Magic Imitation is No Good

Usually this spot is for Magic News.  That’s what we do here at InsideMagic.com.  We bring the fives of readers the very latest from the world of Magic.  What we like to call “the Magic world.”  We like to call it that but that’s how we roll – that and counter-clockwise with our head facing north.  That doesn’t make us bad, it’s our neglect of proper naming conventions for our pets.  But, as we say in the world of Robots (“the Robot world”), don’t get us started.

As we said, we usually eschew magic commentary.  That can be found on our sister site, MagicCommentary.com.  The site is no longer up, because we have never mentioned it until now and we didn’t pay for the URL, ever.  It is populated with 15 years of magic commentary that isn’t published to the web.  It was read by some hackers in 2019, but apparently found to be so unimportant that they didn’t even have the courtesy of hacking it.  That’s the thing about hackers.  They aren’t dependable or consistent.  InsideMagic.com is hacked just about daily and usually by folks who want to insert the URLs for gambling sites into our otherwise unexciting stories.  Stories, we should point out, that are not magic commentary.

We were at The Magic Castle a while ago but recently enough to make this commentary relevant.  We saw a performer who essentially performed Whit “Pop” Haydn’s full act.  He did the tricks that Pop invented; used the patter that Pop wrote and developed over his years of performance; and the jokes that made both the patter and tricks work to entertain so well.  Of course this performer was not Pop.  He wasn’t close to Pop.  He couldn’t hold a candle to Pop.  If Pop and this performer were in a line-up, there is no chance a witness would misidentify him for Pop.  If there was a Pop imitator contest – like the yearly festival for Elvis Impersonators – he would lose.

Worse still, he was bringing that lame, pseudo Pop act to Pop’s house.  Pop is The Magic Castle for us.  He sponsored our membership, he owns every room in the place.  His tricks never get old for us because he brings so much to each performance.  It is as if this is the only audience for whom he has every performed before.  Audiences – be they close-up, stage, parlor, or bar – love him because he has truly mastered all that he performs and that makes him unique.  To steal from someone who is unique is decidedly un-unique; or un-nice.

Why are we writing this?  What do we hope to accomplish?  To penalize the performer who infringed Pop’s work product?  It is too late, he’s no longer at The Castle.  To give an object lesson to other tempted to follow in his path? Likely not.  All of our readers are good people and would not benefit from such a lesson.  To get something off our chest that was bothering us?  Likely.  We normally accomplish that by our rolling on our thick, 1970’s avocado green colored rug. (See our first paragraphs for the call-back).

Even if it is just the chest-getting-off-of basis, we feel better now.

Matt Vizio – Very Honest Deceptions

We have seen great magicians at The Magic Castle but there are few better than Matt Vizio. In our humble opinion — and our opinions are truly the most humble — Magic is not merely the demonstration of manipulative skill but the presentation of a fully entertaining experience.

Yes, Mr. Vizio has the chops. His Cups and Balls routine is flawless and not to be missed. But he compounds his mastery of sleights with that something special that makes him stand-out from most magicians who perform at The Magic Castle.

Last night, we watched as he performed three effects that that thoroughly amazed and delighted the audience the packed Parlor of Prestidigitation.

Let’s take a step here to admit that we have known Mr. Vizio since becoming a member of The Magic Castle and learned from him so much about audience management, routine formation, and what it takes to be a good magician.

We cannot be the first to notice that there are some performers who appear likable and kind on stage but turn 180 degrees in persona once the lights are off. Mr. Vizio does not suffer from this flaw of character. The performer you see on stage is who you will meet once the bright lights are extinguished. What you find in the normal incandescent light is a good and wholesome character.

But, even if we detested Mr. Vizio as a person — which again we do not, quite the opposite — we would need to concede that his act is one of the best we have seen at The Magic Castle.

One of the best indicators of impact by a magician are the number and content of murmurs and exclamations by those in the crowd.

His Vanishing Bill to Inside a Stapled Card (we’re sure there is a name more catchy than that) garnered “No Way!” and “Oh My God!” comments in the crowd before the bill was even shown to be safely stapled between two playing cards. The audience was captured and he had no intention of releasing them immediately. He let the excitement build expertly: balancing that narrow line between “milking” and under-playing the effect.

That sense of balance comes from years of working before real audiences in diverse surroundings and varying conditions. It is so tempting to milk the reactions to an effect. We have all seen it and perhaps some performers enjoy the gratification of knowing that their audience is appreciative. It is more considerate, we think, to allow the audience the moment to perceive what is about to happen and ride the natural building of excitement.

