Author: Inside Magic

Editor of InsideMagic.com - Magic News Updated Daily for the Professional Magician.

Magician Robert Ramirez is Much More

Robert RamirezRobert Ramirez is a magician amongst many things and is featured in The Pittsburgh Current today for those talents that are not within the sphere of magic.

Proof of his multi-talented skills is evidenced by his new show Robert Ramirez: The Musical Theater Magician live through Jan. 5, 2020, at Pittsburgh’s Downtown’s Liberty Magic.

By the way, Downtown’s Liberty Magic has a great website.  We don’t normally comment on the quality of websites because we feel inadequate about the layout of InsideMagic.com — and we didn’t just mention InsideMagic.com to boost our position in Google ratings — and we didn’t just mention Google to associate Google and its Google Search Engine with InsideMagic.com.  We were just making a point why we point out great websites when we see ’em and instantly compare them with our site dedicated to providing the latest magic news for the professional performer here on InsideMagic.com.

Mr. Ramirez’s musical abilities including the ability to play the piano and tap dance; plus perform magic tricks at a level that brings unsolicited praise from fellow magicians.

He became interested in our art when he was merely 8-years-old, after his parents divorced. He then branched into playing the flute, being involved in musical theater in high school and college and even took classes at the very prestigious L.A. based Upright Citizens Brigade.  As if that wasn’t enough, he found time to promote creative writing for children in California’s elementary schools through a program called the Imagination Machine.

We would posit that this was sufficient; but no.  He went on to star in the touring company of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical, In the Heights from 2011 to 2012.

Holy cow.  We can only do magic and really only with cards and really only with cards that we have prepared before performing and really only with one type of a deck in one color and whilst seated and without any potential bad angles and with special sticky stuff on our fingers.  Forget doing music or dancing.

Now here’s the strange part.  Once he finished the tour, he found it tough to get auditions. He hit a dry spell — like our hands and that is why we need the sticky stuff on our fingers but he was using the term “dry spell” as a metaphor not a physical sign of aging and dry fingers.

“I had realized I’m going to have to create my own work if I want to get out of this little rut,” he says. “So I started doing more magic and I started doing weddings or I started doing strolling gigs when I could.”

He served as a magic consultant on “America’s Got Talent” and appeared at the world-famous Magic Castle in Los Angeles and the Chicago Magic Lounge.  Soon his unique combination of skills brought him to the forefront.

“Now in the last two years, I got to a point where now I have to set time aside to do a theater show, do a musical, and then audition for that show,” he says.

Did we mention he also  has a comedy background and uses comedy in his performance?  We realize we shouldn’t ask readers to go back through this post to determine whether we mentioned it when we clearly could do it if our Tandy X1000 running WordStar 1.25 had an easy way to scroll back up.

“I don’t want to set that expectation because you may not get my brand of humor. Everybody loves magic, and there’s kind of not a ‘brand’ of magic. Either it’s going to feel whimsical and feel like magic or it’s not,” he says.

He is in to magic history and history in general   “Magic’s been popular for hundreds of years,” he says. “I think, when all of these historical events were happening in the world, what was happening in magic?”

Following the lead of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the show, In The Heights, to construct a show that he wanted to see, Mr. Ramirez put together an act that he would want to attend.  “Now all I do is I create magic that I want to see, something that I wish I was in the audience to laugh at.”

If you are in the Pittsburgh area, check out “Robert Ramirez: The Musical Theater Magician.” Various times. Now through Jan. 5. 811 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-456-6666 or www.trustarts.org

You’ll see it all in one place.  Visit Mr. Ramirez’  website here.

The Puzzle Box

Inside Magic Image of Couple Learning Magic's True SecretsWe had a chance to chance upon a puzzle the other day.  We love puzzles and seek them out, so maybe it wasn’t a chance situation.

We found a box at an antique shop here in Los Angeles.  It was plain on the outside, looked like it was made of oak or some sturdy wood.  We don’t know our woods well but what we do know is the difference between what we would call “Oak” and “Pine.”  It wasn’t Pine so, in our book, it had to be Oak.

