Passing of Magicians Thompson and Brodien

We are easily affected by many things.  We cry at weddings, movies, supermarket openings.  But we were very moved by the passing of Johnny Thompson and Marshall Brodien.  We knew both – although we are sure they didn’t know us – and respected each for their incredible contributions to our wonderful art.

We are originally from Chicago and watched Mr. Brodien on the Bozo Circus show as Wizzo the Wizard.  As a young (first very young and then just younger than we are now), Wizzo was wonderful.  It was live television and Mr. Brodien was performing real magic effects for both the studio audience and the kids home for lunch during school days.

Later, Mr. Brodien was seen nationally with his TV Magic Cards.  Realize we had never seen a Svengali Deck before and so Mr. Brodien’s commercials were memorized and worshipped.  We could not understand how he could pull off the miracles he performed with a simple deck of cards.

We bugged our father for days to take us to Walgreens to purchase the deck.  We had saved the money and when we brought it home, it was worth ten times the $2.95 we paid for it.  It was incredible in construction and instruction.  Within an hour, we were performing the effect for family and then in our shows at the elementary school we attended.  A true miracle.

It also taught us a very important lesson: never perform the same trick twice for the same audience.  A Svengali Deck is to be seen only once.  Once is enough.  Put the deck back in the case and back in our pocket.  We learned this lesson the hard way when one of our classmates asked, “Is it always the 2 of Spades?”  We said something about how she was just lucky and moved on to our next trick. Continue reading “Passing of Magicians Thompson and Brodien”

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Magicians Steve Wastell & John Shryock to Close Wolf Week

Sedona is a magical place anyway; so adding magicians Steve Wastell and John Shryock to close out their annual Sedona Wolf Week (aka “SWW”) is only appropriate.  In our book (Ways to Close out Annual Weeks: An Examination of the Proper Way to Close out Weeks in this Fast Moving Environment, Muffin Press  1972), it is necessary.

The two performers will put on their coup de gras (literally, “coupe of the grass” – an old French term that meant the time when lawn grass takes over the world and can drive any car it chooses.  It was the subject of a utopian (or dystopian – if you root for humans to stay on the top of the food chain) novel by Larry Orwell, George Orwell’s younger brother).

The two will be performing Saturday, March 30, during the closing night dinner.

Best of all money raised will be used provide transport, rescue, and lifesaving medical care to wolves, wolfdogs, sanctuaries, rescues and other wolf supporting organizations.

This is the third year for the SWW, a collaboration betwixt Plan B to Save Wolves and Apex Protection Project. The organizations’ mission is to change the way people view wolves and to influence government policy development “regarding wolves while creating respect and protections for this essential apex predator.”

Mr. Wastell told reporters that A true magician doesn’t merely “do tricks.” A true magician connects with their audience and takes them to a place of wonder.  Mr. Wastell has been dubbed “a master magician and a great entertainer.”

Mr. Wastell seeks to bring magic in to the modern age, eschewing bunnies, rings and ropes (coincidentally, “bunnies, rings and ropes” was the name of our first filmstrip produced to promote safety in the use of all three items).

John Shryock, a famous entertainer, known for his million dollar smile has performed in over 100 cities across three continents. Shryock and Mari Lynn are regularly featured on television and in the top casinos, night clubs, cruise ships, conventions, and resorts across the globe. Audiences worldwide have enjoyed his energetic personality, captivating ‘sleight of hand,’ and spellbinding illusions. His impressive skills earned a command performance at President George W. Bush’s Gala Inaugural Ball and numerous appearances on the nationally broadcast television series, ‘Masters of Illusion.’”

The seating for the show is very limited (one per chair) and is expected to sell out. To purchase tickets, find out more information or for a full schedule of events or to get tickets, please visit www.SedonaWolf week.org or call (559) 425-6191

For a complete listing of events or to purchase tickets, please visit www.SedonaWolfWeek.org.

Plan B to Save Wolves

Read more about The Plan B Foundation here PlanB.Foundation.