Mr. Vizio is, as we have noted, a considerate performer and person. His ego does not seem to complicate his presentation. He is enjoying the magic with his audience. He is not setting himself apart from them or performing in a boastful or condescending fashion. We are all in this together.

Again, even if we did not consider Mr. Vizio a friend and mentor, we would have reviewed him with the same result. He is precisely what we all hope to be on stage: in control, masterful, and fully entertaining.

We have it on very good sources that he will be appearing this evening through Sunday at the Parlor of Prestidigitation at The Magic Castle.

If you want to see our idea of a great magician, be sure to check out Mr. Vizio. You can thank us later but there’s no rush. Enjoy the moment and the appreciation for great magic that lingers long after the curtain falls. As noted by a fellow diner at The Castle, “That guy is incredible!”

Visit Mr. Vizio’s website here.

Inside Magic Review: Five out of Five – Our Highest Rating!

Elvis and the Performance of Magic — Just One More!

Pop HaydnWe receive hundreds of emails daily asking InsideMagic.com to watch videos, print articles, pay bills, accept service of process, cease and desist, confess to crimes (both felony and misdemeanor), find true love by clicking a link, buy tickets to area shows, and stay out of certain neighborhoods.  Thanks to our sophisticated AI technology, we are able filter our the bills and some of injunction related correspondence.

If you have a magic-related video (defined very broadly), you would like to share with our dedicated readership of tens upon tens of individuals – only fives upon fives are confirmed bots – please click the Submit button at the top of this well-designed page.

Additionally, we are starting a links page that will cover categories including: Magicians; Magic Shows; Magic Shops; Variety Artists; Magic History and plain old promotion.

It is our belief that the Magic Community deserves to get our support and hopefully yours as well.

The link page will be going up shortly and if you would like to secure a free listing, just send your details to MagicLinks@InsideMagic.com.

But let us return to the email and questions we receive of a magical nature.

Dear Editor:

What did you think of the new Elvis movie?

J. Lammost, Mitchell, South Dakota

Dear J:

This not really a magic-related question but we can answer.  We thought it was spectacular and will likely see it again.  When it comes to showmanship, we can think of no one better than the King.  There were some magical take aways.  Elvis would end his show with an encore but make it appear that it was unexpected.  He would converse with his band and orchestra to do something special for the crowd.  We know from our study of Elvis history that he did this in every show.  He would make the encore appear to be a special, unprepared presentation offered because of the unique situation he was in.  He would mention that they would put something together just because the crowd was demanding it.

Las Vegas entertainers par excellence, Wayne Newton and Sammy Davis, Jr. did the same presentation.  They would ask their band leader if they could do something special for the crowd, allegedly arrange the special presentation on the fly.  The audience each night felt special.

In magic, unfortunately, performers in our art are rarely urged by audiences to perform just one more trick.  We’re not sure why this is.  Are we not cueing our audience to ask for the additional performance, do our audiences not know that they can make such a demand?  Are our acts so lackluster that no audience would request more?

The last reason is not likely true in the case of working professionals.  Their acts are tight and so well coordinated that they are deserving of an encore.  We watched a couple true pros perform at the Magic Castle before Covid and the audience would not let them leave the stage.  There were requests that they perform just one more.

In one case, InsideMagic.com’s Favorite, Whit Haydn, acted surprised and paused to consider what he had left to perform.  The impression was that he had not prepared any additional trick.  And suddenly he thought of something that he could perform for the audience and just this audience.  It was one of the best (and logical) performances of Ring Flight we have ever seen.  If you have performed Ring Flight, you know it is something you need to prepare before you walk out on stage.  It couldn’t have been truly impromptu but it was performed for the audience because they had asked and Pop – as he is now called – felt obligated to perform just one more.

We were in the front row and could not stop smiling.  He performed it so well and made it look so spontaneous and unplanned.  Once the audience began filing for the doors, they could not help but talk about the last trick.  They accepted that he wasn’t prepared to do anything additional and so that ruled out any advance set-up.  They were fooled and felt special that they had asked for “just one last trick” and their request was granted by the very accommodating performer.

It was magic.

We’re not sure what subtle clues Whit / Pop offered to encourage the audience to demand an additional trick but they did.  Perhaps there was no NLP or hints given and the audience did not want to leave at the end of his show without more.

It does seem, though, that when we have been asked to perform one more effect – even at The Castle – it comes from connecting with the audience through deference, kindness and the establishment of a bond.  We are all in this together – performer and audience.  We are all enjoying the magic and the interaction between us.  As new friends, the audience can ask for one more trick because that is what friends do when they are entertained.

