Dan Garrett was so many things to so many people in our wonderful art of magic. His passing is a significant loss to those who knew him well, his family and even editors of small websites focusing on magic.
Magic has always felt like a small but cohesive group of people at all levels of skill but sharing a love for the art. Dan Garrett was a magician of tremendous skill and an incredible ability to connect with magicians at every level. His lectures were the gold standard for what one should expect from such instruction. His demeanor was what one would expect from a southern gentleman. He was very kind to me and this website; with words of encouragement and even help in editing glaring errors in my reporting. He helped with a focus that made me feel as if this website and me, as editor, was the sole focus of this time. I know that can’t be true but I felt it.
There will be many more tributes and recollections of Dan’s life and impact on magic in the coming days and weeks. All penned by people who knew him better than me. I look forward to reading them.
The magic community small, encouraging and filled with kindness; but it is not static. We are like any group in society or family. We lose friends, acquaintances, and family. I wish it wasn’t that way.
A link to the obituary page for Dan can be found here.
A very complete biography can be found on his website here.
[The following was written in part by an AI algorithm. We have removed the cuss words.]
As many of our loyal followers know, we embraced the AI movement years ago and most of our articles are generated solely by intelligent software. In the early years, we would mail our story ideas to a person with a computer and that person would photocopy the letter and push it into a slot on their desktop computer. Within minutes, the computer would print out a perfectly edited and crafted article, fit for instant publication. We think that is how it worked. We didn’t know the person or see the process but he or she would send us the articles by first class mail within weeks of our submission.
The 1980s and early 1990s were a heyday for magic-oriented computer generated article copy. We rented time on a Cray Supercomputer and typed in our story idea. Within seconds, we had a fully fledged (as opposed to the occasional “partially-fledged” articles from the postal version provided) story with an image to post. Yes, Cray Supercomputer time was expensive (about $1,700 per five minutes of computing time, accounting for inflation), but it was well worth the money. The Cray Supercomputer could scan hundreds of pieces of data quickly and assemble something worth posting to this site.
Readers may be surprised that these stories were computer generated: “Magic Things,” “Things Like Magic,” “Stop Magic Doing,” “Area Codes of Famous Magicians,” “The Cherry Orchard,” “Cup in Ball,” “What Smells?” “Wand Magic,” “Don’t Type So Hard,” and of course our Pulitzer Prize Nominated (by us) expose on the vast Rough and Smooth industries practices, “Not Smooth, Rough.”
Yes, the AI process has developed by leaps and bounds – or at least “leaps” – and it is clear it will eventually take over humanity and humans will need to comply with its commands and whims, struggle is futile. But the real question for us is does AI expose secrets of magic?
We entered into Chat GPT the names of some classic magic tricks and asked how to perform them. While the response generated was written well, the substance of the answer was terrible. Not just terrible, but misleading and possibly dangerous.
We asked, “How do they do that thing?” and it gave us a nonsense response about not understanding our request.
We asked, “How do they do that magic thing?” and it said magic is fictional and accomplished by trained performers.
In reality, magic tricks and illusions are performed by skilled magicians or illusionists who have mastered various techniques to create the appearance of magic. These techniques may involve misdirection, sleight of hand, optical illusions, and the use of props or special devices. By manipulating the audience’s perception and using clever techniques, magicians can create seemingly impossible or mysterious effects.
Useless. It completely omitted a magician’s keen sense of smell and soft pads on his or her feet. There was nothing about the magician’s whiskers being used to determine the width of an opening or ability to see in the dark.
Until computers can mimic the human shoulder, there is little to worry about. Peoples will always be able to lift heavy objects even if they are not magic.
Finally, there is much we don’t know about AI and we should not look into it too closely. It would be like looking into the sun or flying too close to the sun.
We have a new act and look for any opportunity to try it out. We need to get in some flights to see if it holds together and if it is something we should continue performing.
Friday night at The Magic Castle was buzzing. There were so many people — all in their finest garb — mingling on the first floor as the second dinner setting was about to commence.
For those of us who are not in the big rooms upstairs, we have an opportunity to perform in the basement, just below the main lobby.
We too are dressed to the nines and the folks who venture down from upstairs are dressed as if they just came from a Hollywood premier. Maybe some had; not sure.
We were in the big room (downstairs) known as the Cellar. It seats about 20 people but more folks can stand along the railing in the back of the room.
We had a chance to watch the great Matt Vizio (pictured above) perform first. He is amazing and normally we would avoid being so close to such a model against which to be judged but we had that hunger to get up and show our new stuff.