It was exactly square and had a small hasp with a small lock but the lock had no keyhole.  It apparently was keeping the box shut but there were no lines in the wood indicating that the box opened at the location of the hasp and lock.

There were seams and lines on the bottom of the box and on one side.  The rest appeared to be carved or derived from one piece of wood, Oak-type wood.

We asked the dealer about it and he said he was told  it was from a salvage done at some place in the Arizona desert.  We asked what was in it and he said he didn’t know because he had never played with it enough to try to open it. We asked how much he wanted for it and that’s when it got interesting.

He said $250 for the box sounded about right.

We said we were thinking more about $10 bucks.  We asked how he could justify $250?

He said that because it could be holding gold coins from the Old West or at least silver coins.

We shook the box but heard no rattles and certainly no clings or clangs indicating coins were within.

The box was relatively heavy, about five pounds.  We figured that Oak — if it was really Oak and not just our binary classification of all woods — would not weigh five pounds by itself.  That caused us to think there must be something inside with the weight of at least a pound.

Gold could weigh at least a pound, silver was less likely and lead could weigh more than a pound.

We mentioned to the bespectacled antique store owner that because neither one of us knew what was in the box — if anything — we should probably try to figure a price that includes the risk that it would contain nothing of value.

He countered that we should figure a price that includes the risk that it probably had something of tremendous value.

We asked that if he thought it had tremendous value, why would he price it at only $250?  Why not $2,000?

He said he didn’t think he could sell it at $2,000 but at $250, it was priced right to match the risk.

How could we be sure that he hadn’t already opened the box and thus knew its contents.

He said he didn’t have time to do something like that, he wasn’t good at puzzles, and his store dealt mostly in furniture and artwork.  This was a strange item he picked up but hadn’t “messed with.”

His store was filled with chairs of different eras, quality, fabric and evidence of use.  He had beautifully framed paintings hung on the walls of his small but maneuverable space.

We offered $15.00 and hoped he would come down.  He didn’t budge.  He did, however, lift his glasses and wiped them with the tail of his shirt, conveniently not tucked into his jeans.  He replaced his glasses and gestured to take the box back for an inspection.  Still saying nothing.

“I could let it go for $200, I suppose,” he said without looking at us.

He handed the box back to us and kept his eyes down.  We thought he might wipe his glasses again.  But he didn’t.  He was just waiting for our response.

“$200 is way out of what we would call a ballpark,” we said.  “How about $30?”

He shook his head and said $200 was the best he could do.  He reminded us again that it might contain gold and that he had never opened it.

“If it could contain gold, why not open it and see?” we asked.

“It would ruin it,” he said.

We were amazed he had this much time to dedicate to this philosophical negotiation.  He had other customers in the shop and while they didn’t look like they needed his help, we imagined that part of being a shopkeeper was helping people find items they didn’t know they needed to buy.

“How would it ruin it?” we asked.  “Right now it is just a box that could contain gold or could contain sand and rocks.  But when we shake it, there are no sounds.”

“Well,” he said, finally looking at us, “it’s your choice.  $200 is my last and best offer.”

We had $200 on us — we just returned from the Poker Room at the Bicycle Club and had a good day.  But we didn’t want to waste it on something that could be nothing.  We didn’t think there was gold in it and we couldn’t see a way to open it without destroying it.  We figured we should just pass on it.  It would make for an interesting story one day; maybe today.

So those were our thoughts and deeply held beliefs.  We were going to pass.  But what we heard us say was, “How about $100.00?”

He extended his hand, we shook it, he gave us the box and we gave him a freshly minted $100 bill.  We looked at the image of Benjamin Franklin as we handed it to the antique store owner.  Mr. Franklin seemed to shaking his head in disapproval or maybe it was just our hands shaking the bill.

We walked out of the store into the bright southern California sunshine and squinted.  The store was apparently much darker than we thought.  We looked at the box in the light, hoping to find the secret to opening it without destroying it.

Then we started thinking crazy things.  Maybe there was gold in it.  Opening it would answer the question but not knowing for sure had value as well.

We got on the Santa Monica bus with the box in our lap.  A woman next to us asked about it.

“It is a box from an archaeological dig.  I was told there might be gold in it.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” she said and reached out to feel the wood.  “Is that maple?”

