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.

Twitter Magic

Inside Magic Image of Innovative BunnyOne of the most delightful things we’ve discovered during the lockdown is Twitter Magic. We have found magicians from around the world performing one trick at a time and performing it with exceptional talent. You can see our collection of fantastic card and coin magic on our Twitter channel at @insidemagic.

We are always looking for new performers to feature and always delighted to learn new methods and new styles to old tricks. It is so fascinating to see young people taking effects that we learned thousands of years ago and turn them into miracles.

We follow the time zones around the world so we may see great card magic starting in New York, coin magic in Chicago, fantastic effects in Las Vegas, then California and after a few hours Hawaii, Japan, Korea, China, India, Europe and then back to New York.

Be sure to check out our Twitter feed (@InsideMagic) and if you know of Twitter handles we should be following please pass them along.

This is a great time for magicians to stretch their stuff and The magicians who are strutting are right to strut. They’ve got the stuff and are practiced

WonderBash is Coming – Not Just Magic Tricks

Promo Poster for WonderBashWe just heard from our friends in Grand Rapids, Michigan that a new convention is on tap for April.  If you have news you would like to share with our tens of readers, just hit the submit button above and let us know.  We’re always looking for good magic news.

Introducing a new magic convention that’s “more than tricks” : WonderBash April 21-23 in Grand Rapids, MI. Only 150 registrations available. Register now and book your discounted room at the beautiful Amway Grand Plaza Hotel before spaces run out! morethantricks.com

3 Stage Shows at Wealthy Theatre

Shock Illusionist Dan Sperry “Strange Magic” (Full Theatre Show)

Mario the Maker Magician LIVE (Full Theatre Show)

Amaze & Amuse: A Modern Day Magic Show ( Ft. Michael Turco, Paige Thompson, Trent James, Elliott Hunter and Will Juggle)

6 Lectures (Mario the Maker Magician, Rick Merrill, Dan Sperry, Michael Turco, Trent James, Steve Cabe)

Exclusive Book (only available to Wonderbash Registrants / Never to be reprinted) Contributions from WonderBash Performers and other top magicians including Jeff Hobson, Farrell Dillon, Fred Becker, Bill Cook, Louie Foxx and more!

Seminar and Conversation on Mental Health for Entertainers with Jeff Veley

Close-Up Show featuring Paige Thompson and Luis Carreon.

Thursday Night Comedy Show with Andy Beningo and Friends

and many more surprises!

Great Magic Cyber Monday

Everyone is having a Cyber Monday sale.

Magic stores, both virtual and brick-n-mortar, are joining the ranks of the superstores to offer incredible discounts and once-in-a-season deals on effects.

Even fireworks vendors in our neighborhood are offering early New Year’s items at greatly discounted prices.  (Hence the Black Cat firecracker graphic).

We wanted to have a Cyber Monday sale but we don’t really sell anything on InsideMagic.com.

In fact, due to our Fire Sale last month, we are all out of the little novelty / slum magic we bought years ago for just this type of occasion.  Fortunately, it was just our storage pod in the desert area south of Riverside, California that was damaged in the event and even then, only the things under our second-hand magnifying glasses.

If anyone is interested in a beautiful amalgam of plastic Cups and Balls combined with Ball Vases and Magic Wands, we have only one and it is about the size of meteor.  We are going to save it for a future Antiques Roadshow and perhaps it will be valued as an artistic work.

We have, however, seen some great magic in the past month.

We didn’t perform it and we don’t even know the names of those who did.  But we do know great magic when it is performed and Twitter has become our go-to place for great effects performed flawlessly.  Granted, we don’t know how many takes these Twitter videos took but we don’t really care.

According to the Law of Large Numbers, even if we had a deck of cards and an infinite time to perform the effect, we would never be able to do it.  So, compared with 100 monkeys who have 100 years to write Hamlet, we would be seen as a distant second.  In fact, we couldn’t write Hamlet even if you gave us 100 monkeys to help and 100 years to do it.  We would likely distract the monkeys with questions about banana freshness and their unsanitary methods of attacking humans watching them.

But here are three Twitter stars that we recommend to your attention.  If you love them, let them know.  If you want to see more, you can follow our carefully curated Twitter feed at @insidemagic.

Great Magic Performed Greatly.

Impossible.

Really Amazing and Fast.

If you have a feed you would like us to follow, please drop us note at @insidemagic.  We are always on the look out.

[Edit] We just heard back from Antiques Roadshow, they said the piece of art has to created by an actual artist and cannot be the remnants of things left in the desert sun.

We’re Back as if by Magic

Picture of Inside Magic EditorIt has been awhile since we posted on this esteemed website and while we could discuss the reasons for our absence, we will leave the details to TMZ’s excellent, though somewhat biased, coverage.  We can say that we find the Royal Family to be a delight and to be honest, we were not aware that the Queen could operate Zoom so well.  We appreciated her kind admonition, “We believe you are still on mute.”

We have been spending much time at The Magic Castle and though it has reduced operating days, it is still the same clubhouse that we love and where our friends and magical family gather.  We never leave without feeling ebullient and informed.

We have seen so many acts that were new to us.  Acts that featured performers we have wanted to see for a long time and thus our wishes were granted.  All of this is on top of the great food.  Not literally on top of the food, that would be a violation of the LA County Health Guidelines and certainly not welcomed by us.

During this break from life as it once was, we have taken to purchasing books to help us learn moves and sleights that we thought we knew well but realized were really just a collection of lazy and bad habits formed over our decades of performances.  We have re-learned Twisting the Aces to try to imitate Dai Vernon’s method.  He worked so naturally and flawlessly.  We have worked on our coins across and cut and restored rope as taught by Pop Haydn.

We have worn and perhaps permanently damaged our relationship with family members with our constant request that they watch or select a card.  They now do so without truly watching or memorizing the card selected.  To the extent they do either – even if only to appease us – is a testament to their love for us.

We look forward to the end of this pandemic and pray for those fighting the virus regardless of their occupation but certainly including medical professionals and front-line workers.

One day we will be back to normal.  Here’s to hoping we do not lose more of our fellow magicians, their family members, their community, our nation and the world.

We will work with our dedicated staff to update this site more frequently now that we have things to relate from The Magic Castle.

Here is to hoping you are all safe, staying safe, and will be with us on the other side of this horrible pandemic.