Gaetan Bloom's "Working Paris' Most Famous Nightclub" Podcast Interview
by Roland Sarlot and Christian Painter
What We'll Explore
Gaetan shares his secrets performing over 6,000 shows at the Famous Crazy Horse in Paris, working with an international audience, how the owner designed the show, tricks standing out on stage, and learning from the greats.
Who is Gaetan Bloom?
One of the top creative magicians in the world, Gaetan Bloom has designed magical effects for stage, close-up, standup, mentalism, and large illusions. He is the recipient of the Creativity & Vision Award, a special recognition he received at FISM in 2006, co-authored the outstanding double-volume set of his life's work titled, "Full Bloom," and worked at the iconic Crazy Horse cabaret in Paris for a 15 year run.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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Roland Sarlot: On this episode of the Magic Business Podcast, you'll hear this and more….
Gaetan Bloom: The girls are the flesh and the attraction are the bones, the skeleton, the bones. And, you know, if you look at the human body, you don't see the bones, you only see the flesh. But if there is no bone, everything collapses.
Roland Sarlot: Welcome to the Magic Business Podcast, where we share insightful and delightful inner secrets about the business of magic. This is where magic professionals present their real life experiences and their most guarded secrets to help further your career in the magical arts. I'm your host, Roland Sarlot in partnership with the MagicOracle.Club, where you can hear all of our Magic Business Podcasts.
Our guest Oracle today is widely considered one of the top creative magicians in the world. A jack of all trades, he has designed magical effects for stage, close-up, standup, mentalism, and large illusions. He is the recipient of the Creativity & Vision Award, a special recognition he received at FISM in 2006. A few years back, in collaboration with Kevin James, our guest wrote an outstanding double-volume set of his life's work titled, "Full Bloom," which quickly became a collector's item. On this podcast episode, we'll focus on his 15-year residency at the iconic Crazy Horse in Paris. Our guest Oracle is, of course, the illustrious Gaetan Bloom. Gaetan, welcome to the Magic Oracle.
Gaetan Bloom: Thank you, Roland, thank you. Thank you, everybody.
Roland Sarlot: It's great to have you here. I have a couple of questions because I'm just overwhelmed by you doing almost 6,000 shows, or over 6,000 shows in 15 years. What was the Crazy Horse?
Gaetan Bloom: Oh, the Crazy Horse, first, well, it's a very hip nightclub in Paris. It's the most famous nightclub in Paris. It's much smaller than the Moulin Rouge or Lido, but it's very, very classy, you know, it's really a wonderful place.
Roland Sarlot: And your first night performing there, how was that, especially with all that history with...
Gaetan Bloom: Oh, you know, I was so happy. I was so happy because I tried before, you know, in... Right after my first appearance in the convention in Vegas with a new act, with a microphone and all that. I was feeling, "Well, I'm ready now. I can go to the Crazy Horse." And so I did an audition, and Mr. Bernardin, the boss was very nice, but he was only, it was only him and his wife in the room, a dark room, you know. I saw nobody. I saw nothing. So I just did the act for an audience. And at the end, that was it. And so he went back and say, "Yeah, it's nice, it's nice, but it needs to cook. I will give you some direction to work in small cabarets in Italy, and sing, and you will come back, and we'll see." I say, "Okay, thank you very much." And absolutely no desire to go to Italy. And that's it. And in fact, it's just because of Kevin James. Again, Kevin James is like a good genie in a small bottle for me, you know, because Kevin was working the Crazy Horse in '92, '93. So I give the tape to Kevin and he say, "Leave it to me." And like two days after, around midnight, I receive a phone call and say, "Hello, Mr. Bernardin, from Crazy Horse. Can we meet? Can we meet?" I said, "Yes. Why not?" And so I remember I went to meet him one or two days after that after the Crazy Horse closed, it was like 2:00 in the morning, in the evening, well, yeah, 2:00 a.m. and it was raining, it was raining, you have no idea. So I was like soaked, and I enter the Crazy Horse by the back room, you know. And you have to know something, it's very often in a cabaret, the thing open to the audience is very clean, but backstage it's not so clean and it's really… you know, it's not the same world. But it's not true for the Crazy Horse because it's exactly as clean, and as beautiful, and gorgeous behind or upfront. So I was soaking the carpet, you know. He was like in fur and I saw this old man coming to me to say, "Oh, I remember you from the tape Kevin showed me. So you are Gaetan." I said, "Yeah, okay." He said, "Well, I like your act. How is it possible I've never seen you before?" You know? So I didn't mention, you know, I wasn't 10 years ago.
