A SINCERE PUBLIC APOLOGY TO MASTER ILLUSIONIST RUSS STEVEN’S
Back in around early 1992 (as I recall) when I was aged just 16 a letter appeared apparently from myself in The Magic Circular Magazine referring to Russ Stevens Blackpool Illusion Show as “Mystake” rather than “Mystique” and giving an extremely
Critical and negative review of errors that I had witnessed whilst watching the show
On numerous occasions over the previous years.
Whilst the core content of that letter was true, in so much as I had witnessed the errors
Mentioned in the letter, I am ashamed to admit that the letter was massively unfair and misleading in the manner it was written and for that I sincerely apologise to Russ Stevens.
The letter seemed to catalogue a big list of errors in a manner that the average reader could Have easily assumed that they had all occurred during one performance of the show which was most certainly not the case.
Or they could have been (due to way letter was written) perceived as though they were happening on a nightly basis, which once again was not the case.
In truth the contents of the letter related to several individual things which I had witnessed on different occasions and not all during one performance.
To clarify that further the few errors mentioned did not all happen in the same show on the same night, I had witnessed for example one or maybe two errors maximum occur in one viewing of the show and then weeks later when I saw the show again these particular errors did not occur, but I may then have witnessed a different small error, or it could have been as long as the next years season of shows before I ever witnessed another small error.
Written as the letter was it was misleading and wholly out of context painting a distorted and untrue picture of events and therefore I fully understand why Russ Stevens was so angry and upset at the time about its publication.
Indeed many of these things were tiny errors which would most likely never have been
Noticed by a member of the general public and be spotted only by someone armed with
Magical knowledge and insight, thus on reflection making the tone of the letter in the misleading manner it was presented even more offensive, I am sure, to Russ for which I can only once again sincerely apologize.
Never did I witness them all or indeed ever witness lots of them occurring in the same
Performance, and had this been pointed out and made clearer in the letter which appeared in the Magic Circular then that would have been much better and would have been a far
more accurate portrayal of the situation.
Indeed what would have been much better would have been for me to never have sent that
Letter to the Magic Circular Magazine in the first place and indeed I have regretted doing so for over two decades now.
I’ve also regretted never having the balls (until now) to either publicly or privately admit
the major monumental cock up made by me when I was on reflection a still in many manners immature 16 year old.
I’m not going to mention names (so please don’t ask) and I acknowledge that in no way is it a justifiable excuse for sending that letter to the Magic Circular Magazine, however please understand that I was encouraged to send that letter to the publication by a major name in the magic world who I was in awe of at the time.
In casual conversation this person had been asking me about Russ Stevens Mystique show in Blackpool and was in general being quite critical in their comments about Russ as a performer.
I deeply regret and feel ashamed to admit the fact, but rather than defending my Friend Russ Stevens (as I most certainly did regard him as a friend at that time) I was so in awe at the “Star” I was spending time with that in a childish and immature attempt to please this person, I told them of the few cock ups I had witnessed over the years seeing the Mystique show (often as many as a dozen times each season or more) live in Blackpool.
They then sat down at their typewriter and typed out the letter in the wording, manner and format that it appeared in the Magic Circular magazine bearing my name.
I did not personally construct the letter or its wording myself, however by agreeing to sign it and then sending it to The Magic Circular magazine I was indeed guilty of childishly betraying my friend Russ Stevens just because I was in “awe” at this star who I was spending time with.
I have since realized and discovered that this “star” held so it would seem a personal grudge against Russ and in hindsight it would appear manipulated the situation to his own
ends, but did not have the balls to put his own name to it.
When you further consider that Russ Stevens had arranged on numerous occasions each season for several years for me (and magical friends of mine) to have guest tickets to come in to see Mystique for free, had socialized with us and given me much magical advice and Encouragement during these times, it further illustrates how bang out of order I was and how silly, childishly, immaturely and idiotically I acted when I was just 16 years old.
The right thing to do with regards the errors I had spotted would have been to mention them personally and directly to Russ so that he would have then been aware of them and could do whatever was possible to ensure they did not occur ever again, this would have been even more appropriate given that the small errors I did witness were not caused by or in any manner the direct fault of Russ Stevens Personally, but rather were due to prop malfunctions or assistant errors which could easily be rectified and most importantly were not the fault of Russ despite the misleading manner in which things were portrayed contextually in the letter that appeared in the Magic Circular.
I further now realize (and have done for many years but just never had the balls to apologize to Russ and admit it until now) that when you are doing the same show every night, sometimes twice nightly most every night of the week, that it is inevitable that on some occasions the odd error is going to happen, especially when working with so many assistants and dancers.
I look back now and hang my head in shame when I reflect on the errors I myself made when performing an Illusion Act for the several years that I did do so, there was and is
No justifiable excuse or reason for me to have signed that letter or for allowing that letter all those years ago to be sent to The Magic Circular.
I do recall that even as I was being swept away in the moment of “awe” I was thinking
To myself well its OK to go along with this as the magazine won’t print it anyway as I am not a member of the Magic Circle (which I was not) but how wrong I was.
I can only once again sincerely and truly apologize to Russ Stevens for my idiotic, childish, immature and laughable behavior and actions at the time.
And for the record Russ Stevens is one of the finest, slickest and most professional Illusionists and magical performers that I have ever had the privilege to witness and
Until my most regrettable involvement in the said letter also regarded by me as a true, helpful, supportive, encouraging and hugely generous magical friend.
