Michael Trixx's "Practical Secrets for Outdoor Chaos" Podcast Interview
by Christian Painter and Roland Sarlot
What We'll Explore
In this interview, veteran performer Michael Trixx shares his many years of experience on the complications and intricacies of working outdoors including working with fire, safeguarding items on your tables, what stands to use, working with live doves, and more!
Who is Michael Trixx?
Michael Trixx is in his 21 year residency show at the Lorelei resort in Tampa, Florida and has performed for President Jimmy Carter. He is in demand at magic conventions and lectures sharing his experience on the business model of working at resorts.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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Christian Painter: On this episode of the Magic Business Podcast...
Michael Trixx: And I learned that early from Lance Burton, listen to your audience. Everyone thinks their stuff is great, and you want it to be great, and I have stuff that I thought was going to just kill and would always be in my show and I've tried it for months and, "It's got to work. What can I do?" And just sometimes it doesn't, and you got to listen to your audience.
Christian Painter: 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 some of their most guarded secrets to help further your career in the magical arts. I'm your host, Christian Painter in partnership with the MagicOracle.Club where you can hear all of our "Magic Business" podcasts.
Michael Trixx is based out of the Florida Keys where he has had a residency show at Lorelei for the last 21 years. He also works at Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill and Gilbert's Resort in Key Largo. He has performed private parties for President Jimmy Carter. He has recently performed at a number of magic conventions and is now in great demand for his lectures.
I'm excited today to have Michael Trixx on. When I asked our listeners what do you want to know from Michael Trixx? I was thinking, "It's going to be his very unique business model," but everyone told me, "No. Ask him why nothing ever falls off his table." Well, you're going to get your wish because we have Michael on now. Welcome to the show, Michael.
Michael Trixx: Christian, hey, thanks for having me. Yeah, you threw me off when you told me what the subject was going to be. I thought for sure it was going to be about my business thing down here, but they want to know about tables. Let's do it.
Christian Painter: Yeah. Well, and in fact, I'll even tell you a story that I heard from one of our listeners who said they watched you at a convention and you had backed into your table and it fell over. And they said everyone said, "Nothing fell off." and you just picked the table and went on with your show. You were still using things off the table. And people actually thought you legitimately did that just to mess with their heads. But the reality is this Lorelei is an outdoor venue and you've learned that you have to be creative to work within the weather. Is that correct?
Michael Trixx: Absolutely. I've learned a lot. I've been out there 21 years doing it, the elements, the wind, rain. Different directions of the wind is a big thing sometimes. So, stuff happens once, falls off your table, or whether it blows away and you find a way to fix it. And it's been a lot over the years, so things are pretty tight now.
Christian Painter: So, try to give me one, maybe a trick or one thing that you do that you had to learn how to not have it blow away.
Michael Trixx: I would say glasses of liquid on a table. Maybe the table is not sturdy or, you know, I'm on a deck. Somebody could walk by and the boards wiggle and a glass could topple off of your table. And that, like most of my stuff, comes down to magnets. I originally took the magnet out of Rocco's ultimate sleeving gimmick and hot-glued it in the bottom of my glass, and then I put another shim underneath it, and so you can bump that table and that glass isn't going anywhere. I mean, the whole table, if it falls off, the liquid will come out, but the glass will still be on the table.
Christian Painter: Okay. So the magnets aren't so strong that it's difficult to pull the glass off then, I guess.
Michael Trixx: No, it's weird how strong it holds, but just tilting it at the little angle, it pops right off, so yeah, never have an issue with that.
Christian Painter: Okay. And so, let's talk about the table stuff because even, you know, with a little gust of wind, tables can get knocked over pretty easily, right?
Michael Trixx: Yeah. And I'm actually using very light tables. You know what Instands are? Do you know those tables?
Christian Painter: Yes. Yes.
