Although you might not consider pickpocking anything but a crime, perhaps after watching a man considered one of the best pickpocketers in the world, you’ll see a bit of art in the practice.
Apollo Robbins (yes, that’s his name) was recently featured by Adam Green in The New Yorker. The 38-year-old living in Las Vegas is described in the New Yorker as a “peculiar variety-arts hybrid” also known as a “theatrical pickpocket.”
Here’s an example Green included in his article that shows just how good the 38-year-old is at was he does:
He is probably best known for an encounter with Jimmy Carter’s Secret Service detail in 2001. While Carter was at dinner, Robbins struck up a conversation with several of his Secret Service men. Within a few minutes, he had emptied the agents’ pockets of pretty much everything but their guns. Robbins brandished a copy of Carter’s itinerary, and when an agent snatched it back he said, “You don’t have the authorization to see that!” When the agent felt for his badge, Robbins produced it and handed it back. Then he turned to the head of the detail and handed him his watch, his badge, and the keys to the Carter motorcade.
Robbins, who on his website is also known as “the gentleman thief,” shows off his skills against Green in this video:
Although a performer, Robbins does address the criminal side of pickpocketing — and how he could technically be successful on that front.
“You have to ask yourself one question,” he said, according to the New Yorker. “Am I being paid enough to give it back?”
Since he has been an entertainer for more than a decade, the answer to that question appears to be “yes.”
But it was criminal activity that got him interested in the first place. Here’s how he explains how he got into the pickpocketing business on his website:
My half brothers were involved with crime. But I was too young to participate. I also had certain disabilities that prevented me [from joining in]: like braces on my legs. When I became a teen, I ran into a friend at a magic shop who took me under his wing. I started reading up on magical theory and immediately blended that with what my brothers had shown me.
Although he may not pickpocket criminally himself — as he said above, he’s doing just fine pickpocketing for pure entertainment value — he did set himself up to be pickpocketed. On his website, he explained that he allowed himself to be pickpocketed in Spain so he could “feel the sensation.”
Read more about Robbins in the New Yorker’s feature here.