Roland Sarlot: Sure, exactly. You speak a few languages...
Gaetan Bloom: Well, I speak Spanish, French, and English.
Roland Sarlot: Okay, three languages. And I believe the Crazy Horse has an international audience.
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah.
Roland Sarlot: How did you deal with language working there?
Gaetan Bloom: But, you know, I was not dealing anything. I was just doing in Spanish, but Bernardin say, "I don't care what you say because it's visual." So it's just like your music, you know. And he just added... In the background, he had just added a kind of very little music, you barely hear. And he just puts this the first day of the kind of audition, we can say, because he didn't want it, when I was not talking, complete silence. So he had very little like Egyptian music, you know, very weird, very exotic music, you know? But very, very soft, behind me, you know?
Roland Sarlot: And so over your years working there, what was your biggest mistake you did?
Gaetan Bloom: No, the thing is that, you know, when I first did it, the first two nights...I mean, the first night, but the second one also, were really important because this man, Mr. Bernardin, he was here to watch us sing, and he told me from the very beginning two very important thing. And then after... There is something else you have to know is that when I started, I had no idea I was going to do 15 years. I was thinking, "My God, in one month, I will be bored to death doing that," you know? Because I've never done the act like that for one month complete with no day off and three show on Saturdays, three show on Friday. Never, no. And two show every day. So even if it's 10 minutes, you know, you have to be there, you have to be there before. And so the only mistake someday I did is that I missed the show because I was stuck in the traffic. And this was terrible because they tried to postpone me at the very end, but even with that, I had to miss the first show, you know. And I was like feeling, "My God, I'm going to be fired." And nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing happened. But besides this, no. You know, sometimes it was tough because you had, for instance, I remember the last show on Saturday, we had a complete team of sumo people. And so it was like the first row was complete one body with many heads, you know? They were so big. And they were sleeping because they had the match before, they came the very next...the day before or something like that. And it was terrible because they were really sleeping and I did the act very softly, you know, not to awake them. I didn't want it.
Roland Sarlot: An angry row of sumo at you.
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah.
Roland Sarlot: Gaetan, the owner of the Crazy Horse was apparently an eccentric and very interesting man. Can you tell us a little bit about him and how he viewed magicians?
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah, you know, in fact, I had the chance to see him nearly every day because he went to the show every day. He was backstage every day. Not backstage, but in the back room, you know. And he was here... And when the boss was here, everybody was, you know, tight because, "Oof, my God, the boss is here." But he was here every day. And you could tell because he had a kind of vanity case open with his gloves and things on the big desk. And so when the case was open... And much later, I suspect that sometimes, he was not there but the secretary was just opening the case, you know, so everybody was thinking he was in the room, he was in the place.
Roland Sarlot: On your best behavior.
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But this man had a very unique eye. And the good thing is that I knew him for one year because after one year, he just killed himself. He was very old and he killed himself. He killed himself at night in his dressing room at the Crazy Horse. He had a salon, a little boudoir. And they found him dead with a gun the next day. And so, but during one year, really, we had very nice, very brief session because Mr. Bernardin, he was talking to you five minutes to tell you something and then boom, you had to go. You know, it was very special.
But the first... On one of these occasion, he told me, "You know, Gaetan, my show is like 'Beauty and the Beast.'" I say, "What do you mean?" He said, "'Beauty and the Beast,' I mean, the girls are the beauty and I want the attraction to be like the beast, you know?" That's why he was always having like funny people, weird guys, not fancy magicians. There were crazy, crazy numbers, crazy acts. He wanted the people to be funny, and crazy, and not nice-looking, really. You know? Because he didn't want to think that was the main thing behind. He say, "You know, my customers, they're not so young, they're not so nice-looking. They are...you know, they're rich. But the thing is that, I don't want them to think that, 'Oh, I'm sure this guy must have love story with this girl, or this, or that,' you know." And of course, when they saw first on George Carl, George Carl was the best at the Crazy Horse ever, the best, absolutely best. He was not a magician, but he was the best clown in the world, you know? And so when you see George Carl, you say, "Oh, well, this poor guy, he is so funny, but if I were there, I would have all the girls around me." I mean, that was the sort he had about his audience because he wanted them to feel good, you know. And so that was very important.