I’m Sorry Russ, you never deserved what I did.
WHAT FOLLOW’S WAS ADDED ON SATURDAY 13th OCTOBER
(After Recieving tons of emails asking who it was and also some comments intimating
that this other person may just be imaginary to try and shift blame from myself – well
thats most certainly not the case, oh and for the record Russ Stevens has now publically accepted my apology on his Facebook Wall and accepted my friends request there)
WHAT I POSTED TODAY TO RUSS STEVEN’S FACEBOOK WALL
Right I’ve had emails galore asking me who the person was that wrote the letter and then got me to sign it (see link I have in my last post for details of background)
Also various people have on the facebook wall of Russ Stevens asked the same, indeed the odd person almost intimating that I may be making up the other person to deflect blame from myself…
Well I’ve just posted what follows on Russ Stevens facebook wall on the relevant thread and am now posting it here also so that the mystery is over and the truth is finally out…
COPY OF POSTING MADE TO RUSS STEVENS WALL
Right sod it, here goes then before this gets stupid, I hope you don’t mind me posting this Russ Stevens…
I shall try to cut a long story short…
In the very Very late 80’s or very early 90’s (the exact dates escape me to be honest) for a long time, together with Magician Jamie Allan we had both been trying to come up with a practical and affordable way to make the Impaled Illusion and indeed I had run some of our ideas past Russ in a letter we delivered to him at Mystique, which he kindly advised on and replied to in some depth.
Some time later whilst brainstorming ways of being able to do the illusion and also improve on it whilst being able to build it affordably with Jamie Allan, He (Jamie) realized that a screw thread type arrangement would work for the sword fixing and drop mechanism and we both became excited about this and discussed it and worked on it further.
A mutual friend of ours Magician David Arkay was fortunate that his dad was a Blacksmith and a short time later had managed to build our “screwthread” impaled illusion.
Then at the next Blackpool Magic Convention all 3 of us met and were invited to dinner with Simon Drake and during conversation we all mentioned how we’d come up with a different method for the Impaled Illusion and showed him a photograph of the prop that Davids dad had built.
He gave us his contact details and asked for ours, said he would be in touch after the convention and that he wanted to buy the prop to use on his UK “Secret Cabaret” Live Theatre Tour.
A couple of weeks later at most, I went on a train with the prop from Cumbria to London and was met by Simon Drake at the train station.
He ended up knocking us down on the price of the prop immensely, in hindsight I would argue that he took advantage of the situation, playing on the fact that all of us involved would want to be able to say that Simon Drake had used our idea/prop on his UK Tour (and he later did on the Raising Hell Iron Maiden TV Show as well, albeit that he’d fitted the bits and bobs into a new barbed wire see-thru base)
Ultimately we went back to his house (where I stayed the night) and the following morning he suggested sending a letter to The Magic Circular Magazine, the background of which etc is explained at the link –
I can honestly say on reflection that he clearly acted as though he had some kind of axe to grind with Russ, I recall Simon Drake mentioning and claiming that the show that became “Mystique” was originally his idea, and that the idea for themed scenes of magic such as “Dracula” – “James Bond” etc was also his original idea.
I do strongly recall one comment that firmly sticks in my mind and that was when Simon Said something to me along the lines of “Even if he (Russ) does the Impaled illusion every night for the rest of his life, I’ve already been seen on TV performing it by Millions more people than will ever see him do it”
Obviously that may not be a word for word recollection, but its the essence of what he said.
Yes I was Silly, Stupid, immature and childish to sign the letter and to send it off at the request of Simon Drake, but I was in Awe and “Starstruck”, but looking back I do now feel that I was used and manipulated in a very unfair and immoral manner by someone much older than me, who was clearly in the “Star” and “Authority” figure position of the situation.
I told Russ who it was at the time he contacted me when the letter had appeared (so in that regard Russ can confirm this is not just something I have conjured up over 2 decades later)
Also I know that I mentioned what occurred to Jamie Allan and David Arkay – but have no idea if they will remember me stating such?
I would hope that Jamie Allan may do so at the very least, as we saw Simon Drakes Live Show using the prop we had supplied him at Manchester Apollo and were also at the end of tour party at The Hackney Empire as his guest, and I’m fairly certain that sly remarks about Russ Stevens were also made by him at those times for whatever motivation of his I have no idea.
So there you have it, the person who got me to sign the letter and send it was SIMON DRAKE.
I know some won’t believe me and will say well its just your word against his, and most likely Simon Drake will deny it, but as I have already said there are others who know what happened as they were made aware of everything over 20 years ago now, so this is not just something I have made up, as I am sure my detractors and haters will be fast to claim.
I had nothing to gain by posting the apology (except forgiveness from Russ Stevens for which I am very grateful he has given) and I have nothing to gain by posting this here, other than in some strange way it actually seems very cathartic to get this out in the open.
At the end of the day though I was stupid for allowing myself to be manipulated and used in such a manner or was just to naive to realise what was going on, either way its something I greatly regret and have done so ever since.
I just wish I’d had the balls to apologise to Russ and get this out in the open much sooner, but I felt Silly, stupid and ashamed, I still do, but at least I’ve now done the right thing.
Alex Smith aka Alex-Leroy aka Jonathan Royle