Category: Magic News

News from the World of Magic

New York Times Loves Derren Brown’s New Broadway Show

It should come as no surprise that Derren Brown’s new Broadway one-man show, Secret, has received rave reviews from magicians like David Copperfield.  Magicians know what amazing things can come from Mr. Brown’s very fertile mind.  He is, in a word, incredible.

But beyond the common magician or human audience member, there is the critical eye of the critics who with their often very critical pen draft criticism of nearly every new show that hits the Great White Way.

Given that truth as prologue, we were very impressed that the New York Times, the Gray Lady, praised Mr. Brown’s show and Mr. Brown in particular — which makes sense in a one-man show situation.

They wrote:

As a showman, Mr. Brown has none of the smarminess of Las Vegas prestidigitators or carnival hucksters. He feels nonsynthetic in his smoothness, and his jokes directed at the audience stay carefully on the sunny side of insults.

We have long taken a firm stand in favor of smarminess of not only Las Vegas performers and carnival hucksters but we are broad-minded enough to accept non-smarmy presentations of our grand art as well.  It could be that we like smarminess because we are in fact smarmy.  We tried to go to those camps where they sweat the smarminess out of you — we were surprised our insurance company covered the 30 days at Malibu Smart Not Smarmy Treatment Center and Spa, but they did and it didn’t work.

We even wrote an article for the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Smarminess, The New Epidemic?” It was a case study of magicians and hucksters across the US, Canada and parts of Luxembourg.  Yes, the study was later rejected by real doctors but at least we brought the issue to the attention of medical professionals.  And yes, it was removed from the site and replaced by a study on cancer or heart disease or something.  We didn’t read the replacement article — hence proving that we are smarmy by mentioning something that cannot be found to back up our claim. Quod Erat Demonstrandum, amigos.

Mr. Brown is showing his non-smarmy, smart, intriguing and, to some, “life changing” show at the famous prior home of Doug Henning, The Cort Theater in New York.

We look forward to seeing his show as soon as we can get to New York and purchase tickets to this sold-out show.

It is axiomatic that if the New York Times likes the show, the tickets will no longer be available in the short and middle-run.  We are willing to pay scalpers’ prices to see Mr. Brown.  That is saying a lot because we are cheap, very cheap.  We wear the same suit we wore to our baptism (we had to expand the pants a bit because we grew since we were an infant).  Our world-famous father once said, “save your money and you’ll always have money saved.”  He also said other things that have nothing to do with money unless you consider horse race touting as money related.

If you are in the New York area — including bordering states and parts of Canada — we urge you to work against your cheap ways and go to see this show.  It is guaranteed to be a once in a lifetime experience.  Mr. Brown is, in our father’s immortal words, “a sure thing upon which you could bet both lungs.”

Hurry though.  The show is scheduled to close January 2, 2020.

Get tickets for Mr. Brown’s show — when they become available here.

Check out Mr. Brown’s website here.

Read the New York Times review here.

 

Head Lice Puts a Crimp on Magicians

Head lice is problem for most of us working in the hat exchange underground that is West Hollywood, California.  No one wants to talk about it but it is time to change the silent acquiescence that allows these parasites to take away our fun and profit.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, lice is becoming a serious national problem.  There is a new breed of “super lice,” able to resist modern drug treatments and spread their way from person to person with impunity.

Like most performers, we no longer wear a top hat off-stage.  It used to be, a magician would not be caught dead without a top hat somewhere on his or her person.  We cannot trace this unfortunate trend to head lice – perhaps it is a question of fashion – but head lice is not helping.

[Serious students of magic no doubt recall those immortal words being uttered by Houdini during a challenge escape in Kansas City, Missouri.  A local hat maker dared the great Houdini to be sewn into a huge silk hat and escape within a half hour.  Houdini did the feat in just 15 minutes but was heard to exclaim to his on-stage assistant that the escape was progressing well “but the head lice is not helping.”]

We used to pass our hat at the end of our performance and, often, audience members would become confused and try to wear the hat rather than donate money.  Back in our carefree – and money-free – days, we would don the empty hat and stroll off to the next ward in the hospital to again perform.  We never gave a thought to the dangers of head lice.

