Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween, October 31, 1936

On Halloween night, 84 years ago, the greatest magician ever, Harry Houdini died. Harry had spent many years trying to contact his dead mother through the use of psychics and mediums. He believed it might be possible that someone could contact the spirit world. But he found no one who could. He exposed all the those fraudulent mediums. Harry and his wife Bess, set up a secret code to say to each from the other side other when one of them passed on. This code would be used to prove that contact to the dearly departed could be accomplished. For 10 years after Houdini's death a special seance was held with Mrs. Houdini and special guests to see if they could contact Harry.

The last seance was conducted on Halloween night, October 31, 1936. This is the recording of that final seance including Bess Houdini final words to Harry Houdini.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Most Humbling Experience

Today, I blew it, I tanked it and I outright sucked!!!

Let me explain. Today I was invited to perform magic at a showcase for librarians here in Connecticut. There were a dozen acts, most of whom were spectacular, polished and entertaining. I say most because all the other acts, besides mine, fit into that description. Then there was my 15 minutes.

Here I was, getting ready for my turn when all of a sudden I got a case of "THE NERVES".  I had rehearsed my lines, my tricks and my selling points for almost two weeks. Trouble was I did my rehearsals in the worst possible venue. I reheashed in my mind. I didn't write anything down, I didn't pick up my props, nothing but going over what I was going to say and do; all in my mind. I had performed these tricks hundreds of times. But I had performed these tricks almost 10 years ago. I thought being on stage would just take over, you know, muscle memory. Boy was I wrong.

It started out great for the first 30 seconds then that's were I got tongue-tied, dry-mouthed and a case of the sweats. And nothing went right. So I will say it again... Today, I blew it, I tanked it and I outright sucked!!!

I got some nice comments even though I think they (the librarians) were just being nice and maybe a little sympathetic. I even got encouraging words from a friend after that preformance. And he is a great friend for saying so. But he knew I blew it even though he said I did alright. (Thanks Jim).

So in closing let me just say this...

I will never be unprepared again. I will never take what I did in the past for granted again. My promise to all those who might hire me... I promise to give you 100% of me all the time. I will give your audience members a show they will thoroughly enjoy. I will give you a reason to hire me again and again. And if you hire me to entertain for you and I do not live up to these promises... rip up my paycheck!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Big Things are happening at SWFB...

Boy, I have been so excited with my reentry into perfoming magic shows. I have been doing many different shows, including my themed magic shows for school fundraisers, a few birthday parties (just to get back in sync) and a few themed programs as school assembly shows.

But the big news for me is I have a small magic book at the printer right now. It is a pamphlet size book that teaches simple magic tricks for kids. It will have a retail price of $6.95 and I will be selling these online as well as part of school fundraisers. Part of the sales of this book at each fundraiser will be donated back to the school. More info will be available on my web site real soon: .

Another big and exciting venture for me will be my return to performing educational assembly programs in elementary schools here in New England and New York. I did this many years ago with a lot of success but this was a time when schools had budgets for these programs. My goal for the 2010-2011 school year is to script my programs to be heavy on message and rely on storytelling, some magic, laughter and audience participation to drive the messages home. I am already scripting a show about bullying in school, recycling, nutrition, character building and reading. These will be full stage presentations, using sound and music. I have created a seperate division of Funny Business for this new venture: Creative Learning Programs. My new web site (which is still under construction but can be viewed) is please take a look. If you remember, as a young student going to assembly programs, you know how exciting this can be. If you remember any of these programs, I would like to know what ones you remember.

Well that about all for now. I hope to see you this summer at one of my many Connecticut library shows. I have quite a few of these reading programs to do. My summer show is "The Water Wonderland Magic Show" and it uses the national theme of "Make a Splash- Read"

See you soon


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Scripting a New Show

One of the fun aspects of entertaining with magic and comedy is developing a new show. And it's not easy. I just finished writing the script for the 2010 Library Summer Reading Program. The theme for most libraries this summer is "Make a Splash - Read!" I have titled my show "The Water Wonderland Magic Show" and the great majority of routines involve water and other liquids, the beach, the ocean, mermaids and pirates... ARGH!
As I said it's not easy putting a new show together. First thing I do is make a list of all the tricks that fit the theme. Not only those tricks that I already own but those that I could purchase for the show. Next I go over this enormous list and decide the 10 to 12 tricks I think would work best and give the show a good flow. I then write out he routine leaving out any comedy bits and jokes. Then I research all the jokes and gags that fit the theme. I also look for educational facts as well. Then I try and mesh all this together. (This is the really hard part). I know my show character and personality and I know which of  these jokes and facts would fit in each routine. After each routine is roughly finished I try and assemble the order in which they will play.

