Throwback Article: “Michael Jackson Has Bought Every Set We’ve Made”

Source: The Independent – By Paul Rodgers (Published October 27, 1996)

marvins club michael jackson (1)

It started with one magician and a Magic Drawing Board in Hamleys, but the business of Marvin Berglas, now 37, has grown into Europe’s biggest magic company, with over a million tricks sold last year.

Performing magic can be a risky business. I was once on a live chat show in Ireland and asked someone to select any card. I knew exactly which one he had taken but just as I was about to reveal it with a flourish and milk my applause, he decided to try to catch me out and named a different card. It was one of those moments that could have been a disaster. I had to resort to my best sleight of hand to make the card he named appear. That’s the sort of thinking on your feet that you have to do every day in business.

Some of our magic sets are a logistical nightmare, often with 40 or more components from 15 manufacturers in 10 countries. If just one component is late it holds up the entire production run.

One trick we had trouble with is designed around a little plastic paper clip in the shape of a black cat that I had found on my travels. In the trick, it jumps – or seems to jump – from one card to another.

We were ordering thousands of them from the Spanish manufacturer every few months. Then one day the company – magically – disappeared. We had to rush around to find someone else who could make them for us in a hurry. It took 10 days and a couple of magic kits for the managing director’s kids but we managed to make our Christmas deadline.

The business of magic is serious, but it’s still fun. I remember sitting in my office when I got a call from Hamleys one afternoon. Michael Jackson was in town and wanted to visit the Marvin’s Magic shop at Hamleys after hours. Whatever I had planned that night I dropped.

It was supposed to be top- secret, but by the time I got to Regent Street the pavement was packed with people. Jackson spent 90 minutes with us in private that first time. It was a wonderful experience – he was like a kid himself, humble and polite. We taught him some magic and now whenever he’s in London he comes round. He’s bought every magic set we’ve made.

My father, David Berglas, is president of the Magic Circle, yet I wasn’t all that interested in magic when I was younger. But when I was 17 he asked me to stand in at the last minute to help demonstrate and perform a new trick at the International Magic Convention in Lyons, France. I was told I had a flair for it. Since then I’ve practiced or performed practically every day. My father never taught me tricks, but what I did learn from him was to be innovative, take risks and concentrate on good presentation.

I didn’t intend to make a career from magic, but I’ve always been entrepreneurial and wanted to be my own boss. One of my hobbies was collecting soccer memorabilia but the related fairs and exhibitions always seemed cramped and poorly organized. So six weeks after I left school I hired Lord’s cricket ground and staged my own Collectors’ Convention. There were queues around the block.

The success of that prompted an international exhibition company to ask me to front a similar show for it at Kensington Town Hall. Everything was going fine until the siege at the Iranian Embassy started down the road. I was on TV saying “come to Kensington” while the police were cordoning off the area. A lot of people were scared off. It taught me never to count my chickens.

Ironically, around that time came my first big break: a golden goose – the Magic Drawing Board, which a school friend and I, now one of my business partners, found at a trade fair in 1979. It wasn’t being marketed properly and I asked the manufacturers to give us an exclusive three-month deal to sell it in Britain. They even extended us credit for the product. We approached Hamleys and later Harrods and demonstrated it right by their front doors. Our product has been there ever since.

My other partner is my brother Peter. Between the three of us we have skills in organisation, finance and marketing. One side of the company – First Class – markets innovative equipment to primary schools. The other side is Marvin’s Magic, which is my baby. It’s set to overtake the schools division in sales next year.

Marvin’s Magic got started when a buyer at Hamleys approached me in 1986 and asked if I could advise them on setting up a magic department in their store. I persuaded them to give me a year to come up with a winning formula and they agreed.

Most magic sets are inexpensive and tacky. I wanted to design a high- quality range that looked impressive but could be performed by anyone, without years of practice.

We started off with boxes containing individual tricks, but the business really took off in 1991 when we began designing innovative sets such as Marvin’s Executive Magic Collection, the Magic Circle Deluxe Box of Tricks and Dynamic Coins, which allows you to make money appear in front of your bank manager.

The best trick, from a business point of view, was one of the moulded plastic trays that hold the pieces. It was my idea to design it so that it could be flipped over and used in a different set, cutting our tooling costs.

Yet ironically, it was our financial controller – with no previous magical expertise in a company employing more than 30 magicians – who helped me design our unique packaging using a “now you see it… now you don’t” illusion.

Now that’s magic.

Read more:

Marvin’s Tribute To The King of Pop

Source: Marvin’s Magic Blog

Marvin's Magic Demonstrator, Bruce Smith performs for Michael Jackson.

Marvin’s Magic Demonstrator, Bruce Smith performs for Michael Jackson.

Marvin’s Magic pays tribute to the King of Pop who sadly passed away recently.

Magic fan Michael was the Vice President of the Marvin’s Club, following his behind closed doors visit to Marvin’s Magic in Hamleys during his London tour ‘Dangerous’. During that time Michael was entertained by Marvin Berglas plus other members of the Marvin’s Magic team. Senior demonstrator Bruce Smith was on hand to give advice, demonstrate and advise which was always appreciated by Michael.

During the early nineties, Michael was a regular visitor to the Marvin’s Magic departments in both London and New York, where he always enjoyed a large selection of our products.

See MJ impersonator tribute at 4:01-5:17


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