MANNEQUIN POSING for FUN & PROFIT – Tales from Bo by Bo Gerard

Before Gretchen and I moved from NYC to Dallas, we were doing the “Mannequin Challenge” - only we got paid for it. 

A new trend that was emerging at the time and our training in Mime, Dance and Theater made us uniquely suited for the task..  Business were having performers pretend to be mannequins in store windows, in floor displays and at parties.  We were among the first in the country to present this art, and were in high demand.  Back then, the clients wanted you to really look like a store mannequin; STANDING with the store’s cloths on, and posing on pedestals – unmoving – with your EYES OPEN!  We worked in all of the big New York department stores, and even did a lot here in Dallas after we relocated.

This idea was copied by many, but some of the performers lacked the training and commitment to make it a real, and even surreal, experience for passersby.  Since then we have seen the art transform.  Now the look has moved away from mannequin and toward statues, and many of the performers are seated in comfortable positions, with eyes closed or wearing masks or painted glasses.  And some have even taken to scaring their audience, on purpose, for a laugh.

And now here’s the Mannequin Challenge, an Internet video trend where people remain frozen in action like mannequins, while a moving camera films them.  It is believed that the phenomenon was started by students in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 12, 2016.  Most, at least, are standing in hard to hold poses, with their eyes open.  But they only hold the poses for a few minutes.  We were expected to hold a pose for 10 to 15 minutes; often without blinking the whole time.  The no-blinking think was a combination of conditioning, will power and over-the-top commitment.

It was great to be there, at the very start of something that was admired by the public and desired by the paying clients.  Our knees are paying for it now, but it was worth it!

 

Dave “ELVIS” Tapley has left the building – The end of an era. by Bo Gerard

This morning one of the worlds truly unique people left us.  Dave Tapley lost his valiant fight against cancer today.  I first met Dave around 1990, when he hired me to be the magical emcee his Cavalcade of Stars Show.  Since then I had worked with, and for him, hundreds of times, as have many, many local and national performers.   A great singer and entertainer, Dave was an interesting mix of savvy businessman/promoter and a rambunctious 13-year-old.  He built a big Look-A-Like booking business, while also performing all around the country with the Cavalcade Show.  He also booked a lot of national acts for corporate events.  With Cavalcade, I traveled to New Orleans, Las Vegas, New York City, Chicago (just to mention a few) and all over Texas and Arkansas.

Dave was big in every way.  He had a big presence on stage as a performer, he was a big booking agent, and he liked to have really BIG fun.  If the audience could only have seen what sometimes went on in the green room before, during and after the Cavalcade shows, they would have gotten quite a kick out of it.

Dave’s passing marks the passing of an era.  An era where audiences wanted to be fully engaged with the performers on stage.  Where performers could interact with audiences both physically and verbally.  Where you got the audiences “undivided attention”.  Things are a bit different now, and I miss those days.  And we will all really miss the one and only Dave “Elvis” Tapley.

 

TAKE SCROOGE'S CHRISTMAS HUMBUG QUIZ by Bo Gerard

Let's see how much you really know about Christmas!  (answers below)

1)  In which country did the tradition of exchanging gifts start?
A. Italy
B. The Netherlands
C. Greece
D. Israel

2)  Who wrote "The Night Before Christmas"?
A. Peter Collington
B. Clement Moore
C. Chris van Allsburg
D. Raymond Briggs

3)  From what material was the first artificial Christmas tree made?
A. Glass
B. Plastic
C. Silk
D. Feathers

4)  On which musical instrument was "Silent Night" first played?
A. Guitar
B. Organ
C. Flute
D. Harp

The Three Scrooges

The Three Scrooges

5)  What is Santa's name in Holland
A. Father Christmas
B. Grandfather Frost
C. St. Nicholas
D. Christkind

6)  In which country was the first Christmas card created?
A. France
B. Germany
C. England
D. Spain