After a day of performing, we would go to the local hat exchange pub and do what hat exchangers do.  This was back in Michigan where folks were not so enlightened.  People didn’t exchange hats in Michigan.  Your hat was for your head and that’s it.  Consequently, we had to seek out the hat-x club in a neighboring town to do what we enjoyed with people we would not later admit to knowing.

West Hollywood – like most of California – is much more accepting of hat exchanging.  People seem to accept, understand and embrace those who want to try different hats if for no other reason than it is fun.  We were at a local hat-x, The Fez, just off Santa Monica the other night and noticed a different feel to the room.

Yes, it was just as crowded.  The usual group of lawyers, doctors, day laborers, academics, anemics, anti-emetics and ambulatory specialists were in attendance.  But there was a different sense.  Gone was the joie de vivre that once infused the group.  As we watched re-runs of the 1980s classic children’s television show, Lidsville, we looked around.  No one was exchanging hats.

We offered our fedora to a professional golfer and she started, instinctively, to reach for her fine Titleist snap-back cap but then stopped.  She looked at us carefully and turned away.  We looked down at the newspaper she was clutching in her well-manicured and perfectly calloused hands to see the headline about the “super lice.”

Suddenly our head began to itch.

New Magic Invention to Change All

Alexander Knows Genius When He Sees It

We are nothing if not visionary — which at times, means we are close to nothing.  But when the visionary thing hits us, it hits us hard.  Like a sap to the nugget out of the night.  We don’t know where it came from but we recognize it when we see it in a police line-up.

We were sapped in just this way last night.  We had finished our last show of the evening at the Hollywood Strip near the Spiderman and by the lady that sells some kind of meat with or without a stick (your choice).  We packed up our ventriloquist dummy (face away from the opening of the suitcase just in case) and loaded up our handful of coins to begin our walk down the Avenue of the Stars.

We thought about how people were making zillions off of cool decks of cards with unique backs.  There are cards with old-looking backs, mis-made backs, alcoholic product labeled backs, colorful wave backs to facilitate beautiful pressure fans (which we cannot do and admit so publicly so that no one confuses us for someone with talent), cat backs, dog backs, back of dog backs and others.

But — and this is where the genius comes in — no one has come up with a back that looks like the front of the deck.  It could be all backs of the same card; say, all nine-of-hearts.  Or it could be different backs of different cards like a new deck just on the back.  In essence every card would be a double-facer.  You could have cards that match the cards on the front or cards that are the opposite of the front, or cards that are random with only a few cards matching.  (Our quick back of the Kleenex(r) calculations says that you would likely have two such cards in a deck of 52 but it was a used Kleenex and we stopped calculating at a certain point for hygienic reasons).

Now, the only problem is to figure out what trick would be perfect for this trick deck of cards.

We could do a color change pretty easy, if the card on the back was a different color.  We could do a card to wallet but with two cards in the wallet to match the double-faced card selected.

We could even make a Svengali deck or Stripper pack to do things we don’t know yet.

Maybe we’ll launch this on Kickstarter and rake in the dough or keep it to our own selves and  die poor.

This could be big.

Magical Guinness World Record

We have an inappropriate love for the Piddingtons.

Actually just the late Lesley Piddington.

They were a psychic team from a few decades ago but, boy howdy, did they do it up.  Ms. Piddington, our no-longer secret crush, once received a psychic transmission whilst flying on a Stratocruiser plane high above the military base at which her husband, Sidney, and other judges broadcast their thoughts psychically to his beloved.  You can read more about the dynamic couple here.

The Piddingtons never claimed to have psychic powers but for our money, they were the best (and our money isn’t much, we just invested in a company that is like 23 and Me but is just for people who like to send their DNA to people.  They don’t get results back but we figure there is a niche market for this service and we emptied our 401(k) to get behind it.  There are very little overhead costs since we don’t keep the DNA or even handle it but write back (in form letters) that their DNA is “pretty” or “handsome” or “smart” or “honest”.  We are starting a new affiliate for people who want to send DNA (salvia only) for their pets.  We write back that the DNA is “pretty” or “handsome” or “smart” or “honest.”  We’re thinking of opening a third affiliate to reach people who don’t want to send DNA but can send toenail clippings — personally, we want no part of that because 1) it is gross; 2) who is going to open the packages; 3) the smell; 4) how do we know they are not just sending random toenail clippings found at the gym or in a back alley where toenail clippers are alleged to “hang” and practice their art?)

