Inside Magic Review of Jay Sankey – Detroit’s Favorite Son


Jay Sankey

The Greater Detroit area has several favorite sons: Joe Louis, Henry Ford, Eminem, and Robin Williams.  In fact, Mr. Williams attended school just two miles from where I write this review of a magician who most resembles Mr. Williams, Joe Louis, Henry Ford and Eminem. 


Jay Sankey isn?t from Detroit but he could be.  He has an edgier feel than you might expect from a Canadian Magician.  Of course, I can?t tell you why that stereotype should be true.


Mr. Sankey has been to our area several times and yet he packs the room each time.  People return to see him not just because he refreshes his lecture each year, but because he brings so much to those who come to learn. 


He has the enthusiasm and energy of Tony Robbins


Jay Sankey

The Greater Detroit area has several favorite sons: Joe Louis, Henry Ford, Eminem, and Robin Williams.  In fact, Mr. Williams attended school just two miles from where I write this review of a magician who most resembles Mr. Williams, Joe Louis, Henry Ford and Eminem. 


Jay Sankey isn?t from Detroit but he could be.  He has an edgier feel than you might expect from a Canadian Magician.  Of course, I can?t tell you why that stereotype should be true.


Mr. Sankey has been to our area several times and yet he packs the room each time.  People return to see him not just because he refreshes his lecture each year, but because he brings so much to those who come to learn. 


He has the enthusiasm and energy of Tony Robbins on Adderall washed down with a big, steaming mug of joe, black with extra sugar.  Mr. Sankey‘s lecture resembles the amalgam of Eminem and Henry Ford: new stuff, twisted material, efficiently produced and always commercial. 


There isn’t an answer from a spectator that he can’t effortlessly turn into a great line.  His skill in performing sleights is legend; as is his inventiveness.  But I think it is his stage persona that makes him a star in our craft.


Many magicians depend on beautiful assistants or flash pots to distract the audience to dump or palm a gimmick. Mr. Sankey eschews the traditional methods of presentation to make room for his wit, his incredible sense of timing, and his marvelously focused presentation. 


Sure, he?s a funny man.  But then again, Joe Louis was a great boxer; Henry Ford was a pretty decent mechanic and businessman; and Eminem can rhyme words on the fly.  So, Mr. Sankey is funny, but more importantly he is a great performer who uses humor effectively.


His opening four effects supported the lesson that we should think about presentation to emphasize the things a magician should emphasize for the benefit of the audience; and not the things magicians think they should emphasize based on their practice in front of a mirror.


Mr. Sankey believes magic tricks should be commercial and easy to do.  Fair enough.  But he also believes the magician needs to work on the presentation if he or she is to perform for an audience.  If the trick to be presented is “easy to perform,” the magician should spend the time otherwise used to master the sleights to plan and practice the presentation. 


An effective presentation requires knowledge of how and exactly when the audience will respond.  Mr. Sankey wants his endings ?clean.?  He wants to have a predictable effect on the audience at the appropriate time.


It is clear that to Mr. Sankey, nothing is left to chance when structuring the presentations — even the spontaneous moments.  After all, he would argue, why should any portion of your presentation be unknown to you?  The magician knows how the effect will end and what she needs to do to get the spectators to the conclusion as the magician desires. 


When the lay public describes a magic show, they talk about effects with umph. They tell the folks around the water cooler about the ‘card on the ceiling’ or the appearance of a sponge ball in a spectator’s closed hand.  They do not excitedly babble about the “incredible sleights used in an Ambitious Card Routine or your palming technique for the Ten Cards to Pocket.” 


This news discouraged me.  As many of you know, I was working on a 45 minute FISM act set to a medley of Broadway Show tunes that was my stylized take on Vernon‘s Ambitious Cards in Pockets. (The effect was invented and perfected by Jerry Vernon not Dai Vernon.  Jerry was the relative the Vernon‘s never discussed in polite company.  He invented the Single-Lift and he was committed for doing it in public parks.)