7)  In which country was the poinsettia first associated with Christmas and is known as "Flower of the Holy Night"?
A. Canada
B. Mexico
C. Greece
D. Egypt

8)  In which country did the real St. Nicholas live?
A. Denmark
B. The Netherlands
C. Bulgaria
D. Turkey

9)  In which ocean can Christmas Island be found?
A. Indian Ocean
B. Arctic Ocean
C. Atlantic Ocean
D. Pacific Ocean

10)  In which European country is Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" set?
A. Germany
B. Russia
C. Poland
D. Denmark

ANSWERS:
1) Italy  2) Clement Moore  3) Feathers
4) Guitar5) St. Nicholas6) England  
7) Mexico8) Turkey9) Indian Ocean
10) Germany

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HOW DID YOU DO?

CROSSING THE LINE – Thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

As a comedy/magic performer I am constantly flirting with the lines between me and my audience.  To get the loud “wows” and big laughs, one has to get as close to the line of your particular audience’s comfort zone as one can, without crossing it.  This is a lifelong pursuit based on thousands of performances and a study of the human psyche.  Every audience, whether on stage or in a strolling situation, places the line in a different place and it’s my job to locate it and nudge up as close to it as I can.

There are, however, other lines in life that really shouldn’t be crossed, and yet are being crossed with abandon.  And here this blog changes - from an inside look at performing to a out-and-out rant.  I’m talking about the lines painted on our roads by the city and state traffic departments.  I think it all started with parking lots.  In the old days, drivers who, were looking for a spot or leaving the lot, would drive up and down the lanes of the parking lot in the manner that was dictated by the lines.  Nowadays, drivers totally ignore the lanes and drive any which way they want.  I feel like I am taking my life into my hands when I enter a big box store’s parking lot.  This line-blindness has extended to the even thicker, solid white line on the highway entrance ramp.  Its job is to keep you in the acceleration lane until a certain point, where the highway department has determined that it is safe for you to enter the highway.  We had an agreement (not to mention a legal obligation) that we would all follow these rules for safety’s sake.  But now all bets are off.  Drivers are constantly crossing the very thick white line and entering the highway whenever they like.  And the thickest white line of them all is the one at stop lights.  It’s the one just past the crosswalk lines, and it is there to remind you that if you have stopped over it for the light, other drivers can’t see around you to see if it is safe to make a right turn on red (where legal).

Thick lines, thin lines, wide lines, double lines – now all mere obstacles for the modern driver.  If I had this kind of line-blindness, I doubt I would have been as successful as an entertainer.

COMEDY MAGIC IS GOOD MEDICINE – Thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

I had no Idea that I was in the pharmaceutical business!

A study was published recently in the scientific journal “Emotion” that suggests that feeling AWE may promote good health.  Specifically, as lead study author, Jennifer E. Stellar, explained in a phone interview - “people who reported feeling awe on a regular basis tended to have lower markers of inflammation, which has been correlated with ailments like heart disease and cancer”.  Every magician knows that look in his audience’s eyes, when they have just experienced awe and amazement.  Now he should feel even better knowing that he’s also making them less inflamed.

Other numerous studies have concluded that LAUGHTER decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals.  Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.  So, when a comedienne makes my audience laugh, she is helping them fight disease and pain.  How great is that!?

And by combining these two powerfully beneficial professions, I am delivering a health-and-happiness-cocktail that is doubly helpful to my fellow humans.  (At least the ones that pay to see me perform.)  It’s a scientific fact!

I have spent the last 30+ years performing as a Comedy Magician, spreading my healing power far and wide.  All without medical school bills, embarrassing examination gowns, prescriptions, or side effects.  (Except for the occasional white wine shooting out of someone’s nose.)

So in conclusion, world, I have only one thing left to say to you… You're welcome!