Well, a long distance transference of information is one thing, but the transference of a person is something quite different.  The magician Scott Tokar  broke the world record according to our favorite beer company (it is a medical fact that one glass of Guinness has all the nutrients and protein needed for a day in Ireland and some islands off of Ireland) was just accomplished by Corteva Agriscience, A Division of DowDuPont & Tradeshow Magician, Scott Tokar (both USA) in Boone, Iowa, at the Farm Progress Tradeshow on 28 August 2018. By the way, we are well aware that the records book and the beer are not connected – but we can dream, n’est-ce pas?

“Magician Scott Tokar highlighted the many record yields achieved by customers of Pioneer by setting another record at the show – the Farthest Teleportation Illusion. Tokar wowed show-goers by transporting his assistant more than 936 feet from the Corteva Agriscience tent to the Pioneer tent. Michael Empric, Adjudicator with Guinness World Records, authenticated the record as did representatives of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.”

You can check out the very impressive information here.

Visit Mr. Tokar’s very impressive website here.

Harry Houdini Exhibit at Bremen Museum

There are two things we cannot get enough of: Harry Houdini and anything related to Harry Houdini.

So, if you have an exhibit that features images of Harry Houdini and takes attendees through the life of Harry Houdini, you win the golden ticket in our book.

Just to be clear, we have neither golden tickets or a book in which to collect said tickets, but we will remember you fondly until the day we pass to join the great card table session in the heavens.  We’ll tell  Dai Vernon and Ed Marlo about you and your organization and they will both likely teach us moves that will take an eternity to perform – but that will be okay because we will have an eternity to learn.

The Breman Museum (William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum) is based in the Atlanta area (likely within a mile of a street with the word “peach” in it).  We see that Inside Magic Favorite Joe Turner is assisting in the presentation so you know it will be without flaw and have integrity.

The museum tells visitors that the world’s most famous magician and escape artist wasn’t born but invented by the talented mind of Erik Weisz (later translated into Erich Weiss when he and his family immigrated to the United States).

The exhibit it curated by magician David London and shares the story of how this immigrant, growing up in Wisconsin became Harry Houdini – the world’s first international superstar.

Continue reading “Harry Houdini Exhibit at Bremen Museum”

The Year in Review, 1926

To All our Magic Friends, We Wish You a Happy New Year!

2019 is upon us and we thought it would nice to look back on 1926.  We intend for this to be a yearly feature but didn’t think of it until now so we are starting with earlier years and working our way up to the present day.  We figure by the time the sun burns out, we will have matched the year in review with the previous year.  We’re happy that we will have completed our task but a little melancholy about the end of the universe as we know it.  And we know it as having a heat and energy-radiating center that affects our planet according to the portion of the globe facing the center.

But we began this post with the word “Happy” and we should continue in that vein.

Unfortunately the year 1926 wasn’t good for the magic world.  Harry Houdini died just after 1 pm on October 31st of that year in Detroit.  See the New York Times coverage of the event here. He did not pass performing the Water Torture Cell (aka “Upside Down”) but from a vicious (or as our spellcheck suggested “viscous”) attack in Montreal. His remains were moved to New York for burial days later. Some historians suggested he was being silenced by agents for Spiritualists.  Houdini was intensifying his efforts to expose the fraudulent practitioners.  Others suggested it was an accident, still others believe it was just an an attempt to humiliate Houdini gone wrong.  Whilst talking with the students, Houdini accepted a challenge from one of them to be punched to demonstrate his excellent musculature.  The student punched the great magician before he could get ready and continued punching until Houdini asked him to stop.

The punch(es) may or may not have ruptured an appendix that may or may not already been infected, thus spreading infection through his peritoneum and leading to his eventual death.  He allegedly left an estate worth $6,743,910 in today’s figures. According to a November 1st edition of The Montreal Gazette published ten-years after his death, Houdini’s spirit could not be encountered by séances attended by his wife or brother.

For all things Houdini, we turn always to Jon Cox’ incredible site, Wild About Harry.