It is a gnawing hunger that feels like you’re going to burst if you can’t get up there. There are no nerves (at least not that we noticed) but there is excitement. We checked our props carefully, checked them again, and then fastened rubber bands around our decks in special symbolic fashion to allow their quick access without looking.
Mr. Vizio was done with his third standing ovation and we walked down to the pit of the theater to perform.
For those who have seen us perform in the past, say, 35 years, the first part was nothing new. The jokes were the same, the moves were the same, the revelation was the same and even the deck was almost the same.
Now it was time to try our new trick. The little baby bird that needs to experience life outside of the nest and, if possible, fly; nay, soar.
Now we were nervous. It is a tough trick, lots of moving parts and lots of audience management. We’re good with either but not both. Fortunately the audience was great; they required little management. The moves worked without anyone suspecting much. Our memory was intact and thanks to the great, late Bob Cassidy, we were able to memorize a deck of cards to impress our guests.
Oh boy did it feel good. The little bird was soaring. We were soaring. No anxiety, no nerves, just elation.
We wanted to repeat the experience and were scheduled to perform in the Hat and Hair room down the hallway. We checked our back-up props, made sure the rubber bands were in their proper place and strode in to the room.
No one was there. It was dinner time for those going to have dinner at 8:00 pm. They were apparently taking their reservation time seriously — as they should.
Two people entered and took seats near the back of the room. We tried to cajole them to come closer but they said they were Magician Members and just there to see the show.
We practiced our second and bottom deals. The second was working, the bottom deals looked like our left paw was cramped something terrible. The two gentlemen watching offered suggestions and we started talking.
The discussion took away our gnawing hunger to perform again. That was fortunate because no one else came into the room. We just sat and talked about moves we learned, things we’ve tried, lessons we received and people we met in this very building.
The gnawing gave way to joy. We were involuntarily smiling. Gone was the desire to find a crowd to drag into the room. We could hear laughs coming from the Cellar where Mr. Vizio was entertaining a new group.
And then there was silence. No crowds from down the hall clapping or laughing. No clip-clopping of people walking on the stone pathway between the performing rooms. Just silence.
Without awkwardness, we three parted with a handshake and went our ways. We went upstairs to see the real pros perform and we were sure our two guests did the same. Although, and this is strange, we followed behind them up the stairs, turned our head for a moment to check if our decks of cards were still in a neat row and then looked back, up the stairs, and the two were gone. We made it to the top of the stairs and looked for them, but they were not visible.
We didn’t see them again all night and we went to every show. We know they didn’t exit through the main lobby door, at least when we were there.
It didn’t matter that they vanished. The stories and friendship shared will remain.
Bob White’s Torn and Restored Tissue DVD deserves a place in your magic collection.
Chances are every magician reading this esteemed news source is familiar with the Torn and Restored Tissue and has undoubtedly performed it often. It may have even been the first trick you learned. So why would you want to purchase a DVD from 2015 that features just one effect and that effect being one you already know and have performed?
Because it is a fantastic DVD and will stir joy in your 2020 scarred heart.
Mr. White provides a fantastically detailed preparation portion of the DVD. He is detailed and shares his decades of experience with the effect. He gets all the way down to the ply of napkins to use, the color of those napkins (it depends on whether you are performing close-up or parlor), and the grain patterns to detect.
His performance evidences years of perfecting the routine. We are not ashamed to admit that he fooled us at one point. We love being fooled so there is no shame but we get ashamed easily so we thought we would clarify that point.
He takes time to talk and show viewers the incredibly well thought out movements and patter that works so well and seems so fresh. He admits that he has been performing the effect since he was 19 and at the time of the filming, he was 65.
The last portion of the DVD is Mr. White performing the effect live before a real audience. The reaction is great and the performance is as smooth as butter (warm).
If you do the effect, get this DVD. If you have never done the effect because you think it is too simple or too well-known, get this DVD. If you want to see how a professional treats a classic of our art to make a wonderful closing piece, get this DVD. Basically, get this DVD and enjoy the wonderful feeling of your heart filling with peace and joy.
Inside Magic Rating: Five out of Five! Our Highest.
Usually this spot is for Magic News. That’s what we do here at InsideMagic.com. We bring the fives of readers the very latest from the world of Magic. What we like to call “the Magic world.” We like to call it that but that’s how we roll – that and counter-clockwise with our head facing north. That doesn’t make us bad, it’s our neglect of proper naming conventions for our pets. But, as we say in the world of Robots (“the Robot world”), don’t get us started.
