Author: Inside Magic

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Practicing Magic in the Dark (Times)

Inside Magic's Famous BunnyWe mentioned on our magic oriented Twitter channel that the pandemic lockdown is both benefiting our practice of magic and seriously hurting our enjoyment of the Art.

We have had time to read, practice, watch videos, shop and practice.  We practice a lot.  We now have dealing seconds down better than we have ever hoped.  We can push-off and strike the deal in alternating deals.  We can one-hand deal seconds from the bottom of the deck.  We can palm just about anything and are even trying to master a Matrix routine by following the videos of Shoot Ogawa san. (@shootogawa)  Don’t get us wrong.  We are no where close to his mastery.  His level of mastery and our level of mastery are like a brick layer and a fine sculptor.  We just want to get to the point where we can not make noise, show things and not hit our hands as we cross positions.  Ogawa san is at the level where the magic takes place and there is no explanation for how things could possibly be accomplished.

We’ve read through The Expert at the Card Table and watched the Ackerman videos taking us through the sleights a couple of times now.  As with our first encounter with the bible of card magic, we skip certain effects that we see as beyond our abilities but work on the ones that are just barely beyond what we think we can master.  We are currently working with the Mexican Turn-Over.  Once we get that down, life will be good.

But will it be good?  We have no audience for whom to perform.  It is worse than an empty theater.  Our poor family is trapped into watching us endlessly dealing seconds, attempting bottom deals and responding to our questions, “How did that look?”

The Magic Castle was our favorite location because it allowed us to meet and mingle with the true pros in our Art, see great shows and to perform downstairs in the amateur rooms.  Sometimes the rooms would get packed, sometimes there would be only a few folks.  But at least it was an audience.

We have thought of Zoom shows and admire those who have taken to this publication method.  We watch the acts (usually a single effect) and see inspired and accomplished performers as well as performers on their way up — still in need of additional practice but really making a great effort.

When all of this over and we have a chance to reflect on what positives we can take from the experience, we know it will be the time we would not have normally had to practice and learn as well as our immense appreciation for real live audiences.

This isn’t news but it does qualify as current events.

Magicians and Influenza — 1918 and Now

Chicago Board of Health 1918One of the many inconveniences of the current state of disease and our reaction to disease seems minimal compared with the devastating impact of the pandemic.  But for those of us who perform for our income or even for enjoyment, the lack of access to a real-live audience is tough.  It is not tough enough to seek opportunities to violate good public safety guidelines, but it is tough enough to make us miss the days of performing downstairs at the Magic Castle.  We can imagine it is even worse for those of our profession who depend on appearance fees and meal allowances for their work at the greatest platform for our art we know.

We looked back at the way performers handled the lockdowns in the 1918 Spanish Flu.  We should have guessed that John Cox would have covered Houdini’s involvement with the flu on his wonderful website, Wild About Harry.  Link here.

Houdini actually contracted the flu but apparently was of sufficient strength or granted sufficient protection to survive the flu in 1918.  Interestingly, that flu attacked those who were young, healthy and strong.  It forced the immune system – usually stronger in young – to cause the immune system to over-react and kill the infected.  John quotes information from a David Ben book that points out Houdini was at the time of the flu “middle aged” and thus part of a population that was actually safer from the flu.

We checked the medical journals reviewing entertainment’s response to the flu.

In an article titled “Lessons Learned from the 1918–1919 Influenza Pandemic in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota,” in the journal Public Health Reports in 2007.  To save you the reading of the entire report, it is documented that the closing of theaters in November of 1918 was show to reduce the number of cases.  The Minneapolis Tribune reported that when the closure of theaters was announced, patrons rushed to the venues for one last show, “Downtown theaters were packed last night with patrons who took advantage of their last chance to see a performance until the ban is lifted.” (“Influenza Lid Clamped Tight All Over City,” Minneapolis Tribune 1918 Oct 13).

There is a great summary of how show people handled the sudden closing of the theaters at Circus Talk.  Contracts were cancelled “left and right” and so performers were tossed from the hotels and boarding houses where they were staying.  Some looked for theaters that either were not affected by the shut-down or simply ignored the law and thus risked criminal sanctions.  In those towns without laws or regulations, performers received poor reviews and small audiences.

