The Girl at the Magic Show

Well, just be glad you're not an autism-struck eight-year-old, because according to this woman, it's not quite the welcoming environment.

This was Helder's response:

Now, as someone who has been referred to as "the world's foremost thought leader in magic today," (See The Jerx, September 29th 2016) I have been asked by a few people what my thoughts are on this subject.

The truth is, I can't really form an opinion on the situation without seeing a video or at least getting some unbiased accounts of the incident. The two sides of the story are almost hilarious when assessed in tandem. According to the mother (and you can read more of her account on her facebook page (it's a public post, loaded with hashtags, so I don't feel like a creep directing you there. It was meant to be read and shared.)) her daughter didn't disrupt the show in any manner, and according to Helder he "gently" asked for silence and just asked if "everything was okay." It all sounds so pleasant! How did this ever blow up into a thing?

By the mother's initial account Helder just singled out her daughter for no reason and then turned the crowd against her in a classic example of the "sociopathology of social collectives." By Helder's account this mother is upset because he asked if "everything was okay."

THIS IS WHY PROGRESS TAKES FOREVER, PEOPLE! It's a lot of cover-your-ass responses rather then dealing with the actual issues and what actually took place.

I've tried to look at this situation as just a smart, impartial person and here is what it sounds like actually happened. The young girl, unknowingly, was being disruptive to the show in some way. Helder addressed the situation in some ineloquent manner, and then the people behind the girl made some comment. The mother, being understandably hyper-sensitive to this issue, sees it as an attack. 

I would like to extend an invitation to the mother to tell her side of the story here, or to talk with me over the phone. I have a platform where her story can be told—I'm the most widely read single voice for magic commentary in the world (that sounds like my typical pompous nonsense, but it is, I'm afraid, a fact). Let's spread the word of what really happened. I mean, she'll never read this, so it's kind of an empty gesture on my part. But if she does, I would be more than happy to tell her side of the story. 

This is what I have to say...

To the mother:

Your daughter is adorable, and I have no doubt she is an absolute joy to be around and also probably a complete handful in ways that are both wonderful and frustrating. 

That being said, don't bring any 8-year-old to a show of dull card tricks. I know, you thought it was going to be something cool. A magic show! That will be spectacular! It's not really. It's card tricks. Your kid dodged a bullet by not having to sit through it.

Now, as I said, I don't really know what happened there. Obviously something happened that brought attention to your kid. And if it was just a brief outburst, then everyone should have let it slide. But if it was ongoing for more than a few seconds, it's just not acceptable. Nobody is free, regardless of their situation, to disrupt a show like that for the people around them. I'm certainly not blaming your daughter any more than I would blame a baby crying during a movie. The social contract is that everyone in the room has to be relatively quiet and not disturb the show. This is not about being unfair to anyone with a disability, it's about being fair to everyone in the room. I certainly never got to go anywhere when I was 8. I had no diagnosable issues, I was just a Dennis-the-menace style monster who couldn't keep his little butt in a seat or his mouth shut for 5 minutes. 

Again, I'm not saying your daughter did do anything to disrupt the show. I'm just saying if she did, then getting the boot is what had to happen. 

Regarding the people behind you who said something, I don't think this was an example of sociopathology of social collectives. I think they were annoyed some kid was making noise and disturbing their enjoyment of the show that they had paid for. They too probably should have handled things better. But I understand where they're coming from. I understand where everyone is coming from. And I appreciate you bringing the subject up because it's going to make me more aware of it and make me more patient in certain situations. I would have definitely been like the people behind you thinking, "ugh... why is this kid making noise? Why is this parent letting the kid make noise?" The idea that there might be some greater issue would have been the furthest thing from my mind. I'm sure I would have said something. Most likely to you, not the kid. But who knows. I'm not above talking trash to an eight-year-old. Bring it on, kiddo. Hell, I'd probably threaten a six-year-old if he bugged me enough. I'd do that thing where I point to my eyes with my index and middle finger then point to his, as if to say, "I've got my eye on you." Then I'd do the "zip your lip" gesture. Then I'd do the throat slash gesture. Then I'd be like, "Got it, buddy?" Then I'd run out of the theater at the end of the show, worried he would kick the shit out of me.

