“What the hell does a hypnotist need a DJ for?” I wondered. I called the guy, and he tried to explain his act to me over the phone. The whole thing sounded bizarre to me; the guy’s name was Alexander, and he went by the less than humble name of Alexander the Great. From the outset, I thought the whole thing was a put on. I didn’t believe that hypnotism was real, and he sounded like a new-age in-touch-with-his-feelings type of dude. But, what the hell? A gig’s a gig!
He asked that I pick him up, and we’d drive to the job together. It was at Great America, where’d he’d be entertaining a whole company’s worth of employees. We chatted for a bit on the way, and I basically told him I thought his act – even though I’d never seen it – was bullshit. He brushed off my criticism, and asked me to reserve judgment until after I’d seen it. When we got to the park, they asked us to park in some lot far from where we’d be setting up. I shot him a quick, you-must-be-kidding look, and Alexander casually said “you know, we’d actually like to park right next to the stage. Let us do that.” And, just like that, the guard said, “you know… you should park right by the stage.” I didn’t want to act as though I was already convinced that his talent was legit, but I was certainly impressed. He said, “remember that scene in Star Wars? The one where Obi-Won says to the Stormtrooper: ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for?’ I just did a Jedi mind trick on the security guard.” Who was I to argue?
I had some musical cues to hit during the act. He had an intro song that he’d walk in to – he’d choose between You Can Do Magic by America, or Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins. Which song he chose depended on the clientele. From that point, I’d keep things quiet for a while when he spoke to the audience. He’d ask for volunteers, and up they’d come, like sheep. The whole time, I’m rolling my eyes. He’d take his time, slowly inducing his “subjects.” For reasons I’ll explain later, I learned not to pay too much attention during this phase of the show.
Once the subjects were “under”, he’d begin to ask them to pick from a list of songs, and each of the subjects would lip sync to the song they chose. This is where I came in… I would play the songs they’d chosen. You’d see these stuffed shirt, reserved souls suddenly get up and perform like they were on stage in front of 20,000 adoring fans. It was, quite frankly, amazing.
I had to give up to the man: His act was for real. I saw it again and again. The gigs came pretty regular for a while. He’d book these corporate clients for the then outlandish price of $2500 per evening! Me? I’d get maybe $150 or $200, plus I’d drive every time! (I did have to bring my equipment, so of course I’d drive.) Being young and impetuous, I’d ask why he paid so little. He explained that he was “the talent.” I couldn’t argue. He was a rock star when he performed. People that saw his show would line up to talk with him after the show, especially women.
I remember one job in particular… actually, what’s funny is, I don’t remember the job at all. I remember that it was quite a drive from our Peninsula homes, and we had to drive home late at night. Never a coffee person, I relied on good tunes that I could sing along to. So, we drove the whole way home, singing James Taylor’s greatest hits as loud as we could.
I learned from him. I learned that performers have to “own their space.” My DJ area was mine… I had to control it. I couldn’t let others, from sloppy drunks to young punks, feel like they could step in and do my job. I learned to be direct when discussing professional matters, such as getting paid or what were fair expectations. I also learned that, when you own a business, you’ll often get asked to provide your services at a discount. He taught me that it’s best to come to terms with how you’ll feel about it if you accept the gig. Will you be pissed if you offer a discount? Are you willing to piss off a friend if you demand your full rate? I had put on some serious weight when my wife was pregnant with my daughter, and knowing that Alexander often counseled people with hypnotic suggestion, I asked if he’d “hook me up,” with some weight loss hypnotism action since we were friends. He flatly refused. I didn’t like the answer, but I respected that it was the way he did business.
We worked together for a couple of years, until he took his act to Las Vegas for a more steady income stream. I had a blast doing the events, even if the pay wasn’t great. I learned from him, and I enjoyed the gigs. Once I had a feel for the show, it was pretty low maintenance. I never grew tired of seeing him hypnotize people, but I never paid direct attention during the process – if anyone was prone to be hypnotized, it was my sleep-deprived ass.
I lost track of him after a while. I always admired the fact that he made a point of keeping the show classy… he wasn’t interested of getting people to act too crazily… they’d never take their clothes off or behave too inappropriately. He often said that he wasn’t asking people to do something they didn’t already want to do; he was merely removing the conscious straightjackets people find themselves strapped in to. It was fascinating to watch.