“Could be,” we said.  “Maybe oak.”

“We’ll its very pretty.  Where did you get it?”

“Right over there at that store,” we said as we turned to point out the shop but as we did we couldn’t find it.  There were so many stores in the strip mall, it could have been that we lost track of it.

The Inside Story of Penn & Teller’s Fool Us

Alyson Harrigan
Alyson Hannigan wearing the same dress all season

We don’t know the website “Looper” but it caught our eye today with a story on the behind the scenes of the wildly popular magic-oriented television show, Penn & Teller’s Fool Us.

We love logistics.  Perhaps our love is in the extreme.  We love to be at the back of the theater to see how props are packed and unpacked.  The huge trucks and the many workers who move the props into their show-ready position.  We really love it.  Ask anyone who knows us — that’s about three people (or 2.2 people in metric, we think).

Looper takes readers inside and behind the filming of Fool Us and the time expended to film a season’s worth of shows in just a couple of days in front of an audience that could  understandably be less enthusiastic as the taping goes on for hours.

One of the burning (literally — but that’s due to a Voodoo curse we received in New Orleans when we refused to pay for what we considered inadequate Voodoo practice — guess Madam Etouffee proved us wrong.  We know experience physical burning sensations each time we obsess on some random thought.  But that’s our problem, not yours, we hope) — trying to figure out why the delightful Alyson Hannigan wore the same lovely but repetitive dress for each show.

The Looper knows and explains.

We also wondered why there were many more female magicians fooling Penn & Teller — again, The Looper knows.  It is an encouraging reason and promises good things for our beloved art.  (“Beloved Art” was also the name of our sister’s fake lover — according to some court documents detailing the catfishing efforts of someone who wasn’t really name “Art” and certainly shouldn’t have been beloved by our innocent little sister).  Louise took it stride — meaning she ran and kicked the fake Art to break off their relationship.  Louise is now working in Hollywood as a freelance conjoined twin for some of the biggest stars in the business.  She has beautiful red hair all down her back — unfortunately, none on her head, just down her back.

So our sister Louise shares the redhead / red-hairy back trait with Ms. Hannigan.

The story goes even further behind the scenes to reveal how Penn & Teller’s guess at the method of the trick is checked by a magician who knows the secret.  There have been times when Penn & Teller disagreed with the off-stage judge but the judge’s ruling is final.  How many times have we heard that phrase in our errant attempts to become Mr. California, Mr. Hollywood, Mr. North Hollywood, Mr. single block between Melrose and Santa Monica, Mr. Living Room in an apartment over a dog food bakery on Santa Monica?  Many times, that’s how many.  We still have our sash for third prize (“Mr. Congenital”) but it doesn’t mean so much to us now that we know what “congenital” means.

Check out The Looper article and keep scrolling because they have a behind the scenes of Michael Carbonaro’s The Carbonaro Effect just below the Penn & Teller story.

Both are puff-pieces but in a good way.

Thanksgivings Past: Grandfather Hardy and Tasha

Astounded.jpgLong-time readers of Inside Magic are already familiar with this story.  Almost all of it nearly true.

It was Thanksgiving dinner years ago.  The family was gathered around the table.  We have a large family both in girth and number.  Our now departed grandfather and the magician scion of the Hardy clan (our family’s stage name) was seated at the head of the elongated table created by pushing three wooden tables and one card table into a long row.

Grandfather Hardy (his real last name from which we took our stage name) clutched the family bible in his liver-spotted hands and gazed over his progeny with pride.  Assembled were five magicians and their families as well as non-magicians and their families.  He was waiting for all to cease their conversations, the passing of plates and the taking of places.

Once all were quiet, Grandfather Hardy turned to his favorite passage from the holy book on Thanksgiving day, John 10:10 “I have come to give you life and life more abundantly.”  He spoke for a few minutes about the abundant life God had provided and a tear formed in his right eye, his voice cracked and he looked down at his amply filled plate.  “We have much abundance and for that we should always be thankful.”

He crossed himself and we all followed – even those around the table who did not customarily cross themselves in their faith.

We began to eat.