I rehearse often than find the 7 or 8 routines that will actually fit into a 45 minute time frame. This will be the first rough draft of the show. I keep the other routines around just in case I need to use them to replace another trick that doesn't play well. I keep rehearsing and then I will get all the neighborhood kids over for an impromptu show. We discuss what they liked or didn't like and that's what I take with me for the first few paid shows.

It's a long process that I actually squeeze into a 3 month period. The final result is the Water Wonderland Magic Show that will play in many of Connecticut's Public Libraries this summer. I hope you like the show!

See you soon...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Summer library shows

Across the country every summer public libraries offer a summer reading program for kids. This program is usually themed to get the kids to read a certain amount of books, get points for each book read and get rewarded for doing so. Each year, here in Connecticut, the themes sometime differ from town to town. But the kids really get into this. The libraries also have entertainment to compliment the themes. The acts really vary from story tellers, reptile handlers with real reptiles, clowns, ventriloquists, bubble blowers and of course magicians. That's where I come in, but let me first tell you a story...

I owe much of my success as an entertainer to the Connecticut Public Library system. In 1987 I had been hired to entertain kids at a few libraries across Connecticut. I guess I did a good job because I was asked to present myself and my magic at a library showcase of entertainers in 1988. I remember that day vividly.

The showcase was a the main branch of the West Hartford Public Library. I had never heard of a showcase so I had no idea of what to do, say or bring. I got there early to see what the other entertainers were doing. There were every kind of entertainer imaginable. Most had elaborate press kits, were in costume and had prepaired to present a short segment of their act. I looked at the schedule and noticed I was on in the afternoon after lunch, which was not a desirable time slot as some librarians would leave during the lunch break. I watch many of the acts do their 10 minutes and was very surprised at the professionalism, the quailty and diversity of what I saw. Right before lunch I went home (I only lived a few blocks away), went through my magic tricks and picked 2 out. I also brought a huge bag of rubber bands. I could not eat lunch as I was very nervous about my slot on the program. The program continued I was now ready for my turn.

I was introduced as Steve Wonka (nobody back then could pronounce my last name: ron-ker) and as a magician. They had already seen more magicians in the morning than one would see at a magic convention. I walked on stage and just went into my opening two routines from my magic show I had been doing at the time. I proclaimed I was going to perform an illusion! When most people think or hear of illusions in  agic, you think of these huge box tricks with ladies turning into tigers or being diced and sliced in half. Nobody has ever said an illusion must be physically big. I just told them that my definition of an illusion is something you thing you see but it doesn't really happen. I told them I was going to show them an illusion with a piece of toilet paper. The entire room started laughing out loud. I do mean really loud. I performed the trick and was rewarded with applause. No other act received applause during their showcase, only at the conclusion of their time. I next did a trick with a sucker ending which completely baffled them. More applause. I still had 5 minutes left, so I got out the package of rubberbands and asked for them to passed out to each person in the room. I taught them the jumping rubberband trick. This was trick I learned and used when I was working as part of David Copperfield's Project Magic. When each libarian performed the trick on their own, they smiled and giggled as if they were the 6, 7, 8 year old kids I perform for every show. I had hit a home run! The applause I received after my 10 minutes was appalause I will never forget. I didn't have a fancy press kit, fancy business card or outrageous costume. I what just me doing what I loved to do; make people grin, smile, giggle and laugh. I was told many months later that I was the hit of the showcase. Booking started pouring in. That summer during the libaries' reading program I performed my brand of magic at 37 libraries.