The late and very missed, Brian Gillis was another genius at having his audience demand something special in his apparently impromptu encore.  For the magicians who had seen his performance on many occasions, we knew that the encore was planned well in advance but that didn’t take away our excitement to watch the master perform “just one more.”

We thought maybe this was manipulation for self-gratification on the part of the performer but are now convinced it is not.  It is truly responding to audience demand from an audience who feels comfortable enough to ask for more from someone who has entertained them so well.

This post strays far from the question but we think that’s okay.  Anytime you can connect Pop Haydn, Brian Gillis and Elvis, you have accomplished something mighty.

Thank you for the question!

The Editor.

Kyle Littleton & Dale Sawak: Great Magic from Both Ends of the Spectrum

Picture of Magician EntertainingWe’ve seen some great magicians in our time. Last week at the Magic Castle we saw two fantastic magicians that span our history of the art.

Kyle Littleton (@Littletonmagic) was in The Parlor of Prestidigitation and performed a wonderful act that truly fooled us but more importantly entertained us. His approach to Magic is unique and his skills are amazing. He has appeared on Penn and Teller’s Fool Us and although he did not fool them he did entertain thoroughly the pros and their audience.  (Visit Mr. Littleton’s Twitter feed for the Fool Us clip here).
We were flattered to be brought up on stage as an assistant in his final routine. Although we stood but a few feet from him, we were not able to have any clue how his effect was done.
And we like that. A great magician, in our opinion, is one who truly fools and entertains.  We doubt that he needs our endorsement to be considered one of the up-and-coming great magicians in our but we’re here to give it anyway. His style is relaxed, self-effacing and kind.  Even his jokes fit nicely with what he is performing — this is a skill we would love to learn one day.
Just a few feet away from Mr. Littleton’s theater is the Palace of Mystery where we saw Dale Salwak perform the classics of magic in a classical style.
We can’t think of the last time we saw The Zombie Ball performed much less with the ability and beauty of Mr. Salwak.  He was introduced as a man who performs tricks in seconds that have taken years to perfect and the description was accurate.  Here was a true professional performing the effects we have all attempted to learn and failed.  He produced cards, split fans, coins and other items with grace.  Some of the lay members of the audience that night were awed by the performance.  To them it was a first time seeing these classics.  We were awed in seeing effects done so often, poorly, performed so incredibly well.
The Magic Castle is back and chocked full of great magic perfect for all ages of performers and audience members.
We love being fooled almost as much as we love sitting next to someone uttering “No Way!” as the effect comes to its amazing conclusion.  Mr. Littleton and Mr. Salwak brought both experiences on a truly magical night.
By the way, we weren’t able to find an unprotected version of Mr. Littleton’s image and so we’ve included an image of a magician having the same effect on his audience a few years ago.

Where You Been Magic Man?

Inside Magic Library Cover Page for Happy Hollisters and the Perfect FarosWe have been off-line for more than a week as we tried to magically make our new phone work.

It turns out the whole thing comes down to cards.  When you get a new phone with our carrier, you must have the correct card; the SIM card that is.

We didn’t have it.  We had something that looked like a SIM card that we found on Santa Monica Blvd. near where Barney’s Beanery is located past where the International House of Pancakes sits.  It was slightly covered with syrup as if someone had been holding it in their sticky fingers and yet their fingers were not sticky enough — a common magician problem for folks of our advanced age.

So we figured, why pay for a SIM card when we had a perfectly good one if we could clean it up right.

There was a part of us that said we should bring it back to the IHOP and turn it in as lost property.  But we didn’t cuz it looked like it had been there for a while and we really needed one for our phone.

We cleaned it with a diluted mixture of Dawn (good enough for oil covered marine animals, good enough for SIM card covered with syrup) and warm water.  We dried it with the side of our jeans (the outside) and pushed it into the SIM Slot (ironically, that was the name of our first slot machine that we tried to sell in Vegas, but failed).  It fit.  All was good with the world.

We worked on the project for days.  We could not get it to work.  We were too embarrassed to bring it back to the location between Barneys and IHOP but we needed our phone to work.  We found the phone in a trash bin we were diving looking for interesting menus of local restaurants that delivered.  It was inside a well-damaged suitcase.  We left the clothes (except for the bandana — a good magician can’t have too many bandanas and we’re not even that good but still have the need).  It was dark so we didn’t know if the phone was cracked but turns out it wasn’t.

We reset the phone because of the thousands of pictures on the phone.  Nothing untoward just cats and more cats.  There was one picture of a cat in a tiger Halloween get-up and he/she did not look happy so we didn’t even save that one.

