One 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.
He may not have been known in the Las Vegas cohab and he never performed for a crowd larger than family and friends, but Jim Quinlan was a giant in magic.
He passed away recently but his impact on magic was profound – to us.
Our father was kind, accompanied always with an easy smile and receptive spirit. He made friends easily and was loyal to those friends to the end.
As a father, he was also a great teacher and inspiration to our magic career. Our first effect we performed was acquired by him from a magic shop in our hometown of Oak Park, Illinois. He brought us the Ball and Vase, performed it for us, amazed us, and taught us to perform it.
We brought it to our first grade class the following day and performed it perhaps ten times before our teacher took it and locked it securely in her desk drawer.
We were hooked. We had drawn crowds of first graders with the trick and felt the special sensations that accompany performing magic. If there is a magic bug, its sting was felt that day.
We got the trick back and spent hours on the playground after school performing the Ball and Vase for those unfortunate souls who were not in attendance at our morning show.
As we walked home, we performed it for strangers on the sidewalks, the construction workers on the main boulevard leading to our home street, and of course for our mother — it was not our first performance for her of the new trick. She was instrumental in our beta testing of the effect the night before.
And when our father returned from work, we performed it again and told him of the day’s events.
In the days, weeks, months and years that followed, our father encouraged our pursuit of the art. We learned that his mother had performed in vaudeville and we took pride in our theatrical lineage.
Our father would provide great insight on the performance of magic, the presentation of our magician personality, and essential rules for taking a stage and exiting gracefully.
A few years later, he purchased Stratospheres for us and launched our career (nascent still) on the real stage.
He was proud of our sleight of hand skills and would often ask us to perform for his friends and co-workers. We were so proud and delighted that our father would ask us to perform.
As we matured in the art and in life, he was always supportive and interested in what and how we were performing. He was big on rehearsing one’s act. We were not. But, we’ve learned, he was right.
Our father’s passing came quickly and with a devastating impact. It is still difficult to think about or discuss. We remember him as young, vibrant and out-going. He would play basketball with us until there was insufficient light to see the ball being shot or passed.
Time passed so quickly and we knew the time would come that he would no longer be with us in a physical sense. We miss him terribly.
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.”
How about Marvyn Roy, “Mr. Electric.” Now 94 years old and the draw that brought many of us into the world of Magic. He is the reason the theater was named for him.
“Mr. Hobson is is own inimitable self as he emcees the show dedicated to be a place he would’ve wanted to perform in if he were still traveling on the road as a magician.
Mr. Dobson told the local news outlet, Channel 3, “I traveled around the world,” he said. “I Spent 14 years on the strip of Las Vegas and I didn’t know what my home looked like and I had a friend, a local resident, Gary Bueller say if you ever want to open a place let me know. I turned him down for 12 years and finally he showed me La Quinta, feel in love with it and I said okay, time to get off the road, time to settle down and open up my own place.”
It is not an ordinary place.
“At Marvyn’s Magic Theater we want you to be unsure of yourself,” he said. “This quaint theater seats 129 people and is only for those 21 and older. There are mysteries to behold beyond the entertainment on stage.
Entertainers from Las Vegas, Broadway and all over the world will perform magic, grand illusion, escape magic, mentalism magic, close-up magic, hilarious comedy, prop comedy, joggling, ventriloquism and other kinds of performance art.
“You’ll never know what you’re going to get but it’s always going to be a great show,” Hobson said.
Showtimes are Wednesdays through Thursdays at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets cost $65 on regular nights and $45 on Sundays. You can buy them online at marvynsmagictheater.com or their box office.
Marvyn’s is located in La Quinta at 46630 Washington St, La Quinta, CA 92253.
We were reading The Los Angeles Times this morning. Our neighbor is a late sleeper. And came across a story about a very wealthy casino person buying or building a $16 million home just outside of Las Vegas.
We were amazed to read that his neighbors would include casino person Steve Wynn and David Copperfield.
It never occurred to us — because we are very shallow and you could break your fool neck diving into our intellect — that David Copperfield had a house.
But those stories did not trigger the thought in our pea sized (and shaped) brain that Mr. Copperfield has an actual home some place where he lives, and has non-hotel-type keys with logos on both sides and a magnetic strip that must be inserted the correct way to enter a room or a suite.
We assumed — and we learned from our world-famous magician father to never “assume” because something, something, bad (learning is not the same as remembering but we know not to use “assume” — that he lived backstage of his constantly sold out Las Vegas show or in one of the hotel rooms at the MGM Grand where his constantly sold out show happens.
