A Blip in the Radar
An Elaborate Hoax
Cellini performing the Cups and Balls at The Feast of San Gennaro, 1981
People chose curious and elaborate ways of approaching us, as if the very nature
of legerdemain on the street invited immediate intimacy, unwanted or not.
A familiar suit in New York introduced himself after a show we'd done on 6th Avenue, not far from Radio City. We'd noticed him watching us perform for several days in a row. He said he worked for NBC and wanted to talk to us about a possible gig, so he treated Jim and I to lunch a block away at the Hilton on West 54th. A polite and well-spoken man, he gave us his business card and presented this idea for a television show that had been pitched to him.
In his telling, he painted a portrait for us of a historical thriller taking place in London during the Elizabethan era, when the colorful city was squalid yet captivating, lively yet treacherous. In detail, he described scenes where public entertainment consisted of street performers, hangings, bear baiting. He took us through cobblestone streets teeming with politicians and conspirators, vagabonds, bandits, and tricksters. He illustrated the character of a street magician, who played a small but important role in the spy game and how vital that the portrayal was authentic, particularly the magic. He wanted to hire Jim as a consultant to coach an actor in street magic effects as well as switches and picking pockets. We couldn't believe an opportunity like this passed our way, and spent hours talking with him about different magic effects that could pose as acts of intrigue.
The business man, brushing invisible crumbs
off his costly gold cuff links, asked us to meet him the following afternoon around two at his office on the 52nd floor of Rockefeller Plaza in the RCA building, where we'd talk further. Jim and I floated out of the restaurant, psyched about being considered a part of a pilot series.
Excited, we rode up the elevator the next day in our busking attire, undeterred by the receptionist's cold looks as we approached her domain. When
I presented the man's business card and said we had an appointment with him for two o'clock, she seemed puzzled. "No one by that name works here," she said and pointed a nail at the phone numbers on the card., "And those don't match
any numbers for our NBC offices."
Shocked and then angered by the bizarre, elaborate hoax, we couldn't believe he'd sucker-punched us—a major blip in our radar. Who was he? What would possess someone to make up such an outlandish story? Smarting for days, we never could figure out why and never laid eyes on him again.