Archive for August, 2007

L.A. HAS A SUBWAY?

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

I’ve been in the Los Angeles area for the last couple of days for a series of meetings. Tonight I had plans to meet some friends for dinner, Jim Steinmeyer and Frankie Glass. I was just going to rent a car and drive up their way, toward Burbank, and we were going to meet someplace convenient. As Jim and I talked, he suggested that I take the subway instead of renting a car…and, given the traffic situation in LA, it might be much quicker too!

I crossed the street to a very nice park where the Subway Station had a stop.  I was going to pick up the Red Line and ride until until the end in North Hollywood.  I looked around but didn’t see a subway entrance anywhere.  I did notice some steps leading down stairs. As I started down them, I asked a guy if this was the one to the subway. He gave me a puzzled look and said, “Dude, I don’t know what you’re talking about. This goes to a parking garage.” His look was like, “LA. doesn’t have a subway!”  I turned around and headed back up the stairs.  Once back on the ground, I saw  several people in the parking enjoying a really beautiful day.  After witnessing one of these people experience a psychotic break, someone pointed me in the right direction and I found the entrance to the subway.  And, once underground, the entire experience was really good!  It was easy to read the maps and only $1.25 to ride.  I hopped on the Red Line to North Hollywood and made it there in less than 30 minutes on a train that was clean and not crowded.  I’m guessing most people in L.A. aren’t aware there’s a subway!  Hardly anyone was using it…maybe it’s the earthquake thing that keeps them away.  Hmmmm.

Anyway, Jim was there to meet me and we had an excellent time eating at this amazing Mexican restaurant.  I wish I could remember the name because, without a doubt, it was the best Mexican food I’ve ever had!  After a fun evening of food and conversation, Jim was kind enough to bring me back to my hotel.

If you’re visiting in Los Angeles, you should really check out the subway!

JUST THE FACTS MA’AM.

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

This time of year is always a challenge for me. We are preparing to hit the road for a very busy 07/08 tour and I’m starting to book our 08/09 tour now. I’ve already put dates on the calendar for Fall 2008 and we’re working hard on a tour in Australia for Spring/Summer 2009. We may also be heading back to Asia sometime in the 08/09 season. It’s looking like it might be busy!

This year’s tour is going to be a great one. We travel coast to coast with performances in some amazing venues – the Perot Theatre (Texarkana, TX); the Orpheum Theatre (Sioux City, IA); the Vilar Center (Beaver Creek, CO); Michael Palm Theatre (Telluride, CO); Count Basie Theatre (Red Bank, NJ); Broward Center for the Arts (Ft. Lauderdale, FL); Proctor’s Theatre (Schenectady, NY); the Weidner Center (Green Bay, WI); the Carpenter Center (Long Beach, CA); Broadway Center (Tacoma, WA); and the Paramount Theatre (Austin, TX). These are only a few of some amazing places we’ll be performing this year. I’m really excited!

This is also the one time of the year where I am more fully aware of all the choices our buyers have when it comes to putting things on their stage. I’m not just competing with other magicians. I’m also competing with ballets, jazz ensembles, Broadway musicals, symphony orchestras, dance troupes, and more. Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t mind a little competition. I think it’s healthy – keeps us on our toes, drives me to be more creative and involved in re-inventing our image. What I don’t like about competition usually reflects more on the “competitor” than on the “competition” itself.

Magicians are all about “deception” and “creating illusion.” But I don’t believe we should ever allow those practices to creep into our marketing materials. I believe integrity and honesty are two of the best qualities that humankind are able to possess. But each of those qualities involves a choice – a conscious decision of one’s will to incorporate them into one’s life…and business.

There’s a practice in the business/advertising world called “puffing.” “Puffing” is generally defined as “exaggerated or superlative comments or opinions.” A certain amount of “puffing” has always been acceptable in advertising. The danger is that too much puffing can make someone question your honesty and integrity. We’ve all heard or read statements about a product or person that says such and such is “the best,” “the most spectacular,” “one of the most prominent,” “the fastest rising star,” etc. For the most part, that’s puffing.

Puffing and Facts are generally two very different things. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals defined and ruled like this:

“Puffery and statements of Fact are mutually exclusive. If a statement is a specific, measurable claim or can be reasonably interpreted as being a factual claim, i.e. one capable of verification, the statement is one of FACT. Conversely, if the statement is not specific and measurable, cannot be reasonably interpreted as providing a benchmark by which the veracity of the statement can be ascertained, the statement constitutes Puffery.”

