We signed the big deal with the Rio over milk and cookies and now it's time to work on
really doing a long run in Vegas. In September the Rio will announce it's deal with us and we'll
be really playing
Vegas. There's a budget for many more billboards and
cab tops and all of that. We're even doing TV and radio.
So, there has to be an ad campaign. Krasher and Joel met
with all the Vegas ad people and found none of them
acceptable. It was going to be more "Penn & Teller, Magicians of
the Year." Krasher had a bold plan - spend a dollar. He
wanted us to go outside of Vegas, to the big leagues.
Get some national professionals.
He loved this one company and we met with them in
Frisco. It was a serious big fancy building with serious smart
guys. We talked to them for a couple hours. They cut out all
the ads from Vegas they did market research they watched
all our tapes and came to our shows. We weren't playing
with kids. They delivered their first pass and it killed
us. It was bad old pictures and just a mock up, but they
were the first ads I'd ever seen for P&T that I was proud
of. Man, I couldn't wait to have my picture behind their
words and style. I've never felt that before. Hey, maybe
you do get what you pay for.
Okay, well, those words had to go over a picture. The
only part of my job that I don't like is photo shoots. And
photo shoots aren't just the torture of the shoot, but
days after when I feel like I'm in the wrong business. I
stand in my suit, next to Teller with gunk in my hair and on
my face and people tell me to "smile" and "do something
funny." I hate myself, I hate everything. I feel empty. I
feel like Wayne Newton with some fake smile trying to make a
buck. I'm always sad for days after. Yeah, there
have been some good shoots. One we did for fancy magazines
and expensive ads for products were always painless.
There's a picture of me for some Internet thing that I really
like, but that's about it.
So, it was time for pictures. We paid a photographer a
LOT of money and our ad agency was going to be there. We
were promised we'd be told what to do and they'd have
EXACTLY what they wanted all laid out. We were promised that
it would be as "painless as possible."
The amazing thing about paying money to people who know
what they're doing is every "coincidence" that you can
imagine happens. Hey, look our call time is 1 pm,
that's nice. Oh, they have food that I like. Oh, they have
caffeine-free Diet Coke all over. Wait a minute; is
that Mingus on the stereo? There were pictures of other
people all set up in the poses. The lighting was all ready
and perfect. The whole group of them talked us through
every set up and what they were trying to do. They knew
about the hole in my chin from the new balancing act I'm
working on and they were ready to fix that with make-up. They
knew I don't like a lot of gunk, but they still made me look
good. Our clothes were perfect.
We walked under the lights and the photographer had
everything ready. I stood there, very comfortably and
relaxed and they started taking pictures. There were
smart people right behind the camera who said, "move your
shoulders a little more dead on." They said, "No
forced smile." I used a way of standing and facial
expressions that I've been using in my real life for 47 years. I
didn't make faces that looked like Wayne Newton. They
weren't trying to get me to smile in a way that I never
do. I stood there. He took a Polaroid and I looked at it.
I looked big and strong and smart and powerful. I looked
happy, but not like a jerk. I looked a lot like I look
in my head. I look better in my head than I really look, and I looked
better in this picture than I really look, but it was all me.
I looked at the picture and I didn't wince and look away
with hate. I smiled. I was proud. I wasn't a big man
trying to look like a little pixie promising fun fun fun. I
looked like Penn of Penn & Teller. It was amazing.
And this was just the Polaroid.
They brought Teller in and did some with him alone. I
looked at them. He didn't look like some loser; he
looked like my friend and partner. His face, that
works so well on stage looked like that. He was expressive but
not clowny. Man. We posed together and it was amazing.
We didn't hate each other. We were relaxed. They knew
just what they wanted AND THEN we played around a little.
But, not fake playing. Not big toothy grins, but the kind
of playing that comes from our real heart. They brought
out props and they knew what hand they wanted them in and
how we were to hold them to make them look good. Amazing.
I've never looked at the Polaroid before on a shoot,
they just depress me. But, these I was going over and
looking and it was making me happy. I liked the way I looked
and I liked the way Teller looked.
There were NO screw-ups with the cameras or lighting.
Everything went smoothly. They shot 47 rolls of 20
pictures each. We were done by 6. The music stayed
great and they brought us pistachios and CFDCs. They were
happy with us.
Now, I have no idea if these pictures and their
campaign will put asses in the seats. I have no idea. I don't
know what sells. But, I do know one thing. The photo shoot
is over and I feel good about myself. I feel proud to be
Penn of Penn & Teller and I'm proud of my partner. And I
know that when I see these pictures all over Vegas, I'm not
going to cringe. And if the show doesn't sell, it's
P&T that didn't sell, and not some goofy smiling desperate
losers that didn't sell. And, I'd rather fail with
these pictures than succeed with the pictures we had before.