There was clanging of forks and knives on Grandmother Hardy’s prized china and the occasional sounds of chomping from those in our family who had no manners and could not close their mouths whilst eating.  We thought nothing of it, though.  This was a time of family dedicated to giving thanks.

Then Grandfather Hardy brought out a deck of cards.

The mood around the table changed.

Some of us were excited.  Some showed signs of ennui and others just averted their glance from the old man and his preparation to show a card trick.

There are people who eat with their mouths open and people who don’t like card tricks.  If you were to draw a Ven Diagram describing those two groups, they would not only connect, they would likely match  up exactly in one circle with no evidence of outliers.

Grandfather Hardy asked the youngest of the families to select a card from the deck.

Young Natasha was just four but knew how to select a card and was excited about the attention she was now receiving from not only her Great Grandfather but also the entire crowded table.  She pondered the perfect fan of cards before her and made a selection.

“Show it to everyone but not me,” Grandfather Hardy said.

Natasha did as she was told.  Our memory may be fading but we think it was the two of clubs.

“Now, Tasha, Grandfather Hardy said with a smile, “sign the card so we’ll know it is yours if we see it again.”

She joined in the smile and looked to her mother, our aunt, as she took the pen she was handed and slowly, very slowly wrote her name on the card.  It said, “Tasha.”

Without urging from Grandfather Hardy, she placed the card back in the deck, still spread in a perfect fan.  She knew the elements of such a trick.

Grandfather Hardy handed the deck to Tasha’s mother and asked her to help her daughter shuffle it thoroughly.  The two shuffled for quite a while – or so it seemed to the magicians around the table.  It is difficult to say what the non-magicians thought.

Tasha’s mother returned the deck to her father and he held it fairly in his left hand.

“Tasha,” he said. “Do you remember what your card looked like?”

Tasha turned to her mother with a smile.  Her mother whispered something in her ear and Tasha turned back to greet the gaze of her Great Grandfather.  “Two of cubs,” she said.

“Indeed?” asked Grandfather Hardy.  “And it has your signature on it too.”

Tasha nodded and looked back at her mother for approval.  Her mother again whispered something in her ear and she turned again towards the table and nodded with a smile.

“Take a look at the cards and tell me if you see yours,” Grandfather Hardy instructed with a kind smile.

As he turned the deck face up and began to spread them across the tablecloth – one of four covering the assembly of tables – everyone could see that all of the cards were blank.  Tasha’s card was gone but so were the faces of all others.

Tasha’s eyes grew wide.  She had never seen this trick before.  She had been the volunteer for many of the old man’s tricks but this was a new one.  She turned to her mother again as if to verify that what she was seeing was not only amazing to her but to others.  She saw her mother’s proud smile and her smile increased accordingly.

“Where did it go?” Grandfather Hardy asked.

Tasha shook her head, still smiling.

“Look under your plate, Tasha,” Grandfather Hardy said softly.

Tasha lifted her plate and taking the instructions very literally looked at the bottom of the plate, not the table beneath.  Her mother pointed down to the table and drew her daughter’s attention to a single face down card.

Tasha seemed to accept that the trick was over.  She was impressed, delighted, amused, and very, very happy.  She had no need to turn over the card, she knew it had to be the one she selected and signed.

“Turn it over,” said several of the non-magician family members almost in unison.

Tasha did as she was urged and indeed the card was the same one she had selected and signed.

Her smile grew wider, she looked to her mother and now back to Grandfather Hardy and then her mother again.

She leapt from her chair to give the old man a hug and a kiss.  He accepted both and hugged her tightly.

His eyes were filled with tears now.

“Abundantly,” he said with cracking voice.  “We have been blessed with abundance.”

Inside Magic Invention Challenge Now Open

Inside Magic Image of Favorite Melvin the MagicianA while back we had a regular feature where we would pose an idea for a trick and then ask readers for their ideas on how the trick could be accomplished.

It was a bad idea but a good idea at the same time.  Bad because it exposed magic secrets and good because it started a conversation about the types of techniques to accomplish the effect.