Bottom line: we got a practically new phone, some bandanas and a chance to talk to our carrier’s customer service desk.  We know that everyone complains about customer service chat sessions but we cannot in this instance.  The helper helped and real quick like.  She did some magic to make the SIM card come to life, make the phone work with the SIM so we could post on InsideMagic.com and make phone calls.

We have no one to call except for the Magic Castle to make reservations but it did that with aplomb.  Speaking of which, the desert dish aplomb is not commonly known by most restaurants and not at the Magic Castle.  They asked if we meant “a plumb” — which they did not have anyway — but we corrected them.  They politely said there was no such dish available on their menu and the chef would not be able to “whip one up” as we asked.

Life is now good.  We can post to InsideMagic.com.  We learned how to clean a SIM card.  We found a great take-out menu to a restaurant that serves only desserts  (they have not heard of aplomb either) and we have a newish phone.  It is a flip phone but that’s okay.  It still is able to take and show pictures so we’ll have pertinent artwork to display on the InsideMagic.com site.

All has come together well.

By the way, we bought two different sets of Scotch and Soda.  We like one more than the other but are trying to figure out how to describe the differences without exposing the trick.  Once we do, we’ll share a review here with glossy images from our phone.

That’s the latest.  We hope you didn’t miss us too much.  We definitely missed you.  In the interim, we hope  you checked out our Twitter feed at @insidemagic.  We try to update it several times a day and always magic related content.

No April Fools’ Day Here

Inside Magic Image of Ed Mishell DrawingAs reader or readers of this august news source for all things magic know, we intensely dislike April Fools’ Day.

Magicians by their nature — a nature honed through DNA revisions and natural splicing — enjoy embarrassing and entertaining people all the time.

But there is more enjoyment if entertaining than fooling in our book — the yet to be published tome, Make a Choice: Embarrassing versus Entertaining.  We have submitted the book to several publishers but none have taken it up.  We have several published articles on the topic but the circulation of those articles have been restricted — due to lack of interest — to our family members; and not even all of them.  Actually just two family members took a copy of the articles and we’re not sure they read them.

We will also admit that although our act from the age of 9-years-old to 30-years of age included sucker tricks like Fraidy Cat Rabbit, the Sucker Sliding Die Box and Hippity Hop Rabbits — all sucker tricks — we have changed our approach to magic and no longer perform sucker tricks or effects where a volunteer from the audience is made to look foolish or like a dupe.  We figure they are nice enough to pay for our best and by definition, our best cannot include effects where we can make a patron look stupid.

At this point in any article of this type, we would say something like “but of course, we don’t condemn those who use sucker tricks.”  We have no such statement to make here.

We can say, as noted above that our use of the sucker trick was curtailed when we put ourselves in the shoes of those who were guests.  We came to the conclusion and theory of performing that because no one likes to feel stupid ever, we should not make an individual feel unsafe or of decreased ability to fully enjoy the show.

But what about Slydini’s Vanishing Napkins?  Do you still do that?  Isn’t that the ultimate sucker trick?  True, we are singling out a single volunteer to be fooled by the vanish of napkins or rolled up paper; whilst the audience clearly sees how the effect is done.

We still do the effect because it is a classic, is not meant to make a volunteer look stupid but as an active actor in the miracle.  Perhaps that is not fair and just shows our hypocrisy, but we hope not.

Magic is unique in the entertainment world on the embarrassment/entertaining.

For our act and individual routines, we choose to treat volunteers with respect and allow them to join in the fun from the start.

 

Inside Magic Review: One Hundred Years of Sawing

Image of Author Mike CaveneyWe were fortunate enough to be in The Magic Castle the night Mike Caveney presented a lecture on his new book One Hundred Years of Sawing: The Astonishing History of Magic’s Most Iconic Illusion.

Mr. Caveney is the magic world’s scribe and if society was somehow destroyed; thousands of years from now, archeologists would learn all they could know about this epoch from his books.  He knows magic history and, more importantly, loves magic history more than any magician we know.  Future societies will be forced to conclude that magic and its history was our world’s focus.

Sawing is a work of love and a gift to those who love magic.

There were a total of 1,200 editions of the book published.  100 of which are Deluxe Editions.  We have number 390 of the Regular Edition and will proudly keep it on our special magic bookcase; next to the Taschen book, Magic: 1400s – 1950s.  He co-authored that mammoth book with Ricky Jay and Jim Steinmeyer.  Both books are heavy.   Not just in content or tone, but by actual weight (together they weigh 16.6 lbs). We have braced our bookcase and the supporting beams in the wall accordingly.

