Inside Magic Letters to the Editer

It is the stated and occasionally followed policy of Inside Magic to publish letters to the editor.  If you have a question for the editor of this esteemed virtual news outlet, please send your comments or questions to editor@insidemagic.com.  While the editor is not always available or conscious, when he is, he is really on his game. 

Dear Sir or Madam:

In your most recent blog post, you commented that Harry Houdini was dead.  I wondered why you would mention this well-known factoid.  Were you just in need of space to be taken up or was this supposed to be real news for the “professional” magician?  What was the point?  Are there people who think Harry Houdini is not dead?  Or were you being metaphorical and saying his legacy is dead? Or, maybe you were saying his spirit lives on but his body is dead and buried?  Again, what was the point?  Who else is dead that you should tell us about?  I subscribe to Inside Magic to get the latest news not the late news.  Did you hear that Lindbergh made it to Paris?  He did, he flew solo across the Atlantic.  That’s all. Pick it up, please.

Editor’s Response:

It has been a while since we commented on the living or non-living status of Harry Houdini but your email reminds us that it is about time to again remind readers that Harry Houdini died at 1:26 on October 31, 1926 at Grace Receiving Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.  The cause of his death was ruled an accident resulting from a blow received several days earlier in Montreal whilst reclining in his dressing room.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his widow and surviving family.  There is discussion of having yearly séances in honor of Houdini and to test the theories of spiritualism against which he fought so valiantly.

The Lindbergh news is not really magic related and so that was probably why we didn’t pick up on it – that is our bad and we accept the blame.  Good for him.  We hope his experience will be positive for all interested in flying.

Ironically, “Pick it Up, Please” was the title of our first top 100 hit in 1972.  It was actually the B-side of “Don’t Litter, Bug!” but got much more radio play thanks to our great A&R man, Zanzo O’Hara.  We peaked at 47 with the 45 RPM record and still receive royalties from it.  It was sampled on Eminem’s Marshal Mather’s “The Way I Am” track on his groundbreaking “The Marshal Mathers’ LP.”  Eminem said he loved the “funk and instructive tone to the bridge on our 45.”  That was good enough for us.  It was also used as the background sound for a movie about a carnival funhouse that is haunted by bad people.  We don’t know why they used it.  There was nothing funky or instructive about the scene in which it was used.  A woman and man, each younger than 21, get on the ride and look at each other before the cart in which they are riding goes through the front “gate” of the fun house.  They never return but part of their clothes return, albeit blood stained.

Continue reading “Inside Magic Letters to the Editer”

Magicians, History and Corn Dogs

You can ask anyone, what does Inside Magic like?

Those in the know will say, usually with a chirpy tone, cool magic stuff from magic history and corn dogs.

Taking the list in order, we look constantly for cool magic stuff from magic history.  We have a key to the city given to Harry Blackstone Jr. given by the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan.  We have posters and pictures of great magicians through the years.  Some of our fondest memories have been eating corn dogs.

Other great memories have been talking to older magicians about the magicians they have seen or with whom they worked.

We recalled a wonderful conversation about Harry Blackstone, Jr. (the impetus for our mention of my souvenir) and how compassionate he was for his staff and assistants.  He certainly did not need to be – he was the star and his show was a hit.  But he was.

We have a multi-page letter handwritten by Doug Henning in response to our question, “how can a magician who is only 12 make it as a professional.”

Not surprisingly, he did not tell us to get an agent, make posters, berate theater managers; but to practice the art, learn the rules of being a magician and have fun.

We work in a wonderful art.  People genuinely love to be entertained and fooled and corn dogs.

We provide two out of the three and the more we do it, the more entertaining it becomes for us and our audience.

We wonder how the younger generation learns about our grand history.  Perhaps there are still meetings over an occasional corn dog where mustard-stained young performers can hear stories of Willard the Wizard, Thurston, Houdini, Kellar, Dante and our favorite, Harry Blackstone, Jr.

Although the image is not of Harry Blackstone, Jr. or any deep-fried hot dog, we think the poster used by Kellar displaying his “latest” illusion of “self-decapitation” is illustrative of our wonderful history.  No one – at least no one we have seen in the last 20-years has performed “self-decapitation” and even decapitation of others has fallen into disfavor (correctly in our humble opinion) due to world events.  But his poster was drawn in sketch form, colored in, placed on lithographic machinery and literally inked with several different passes – one for each color – leaving a space to make the poster applicable to the town or setting where Kellar would soon perform.  How wonderful.