My pockets have already been tailored with the necessary animatronics to make the miracle happen.  So after hearing Mr. Sankey‘s advice, I thought I was stuck with my “special pants.” Powered by a nine-volt battery, they give simulate the look playing cards standing up, and walking across my buttocks to the other pocket.  You would think it impossible to sell “special pants” eBay but I sold them in the first two hours to a pharmaceutical representative for his presentation on hemorrhoids. 


Back to the review: no more “special pants” but there will be mention of “special pockets” later in this piece. 


Mr. Sankey taught a wonderful romantic card trick.  I am sure it has a name ? all of Mr. Sankey‘s tricks have great names ? but I can’t find it anywhere on the web or in the dark recesses of my noggin.


He performed the effect with a heavy, Latin/Spanish accent — a Lover!  He asked a beautiful woman in the audience to select a card and to then say a ‘romantic word.’   Mr. Sankey wrote the “romantic word” on the face of the selected card.  He turned the card over and drew two hearts to symbolize their special bond.  With a simple shake, the heart drawings visibly linked together.  As is his philosophy, he ended clean and was able to hand the very special romantic card to the lovely lady.


We were all kind of mellow his point.  I heard some of the guys actually break down in suppressed sobs as they contemplated the beauty of the hearts visibly linking both on the back of the selected card but also symbolically between the magician and his lady. 


It was beautiful.  I wanted to get my back scratched, rollover, sigh and slide off to magic dream world.  I had finally found a trick I could do that would be romantic, loving and not use the words “pick a card.” 


My near slumber was rudely interrupted by a life-changing event.  I have told you of one other life-changing event (outside of prison).  Well, this is the second one. 


For the new readers of Inside Magic, let’s review my first “life changing event” in magic:


Back in the early part of this current century, I was crossing Tropicana Blvd in Las Vegas and met a woman who appeared lost and without hope.  She wondered if I could enter into some sort of barter or transaction with her so that she could retain her pride and not feel as if she was taking charity.  She wanted to earn her money ? and that’s a trait we don’t see in our young people any more.  I could tell from the massive amount of tattoos all over her barely covered body that she knew pain.  I could also tell from the big tattooed letters descending her nervously shifting legs, that she hadn’t received a proper education.  On one leg she had misspelled (or maybe the tattoo artist slipped) the word “FOLK.”  The other leg had the correct spelling of the intended word demonstrating her good heart, “MOTHER.” 


I was on my way to Lee Asher‘s special after-midnight lecture on his breakthrough Pulp Friction.  But this child needed help.  I handed her a credit card and apologized that I didn’t have much cash to give because I had to pay admission to the lecture.  She nodded and hugged me and skipped away, along the median on Tropicana. 


You know, it felt good to help her. Sometimes we don’t stop to see others who are in need because we are so focused on ourselves and our “possessions.”  We need to remember that all of our possessions matter not and can be easily lost.  I am sure the guy who lost his wallet and the credit card I gave to the young woman now understood this truth.


Wow, I got way off-track.  Let’s take a running start at finishing this description of my second glimpse of heaven.


Mr. Sankey pulled into the Pulp Friction World tonight with CARDIVORE.  This is without a doubt one of the most startling effects I have ever witnessed.  I felt as mystified as I was when I first saw the Paddle Move (outside of prison) or Cups and Balls. 


My words will not adequately describe the effect but here goes:


Mr. Sankey told us that there are cards in every deck that eat other cards.  He identified the cannibalistic culprits as the four queens.  The queens were removed fairly from the deck and three spectators were asked to each take one card from those remaining in the pack.  There was no force. 


Mr. Sankey then introduced us to the four “very bitter” queens.  They were unpleasant, witchy characters who would love to devour any card that might come their way.  He described one as a divorcee but I think this was merely poetic license.  We have a constitutional amendment in Michigan that prohibits two-dimensional images from marrying or divorcing.    