The concept was inspired (stolen) from the ACAAN challenge that has puzzled and inspired magicians for years.  We can’t claim that today’s challenge will cause such inspiration or education in the thinking and logistical planning needed to bring about such a revolution in card magic, but it couldn’t hurt.

The notion that something may  have no positive effect for anyone “but couldn’t hurt,” is ridiculous.  Many things don’t hurt but promote not a scintilla of social or even personal value.  Plus, the term “couldn’t hurt” doesn’t seem to mean anything more than physical pain.  What about the emotional  impact or economic devastation suffered by the proponent of this philosophy?  We throw this out for something to ponder.  It isn’t essential to the post but it couldn’t hurt.

Here’s the concept.  It will be non-changeable — just like the original ACAAN challenge.

Effect: A magician has a spectator (no stooges permitted) select a card from a deck of cards held in the magician’s hands.  The spectator is asked if she is satisfied with the selection or if there was any other card in the whole world she could have selected, what would that card be.  She names the alternative card.  The magician hands her the deck and it is turned over revealing that every card in the remaining pack is the card she would have rather selected.

Conditions:

  • The deck from which the first card is selected must appear to be the same deck used throughout the effect (this allows for a deck switch but under seemingly impossible conditions).
  • The deck must not be gimmicked in any manner.
  • The card selected must be different in image from the other faces of the cards shown.

Non-Conditions (Not Required):

  • The trick does not need to be repeatable for the same audience.
  • The trick does not need to require knuckle-busting moves.
  • The trick must not be a currently available effect.
  • The trick does not need to have a cutesy or vulgar name.

To keep secrecy, please send your thoughts and solutions and questions to mystery@insidemagic.com.  We will announce in 30 days whether there has been progress on the solution.  You, the inventor or innovator of the solution will get full credit and we claim no IP rights to any aspect of the effect.  We will be happy to provide endorsements of the trick if you decide to market it.

Send your solutions or questions now to mystery@insidemagic.com.  All submissions will be kept in the most confidential conditions.

 

Finally a New Deck of Cards We Will Buy

Purple-Monarch-07868_2000x1024.jpgLet us get it out of the way at the start.  We receive no endorsement, promise, compensation or promise of compensation (including a free deck of the cards we are about to describe).  We will be buying the Purple Monarch deck from Theory 11 is our bottom line.

With those preliminaries out of the way, thus meeting the FTC guidelines for influencers (can be found here), we have long said that we did not understand the hysteria our profession has suffered from the release of custom made cards.  We have been using our Bee (blue) decks since we were in utero and have attached a sonogram showing our nascent work on the Charlier Cut in previous posts.  But those efforts were always with a Bee (blue) deck — although slightly smaller than poker size for our only then evolving little hands.

Our mother would complain to her OB/GYN that it wasn’t so much the kicking that bothered her during our pregnancy, but the sharp edge of the cards being dropped in her innards during the last trimester (we don’t know what that would be in metric) of her pregnancy with us.

As we grew into what some have described as a young man, we continued to use the poker-sized Bee deck in both red and blue (we were wild as a teen and young adult and frequently lived on the edge as evidenced by our several chain escapes in neighbors’ pools and challenges to schoolmates to tie us up with 100 feet of rope).  Fortunately, our parents understood this was normal for a young man obsessed with Houdini. They wouldn’t buy the rope or chains for us so we had to use our show money to buy them and then boxes and boxes of red and blue Bee decks.

Yes, we went the way of the devil on occasion and would try Aviators (because they were cheaper and usually gimmicked) or Fox Lake (same as Aviators but with better gimmicking) or even a set of bridge-sized Hello Kitty cards.  But we always returned to Bee (now only blue) decks.

The motivation was simple.  Bee decks have no borders and possess what some could consider a busy back.  86 percent of our card routine involves second dealing.  The entire middle section (which seems to take about 90 minutes to most audiences) is all second deals.

There are trade-offs, of course.  Our double lift is suspect and our performance of Dai Vernon’s Triumph can be easily ruined with the boardless cards.  We do the double lift on an off-beat and never do Triumph anymore.

But the point of this post was not what we did but what we will do.

