Tullock; The Real Truth About Trade Show Magic And A Lot More by Eddie Tullock, with Gene Urban & Kenton Knepper

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii November, 1996)

Do you work trade shows? Do you know who Eddie Tullock is? Choose one: (A) Yes and yes. (B) No and yes. (C) No and no. (D) Yes and no. If you answered A or B, give yourself two points. If you answered C, give yourself no points (no harm done). If you answered D, deduct ten points and never again claim to be a trade show worker.

Eddie Tullock is the father of modern trade show work, especially trade show close-up magic. While other aspects of the road were paved by early masters like Karrell Fox doing platform shows and Del Ray in hospitality suites, Eddie Tullock is the guy who brought close-up work to the front of the trade show booth, designed to lure in prospects and pitch the product all in the course of a few minutes of entertaining close-up magic.

Ask any major trade show worker— from Mike Rogers on back through Don Alan to Johnny Thompson and Derek Dingle (both of whom worked this market extensively in the '70s) to contemporary trade show masters Paul Gertner and Tim Conover—and they will tell you that Eddie Tullock is the man who not only made it all possible, but taught them all, either directly or indirectly, and still is the one that nobody can beat if he's on the floor the same day. He is, in this most mysterious and sometimes profitable aspect of our work, a living legend, a secular god, a king.

Mr. Tullock has recently ventured forth from the shadows of his career into the light of an occasional magic convention or two, and this modest book is the first significant material to be published in his name. The production and literary values are minimal. The content is priceless. The first half of the book addresses the performance of magic; that is, Sleights, Bits of Business, and Tullock Tricks. Of particular note among the five sleights described is a practical in-the-hands false riffle shuffle (those interested in this line of thinking should be certain to see Guy Hollingworth's lecture), and the best five and a half pages on the Classic Force to ever appear in print. The other notable manuscript on this subject is that by Paul Gertner, and here we clearly get to see who taught Paul. This is the Real Work.

Amid the Bits of Business are described several old gags that Mr. Tullock uses to garner laughs when a spectator appears to have difficulty returning a chosen card to the deck. You've probably seen this kind of thing before, and may consider it either passe, or in poor taste. Rest assured that if you are 25 years old or so, or if at any age you are performing for audiences a decade or more older than you, you have no business using these gags. You may earn laughs, but you will also earn the resentment of your audience in most settings (perhaps with the exception of a bar).

But this material isn't merely an example of what not to do; more importantly, it is an example of how character and style are always the key to any performance. Take particular note of the photograph of Mr. Tullock at the front of this book, and only then give careful consideration to why these bits work so well for him—and probably not well at all for most of the rest of us.

"Know your act so well that you don't have to think about it. It has to be automatic."—Eddie Tullock, The Real Truth About Trade Show Magic

There are three tricks included; the first, called Stop It Now, relies on that invaluable standby, the Top Change. This trick is Mr. Tullock's variant of a timeless plot, essentially the transformation of an indifferent card into the spectator's selection. The plot and method are virtually identical to a trick in Eugene Burger's Audience Involvement... A Lecture. for example, but the rhythm and presentation are entirely different, and therein lies a great lesson. Busted Transpo is another classical sort of plot, from which a master like Mr. Tullock can extract endless entertainment. This is a wonderful little two-part, two-spectator routine, and is easy to do— provided you have a surefire Classic Force!

But this first, magic portion of the book represents the least of its value. In the subsequent 28 pages you will find everything you need to know about working trade shows.

Okay, perhaps that's an overstatement; you need to already know a fair amount about this very specialized and demanding venue in order to fully appreciate and apply the information in this little book, but the more you know the more you will value it. This is cut and dry, straight to the point, no padding, the real info you need to know and deal with if you're going to get anywhere in trade shows. As Mr. Tullock states at the start of this segment: "The actual tricks you perform at a trade show are of little importance. How well you do them is paramount."

From there, the author discusses constructing an act, props, performance attitude, equipment and accessories, voice technique, fees, building an audience, business cards and brochures, costume, and other issues of critical importance to a trade show worker. Armed with this information, coupled with tremendous energy, stamina, a willingness and ability to stand and talk and perform for many hours a day (I have done as many as 20 shows or more a day, in fact), and a deep understanding of sales and marketing, as it relates to selling both yourself and your client's products and services, then maybe—just maybe—you might have what it takes to make it in trade shows. And whatever you do, please: Don't undersell the competition. Get a real fee, or get out.

Frankly, I would have loved to have seen this book include a more detailed history of the magic trade show business in general, and Mr. Tullock's professional history in particular, as he is in a unique position to provide such a perspective; also, further information on current trends in marketing yourself to prospective trade show clients would be of interest to most any reader. But what is here is virtually unprecedented in the literature, despite its apparent simplicity You'll have to extrapolate a lot from the tersely presented information in these pages, but it will be of priceless value in the right hands.

And as if all that wasn't enough, this may be the only magic book in history dedicated to an agent—namely the late Bob Snodell, who did have the opportunity to see this book prior to his recent passing, a small but notable tribute from his friend and living legend, Eddie Tullock.

8 - 1/2" X 11" spiral bound; 63 pages; approximately 132 line drawings; 1996; Publisher: Kreations & Trx