So, that was one of the big news magic items during that year.    Earlier in October, 1926, the film The Magician was released.  It was panned for being too gross as one would expect when one is dealing with using the blood of maidens to make life; with the central character being a magician and a surgeon.  Critics have later praised the film for its innovative storytelling and cinematography.  We haven’t seen it yet and understand at least one of the scenes is “unwatchable” for the gruesome transformation of a character bitten by a venomous snake.  We’re not big on watching others in pain, so we might fast forward through this section and determine later whether it is essential to the plot.  The movie had nothing to do with Houdini – who scrupulously avoided drinking or obtaining blood from maidens and stuff.

Carter the Great published one of his greatest posters, “Carter Accused of Witchcraft.”  The poster is remarkable and dark.  It features the gallows on which he will be executed and text giving us hope that the great magician will cheat death and perhaps prove he is not using witchcraft.  We would have included the image for you to peruse but the only link we could find was from an eBay auction and we have a policy about endorsing products for sale – especially where we don’t get a cut.

“Professor” Joseph Dunninger published his Popular Magic Book in 1926.  The book cost fifty-cents.  In today’s money that would be $6.78 plus shipping.  Things are not as cheap as they once were.  It used to be we could buy just about everything (except for TVs) cheaper than we can now.  If we had a time machine, we would use it to go buy things in 1926 and tell Houdini to avoid Montreal.  We would sell the things we brought back through the time vortex and feel good that we helped Houdini live a long and valuable life.

Continue reading “The Year in Review, 1926”

List of the Richest Magicians in the World

Who is the richest magician in the world?

We won’t give away the secret but the compilation at The Silver List surprised us.  And we are not easily surprised.  We figured for sure we could correctly identify all persons on the list but we were wrong.  We beat ourselves up when we make a mistake so this was crushing for us.

You can check out the list here.

We thought for sure there would be some mention of Inside Magic editor-in-chief and magician person Tim Quinlan but nary a comment.  We don’t like to brag but between the ad revenue for Inside Magic and our professional appearances, we’re rolling in the dough – plus we’re making a lot of money.  But we spend it on dough to roll in and we like a high-quality dough, not some Pillsbury fake dough that doesn’t give the comfort one expects when one is rolling.  We were going to put up a YouTube video  of us rolling but a woman beat us and she does a much better rolling that we could ever hope to accomplish.

You can see just one of her many dough rolling episodes here. The video shows her rolling in baked dough but she does real, unbaked dough as well.  We cannot compete.

Similarly, we are unable to keep up with the magicians who make millions of dollars every year for performing their magic.  We admire them but don’t envy them.  Envy is or should be one of the deadly sins and does not leave the person feeling the sense of envy in a good place.  It is like when you have a fight with your Uber driver about whether we should worry about fluoride or chem trails and he/she dumps you in a bad neighborhood.  That’s a physical bad place to be but as a metaphor it works.  Envy leaves you wondering what happened to the last few hours and why you can’t remember why you even worried about the success of others.

Check out  the list and see if you agree with the rankings.  But do it with an open mind and heart.  Embrace the success of others and the willingness of others to work very hard at what we all do.

We do find some pleasure (guilty, no doubt) that Inside Magic arch-nemesis Tony Spain is not listed.  He claims millions  per year from his itinerant magic travels around the world, but apparently he didn’t make the list.

Nick Lewin’s Ultimate Color Changing Deck

We first met Nick Lewin through Pop Haydn when Mr. Lewin was performing on the same bill with Mr. Haydn.  To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect.  Mr. Lewin took the stage with a befuddled look on his face and seemed to be overly relaxed in his approach to the magic.  Yet, he blew us away.

His Slow Motion Torn and Restored Newspaper was a thing of beauty, his Linking Finger Ring was a thing of beauty as well but also a thing of mystery.  We know or thought we knew how the routine should be done to achieve the effect but Mr. Lewin was doing something slightly different and yet achieving the same effect plus.

Since that experience, we have seen Mr. Lewin perform in various locals and he is the same.  Always smiling, slightly  befuddled, easy-going, and amazing.  He has the classics of magic finely tuned from years of practice and actual performances in his hands and is in no rush to perform them.

He is not being chased and so there is no need to run.  His jokes and humorous approach to the effects do not overwhelm or take away from the magic, they fit in the routines because there is time for them to fit.  He is going to amaze and there is no reason to rush to what will be a wonderful conclusion – he is a friend of the audience and we are all looking at it together.