To learn more about the Apex Protection Project visit ApexProtectionPro-ject.org.

Unfortunately our filmstrip and the above-referenced book are no longer available but do appear in collectors’ auctions on occasion.

Alan Parsons’ New Magic Album

We liked Alan Parsons but now we love him.

Mr. Parsons is coming out with a new album, titled “Secrets.”  It is his first in 15 years and has a magician with cards on the cover.  Already we’re intrigued.  But then we read an article about the album and the man behind it on U Discover Music and learned he is a member of the Magic Castle and one of us.

The album returns to the progressive pop-rock sound for which the Project were so loved, also reflecting Parsons’ longtime interest in magic. “[It] has always been a passion of mine,” he says. “I am a member of the Magic Castle in Los Angeles. I’ve also worked with the Japanese magic company Tenyo, writing instruction books and catalogues for their tricks. I dabble with magic myself in my free time, so an album with magical influences was a natural progression.”

You read that right.  This man not only wrote Eye in the Sky, produced for Pink Floyd, appeared in the West Palm Beach Auditorium (across from the Palm Beach Mall and in the same parking lot as the Expos minor league stadium) but he wrote instructions for Tenyo.  Get out of town!

That means that when we read instructions for Squeeze Play, Soft Coins, Crazy Spots or even In the News, we could have been reading the words of Alan Parsons.

Check out the full story here.

Check out Tenyo’s on-line catalogue here.

Finally, if you like cool pictures that seem like they must have some magic component, check out the official website for the St. Louis Gateway Arch here.

Because we lack a background in structural engineering – or most engineering for that matter – we have no idea how it stays up.

Someone told us magnets are the secret but we doubt it because we once went to the top and had magnets (our PK devices) in our pockets.

It was unintentional and there were no signs saying to not bring magnets in the special elevator that brings you to the top and we didn’t notice any shaking or swaying.

Coincidentally, the name of our first album in 1959 was “Shaking and Swaying” and the title track went nowhere on the pop charts in the U.S. but was a big hit in, of all things, elevator music catalogs.  Unfortunately we sold all rights to the album and cover art to a former friend who now lives outside of Paris (technically everybody but Parisians live “outside” of Paris but you know what we mean) and has a winery (also outside of Paris but still in France).

Magician Matt Vizio is Different

First published in 2018 but still accurate.  Matt is amazing.

How is magician Matt Vizio different than other magicians?

We watched him tonight at the Peller Theatre at the Magic Castle and sensed something was different than others we had seen in the same venue over the years.  Somehow, he was different, better than those we have seen before.

We learned more about what made him different after the show when we discovered the front row consisted of people who did not speak English all that well.  Actually, it appeared they did not speak English beyond a few polite phrases.

Mr. Vizio is an accomplished magician and stand-up comedian and one of those two talent sets require the ability to communicate effectively with the audience generally and with the volunteers specifically.  So what would he do?  How do you do a Confabulation routine if your volunteer doesn’t speak the language of the routine?

If it had been us, we would have just plowed along hoping to get some words we could use.  But then again, we are not Mr. Vizio.

He was able to change his act immediately and present a parlor show using volunteers from the audience (2 out of 3) who didn’t use English as a primary language. He did it with class and kindness and though he knew they could not understand him, he performed with them as perfect partners in a very entertaining act.

It was an act different in content than what he had planned but no one noticed.  Not even our trained eyes saw that he was changing his presentation to meet the situation.

We supposed that all true professionals of our Art could do the same.  But the fact that we have seen it so rarely happen demonstrated how few true professionals there are in our Art.

We have seen alleged professionals lose their temper, curse, and call the audience volunteer a liar as a trick goes wrong. And these performers are the putative top of our pack.

But Mr. Vizio didn’t need to attack the volunteers. He worked with them, silently when necessary, to perform effects he thought or hoped might work in that situation.  And last night, at one particular show, he was correct.  It is a small sample size – one show – but we bet he would succeed in a similar situation virtually every time.  He is focused, polite and clearly involved with his audience.