Theory 11 is advertising a new deck of cards called the Purple Monarch deck.  It is beautiful and could convince us to move from security provided by one of the several gross packages of Bee (blue) decks to a new deck.  We will order one or two or three from Theory 11 and do a review if we like them.  It is Inside Magic’s policy to never do a review of something we don’t like.   We don’t want to add negativity into our art and we were scandalized in the late 1980s with a negative (with positive points) about a card sword that we described as “it looks neither like a sword or a card sword.  A swashbuckler would not buy or steal this object for a sword fight and a magician would have no need to use it to stab cards or even himself in disgust for paying over $50 dollars for an aluminum pipe and a wood handle roughly cut and unfit for the hands of anyone other than a giant or two very normal-sized men working together.”

The sword manufacturer was very distressed by this review and we felt badly.  We tried to make it up by retracting the story (that’s why it’s no longer on the site) but that wasn’t enough.  We saw him at the IBM convention in Orlando and he ignored us.  We cried and overspent at his booth.  But the damage was done.  Never again.

You can view the Monarch deck here.  You can even tell them Inside Magic sent you but remember, we receive nada for the link or the puff.  Let us know if you agree that it is a deck about which one could be very excited.

Magician Changes Show Title After Concerns of Insensitivity

Box-Bottom The MarshMagician David Hirata has changed the name of his show, now playing in Berkeley, California, in response to objections from Japanese-Americans as reported on The Mercury website.  The show was originally called “The J*p Box” and is now called “A Box Without a Bottom.”

Mr. Hirata is a Japanese-American whose mother’s family was interned in a “segregation camp” during World War II.  He posted news of the new title on the theater’s website in an essay titled “A name change and an apology.”

“I deeply regret the pain that my choice has caused,” he wrote.

Mr. Hirata received complaints that his use of the term “normalized use of a slur” and was “harsh and degrading.”

His show will run through the first of December and features the story of the 19th-century Japanese magician, Namigoro Sumidagawa.  The original title reflected the mocking the magician received.  The new title references one of the magician’s effect,  Soko-nashi Bako (the “bottomless box”).  Mr. Hirata noted that American magic manufacturers appropriated the trick and sold it under the derogatory name.

Mr. Hirata said the show traces Japanese-American history, told through magic.  “We start with Namigoro Sumidagawa and his story and his interaction with Wellington Tobias, which says something about attitudes towards race in America, and weave that with my own personal history as a magician and my interest in the magic of these men. And my own identity as a Japanese-American then weaves in the fact of the internment as part of my family history.”

Mr. Hirata said that he “was extremely nervous when I considered the title.” He discussed the title with friends in San Diego as he premiered the show before bringing it to Berkeley.

In his post on the theater’s website he wrote  that“[t]he higher-profile run of the show here in the Bay Area exposed the show to a broader audience. Subsequent discussions with the Japanese-American community have led me to realize that I have simply underestimated the raw pain of the ‘J’ word. The title itself provides insufficient context to justify its use.

Though I have a real connection with the account of the Soko-nashi Bako, the raw pain of the ‘J word’ is not my story to tell.”

Read more about Mr. Hirata, his show and the decision he made on The Mercury’s website here.

Visit The Marsh Theater’s website and information about Mr. Hirata here.

Letters to the Editor

Inside Magic EditorFrom time to time and when required by the standards of decency and regulations, we publish letters to the editor.  If you have something on your brain you would like to share, please send us a note at editor@insidemagic.com.  We won’t use your last name so ask anything  – related to magic.

Dear Inside Magic:

A long time ago or maybe last week you said you were going to do podcasts.  When will they start going?

  • Unnamed

Dear Unnamed:

We are going to be doing podcasts and have already had two guests who have volunteered to discuss the history of magic, some of the greats they’ve seen and from whom they learned much.  While we are very talented in the double-lift and second deal, we are still learning how to hook-up the electronics necessary for a podcast.  We have been researching everywhere.  We started reading Popular Electronics magazines from the 1960s – just because we still had them, holding up part of our dining room table, also from the 1960s by coincidence.  The table fell down and scared our 12 cats but we were determined to learn the technique of what the kids call “pod casting.”

