Bob Arno

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Bob Arno
BornStockholm, Sweden

Bob Arno, (born in Stockholm, Sweden) is known primarily as a comedy pickpocket entertainer and more recently as a criminologist specializing in global street crime. He became a U.S. citizen in 1992.

Contents

Career

Arno's stage pickpocket performance is billed as comedy, though it includes some decidedly unfunny moments which, nevertheless, fascinate and impress audience members. First among these is his incorporation of documentary-style video which is projected during his presentation. As described in a March 9, 2004 article in The New York Times, the video is footage shot by himself and his wife, Bambi Vincent, of criminal pickpockets and other street thieves before, during, and after committing their crimes.[1] This "reality factor" contributes greatly to the presentation's originality and adds elements of awe and enlightenment that give it depth beyond comedy.

Unlike most other performers in the small, specialized field of pickpocket entertainment, Arno does not present magical effects for their own sake. He does incorporate principles of magic in much the same manner that criminal pickpockets, con artists, and other street thieves do. And, given that his show is comedy, he is not above preparing a volunteer on occasion to enhance his humorous finale. Regardless, Arno's thievery skills are legendary. Blue Moon Talent Agency says "Nothing a victim possesses is safe from Bob Arno's lightning lifts."[2] He has perfected the art of the steal to include neckties, suspenders, glasses, belts, cell phones, wallets, and pocket contents, as well as watches.

In 1993, looking to expand the show, Arno and his wife wondered if they could bring elements from the street to the stage. They began a serious study of street criminals, filming them in the act of tricking and/or stealing from victims, and interviewing them when possible. "Wearing hidden camera and recording equipment, they do everything they can to put themselves in the thick of the action," according to Las Vegas Review Journal.[3] Arno and Vincent began calling themselves "thief-hunters" and soon amassed a valuable film archive of a little-documented crime.

In the preface of their book (see below), Arno and Vincent claim to have initially suffered inner turmoil created by failing to prevent incidents occurring in their presence, but they overcame that discomfort after realizing the value of their study. Certainly they were able to port street techniques to the stage, as originally hoped. But the video footage and interviews garnered interest from law enforcement and security agencies, while the video mixed with anecdotes and lessons became a popular lecture to laymen.

Thus began Arno's career as a criminologist and speaker.[4] His study had begun much earlier with observations of soldiers on R&R leave in Asia during the 60s. On May 11, 1969, a front page profile written by Brian Moynahan in the London Sunday Times called Arno "one of the world's pickpocketing experts." In the four-column article Arno describes theft risks peculiar to various Asian countries and compares victim reaction by nationality. In its June 20, 1969 issue, Time magazine wrote: "One of the world's foremost experts in the techniques of first-rank 'wires' (or 'cannons' or 'pit workers') is Bob Arno, a 29-year-old Swede whose demonstrations onstage and in nightclubs earn him more than $100,000 a year." In a January 9, 1981 article entitled "Beware the Stiff-Armed Stranger; He May be Lifting Your Wallet," The Wall Street Journal quoted "Robert [sic] Arno, a Miami, Fla., pickpocketing expert who's advised police in various countries."

In 1993, armed with video cameras to document his findings, Arno revived his research in earnest. His knowledge base started with common and specialized forms of street thievery, and later grew to include off-the-street theft from tourists. His expertise now includes behavior profiling, identity theft, laptop theft, credit card fraud and internet scams. He lectures to corporate and lay audiences and presents training for law enforcement and security, and other government agencies in the United States and abroad. The Promenade Speakers Bureau calls Arno's presentations "a tad provocative," and says they include “pattern recognition” and “body language profiling."[5]

With Vincent, Arno is co-author of the book Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams (Bonus Books, 2003).

The feature article “Thieves Among Us” in the April 2005 issue of National Geographic Traveler documents several of Arno’s “unorthodox surveillance tactics.” Arno walked into the picturesque but crime-ridden Spanish Quarter of Naples, Italy, to see how long it would take for his (fake) Rolex to be stolen by scooter-riding bandits. By alleging to be a pickpocket, he establishes a rapport with street thieves, which has resulted in at least one offer to join an organized crime ring at US$1,000/day for himself and Vincent.

