For 18 years, I owned a magic store in Chatsworth (the northernmost part of the San Fernando Valley). We had world-famous magicians as regular patrons, and we also had hobbyists and beginners come in all of the time. I would need to have a seasoned, experienced magician on hand for much of the week so that a beginner could be ‘taught’ some of the basics, as well as if a professional magician stopped by, all could be helped. Joey-the Rainbow Wizard, Robin DeWitt, Cosmo Solano, Robert Golden, and Frank Zazanis were a few of the dedicated guys who worked for me. Let me tell you about two others. Richard Lake (Richard Raven) and Miguel Rangel (Migz) both would work for me and also work other “gigs.” That might include doing ‘table hopping’ or private ‘shows.’ They definitely were not making the ‘big bucks’ working for me! These two were passionate about improving their skills and working on tricks of their own and even performed both individually, and as a duo ‘two-man act.’ The physical ‘moves’ are only a part of the performance. Another important part is the ‘patter,’ or the words used as you are doing the trick. Rich and Migz will practice in front of a mirror and videotape themselves, all to get the best outcome. A pause at the correct time can make all the difference. As a result of their hard work, both are Performing Members at the world-famous “Magic Castle” in Hollywood, where they have performed individually and together — doing 15 shows in a single week. Now, with COVID, Rich has upped his game and now performs a ‘virtual’ act. He has been forced to adapt and learn an entirely new set of skills. Proper cameras and lighting, as well as sound, makes all the difference in a performance. What worked before now just doesn’t. His current shows, all via Zoom, are of the finest in the world. HANDS DOWN.
Another magician, Todd Theman, would come to work for me and almost every day would tell me about a screenplay that he was working on and ‘someday would be shot and produced.’ His passion was both in magic but really in his desire to make this movie. I remember going with him to Fry’s Electronics to purchase a $2,500 camera which he would use for the weekend to shoot a scene (not from the screenplay, but to learn the craft of movie-making) and then to return the camera four days later. Kind of like a rental? Well, some 15 years later, his movie, Little Black Lie, WAS produced and filmed. In December 2019, he had a screening of his movie at the Milan International Film Festival, where is it was nominated for four awards. Once COVID hit, he pivoted and had a Los Angeles screening of his movie at a “Pop Up” Drive-In Movie theater on Friday, November 13th.
These three former employees of mine have a couple of things in common. A desire to accomplish a goal. A non-stop passion to make it happen, despite hurdles and obstacles. The determination to WORK, every day, making small progress towards the end goal.
I am so honored to know these men and count them as friends. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Decide what you truly want and go after it!
John Tolson is the Director of Marketing and Membership for the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce, where he has been for 10 years. He also has an independent insurance business, where he is a Broker for many home and auto carriers. He has owned both a retail and wholesale business for over 18 years. Currently, he is also a Planning Commissioner for the City of Simi Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].