We figured that while he was on the road, he stayed in the tour bus, backstage or maybe a nearby motel. Actually, we didn’t really think about it that much and just presumed — we assume that’s a better replacement for the term “assume” — that he lived on the big tour bus like a country music star but without the country music accouterments. Our dad said to never use the word “accouterments” but there was some other reason and it could be that we were using it incorrectly or didn’t seem to understand its meaning or were saying it in a non-French accent.
Now we know that Mr. Copperfield has an actual home. He likely has more than one. Maybe on his island in the Bahamas — in which case, we hope the damage from the hurricane was not horrible. If it did sustain horrible damage, then we are even more impressed that he took time out his life to work in soup kitchens and hurricane relief centers for the people of the Bahamas.
We’ve said it before but we will repeat it because it bears repeating, David Copperfield is not only an Inside Magic Favorite and Magician of the Millennium but a great guy who cares.
We are happy he has an actual home and hope he likes his new neighbors. He probably will because he is a good guy.
We received a very exciting note from Joshua Wilde of Wunderground Magic about Marshall, Michigan’s American Museum of Magic. His post follows.
The site is located in the beautiful historic town of Marshall. The museum’s extraordinary treasures, dating from as early as the 16th century, tell the story of the history of magic – a story with deep Michigan roots!
Readers of Inside Magic are invited to partake in the American Museum of Magic’s 9th Annual Magic Gala on the evening of Saturday, June 15th. The festivities begin at 5:00pm with a reception at the Oak Hill House. Then at 7:30pm the party moves to the Franke Center for the Arts at 214 E. Mansion St. in Marshall for an evening of magic by the internationally renowned magician Matthew David Stanley.
You’re invited to an evening of wonder and magic to support the American Museum of Magic, featuring Comedy Magician Matthew David Stanley.
VIP admission includes a one-of-a-kind insider tour of the American Museum of Magic at 5:00 pm and a wine and cheese reception at the museum before the show. General admission includes the show only.
Matthew David Stanley is the proud recipient of the prestigious Lance Burton Award presented in Las Vegas, NV as well as the “International Brotherhood of Magicians Stage Champion Award”. He has been featured on NBC and FOX television networks and currently tours the United States, as well as internationally, performing at comedy clubs, colleges, theaters, and corporate events.
Tickets are available at the museum. You can also reserve them by calling (269) 781-7570. Tickets can also be purchased directly on-line at Brown Paper Tickets.
Marshall is one hour west of Detroit and 50 minutes south of Lansing – located just east of Battle Creek at the intersection of I-94 and I-69.
The American Museum of Magic is located on Marshall’s main business street at 107 East Michigan Street. It will be open on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Please consider helping us get this Michigan treasure back on its feet by joining us for some fun! If you are unable to join us but would like to help out with a tax deductible donation, please send the museum a check at P.O. Box 5, Marshall, MI 49068.
If you’re not familiar with the American Museum of Magic, it’s the largest collection of magical props and memorabilia that’s open to the public, and it’s just down the road from us. Please show your support for our magical heritage by attending the Gala or making a generous donation to the museum.
How could you not be intrigued by a man who is quoted as saying, “[a]nyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin”?
But you would correctly ask, what does this statement have to do with magic, Las Vegas, Barry Richardson, Criss Angel, David Copperfield and Doug Henning?
The answer that would come back would, at first, be unsatisfactory.
Dr. John Von Neuman was a distinguished polymath who could speak ancient Greek, helped to determine the scientific models necessary for the first atomic bomb and several schools of mathematics. To say he was a genius is an understatement.
But it is his connection to magic and magic tricks that brings him to the front page of this humble publication.
Personally, we’re not good at book tests and don’t really enjoy watching them. We have seen perhaps hundreds over our very long life but none have left a lasting impression.
While we take pride (also a sin) in our ability to speed read books but we don’t remember every word.
But Dr. Von Neuman could memorize entire phonebooks. For real. In fact, on one occasion he recited every entry until those listening agreed he had the phonebook memorized – that was after about fifteen minutes of reciting the name and associated phone number on each page.
The late genius of mentalism, Barry Richardson would often couch his effects with a story about some incredible individual who actually lived a real life and could be identified. He would then duplicate the effect they performed allegedly by psychic powers but disclaim such powers in his performance.
We watched Mr. Richardson duplicate a demonstration performed first by a young Russian girl who could allegedly read any item with her fingertips. She would be blindfolded or perhaps she was legally blind (we can’t recall) and could, through a pane of glass held by her examiners, read the serial numbers of currency, handwritten notes and other documents using only her fingertips running along the glass. The pane of glass was used to prevent her from sensing the characters by feel.