Sawing brings readers through a wonderful trip through history from the effect’s origins before 1921, its golden era in 1921, the patent litigation over the effect, and its history through our modern day.  It is filled with incredible stories of the magicians who invented, innovated and stole the illusion.  Mr. Caveney treats readers with incredible images at each juncture.  In many cases, these are photos we have never seen.

Put all that together and you can imagine our joy in paging slowly through the book.  It is a very slow read.  Not because it is long but because it is full and detailed.  As far as we can tell, there is not a significant event in the history of this illusion that is not addressed.  Of course, we realize that our knowledge of the trick is now completely informed by Mr. Caveney’s recitation of its history.

In deciding to write a review of the book, we worried that it would either be too short – “we loved it!” – or too long – “on page 129, Mr. Caveney begins to address the development of ….”  That worry persists and is perhaps proven to be valid by the length and depth of this review.

Words do not do justice to the words and images Mr. Caveney presents in this book nor the history he has neatly set before readers.

If you love magic, love history, love the stories of odd but enchanting individuals of magic history, this book is a must read.  Or more correctly, this book is a must have so you can spend hours with it and enjoy all that it provides.

We are so thankful for authors and historians like Mr. Caveney.

Check out his website here.

InsideMagic Review: 5 out 5! 

Inside Magic Review: David Copperfield’s History of Magic

Inside Magic Image of David CopperfieldWe have been a fan of David Copperfield since his early days.  We anticipated his television specials with the same excitement as we did with Doug Henning.  These were two men with a demonstrable love for the artform around which we focused our life.

How great would it be to be either man.  Have trucks, busses, roadies, technical experts and assistants working with a common cause — to entertain with the most entertaining art of all, Magic.

Given our past as prologue for this review, you can probable guess where we are heading.

We ordered our book from Amazon the day Mr. Copperfield announced it would be ready months later.  Those months between our order and the book’s arrival seemed to tick slowly by.  We wanted that book, we needed that book.

It arrived and we were then filled with apprehension and anxiety.  What if the book was not all that we hoped.  What if it was a flimsy (but hardbound) review of Magic’s history starting with tricks we already knew started our art and ending as a promotional piece for Mr. Copperfield?

We decided to cast our anxiety to the wind.  This is tough to do in a small apartment located over the place where they bake dog treats here in West Hollywood.  You cannot really cast anything.  So we opened the book having received the cast anxiety’s boomerang back to us but with the smell of doggie cookies.

Well, let us tell you something.  Our doubts and anxiety were for naught.  This book is something to be read and enjoyed.  It has stories about Mr. Copperfield’s love of the magical arts and those steps along his career that made him an international sensation.  But even better — as if that would be possible — he shares stories and images of items from his very secret museum.  These are the real objects, tricks, costumes and literature collected by someone who appears as fanatical about the history of Magic as he is in performing.

We could take hours extolling the virtues of his book but that would essentially be copying the book with our less than adequate style.  We would still end the review with the gentle instruction to buy the book.  You could buy it for the images, the history, the care with which it is written, or the peek inside Mr. Copperfield’s warehouse of Magic.

Our recommendation, buy the book.  Get your own copy, share if you must but always with the firm instruction that the borrower must return the book promptly and would be better off buying it for him or herself.

A must buy!

Inside Magic Review: Five out of Five!

Happy National Magic Day

Amazing Kellar PosterWe read that today, January 31st, is International Magic Day and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Magic has done so much to make our life so exciting, interesting and satisfying.  There is a special feeling in bringing a special feeling to an audience member.  When the volunteer shows surprise or shock at what they have witnessed from a close-up perspective and validates the magic effect for the rest of the audience.  They trust the volunteer, the volunteer is amazed by the magician and thus the audience shares the amazement.

We have so many effects in bins, closets, suitcases and bookshelves.

Some will never see the light of day, some will be practiced and yet never included in our act but will be held in our suit pockets waiting to be pulled out and shown.  Our prop for our close-up routine as performed in the amateurs’ room at the Magic Castle consists of a single Bee deck with the Billy McComb crimp but our pockets are filled with so much more.

Magic taught us to come out of our shy personality, to have confidence in presentation, experience the joy in making an audience laugh and gasp, and provide us with a history to pass along to younger magicians just as we had been taught by our mentors.

We are asked after virtually every performance, “how did you learn?”  The question warms our heart because we remember all those professionals and amateurs who took the time to teach, watch, help to evaluate our performance and provide meaningful feedback.  We think of their kind eyes watching our performances at IBM and SAM club meetings and their kind words, later at a diner, about how we can improve and what we did well.

So, International Magic Day is a day to remember our mentors, family (always patient and willing to take a card, any card), and the enormous giants of our craft both historical and present.

What a wonderful life magic has provided.