David Gee (2/3): The birth of the Mechanical Magician

From 1975-1980 I did theme parks, night clubs, even a haunted castle. But after 5 years being a robot I was tired of it.


I wanted to make the Man into the Mechanical Magician.


It was in the back of my mind for a long time. That was around 1979/1980.


I’ve always liked magic, even as a kid. I didn’t know a lot about it, but I had learned one or two tricks from my uncle. He showed me how to vanish a card. I learned it when I was 8 or 9 years old.


When I started my second Mechanical Man job the next summer I had this thought, “Wouldn’t it be good if I could do magic as the Mechanical Man?” It took me a while to bring him out, but I did.


I got my magic wings in Los Angeles. One thing I knew about magic is that you need lots of money to become a Magician. Magic is expensive.


So before I could step into a magic shop I had to have money in my pocket, lots of money. I just moved to L.A. with a new girlfriend. She got a job and I got a job as a short order cook. I worked for 7 or 8 months saved 789 dollars then quit.


I told my girlfriend I quit my job. I said to Nancy, “This is my moment. I am going to create the Mechanical Magician. I’m going to spend all this money at the Hollywood Magic Shop”.

And she said, “Ok”.


I went to this magic shop in Hollywood. I bought the shop catalog, went home, read everything in that book, took about a week.

There are certain tricks you have to use patter to perform and tricks you don’t. I was looking for tricks that you don’t have to use words with.


I went back to the shop, catalog in hand and just read off a list of tricks I had circled. I spent all of my savings. I must have bought 25 or 30 tricks. The biggest thing I bought was a flying carpet.


When you look in the catalog and you read the description of the trick you want to buy, it sounds like a miracle. Then you buy the thing and read how it is done, it don’t seem so miraculous after all.


I took the stuff home and read the instructions forever. I practiced for one month, maybe a little longer.

Doing tricks as the Mechanical Man was not easy, but I put all 25 tricks into a 30 minute stage show (with backgroud music) and went out to audition at the new Ice House Night Club in L.A.


Performances in the Ice House and the Magic Castle in L.A.


I was reading in the newspaper about an open audition at the New Ice House, a Standup Comedy Club. I knew I wasn’t very good at the Magic, but one month is long enough to be sitting on your ass not making any money and I had to make some.


I was sitting there at the New Ice House, it was 1979, there was me and maybe 19 other guys all auditioning for one spot on Wednesday night. I could do 3 minutes of my act. I was number 13 in line.


I watched the first guy, a guitar playing comdey act. The next guy got up, no guitar but he was telling jokes. I was nervous as hell. The next guy had a guitar and told jokes too. So I sat through 12 of these stand up comdey acts.


And then it was my turn.


I set up the three tricks I thought I could well. I was very nervous, my hands were shaking. I wasn’t really mechanical like that night. You know I had 5 years of practice as the Mechanical Man and all those years was out the window.


I started my music, I picked up the first trick, I think it worked but I was shaking so bad. Then I went to the second one and I knocked it over. Then I reached for the third trick and it falls to the floor.


I knew I couldn’t continue, I had to stop, I broke character and I looked to the manager and asked him if I could start over, because I knocked this thing over, I needed it for the trick.


The manager said, “No, dont worry, come here, what’s your name?”

“I’m the Mechanical Magician, my name is David.”

And he said, “I will put you on Wednesday night and if the people like you, then we’ll give you 3 nights: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.”


Wednesday night I was a nervous wreck. I was totally freaking out. I did my show and most of the tricks worked better than I hoped. For some reason they liked my show. All I can figure is no one had ever seen a Mechanical Magician before and they did not know what to think.


The management said “Great show, we put you on this weekend.”


I did the weekend, I was getting better, people liked my act very much.


When that weekend was over the management asked me to work in their bar as the Mechanical Magician during the summer. I did close up magic table to table 5 nights a week and getting better every day.


Because of the new Ice House I was meeting a lot of entertainers. Standup comedians, other Magicians, Jugglers. I met Robin Williams, David Letterman, Michael Palin.


They would not remember me, but I remember them. It was just nice to have met and talked to them.


One night David Letterman asked me to hook him up with some weed.


At the new Ice House I met this Magician who was a member of the Magic Castle. It’s a pretty famous place for magicians. You have to be a member and you can’t be a member unless they ask you to be.


The Magic Castle has many different rooms and 2 stages to perform on. This magician I met signed me up for the Monday Night Amature Hour; new magicians are were able to do 5 minutes of their show. So I got involved in that.


It was funny because the two magicians before me was doing two of the same tricks that I was doing in my 5 minute show. Only they were doing the tricks as a human and I was a robot doing their tricks.  When I did their tricks the people had a good laugh. It is always nice to hear your audience laugh.


I got very good reviews and the stage manager gave me the best advice that night “You have a good idea, but your magic looks like it came directly from China (which is not a good thing). Change the look of your magic stuff. Paint it over, make it look different.”

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