A man sauntered into my store as if he was walking into an old west saloon. He shook my hand and croaked, “Hi, my name’s Don Driver and I used to know the guy (Ken Fletcher) who owns this place (Magic Masters).”
Don Driver’s face looks like a crumpled road map and his voice sounds like he smoked every mile of that road. And he did; he still smokes, even though the emphysema shortens his breath. These are the marks of hard earned experience. Yet, Don still has the rangy bearing of an old cowboy.
Don is a pitchman; pitching Svengalis for 25 years. He has been working magic longer, since before I was born. The pitch he learned from S. David Walker, who learned the pitch from Mickey MacDougall, the inventor of the Svengali pitch. Svengalis, for the non-magical, are specially constructed decks to perform magic tricks with little skill.
Not that it doesn’t take skill to sell them, it does. It takes skill with both hand and mouth and a little bit of a larcenous heart. The best pitchmen weave an irresistible story.
“It’s magic. It’s easy. You’ll fool your friends and win all the bets.” How could you not put down you five dollars? Especially after, he puts the deck in the hands of a nine year old and they can do it. Well...sort of. Especially when he throws in a bonus trick, the two card monte.
Don is a veteran and knows how to weave a story, both in and out of the booth. I ignored my customers; I have customers all the time. I might have only one chance to talk to Don and hear his story. He has worked sideshows and one of the last Jam auctions in America, right on Freemont Street, Las Vegas. Sometimes, in the late of night, I dream of working the show, building the tip, freezing them, and then turning them over, perhaps after my ding. Don has stories of all these things. Good stories, bad ones, and just plain funny. I think he likes me because we are both pitchmen. I just want to hear the stories.
Now, besides pitching, he sells two DVDs: one on the Svengali pitch and one on building a tip. Don knows his business. These DVDs are not only practical solutions for the commercially inclined, but also valuable historical documents. (http://www.dondriver.tk/index.htm) Those of you going to the Abbott’s Magic Get-Together in August, look Don up. Don and David Walker will be lecturing on Thursday.
Pitchmen used to populate the city streets and fairgrounds. Now, it is a dying art. There are a few still pitching magic, knives, toys, and assorted sundry. Places like Magic Masters do it in a way, but not the old way. The live “grass roots” venue has been replaced by television infomercials and the little guy gets pushed out of business.
Don shares the stories of his life and adventures with good humor. Don has humbility, a humble nobility. Aw...shucks, he thinks he is a nobody, yet he moves and talks with the confidence of somebody. Quote, “Every man’s life is a story.” I look forward to seeing Don again and hearing more of his.
Until then, Don keeps pitching on.