You can find wonderful posters of magicians and non-magicians throughout history at the Library of Congress for your viewing and enjoyment.  We hope you do.

Glenn Close and Derren Brown Share Slap Fight on Social Media

One of the things we rarely see on Twitter is physical violence against prominent magicians.  And usually that is a good thing.

While people may get frustrated with great magicians, like Derren Brown – star of the one-man show Secret now showing on Broadway – we almost never see folks slap, punch or physically attack magicians.

For some reason, both Mr. Brown and Glenn Close each opted to share video of their bout on social media today.  It looks to our untrained and empathy-induced puffy eye that Ms. Close got the best of Mr. Brown with a final slap that sends him reeling into the darkness of the studio.

We have never been slapped with such fury and we have done many a thing worthy of such a slap from a celebrity.

Inside Magic readers will no doubt recall our confrontation with a former president of a prominent anti-magician association in which we said, “hey, why don’t you pick on people who don’t customarily wear hats?”

That was quite a while ago but still the former president of the organization did not accost us.  He merely knocked our opera hat from our pre-toupee wearing head.

No damage was caused to the hat (it still compressed and sprung into place with a mere flick of our spindly wrist).

Or the time we spoke with Mary Pickford about what we thought was an affront to our wonderful art contained on an interstitial card in one of her then hit movies.

The card appeared immediately after the star’s character slumped in a chair and showed a face that conveyed sadness and regret.  “What can I do? I’m not a magician!”

Ms. Pickford, ever the pro, pretended not to hear us at the red carpet premier of the film.

It could be that she didn’t hear us over the din of the other reporters and popping of flash bulbs but we prefer to think she heard us and decided it was best for her career to not physically lift our then lithe body and slam it into the cement bearing the hand imprints of Charlie Chaplin at the Chinese Theatre.

Or the time we were interviewing Lassie on her controversial spat with Rin Tin Tin’s estate over copyright issues.

Or when we featured Topo Gigio in one of our pre-internet editions of this journal and he became exasperated by our inability to understand a single word he was saying.

Or when we likened a certain movie star to Topo Gigio with marbles in her mouth.

Or when we saw Lassie on the streets of Beverly Hills without his trainer and we brought up the then-burning question about her gender.  There were some in the Hollywood press who insisted Lassie was a boy dog playing the part of a girl dog.

But we were never bitten – not even by Mary Pickford who, according to one autobiography we made up for this sentence, bit everyone.

Maybe the slap fight was part of a promotional campaign.  There must be a reason for the slapping.  Dr. Thomas LeTray writes in his seminal treatise on the subject, Slapping: Its Causes and Meaning, “… it is unusual, in fact, statistically unlikely, that rational people will engage in slapping behavior without a cause or meaning.”

We look forward to learning the cause and meaning of the slapping.  If you would like to see the video, you can visit the Onion’s AV Club site here.

Anastasia Synn – Magician and Cyborg

Like many magicians, we have considered getting implants.  Just not the type Anastasia Synn chose.

Mrs. Synn is more than a magician, maybe she is also a walking MRI concern. (We note that Mrs. Synn has shared that the magnet and MRI concern is a myth).

She has 26 microchips implanted in her body.  She discussed her implanting at a recent Biohacker Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

We read about her, and squirmed, in Stat News.  You can do the same here.

Where other biohackers were presenting their latest findings with PowerPoint, Mrs. Synn actually pushed the point of a long needle through her forearm.  On purpose.

Although magic is her thing, she is also a designer of implants for others.

She describes herself as a cyborg and by that means “anyone that wants to add technology or anything that isn’t already in their body to their body to achieve a new sense or a new ability.”

We had an uncle who got an extra spleen even though he did not need one – his God-given spleen was working fine by all accounts – but he felt it gave him super powers over sugar.  It wasn’t until weeks later that he learned that the pancreas was the sugar processor and not the spleen.  He processes old red blood cells like a champ but that’s not really a super power – except to red blood cells that have reached their “best used by date.”  To them, his double spleen is like a Marvel character.

At the time of the interview in Stat News, Mrs. Synn had 26 implants but was getting two more in the next day and was shooting for an even (in non-Euclidian geometry theory) 35.

“I’m a magician, so I use them in my magic act. And I also use them in my day-to-day life — to unlock my door at home, or to let my cat speak. I know that sounds crazy, but my cat’s upgraded even, so I can scan him, and he will tell his story about how I found him behind a grocery store. I love my cat.”

Mrs. Synn was very careful to not reveal magic secrets in her interview.