We have much to learn from the past but the lessons are hard to abide.

Zoom Magic Sought by Inside Magic

Picture of Magician EntertainingWe have seen some wonderful Zoom magic shows recently.  We realized we only knew about them because friends (we’re not bragging but we have some outside our family) sent us links or we read about them on our Twitter timeline (@insidemagic).

So, we got to thinking.  Hey, why not have a collection of Zoom (or any video presentation method) links right here on Inside Magic.

So, if you have a show coming up or know of a show coming up, let us know and we’ll announce it right here on these hallowed pages.   If you have a video of a past performance, you can share it here as well.

We’ll review the submissions and get a menu set up on the site where links can be shared.

We’re excited about this service and hope you are as well.

Yay!

Special Magical Event at Smoke & Mirrors Magic Theater

Magician John CassidyA Special Note From Our Friends at the Smoke & Mirrors Magic Theater:

We hope you and your family are well and that you are staying safe in these uncertain times.

Danny Archer & Marty Martin opened the Smoke & Mirrors Magic Theater in August of 2017. The theater was instantly regarded as a gem, not only by the public but by the many headliners from around the world who played there. With its unique amphitheater seating, there is not a bad seat in the house and the performer has the best possible conditions to share their art with the audience. Until COVID hit, and on Friday, March 13th, the theater was forced to close for almost 6 Go.

They are reopening and we are pleased to announce that they will be donating a portion of their ticket sales to the SAM, along with giving the SAM members a discount when they watch a show. They bring in different acts on a regular basis, and this is a great opportunity to watch some great live performances and help out the SAM as well. Their tickets normally sell for $25, and when you order you save $5 off the ticket price and the SAM receives $5 as well. This offer is for their first two shows David Corsaro on 9/26 and John Cassidy (pictured) on 10/3. If the promotion does well for the SAM, this program will be extended.

To purchase tickets, you would go to https://streamingliveshows.uscreen.io/catalog, start to make your purchase, and enter discount code SAM5 (for the Corsaro show only) and SAM5JC (for the John Cassidy Show)  to get $5 off your purchase. Due to the nature of online tickets, the discounted tickets cannot be purchased on the day of the show. One neat feature is that if you miss the live show, the show will be available for viewing for up to five days afterward. So basically you can watch once either live or as Video on Demand. Since this is a fundraiser, please feel free to share the link and discount code with your friends and family.

For more information on the theater, please visit;  http://www.smokeandmirrorstheater.com

Facebook Page  https://www.facebook.com/smokeandmirrorsmagictheater/

Twitter                @smoke_theater

Instagram          https://www.instagram.com/smokeandmirrorstheater/

 

 

Great Magic Tricks and Magic Dealers

1926-Johnson Smith Co. AdAs all readers know, InsideMagic.com does not do paid endorsements of Magic Dealers or their tricks for sale.  When we review a trick, readers know that we really, really like it and are not receiving a red cent for the good word.

Not that we are against being bribed to writing a great review for a lousy trick but the offer doesn’t come around that often.  That could be because Magic Dealers are notoriously honest and we have a readership hovering in the single digits and the hovering is in the lower range of that single digit range.  We prefer to think that Magic Dealers are honest and above bribes.

But the subject has caused us to wonder: why do Magic Dealers like Viking Magic, Meir Yedid and Cody Fisher produce quality tricks.  They could produce the same effect to do the same thing with lousy quality but they don’t.

We got to thinking about this when we received Viking Magic’s Nest of Brass Boxes.  The tolerances of the brass machining is exact and, dare we say — and we do dare, it’s our nature — perfect.  The trick is not new, it is the quality of the trick that makes the difference.  George Robinson is not just a nice guy and proprietor of a great shop, he seems to insist on quality when less than quality would do.  The brass is beautiful, the instructions are great, the delivery was prompt and the trick works right out of the box.  We didn’t have to make the gimmick or even polish the brass.

Meir Yedid apparently loves magic as much as we do.  His services include the latest magic news and his descriptions of the effects he sells are first class.  He gives a short history on how he came upon the trick, offers his suggested variations on handling, and great prices.  Again, he doesn’t need to do this.  People in our business know Meir Yedid.  They trust him and so he could rest on his laurels.  We recline on our beanbag chair, we have no laurels on which to rest.  If we did, they would probably have thorns making for a difficult resting experience.

