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Children's Entertainer | Magician | Andy's Magic

"The Magician, The Magic Shows and The Entertainment"

29 July 2010

Crackerjack, Don Maclean and Me

If you’re of a certain age you will definately remember the long running children’s television programme Crackerjack; go on lets all say it: "It's Friday, it's five to five... it's Crackerjack".

Don & Pete in one of thier hilerious sketches.
It ran from 1955 to 1984 and was, and still remains, in my humble opinion, one of the best children’s television programmes ever made. Over the years the show was hosted by such big names as Emmon Andrews, Michael Aspel, Ed Stewart and Leslie Crowther. The show included 'Double or Drop', the game where kid's arms were piled high with prizes if they answered questions correctly or with cabbages if they got them wrong. There was music with songs from the popular pop stars of the day and the finale was a short play that often saw the cast singing there own reworking of the current chart hits. And, of course, there were the celebrated Crackerjack pencils. But the highlight of the show, for me, were the comedy spots that were, over the years ,provided by some of the best acts in the business including: Carry on’s Jack Douglas, Ronnie Corbett, The Crankies, Bernie Clifton, The Great Soprendo (Geoffrey Durham) and my personal favourites Don Maclean and Peter Glaze.

I have fond memories of watching Crackerjack as a youngster but I never imagined that years later I would meet, be on the same bill as, and have dinner with one of the stars of that show. So how did I end up meeting and working with Don Maclean?

I was recommended - I never did find out who recommended me, but whoever it was… thank you - to perform close-up magic around the tables at a very prestigious charity fundraiser. Don Maclean had already been booked as the star turn; the big attraction that would put bums on seats and guarantee that all the tickets were sold and loads of cash was raised for the charity. I knew that this event would have an audience of wealthy, famous and influential guests, and this knowledge made me nervous. I’d been performing full-time for a few years but I was still a bit green and I had plenty to learn.

A week before the event, I received a phone call from one of the organisers asking me if I’d like to join himself, Don Maclean, the local Mayor and other notable figures on the top table. I would be treated, as their guest, to a fantastic five-course meal and would be seated next to Don. I’d like to think I was asked to be on the top table because of my incredible ability as a magician or because of my amazing popularity, but I think it was more to do with the fact that there was one seat that needed filling on the top table and as all the other guests were there with their partners and families and I was the only one on his own… I got the seat. Whatever the reason, I was very lucky and I gladly accepted the offer.

That last week flew by and suddenly the moment had arrived. The butterflies were working overtime and before I knew it I was being escorted to the top table. With the introductions over, it wasn’t long before the whole table was deep in conversation. I found Don, very easy to talk to and I felt very relaxed in his company. He was a genuinely nice and a very funny man; he had the whole table in fits of laughter and then enthralled with his anecdotes about his illustrious career.

After the dinner, which was, it has to be said—superb, it was time for me to start my tour of the tables and perform my little finger-flinging miracles. The butterflies, which had subsided over the course of the meal, had now well and truly returned; would my mixture of comedy magic, card tricks and mind-reading hit the spot? Would the audience laugh at my jokes? Would they be amazed by my magic? Or would the nerves get the better of me and ruin my performance? I needn’t have worried, everything went well. I couldn’t have wished for a better audience and I received a lot of nice complements, and I even secured several bookings off the back of that gig, too.

With my spot done, it was time for the man himself. I’d seen him on television in shows like Crackerjack, The Black and White Minstrels Show and The Good Old Days, and I’d seen him in pantomime too. Don was, and still is, one of the best pantomime Dames around. I’d also listened to his BBC Radio 2 Show, Good Morning Sunday, which he presented for an amazing fifteen years. So, I had seen many sides of this entertainer but tonight I was going to see Don Maclean, the stand-up comedian and I wasn’t going to be disappointed.

Don Maclean - Comidian & Broadcaster.
Don breezed onto to the stage with that big trade-mark smile and a confident twinkle in his eyes; I just knew we were in for a treat. His dynamic personality and his great energy along with his fast paced delivery, all insured that by the end of his spot there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. He had a wealth of topical gags and one liners and he came up with some wonderfully funny observational stuff on life, death and marriage. And he was very clever too; he knew exactly what sort of audience he had in front of him and how far he could go with-in those boundaries. He left the stage to a standing ovation and thunderous applause.

