I posted this on the private boards of the James Coats DVD also:
This DVD is a good “basic” training DVD with a lot of “street” performances of examples of the work on real people.
You do get an ample discussion of the technique necessary to steal from the various pockets, one type of belt (but you can generalize to other types of belts), things hanging from clips (almost no brainier), and the necktie. It is adequate for the three wristwatch steals it discusses (but they do mention that they have a more extensive watch steal video-which is good by the way). But The Watch Steal video on penguin magic is much better I am told.
The discussion is non-existent on building an act. The focus here is on simply pulling stunts in a walk around situation. There is some discussion of using a magic trick as misdirection for the steal. I believe that this is the biggest weakness in the DVD.
In my opinion without an “act” you are only showing off some stunts and actually may get into serous trouble. In fact the discussion on the problems (legal and otherwise) that accompanies such stunts is poor. Further, the DVD is weak in its discussion on effective practice.
OK, those are pro’s and con’s for the “Mastering…” DVD. Overall, I believe that it is still a good starting point. It gives you adequate tools for you to master enough stunts to build an act.
There are several good video tapes/DVD’s (including one by Coats) which focus only on the stealing of watches. This particular steal seems to be a fad right now. I contend that watch stealing is not a pickpocket act. It is a great stunt that is usually included in the context of an ongoing routine or act. I think that the time spent learning this one stunt is more than worth it. It makes a good addition to any act or show.
Jim Ravel’s book, “Theatrical Pick-Pocketing” is one of a very few available. It has been out for years (since the late 70’s) and is still a good starting point. Jim does discuss building an act, the dangers or problems encountered when performing an act, what to do when you break an item, how best to practice, and of course the basic steals necessary. This book and the Coats DVD are a good basic training course.
Other books include the Mark Raffle book. This is almost impossible to find. It was a limited edition back in the 70’s and was expensive back then (if I remember, Mark sold his book with a video tape for $150.00 USD). The video was much too superficial to stand alone as a training tape. It did help you understand the narrative in the book. The Raffel’s video can be purchased from Stevens Magic. The tape does gives you a clip of Marks act performed in the late 1970’s (with a killer Cups and Balls trick using flower pots as cups and with 3 live chickens as a final load!). It will give you an idea of some of the stunts that a Pickpocket act is built around.
The “Complete Course In Pick Pocketing” by Pierre Jacques, published in 1983. It is another good starting point in the literature. It is not as complete as Ravel’s book in some cases. Its strength is the clear explanation of the steals accompanied by clear photos. It is a Tannen’s book and still in their catalogue.
Eddie Joseph put a small booklet out in the 1940’s or so that can still be found. It is very, very basic and has no photos or illustrations. It is dated but does give some insight into pulling a pickpocket act off.
Walt Hudson wrote a small pamphlet called “Hey that’s my Wallet” that outlined a pseudo pickpocket act that was clever and a good interlude for a longer magic show.
There is a fairly decent video put out by the “International Magicians Society’s Magic Academy Course of Magic” (Volume 44) called
“The Art of Pick-Pocketing”. The performer is Remington Scott. It also gives some good ideas and instruction on learning some stunts and building an act.
Otherwise, off the top of my head, I cannot think of other resources for you to explore.
I think that you need to understand that a good pickpocket act takes more personality and ability to misdirect than the average manipulation act. This is a hard act to make entertaining.
If you did not like the Coats DVD then you probably will not like any other of the Videos/DVDs available. I suspect that the books will not live up to your expectation either. Check them out and see.
Any of these resources will give you what you need to learn the odd pickpocket stunt. However, beware it may end you up in jail! Go for the act, not the stunt!