We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Fred & Bobbie Becker. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Fred & Bobbie below.
Hi Fred & Bobbie, thanks for joining us today. We’d love to hear about how you got your first non-friend, non-family client. Paint the picture for us so we can feel the same excitement you felt on that day.
My first big break in show business came when I booked my first cruise ship. You should know from the start of this story that cruise ships were and are highly desirable gigs for comedy magicians. They are steady jobs with good pay and lots of side benefits. When I was starting out, I set my sights on landing such a booking.
Looking back, I don’t think my career should have ever happened. I grew up in a small city in Central Pennsylvania, long before the internet and all the easy access to information we have today. As a young person, I had no real exposure to magic. There were no magic shops or magicians for me to hang out with where I lived. Furthermore, I didn’t know anything about cruise ships. Heck, I’d barely even seen the ocean.
Too naive to know how impossible it was; I persevered. I graduated college and then a school for magicians. I had done research, the hard way, on paper and on the telephone. I had all the names and addresses of all the cruise lines. I made a demo video (VHS) and sent it to all of them. After a year of trying to get booked I had nothing to show for it but a file folder of letters saying, “We will keep your materials on file.” It was hard to break in.
I continued to work on my act. In February I entered a talent contest and won the “grand prix” award which came with a very impressive looking trophy. It was an “International award” mainly because there was one guy from Canada that competed. But “International champion” sounded good. So, I called my local newspaper, they sent out a reporter and I got a rather large write up in the paper. I sent copies to all the cruise lines.
Just as I was about to give up hope a magic & juggling team that was working on a ship in the Caribbean decided to go horseback riding in Jamaica. One of them fell from their horse and broke his arm. The entertainment director for the cruise line got a frantic call from the ship, “Jim & David have to leave while Jim’s arm heals, send us another magician.”
He needed someone ASAP. Just as he hung up the phone, my newspaper article landed on his desk. He picked up the phone and called me. Luckily, I was there to answer. I was sitting at home in Pennsylvania. It was March and it was 12 degrees outside. After asking if I was available, he said it was too late to get me to the ship in Miami; I’d have to catch it in Grand Cayman. I tried to remain calm, but the thought of getting out of the cold, into the Caribbean and into my dream job was intoxicating.
Then he asked if I had sent him my video. I said, “Yes.” I didn’t mention it was a year ago. I wanted to be honest, but not talk him out of hiring me. He said, “Yes I remember it. Do you still do the thing with the duck?”
Now my friends, I’ve never touched a duck in my life… but it was 12 degrees in Pennsylvania! So, I replied, “Well, you know… I can’t get the duck to Grand Cayman by Monday.” Which was totally true since I didn’t even know what duck he was talking about! He said that he was sure I’d be fine and off I went!
That first trip ended up turning into an eight-month contract and the beginning of a career that has spanned more than 50 different ships. Once I got out there and started getting good ratings, I was amazed that entertainment directors from other cruise lines started calling me!
Fred & Bobbie, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
Fred and Bobbie Becker mix magic, music, and comedy to create an exciting show you won’t forget! Give them a few minutes and they’ll have you laughing and clapping, guaranteed. Companies like Reese’s, FedEx, Philips, Exxon, and Chrysler rely on the Beckers to do just that when it comes to their most important events of the year.
Fred, the magician, has starred in casino revue shows, theaters, resorts, Las Vegas Showrooms and at the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood, where he once performed for President Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Bobbie, the singer and “assistant,” comes from the world of musical theater. Bobbie has also held the lead role in many musical performances, such as Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, The Bakers Wife in Into the Woods, and Lola in Copacabana as well as many production shows.
A few years ago, Fred and Bobbie had the honor of performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. under the direction of the late Marvin Hamlisch accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra. They have appeared in the “Penn and Teller: Fool Us” television show. Now they travel the world spreading wonder, music and laughter wherever they go.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
I remember it like it was yesterday. As a teenager, I would lay in bed at night unable to sleep because of the visions of performing magic and illusions in front of hundreds or thousands of people. I would spend hours each night visualizing my grand show. I dreamed of travel, adventure, and most of all entertaining people with magic. My mind could not relax, and mornings came much too quickly.
In the cold light of day however, I was fifteen years old and had no “grand show.” I knew some good card tricks, cut and restored rope, the zombie ball, bill in lemon and my big finish; the linking rings.
The deficit between my dream and my reality was huge.
Let me leap forward several decades and introduce you to the magician I am today. As a magician I have starred in productions shows at casinos, with the National Symphony Orchestra, had my own theatre show in a resort, performed at the Magic Castle, on more than 100 luxury cruise ships, on Penn & Teller: Fool Us and even entertained a President of the United States. My work has included much travel and adventure such as; safaris in Africa, climbing Mount Fuji, Easter at the Vatican, elegant dining and ballet in Russia, wine tasting in Australia and a birthday dinner on the Seine in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. I perform more than a dozen large illusions as well as comedy magic and close- up. I’ve even been recognized in trade magazines and have received awards from my peers. I authored several books as well as “Gigs on Ships,” a comprehensive internet-based course about entertaining on cruise ships. During all this I managed to raise two children.
I tell you all this because at 15 years old I fantasized of a life like that but had little hope of making it a reality. With no magic shop, no magic clubs, few outlets for a budding young magician and having no idea how the cruise/entertainment industry worked, it seemed impossible. My parents were hoping I would “grow out of this phase.”
How did this adolescent dreamer get the opportunity to do any of the things listed above? It wasn’t easy. During my pandemic-down-time, reflecting, I came up with six things that I believe contributed to bridging the chasm of my reality and my youthful dreams. Maybe you can learn from my experiences and take your dream even farther than I did mine.