“I can’t go into too much detail about how the implants are used in magic, but there’s multiple ways that they can be used and even more ways they can be designed to be used.”

She notes that the implantation of magnets and devices into the human body is not literally sanctioned by the medical community.  They are coated but even the coating is not medically sanctioned.  She checks her body, blood levels, liver enzymes and kidney function every three months.

Go to Stat News for the full low down on how she has implanted more than half of the devices herself and her experience with the TSA.

It is an amazing story but we are still afeared of implanting anything in our body.  We won’t even eat sharp cheese.

Visit Mrs. Synn’s website here for pictures and a biography of her amazing work.

Magician Paul “The Trickster” Featured

Paul Debek is known as “The Trickster” in the current iteration of the deservedly world-famous touring company of The Illusionists.

The Trickster does more than comedy and magic, he essentially works as the emcee for the show.  His work is discussed in today’s edition of Broadway Direct.  You can read about him and The Illusionists – the Marvel or DC comics version of magicians – in the edition yourself by going here.

It is a great piece that discusses how he first got into the Art and then learned to mix in his own brand of comedy.

We were called “The Trickster” for a while also but that was a whole, non-magic situation involving alleged tools appropriate only “in a dentist office” or the “bag of a burglar.”

Long-time Inside Magic readers will no doubt recall our first album’s name was “The Bag of a Burglar.”  We were sued by McDonalds for our use of the term “The Bag of a Burglar” but because we received the title by using the actual description of a police officer in the line of duty, our local court found we bore no resemblance to the McDonalds’ character who stole meat from people.  Plus we didn’t sell many albums.  CDs were all the rage and our vinyl records seemed out-of-place and unplayable on most CD players.  (Of course we recall that Sony had a Walkman edition that could play vinyl records and CDs but we choose to omit that device from our claim because of its horrible safety record of accidental blinding or cornea scratching from out-of-control LP needles and control arms). 

But enough about us.  Let’s talk about you.  If you are in New York, be sure to check out The Illusionists.  You can learn more about the tour here. The show will be in New York at the beautifully appointed Neal Simon Theater just in time for the Holidays.

New York Times Loves Derren Brown’s New Broadway Show

It should come as no surprise that Derren Brown’s new Broadway one-man show, Secret, has received rave reviews from magicians like David Copperfield.  Magicians know what amazing things can come from Mr. Brown’s very fertile mind.  He is, in a word, incredible.

But beyond the common magician or human audience member, there is the critical eye of the critics who with their often very critical pen draft criticism of nearly every new show that hits the Great White Way.

Given that truth as prologue, we were very impressed that the New York Times, the Gray Lady, praised Mr. Brown’s show and Mr. Brown in particular — which makes sense in a one-man show situation.

They wrote:

As a showman, Mr. Brown has none of the smarminess of Las Vegas prestidigitators or carnival hucksters. He feels nonsynthetic in his smoothness, and his jokes directed at the audience stay carefully on the sunny side of insults.

We have long taken a firm stand in favor of smarminess of not only Las Vegas performers and carnival hucksters but we are broad-minded enough to accept non-smarmy presentations of our grand art as well.  It could be that we like smarminess because we are in fact smarmy.  We tried to go to those camps where they sweat the smarminess out of you — we were surprised our insurance company covered the 30 days at Malibu Smart Not Smarmy Treatment Center and Spa, but they did and it didn’t work.

We even wrote an article for the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Smarminess, The New Epidemic?” It was a case study of magicians and hucksters across the US, Canada and parts of Luxembourg.  Yes, the study was later rejected by real doctors but at least we brought the issue to the attention of medical professionals.  And yes, it was removed from the site and replaced by a study on cancer or heart disease or something.  We didn’t read the replacement article — hence proving that we are smarmy by mentioning something that cannot be found to back up our claim. Quod Erat Demonstrandum, amigos.

Mr. Brown is showing his non-smarmy, smart, intriguing and, to some, “life changing” show at the famous prior home of Doug Henning, The Cort Theater in New York.

We look forward to seeing his show as soon as we can get to New York and purchase tickets to this sold-out show.

It is axiomatic that if the New York Times likes the show, the tickets will no longer be available in the short and middle-run.  We are willing to pay scalpers’ prices to see Mr. Brown.  That is saying a lot because we are cheap, very cheap.  We wear the same suit we wore to our baptism (we had to expand the pants a bit because we grew since we were an infant).  Our world-famous father once said, “save your money and you’ll always have money saved.”  He also said other things that have nothing to do with money unless you consider horse race touting as money related.

