(originally published in Genii, September 2010)
by Steve Cohen
I CAN’T ADEQUATELY EXPRESS how surreal it is to stand in the wings of the Ed Sullivan Theater, waiting to be introduced. Fifteen minutes prior to show time, I was sitting in my sixth floor dressing room watching David Letterman deliver his monologue on a small plasma television. It was like watching his monologue any other night at home. Moments later, however, I was on the ground floor, standing in the wings of that very theater, peeking out into the darkness. Running through my mind: “Am I about to walk onto the Letterman show I was just watching?” It was like seeing a two-dimensional scene turn three-dimensional.
Fortunately, the producers helped me to feel well prepared. Seven days before my appearance, they granted my request to visit the theater and sit in the guest chair at “home base” (the raised platform where Letterman’s desk is located). I spent two hours in the theater that day, practicing my sleights in the guest chair, and going over camera angles with the directors and producers. I even practiced walking out from the wings several times, to become accustomed to the route, the trajectory, and the temperature (it’s very chilly).
During this pre-show visit, I met band leader Paul Shaffer and explained that I’d need to borrow one of his rings for my performance the following week. He let me handle his wedding ring and confirm that it would be the proper size for my ring-in-walnut trick. I also met many of the staff: the director, executive producers, stage hands, audio techs, and writers. I did several card tricks for them in a casual setting, to get them excited about the upcoming “Close-Up Magic Week.” Of course, I also had an ulterior motive – to become a familiar face. The director, Jerry Foley told me that this visit helped save us a lot of time in creating a comfortable working relationship for the following week’s show.
The only person who I didn’t meet was David Letterman. In fact, the only time I shared with him occurred on the day of the show, at his desk, while cameras were rolling. [click for more…]Read the full post »