Folks were amazed and attributed great powers to the young lady.
Mr. Richardson would then duplicate the effect, pane of glass and all, whilst blindfolded to the satisfaction of the magicians in the audience. He could then read the serial number of a bill previously offered and signed by a random audience member. The bill was signed to prevent his memorization of a pre-prepared note. It was an outstanding performance. We were astounded not only by the effect but also the story upon which it was based.
Dr. Von Neuman’s ability to memorize a phone book handed to him by a volunteer was performed as a trick for entertainment.. He used the power he had to entertain, not to boast. Unfortunately for us magicians, he apparently actually did memorize the content of the phone book and there was no trick employed; thus making this duplicate by his method.
But, by combining Dr. Von Neuman’s story with a book test, magicians could elevate the effect on audiences. In place of a book test, the memorization of an entire deck of cards ala Bob Cassidy could also benefit from the real-life story of Dr. Von Neuman.
We have performed the Bob Cassidy method of memorizing a deck of cards shuffled together by four audience members and then reviewed by us for just 15 seconds. We never had a story to go with it. It was at best a stunt or demonstration of our alleged powers.
But just think how using Dr. Von Neuman’s story in a method similar to that employed by Mr. Richardson could boost the effectiveness and interest in the trick by audiences. It would no longer be a stunt but a duplication of a talent possessed by a real person who really existed. It would therefore be possible and real.
We never claim to have psychic powers and disclaim any such ability but until today, we have never had a satisfactory story to present along with our performance. We can now move beyond “hey, look at me and my clever stunt” to “let me tell you the story of an extraordinary man with a real history who had a real talent.”
Most book test performances we have witnessed involve the apparent guess of a word selected by the volunteer from a book selected from a collection of two or three volumes. The magician asks the volunteer to select a page (either directly or through some apparently random process) and then proceeds to read the volunteer’s mind by having her concentrate on the selected word. The magician presses his hand to his forehead for effect and then announces the word or phrase with some guessing (in some methods) or directly. The volunteer is thanked for her participation and the audience applauds.
Perhaps this article is just a note for us and will be dismissed by those performing putative memorization or psychic readings. We hope that it is more than that.
Mr. Richardson’s performance left a lasting impression on us not because the effect was impossible – the solution would be apparent to most magicians – but because it was couched in a story and built to the demonstration of what was apparently sufficient to have the young woman in the story proclaimed to be psychic and exceptional.
The memory of such a presentation lasts long after the volunteer retakes her seat and we move on to the next effect. It brings the audience on a journey and leaves them with questions about the real person on whom the effect is based as well as the performer now duplicating that effect.
That’s a win in our book.
Read more about Dr. Von Neuman and his amazing skills and contribution to our everyday life through higher mathematics here.
Father’s Day is nigh. It isn’t as popular as Mother’s Day but, to us, just as important.
It is wonderful time to remember how important fathers are in the development of their children generally and specifically for us.
Had it not been for our dad, we likely would never have found our life-long love of magic. It was, after all, our pop who bought us The Ball and Vase from a magic store in our hometown of Oak Park, Illinois. He taught us how to perform the miracle and encouraged us to bring it to kindergarten the next morning to show others.
He delighted in hearing about the crowd of fellow students who came to see the miracle and did not seem surprised to hear that the teacher took the trick from us.
Our dad was and is special. He instilled in our little brain the notion that we can be exceptional and successful with practice and hard work in all things, magic included.
When our parents were going through a divorce, we were called upon to care for our siblings during the summer months while the adults were at work. Dad promised that our pay for the three months of work would be rewarded by a trip to the Paul Diamond Magic and Fun Wagon at the Palm Beach Mall. We thought about our booty all summer as we guided our brother and sisters through their days of camp and play and housecleaning.
On Labor Day weekend in 1972, our work was rewarded with a trip to the magic shop. Our father waited patiently as we considered all of the offerings and quizzed the manager, Barry Gibbs, on what we should get. Finally, with Mr. Gibbs’ direction, we decided on a magic book rather than a single trick. That book changed the course of our life. The Expert at the Card Table by the mysterious S.W. Erdnase cost $3.50 and soon became our source of inspiration and frustration as we tried to master the moves described and illustrated.
