| Close-up Penn - 10/02/01
A few months after starting to play
upright bass, I made myself a promise. During 2001, I
would work with Mike Close. Mike Close has a job at the
Houdini Lounge at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas (he's been
laid off since the tragedy, but he'll be back) doing some
of the best close-up magic in the world, and playing great
jazz piano. It's the PERFECT evening, you listen to great
music and then the piano player comes to your table and
does the best card tricks you've ever seen. It's the
perfect date, and if you're in Vegas, you should see him.
He'll rock and swing your world.
So, I promised myself I would do a gig with Mike and I
asked him. He said yeah. And then I asked the Rio if I
could perform my bass somewhere else and they said as long
as I didn't get paid and Mike said, "Hell, yeah." So, I
was going to play my bass with Mike Close. I was
practicing so hard and working so hard. We've even had a
couple of rehearsals, that scare me so much that I love it.
I'm really working hard. Of course, in the back of my mind,
I realized that when we were done with music, it was time
for close-up magic and in the back of my mind I realized I
wanted to do that. I've never done close-up magic and the
idea sickens me. Being on stage doesn't scare me, but
working close up for strangers, taking their attention one
on one where I can see it, really scares me. So, working
with Mike Close gave me two things to be terrified of. Now,
because I'm on TV, everything will seem better than it is
to people, but also, if I screw up, there's more joy. It's
also hard to experiment. I try to pretend that it's
because I'm on TV that it's hard to experiment, but the
truth is, that I couldn't do it when I'd never been on TV.
It's a lack of will, skill, and talent and it's time to
over come that.
I've been working with cards for over 30 years and I can do
a bit more than the 3 sleights Teller has me do in our show.
I've talked to the best close-up people in the world for
suggestions of what would look good on me, and I've gotten
a couple ideas. I've had one hook I'm working on, that's
"I don't do tricks, but I show how David Blaine does his."
It's just a sucker trick. It took forever to get the nerve
to do it for Michael Lynn. I didn't even have the nerve to
try it on the jazz cats of Vegas, but I finally did it for
Michael and it seemed okay. He had some advice. Some frat
boys came up to me at a café, where I'd just done the trick
for Michael and asked to see a trick. I took a deep breath
and said sure. I started, made the mistake that Michael
told me not to, choked, blew the trick, and couldn't get
out of it. I shook their hands and sent them away.
But, I went to see Ray Brown in the evening. And he
inspired and moved me like no one's business. I was
shaking and crying from him playing that bass. It was the
world to me. I was sitting at the same café, again with
Michael Lynn and the server said,
"You don't get your hot chocolate unless you do a trick."
I looked at Michael and said, "Okay." I pulled my cards
from my hand etched Tony Fitzpatrick/Nick Bubash card case,
gave them a shuffle, and started into my patter. A couple
other people came over. I made the same mistake that
Michael told me not to, but I didn't choke. I went on. I
made another little mistake, but I got through it. It was
a great trick. They liked it. I got my hot chocolate free
(and Michael left a 10 dollar tip, so we're not really
making money). She liked it. I got free hot chocolate.
The trick made them laugh and fooled them. And it was
close-up. And it was a real skill trick. It wasn't just
jokes. It was a card trick, close up
and I did it. I'm on my way.
I guess if I can't ever play bass like Ray Brown at least
I can do card tricks better than David Blaine. If any of
you really know how scared I was before and during, and how
elated I was after you'd never stop laughing in my face.