Going Rogue

This article excerpt, part of a series entitled The Quorum Chronicle, appears in full — along with expanded audio content — exclusively for our Patreon backers. See our Patreon page for further details.


The Quorum ChronicleI first heard about entertainer Brian Brushwood when he was interviewed for the Skepticality podcast back in 2009. A sort of cross between magician, comedian, and sideshow performer, Brushwood had an ongoing stage show called Bizarre Magic, appearing regularly at college campuses across the country. He also hosted a YouTube show called Scam School, in which he would good-naturedly perform close-up magic or brain teasers at various San Francisco-area bars and restaurants, soliciting drinks in exchange for explaining the mystifying secret behind the trick or puzzle. His bizarre, spiked hairstyle and gregarious personality made for entertaining viewing, and I learned quite a few tricks from him — even teaching my then-nine-year-old daughter some of them so she could amaze the whole family with her magical talents.

In fact, everything Skitch does in “All That Glitters” is completely factually accurate… Jimmy’s shock at how simple — and inexpensive — this process was definitely mirrored my own.

In 2012, after Discovery Networks purchased Division3, the publisher of Scam School, Brushwood took advantage of the transition to move the show’s base of operations from San Francisco to his home city of Austin, Texas. Once there, Brushwood was more regularly able to bring occasional guests onto the show, frequently other magicians who would demonstrate their close-up magic skills. But in addition to magicians, he brought in experts with skills in other areas — notably picking locks.

Brushwood had discussed lockpicking before, likely a logical outgrowth of the “escape artist” school of magic, during the San Francisco run of Scam School. In fact, I first learned about using the “bump keys” Jimmy makes passing mention of back in a 2010 episode. But it turns out there is an entire community in Austin — the Longhorn Lockpicking Club, led by lockpicking champion JGor — that picks locks competitively. JGor and other members appeared several times on the show, demonstrating how to pick everything from door locks to bicycle locks to padlocks and even handcuffs with simple, everyday items. (One thing that became abundantly clear was just how inaccurately the process of lockpicking is normally depicted in the movies — but for the record, Linda Hamilton gets it pretty close to right in Terminator 2). Brushwood would eventually open an online merchandise shop — called, appropriately enough, Scam Stuff — where he would make available many of the tools of the lockpicking trade, including not just bump keys and lockpick sets, but transparent padlocks and full lockpick-training setups. (I may or may not have availed myself of some of those learning opportunities.)


Be sure to check out the complete article, in both text and enhanced audio formats, along with the rest of The Quorum Chronicle series, at our Patreon page. And thanks so much for your continuing support of Jabberwocky Audio Theater!

— William R. Coughlan, writer/director of Quorum

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