We have bought several of Mr. Lewin’s routines and we will have reviews in the future but we received one just the other day that seemed perfect for our act – at least according to the advertisement.  The Ultimate Color Changing Deck is an effect that would be the right ending for our card routine as performed in the basement of the Magic Castle.  We currently end with the emotional equivalent of “Yeah, that’s about it.  No need to stick around, there ain’t no more.  Skat! Get!”

We order the effect and received delivery within a very few days.  We watched his DVD, checked out the props and smiled with the gleeful look of a very satisfied magician or someone in need of further attention by trained professionals.  It would work, it would work really good.  (When we become gleeful, annoyingly gleeful (“AG”), we lose our ability to think in proper English.  The effect could even be transferred to our pet deck and we already could do the relatively easy sleights to accomplish the apparently impossible.

There are other color changing decks on the market.  Some of them might be good.  We have seen many of them in person either being performed or explained in lectures but none of them come up to this standard.  Mr. Lewin credits Ken Brooke for the idea and effect and even provides an interlude that may or may not fit your style.  The last sentence makes sense once you receive and review the effect.

The cost for the pre-release is $65.00 and it is well-worth it.  This is a color changing deck that will really work in real situations for real magicians in front of real audiences and leave them really amazed.

Check out Mr. Lewin’s site today.  We do not know how long the deal will be available on the Ultimate Color Changing Deck he is offering so it is best to get there as soon as possible.  Go! Get! Skat!

Inside Magic Review: Five Out of Five – Our Highest!

Magic Live Announced

Stan Allen has a great announcement for those who love magic and loathe sleeping:

I’m very excited to announce that the next MAGIC Live is August 4-7, 2019, at The Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas.

General Registration opens on Friday, September 28, at noon Pacific Time. A $95 deposit holds your spot until January 15, 2019, and registrations are 90% refundable until May 20, 2019.

To find out more about why MAGIC Live is like no other convention in the world, please visit our website. Or better yet, just ask a friend.

MAGIC Live is a great opportunity to see, learn and meet some of the greats of our Art.  You can even meet some of those who aren’t great yet but one day will be.

Check out Stan’s site here: http://www.magicconvention.com/

And join his mailing list here: http://www.magicconvention.com/2018-mailing-list/

 

Magicians, History and Corn Dogs

You can ask anyone, what does Inside Magic like?

Those in the know will say, usually with a chirpy tone, cool magic stuff from magic history and corn dogs.

Taking the list in order, we look constantly for cool magic stuff from magic history.  We have a key to the city given to Harry Blackstone Jr. given by the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan.  We have posters and pictures of great magicians through the years.  Some of our fondest memories have been eating corn dogs.

Other great memories have been talking to older magicians about the magicians they have seen or with whom they worked.

We recalled a wonderful conversation about Harry Blackstone, Jr. (the impetus for our mention of my souvenir) and how compassionate he was for his staff and assistants.  He certainly did not need to be – he was the star and his show was a hit.  But he was.

We have a multi-page letter handwritten by Doug Henning in response to our question, “how can a magician who is only 12 make it as a professional.”

Not surprisingly, he did not tell us to get an agent, make posters, berate theater managers; but to practice the art, learn the rules of being a magician and have fun.

We work in a wonderful art.  People genuinely love to be entertained and fooled and corn dogs.

We provide two out of the three and the more we do it, the more entertaining it becomes for us and our audience.

We wonder how the younger generation learns about our grand history.  Perhaps there are still meetings over an occasional corn dog where mustard-stained young performers can hear stories of Willard the Wizard, Thurston, Houdini, Kellar, Dante and our favorite, Harry Blackstone, Jr.

Although the image is not of Harry Blackstone, Jr. or any deep-fried hot dog, we think the poster used by Kellar displaying his “latest” illusion of “self-decapitation” is illustrative of our wonderful history.  No one – at least no one we have seen in the last 20-years has performed “self-decapitation” and even decapitation of others has fallen into disfavor (correctly in our humble opinion) due to world events.  But his poster was drawn in sketch form, colored in, placed on lithographic machinery and literally inked with several different passes – one for each color – leaving a space to make the poster applicable to the town or setting where Kellar would soon perform.  How wonderful.

You can find wonderful posters of magicians and non-magicians throughout history at the Library of Congress for your viewing and enjoyment.  We hope you do.