MEMOIRS - 04 - Social Functions

The Society Entertainer who is engaged to entertain at a Social function, such as an ‘At Home’ or a Cocktail Party, is usually received and accepted for the time being as one of the guests, and is never referred to in any way as a professional entertainer; in fact, the Guests think he is just one of themselves or is a friend of the hostess. During the party, the hostess will announce that "Mr. Venson has kindly offered to do a few card tricks" and asks her guests to gather round. Under these circumstances, the performer has no chance or opportunity of preparing a set show, and must be experienced enough to put over a real good impromptu performance of about ten to fifteen minutes. After your show, you again mix with the guests and await a good opportunity of excusing yourself, and then slip away. At one of these functions, I was standing talking to one of the guests when the hostess announced that "Mr. Venson had kindly offered to sing a song"; well, as I don’t sing a note, I was for a moment, non-plussed till I realised that she had said Mr. Benson, not Venson; and the guest to whom I had been talking, stepped to the piano and

started to sing. It then dawned on me, of course, that the ‘guest’ was also a professional like myself, and each of us had mistaken the other for a guest.

A Magician to-day has to be very versatile, and have an extensive repertoire, and must be prepared to put on an appropriate programme, to suit the requirements of the occasion. For instance, a programme presented at a Variety Entertainment would not be suitable or acceptable at an "At Home", and so he must be able to judge for himself what tricks to select for each function.

His engagements are very varied, such as, Children’s Parties, At Homes, Smoking Concerts, Cocktail Parties, Wedding Receptions, Dinners, Masonic Functions and Social gatherings of all descriptions. Besides having an extensive repertoire, the Magician must be prepared to uphold his prestige by performing unrehearsed and impromptu effects when reasonably challenged to do so. On one occasion I had been entertaining at a Dinner given by a Boxing Club. After dinner, the prizes and cups were to be presented to the successful competitors, and as usual, the miniature cups were placed on view on the table in front of the Chairman. After these had been admired by everybody, each of the cups was covered over with a small silk handkerchief, and left in front of the Chairman who would presently present them. I was sitting at the Artists’ table with a few others, when the Secretary of the Club came up to me and said, "I will willingly give a donation of $5 to the Club, if you will appropriate one of those cups without the Chairman seeing you remove it". I thought this was rather a tall order and would not commit myself; but just said, "I will see what can be done." Eventually, silence was called for, and the Chairman commenced making the usual pretty speeches as he presented the prizes and cups, one by one, and when he came to the last cup, he pulled off the little silk handkerchief and found to his great amazement that it was only a small wine glass. Yes, I had done the trick without having been observed by any of the guests, there was a roar of laughter, when it was seen that the Chairman had a wineglass in his hand instead of a silver cup, and a blank look of astonishment passed over his face, for he could not understand what had happened. He could not believe his eyes as he had not left his seat for a single moment, and he felt himself responsible for the safe custody of the cups.

Of course, as was to be expected, the poor Conjurer got the blame, and I was asked to go on to the platform and explain how I had done it. I stood up, and in a few carefully chosen words, told them that the responsibility for the loss of the cup should be at the door of the gentleman who was supposed to be in charge of them, namely, the Chairman; but as suspicion had fallen on me, I was perfectly willing to be searched, and I saw no reason why the Chairman should object to being searched also. With great indignation, he said, "I have not got the cup"; and with that he began to feel in his pockets, and low and behold he dived his hand into his jacket pocket, and produced the missing cup. He grew red in the face, and again the audience roared with laughter. The Chairman was a good sort and took it all as a huge laugh against himself, and acknowledged that it was the best trick he had ever seen in his life. However, the Club got the donation of $5 from the Secretary.