Mr. Sankey employed no apparent false moves as he inserted the first selected card within the coven the four witches formed.  He counted the cards and the first card had vanished.  He inserted the second card, counted the packet and again the indifferent card was gone.  The last selected card was slid fairly between the four queens and immediately the packet was turned face up to show that there were only four, apparently satisfied, queens left. 


Of course, being a Master Magician, I knew exactly how he had performed the effect.  He clearly had pockets within each of the queens into which he slipped the selected cards.  This theory and my pride were destroyed when he immediately handed the four queens to the audience for their examination. 


I tried to catch my breath.  I was fading fast.  I got tunnel vision and I thought I could see my Grandpa and Jesus at the other end of the long hallway bidding me to join them.  I asked the guy next to me to give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but he declined. 


I thought I had seen everything.  I have left nothing out: four queens; three indifferent cards; hands far from the table; and Mr. Sankey was wearing short sleeves.  This was the type of magic you expect to see in the editing room at ABC ? not in person.


My color started to return to my face and my shirt.  Apparently while I was dancing in the “All Embracing Light” with three of my long-departed hunting dogs, the guy I asked for mouth-to-mouth gave me fist-to-nose. 


It was worth it.  Amazing!   Simply Amazing and well in keeping with the theme of Mr. Sankey’s teaching: ‘simple, commercial magic.’   


Mr. Sankey taught us the secret and I felt foolish.  I should have guessed the secret.  My mentor, Barry Gibbs, used to tell me, “It is not real magic, so figure out what has to happen to make the illusion appear real.”  The secret is so simple that even if I was losing blood as quickly as I appeared to be at the time, I could perform the effect.  The blood might scare the kids, though.   


It was time for a break.  I stood and stumbled towards the bathroom and cleaned up for the second half.


As loyal readers of Inside Magic know, I usually give a review of the intermission ? which individuals went to the bathroom, for how long, whether they did or did not wash their hands, who brown-nosed the lecturer, who was asleep, who deserved and received a wedgie.  To be honest, I was too exhausted and anemic to take notes or pull up anyone’s underwear. 


The second half cannot compare with the first half of Mr. Sankey’s lecture.  The tricks are not as strong and the energy-level drops just a bit.  I have noticed this each time I have had the honor of seeing Mr. Sankey teach. 


Fortunately, the tricks may not be as strong as those in the first set, are still plenty powerful and commercial.  And Mr. Sankey’s energy is still far beyond anything I have experienced short of adrenaline spikes (outside of prison). 


The first few effects were so commercial that Mr. Sankey was selling them. 


Holy Moley is an effortless transformation of a washer with one hole to a washer with two holes performed in the spectator’s hand.  The magician causes the hole in his washer to vanish and reappear drilled into the washer the volunteer has been holding. 


The Holy Moley effect is clever and would likely have been very impressive to a lay audience.  Mr. Sankey invited us to seek him out in Toronto and if he was standing on the street corner, we had permission to feel his leg.  There, he promised, we would feel the Holy Moley trick in his pocket. 


We all know how the road can be a lonely place and how we sometimes desire human touch, an embrace or a good pants pocket grope.  But I really thought this cry for help would be better handled by a trained counselor or member of the clergy. 


He next offered his Gemini Wallet.  This is a clever utility that will not fool or impress magicians but will do wonders with a lay audience.  One of the possible effects: a spectator removes a card and the magician tells her he made a prediction before the show.  That prediction was placed in the zippered wallet.  The spectator can see through the clear vinyl side of the wallet and can verify that a piece of white paper has been folded and is secure. 


The spectator removes the prediction and, sure enough, it was incorrect. Mr. Sankey lost control ? a little ? and ripped up the prediction and put the torn pieces into the wallet so that they could still be seen through the plastic side. 


The spectator agrees to give Mr. Sankey a second-chance.  When the prediction note is removed again, it is whole and the prediction is correct. 


For magicians, this is no great mystery but for the lay audience, it follows Mr. Sankey’s philosophy of performing strong magic with multiple climaxes.  Here the paper is restored and the prediction is corrected. 