EGO CHECK, 1, 2, 3 – Tales from Bo by Bo Gerard

It’s hard to keep your ego under control – especially if you are a performer.  First of all, you have to possess a certain amount of confidence, daring, and even chutzpah to stand up in front of an audience of 300 strangers.  This is multiplied if they have not specifically come to see you and your show.  Many of my now 1000’s of audiences had come for a dinner and some speeches or awards.  Most are surprised to find they are having entertainment.  So, I have to take confidence and chutzpah to a new level if I want to win them over.  And since they are usually sitting at round tables, I literally must get half of them to turn their chairs to face me. (Without actually asking them to).  45 minutes later, if I've done my job, I have transformed this assemblage of dinner guests into a laughing, reactive theater audience.  (Roving wait staff notwithstanding)

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While I'm performing it's easy for me to tell how much the audience is enjoying the show, but it’s always nice if they come up to me after the show.  It's great to get to see them up close, shake their hands and hopefully convince them that I do not behave like my lovable-yet-offbeat stage persona once I am offstage.  People say all sorts of interesting things to you after a show.  Aside from the usual “I really enjoyed the show”, they sometimes feel compelled to tell me about another magician that they saw once, that did this amazing trick that they’ve never been able to figure out!”.  But when they say “YOU BLEW MY MIND” or “I HAVEN’T LAUGHED THAT MUCH IN YEARS”, I feel truly happy.

So, a performers ego is constantly getting inflated, the deflated, and sometimes it’s hard to keep an even keel.  But, my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE story about post-show comments is something that happened to me in Las Vegas.  I had been hired by a company to write and perform a theatrical-style show about their product, using magic comedy and audience participation.  The show, which I performed 15 times a day for four days, was such a great success that they asked me back the next year.  Only this time they had hired a new marketing firm that convinced my client that they should write the trade show presentation.  My client insisted that the new marketing firm use me as their live spokesperson.  The show they wrote was your run-of-the-mill trade show presentation, with me standing (in white tie and tails, no less), talking and reacting to a large video screen.  No magic, little humor, and not very unique.  I, of course, tried my best to ratchet up the entertainment value of the very dry script and the show went well, although it did not generate the response or the number of leads my show the previous year generated.  So, here’s the EGO CHECK.  Somewhere in the middle of the four days an attendee came up to me after the show and said that the show was good, but last year they had a show that was really great.  I quietly thanked him and explained that it was I that wrote and performed last years' show, and that I had nothing to do with the concept and script for this years’ show.  I felt vindicated… but only for an short while.  For one hour later, a gentleman came up after the show and said that he really enjoyed this years' show, and that it was MUCH better than the one they had last year.

I may have forgotten to mention to HIM that it was I who wrote and performed the last years’ show.

IT’S NOT FUN AT ALL TO STAY AT THE YMCA – Tales from Bo by Bo Gerard

Village People notwithstanding!  Now, even though the early 1980’s were post-sexual-revolution, a person still had to balance freedom with safety.

When “BARNUM”, a Tony-Award Winning Circus Musical, opened its National Tour in New Orleans, I had never toured with a big show before and had little experience with the special challenges of managing expenses while on the road.  When you tour with a show like this, the tour manager gives you a list of hotels and apartments that will be available in each city and you choose one a week or two ahead of moving to a new city.

Since we were going to be in NOLA for a month, I chose the hotel closest to the Sanger Theater.  It was The Prince Conti, in the French Quarter, and though it was little run down at the time, it had a certain elegance and charm.  The rooms were small, but were full of beautiful antiques, and the first morning Gretchen and I woke to find that a breakfast of croissants, butter and delicious chicory coffee would be brought to our room every day, on a silver platter. (with china service, plus a newspaper!) We were in hog heaven!  When our run in NOLA was coming to an end, I received the list of accommodations for our 3 weeks in Washington, DC.  Well, the only place I could afford (because I didn’t want to share a room) was asking for a two-week deposit upon booking.  Although I was making good money with the show, I wasn’t going to be able to swing that deposit unless I spent a lot less for my last week’s hotel bill in NOLA