Michael Trixx: Yeah. They're very light and made for computer and for laptops, but they pack so small and they're light for travel and stuff. But a secret to those is I put the feet, instead of flat on the ground, I point them up one click. There's different levels you can set them at, and I use five-pound dive weights that divers put in their dive belts to get them to the bottom of the ocean. They're little lead five-pound weights. So, they're very small but very heavy, and they sit perfectly in the angle of that table. And then I have a little cloth cover with fringe on it that goes around to cover that up so it's not ugly-looking to see the weight there. I just spray paint them black, so they blend in with the table anyway and they won't blow over. Weighs them down nice.
Christian Painter: Wow. All right. So, give me something that surprised you that you thought, "No, this will be fine out there in the outdoors," and then you're like, "Oh, no, it's not."
Michael Trixx: Fire. I've worked with that too, depending on which direction the wind is coming from. But I do a lot of fire effects in the show, but the biggest thing is probably eating fire because it only takes a second of a gust of wind to heat up a flame to burn your lip or whatever. But that's the reason I put a parasol on the opening of my show. So, I always have an umbrella sitting behind me. And at the end of the show when I'm eating the fire, I pick up the umbrella and hold it behind my head and tilt whichever way the wind is coming. So, I have a little cover around my head with the umbrella to block the wind so I can still eat the fire out there.
Christian Painter: Yeah. I'm going to assume because of the way that you just said this that you have been burnt before you learned this secret.
Michael Trixx: I still get burnt often.
Christian Painter: Okay.
Michael Trixx: It comes with the territory, but not so bad, you know. Without it, it would surely be worse, without having the cover. I'm right on the water pretty much too, so the wind is just sometimes ripping off the water and it gets bad sometimes. And again, depending on what direction it's coming from, if it's in my face or at my back, it can be challenging for all the tricks, you know.
Christian Painter: Wow. Well, you know, it's interesting you say that. And I think that's good for the listeners to know. If you're going to do fire, you're probably going to get burned, right?
Michael Trixx: Yeah. I mean...
Christian Painter: Yeah, and I said because, you know, the people who do the Danger Monte thing with the knife, or if you're doing razor blades from the mouth, these are tricks that are dangerous, inherently dangerous, and if you do them enough, you will get...
Michael Trixx: Eventually, you're going to get burned.
Christian Painter: So, no matter what, you pick your poison, as we say. If you're okay with being a little bit burned, if you're okay knowing that you'll probably stab that nail one day, you're going to cut your tongue on a razor blade, then understand this is what you're doing.
Michael Trixx: Right.
Christian Painter: So, is there any other tricks that you're doing with the fire to make sure that it's super safe with this windy area?
Michael Trixx: You need enough lighter fluid that it's going to burn, say like a vanishing candle, that would blow out in a second with the tiny little wake on there. So, I take juggler's wick, cut a little piece, and attach it to the top of the candle with, like, wire around it so it's more of a vanishing torch than a candle because the little candle wick would never stay lit out there. And that's the opening of my show. So, you don't want to start the show and right away the thing blows out. So, I have a nice big wick. It's more of a vanishing torch than candle.
Christian Painter: Vanishing torch. That's great.
Michael Trixx: Yeah. Yeah. And it's pretty big.
Christian Painter: Now, what about simple things because having worked outside a few times, things that I was surprised at is if you're doing like a silk effect or even a rope effect, that wind can blow it in a funny way, right?
Michael Trixx: Well, yeah. If you're doing like this or like Kozak's bottle production, you know with the silks and it's got the bottle inside? Not a good trick for outside because if it's windy, three of the silks will blow aside with the bottle hanging straight down because it's the only heavy one there. But you can do little fishing weights on the bottom of your silks too to help weigh them down. I sew them just in the bottom of the silks, and when I'm holding them, it's got a little extra weight to it.
Christian Painter: Wow. Yeah. So, I think one of the things that our listeners need to take into account is, I mean, you really have thought out everything. I mean, I don't think there is so many people who would have thought, "Oh, okay, let me start sewing weights in the bottom of my silks."
Michael Trixx: Yeah. I started with just like using nuts, you know, from nuts and bolts. But then I found out again these smaller and heavier little fishing weights. I live in a fishing community, so I like diving. That's why I ended up with the dive weights.
Christian Painter: Got you.
Michael Trixx: But they all work great, and they're small and they're heavy to weigh stuff down. So, between weights, magnets, and Velcro, my stuff doesn't go anywhere.