The evening, in my opinion, was a great success and was rounded off with some music and dancing. As the night drew to a close I said my goodbyes and made my way home. I don’t suppose Don Maclean will remember me from that night way back in, I think it was, 1995, but it’s a night I will always remember. I had the time of my life, I ate food that was fit for a king and saw one of the countries best and most respected stand–up comedians in sparkling form; and best bit about the whole thing is that I was paid for the privilege—now that’s magic!

24 July 2010

Tips to Make your Party Awesome

Most people dread the thought of organising and hosting their children's party. They just want to get it over and done with. But that's not how it should be, you should be able to relax and enjoy your child's special day, so here are a few tips to, hopefully, make your party a success.
  • The first step in planning a birthday party is to sit down with your child and find out exactly what type of birthday party he or she wants. Then determine if your budget, your creativity, and your energy can deliver that type of birthday party. If not, scale down and do only was is feasibly possible.
  • It's natural enough to feel like you invite all your friends, family and everyone who's invited you to a party recently. However, the bigger the gathering, the more hectic and expensive it will be. Instead, limit yourself to a set number of guests, and stop yourself from inviting more at the last minute, and invite only those people you know will enjoy a few hours in a house full of children.
  • If you happen to be on a tight budget, why not get together with one or two other friends, whose children's birthdays are near your child's, and host a  joint-party. This works especially well for children under the age of four because they won't really care that the party isn't just for them. You'll save a lot of money by splitting the expenses between a few families. Sing "Happy Birthday" to each of them, and, to save even more money, have one big cake between them.
  • Food is often the centre piece of a good party, but that doesn't mean you have to serve a full meal. Cake, juice, some snack foods and ice-cream and jelly will keep the children happy.
  • Competitive games are enjoyable only for the people who win. A party should be fun... avoid tears by selecting games where everyone takes part and no one is out. Pass the Parcel, dancing competitions and getting the kids to join in with those action songs, like Y.M.C.A, Fast Food Song, Cha Cha Slide and The Music Man is a garanteed crowd pleaser.
  • Forget blowing up loads of balloons for kids; it'll be a waste of time and energy. I've been to hundreds of parties where the parents have stood for ages inflating balloons - and then the children arrive; with-in five minutes every balloon has been burst and all that's left is a mess for you, the party organisers, to clean up.
  • One of the biggest party-money-wasters is the over-priced plastic toys for party bags that get lost or thrown away in no time, so try something different. Buy large packs of art supplies such as glitter pens, stickers and stamps. Then break up the sets and give each child one of each.
  • And Finally, If you are booking a children's entertainer, try and get a recommendation from a friend or relative, search the web for reviews and make sure you get all their details (Phone numbers, address, email; a reputable and reliable entertainer will want all of these detail from you so that he can confirm the booking in writing). And make sure the entertainer you choose is CRB checked, fully insured and all his equipment is PAT tested.

The Busiest Time of the Year

As a magician, the busiest time of my year is December, the season of good-will and great profit.
As the month approaches, I know I must get ready for the tsunami of phone calls, that will as in previous years, come from customers who are all eager to book my services. And the calls won't stop until the Christmas week its self arrives.

Speaking for myself I can honestly say that I turn away more work than I end up taking. Why? I hear you ask. Well, the answer is simple: on average I can squeeze three or maybe four bookings into any given day; the amount of enquiries I receive is at least five-times that figure. I might be a magician but I can only be in one place at a time.

So with the festive season fast approaching, I need to make sure I am ready and prepared for what will be - the busiest time of the year. It is always import to have a good show in order to capture rebooking and Christmas is no different. I am already in the throws of putting together the magic show I intend to use this year. I always try and add in new items, and, of course, it has to have a Christmas theme. Santa Claus and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer all make an appearance during the show, and the music has to be festive too. If I'm providing the disco then that also needs to have a Christmassy feel to it.

The adult and the corporate market is a much easier one. I can use the same tricks as the rest of the year, but adjust the patter slightly and add a few seasonal jokes; but in the main the close-up magic that I will perform at these events will remain the same.

I have just checked my diary and find that December is already half-full and so I know that all these schools, playgroups, social clubs, and pubs all of whom will require entertainment for their parties, will as in previous years be disappointed.

 I have, in fact, got two customers who have tried for several years to book my services, but always found that I was full on the dates they required, and so now they have both taken the unusual steps of booking me for their Christmas Parties… in December 2011.