Mr. Vizio is professional to the core, never embarrassing his volunteers specifically or the audience generally, but always ready to craft the show to meet the audience on their terms.

We could talk about the tricks he performed but they may be different from those you see when you visit the Peller Theatre this week. The magic you will see is all Mr. Vizio.

Inside Magic Rating: Five out of Five. Our Highest.

Check out Mr. Vizio’s website herehttp://mattvizio.com

The Sorceress Takes the Stage

Magician and illusionist goes by the name “The Sorceress” and is excited to be the first female on stage with the fabulously popular The Illusionists – Live from Broadway” tour, scheduled to stop this weekend at the Easton State Theatre.

Sabine Van Diemen has a background as a model and dancer, but this weekend she will perform our art (and include some of her dancing chops)

Ms. Van Diemen told the Morning Call’s reporter it is “really cool” to be the first and only woman on the tour.

She will be working along with  An Ha Lim, “The Manipulator,” Jonathan Goodwin, “The Daredevil” Colin Cloud, “The Deductionist,” Paul Debak, “The Trickster,” and Raymond Crowe, “The Unusualist.”

Some have referred to the show as “Magic’s Cirque du Soleil” but we think it is better classified as a Tour de Force of great performers doing what each does best.

Ms. Van Diemen has been at it for about ten years and includes illusions, escapes and an effect you cannot buy online, a trick featuring a bullwhip.

She started as many of us did, as a ballerina when she was just 4 and joined the Holland Show Ballet when she turned 18.

She became focused on magic when “a magician in the show and one of the assistants had an injury one day,” she says. “They put me in the illusion called the fire cage, and I immediately loved it.”

She moved from modeling and dance to studying our wonderful craft.

In 2011 she met famous Dutch illusionist Hans Klok and worked together to create several hit shows.  We know Mr. Klok from his high-speed performance of magic and illusions.  We imagine working with him would be exhausting.  We get out of breath just breathing hard.  Ms. Van Diemen said of that partnership, “It was a rush.”

The two toured the globe and she was named the Silver Clown winner at the Circus Festival in Monte Carlo.  She started a solo act and was undaunted by being one of the few female performers in a very male dominated craft.

Ms. Van Diemen is able to speak multiple languages, has model looks and a great background in dance.  That could be the reason for her success or perhaps it is her daring willingness to take on dangerous escapes and full-scale stage illusions.  Whilst in Holland, she was named one of permanent hosts and perfomer at “Amsterdam Magic” and was featured on “Holland’s Got Talent.”

She moved from Holland to London to be one of the cast of the 2015 show “Impossible” and was asked to be one of “four horsemen” featured in the “Now You See Me Live” international magic tour.

Ms. Van Diemen says “Modeling is far behind me, but dancing will always be a part of me, so naturally I incorporate it in my act. Not that I necessarily do full-on choreography, but it’s in the way I move and hold myself on stage. I try to combine speech with movement to music while I do my illusions.”

Yes, but what about the bullwhip trick?

“The bullwhip is fun and exciting. It has a very surprising ending to it for one member of the audience.”

Sabine told reporters she enjoys working along with the other great performers on “The Illusionists” and “loves” the nickname “The Sorceress.”

“It’s cool,” she says. “It really sounds like a power chick, and I always strive to be one.”

If you are in Philadelphia or southern New Jersey, you really should not miss the show.  It is a wonderful production and plus you get to see a trick with a bullwhip.

The Illusionists- Live From Broadway

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 and March 1

Where: State Theatre, 453 Northampton St., Easton

Tickets: $59 and $65

Check out the full story on The Morning Call here.

 

Real Magic Duplicated for Effect

How could you not be intrigued by a man who is quoted as saying, “[a]nyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin”?

But you would correctly ask, what does this statement have to do with magic, Las Vegas, Barry Richardson, Criss Angel, David Copperfield and Doug Henning?

The answer that would come back would, at first, be unsatisfactory.

Dr. John Von Neuman was a distinguished polymath who could speak ancient Greek, helped to determine the scientific models necessary for the first atomic bomb and several schools of mathematics.  To say he was a genius is an understatement.

