How I dodged a bullet in Chicago


I can summon hot waves of shame just thinking about it.  It could have been soooo embarrassing…

There I was in Chicago at Book Expo America.  I had been invited by my US publisher, Schwartz & Wade (Penguin Random House) to promote my children’s book, Time Travelling With A Hamster which had been selected as one of the titles to be given extra exposure through their “Book Buzz”.

I know: nice.  Thrilling, in fact.  And definitely NOT an opportunity to squander by making an absolute tit of oneself.

So I’m there on Friday night with all these lovely people from the publishing world, most of them women, as well as some other authors, and it’s after dinner, and I’m a dry Martini and half a bottle of wine bolder, and I think,”Wouldn’t it be great to go to a Magic Bar?”

You see, Chicago to magicians (both pros and amateurs like me) is like, I dunno, Wimbledon to tennis fanatics.  Sort of.  It’s just that for about thirty years from the 50’s, Chicago spawned a version of close-up magic done in bars: funny, fast-talking, often card-based.  It was an influential fad, it died out, but remnants of it linger and I thought it would be fun to see it.

No one else did.  And I thank God for that.

I turned up, Billy No-Mates, at one venue where magic still thrives: the aptly named Chicago Magic Bar.  I took my seat, and eagerly awaited a performance of mystifying and hilarious conjuring.

Instead, on came a dancer, most politely described as Rubenesque.  She took all her clothes off.

I’m no prude, but this isn’t what I had come to see.  Nor was the next very curvy stripper.  Or the next…

Turns out I had got the night wrong.  Fridays are “Burlesque Night” at the Chicago Magic Bar.

I had almost taken a bunch of people I had just met, and who could make or break my fledgling authorial career, to a strip show.

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