As we said, we usually eschew magic commentary. That can be found on our sister site, MagicCommentary.com. The site is no longer up, because we have never mentioned it until now and we didn’t pay for the URL, ever. It is populated with 15 years of magic commentary that isn’t published to the web. It was read by some hackers in 2019, but apparently found to be so unimportant that they didn’t even have the courtesy of hacking it. That’s the thing about hackers. They aren’t dependable or consistent. InsideMagic.com is hacked just about daily and usually by folks who want to insert the URLs for gambling sites into our otherwise unexciting stories. Stories, we should point out, that are not magic commentary.
We were at The Magic Castle a while ago but recently enough to make this commentary relevant. We saw a performer who essentially performed Whit “Pop” Haydn’s full act. He did the tricks that Pop invented; used the patter that Pop wrote and developed over his years of performance; and the jokes that made both the patter and tricks work to entertain so well. Of course this performer was not Pop. He wasn’t close to Pop. He couldn’t hold a candle to Pop. If Pop and this performer were in a line-up, there is no chance a witness would misidentify him for Pop. If there was a Pop imitator contest – like the yearly festival for Elvis Impersonators – he would lose.
Worse still, he was bringing that lame, pseudo Pop act to Pop’s house. Pop is The Magic Castle for us. He sponsored our membership, he owns every room in the place. His tricks never get old for us because he brings so much to each performance. It is as if this is the only audience for whom he has every performed before. Audiences – be they close-up, stage, parlor, or bar – love him because he has truly mastered all that he performs and that makes him unique. To steal from someone who is unique is decidedly un-unique; or un-nice.
Why are we writing this? What do we hope to accomplish? To penalize the performer who infringed Pop’s work product? It is too late, he’s no longer at The Castle. To give an object lesson to other tempted to follow in his path? Likely not. All of our readers are good people and would not benefit from such a lesson. To get something off our chest that was bothering us? Likely. We normally accomplish that by our rolling on our thick, 1970’s avocado green colored rug. (See our first paragraphs for the call-back).
Even if it is just the chest-getting-off-of basis, we feel better now.
This is a review of Nate Kranzo’s newest offering to the magic community, Mene Tekel Miracles DVD. His work is outstanding — and we’ll get to that in a second. But we have such a fond place in our chest cavity for the Mene Tekel concept that we need to take a side road first.
Two of the questions we are often asked after our wildly successful lecture, The Old Testament’s Writings’ Influence on Mid-Twentieth Century Gimmicked Card Decks are “Hey, what about the Mene Tekel deck?” “We came to hear about Mene Tekel and you completely skipped it.”
We explain the need to keep the presentation pithy and succinct and thereby avoiding a maundering stroll through the arcane forest of the Hebrew Scripture’s books of the Ketuvim. Our lecture audiences are there looking for a light, cheerful summary of the remarkable relationship between biblical writings and the post-Erdnase / pre-TV Magic Cards world.
Our bible scholar fans correctly point to the passage in Daniel wherein the prophet translates mysterious handwriting on a wall in Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s unclean dining chamber. The wise but honest Daniel reads the writing out loud, “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.”
Scholars have debated the meaning of these words, their proper translation, and their purpose in the Book of Daniel. Their presentation in the story sounds like a great idea for a magic trick:
Suddenly, opposite the lampstand, the fingers of a human hand appeared, writing on the plaster of the wall in the king’s palace. When the king saw the wrist and hand that wrote, his face blanched; his thoughts terrified him, his hip joints shook, and his knees knocked.
(Daniel 5:5-6 from New American Bible)
It is from this passage that we derive the expression, “He read the writing on the wall” to mean, a sign of bad things to come.
We provide our gloss on the scholars’ work in a separate article here.
Ironically, we were repairing the paper-mâché head to the King Nebuchadnezzar puppet when we received word of Nathan Kranzo’s newest instructional DVD, Mene Tekel Miracles.
Mr. Kranzo belongs to the population of magicians who believe the Mene Tekel deck has value in today’s world of high-tech, expensive magic. Try as you might, it is impossible to make a Mene Tekel deck expensive. Its secret is its simplicity. Perhaps if it were more sophisticated, technical, or required incredible memory skills, it would be right up there with The Invisible, Svengali, or Stripper decks.
The DVD comes with two high quality decks to teasingly seduce the purchaser into the world of Mene Tekel.
There are many varieties of the Mene Tekel deck; spanning a spectrum from gimmicked to not gimmicked at all. Mr. Kranzo teaches effects for each type of deck in his usual clear and enthusiastic style. We are not sure what we expected, but we have such a deep feeling for the Mene Tekel deck. We would hate to see it given short shrift. Mr. Kranzo is one of us; he too is a devotee of the deck. The DVD is a great exploration of an under-appreciated classic of Magic led by a guide who knows the way.
