Q: How did you end up being a magician’s assistant? Did someone tell you about it?
A: No no. I sought it out. I was majoring in theater and I needed to be in the entertainment industry. In Tacoma that means you’re the Red Robin bird or you work at Enchanted Village doing a magic show.
Q: Do you remember the magician you worked with?
A: Oh yeah I remember him. He was an old guy with a mustache — a very thick mustache. I can show you what he looked like; he gave me an eight by ten glossy! He wore a turquoise Hawaiian shirt and a black blazer. He was about forty-five years old.
Q: Do you remember your first meeting?
A: Barely. I remember asking him, “Do I get to wear a bikini thing with a silk jacket? Do I get to be sawed in half?” He said, “No. This is a children’s show.” He took me into the back to meet the animals. There was a trailer that was the back entrance to the stage. There was all this crap back there — rabbits and doves — it was a little scary. There were retail tricks piled super high and animals in tiny cages with doors you could barely open.
Q: What did your job entail?
A: I was hired to work in the magician’s shop, which was about the size of a car. You can’t come in the shop — it’s a window. I sat on a stool with no room behind me. I was trapped like a rat. Talk about claustrophobia.
Q: So you sold things from the window?
A: Yes. I was hired in May but the season doesn’t really start until June, and the magician’s shop was way far on the other side of the park. In the eight days I worked there, I sold about five dollars-worth of merchandise. One of the things I sold was this genie bottle. I practiced and practiced. “The ball’s gone!” I would say. I sold one of the two-dollar things to an eight-year-old kid. I was excited.
Q: Did the magician ever come to visit you?
A: The magician came from time to time but it would scare me. I think he just spent his time trying to look busy or sitting in the employee lounge or something.
Q: What was an average day like?
A: There was no one to talk to. I would cash out the register at the end of the day and the total would be zero dollars. I read four huge books in the time I was there.
Q: Did you have any specific tasks?
A: No, but I was sick of reading Danielle Steele books, so one day after lunch I was walking back and I decided it was too dark in the shop, and I asked the magician if I could paint it. He said, “I’ll bring you the paint tomorrow.” I had to empty out the whole shop and put all of the stuff in the trailer next to the animals. I’d never even painted my own room, but he brought the bucket, roller, and pan. The walls were dirty and there were spider webs everywhere. I just painted over the spiders so their little dead corpses were splattered on the wall. And it was an oil-based paint and I had no stir stick, so I used a branch. The whole time I was thinking, all of this bark is getting into the paint, and then I’m going to see bark drying on the walls. It was hot and I was sweating and I didn’t want to do it once I got started. When I was done for the day I had to wash my stuff in the public bathrooms and the paint got stuck in the sink and I couldn’t get rid of it and I was in the public bathroom so the customers could see me wrecking the sink right before their eyes! I panicked and ran because all I could think about was them making me pay for the sink out of my wimpy little paycheck.
Q: Any other tasks?
A: Finally, when I was done with the painting, I read another book, then asked for another project. He wanted me to clean the dove and rabbit cages. And give them food and water. As if I grew up on a farm or something. I was afraid the doves would bite me. But I was able to clean the dove one ok. The rabbit cage wasn’t as easy. The rabbit ran away into the park. It was 8:30 in the morning and I was yelling, “The magician’s rabbit!!!” There was no one around to respond. It ran into the petting zoo. I tried picking it up like a kitty and it thumped me like a kangaroo. The other animals in the petting zoo were freaking out. Finally I grabbed it by the neck and it was kicking the whole way back. I thought, “I don’t get paid enough!”
Q: Anything else that was memorable about the job?
A: The day I was painting, the magician came and asked me how it was going. He coughed and spit a loogie onto his shoulder. To this day I can see it. I kept staring at it, thinking he’d wipe it off. I’m sitting here gagging as I tell you. Maybe he didn’t care that it was there. Anyway he came in the next day with the same shirt and I KID YOU NOT — the same dried-up loogie was still on his Hawaiian shirt.
Q: What made you decide to quit?
A: After the painting, the rabbit, and the loogie, I thought, “I’m not working my dramatic qualities.” My mom yelled at me, “You only worked there a week!” and I told her, “YOU try sitting there eight hours a day!” I mean I thought I was going to get to wear fishnet stockings and a cape that said “Avril Cadavril” on the back. Not to mention that there was a puppet show across the way that played “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” every hour on the hour. All of the kids over there were clapping and laughing. So I took a job in Puyallup weighing raspberries for two dollars more an hour.