But it is his connection to magic and magic tricks that brings him to the front page of this humble publication.

Personally, we’re not good at book tests and don’t really enjoy watching them.  We have seen perhaps hundreds over our very long life but none have left a lasting impression.

While we take pride (also a sin) in our ability to speed read books but we don’t remember every word.

But Dr. Von Neuman could memorize entire phonebooks.  For real.  In fact, on one occasion he recited every entry until those listening agreed he had the phonebook memorized – that was after about fifteen minutes of reciting the name and associated phone number on each page.

The late genius of mentalism, Barry Richardson would often couch his effects with a story about some incredible individual who actually lived a real life and could be identified.  He would then duplicate the effect they performed allegedly by psychic powers but disclaim such powers in his performance.

We watched Mr. Richardson duplicate a demonstration performed first by a young Russian girl who could allegedly read any item with her fingertips.  She would be blindfolded or perhaps she was legally blind (we can’t recall) and could, through a pane of glass held by her examiners, read the serial numbers of currency, handwritten notes  and other documents using only  her fingertips running along the glass.  The pane of glass was used to prevent her from sensing the characters by feel.

Folks were amazed and attributed great powers to the young lady.

Mr. Richardson would then duplicate the effect, pane of glass and all, whilst blindfolded to the satisfaction of the magicians in the audience.  He could then read the serial number of a bill previously offered and signed by a random audience member.  The bill was signed to prevent his memorization of a pre-prepared note.  It was an outstanding performance.  We were astounded not only by the effect but also the story upon which it was based.

Dr. Von Neuman’s ability to memorize a phone book handed to him by a volunteer was performed as a trick for entertainment..  He used the power he had to entertain, not to boast.  Unfortunately for us magicians, he apparently actually did memorize the content of the phone book and there was no trick employed; thus making this duplicate by his method.

But, by combining Dr. Von Neuman’s story with a book test, magicians could elevate the effect on audiences.  In place of a book test, the memorization of an entire deck of cards ala Bob Cassidy could also benefit from the real-life story of Dr. Von Neuman.

We have performed the Bob Cassidy method of memorizing a deck of cards shuffled together by four audience members and then reviewed by us for just 15 seconds.  We never had a story to go with it.  It was at best a stunt or demonstration of our alleged powers.

But just think how using Dr. Von Neuman’s story in a method similar to that employed by Mr. Richardson could boost the effectiveness and interest in the trick by audiences.  It would no longer be a stunt but a duplication of a talent possessed by a real person who really existed.  It would therefore be possible and real.

We never claim to have psychic powers and disclaim any such ability but until today, we have never had a satisfactory story to present along with our performance.  We can now move beyond “hey, look at me and my clever stunt” to “let me tell you the story of an extraordinary man with a real history who had a real talent.”

Most book test performances we have witnessed involve the apparent guess of a word selected by the volunteer from a book selected from a collection of two or three volumes.  The magician asks the volunteer to select a page (either directly or through some apparently random process) and then proceeds to read the volunteer’s mind by having her concentrate on the selected word.  The magician presses his hand to his forehead for effect and then announces the word or phrase with some guessing (in some methods) or directly.  The volunteer is thanked for her participation and the audience applauds.

Perhaps this article is just a note for us and will be dismissed by those performing putative memorization or psychic readings.  We hope that it is more than that.

Mr. Richardson’s performance left a lasting impression on us not because the effect was impossible – the solution would be apparent to most magicians – but because it was couched in a story and built to the demonstration of what was apparently sufficient to have the young woman in the story proclaimed to be psychic and exceptional.

The memory of such a presentation lasts long after the volunteer retakes her seat and we move on to the next effect.  It brings the audience on a journey and leaves them with questions about the real person on whom the effect is based as well as the performer now duplicating that effect.

That’s a win in our book.

Read more about Dr. Von Neuman and his amazing skills and contribution to our everyday life through higher mathematics here.