As I try and re:establish my magic shows, I look forward to entertaining at libraries once again all over Connecticut. After I sent out a reintroduction letter to the librarians, I have had many conversations welcoming me back. Many said they look forward to the craziness of my act as they know the kids will love it as much now as back then. I've only been away from pursuing magic shows for the last 5 or 6 years but I guess I left an impression. (A good one I hope). I have already booked a few shows but I have room on my summer schedule to book many more. The best thing... I offering the same fee as I did 10 years ago. As they say; in today's economic times... etc, etc, etc. I always felt I offer a great show at an afforable price and then I'm going to give you more than advertised.

Here's a look at my new logo and please visit my newly designed web site: I hope I have the pleasure of enteratining you and your kids at a Connecticut library this summer. Come up and say hello.

SWFB Magic... "Fun You Won't Forget!"

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Summer of 1991... Unlock the Magic.

This was one crazy promotion. The auditions were done in East Hartford. As I got there I was waiting to audition with hundreds of other magicians. When my turn came, I was allowed 10 minutes to perform and wow them. I must have because I got the gig. I developed my own set of tricks including the 3 shell game using a cookie with a surprise ending where there were a stack of 3 cookies under each cup; no loser there when everyone got the cookies. My second trick was a coupon I printed up for a case of Oreos locked away in a lucite holder. There were 3 keys and 2 of the auditioners chould chose one key each and I get the remaining key. They could then try and open the lock with their key or switch with my key before trying. They could not open the lock but my key did but as a consolation prize they each recieve a dollar off coupon good for a package of Oreos. My final trick was Miser's dream using cookies plucked from the air.

I was assigned the area of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. On each Saturday and Sunday during the promotion I was to go to 2 different grocery stores where I met up with the other member of my team. She worked for the promotion company and was responsible for setting up a table at the end of the cookie aisle. She also dressed as a big Oreo Cookie. The costume was big and round and was huge and blocked the aisle from people shopping. I was given music to play as I performed the magic and handed out Oreo cookies. Lots of Oreo cookies. Thousands of Oreo cookies. (As a side note, you can guess that I ate my fair share but didn't eat another Oreo for a couple years after the promotion).

I do have fond memories of that summer. I handed out lots of personal business cards which got me lots of birthday party magic shows. But my big memory was coming home each day with a big black garbage bag of open cases of cookies. We had to open at least 2 cases of cookies at each store and could not return the unused packs to the shelves. So I brought them home and handed them out to all the kids in the neighborhood.
Next post... How I got into magic
Until then...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why a Magic Show?

Being this is my first blog about my long career as a magician, I wanted to rewrite something I wrote in 1982 and used as a mailer to Connecticut Libraries. I have been very fortunate that these libraries had supported me for many years. Now that my desire to perform magic has returned, I hope I have the pleasure to entertain Connecticut's children again.

"1982: Why a magic show?"

"Magic in itself is educational, in that it stirs the mind to solve problemsbeing posed by the tricks. It stimultaes curiosity and quickens the mind. It's a form of entertainment in which it takes two minds to bring an effect to its conclusion- that of the performer and of its observer. Few intelligent people let a magic show just drift bfore their eyes. If the magician is any good at all he stirs the audience to take part in the show. "How did he do that?" is the common remark after the show."

"Magic exposes the child to a live visual performance, not a movie or television, but an art he can relate to. Steve Wronker's Funny Business has lots of audience participation, so children can come on stage and enjoy an experience new to them and of benefit to them. There is no room in the world today for the extreme shyness some kids have. Being on stage, doing something with the performer could be the first step to build self confidence for such a child."

"Further, a magic show introduces the child toa wonderful hobby that could stand in good stead all his life. Many young people have worked their way through college performing magic. many have found that magic is an ideal way of illustrating what they have to say in education, business and religion. Unlike other hobbies, as coin or stamp collecting or model building, magic makes it necessary to speak in fromt of a group, develope poise, self-esteem and above all, confidence in themselves. This, then, cannot help but make a better perosn of him."

This ends my first magic blog but there will be many more to come. I miss performing magic for family audiences and I miss the laughter and fun associated with my comedy shows. So I end by saying...

"With Steve Wronker's Funny Business comedy magic shows, it's fun you won't forget!"