“Under section 43(a) (Lanham Act), two categories of actionable statement exist: (1) literally false factual commercial claims; and (2) literally true or ambiguous factual claims ‘which implicitly convey a false impression, are misleading in context, or [are] likely to deceive consumers.’” United Industries, 140F.3d at 1180

I’ve always tried to stick with the Facts and less with the puffing, though I admit I’ve engaged in the practice over the years. And while I believe a good magical performer should cause an audience to suspend their disbelief, I don’t think one should ask their buyers to do the same when it comes to marketing one’s show.

As a Christ-follower, I think it’s even more important that I market with integrity and honesty. Everything I do is, ultimately, a reflection on my faith. I’ve been reading in the little book of Philippians in the Bible this week. One of the statements that has captured my attention reads,

“Do everything readily and cheerfully…Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.”

This statement reinforces one that the same author wrote in Romans 12,

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

Both of those are very powerful statements that relate directly to the way someone who claims to be a Christ-follower is supposed to live their life. Let’s put it in perspective in business.

All of the following statements are only hypothetical:

For instance, let’s say I claim to have designed illusions for numerous theatrical productions across the US, including Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Reading that statement, you might assume that I had actually designed illusions for the Disney Corporation on one of their most famous magical productions. But in reality, maybe I only worked with different high school and community theatre groups across the country helping them stage the magic in their local production of Beauty and the Beast. That’s a great credit to have on my resume but is my “puffing” statement too misleading? The reality isn’t quite as impressive as the puffing, but is it wrong? Does it give people a false impression of who I am and what I do? Do you think I wrote it to deceive potential buyers, make them think I’m more important than I am? OR is it just an exaggeration of a fact?

Okay, what about this. What if I write in my marketing materials that I’ve performed in over 30 countries around the world. Reading that statement you might think that I’ve taken my show to theatres in more than 30 countries. But in reality, maybe I worked on a cruise ship for several years and the ship stopped in more than 30 ports. Is that statement misleading? Do you think it gives people a false impression of my tour experience?

Let try this. What if I write this statement – “The Spencers performed for sold out audiences for three months in Hong Kong.” That sounds impressive BUT what if, in reality, I worked in an amusement park in Hong Kong and did 4 shows a day as a park attraction. No one had to pay to see my show once they were in the park. It’s an accurate statement but is it misleading? intentionally deceptive?

One last example – suppose I write that I have appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX television but now you have the opportunity to see me perform live in your town. How would you interpret that statement? Would you assume that I had performed nationally on all the major networks? The reality is I have appeared on all of those networks – but not nationally, only through their local affiliate stations. The only national network appearances I’ve made are on CBS and FOX but I have appeared on more than 100 local or regional programs which were aired on the affiliates of these networks. How honest is it of me to promote that I have appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX? Is that statement misleading? Does it bend the truth just a little bit or a lot? If you read it or heard it and then found out the truth, what would you think about me?

I think “puffing” can be a very dangerous practice when you allow it to shape perceptions in a dishonest and unethical way. More importantly, I think it works against what God would want me to do in my business…and drags me down to the level of today’s rather questionable culture.

IT ALL BEGINS SOON

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

I’ve been away for about a week. I’m not sure I’ll be writing every day as I have been in the past but that might change as the tour begins – but maybe not. We have a really busy season ahead of us and I’ve got lots of areas to focus my energies at the moment. While I really enjoy blogging, it does take some time to do it – and my time is becoming more and more limited. Or maybe I should say more and more focused.

I have several projects in the works right now, concentrating on some very exciting things with the Healing of Magic program and the show. I’m very excited about the production going out on the road this season. We’ve fined tuned (and are continuing to do so) several of the technical elements in the show – things that will make us more efficient and more flexible. We are always working on ways to make the show better. We’ve also had some work done on the truck and trailer this summer as well, getting it “road ready” for the miles and miles ahead of us this year.

We are thankful for each and every performance we have on the calendar this year. We realize that theatres have options about what they want to put on their stages…and we never take for granted the opportunity to perform. I hope you’ll come check out the show when we’re in your area!

