and I laughed, and told myself to 'Put the Top on the Pen', and I always have, ever since, and always will, .


More recently, not very long ago at all, I ended a gig in Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, with a piece about how we each have a Fire Within, and in a showy way pulled a large flash of fire from my chest, always a winner, and instead of throwing it downwards as it disappeared harmlessly, I threw it upwards, which had, I thought, greater visual impact, but also set off the fire alarms, triggering lights and klaxons and an evacuation.

Despite the huge ovation from the delegates, I imagined the Las Vegas Fire Station sending a wagon or two, and knew, as did everyone, that I had done an idiotic thing, and that it could be an extremely expensive idiotic thing.

The Caesar's Conference Manager had asked to see me briefly after the gig, and was waiting at the back, and he saw what had happened, knew there was no actual fire risk from flash paper, immediately cancelled the alarms, put it down to a system error, and presented me with a box of Havana cigars as a thank you for my business.

Sometimes, on the best of days in Vegas, you just get lucky.


Until next Saturday, dear reader, be daring and bold, and I wish you good fortune, and love.

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