A Magical History of India

The Hindu has a great review of what seems to be a great book soon to be released although not soon enough for us.

Written by John Zubrzycki, the title is great on its own, Jadoowallahs, Jugglers and Jinns: A Magical History of India.

The book goes beyond a review of the particular magic effects performed by Indian magicians and delves into the “the lives and communities of practitioners.”  From the Atharva Veda’s early advice on proper “mantras and incantations assuring results as various as curing snakebite, ensnaring a lover, or warding off an enemy’s evil spells” to Indian fortune-tellers in Rome and “conjuring manuals were translated into Arabic as early as the Abbasid Caliphate.”

“Hindus have always credited yogis with paranormal control over matter and energy, earned through severe penance, so that supra-normal skills such as parakaya pravesha, divination, levitation, illusion etc. were part of the social fabric, magic catalogued as one of the 64 arts.”

The appreciation for magic and allied arts has not waned in India.

India’s magic intrigued western magicians “with imperialists looking for the exotic, while the native magician – like other Indians, brainwashed into regarding the white ruler to be superior in all respects – believed he had a lot to learn from western magic.”

The art passed from father to son but was shared with westerners for money to help the family.  Apparently the jadoowallahs were low in the social caste and often impoverished.  The money helped and the trick were shared.

Mr. Zubrzycki  relates that the Indian magicians would don the clothes and persona of fakirs; including taking on exotic names such as Alfred Sylvester as the Fakir of Oolu.

Mr. Zubrzycki’s book does not reveal the secrets and he admits that he does not know how many of the effects were accomplished.  But he is certain the magic he witnessed and describes in his book was accomplished by natural means, not supernatural.

“I’m primarily interested in people, which is why my book is not just a compendium of tricks. I look at the lives and communities of practitioners. There are still fabulous histories waiting to be told, which is why I also like biography,” commented Mr. Zubrzycki.

Read more about the book and a talk given by Mr. Zubrzycki in The Hindu here.

The book will launch in September at the Taj Club House on September 29, at 6 pm. The event will also have magician Gopal Mentalist on hand to perform.

Winter Magic Festival in Full Fete Mode

With Magician Stars (and Inside Magic Faves) Murray SawChuck, Gazzo, Steve Daly, Michael Kent and Kevin Burke performing, this week’s Winter Magic Festival promises to be your best bang for your magic dollar.  Shows begin tonight at 7:00 pm (Thursday) at the Indy Fringe event in, coincidentally, Indianapolis, Indiana.

The performers bring their fantastic comedy and magic to the heartland for four days only.  There is no excuse if you live within the seven states and regions surrounding Indy and fail to attend.

Mr. SawChuck is more than a television and YouTube star, he is a great magician who pushes the limits with his boundless energy and able engagement of the audience.  We have seen him in Vegas and The Magic Castle and been astounded – that’s tough for us.  We don’t astound all that easily.  His credits include a Hollywood F.A.M.E. award for Career Achievement in The Magical Arts, the Best Comedy Variety Show of the Year from the Los Angeles Comedy Festival, and Comedy Show of the Year by the Fans Entertainment Hall of Fame.

Mr. Gazzo (we’re not sure if we should say “Mr. Gazzo” or “Gazzo” and so opt for the more formal over the casual term) does one of the very best Cups and Balls ever.  That is not an overstatement to encourage you to see him at the festival.  It is verifiably true and has been evaluated by NASA scientists.  When someone brings up the topic of Cups and Balls, we immediately think of Mr. Gazzo.  He is funny, disarming and works a crowd evidencing his years as a busker in the UK.  Teller said of him, “When you are watching Gazzo you feel like you are watching a show biz Legend.”  We cannot disagree and wouldn’t even if we could.  We’ve seen Mr. Gazzo many, many times and always walk away feeling inadequate with our cups and balls routine (note small caps to underscore our inadequacy) performed in the very same way we did when we were a 12-year-old demonstrating the $1.25 version of the effect in a mall that no longer exists.