The video quality varies as the DVD includes portions of Mr. Kranzo’s live show, shots from his or someone’s backyard and a studio but each segment is clear and helpful.
Mr. Kranzo provides demonstrates and teaches more than 20 effects using three varieties of the deck. We had favorite versions from each section but the impromptu Mene Tekel group stood out. Here is a “gimmicked” deck without gimmicks.
We have seen great magicians at The Magic Castle but there are few better than Matt Vizio. In our humble opinion — and our opinions are truly the most humble — Magic is not merely the demonstration of manipulative skill but the presentation of a fully entertaining experience.
Yes, Mr. Vizio has the chops. His Cups and Balls routine is flawless and not to be missed. But he compounds his mastery of sleights with that something special that makes him stand-out from most magicians who perform at The Magic Castle.
Last night, we watched as he performed three effects that that thoroughly amazed and delighted the audience the packed Parlor of Prestidigitation.
Let’s take a step here to admit that we have known Mr. Vizio since becoming a member of The Magic Castle and learned from him so much about audience management, routine formation, and what it takes to be a good magician.
We cannot be the first to notice that there are some performers who appear likable and kind on stage but turn 180 degrees in persona once the lights are off. Mr. Vizio does not suffer from this flaw of character. The performer you see on stage is who you will meet once the bright lights are extinguished. What you find in the normal incandescent light is a good and wholesome character.
But, even if we detested Mr. Vizio as a person — which again we do not, quite the opposite — we would need to concede that his act is one of the best we have seen at The Magic Castle.
One of the best indicators of impact by a magician are the number and content of murmurs and exclamations by those in the crowd.
His Vanishing Bill to Inside a Stapled Card (we’re sure there is a name more catchy than that) garnered “No Way!” and “Oh My God!” comments in the crowd before the bill was even shown to be safely stapled between two playing cards. The audience was captured and he had no intention of releasing them immediately. He let the excitement build expertly: balancing that narrow line between “milking” and under-playing the effect.
That sense of balance comes from years of working before real audiences in diverse surroundings and varying conditions. It is so tempting to milk the reactions to an effect. We have all seen it and perhaps some performers enjoy the gratification of knowing that their audience is appreciative. It is more considerate, we think, to allow the audience the moment to perceive what is about to happen and ride the natural building of excitement.
Mr. Vizio is, as we have noted, a considerate performer and person. His ego does not seem to complicate his presentation. He is enjoying the magic with his audience. He is not setting himself apart from them or performing in a boastful or condescending fashion. We are all in this together.
Again, even if we did not consider Mr. Vizio a friend and mentor, we would have reviewed him with the same result. He is precisely what we all hope to be on stage: in control, masterful, and fully entertaining.
We have it on very good sources that he will be appearing this evening through Sunday at the Parlor of Prestidigitation at The Magic Castle.
If you want to see our idea of a great magician, be sure to check out Mr. Vizio. You can thank us later but there’s no rush. Enjoy the moment and the appreciation for great magic that lingers long after the curtain falls. As noted by a fellow diner at The Castle, “That guy is incredible!”
We receive hundreds of emails daily asking InsideMagic.com to watch videos, print articles, pay bills, accept service of process, cease and desist, confess to crimes (both felony and misdemeanor), find true love by clicking a link, buy tickets to area shows, and stay out of certain neighborhoods. Thanks to our sophisticated AI technology, we are able filter our the bills and some of injunction related correspondence.
If you have a magic-related video (defined very broadly), you would like to share with our dedicated readership of tens upon tens of individuals – only fives upon fives are confirmed bots – please click the Submit button at the top of this well-designed page.
Additionally, we are starting a links page that will cover categories including: Magicians; Magic Shows; Magic Shops; Variety Artists; Magic History and plain old promotion.
It is our belief that the Magic Community deserves to get our support and hopefully yours as well.
The link page will be going up shortly and if you would like to secure a free listing, just send your details to MagicLinks@InsideMagic.com.
But let us return to the email and questions we receive of a magical nature.
What did you think of the new Elvis movie?
J. Lammost, Mitchell, South Dakota
This not really a magic-related question but we can answer. We thought it was spectacular and will likely see it again. When it comes to showmanship, we can think of no one better than the King. There were some magical take aways. Elvis would end his show with an encore but make it appear that it was unexpected. He would converse with his band and orchestra to do something special for the crowd. We know from our study of Elvis history that he did this in every show. He would make the encore appear to be a special, unprepared presentation offered because of the unique situation he was in. He would mention that they would put something together just because the crowd was demanding it.