He offered three last effects, not for sale but as part of his lecture notes. 


I will only describe one of them for you. 


Missing Evidence is a wonderful trick.  A spectator selected a card, it was torn asunder, and he was asked to initial one of the fairly torn pieces.  The pieces were dropped into the empty card case. 


Mr. Sankey was able to reach into the card case and immediately remove the one piece bearing the astonished spectator’s initial.  He admitted to us that he had cheated.  He knew signed piece of card because it seemed to be the only piece missing from the otherwise restored card.


Sure enough he opened the card case and showed that all of pieces had reassembled into a fully intact card, save one piece that would fit into the center.  When the spectator put his signed piece into place, the card was whole again.  The signed piece fit perfectly. 


I thought this was a very strong effect and once it was taught, I was convinced I could do it.  It provides the spectator with a souvenir and a perfect mystery.  The middle piece really does come from the reassembled card. 


Before I close, I want to relate an incident that followed Mr. Sankey‘s last effect.  I have not described the last two effects he performed because I fear the argument I will describe may sway you in your evaluation of the tricks if you see this current lecture.


A gentleman in the front row told Mr. Sankey that his handling of the final effect was not sufficient to fool an audience.  “Why do you say it’s strong?!” he demanded. 


I think Mr. Sankey thought this was a joke of some kind but it became clear that the man was serious.  The gentleman argued Mr. Sankey‘s holding of a gimmicked item essentially telegraphed the secret and the conclusion.  To this man’s way of thinking, it did not fool and could not fool.  It was not strong.


Mr. Sankey respectfully tried to respond to the man’s complaints with assurance that the effect had been tested with real audiences and it was strong; it did fool. 


The audience member refused to concede his point and restated it several times.  Mr. Sankey finally agreed that if the gentleman did not think it was a strong effect and that it would not fool a lay audience, then in the gentleman’s hands, it would likely not be strong or capable of fooling anyone. 


I am not sure why this discussion happened when it did.  Mr. Sankey didn’t tout the effect as the ultimate in our Art. He simply said the effect had been strong when performed before lay audiences. 


I am not taking sides but I agreed with Mr. Sankey‘s position and his approach to the discussion with the gentleman.  (Actually, I guess I am taking sides.  My bad.)  The philosophical discussion could have turned into something very ugly but Mr. Sankey‘s calm, firm, demeanor kept things cool. 


I haven’t told you the trick, I know, but just to make my ever-shifting position understood: it will be clear to any magician watching the early portions of the trick that something is about to happen.  But then again, it wouldn’t be much of a trick if nothing happened.  When nothing happens, it is hard to tell the difference between real life and magic. 


Magic audiences want something rather than nothing.  But I challenge any audience, lay or magician, to stop the trick half-way through its presentation and predict what will happen in the conclusion.  The ending of the effect, like the ending of all Mr. Sankey‘s tricks, is unexpected and incredible. 


I agree with Mr. Sankey that the magician who does not believe an effect is strong or that the effect will fool an audience, should not perform that trick.  To sell the effect, you have to believe in its power on an audience.  As my father, Li’l Tom Hardy ? America‘s Foremost Psychic Entertainer told me, “Once you can fake sincerity, you can get away with almost anything.” 


In conclusion, if you need commercial magic that is relatively easy to learn so that you can focus on the presentation, this lecture is for you.  If you are looking for magic that is so creative that once you learn it, you’ll kick yourself for not thinking of the effect, this is your lecture. If you are looking for a lecture that entertains better than any stand-up comedy show, this is the one. 


If however you are seeking the perfect lecture, where each effect is easy to do and incredible in appearance, this lecture might disappoint.  Not every trick is a winner.  On the other hand, if there is anyone who can come tantalizingly close to the perfect lecture, Mr. Sankey is ? as Eminem would rap ? the Man!   On behalf of the Detroit magicians, I hereby adopted him as one of this area’s Favorite Sons. 

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