If you are in the New York area — including bordering states and parts of Canada — we urge you to work against your cheap ways and go to see this show.  It is guaranteed to be a once in a lifetime experience.  Mr. Brown is, in our father’s immortal words, “a sure thing upon which you could bet both lungs.”

Hurry though.  The show is scheduled to close January 2, 2020.

Get tickets for Mr. Brown’s show — when they become available here.

Check out Mr. Brown’s website here.

Read the New York Times review here.

 

Friday Free Advertising: Jay Sankey

We have praised Jay Sankey and reviewed (very favorably) his lectures.   He is innovative and practical with real professional routines deserving of your consideration.  Today is just such an offering.

If you are a potential Friday Free Advertising Candidate, send us your details and even ad copy for consideration.  If you include the effect, we’ll review the effect but inform Inside Magic readers that we have received the effect from you.  Send what you have to FFA@insidemagic.com

Mr. Sankey has not provided any compensation or promise of compensation for this Friday Free Advertisement.

Last week I performed at a cocktail party, and I astounded everybody with one of my most shocking ‘mental connection’ tricks.

To watch this powerful trick in action CLICK HERE!

With ‘Simultaneous’ the deck is cut into two halves, and you randomly touch a face-down card from one of the halves…

…then the spectator freely selects a second face-down card, from the other half of the pack.

And when both cards are turned over…they’re revealed to be MATES! (eg. two black Jacks, two red Fours, etc.)

*’Simultaneous’ is VERY easy to do.
*The spectator really has 100% free choice.
*The secret gimmick works with most brands of cards.
*And the method is SO sneaky – it even fools experienced magicians!

FREE GIFT! This week I’m including ‘Simultaneous’ as a FREE GIFT with all orders for ‘Inside Job’ ($15 value!)

And with ‘Inside Job’ you’ll be able to perform a killer ‘impossible location’ trick – using a borrowed finger ring, coin, key or even an earring!

Together, the two tricks are a $40.00 value.

But until Sunday night at 12:00 midnight, you can order both for JUST $17.95.

To order my ‘Inside Job’ magic pack before they sell-out CLICK HERE NOW.

This weekend – blow someone’s mind!

Jay

“Simultaneous takes the classic ‘Do As I Do’ trick to an insane new level.”-Roger West

“Inside Job is a rock star level effect.”-Danny Tanner

“Jay performed ‘Simultaneous’ during his lecture for our club, and when he revealed the secret everybody gasped. So darn clever!”-Donny Brannigan

“I’ve never had people respond to a trick like they do with Inside Job. Can’t thank you enough.”-Michael Leeson

Jon Anderson,Taylor Hughes and Shawn Preston Head Steamboat Magic Fest

Steamboat Springs, Colorado is a wonderful and beautiful place in and of itself but every year, it becomes more than that.  It becomes magical.

This is the fifth year of the Steamboat is Magic! Festival and by our calculation that makes it the Fifth Anniversary of the Fest.  The town and folks with in range of the paradise that is Steamboat are encouraged to visit the Chief Theater on Friday, Sept. 13 and Saturday, Sept. 14.  Again, by our calculations, that this this weekend.

“This is one of my favorite events each year,” said Scott Parker, executive director of the Chief Theater.

The theater has hosted magic since 1938 when Marquis, then a “world-renowned magician” entertained the town.

Inside Magic Favorite Jon Armstrong (and fellow Orlando resident) has brought his magic to 40 countries and is a favorite at the Magic Castle here in Hollywood, California (near Los Angeles, under the big “Hollywood” sign).

Here are the details:

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13 — Jon Armstrong; 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 — Magic Workshop; 6 p.m. — Family Show with Taylor Hughes; 8 p.m. — Shawn Preston, Closing Gala

Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.

Cost: Individual tickets $15 for adults, $10 for children; Magic Pass for access to all four shows and workshop $60 for adults, $40 for children

“The festival in Steamboat is always awesome,” Armstrong said. “I’m so happy to return for another year.”

The festival has been very popular in past years,” he said. “This year, we’re doing cards, mind reading, magic with regular objects, magical story telling and disappearing acts.”

Read the entire article here and be sure to attend if you can.  It will be magical.

 

P.T. Barnum Proven Right Again

We think it was P.T. Barnum that said, “Missing Goats Make Gravy.”  He was likely talking about the type of gravy that one would eat or slurp from a plastic bottle affixed to a fanny pack as one does one’s daily exercise walk through the mall.  But like all great quotes we invent, it applies to more than food or exercise supplements.