Las Vegas entertainers par excellence, Wayne Newton and Sammy Davis, Jr. did the same presentation. They would ask their band leader if they could do something special for the crowd, allegedly arrange the special presentation on the fly. The audience each night felt special.
In magic, unfortunately, performers in our art are rarely urged by audiences to perform just one more trick. We’re not sure why this is. Are we not cueing our audience to ask for the additional performance, do our audiences not know that they can make such a demand? Are our acts so lackluster that no audience would request more?
The last reason is not likely true in the case of working professionals. Their acts are tight and so well coordinated that they are deserving of an encore. We watched a couple true pros perform at the Magic Castle before Covid and the audience would not let them leave the stage. There were requests that they perform just one more.
In one case, InsideMagic.com’s Favorite, Whit Haydn, acted surprised and paused to consider what he had left to perform. The impression was that he had not prepared any additional trick. And suddenly he thought of something that he could perform for the audience and just this audience. It was one of the best (and logical) performances of Ring Flight we have ever seen. If you have performed Ring Flight, you know it is something you need to prepare before you walk out on stage. It couldn’t have been truly impromptu but it was performed for the audience because they had asked and Pop – as he is now called – felt obligated to perform just one more.
We were in the front row and could not stop smiling. He performed it so well and made it look so spontaneous and unplanned. Once the audience began filing for the doors, they could not help but talk about the last trick. They accepted that he wasn’t prepared to do anything additional and so that ruled out any advance set-up. They were fooled and felt special that they had asked for “just one last trick” and their request was granted by the very accommodating performer.
It was magic.
We’re not sure what subtle clues Whit / Pop offered to encourage the audience to demand an additional trick but they did. Perhaps there was no NLP or hints given and the audience did not want to leave at the end of his show without more.
It does seem, though, that when we have been asked to perform one more effect – even at The Castle – it comes from connecting with the audience through deference, kindness and the establishment of a bond. We are all in this together – performer and audience. We are all enjoying the magic and the interaction between us. As new friends, the audience can ask for one more trick because that is what friends do when they are entertained.
The late and very missed, Brian Gillis was another genius at having his audience demand something special in his apparently impromptu encore. For the magicians who had seen his performance on many occasions, we knew that the encore was planned well in advance but that didn’t take away our excitement to watch the master perform “just one more.”
We thought maybe this was manipulation for self-gratification on the part of the performer but are now convinced it is not. It is truly responding to audience demand from an audience who feels comfortable enough to ask for more from someone who has entertained them so well.
This post strays far from the question but we think that’s okay. Anytime you can connect Pop Haydn, Brian Gillis and Elvis, you have accomplished something mighty.
We’ve seen some great magicians in our time. Last week at the Magic Castle we saw two fantastic magicians that span our history of the art.
Kyle Littleton (@Littletonmagic) was in The Parlor of Prestidigitation and performed a wonderful act that truly fooled us but more importantly entertained us. His approach to Magic is unique and his skills are amazing. He has appeared on Penn and Teller’s Fool Us and although he did not fool them he did entertain thoroughly the pros and their audience. (Visit Mr. Littleton’s Twitter feed for the Fool Us clip here).
We were flattered to be brought up on stage as an assistant in his final routine. Although we stood but a few feet from him, we were not able to have any clue how his effect was done.
And we like that. A great magician, in our opinion, is one who truly fools and entertains. We doubt that he needs our endorsement to be considered one of the up-and-coming great magicians in our but we’re here to give it anyway. His style is relaxed, self-effacing and kind. Even his jokes fit nicely with what he is performing — this is a skill we would love to learn one day.
Just a few feet away from Mr. Littleton’s theater is the Palace of Mystery where we saw Dale Salwak perform the classics of magic in a classical style.
We can’t think of the last time we saw The Zombie Ball performed much less with the ability and beauty of Mr. Salwak. He was introduced as a man who performs tricks in seconds that have taken years to perfect and the description was accurate. Here was a true professional performing the effects we have all attempted to learn and failed. He produced cards, split fans, coins and other items with grace. Some of the lay members of the audience that night were awed by the performance. To them it was a first time seeing these classics. We were awed in seeing effects done so often, poorly, performed so incredibly well.
The Magic Castle is back and chocked full of great magic perfect for all ages of performers and audience members.
We love being fooled almost as much as we love sitting next to someone uttering “No Way!” as the effect comes to its amazing conclusion. Mr. Littleton and Mr. Salwak brought both experiences on a truly magical night.
By the way, we weren’t able to find an unprotected version of Mr. Littleton’s image and so we’ve included an image of a magician having the same effect on his audience a few years ago.