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The Professor's Nightmare

Hoodoo, Voodoo, Make Them Do-Do


Performing in front of the Cabildo on Jackson Square, 1981.

The artist Noel Rockmore loved the characters of the French Quarter, especially his favorite magician.

Dressed in paint-stained khaki pants that sagged at the knees and a cigarette in one hand, Rockmore fiddled with his Rolex as he watched Cellini perform the Professor's Nightmare in front of the Cabildo on Jackson Square.

  Jim brought out a hank of rope from his back bag. Then he took the scissors he kept in a sheath on his belt and went into a routine where he cut the rope into thirds, only to magically restore the rope again.
  For his finale, Jim cut the rope into three pieces and said, "We have one, we have two, we have three pieces of rope. Now, I'm going to restore this rope I've cut into three pieces one more time. This is what magicians call a climax...I'll try not to be too premature..."
  He glanced around, grinning at his own joke. Then he looked at the shortest piece of rope dangling from two of his fingers. "Hmm," he said, "Kinda reminds me of myself last night..." He pointed a thumb at a woman close to his age, who had one hand covering her mouth in mock dismay.
  "Watch close, you'll never see this done again," he continued. People in the crowd leaned in close, watching in rapt attention as Jim snipped the ropes into multiple pieces, Some of them still snickered at his wisecrack.
  "On the count of three," he said, "I'm gonna restore these ropes back to their original condition in one solid piece."
  He did a flamboyant mystical pass over his closed fist as he held the pieces and said, "All I have to do is say the magic words 'Hoodoo, voodoo, make them do do'..."
  Chuckling along with his audience, he waited a moment until the laughter died down. Then he threw the cut pieces into the air. Everyone's head swiveled upward to follow the flight of the bits of rope and downward as the pieces fell to the ground.
  "Are you kidding?" Jim said, shrugging. "If I could do that, I'd be God!"
  Rock's uproarious laughter was heard above everyone else's.

The line "hoodoo, voodoo, make them do-do" came from a young boy in the French Quarter who'd witnessed the Cups and Balls trick. After Jim finished his performance, the kid picked up one of the oranges laying beside the copper cups on Jim's tabletop. As he rubbed the surface the boy said, "Hey, Magic Man, I know how you make them oranges appear. You jess say, "Hoodoo, voodoo, make them do-do' and poof...yep, they's here!"

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