Our research showed that the technique did not exist in the 1960s (from 1964 forward), the 1970s (the only “pod” reference dealt with the American space program and did involve microphones and receivers but seemed far too expensive to build), and the 1980s.  We figured we would just break down (not emotionally – that’s what the 12 cats prevent) and go to Radio Shack to get a ready-made kit.  But you know what?  There are no Radio Shacks any more.  They’ve gone the way of Good Humor trucks and regular milk delivery to your front door.

Undeterred, we went to the Internet (capitalized to meet the current style guide here at Inside Magic (pronounced, “IN – side mAGIC” – the .com is silent.  We found many things on the Internet but few things on pod casting until we figured out that we should search for something more specific.  We modified our search in the “search bar” to something other than “pod” OR “casting.”  Each word on its own brings up results that are unhelpful.  The latter brings up many results that are not safe for work but we work from home so all we had to worry about was offending the cats and they don’t do much during the day.

Bottom line: we think we know what we need to do and we will do it, by gollly.  We hope to tape our first one in the next two or three weeks and it should go live within a few days after.  Thank you so much for asking.

 

Dear Editor: 

What is the best way to become a master magician? Is there a course I can take?

  • William

Dear William:

The appellation “Master Magician” is given to only one magician at a time.  Currently Lance Burton holds the title after he was given the status by Lee Grabell.  It is, therefore, a very rare honor and one that many of us will never achieve.

On the other hand, you can try to master magic by practicing before a mirror over and over until you fool yourself, perform for a trick for an audience only once (never do it again no matter what they say), and NEVER reveal a secret.  If you keep these things in mind, you’ll go far.  It is a wonderful art and we admire your apparent desire to learn more about it.

We had written a 15 volume set on “How to Become a Master Magician” but it is no longer in print and was the subject of, in our view, needless litigation.  Sorry we don’t have an old set we can give you but it is holding up the other side of our table.

 

Dear Magic:

Why do some magicians change their names to just one name? Like Cher or Sammy?

  • Elaine

Dear Elaine:

If that is your real name.  (See what we did there?)  Usually a single name (usually the first name although Penn & Teller are an exception) is something one takes on when they reach a level of fame but in the magic world, it helps to get promoted and adds to the mystery.

Would you want to see “Timmy Quinlan” or “The Amazing Q”? We hope it is the second one because we just bought 1,000 business cards saying “The Amazing Q” from Vista Print one night when we saw a commercial about a special offer just for those watching at 3:30 in the morning.

They haven’t arrived yet and we have no idea how we will distribute them – especially because we forgot (we were tired and that cats were doing their nocturnal running the length of the trailer and then running back) to put our phone number on them.

That means, if you pick up one of our Amazing Q cards, you’ll need to come to our residence and knock on our door – thus scaring the cats and causing them to hide but not before bumping into each other like furry pinballs (our first album name, by the way) – or write us a letter by US Mail.  Our landlord will not accept FedEx packages on our behalf because she worries they could be bad things.

We’ve asked what kind of “bad things” could be in a standard envelope with a FedEx logo.  She responds out of the corner of her mouth not holding her cigarette, “you wouldn’t know, would you?”

Great question but the bottom line is folks will have to send letters.

We don’t know why ordinary letters wouldn’t carry the same “bad things” but apparently they don’t.

So when the cards come (by regular mail) we will write our phone number on the bottom of each.  We wish we had chosen Comic Sans as the font so that when we wrote our phone number on the card, it looked like we intentionally were writing poorly.  But you know what they say, “if wishes were dishes, someone would have to take them out of the dishwasher just once in this dang house, how hard could that be?  You can put them in, no problem, but you can’t take them out?”

If you have a question for our editor, you can use the contact link at the top of the page or just send an email to us at editor@insidemagic.com.

Actress Accuses Magician Ex of Abuse

Inside Magic's Famous BunnyDiane Neal, a former  actress on “Law and Order: SVU” claims her magician ex-boyfriend physically and sexually abused her and her pets.   She accuses magician JB Benn of being a con artist as well as a “manipulative and maniacal fraudster,” according to  The Daily Mail.