Also, he had another very clever way to speak about his show because, in fact, I don't know if people know, but the Crazy Horse show, it's only nude girls and completely nude. I mean, every time it's a new set. Sometime, it's a solo, sometime a duo, sometime all the girls, certain girls together, it depends. And you have in the great, great poker, he had three different acts. And so Bernardin told me, you know, "Gaetan, my show is like a human body. I mean the girl are the flesh and the attraction are the bones, the skeletons, the bones. And, you know, if you look at the human body, you don't see the bones, you only see the flesh. But if there is no bone, everything collapse. And that was his gratulation about his show, you know, is that he did the attraction just to get more reaction.
Roland Sarlot: It was a fascinating way to build the show. It sounds like he was quite the visionary.
Gaetan Bloom: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, he was.
Roland Sarlot: Over your years of performing, you saw a lot of great acts come through the Crazy Horse. What did you learn from those other performers?
Gaetan Bloom: You know, I learned... They were so sleek, so perfect, so unique. They were very unique, all of them and with nearly no prop, nothing. You know, I saw Carazini, I saw... The only one I saw who was different was...when I was young, young was Señor Wences, the ventriloquist, he had many props. But my God, he was so funny. But for instance, when I saw Tom Mullica, he had just a slight little table and nothing, nearly nothing. Carazini, the same. Finn Jon, he had, I mean, nothing. He had just a very tiny table with a floating ball and that was it. So this was really amazing. Also, you have to realize that Crazy Horse, the first spectator is like one meter from you, away from you. So you are really on their knees, you know.
Roland Sarlot: Right there, right there. Absolutely.
Gaetan Bloom: Oh, you're right there. So that was so impressive for me to see Finn Jon doing the floating ball in this condition, you know. And there was absolutely nothing to see. So this was also a great lesson. And going that way, when I auditioned, the first day, so first, he finds it, he say, "Okay, stop," after the thing, "Stop," he say, "I will find a little music for you to put in the background." So he did that. He had a very little platform to rise me up a little bit. So before my act, the stage one, I had to put like two small podiums, you know, one square, and one long behind just for me, and to remove it after. Because he wanted me to look a little...so they could see better my foot. Because my last effect was done with my shoe, you know. So he wanted to rise me a little bit. And then after... And this was a big lesson. You know, at the time I had the microphone. It was on a silver stand, I will say, a normal stand. And I had a vanishing flowerpot, you know, the Owen flower pot, and very nicely made and all that. And that was it. I was entering with my little bag, doctor bag, and that was it, you know. So I do the act and he say, "Well, very nice, very good also." So I do the first show, and I was not doing... I was not supposed to do a second show this night. It was just a kind of proof, I mean, to prove if it was okay for the public or not. So I do the first show. So he come to see me after, he say, "Well, it's weird." I say, "Wow." I was thinking, "My God, I didn't start, but I'm already fired." He said, "No, it's weird because normally, it doesn't work that well the first night. Can you do it again the next show?" I said, "Oh, wow!" Inside I was jumping, you know.
Roland Sarlot: That's a huge compliment.
Gaetan Bloom: "Yeah, yeah, I will do it." He say, "But Gaetan, you know, the girls have all the lights. You know, we work on that, and the attraction, it's like just the following spot and you're in like a boom, police spot nearly. So I just don't want to see this microphone stand, you know, silver or like that in front of you, it's very disturbing. Can you paint it black?" I say, "Well," so I had no paint with me, of course, in between the two shows. So I took black gaffer tape and I just make my microphone stand black, you know. The next day I will buy a black stand because this exist. But, you know, for me, I wanted the people, the audience to really see the stand and mic. And so I do the second show and it works. And so he say, "Okay, Gaetan, you see, it's much better because I want to see you, I don't want to see your prop, you know? You are the magic. So I don't want to see the microphone. This is disturbing. I want to see you." And so I had to paint the stand of the table black, but this is so much better because, you know, it was still a time where magicians, they were lacking chrome pieces because it's expensive, and it's nice-showing, and also...but it's so much better if you paint it black.
Roland Sarlot: Absolutely, keep the attention on the performer.
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah, it just disappear.
Roland Sarlot: So, Gaetan, after so many shows, how did you keep your act fresh and not go crazy doing the same act?
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah, that's a very good question. And I have not so many answers. But the thing is that... No, the truth is, well, there are some things we can help. The first thing is really to sing to somebody you like and say, "Okay, this one is for you." And you sing to your friend, your wife, your whatever, your son, or a friend. And, you know, very often, I had people I knew in the room because either I had comp tickets or some magician coming, they were calling me before, say, "Oh, I've come to see your show tomorrow." So, of course, I knew they were there. So it was easy to sing about them and try to locate where they were and all that. So all I did is take a little bit of your motivation, you know, it really add to the motivation.