But seriously, I genuinely appreciate you raising this issue.

To Helder:

You don't know me. I saw Nothing to Hide in NYC and really enjoyed it. Good job. Hope the new show goes well.

I have bad news for you. When this story came out I heard from a few different people who know you, have worked with you*, or who know people who know you, and all of them were like, "Yeah, that sounds like something he might do. He's an asshole. He treats people like shit." And then they would repeat other stories similar to this of you treating audience members poorly. (Which is something else that I hope placates the mother. If he was rude, it wasn't because of your child or her situation, it's because he's a little bit of a bitch who can't keep his cool if things don't go 100% his way.)

I'm telling you this because it's a problem for you in one of two ways.

Either you don't know you come off like this, in which case it's good that I'm telling you so you can perform some self-assessment. Chill out. Read a book on how to interact with people. Stop calling people "dicks." Read this post. When something goes wrong on stage, see it as your opportunity to prove your magic and showmanship skills. Life is like surfing. You don't get a medal for standing on the board in calm seas. The whole point is to ride the waves. Don't flip out if something is going imperfectly on stage. You're not doing Our Town for chrissake, you're screwing around with a deck of cards. You can pause the show and address an issue calmly and get things back on track. You're talented enough. 

On the other hand, maybe you do know you come off this way. Maybe you think that's your schtick. "I'm the cool badass who calls people out." That's not how you're coming off. It comes off as insecure. It's insecure to be bothered by stuff like this. You know how I know? Because I'm a cool badass! We know our own kind. You know our most common reaction when things go wrong? It's this... "Huh? Okay, whatever."

Your girlfriend tells you she slept with another man and is breaking up with you:

Phony badass: "You bitch! How dare you. You're going to regret this. You're ugly anyway." Goes to her house that night, smashes her car window with a baseball bat, starts following her around when she's on dates, threatens to beat up any dude he sees with her.

Real badass: "Huh? Okay. Hit the bricks." Goes out that night and meets a cooler chick.

So you think we get bent out of shape when someone screws up a card trick?

"But you're a dick on this site. I can be a dick to people in real life," you say. This site is an act. Only dullards can't see that. I'm a dick with a heart of gold. And a dick of gold. You're a wildly talented magician. But you're not so good that people will put up with your shit in the long run. 

The Solution

I was thinking about this sweet little girl and how this situation should be addressed. Not in a broad sense. (In the broad sense I suppose if you're a parent of a child that has these types of issues you should inform the theater (which apparently the mom did) and the theater should inform the performer. It's probably also a good idea to say something to the people in the general vicinity. Then everyone should be cool. This doesn't give the kid carte blanche to do whatever they want. But it gets everyone on the same page.) As I was saying, not in a broad sense, but in this particular instance, with this particular little girl, I was thinking how on some level she must have been hurt to get kicked out of the show. Even if she's not processing things identically to the way someone without autism would. And regardless of how much of a prick Helder might be, or pretend to be, I'm fairly certain it wasn't his intention to upset a little girl and her mother. This is a new show, just opening, and he's on edge. There's some kind of disruption and he lashes out. It's understandable. But let's make things right.

1. Helder should visit the kid and put on a special performance for this girl, her mother, and any siblings or friends she wants to bring along. Just like 20 minutes. And do some fun stuff, not a bunch of card tricks 

2. At some point he should tell the girl, "I'm so, so sorry you didn't get to see the show the other day. There was a misunderstanding. I was told you were coming and I was so excited to have such an important guest that I wanted you to see my real fun show, not my boring card trick show. So I had you leave so it wouldn't spoil this show for you."

3. Mom gets two free tickets for her and a guest to see the show again. And Helder pays for a child-care service to watch her kids while she's at the show.

Boom. Problem solved. NEXT!

[*Updated to say that of the people who contacted me, none of them were Derek DelGaudio. So, if you're hoping to make that a thing, don't bother. I didn't even consider people might think that or I would have made that clear in my original post. For that matter it wasn't Neal Patrick Harris either. Although he did write me and ask me to do a hit piece on Max Casella, so look for that soon.]