Christian Painter: Now, what about ropes? Let's go back to ropes. How do you handle those?
Michael Trixx: I do a rope thing in my show, which I'm actually switching over to cutting a sort of a ribbon thing now, and same thing, that's going to blow sideways, so you learn to work with it. I do a little thing where I actually step on the bottom of the rope and I'm holding it up, and then, you know, I play it like a bass because I used to be a bass guitarist. And so, I mean, if it's going to blow, you work with it, but you can still snap it back and grab it and just got to work with it. I learned to roll with it. If it's blowing, let it blow for a second. You know, sometimes you got to work between the gusts when if it's bad out there, you know. So, pick and choose your spots too.
Christian Painter: Work between the gusts.
Michael Trixx: Yeah. There's a title of the podcast.
Christian Painter: I think that's it. When you write this book, you've got the title right there. What about card tricks? How many card tricks in your show?
Michael Trixx: None. So, yeah, no card tricks on my stage. I love card tricks. I do a lot of them, you know, sometimes at the comedy clubs outdoors. You know, I'm in a venue where there's two types of crowds, thinkers, and drinkers, and I'm pretty much working for drinkers. These people have worked all year long to come on vacation and get drunk. And I just found that, you know, hey, want to see a card trick? It doesn't work on stage when you're trying to get people to stay there and watch your show. So, I just kind of… plus wind, cards, not a really good idea either. They're going to fly all over the place.
Christian Painter: Okay. Now, I'm just going to push this just a little bit. If you were going to do a card trick outdoors, is there some way that that would be a smart way to do it? Let's take away the fact that you've got your drinker crowd.
Michael Trixx: Yeah. I mean, I have done card tricks out here. I do the card and bottle with the cigar boxes. Once in a while, I'll put that in. It's a little storytelling thing. It's a great trick. If you're going to set the deck down, like, on your table and it's going to be windy, you know that it's going to start flying off of there... rat traps or mouse traps work great. You paint them black and just lift up the thing and clip the cards underneath there.
Christian Painter: Wow.
Michael Trixx: Hot-glue it to your table and then you just got to lift up the little metal part. Obviously, don't set the trap like a trap, but you just use the spring-loaded thing to hold stuff down, and they'll hold scarfs, cards, and anything light, is good for that. They used to have them on the bar here for people to put their tips on so they wouldn't blow away. The little mousetrap, snapping on there. So, yeah. Cards, if they're in your hand, you know, if it's windy, you don't want to be doing any kind of tossing cards because they're just going to fly away. So, either hold on to them or secure them when you put them down if it is windy.
Christian Painter: Wow. Okay. So, when you're developing a new piece for your show, is that the number one thing you think about is, how is this going to handle the wind?
Michael Trixx: Yeah. Sometimes you've just got to get it out there and see what happens on a windy night. So, right from scratch, I have to consider that because, you know, I'm 6 nights a week out here for 10 months straight every year. Also, I'm surrounded, so I just got to be windproof, and surround proof is the first things I have to consider for my show.
Christian Painter: Now, do you use Velcro at all?
Michael Trixx: I do. I use a lot of Velcro. And if you have silks, I use bandanas in my show instead of silks, but for silks, if you have rolled-up silks that you're going steal off the back of your table or something, I sew a piece of string to my table with a needle on the end of it so when you roll up the silk, you put the needle through the last layer of the silk, and it'll keep it there rolled until you pull it off the needle. You know what I'm saying?
Christian Painter: Yes.
Michael Trixx: Yeah. So that's a good way to hold silks and then I Velcro a little box top to the table where the silk can sit in there so even if it blows out of there, it's still connected to the needle and threaded to my table.
Christian Painter: Even if it gets out of one thing you still got a backup, so to speak.
Michael Trixx: Right. Yeah. Yeah. It’s tied on.
Christian Painter: Again, this sounds like something you learned the hard way.
Michael Trixx: Yes. Where did that go? There it is way over the other side of the deck.
Christian Painter: Now, you also use doves in your show.
