November 9, 2014 - 10:26 am
Murray SawChuck was out working in his yard on a fine weekday morning. An ordinary place to find most people seems kind of strange for this shock-haired guy with the glasses you’re more used to seeing on TV.
But this was the magician’s week “off” after closing at the Tropicana, although he worked in “The Dennis Bono Show” and two locals-oriented variety shows. Murray (as he bills himself) and his Los Angeles producer were still working to find a new home for his show. His options included an afternoon berth at the Sin City Theatre at Planet Hollywood Resort.
In terms of TV exposure, he’s the most ubiquitous performer in Las Vegas. He’s been dumped in a mudbath on “Wipeout,” and “learned how to pick a few locks” for “Extreme Escapes,” which debuts Nov. 29 on Reelz. “Not that easy, just to let you know,” he says. “And I’m not an escape artist. But I do look the part of an escape artist. It’s a branch off a tree. And it’s more TV.”
Yes, more and more TV. But does it sell tickets? Though he had more than one option to explore, the Trop ended his comedy club berth so it would have only one magician in Jan Rouven, a more production-heavy act with less U.S. TV exposure.
Still, “I think it actually helps a lot,” Murray says. “In this town, you always look for what puts you ahead of the competition. One thing that’s the hardest thing to get still is getting on TV. It’s still not easy unless you buy time.”
However, he adds, “It’s not like all of a sudden you sell 400 tickets in one night.” Not only is it a cumulative build, but you now have to cover the bases with more than one TV show. “It’s not like back in the day when everyone (who did TV) was a star because there were 13 channels on TV.” People who watch “Pawn Stars” may not watch “Brain Games.”
Other magicians, such as Nathan Burton, seem to have pulled back from the reality-TV race. Dirk Arthur, who returns to the Strip with a new venue at the Riviera Dec. 1, has been working in Reno and Laughlin while “knocking myself out trying to get a residency on the Strip” after his O’Sheas theater closed in 2012.
Getting a room is “all based on how many tickets you can sell,” says Arthur, the last Las Vegas magician to still use white tigers. “(A) track record of proving you can get the people in.”
Arthur hasn’t tried to do much TV because he’s been learning how to self-produce his live show. “I’m like obsessed with marketing. I drive everybody absolutely crazy,” he says of the “very stressful” business of billboards, in-house videos, property signage, dinner-and-show packages, ticket brokers and coupons.
Is it the ground game or the long game? Or some combination of the two?
However it shakes out, “I’m still relentless,” Murray says. “You can’t get rid of me if you tried.”
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.