The musician Moby posted his disbelief.  “I’ve seen JB do magic at least 250 times and each time I’m just as stunned as the last. Some of his magic shouldn’t be possible, and it makes my brain hurt in the best possible ways.’

According to The Daily Mail, the magician allegedly “defrauded her of millions” and “violently inflicted emotional distress” in a “campaign of isolation, terror and (physical and sexual) assault, and destroyed her reputation by doing so.”

According to Page Six, on Wednesday, Mr. Benn pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge resulting in a $200.00 fine and a two-year protection plan for Ms. Neal.

 

As in any story of this ilk, there are terrible claims and accusations; including injury to their pet.  Most of which we won’t print here because they turn our stomach and makes us sad.

If you want to read more, see pictures of the couple and their home, you can read The Daily Mail‘s coverage.

Tour with the Cat Circus – A History

IMG_7836

We heard of the famous Cirque Mexicain Los Gatos Caballistas in our much younger days.

It was a time when cat circuses were all the rage.  Small towns like Mystic Hollow, Illinois would anticipate the shows for weeks; stoked by the colorful cat circus poster (like the one pictured to the left) that promised excitement and danger.

Cat circuses have all but disappeared today.  Some say it was concern for the animals’ safety, or the heavy cost of feeding an ever growing group of felines (this was before mandatory spaying and neutering of feral cats came into law).

Some say the cat circuses were taken over by human-centric circuses where audience members could understand the ringmaster.

Kit shows (as they were called by those in the know) usually had a cat ringmaster and while his meowing had some meaning to his fellow show members and the roustabouts setting up and tearing down the acts as the show progressed, it was lost in translation for the mostly human audience.

Many a kitten, though, was entranced by the circus life and there are tales a plenty of kittens (as young as 15 weeks – we don’t know what that is in metric) leaving their mothers and siblings to join the exciting world of circuses.  A few became entranced by string or yarn as well — but this post isn’t about them.

Humans were needed not only as audience members but also logistical help.  Our father’s chief assistant, Paw Lawton, worked several cat circuses in Canada and South Texas.  He would help set up the tent and the double rings for performances.  Once the scene was set, he would work the ticket booth and occasionally fish for the large dinner needed to feed so many of the very hungry performers and workers.

The cat circuses reached their nadir in the US in 1973 when they appeared as a novelty on ABC’s Wild World of Sports.  In fact, the circus featured was the one pictured above and the star of the show was the cat pictured.

Cuidado was the star of the Cirque Mexicain Los Gatos Caballistas from 1966 through 1974.  He was reckless and never backed down from a challenge.  Ride a horse?  No problem.  Wear boots whilst riding a stallion? Easy for Cuidado. Hold a cat-sized rifle whilst riding? Everyday for the spry, enigmatic star.

Cuidado allegedly came from McAllen, Texas, not far from the border with Mexico.  His understanding of Spanish and English was fostered by his family and, later, the folks he met along the way.

He began as a schlepper.

He would carry equipment and help Paw Lawton set up grandstands and occasionally make popcorn and cotton candy.

He loved children and it is rumoured he was the father of hundreds throughout Mexico, the US and Canada.  He tried to keep in touch but the life of a cat circus member is hard and communicating with loved ones without a written language made it even harder.

Cuidado got his big break in Davenport, Iowa, when the star of the show came down with a horrible stomach pain that turned out to be a seven kitten litter.  Cuidado leapt into the ring, a hat was tossed to him as he jumped on to the silver horse and away he went.

The audience loved him.

Paw said he extended his performance because of the standing ovations and demands for encore after encore.

At the end of his first performance, he gave the crowd what became his trademark sign-off: he would hiss, jump to the ring, remove his hat and bow.  He held the bow longer than most and when he lift his head to the thunderous applause, he smiled and walked off into the darkness of the circus tent.

The Des Moines Tribune Circus Critic, Monty LeClaire wrote, “We’ve seen cats, we’ve seen circuses, we’ve even seen cat circuses.  But what we saw last night at the fairgrounds was none of those.  It was the birth of a star we hope will shine for many years to come. Cudado (sic) has something special and the audience provided thunderous applause in appreciation for what he offered them last night.”

Continue reading “Tour with the Cat Circus – A History”