Dateline Friday, April 23, 1999 - Washington, DC – An important day in the lives of children across the country -- the day on which every tobacco industry billboard advertisement in the United States must be taken down.
As soon as the advertising agencies that handled big tobacco accounts got wind that this new law was going into effect, they started plotting ways to keep as much of their clients’ money as they could, without the lucrative billboard advertising campaigns they had designed and implemented for them since the 1920’s. This is where I come in. Unbeknownst to me, and I’m guessing you too, Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds had deals with literally thousands of bars and nightclubs all over the country. They went head to head trying to sign up busy venues with exclusive deals that would make their brand names, like Marlboro or Camel, the only one that you saw in that venue. They offered the venue owner all of the branded napkins, ash trays, matchbooks, signage, and neon lighting they would ever need, plus one large show by a name band, PLUS other promotions throughout the year, PLUS sometimes even a wad of cash to sweeten the deal. There were 45 “Marlboro Clubs” in Dallas and 70 in Houston in 1998.
I know this because I was the “Marlboro Magician” in Texas that year, and I accomplished two things: 1) I performed in three or four “Marlboro Clubs” a night, and 2) I kept more of Phillip Morris’ money in the ad agency’s pocket. There was only one small problem – every single club was very dark and very smoky, and the music was BLARING, both at me and all of the rather inebriated customers. Well, that’s four problems, but it didn’t take long for me to lose my voice in these places, and after about 3 months I started to also lose my will to live. I was like a coal miner, facing a job every day that I knew was not only detrimental to my health, but to my psyche as well. I was, however, making a lot more than any coal miner. (By the way spell check will not suggest anything near “psyche” unless you actually type it correctly yourself.)
Somehow, I made it through the six-month contract, and when they asked if I would be interested in doing another lucrative year’s contract as “The Texas Marlboro Magician”… I faked a heart attack and slipped away, unnoticed, in the hubbub of the hospital admission’s process. That’s actually not true. I simply said, “thank you, but I am pursuing other arenas of magical entertainment”.
So, what have we learned from all of this? Well, two things:
1) PARENTS - DON'T LET YOUR CHILD GROW UP TO BE A MAGICIAN WHO WORKS IN DARK, SMOKEY. LOUD, BARS FILLED WITH DRUNK PEOPLE!
2) PSYCHE IS AN EXCELLENT WORD FOR "HANGMAN"1