Really?  Yes, we have an example.

The Arizona State Fair is a big event and usually a pretty dry experience.  It is, after all, in the Phoenix area and we have it on good authority that it is usually sunny and desert-like.

But for some reason, known only to people who know science and stuff, it rained for six days.  The rain was so heavy, rides had to be shut down.  Things were looking bad.  “Many people deferred their visit because of the rain, which was unusual for Arizona, because we don’t usually get rain this time of year,” said Kristi Walsh, Assistant Executive Director of the Fair.  “Considering the weather, the fact the fair was only down about 5 percent is positive.”

Yes, things were looking bleak for the Fair organizers until GusGus went missing.

GusGus was just three weeks old at the time of his abduction by unknown bad people.  He was taken from the petting zoo on the fairgrounds and was not located for ten days.  The search for this poor little goat brought attention to the moist midway just as P.T. Barnum predicted.

“We made international news, it was one of the biggest stories we’ve ever had the fair,” said Walsh. “We got a lot of extra publicity for the fair that we never had before.

“We had international coverage, reports in France and Canada, we were fielding a lot of calls. There were reports that Gus-Gus misses his mommy,” said Walsh. “The Petting Zoo manager said it was not healthy for the baby goat to be away from his mother and people took it to heart.”

A Good Samaritan walking his or her dog found GusGus about ten miles from the fairgrounds and brought to him PetsMart.  (We did not know that was the protocol for found farm animals but it makes sense to us and will be in the next edition of our Illustrated What to Do Guide).

“It was really great, our media partners covered the story and our Facebook fans were posting about GusGus,” Walsh said. “They really put out the word, and it was refreshing that there were so many people who cared about the goat as opposed to some bad people who would actually steal a goat.”

The publicity not only brought attention to the fair, “but it was promotional too, the social media really got a hold of the story and ran with it. I think it pushed attendance too, people came to the fair to see GusGus,” Walsh said.

Head Lice Puts a Crimp on Magicians

Head lice is problem for most of us working in the hat exchange underground that is West Hollywood, California.  No one wants to talk about it but it is time to change the silent acquiescence that allows these parasites to take away our fun and profit.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, lice is becoming a serious national problem.  There is a new breed of “super lice,” able to resist modern drug treatments and spread their way from person to person with impunity.

Like most performers, we no longer wear a top hat off-stage.  It used to be, a magician would not be caught dead without a top hat somewhere on his or her person.  We cannot trace this unfortunate trend to head lice – perhaps it is a question of fashion – but head lice is not helping.

[Serious students of magic no doubt recall those immortal words being uttered by Houdini during a challenge escape in Kansas City, Missouri.  A local hat maker dared the great Houdini to be sewn into a huge silk hat and escape within a half hour.  Houdini did the feat in just 15 minutes but was heard to exclaim to his on-stage assistant that the escape was progressing well “but the head lice is not helping.”]

We used to pass our hat at the end of our performance and, often, audience members would become confused and try to wear the hat rather than donate money.  Back in our carefree – and money-free – days, we would don the empty hat and stroll off to the next ward in the hospital to again perform.  We never gave a thought to the dangers of head lice.

After a day of performing, we would go to the local hat exchange pub and do what hat exchangers do.  This was back in Michigan where folks were not so enlightened.  People didn’t exchange hats in Michigan.  Your hat was for your head and that’s it.  Consequently, we had to seek out the hat-x club in a neighboring town to do what we enjoyed with people we would not later admit to knowing.

West Hollywood – like most of California – is much more accepting of hat exchanging.  People seem to accept, understand and embrace those who want to try different hats if for no other reason than it is fun.  We were at a local hat-x, The Fez, just off Santa Monica the other night and noticed a different feel to the room.

Yes, it was just as crowded.  The usual group of lawyers, doctors, day laborers, academics, anemics, anti-emetics and ambulatory specialists were in attendance.  But there was a different sense.  Gone was the joie de vivre that once infused the group.  As we watched re-runs of the 1980s classic children’s television show, Lidsville, we looked around.  No one was exchanging hats.

We offered our fedora to a professional golfer and she started, instinctively, to reach for her fine Titleist snap-back cap but then stopped.  She looked at us carefully and turned away.  We looked down at the newspaper she was clutching in her well-manicured and perfectly calloused hands to see the headline about the “super lice.”

Suddenly our head began to itch.