Michael Trixx: I do. There's 10 birds in my show, mostly doves, about a couple of parakeets, and a pigeon, and I don't clip my birds' wings. They can all fly. So, that is another thing to consider if you're working outside and you're a dove guy. It's just training with the birds. My spotlights, my lights that I bring to the show pretty much keep my doves with me, but I train my doves for return flight, like when magicians do dove tosses. I don't do any tosses outside, but I train them for that just in case they ever do get away from me. They will circle and come back to me. But I've been very lucky out here all this time.
Christian Painter: So, I want to go… dive a little deeper in the dove thing only because you're seeing less doves being used nowadays, and a lot of us don't know a lot about the birds. But, I would say at least half of the shows I've seen doves, at least one dove, always seems to get away fly in the rafters, whatever, and I'm thinking, "This guy works outdoors. How have you not lost any doves?"
Michael Trixx: Yeah. I see it all the time too. It's like one always flies away and it hits the back curtain and slides down on the floor and it looks bad. It just does, you know. As soon as that happens, the whole crowd goes, "Oh," and it's bad. Not all my doves, but most of them, whether I'm doing an invisible harness production or not, have harnesses on them. So, I can hold a loop when they're on my finger, but after a while, I don't even have to hold it. They know. They're not going anywhere. They do it. I'm working so much. These guys, most of the time they train their dogs and if they do one show a month, you know, the bird forgets. There's 10 birds in my show but I have 24. I rotate them. So, they get nights off because I'm working so much, but they're always in rotation. They're always working, so they know what they're doing. The same bird does the same trick all the time, and it knows it's going in the cage afterwards, and I take it out after. They know the routine. So, even if you're not working, you got to keep working the birds at home. You can't just give them a month off and, all of a sudden, throw them and think they're going to come right back to you. They might forget.
Christian Painter: I've never even thought about that, the fact that you don't want to overwork them.
Michael Trixx: Right.
Christian Painter: But two, you know, the amount of training that you're doing with them. You're not just, "Hey, I trained him a couple of months ago. I'm sure he's got it."
Michael Trixx: Right.
Christian Painter: Yeah. Really interesting. Really...
Michael Trixx: Yeah. You got to keep them. I know you don't want to set up your act and do it if you're not getting paid, but you got to keep the birds working. You got to keep them in their form.
Christian Painter: So, you're telling people they might have to practice.
Michael Trixx: Yeah. Unfortunately, it's kind of a thing.
Christian Painter: So, that's also because you set up your own lights, right?
Michael Trixx: Yeah.
Christian Painter: You don't do any kind of backdrop, though, do you?
Michael Trixx: I have backdrops if the wind is cranking off the bay at my back. I can put them up with bungee cords. So, I have ways to block the wind. If it's at my back that's when they'll help, but from my left, right, or in my face, there's really nothing I can do.
Christian Painter: So, you're going to have to use sandbags or something with these backdrops, right? I mean...
Michael Trixx: I don't have them on a stand. I just bungee cord to the stage to a pole across the other way. I have worked out over the years the right size of bungee cords. I just put it out there and it fits across there.
Christian Painter: Understood.
Michael Trixx: And so, most of the stages here have the plastic clear flaps that you can drop down, and they zip around the tiki bar stage and the flaps drop down. So, some of the places I can just drop their flaps down to block the wind as well.
Christian Painter: Wow. All right. Lights. Even though lighting is kind of heavy in its own, when you put a bunch of lights up on a thing it's...
Michael Trixx: But they're top-heavy, so...
Christian Painter: Yes, exactly.
Michael Trixx: So, that's another thing, 10-pound dumbbell cast iron, 10-pound dumbbell painted black. It sits right in the crotch of the stand and weighs it down. You can put two of them on because, you know, three legs that come out of the stand there's three things that we can fit, two 10-pound dumbbells and then lights won't go anywhere. Same with the mic stand. Mics stands blow over. I use those little Velcro things, like Velcro around your ankle to put weight on when you walk?
Christian Painter: Yes.
