Articles about Ben Robinson
The Manhattan Magician - continued
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1988: Ben Robinson tells the story:
“I did several shows at the huge Jacob Javits Center on the west side of Manhattan for a student career expo. Probably 20,000 kids there from all over the NY region. I did roughly the same show 45 minute show 4 times a day for two days. Well, this guy sits in the 3rd row aisle for each show one day, and I can’t figure it out, except he likes my show. So at the end of the show the guy with the heavy black rim glasses and Keds sneakers, nearly bald, sort of bony looking, gets up from his third row seat and comes over to me as I am cleaning up some stuff on the stage.
He says, ‘The kids really enjoyed your show and so did I.
’I thank him. Then he picks up a joker that had fallen to the stage during my show. and scawls something on it with a black marker that he seemed to have a alot of.
Then, somewhat awkwardly, offers it to me with a hesitant, ‘Here, this is for you.’
I accepted his small drawing having absolutely no idea that the bony looking guy was the famous pop artist Keith Haring who’d done the poster (left) for the show. His drawing of a man falling out of the ringmaster’s hat is inspired like so much of his child-like art. Keith started out as a graffiti artist, and since his death, his paintings, sketches and drawings have commanded very high prices.
“The original Keith Haring Joker is now in the collection of Anthony Chaudhuri, and reproduced here with permission.
All reproduction rights belong to Anthony Chaudhuri.
On a soundstage fashioned from an abandoned building, off Broadway Ben Robinson was part of the 1987 “Quick Hits” Levis 501 jeans campaign joining a top model, musicians and noted artist Mark Kostabi (with sun glasses). The talent was hand-picked by the famous director Leslie Dektor. Ad Age called the campaign extremely effective for mixing avant garde sensibiities with mainstream selling.
When the commercial played immediately followng Michael Jackson’s memorable dance at the Mowtown 25 year celebration on CBS (the one where he tossed his hat into the audience after moonwalking), Robinson received hundreds of calls. His mother could not get through on the phone. When she did, she said to her son, “So, are you happy now?”
1987: The Hunger Artist, produced by the Music-Theatre Group, St. Clement’s Theatre, on West 46th Street. Directed by MacArthur “genius” Award recipient, Martha Clarke. Robinson added illusions to the dramatic show. Robinson’s contribution was reviewed by Clive Barnes of the NY Post as “some oddly charming mgic illusions brought to the stage.” Throughout the years Robinson has lent his touch to TV commercials, theme park review shows and some current publications.
Ben Robinson performed at Top of the Sixes at 666 Fifth Avenue for 11 months in 1986 as the House Magician providing 4 hours of close up magic a night. He left his position to tour Europe promoting his book, Twelve Have Died.
1986: A performance at the famous restaurant row cabaret Don't Tell Mama. A bunny appeared in the opening segment that included a levitation to a Strauss waltz. 1986: A performance at the famous restaurant row cabaret Don’t Tell Mama. A bunny appeared in the opening segment that included a levitation to a Strauss waltz.
Scenes from Steve Clarendon‘s 1985 film STEPS with Ben Robinson. At left, the film maker is seen in the final cut. Developed over 18 months, Robinson and Clarendon were the first to present an MTV-style film presenting the magician’s art.
Largely shot outdoors for real people, their film was 12 years ahead of TV magicians the media now (in 2002) embrace as “cutting edge.”
The 1985 premiere was in the SoHo Triplex where Robinson was the House Magician from 1983-1985.
1985: Robinson makes the Metro cover of The New York Times for producing a rabbit for hospital children on Easter Sunday at The Cornell Medical Center.
1985: His first national TV guest shot with Regis Philbin.
An early publicity photo from the Central Park Children's Zoo, 1984. Photo: Bill Regan
Two famous New York locations, Gracie Mansion, then the home of Mayor Edward I. Koch, who roared “You are a superb magician!” when seeing Robinson at the Resources Council (right) Halloween show at Cooper Union for the conservancy of the mayoral residence. Left, Robinson at the famous disco, Studio 54. He is seen doing his act during a Jerry Rubin “networking party.”
1982: Jason's Park Royal, his night club debut at a club owned by Richard Nixon's psychotherapist. The magician is about to make a lighted cigarette vanish in his clenched fist.
1982: Assisting his idol Doug Henning on Henning's last TV special, Doug Henning on Broadway. Taped at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, this was one of the most exciting moments in Robinson's life. He says, "Doug and I were friends from the moment I pestered him for an interview in 1974 and he saw that I was serious about becoming a magician. His recent death left me empty."
The stage, TV, movies, commercials, club gigs, famous folks, and avant-garde artists . . . they all play a part in this 20-year story. What of Robinson in 2003? He genuinely believes that it takes 20 years to make a magician and quips, “Now I am just beginning.” He says 2002 has been a tough year globally, but is optimistic about the future. And adds “I telepathically talked to my friend Harry Potter the other night and he said that the world needs magic even if sometimes the world doesn’t realize it.”
E. R. Rose is a freelance writer based in Switzerland. She saw Ben Robinson perform at The Roxy Studio-Bar in Zurich in 1987 and never forgot it. Via the Internet, this story was compiled over 6 months.