Magic Never Died in Chicago

 

David London

New City Chicago has a great piece titled “The Magical City: A New Generation of Magicians Mesmerize Chicago” in this weeks edition.

The article’s thesis that Chicago was once and will again be “a magical city” is supported by its review of the town’s historical and current love for the art.

Fifty years ago, Chicago was a magical city. Literally. It was the bustling center of magic in the United States and the unlikely birthplace of what would become known as close-up magic, in which magicians would mesmerize and mystify viewers in lounges and restaurants, stepping off the stage and right up next to their captivated spectators.

Home to many magic bars and numerous restaurants that featured magical performances nightly, not to mention a plethora of downtown magic shops that were located within blocks of one another, there was definitely magic in the Windy City air.

Magic hasn’t passed on, though. It is not relegated to “simple, sleight-of-hand tricks that often incorporate playing cards, rubber balls and paper cups, linking rings or–most notably–rabbits being heaved out of hats much too small to hold them and the shouting of nonsensical words like ‘Abracadabra!'”

The author credits magicians and the audiences who love them for keeping the flame of magic alive. Magic in the Windy City is not simply “a quirky form of entertainment that’s best left to kids’ birthday parties.”

The article profiles Eugene Burger, David Parr, Arthur Trace, and newcomer, David London.

Mr. Burger recalls the old days, when “there were nightclubs and the hotels like the Hilton and Palmer House that had shows all the time. There were many magicians in town that would come to perform at these shows. Then, people started moving to the suburbs and things all changed.”

(By the way, if you haven’t checked out Mr. Burger’s website, do yourself a favor and do it now.  His essays are outstanding.  We really enjoyed Brief Meetings with Gifts that Last Forever. Our sister seminary in Evanston, Illinois was one of the many homes for the theologian and great thinker, Alan Watts.  Mr. Burger observed Mr. Watts truly enjoyed being “Alan Watts” and took this revelation as a gift from the meeting.)

The tradition of the Chicago magic Roundtable is again returning to support the magic community in the city. David Parr, magician and co-host of the revitalized gathering held the last Thursday of every month, notes magicians may perform in the…

 

David London

New City Chicago has a great piece titled “The Magical City: A New Generation of Magicians Mesmerize Chicago” in this weeks edition.

The article’s thesis that Chicago was once and will again be “a magical city” is supported by its review of the town’s historical and current love for the art.

Fifty years ago, Chicago was a magical city. Literally. It was the bustling center of magic in the United States and the unlikely birthplace of what would become known as close-up magic, in which magicians would mesmerize and mystify viewers in lounges and restaurants, stepping off the stage and right up next to their captivated spectators.

Home to many magic bars and numerous restaurants that featured magical performances nightly, not to mention a plethora of downtown magic shops that were located within blocks of one another, there was definitely magic in the Windy City air.

Magic hasn’t passed on, though. It is not relegated to “simple, sleight-of-hand tricks that often incorporate playing cards, rubber balls and paper cups, linking rings or–most notably–rabbits being heaved out of hats much too small to hold them and the shouting of nonsensical words like ‘Abracadabra!'”

The author credits magicians and the audiences who love them for keeping the flame of magic alive. Magic in the Windy City is not simply “a quirky form of entertainment that’s best left to kids’ birthday parties.”

The article profiles Eugene Burger, David Parr, Arthur Trace, and newcomer, David London.

Mr. Burger recalls the old days, when “there were nightclubs and the hotels like the Hilton and Palmer House that had shows all the time. There were many magicians in town that would come to perform at these shows. Then, people started moving to the suburbs and things all changed.”

(By the way, if you haven’t checked out Mr. Burger’s website, do yourself a favor and do it now.  His essays are outstanding.  We really enjoyed Brief Meetings with Gifts that Last Forever. Our sister seminary in Evanston, Illinois was one of the many homes for the theologian and great thinker, Alan Watts.  Mr. Burger observed Mr. Watts truly enjoyed being “Alan Watts” and took this revelation as a gift from the meeting.)

The tradition of the Chicago magic Roundtable is again returning to support the magic community in the city. David Parr, magician and co-host of the revitalized gathering held the last Thursday of every month, notes magicians may perform in the suburbs but they often live within the city limits.

“The trouble is they find their work mostly outside the city,” Mr. Parr told the reporter. “It would be nice to have people like Eugene Burger and some of my other friends and magicians in the city actually perform here more to represent Chicago.”

Magic is special in its impact on audiences. Mr. Parr suggests “movies and television are passive forms of entertainment.” But, “magic is a participatory form of entertainment. It’s happening to you personally, not to somebody else on a television screen. I think people have always been hungry for that experience, it’s just that now they don’t know where to get it.”

Arthur Trace, preparing for a stint at Hollywood’s Magic Castle (April 18th through 24th), sees magic as akin to the classics.

“To me, it’s very important that magic be an art. If a magician doesn’t have some kind of context behind what he’s doing, he’s just doing myth. That’s magic without substance. I mean, it’s entertainment, but magic can be so much more. It’s my passion and I try to make it what it can, and what I think it should be, which is an art form.”

The article pins magic’s future on the young, like David London – a filmmaker/magician and self-proclaimed “tour guide for the unknown.”

The 22-year-old Mr. London received great reviews for his performance art piece, “Dream Garden.” The effect transformed paper roses into a real rose. There is a nice profile of Mr. London in the Potomac News. For magicians, the description of the effect is instructive of how reporters view the miracles we do:

It started with London constructing paper roses and planting them in dirt boxes as the crowd filed into the South Side gallery. Suddenly, the room went dark, except for two flames in London’s hands. He then lit a paper rose on fire that burned in an instantaneous flash. There were no ashes in his hand, but one real, radiantly red rose. To finish the piece, the actual rose was planted in the dirt in the middle of the 150 paper roses.

That’s right, after the blaze of fire from Mr. London’s hands; there “were no ashes.” Check out Mr. London’s website at artofdreams.net

While there has been a shift of the magic Mecca from Chicago to Las Vegas, the locals are hopeful Chicago will become revitalized. Mr. Parr is hopeful. “I think it could really work. This could become a center for magic again. It’s going to take a real effort to move it in that direction. I’m hoping that myself and several friends and colleagues can help move it in that direction. We’d like to see magic back downtown again.”

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