Dr. Blood, Magician/Clown for the Older Kids

Written by C.J. Sullivan on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.


David Kaye
was born in 1960 and grew up in a seemingly typical middle-class family out
in Flushing, Queens. He was what some would call a nice Jewish boy. He wanted
to grow up and become a magician. His sleight-of-hand dream came true and his
conjuring act included clowning and comedy. But his magic career took a strange
turn and now Kaye earns his living as Dr. Blood–a voodoo man who earns
his keep by scaring the holy hell out of kids.


I recently
called Kaye at his 14th St. apartment to talk about Dr. Blood. He’s 41
now, and at the prime of his clowning years. Kaye came off as an affable man,
and when something strikes him as funny and weird, he’ll let loose a maniacal
laugh.


"As
a kid I picked up magic as a hobby. It was something I wanted to be good at.
As youngsters magicians aren’t the smartest kids or the most athletic.
Magic becomes their hook to stand out. At least it was my way to stand out.
When I was 12 my parents finally let me take the subway alone from Queens. I
would head to Times Square and go to Tannen’s magic shop every Saturday
afternoon. Magicians from all over would hang out there and do tricks, and that
is where I learned most of my magic."


Kaye finished
high school and went on to college at Northwestern. He graduated with a degree
in communications and got a job in publishing at Doubleday.


"I
hated that job. Hated it. I quit after nine months and broke out my magic tricks
and started street-performing. I did magic and made balloons in front of FAO
Schwarz, Central Park and the Museum of Natural History. I didn’t go up
to the Metropolitan Museum of Art like most street performers because I wanted
to entertain children. Somehow I gravitated to kids. I got good and started
making money–and I was shocked at how much money you can make as a street
performer, much more than I was making at Doubleday. Double what I was making
in publishing."


Kaye eventually
found himself down at the South Street Seaport auditioning to be an approved
street performer. He got the job and his act was a clown named Silly Billy who
made animals out of balloons and performed magic tricks.


"I
did that for three years, and people liked me because, along with the magic
and balloons, I did a lot of talking comedy, which the parents liked. People
started to ask me if I did parties so I gave them my card…and said yes, I
did parties. Soon I was doing 50 percent parties and 50 percent street-performing.
I must have been good at it because it really took off and I got away from the
street. I did my own thing. It was unusual–it wasn’t sweet and gentle
and lovey-dovey clowning, it was rough-and-tumble and the kids loved it."


Kaye had
a nice party business going, but once kids hit seven or so they tire of Silly
Billy clowns and want more. Kaye knew what the kids wanted–they wanted
thrill and chills, so he created Dr. Blood. Now Dr. Blood shows net him $450
for an hour performance. And he’s in demand: he’s booked two months
in advance.


"About
five years ago I started losing clients because the kids were getting too old
for Silly Billy the clown. So I got the idea for Dr. Blood because kids seven
or eight or older love to be scared. Back then a popular reading series was
Goosebumps and I put that in my ad. The stories were scary and I knew
that was something people would recognize. Dr. Blood took some work, because
at first I was too scary. I would go too far. But I learned how far to take
it and now my business is about split even between Silly Billy and Dr. Blood."


Kaye explained
to me how the act works. He comes to a kid’s party as Dr. Blood, dressed
in bloody scrubs and wild hair. He gets the kids to listen to a story about
Dr. Blood meeting a witch doctor as he passes out props of shrunken heads, bones,
tarantulas and a brain.


"I
set the stage so the kids aren’t sure if I am really crazy or just kidding.
Eight-year-olds like to be in command and they love to tell you that you’re
a fake. I’m always raising the stakes because if I don’t, they’re
like, ‘Go ahead, magic boy, show me.’ I have to really scare them
to get them to suspend their disbelief for a while. Scare them enough so they
cower but want to keep watching."


After showing
the props Kaye goes into his "geek tricks." He sticks needles in his
arms, slices his wrists and uses a chopper to lop off body parts.


"The
last geek trick is when I take an electric power saw out and seemingly saw through
the stomach of the birthday child."


For his
final act Kaye hands out Dr. Blood kits and gives the kids props to take home
and use to frighten their friends and family.


"I
give them a finger chopper, a rubber cockroach, a nail going through a finger
and blood capsules. I teach them how to use the stuff–it feeds into the
whoopee-cushion practical jokes that kids love."


I asked
Kaye if any of his lessons backfired.


"Well,
after one party a woman called me up and asked if I could send her son a new
cockroach. She woke up and saw a cockroach in her refrigerator, so she threw
what she thought was a dead roach, and all of the food in the refrigerator,
out. When she told her son he started to cry. [He] told her that the roach was
a fake and he wanted a new one."


In his ads
he has a skull and the warning that Dr. Blood is for children seven and up,
with "Free funeral if you’re scared to death (Ha ha!)." I asked
Kaye if he’s seen a drop-off in business since 9/11.


"I
guess I should take out that ‘free funeral’ thing. Business is down
since 9/11 because of the recession, but the ratio of shows I do of Silly Billy
and Dr. Blood remains the same. The Dr. Blood act doesn’t have violence
or terrorists in it like 9/11. Dr. Blood is more of a voodoo show, and it isn’t
the same thing."


Kaye realizes
that his calling is a strange one. Kids get it right away and most parents just
go along with it because it is what their progeny want.


"I
think New York is the only city you could do a show for kids like Dr. Blood.
This wouldn’t play in like Charlotte. They couldn’t deal with it out
of this city."


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