The New Yorker profiled a talented pickpocket who works as an entertainer instead of a thief, and because the lead is dramatic and fun and brilliant, I decided you needed to read it:

A few years ago, at a Las Vegas convention for magicians, Penn Jillette, of the act Penn and Teller, was introduced to a soft-spoken young man named Apollo Robbins, who has a reputation as a pickpocket of almost supernatural ability. Jillette, who ranks pickpockets, he says, “a few notches below hypnotists on the show-biz totem pole,” was holding court at a table of colleagues, and he asked Robbins for a demonstration, ready to be unimpressed. Robbins demurred, claiming that he felt uncomfortable working in front of other magicians. He pointed out that, since Jillette was wearing only shorts and a sports shirt, he wouldn’t have much to work with.

“Come on,” Jillette said. “Steal something from me.”

Again, Robbins begged off, but he offered to do a trick instead. He instructed Jillette to place a ring that he was wearing on a piece of paper and trace its outline with a pen. By now, a small crowd had gathered. Jillette removed his ring, put it down on the paper, unclipped a pen from his shirt, and leaned forward, preparing to draw. After a moment, he froze and looked up. His face was pale.

“Fuck. You,” he said, and slumped into a chair.

Robbins held up a thin, cylindrical object: the cartridge from Jillette’s pen.

If you don’t want to read further, better check for a pulse (the rest of the article is just as compelling).

For those who need an excuse to spend a few minutes with an article, I’ll admit it has nothing to do with writing, but that it did leave me with a few interesting ideas about the nature of attention. (There. I’ve given you cover.)

Free Bonus Video

Because I’m a benevolent magazine snob (what, you don’t subscribe to the New Yorker?!), I’ll include — for free — a video of Robbins demonstrating why you have little hope of keeping your wallet and smartphone intact in the face of a talented pickpocket.


Keep stealing, Tom Chandler.