The Old Bamboozle
I’ve been having a great time working on my new routine for the Chinese Sticks. The props are almost finished. The sticks are renovated Kovari Bamboo Sticks. I rebuilt the ends of the bamboo tubes Kovari supplied, so that the weight lines up with the holes in the bamboo, and so that the rear of each stick had an anchor for a hollow screw so that string could be easily connected between any of the sticks for the cutting the string gag as in the Benson routine. I then decorated them with beads and tassels, and bound the sticks with silk string like a Chinese flute.
Years ago, in a market in Borneo, I found these things. They were hanging on the wall of a shop in the bazaar. I thought they were flutes or something.
When I asked the old man in the corner, he told me that these were bamboo stick and string puzzles called “Bamboozles” in English.
In Malay, he said, they were tongkat buluh dan teka-teki rentetan or simply, “Teka-teki” which means “the puzzle.” I made him write that down.
These puzzles have been around for hundreds of years, he told me.
Show me how they work…
That is the basic story behind the routine “the Old Bamboozle.”
The routine begins:
“The word “bamboozle” first appeared in 1702 in Jonathan Swift’s dictionary of miscreant English. He was appalled that such foreign and slangish words were seeping into the language.
“It came from English sailors who had served in South East Asia. It meant to be confused and to then be taken by advantage.
“Some ventured that it had to do with western colonial forces being lured into bamboo forests where they were disoriented and confused. They were easily attacked in this condition.
“But that isn’t the real story at all.
“I know the origin of the word “bamboozle,” and I can prove it. I have the evidence right here in this bag…”
So I had to make a bag to introduce the sticks and keep them out of sight, one that can be set on a chair or table or laid on the stage floor.
The bag is a carpet bag, which holds four bamboo sticks. The top opens completely so that it is easy to see and reach into the bag and pull out the needed sticks easily. It is made from a Bukhara carpet that I purchased back in the late 1960’s to perform on when I was a street magician in New York City. I have kept it all these years for sentimental reasons, but after years of hard service and storage it was in pretty bad shape. I am so happy to have it back in the act!
The end pieces for the bag are craft-cut (small bagged pieces) leather from Tandy Leather. They were the perfect size, and didn’t even need to be cut. My mad hatter, Shurie Southcott, did the sewing for me. I did the leather work. The rope handle was found at JoAnn’s Fabric. I still need to put on the buckle and strap in the center of the bag (through the handle).
…and here it is:
The buckle is a Chinese belt I found in Out of the Closet. It fit the bag as is, and all I did was rivet it on.
I have written the script, and will be working on rehearsal as soon as the props are finished. It has been so much fun putting this together. By the way, Kovari’s bamboo sticks are wonderful. They work very smoothly. I made mostly cosmetic changes to them.