Steve Daly (link to his YouTube Sizzle Reel) has been featured on Inside Magic many times and has more than 10,000 appearances in Las Vegas (Nevada).  His act is hilarious and Mr. Daly is one of our favorite people in our art.  He began on the streets of  San Francisco and moved to being one of the leads of Amusement Park Entertainment Companies where he helped design and performing in theme parks across the our big country (USA).   From there he moved to Vegas and was, in our opinion, the true star of the Magic Revue Show called “Showgirls of Magic.”

Continue reading “Winter Magic Festival in Full Fete Mode”

Inside Magic Letters to the Editor

Inside Magic, being a responsible location for the very latest Magic News, responds to comments and questions posed by our tens of readers as required by court order or when there is no real magic news to report on any given day. 

Today is just such a day.

Dear Inside Magic:

The name of this blog led me to believe it is a good source for interior decorating tips. I read the entire post twice and found not a word about interior decorating.

Editor’s Response:

Thank you for your kind email comment.  For our first twenty years we were dedicated to interior decorating tips.  See for example:

“Your Furniture Choices Can Determine Your Life Path,” June 1, 1973

“End Tables and Doilies: A Dangerous Combination or Essential for Living,” August 18, 1978

“Why Persian Rugs Lead to Static Electricity Death,” December 7, 1979

“Cats on Furniture: Decoration or Scratching Worry,” May 9, 1980

“Pizza in the Formal Dining Room: Experts Say ‘Sure’,” September 9, 1985

“High Backed Chairs and Their Effect on Your Horoscope,” November 11, 1990

“Why We Don’t Like Embroidery – A Six Installment Examination,” April 1-6, 1995 (Nominated for Pulitzer)

“Lemon Pledge, the Smell of Death?” June 6, 1999

“Chippendales: Dancers of Bad Design?” October 31, 2002 (Led to Litigation and Costly Settlement with both Furniture Association of America and a Male Dance Troup)

“Keep Your Area Rugs in the Area with Magnets, November 25, 2007 (Nominated for Magnet News (Feature Category)

“Nick Knacks – Why Knock What Works?” March 15, 2010 (Caesar Day Award Nominee (Least Relevant Category))

We did move to magic related news in 2011 to avoid litigation and an on-going (later settled) investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for false domain name use.  “Inside Magic must include news of Magic (whether of the occult or by professional magicians doing magic tricks for entertainment purposes).

Our lawyers suggested we focus on magic by professional magicians rather than the occult to avoid further litigation by psychics and occult practitioners (“Voodoo may or may not be real but the risk is not worth the Google Ad money.”)  At the time, we were dejected and in debt to our legal counsel.  We attempted to pay with free magic shows for their children but the offer was rejected; which coincidentally, led to further dejection.

Continue reading “Inside Magic Letters to the Editor”

Magician Amazing Johnathan Documentary

Each year we miss the Sundance Festival and kick ourselves for it.  There, wonderful films seeking distributors are offered, promoted and awarded with prizes.  For instance, we first heard about La La Land through Variety’s review of the film at the Sundance Festival.  We knew that if and when it was picked up by a major studio, it would be a must see.

But, because we didn’t go to the festival, we missed it.

This year we missed the Amazing Johnathan documentary.  It is currently untitled but we’re guessing the words “Amazing” and “Johnathan” will be in or very near the final title.

As readers of this award winning magic news site know, we have never actually won an award and we never let the truth get in the way of a good headline or story.  Readers will also know that we love the Amazing Johnathan and one of our greatest disappointments – other than our failure to play for the Chicago Cubs or even be a batboy for goodness sakes – was missing the performance of this great entertainer at the Magic Castle in what was billed as his last performance ever, anywhere.

Johnathan has a fatal heart issue and literally any show could be his last.

Nonetheless, he continues to work and provide entertainment for thousands.  We saw his show in Las Vegas and laughed so hard we split our shirt collar – we always keep it buttoned to prevent body lice from either entering or escaping, depending on the season or our access to showers.

Continue reading “Magician Amazing Johnathan Documentary”