Dad selected thousands of cards for us, bought us our first Show Suit, took pride in our winning the state close-up championship, drove us to shows, television studios, magic stores and magic club meetings. He never once thought our love of magic was a “hobby” and always encouraged us to practice and perform as if we were a true professional – although our voice had not yet changed.
He was and is a great critic. We recall one afternoon in Chicago – many years later – when he sat through our stab at impromptu stand-up. He listened carefully and helped us tune the jokes for a comedy career that never happened but was fun in the planning.
It must be a tough decision to allow your eldest child to travel to far away conventions alone or with his teenage friends to spend long hours “hanging out” with strangers in hotels. But our dad trusted us and the instincts he hoped we had developed. And when we failed to live up to those standards for behavior, he counseled us and forgave us. He provided a powerful lesson in that response.
We are blessed to have him with us still. As is required of all parents from the Midwest, he has been relocated to the Gulf Coast of Florida. We are pretty sure that is a law. He remains our counselor, supporter and confessor. His love was never absent or in doubt.
Father’s Day is nigh and so is our father, always.
Steve Martin, the magician and comedian, said one of the reasons he quit touring was because he hated performing for drunks. There may have been other reasons as well but if that was the only rationale for getting off the road and living the life of a Hollywood star, we would understand.
We have performed for many audiences with one or two drunk members – some even outside of our own home and family reunions. It never really bothered us philosophically or practically. Our proud Irish heritage comes with a built-in ability to work with and around the inebriated.
Friday night we performed for about a dozen folks who were all at the same moderate-to-high level of intoxication. They were an otherwise delightful and attractive crowd. Ladies in their finest and men in their “I don’t want to dress up, but she’s all dressed up so I will do it but I won’t like it” best. All but one of the guests were clutching their drink glasses as they watched with varying degrees of interest.
Our routine runs just about 18 minutes. From the opening joke to the final card reveal, it clocks pretty much the same each time we perform it. Sure there could be some spontaneous, momentary detour that adds a half-minute but we never go beyond 20 minutes. Friday night, that 18 minutes lasted almost 30 minutes as we dealt with well-intentioned heckling, requests to “do it again but slower” and the restart of a trick because the audience member forgot her choice.
We know we should be indignant about the experience. We should take to these virtual pages to complain about the group, throw shade their way for enjoying themselves on a Friday night in a manner that lengthened our show and ruined our rehearsed routine and made a mess of the timing. But we just can’t.
They were, as we mentioned, all at the same approximate level of dysfunction. No one was belligerent or offensive. They were very complimentary of our skills during and after the performance and no one became physically ill on or near us. Yes, the act lasted longer but perhaps in their time reference, it worked out to be 18 minutes. Sure, they did not laugh right after we said our lines but they usually caught up with the joke within a minute or two – occasionally repeating the line aloud as they laughed.
We are not condoning or encouraging irresponsible behavior or rude drunkenness. We have performed for rude drunks and did not enjoy the experience at all – not even a little. We have had altered audience members attempt to take cards from us or demand we follow their instructions as we perform. That isn’t fun.
We don’t want to romanticize the experience. It wasn’t as if we were performing for a private party in a salon owned by Jay Gatsby where the champagne flowed and all were imbued with an ebullient joie de vivre without the painful bloating and gas. These were people who were having a nice evening and came together to see a show they seemed to enjoy. The performer didn’t mind working his act a little differently – a little slower in some respects – to help them enjoy what they were seeing. No harm, no foul from our point of view.
Plus, we were finally able to confidently perform really tough (for us) card sleights without the slightest fear of being detected. It was good for all concerned. Does that mean we are enabling bad behavior? We don’t think so. We’re just happy to have had the chance to perform for people who seemed happy to have us perform for them.
The Magic Castle had a great presentation last night tracing the late Johnny Carson’s life-long appreciation of magic.
Dick Carson is an Emmy Award winning television director and the younger brother of the performer known as The Great Carsoni and proved be a great historian on the topic.
Dean Dill, Brian Gillis and the incomparable Mark Wilson came on after Dick Carson’s segment to share their experiences as performers on the iconic late night mainstay. Mr. Gillis and Mr. Dill were also called to provide the star personal tutorials in his Malibu home.
It was a great night to again enjoy the very unique talent Mr. Carson shared with the nation for so many decades.
Although Mr. Carson was very modest about his magic abilities, his talents were anything but modest. He performed difficult sleights with polish and skill. So many great magicians got their big break on Mr. Carson’s show and his support of the local (Los Angeles) magic community in general (and The Magic Castle specifically) was constant through the years.
One of the commentators observed he has never been replaced. We agree.