As many InsideMagic.com readers know, we have a jones for color changing knives.  It could be because it was the first trick we received on the first day upon being employed by the legendary Barry Gibbs — developer of the finest Rising Card effect ever made, the A.M.Y Rising Cards — at the legendary Magic Wagon at the no-longer existent Palm Beach Mall.  He instructed us to learn the moves and to come back for our next day at work with it practiced.  He also told us to clip and clean our fingernails before demonstrating any magic at the kiosk.  That set was from D. Robbins with the locking blade.  We loved it because it was our introduction into our mentorship with Mr. Gibbs.  Over the next two years, he taught us so much but the Color Changing Knives stuck — pun intended.

We have purchased Joe Mogar sets, Rodger Loveland‘s beautiful and larger set, and now two more sets from Meir Yedid including a set made from used car parts.  How many sets does on magician need?  We don’t know but when we find out, we’ll share the news on this humble site.

Cody Fisher is not only inventive, he is a great guy.  His personal approach to dealing with customers and past customers is the finest — and it does not have to be.  His tricks are strong enough to be a less interested or helpful dealer but that apparently not his style.

But why?  Why make such great Magic Tricks with such high quality and great customer service?  Because we are a small market?  No, they would have greater economic incentives to do the bare minimum and take the least path to satisfying the customer.  The economics of the situation would seem to dictate that they should do enough to get the sale and move on.  Yes, customer service would help build loyalty but pricing lowered by lesser quality would compete against this benefit.

We come to the conclusion that they are magicians first and Magic dealers’ second.  They promote our Art and care about their customers because they want to put out the best quality effects and follow up with customers because they care about their customers’ use of the products.

They don’t need to but they do.

We are thankful that they do but we are not above taking bribes for endorsements.  Perhaps that’s the difference between us and them.  Fortunately in the last 25 years of this site’s existence, we’ve never had to face that dilemma.

 

Magicians Making it Work in Unique Times

Image of Balloon SculptureOne of the chief complaints we receive here at the spacious Inside Magic office overlooking Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, California is “Why do you have to be so specific in identifying where your office is?”

The second complaint we are forced to address is “Why don’t you have more articles about Balloon Sculptures?”

We have thought about the two complaints for weeks and cannot find a common link.  We’ll save the first complaint for later and focus on the second one.

We read today in the East Anglian Daily Times of two performers who have innovated a method to stay in business during these trying times.

Steff Evans and Olly Graham are accomplished magicians, balloon and bubble artists in Woodbridge, UK and in an article about their venture titled, “Don’t Pop Me Now,” they have received great publicity for what appears to be a winning business model.

The two entertainers were working steadily before the pandemic and like many of us had to find a way to make ends come close to meeting when business dried up overnight.

Mr Graham told the paper, “We were well-established and successful but absolutely nothing could have prepared us for what happened with corona virus. As soon as lock-down was announced, all of our work died instantly.

“Phones were going crazy cancelling everything and almost overnight we went from having a jam-packed diary to nothing on the horizon at all.

“As full-time professionals in the entertainment business, neither of us had anything to fall back on.”

Ms. Evans recalled how they were asked to use their balloon sculpting skills to “jazz up” a friend’s living room for a birthday party.

“Just because people cannot have big parties or events doesn’t mean they don’t want to mark special occasions, decorate venues or create a magical or memorable experience for someone and balloons are a great way to add colour and beauty and to get a wow factor.”

Ms Evans said: “We now have a whole load of bookings for balloon arches for weddings, gender reveal balloons for baby showers, balloon bouquets and huge numbers to mark special birthdays.”

They are even going so far as to provide bubble equipment to let customers make their own shows.

You can read the full story and see images of their great creations by visiting the East Anglia Daily Times here.

Visit Olly Graham‘s very cool website and Steff Evans home on the net for more information.

As for the first complaint, why we always describe our office location at the outset of our articles even thought such information has nothing to do with the following story.  We are lonely (or as our spell check just wrote, “loony”) and we hope that someone may happen along Santa Monica Boulevard one day, look to the single office window above the place where they make gourmet treats for dogs, and decide to wave.  We don’t need that person or persons to come up to see our spacious office; just a wave will do.