Gretchen had gone back to NYC, so I moved to the YMCA, where the daily rate was $19.95.  However, I am compelled to say that THE VILLAGE PEOPLE WERE WRONG!  First of all, “my room was SO small”.  HOW SMALL WAS IT?  I could wash my hands or answer the door without getting out of bed.  REALLY!!!  But there was one thing that made sitting in that tiny room very appealing, and that was what was going on outside of my room.  Every time I left my room there were men standing in the halls.  Just standing there.  But what’s worse, and I am not making this up, there were also men standing in the communal shower.  Just standing there.  One guy had all his clothes on!  Now, I had grown up in New York City, and I had seen a lot of unusual behavior in my life, but THIS I had not seen.  Doubting that these were conscientious neighbors, making sure the halls and shower room were safe for us theater people, I showered at the theater from then on; and when entering or exiting my tiny room, I walked with eyes down and an obvious urgency.

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The good thing is - I learned a lot about managing expenses that week, sitting in my coffin-sized room and trying not to let every sound in the corridor make me jump. The bad thing is - I have never been able to dance to that Village People song since then.

TOO GOOD IN VEGAS – Tales from Bo by Bo Gerard

You want to be good in Vegas.  But if you are too good, you might be required to perform a miracle.

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And so, I did.  I was hired to perform at a client’s booth at COMDEX, the humongous computer Expo in Las Vegas.  Each year this expo attracted around 300.000 attendees over 4 days ( you have been to Vegas, you can imagine what an extra 300,000 people would do to the overall traffic and congestion.)  It was my client’s very first trade show.  A relatively new computer chip manufacturer company, they couldn’t afford their own booth at Comdex, but they talked one of their distributors into giving them a 6ft. by 6ft. space in their large, expensive booth.   The spot was around a corner and out of the main traffic aisle.  Their challenge to me was this: come up with something that would fit in a 6 X 6 space and would stop customers long enough so they could hand out their brochure.  Looking at their spot’s position and traffic flow I knew that an interactive magic show of any length would be futile.  I had to surprise them, even shock them; but in a fun way.

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So, here’s what I did.  I came up with a character that had a 12-inch-high rod-puppet body, but with my head on top of its shoulders.  It was a very surprising and ultimately delightful way to interact with the passing attendees.  I had a special puppet stage built that was strong but could be easily shipped and set up.  The puppet set was a forced perspective room with surprise doors hidden in it.  Gretchen sewed the fire-retardant velour drapery and I built the puppet body and rods that would work the arms and legs from below the set.  Since I had never performed with this character before I brought along a lot of small props and sound effects that I could use to enhance my spiel.

After I surprised passersby I would give a short pitch and then the stage hand (my real hand coming out of the curtain below the set) would hand them a brochure.  Well, Puppet Guy was such big hit that my client ran out of brochures after only the second of four days.  They rush ordered some more, but they weren’t going to arrive until the morning of the final day.  So, on the third day I had to come up with a fun way to hand out the company logo emblazoned plastic bags and pencils.  My puppet character hawked the bags as “Economy Air Bags” for the passenger side of the car. (Of course the passenger would have to blow it up themselves just before the accident) The pencils became “Portable Printers” that could write in any font and had a delete function on the other end.  We ran out of all the bags and pencils within 5 hours!

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My favorite thing about the experience was that I was free to improvise and incorporate whatever happened inmy exchanges with the attendees; constantly improving the humor and content in the pitch.  At one point I brought out a “Vanilla Ice” action figure as a special guest spokesman.  (At that time the song “Ice Ice Baby” was ubiquitous and quickly becoming despised)  Attendees started lining up to hit “Vanilla Ice” on the head with a hammer that made a breaking glass sound when it hit something.  It was crazy!  It was ridiculous!  But the brochures were flying and the client was ecstatic!!