Michael Trixx: Those are perfect for being tied around the bottom of a mic stand, again, painted black so it doesn't stand out too much. But if you're out there and you don't want it blown over, those work great. They're five pounds and they don't take up...They're not too awkward-looking. It's just a little black circle at the bottom of your mic stand and whatever.
Christian Painter: Michael, it sounds like you're getting a workout just hauling your equipment to the stage.
Michael Trixx: My weights, I know.
Christian Painter: Now, let's go back to the magnets for a moment because I'm going to assume that as you experiment with whatever things you're magnetizing to the table that you probably go through sometimes two or three magnets till you get that right hold/release because you got to be able to pull it off easily but, at the same time, hold it. So, talk about that for a moment.
Michael Trixx: Size, thickness, strength. All that is kind of a trial-and-error thing. And kjmagnetics.com is awesome. They have every single kind of magnet, square, cylinder, blocks, rings with holes in them, flat, fat. So, yeah, stock up on magnets, different sizes and strengths, and test them until you get what you're comfortable with, that you know it won't blow over but it's easy enough for you to get on and off your table without looking like you're fighting your table to get a glass off of it.
Christian Painter: Do you use neodymiums at all? They're super strong ones.
Michael Trixx: Yeah. There's this small and strong. I use them for some things. I'll tell you one thing I use it for is in my jacket, my dove pocket. So, it keeps them closed but easily open when the dove comes out.
Christian Painter: That's another thing I would not know at all, the fact that you have to use a magnet to help keep the pocket closed.
Michael Trixx: Yeah. You don't have to, but that's why you see people with their little dove's head sticking out when they're working.
Christian Painter: So, we'll go back to what I said at the very beginning. So, apparently, I mean, you're still using these same tables even when you work indoors.
Michael Trixx: Yeah. So, that's why that table was set. That's my outside table, so when it did fall over at the convention everything was secure, so I did get to just pick it. All the glasses I use in my show are acrylic, so if they do go over on a cement floor, whatever, they don't smash everywhere. But at that convention, I was using a glass glass for my goldfish, and I think that broke, but that's not something I normally use in my show out here. So, that did break but everything else picked up and stayed on the table and I was good to carry on with the show.
Christian Painter: I mean, that alone, what a great thing. Not that that happens that often, but...
Michael Trixx: Yeah, no.
Christian Painter: Yeah. But it's just fun. It's a fun question for me because of the fact that you're so used to working now with these tables. You don't even bother, you know, like, "Oh, I'm working indoors, so I won't use them. No, I'll just still use them," because you're using...
Michael Trixx: Yeah. It's all in my show case. I mean, they all fit in there, so it's just the same show, you know. Yeah. And these tables look great. Michael Finney turned me on to making some covers for them, and they look great.
Christian Painter: All right. So, let me ask you this. You have now worked outdoors for 20 plus years.
Michael Trixx: Yeah.
Christian Painter: Tell me one or two things that you learned about working, I mean, other than this obvious we know about the wind and all that, but what did you learn there working at Lorelei?
Michael Trixx: Man, I guess I have so much. My show was actually built there. When I first started there, I was only doing 10 minutes between bands, and now I'm like the main attraction there doing my 45-minute show. I've learned how to keep a crowd. Again, that's not really the outside working thing, but that's probably the biggest thing because that's how I make my living. But again, that's another podcast subject for us.
Christian Painter: We can cover the fact that, I mean, you do have to keep this crowd. They're sitting outdoors, they're drinking, right? And you...
Michael Trixx: Yeah. I have to get their attention, keep their attention, and get them to give me money afterwards. And I'm working my hat like a street performer. So, that's the biggest thing is to keep them entertained, get them to stay, enjoy the show, and to give you their hard-earned money.
Christian Painter: And so, your show is literally built on audience feedback.
Michael Trixx: Yeah, definitely.
Christian Painter: I mean, it's not like, "I'm going to sit in here and think what's a great show." I'm sure you have done things where this is going to be great and then found out, "Well, the audience didn't like it as much as I did."
Michael Trixx: That happens a lot. And I learned that early from Lance Burton, listen to your audience. They'll let you know for sure. Everyone thinks their stuff is great and you want it to be great, and I have stuff that I thought was going to just kill and would always be in my show, and I've tried it for months and, "It's got to work. What can I do?" And just sometimes it doesn't, and you got to listen to your audience, for sure.