I don’t believe it is possible to really achieve something without first knowing what it looks like. Sure, there may be happy accidents that pop up, but overall, you need a clearly defined target to aim toward. That begins with a dream.
Of course, I’m not talking about the unconscious asleep kind of dream. Its more about creating an overall purpose. You need to be able to imagine yourself being and doing something, perhaps on a grand scale. It is very important to carry deeply within you exactly what your destination looks like. That will let you define what success means to you and to recognize it when you get there.
Without that destination to work toward, you may meander all through your career. It leaves your life up to chance. You may get lucky and find something fulfilling. Or you may end up settling for something because nothing else came along.
Go ahead and visualize yourself doing the things in your heart and mind. And most of all write them down. Try to create the most vivid picture of you doing or being these things. Motivational guru Paul Meyer said, “Whatever you sincerely believe, ardently desire, and enthusiastically act upon, must inevitably come to pass.” Let that sink in. It may not be easy. It may not come quickly. However, if you really want it, work endlessly to get it, it will happen. Let it become an obsession.
Perhaps the most important thing I can tell you is to…
Having a dream is important, but unless you plan how you will accomplish that dream, it will remain nothing more than a wish. The real work begins when you design how to make that dream come true.
How do you do this? By having a systematic approach to it. You must analyze the situation, reverse engineer the problem, then build a series of small achievable steps, with deadlines. I advise you to so in a way that is measurable, so that you can see the progress you are making.
Find a system for goal setting and tracking that works for you and use it. There are plenty of books and apps available on the subject; RUN, don’t walk to do this. It will change your life.
This is one the first steps I have our Gigs On Ships students do. That is how important I believe it to be. Setting goals (not just thinking about them) and tracking your progress is one of the best predictors of success I have found. Figuring out what you really want out of life, writing it down and deconstructing it into smaller tasks that can be accomplished, is the path toward that dream.
Read everything you can about your subject. Knowledge is power. You want as much power in your (career) engine as possible. You will go farther faster.
I was heavily influenced by the stories of John Booth, magician, journalist, and explorer. Also, John Calvert; illusionist, movie star, and adventurer (imagine if Indiana Jones was a magician). These books were fuel for my fire. They were magicians and world travelers. That was a life I wanted. My dream. I concluded that the best way I could accomplish that was a career on cruise ships. Then I began setting my goals to make that happen.
Read on a wide variety of subjects, too. Being exposed to a large base of knowledge will allow you to draw inspiration from fresh perspectives. This will help you grow in new and original ways.
Reading is better in this regard than video. It requires active participation by your brain rather than passively watching. Read.
You must have a “show” and not just a collection of routines.
Magicians can easily get caught up in how the tricks work. We practice the sleight of hand; we work hard to hide the secret move or gaff. However, those things are merely our tools to use. Magic is first and foremost a performance art. I imagine this is true for most entertainers, if you aren’t reaching your audience intellectually and emotionally, you aren’t working to your true potential.
I’ve seen other entertainers have similar pitfalls. Performers can be very self-indulgent. Performing or singing material only they care about. It can leave the audience completely out of the loop.
Elements like script, character, elocution, and poise are of equal or more importance than the mechanics. The focus needs to be on the audience’s overall experience during your performance. If you aren’t sure how to do that, I encourage you to get help. Join groups of like-minded performers, hire directors, consultants, and get a mentor.
In aeronautics, people are required to accumulate a certain number of flight hours for each rating to become considered proficient as a pilot. Flight hours are measured only as time in the air. Likewise, I always look for ways to put “flight time” on routines that I am working on.
A lot of things can only be learned by doing them. This is very true in performance. Practice and rehearsal only take you so far. At some point, you need to put in repetition under fire in front of live audiences.
One of the best things I ever did was to get a job entertaining in an amusement park. Early in my career I worked at a park and performed five shows a day and each show was completely different. I was able to run through my entire repertoire on a daily basis in front of live audiences. In no time at all, I got the routines and timing down and developed material that I’ve used the rest of my life. Also, I worked for two years in a restaurant doing close-up. The opportunity to perform constantly was very valuable. At the time I didn’t make a lot of money, but the experience was its own reward.
I have never found a substitute or a short cut for being in front of people on a regular basis. It is the true laboratory.
“The only source of knowledge is experience.” –Albert Einstein
As I look back on my 35 years as a cruise ship entertainer, I realize one area I could have leveraged so much more: Networking. Highly successful people build a network around them that works synergistically toward their goals. Teamwork covers much more ground and lets people shine within their specialties. They hold each other accountable, and amazing things can be accomplished if the group dynamic is correct.
How’d you meet your business partner?
My partner is that in every sense. Bobbie Becker is my wife, performing partner, office manager and chief critic. That can be a tough balancing act to pull off and she does it with style, wit and a good dose of exhaustion.
We met aboard a cruise ship. Bobbie was the featured singer in the on-board production show. I was hired on as the “guest entertainer” (magician). A cruise ship can be closed-circuit social environment. Yet, it actually took a while before we really struck up a friendship. Frankly, she had no interest in magic at all.
Yet before we knew it, we were thinking up fun ways to add her and her talents to the show.
She has the ability to deliver big-belty showstopping songs. She’s amazing. It is surprisingly difficult to find how that fits into a comedy magic show. It took time to figure out how that meshes into the overall performance.
I think our best work is our Performing Arts Center Show. With roughly 90 uninterrupted minutes to tell our story, we can find a place for both of us to deliver our best to the audience individually and as a team.
- Website: https://beckermagic.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/realbeckermagic/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Beckermagic
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/beckermagic/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/realbeckermagic
- Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/fredbecker4
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/becker-magic-dallas
Richard Faverty of Beckett Studios Reed Watson of Reed Watson Photography