Monday, April 16, 2012

The Magic of Fundraising

"M" is for Magic in the A to Z Challenge

I'm lagging behind here a bit on my posting. Saturday was "M" day. However, I worked a 14 hour day on a wedding Friday for The Event Group International out of D.C. , plus I had to drive 90 minutes each way, so I was dragging a bit Saturday morning.

Plus on Saturday I had a commitment to run an old school tabletop role playing game for a group of six new players. A new local pizza shop, Gold Coast Pizza, has two party rooms, and I had booked the smaller of the two for the game. Role playing games (think Dungeons and Dragons and their ilk) are a long time hobby of mine, but that is a post for another day. Here's a link however, to my campaign world Shatterworld.

Back to magic! I've long been interested in magic and illusions (not to be confused with "magick" or any other new age supernatural belief... but that is a post for another day!), but stage magic, close up magic, and grand illusions. Think Houdini, Blackstone, Henning, Copperfield.

As a teenager in Charlotte, NC, I used to frequent Morris Costumes, a small retail shop specializing in supplies for the magician, as well as Halloween costumes and decor (which fostered my career in the Haunted House business but that too is a post for another day!). I spent many hours in front of a mirror practicing the art of sleight of hand, and purchased a number of card tricks, coin tricks, and a couple of table top illusions. I took a job in the wholesale department at Morris when I graduated from high school, and learned how huge they were. For many years Morris Costumes has been the worlds largest distributor of Halloween and horror related props and supplies.

I'm sure that is me at 1:53 in the video below, with the dark hair and gold shirt.

Phil Morris, owner of Morris Costumes, used to do spooky midnight horror shows in movie theaters.

He created a character called Dr. Evil (long before Austin Powers), and also used to also host the local weekly tv horror show. In the year 2000, I was on the construction crew of Phil's new haunted house production in Charlotte, Dr. Evil's Haunted Houses, a million dollar production incorporating high end animatronics and special effects.

Phil Morris, the original "Dr. Evil"

In 2004, I was working on a Halloween decor for Kings Domion, a local theme park. I was building a graveyard I designed which involved creating a mausoleum, some 7 foot tall tombstones, some 9 foot tall monuments, and I needed help. I contacted my friend Dave Powers from West Virginia, who I had come to know over the past couple of years, and he came to Richmond to help me out. Here are some pics of the finished project:

Graveyard at Kings Dominion theme park

I first found Dave when I was trying to market my services to haunted house producers on the east coast. I found him on a national listing of haunted houses, broken down by state, and was immediately drawn to the name he was using... Dr. Druid.

Dr Druids Chamber Of Horrors

Sponsored by the New Martinsville Lions Club Built by Master Magician Dave Powers who has had the #1 rated Haunted Attraction In West Virginia for 19 years.

The name was recognizable to me because it was the title of a little known record (yes, a vinyl one) of sound effects and instructions for running a spooky seance. It is available today on CD at Amazon.

The use of the name Dr. Druid was an orange flag to me that this guy was "old school". As we conversed, it turned out that Dave and I are about the same age, and he knew Phil. He had in fact been purchasing halloween and magic supplies from Morris Costumes for years. We laughed when we realized I had probably "pulled" many of his orders in the warehouse in the early 80's. (In fact in that video above, it is quite possible I'm packing up an order for Dave!) Dave has continued in the tradition started by old timers like Phil, and still does spooky midnight magic shows today.

Dave and I have worked together many Halloweens, and have stayed in touch over the phone. I told him about my blog, and that I wanted to do a post on him in relation to magic and  small town America. As it turns out, just on Saturday, (the day I was supposed to launch this post, as it was my "M" day!) Dave had done a fundraiser in the town of Clarksburg, West Virginia to help raise funds to preserve the structural integrity of a historic building, the Waldo Hotel. From their website:

The Waldo Hotel has a deep and rich history in Harrison County. Completed in 1904, the Waldo Hotel was once the social center of Clarksburg. In its day, it was a gathering place for parties, weddings, civic meetings and social events. It was known as West Virginia's most luxurious hotel, and people rode the train from miles around to experience its atmosphere and southern tradition.

You really do need to go to the website to get a true sense of the splendor of the place. Here's a photo I found at

The Waldo Hotel, buit in 1904
Like towns all across America, Clarksburg is in danger of permanently losing one of its architectural treasures. When Dave found out the board of directors was trying to raise funds to preserve the building, he suggested doing a magic show as a fundraiser. The show was on Saturday, and Dave tells me it was a success. He shared this posting from his Facebook page:

"I have to say, today was a total success. I am so proud of the preservation society for putting on such a fantastic event today. And to Dave Powers for putting on such an entertaining show! And to the volunteers that came to work the event, incredible guys!! This was no easy feat! Another fundraiser done, much more to go. But I honestly don't believe that today was about how much money was made or how much PR we can accomplish. It was more or less a "show the community we care" kind of day. I loved getting to see the excitement on the children's faces and the adults too. That to me personally, was worth it all."

Now here is an important issue, and ultimately the point of this entire post. Dave did not donate his services. Dave, like every other self employed artist, is a businessman. Dave charges a fee. But Dave also knows how to put on a show that can not only make him money, but can make his client money as well. The fact that they can't "afford" Dave isn't an excuse not to hire him. It is the reason to hire him. There were two kinds of magic going on Saturday. One was happening on stage. The other happened in a couple of bank accounts. Producing something from nothing is the essence of magic.

For information on hiring Dave, go to

"M" is for magic, and April is Parkinson's Awareness Month.


  1. The days of my life are seldom boring!

    As a matter of fact, I can't recall the last time I was bored. It has been at least two decades since I experienced "boredom".

  2. Hehe I didn't do M either. No time. I think I will after, just insert it in somewhere. I went to straight to N.

    Sonia Lal, A to Z challenge

  3. I'm so glad I ran across this post. There are many things that intersect in our lives and we have some things in common:

    1) My father was from Clarksburg, WV and I still have many relatives living there.

    2) I've lived in Richmond, VA and spent much time there.

    and most amazing:

    3) You and I may have met or at least seen each other. I worked for Philip Morris from 1978 until 2009. Until 1991 I managed Phil's touring World of Fantasy Players. Then in 1991 I moved to Southern California to manage Morris Costumes West in Downey. I was there (under my real name of Lee Jackson) until operations were shut down in 2009. I speak to Phil every so often, am Facebook friends with Ray Riley and correspond with him through that, and Jim Lawrence has been my house guest on his trips to California.

    I have done a few posts on my site about Phil and my showbiz experiences. I first met Phil in 1966 when I was working with my parents in a family juggling act and maintained contact with him until I went to work for him. Phil and Amy are some great people.

    My A to Z posts at Tossing It Out are on the topic of marketing and promotion not unlike what you're doing.

    Many of my A to Z posts on my blog Wrote By Rote are dealing with my time on the road with the World of Fantasy Players.

    I think you'll enjoy checking them out.

    Hey, I'm sure we'll be corresponding more in the future. Good to have run across your blog. I'm now following.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out
    Try my networking experiment

  4. What fun. We'll have to catch up!

  5. Arlee, This is so incredible! Who are your relatives in Clarksburg? I probably know them!

  6. Dave-- My family are the Jacksons. Long time Clarksburg residents. Same ones that are related to Stonewall. You probably do know some of them.


    1. I sure do, the Stonewall statue still stands on the county courthouse!

    2. They better not take down the Stonewall statue. He was a great American hero.