Christian Painter: Because when you work outdoors, you got wind, you got everything, do you have problems with dirt?
Michael Trixx: Not so much. Some other places have it, not the ones I work at regularly. But sometimes you have to go across the sand beach to get to the stage, and that just kind of always sucks with your equipment, you know, having to carry it with a cart on wheels doesn't roll good across there. Rain is probably the worst thing that happens. I'm always checking the radar like I'm a roofer or a painter to see if I'm working tonight, but we have so much good weather down here. It rarely happens, but sometimes it's not even on the radar. Rain cloud could just pop up and dump on you, and I'm not covered out there at Lorelei. So, you know, all my stuff sometimes just gets wet. If I know it's coming I'll prepare with trash bags and tarps and stuff, but sometimes it just pops up and dumps and you get wet.
Christian Painter: That's show business, right?
Michael Trixx: Yeah. It's my show business.
Christian Painter: So, let me ask you, working here again at this very unique venue, what is one of the most satisfying things for you?
Michael Trixx: Being there 21 years is that it makes me feel old, but I love seeing kids that used to sit down in front and watch my show bring their kids to sit down in front and watch my show now.
Christian Painter: Wow, that's cool.
Michael Trixx: Yeah. The same people come back every year and they either bring, you know, people that haven't seen me before, or locals, or those people that come to visit. I'm on a list of stuff to do here now. So, I think just having people come back all the time. They don't see me once and go, "All right, we're good." They come back and they bring people to see it themselves, and they were once kids watching my show and now they're bringing their kids. I think that's pretty cool.
Christian Painter: That's awesome. All right. Michael, we're to the part of the show where I ask the question, which is… I'm sure a lot of people have come up to you to ask you because you have a whole lecture on working outdoors and how you do the things you do with the tables.
Michael Trixx: Right.
Christian Painter: But what's the one question... I'm sure everybody wants to know, "Of course, I'm going to work outdoors, and how do I do it?" But what's the one question that they never seem to ask you, but they probably should be asking you right off the bat?
Michael Trixx: Yeah. I mean, people just, you know, "I could find an outdoor venue and do my show there." And mostly, they should be asking me about material, like if they're not going to copy my act, obviously, but is your show even an outdoor show? You know, it could work maybe as a parlor show indoors and you're doing all cards for 20 minutes for 20 people, but is that going to stand up outside in 50 mile-an-hour winds with 200 people? Probably not. So, yeah, they should be asking me about material, and wind-proofing their act, I guess they don't, you know. They just, all of a sudden, book a gig outside, "All right. if he can do it, I can do it." They get out there and it's a disaster their first couple of times, you know. So, they should be asking me about outdoor material or weatherproofing their show.
Christian Painter: Even with all of your knowledge, you can't save every show as an outdoor show, right?
Michael Trixx: Right.
Christian Painter: Yeah. That's good stuff. Yeah.
Michael Trixx: Yeah. I mean, there's a point, you know, anything over 20 mile-an-hour winds, I have to cancel. It does get too bad sometimes, you know. I'm brave out there, but I'm not stupid, you know. Well, I don't know. Yeah. Sometimes it is just too much, and then you got to, hey, surprise night off. When you work six nights a week all the time., it's not so bad having a night off once in a while.
Christian Painter: You know what, Michael, what a pleasure to have you on the show. What a blast it was to learn cool new things. Thanks a lot for coming on the show.
Michael Trixx: It was an honor, Christian. Thank you for having me. I really do appreciate it.
Christian Painter: Thank you for listening to our "Magic Business Podcast". Please visit the MagicOracle.Club where you can hear all of our Magic Business podcasts and enjoy a vast array of additional magical knowledge. We'd like to leave you with this really fun quote from Harry Houdini. "The great trouble with magicians is the fact that they believe when they have bought a certain trick or piece of apparatus, and know the method or procedure, that they are full-fledged mystifiers." As always, we, at the Magic Oracle wish you continued success on your path in the magical arts.
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