 

Zack King and David Blaine and Social Media

Inside Magic Image of David BlaineThere’s a great article about two great magicians in today’s edition of Broadway World & TV.  David Blaine and Zack King have huge internet followings and for good reason — they are good at magic and very, very savvy.

From the post at BW&TV (we don’t know if that’s their actual acronym but if it isn’t, it should be:

Today, digital superstar and viral illusionist Zach King released a Youtube collaboration with world famous magician David Blaine. In the video, which was uploaded to Zach’s Youtube channel with over 8MM+ subscribers, Zach and David are shown on a video call showing each other some magic tricks. David advises Zach to up the ‘fear factor’ of his tricks by showing some of his infamous tricks – coughing a tarantula out of his mouth and igniting a fire on the palm of his hand. This collaboration comes on the heels of David announcing he will attempt to float over the Hudson River using only helium balloons.

You can check out his promotional video for the stunt aqui.

Can we say this?

We have fear every time David Blaine takes on one of his stunts.  Getting shot in the mouth by a 22 caliber round was scary, being locked in ice, holding one’s breath under water for 18 minutes (but felt like an hour), standing on a narrow pole for more than 24 hours and then jumping into boxes from said pole.  Coughing up spiders and frogs from one’s belly — or the opposite — going without nourishment for 40 days in full public view all scare us.

We know his plans are well considered and he is far from reckless but, golly, he sure does a lot of scary stuff.

We were okay when he would rub ash on his arm to reveal a playing card previously selected by clearly inebriated spring-breakers, or throwing a deck of cards against a window and having the selected, signed card appear on the other side of the glass.

We might be okay with him performing a Finger Chopper effect if it is the kind we grew to love during our years of performing as “The Mini Magician” for our schoolmates in reform school during the 1940s.  Even that could involve risk if you stuck your finger in the wrong hole or didn’t set it right.

Basically, what we are saying is that we are cowards.  We eschew things that could hurt us.  We don’t even like being as tall as we are.  We avoid walking down aisles in darkened movie theaters (back when such things were done) for fear we would fall into the lap of some theater patron with an embarrassing thud — as opposed to the non-embarrassing thud, we suppose.

But there is something in Mr. Blaine that causes him to push the envelope until it contorts into something that looks less like an envelope and more like a coffin.

We cringe at gymnastics of any kind being practiced by anyone — even circus performers.  Escape artists cause us to cringe without recourse.  We can’t get images out of our mind or worry about the people involved and the people watching — all could be effected by a trick gone wrong.

So, once again, Mr. Blaine will try the impossible — to Ascend over the New York skyline by holding onto a group of balloons.  The thing is the does not need to do it.  We would like and respect him regardless — and even irregardless.

Mr. Blaine we worry for you.  Please be careful.

Check out Mr. Blaine’s website and tremble here.

David Blaine Practices for “Ascension”

Balloon Use Over SkiesMagician, illusionist and risk-taker extraordinaire, David Blaine was spotted in Porterville, California this morning.  He was hanging on to a group of balloons — technically called a “lift” of balloons.

We are happy to report that according to other reporters who appeared to be happy to report as well, Mr. Blaine landed safely after his soaring above the California landscape.

He plans to hold onto a lift of balloons to fly over the skies of New York City.

We think he is either fearless and/or the stunt has been well planned in advance.  We asked no one in particular whether we would ever do such a stunt.  We answered in the negative with a shudder.

Some dedicated InsideMagic readers no doubt recall our failed attempt to float over Mystic Hollow, Michigan, by holding on to birds through a special harness set-up.  We barely took off — official records kept by the arresting officers said we lifted one and a half inch from the ground but this may have been accomplished by our “hopping.”

Unlike our attempt, it is doubtful Mr. Blaine will be covered by the waste product of “excited and/or frightened birds,” to use words from the arrest record.

We wish Mr. Blaine the best of luck and we will watch with envy and fear.

What’s a Magician to Do?

Inside Magic Library Cover Page for Happy Hollisters and the Perfect FarosWe have no idea how our fellow magicians are doing during the shut-down, but we do have some awareness of how we are doing.