History

At age 15, Arno began performing magic at youth centers in his native Sweden and was successful enough to tour the country for several years. He briefly experimented with hypnotism before settling on pickpocketing, having been inspired by "Dominique" Risbourg, the reigning pickpocket performer of the time. When Dominique had an extended run in Stockholm in 1956, he solicited the local Magic Circle for an assistant, and Arno volunteered.

From age 20 to 23, Arno toured Asia with his pickpocket show, working nightclubs and U.S. military bases. From 23 to 25 he toured across Europe working nightclubs and theaters. At 25 he worked for two months at the Latin Quarter in New York, which began his career in America. He worked steadily from then on, mostly in casino revues, moving from Atlantic City to the Caribbean to Canada to Las Vegas. In 1992, after many years in Las Vegas and three years (1990–1992) in the Jubilee! show at Bally's Casino there, he quit his casino revue career in order to travel with his wife. Cruise ships served a triple purpose in the 90s: a steady income as a performing venue; exotic world travel; and putting Arno in the middle of huge tourist crowds, which is generally where pickpockets operate. These crowds, primarily in the great cities of Europe, but also in Asia, Africa, and South America, were the inspiration for Arno's criminal pickpocket research. The study soon became the motivation for further cruise ship engagements.

The 90s also saw Arno in theater productions. He starred in his own show with Swedish comedian John Houdi at Berns Salonger in Stockholm, performed at the Lido in Amsterdam, at Liseberg and Gröna Lund in Sweden, at theaters in Sydney, and at Sun City, North West. He also began performing at private corporate events, which is currently his main focus along with keynote speaking and law enforcement training.

In 2008 he toured as part of a stage show called Hoodwinked with Banachek, Todd Robbins and Richard Turner.[6][7]

Books

  • Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams (Bonus Books, 2003), by Bambi Vincent and Bob Arno. ISBN 1-56625-198-2
  • Scam-Proof Your Life: 377 Smart Ways to Protect You & Your Family from Ripoffs, Bogus Deals & Other Consumer Headaches (Sterling, 2006), by Sid Kirchheimer. (Bob Arno is a contributor) ISBN 1-4027-3041-1

Television

Arno has appeared on numerous television shows in the United States and abroad. Between 1972 and 1975, he had several of his own one-hour specials on the TROS network in Holland. On Late Night with David Letterman (December 1983) he stole Letterman's tie and heirloom watch. He was on HBO's Just for Laughs in 1989, and several times on ABC's 20/20 (November 3, 2000, June 22, 2001, July 30, 2004). He appeared in two of ITV's (UK) London Weekend Television series: Beware: Pickpockets (June 2000), and Beware: Street Thieves (July 2001), and in the BBC's History of Magic (2004). He made the Travel Channel's endlessly repeated Travel Scams & Rip--offs Revealed-Las Vegas as well as Las Vegas Caught on Tape and appeared as "the fastest fingers" on Ripley's Believe it or Not. His 1996 appearance on World's Greatest Magic III revived interest in theatrical pickpocketing.[8]

Arno's foreign television credits are many, including appearances in Germany, Sweden, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Canada, Brazil, and United Kingdom.


References

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/09/business/09flier.html?ex=1158379200&en=eff4301b6c8b7e1c&ei=5070
  2. http://www.bluemoontalent.com/bob-arno.html
  3. Las Vegas Review Journal
  4. http://cbs2.com/consumer/Bob.Arno.Pickpockets.2.516406.html
  5. http://promenadespeakers.com/page16.html
  6. If it weren't onstage, it'd be illegal Greenaway, K The Montreal Gazette July 10, 2008 http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=bf16353a-b91a-48a5-8d26-e528e3076710 July 31, 2009
  7. Woo in Review: HOODWINKED Smith, Alison James Randi Educational Foundation SWIFT November 25, 2008 http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/314-woo-in-review-hoodwinked.html July 31, 2009
  8. http://imdb.com/title/tt0829320




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