TAKING A BREAK

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

I wanted to let everyone know that I’m going to be taking a break from the BLOG for a while.  I’m coming into one of my busiest and most demanding times of the year.  My time will be limited but, mostly, mentally I will be exhausted.  I appreciate all of you taking the time to read this stuff everyday.  I do enjoy writing it and letting you know what’s  happening in our world.  But now I need to take some time away.

NEW WAREHOUSE

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

I am finally back home and we are working hard in the office. We’ve finished editing the new promotional DVD and Greg has completed the design for the menu. We’ve themed the entire package around one of the original illusions – it’s a great design. So Keith is getting all the DVDs printed and get to go to the replicators. I finished up the wrap and label design.

And Nolan is working on all the media contacts for the fall tour. Cindy has been working hard getting promotional materials together and organizing the new microphones so we can get them into a Pelican case. We’ve all been busy!

This morning, we unloaded our first truck into the new warehouse space. We were going to unload both trucks BUT temperatures started to rise – like to 100 degrees! We were about to die from dehydration out there, moving huge cases in that kind of heat. We finished up the first truck and decided to do the other one later. We hope to get it unloaded in the morning…depending on the heat. We’ve got lots of work to do before our first show!

JUST A BAD WEEK TO FLY I GUESS

Sunday, August 5th, 2007

The time at my mom and dad’s house went too quickly. Before I knew it, it was time to leave. I enjoyed spending time with my Parents – they are amazing people. And tt was great seeing my family and hanging out with everyone. I got to spend some time time with my nephew, Spencer. He’s off to the University of Arkansas this year. All the nieces and nephews grew up too fast. He and I had a good time just hanging out.

My dad and Spencer dropped me at the Little Rock airport in plenty of time to catch that 7:10pm flight to Phoenix (through Dallas). As it turns out, everything was delayed again. My flight with American was not going to leave Little Rock until closer to 8:30pm which would mean I was going to miss my connection into Phoenix. I called American on the phone and, as seems to be the attitude these days, no one was that anxious to help me out. They told me that I was definitely going to miss my connection (duh!) and that they could get me into Phoenix the next morning at 8:30am. WHAT?!?! I had them book the flight but didn’t give up on the chance of getting there that night.

The Gate Agent was frantic – dealing with 3 delayed flights into Dallas and trying to board 2 other flights while rerouting passengers, handling bag changes, etc. He is the first employee of American Airlines I actually saw working this week. Anyway, as my turn came to be rerouted, he was able to get me on a flight departing right then to Dallas. It had already boarded (it was the 6:10pm flight that was leaving at 8:10pm) but the doors were not closed. He arranged for them to pull my luggage, gave me a boarding pass, and I was on the plane. My connection in Dallas was at 9:25pm – it’s a fast 45 minute flight so there still was some hope.

When we landed in Dallas, we sat on the tarmac for 40 minutes waiting for a gate. The longer we sat, the more I realized I was not going to make this connection. At 10pm, we finally pulled into a gate so we could get off the plane. We landed at the furthest end of the B Terminal and I had to get to the last gate on the A Terminal for my connection. I decided to sprint and take a chance that the Phoenix flight was also delayed. I’m glad I did. I was the LAST passenger to get on the plane!  I finally arrived in Phoenix around 11pm.  Andre was there to pick me up, waiting patiently.  I was just ready to get some sleep!

BRYANT, AR – MOM & DAD’S

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

I’m in Little Rock spending some time with my family. Unfortunately, Cindy is suffering from a bad sinus infection so she wasn’t able to come along. She told me to go ahead because she’s going to be resting/sleeping most of the time I’m gone anyway. I talk to her several times during the day and she seems to be getting better every day, even though she’s tired and still sounds very congested.

It’s been relaxing being here. Today is my sister’s birthday, Tammy, so all of us got together, cooked out, and ate cake. I wish Cindy could have been here too. I’ve also had the chance to spend some time with my nieces and nephew – Ashleigh, Reaghan, and Spencer. They were over last night and Ashleigh helped me set up and get more familiar with my Facebook page, showing me a few tricks along the way. Afterwards, we went out to Sonic and then drove around a bit.

Today, Mom, Dad, Spencer and I went to Hastings and then to Mardell’s (a huge Christian book and music store in Little Rock). I bought a few CD’s – the new Good Charlotte, Sum 41, and Project 86 at Hastings and a group called Leeland at Mardell’s.

Tomorrow I’m going to listen to Spencer speak at the local Rotary Club about his challenges in pole vaulting and his faith.