Again, you may be different, but we live for live audiences.  Without an audience fix at least weekly, we go through withdrawal symptoms.  Our mood suffers, our eyebrows are not timely trimmed (a hazard for Irish-blooded magicians (men and women)), our fingers loose their callouses that were developed over the years.

We have been practicing our sleights almost non-stop.  We do stop for sleep and regular washing of our hands and that only dries them out and makes some of the sleights more difficult to perform.  In that way, it is a good thing that we are forced to perform under more than severe conditions.

Our Second Deals (strike and push-off) are becoming honed to the point that we can fool us — and our  point of view is directly behind our hands.  Perhaps that dependent clause did not need to be written.  Where else would we be in relation to our own hands?

We have started doing Bottom Deals and are starting to get a handle on something that has eluded us for years.  We don’t fool us yet, but we are working on it.

Of course the ultimate would be to learn how to perform a half-pass without detection.  We’re sure there are people in the world can do it.  After all, it was written up in The Royal Road to Card Magic and taught on YouTube.  We’ve been working on the sleight since we were 14 and have only dared it when we have a cover or distraction or both.  We keep trying but like the Pressure Fan, we fail; yet we try.

But any success we enjoy learning or perfecting sleights pale in comparison to our deeply felt need to perform in front of a joyous (maybe also inebriated) crowd in the basement of The Magic Castle.  There is nothing that beats the feeling of working with a small crowd of people, entertaining them (we hope), and using our sleights under the close examination of people up-close.

When we receive applause or laughs, endorphins release their bonds and float smoothly to our little brain.  Our attitude improves and our eyes glisten.  Our eyebrows return to a smooth line without errant strands going off into strange patterns.

Perhaps it is a reflection on our own mental makeup that we need an audience.  If so, we think we share a similar psychological status with many magicians and other performers.

We will now open a new deck (Bee, of course), remove the jokers and advertising cards, practice our fans, Faros, Seconds, Bottoms, Charlier Passes, False Shuffles and, of course, the half-pass.  But our eyes don’t glisten and our eyebrows sit unruly above our unglistening eyes.

Passing of Magicians Due to the Virus

Inside Magic's First LogoWe are in a tough era of life and magic.  One of the benefits magicians offer to society is a respite from tragedy or daily anxiety caused by war, strife, natural disasters and economic troughs.  Unfortunately, there is remarkable difference in this time of world concern, the individuals looked to for entertainment and distraction are not immune to the virus and economic devastation.

This article started out as a focus on several magicians around the United States and the world who have passed away due to the virus.  These were men and women of ages from early thirties to the late seventies.  They lived in different sized towns, large and small.  They entertained different audiences in different venues of varying sizes.  But all of them had fans, if only their families and close friends.

We realized that we could not chronicle each magician’s passing.  The official publications of the Society of American Magicians and the International Brotherhood of Magicians have added extra space to cover their lives and too early deaths.

On top of the virus, we have social strife over something as basic as human rights and equality for all men and women.  Black lives matter.  This shouldn’t be a new concept.  It is one set forth in the 13th and 14th amendments to our constitution but wouldn’t be fulfilled through reconstruction, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement of the 1960s and even today.

Magic has had a good, not perfect, but good reputation of treating magicians of all races equally.  In some cases, the equality was seen only on the stage but behind the curtains, those very same performers were discriminated against in lodging, travel and basic human commerce.

We are the type who see the glass half-full always.  We have been proven wrong by those on the margin of our society who would like nothing more than to push back on the hard-fought progress made thus far but in no way complete.  Still we agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. that the arc of the moral universe will inevitably bend toward justice.  It may take time but we agree and find great hope in the inevitable endpoint of work and struggle.

We realize this post is unlike any post we have ever made in this modest web publication but we felt moved by the deaths and struggle we see on television, our love for our fellow man, our hope for a cure for both the medical issues surrounding the virus as well as the societal illness that would ever deny equality to any man or woman based on the color of their skin, their beliefs, their disabilities, their social standing, who they love, or where they were born.

As noted in the Broken Wand section of the International Brotherhood of Magicians’ publication, The Linking Ring, “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”