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
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
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,