Roland Sarlot: That's a great lesson, isn't that? You didn't change the act, you changed your awareness or you changed your thinking.
Gaetan Bloom: That was the main thing for me before that gig, not gig, but long, long gig.
Roland Sarlot: A great gig.
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah. Before that, I was not changing a trigger, I was changing sometimes the whole act or many trying complete five-minute new segment very often, all the time, in fact. And because I had to keep the same tricks more or less, I could add a little thing, you know, like vanishing something for a good reason, not out of the picture, but... And, you know, in fact, I learned to work on seconds, how to improve each second, instead, to improve each minute or 10 minutes, you know? And of course, if you do this for 10 years, and 10 minutes of something, then at the end, you have a really polished thing. I mean...
Roland Sarlot: You have a diamond.
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah, kind of, kind of.
Roland Sarlot: If you could go back and do that time again, what would you do differently?
Gaetan Bloom: I don't think so, yeah. No, no, no, I was so... For me, it ran so fast.
Roland Sarlot: Wow, yeah. Wow.
Gaetan Bloom: When I did the last show, "Oh my God, I can't realize, I can't accept that I did 15 years already, you know, and I have to leave now." And first I was like, I didn't know what to do for a while. You know, I was say, "Is there a life after the Crazy Horse? I'm not sure," you know.
Roland Sarlot: It's almost a microcosm of life in general.
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah, it is.
Roland Sarlot: Especially if you have kids, they grow up fast.
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah, but, you know, it was such a nice place for me. I was sad when I had to leave, I was sad.
Roland Sarlot: And did you know when it was your last night?
Gaetan Bloom: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, because anyway, it was easy because they had to close for a long period. And then the new people, the new owners took over and all that, and they had their own team and all that, you know?
Roland Sarlot: So what happened that last night for you?
Gaetan Bloom: Nothing really. I just, it's funny because they were dismantling the room completely to make it new and all that. So they were selling some of the furniture, a kind of auction. And I bought two seats from the Crazy Horse. So I'm working on a small private room with a small stage and all that in my home. And so I have my two seats from the Crazy Horse with the champagne bucket and everything.
Roland Sarlot: And all your memories.
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah.
Roland Sarlot: Which performer did you learn the most from?
Gaetan Bloom: Oh, I think for me, I learned from, I will say George Carl because George Carl was so unique.
Roland Sarlot: So Gaetan, let's play a little game, let's play a little word association game. I'm going to throw out a word, and you give me back a word that first pops in your head. So the first word is rabbit.
Gaetan Bloom: Mustard.
Roland Sarlot: How about the word pirate?
Gaetan Bloom: Hook.
Roland Sarlot: How about the word recipe?
Gaetan Bloom: Rabbit.
Roland Sarlot: Okay... Tamariz.
Gaetan Bloom: The best.
Roland Sarlot: Intercessor.
Gaetan Bloom: A very good friend of mine.
Roland Sarlot: Okay. And the last word is... magic.
Gaetan Bloom: My life.
Roland Sarlot: Wow, fantastic.
Gaetan Bloom: I'm very happy because today it's lovers' day, and since nearly I'm born, I'm in love with magic, and so you are, so it was a perfect day to talk about our love.
Roland Sarlot: Well, happy Valentine's to you.
Gaetan Bloom: Yeah.
Roland Sarlot: As you know, all the Magic Business Podcasts can be heard at the MagicOracle.Club and today, you are our guest Oracle, that wise soul we seek out for knowledge. So Oracle Gaetan, what is the most important question someone should ask you but never does?
Gaetan Bloom: My first thing, and it's funny to tell you this now, but very often when I have people come and say, "What I have to learn first?" And my answer is kind of always, "Speak English, even badly like me, but speak English. Because there is so many, so many connection English language and so many books, and so many things to read and to understand. And, you know, if you learn English, Spanish, and whatever other language, and you can travel the world over. And then after, you can do whatever." But before any trick, I say the communication is the most important.
Roland Sarlot: Yeah, that's huge advice. Thank you, that's huge advice.
We leave you with a few words from the brilliant Irish playwright, Oscar Wilde, who wrote, "The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life."
As always, we at the Magic Oracle wish you great art on your path in the magical arts.
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