Magician Ben Young has a fancy website, a long list of appearances and likely does a fair amount of advertising for his services but for our money, nothing beats the kind of press he received from a friend in the recent edition of The Tullahoma News.
Yes, he has been on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us and befriended by some of the top performers in our craft. But for some reason we are more moved by accolades bestowed by a former classmate.
Erin McCullough’s column in the Tennessee news source inspires us to track Mr. Young on our upcoming visit to Las Vegas. That beats a Yelp or Trip Advisor review in our estimation.
Ms. McCullough knew Mr. Young from their time together in school and expresses surprise and delight in learning of her friend’s success since leaving the area.
“Now, I had known Ben was talented, but I had no idea of the depth of his craft until I saw it in person. If you’ve never been able to see a magic show, please do yourself a favor and go seek one out, because they are incredible!”
Apparently they studied Italian together in college and, sure, he would perform a few effects for fellow students but Ms. McCullough never saw him in full stage magician mode. Now, Mr. Young is beginning (or part way into) a tour of Air Force bases and cannot be confused with the talented hobbiest. He is a full-blown magician.
We’ll be in Las Vegas when Hollywood shuts down for the holiday break and will seek out Mr. Young — assuming he isn’t on tour — solely because of the apparently unsolicited but heartfelt endorsement of Ms. McCullough.
David Blaine: Magician, Stunt Performer, Bullet Catcher and now family counselor for the stars. News reports tell us that Magician David Blaine has been called to help Madonna’s relationship with her son.
Young Rocco Ritchie has been hanging with his pop, filmmaker Guy Ritchie in London, England. Young Master Ritchie has been living with dad since his two very famous parents buried the hatchet and settled the custody battle that took off in earnest when the son refused to return to live with his mom after winter break in the U.K.
Madonna shared an image of her brood including her son and Magician David Blaine in beautiful Gstaad, Switzerland.
She captioned the image “Swiss Family Robinson !!”
The gossip pages say “Blaine, who is close with Rocco and Madonna, has been helping mother and son repair their relationship.”
Perhaps Mr. Blaine will bring a sense of maturity to the proceedings. We learned last year, Madonna previously voiced feelings via image by posting a picture of herself wearing a black hooded jacket. A crown and the word “B**tch” were drawn on top of the snap in red ink and Madonna added the caption: “Because sometimes soccer Moms need to be a…” In a second photo, the word “B**tch” had been swapped for “Queen” and she added: “And be treated like a…”
Time and Life magazines paid homage to our noble profession’s gathering in Indianapolis this weekend by looking back at the 1947 Society of American Magicians held in Chicago in 1947.
If you follow the link to the Google books page of that original Life Magazine article you can see wonderful images of some of the greats performing for the Life cameras. It could be that Dr. Harlan Tarbell did perform the Balancing an Egg on a Fan While Blindfolded trick as part of his nightclub act. Maybe magicians did do Multiplying Golf Balls in a strip club and drew all eyes from the dancers gyrating on stage to their strained and stretched fingers. But is also just as likely that the convention attendees were doing what magicians do best at convention time – getting good press.
Time and Life’s website gives a link to the SAM 2016 registration page, a 2014 blurb on the ill-fated efforts to exhume Houdini’s remains to test for poisoning and a 1994 essay by Penn Jillette explaining why Vegas was the most logical place for magic to reside. He has some snarky things to say about Siegfried & Roy and Melinda but that was the old, “bad-boys of magic” Penn.
From the post-war era, to the 1970s with Doug Henning’s The Magic Show raking in $60,000.00 each week on Broadway ($307,175.32 in today’s dollars), to David Copperfield’s globe-trotting success, and later David Blaine taking it to the streets with camera in tow, Magic has endured.
In that 1974 Time article reporting on that decade’s fascination in magic and magicians, James Randi said the upsurge in interest is “a sign that our society is still healthy. When people stop being enthralled by a magician who can make a lady vanish, it will mean that the world has lost its most precious possession: its sense of wonder.”
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.”
In other circles it would be considered stalking but at the Magic Castle, it is just watching; albeit obsessively.
We can literally watch Doc Eason perform for hours on end without rest – or blinking. He is currently performing at the WC Fields Bar at the Magic Castle and so we have been lurking / admiring and enjoying his shows this week.
Doc works a room better than any politician or performer we have ever seen and we have seen great ones in each category. He gets the crowd laughing, chanting and then fools the heck out of them. Either he is the world’s greatest actor or he really enjoys interacting with people. He takes the audiences as he finds them and within minutes they are all together, trusting him and following his instruction and misdirection without exception.
His patter is effortless and truly funny. The jokes fit the moments and add to the distraction and misdirection. He is not cruel or mean and perhaps that is why he so quickly gains the trust of the audience. There is no reason for them to be on the defensive.
All of his patter and personality would be insufficient if he did not have the sleight-of-hand skills to perform incredible acts of magic under test conditions. He tells the audience what is going to happen, tells them where it will happen and then it happens and they are blown away.
If you are not able to make it to the Magic Castle this weekend, check out Doc Eason’s videos on YouTube or some of his instructional DVDs available at your local magic store or through his website.
The Mirror newspaper asked UK Magician Damien O’Brien about his influences and he responded, without irony, “Give me old skool David Blaine any day of the week.”
Mr. O’Brien is one of the stars on BBC Three’s new magic-oriented show Killer Magic.
The six-part series begins tonight at sports a new theme each week. The young magicians then try to make new effects and impress their colleagues and celebrities.
Mr. O’Brien described himself for The Mirror, “I’m a little bit flashy, a little bit cocky. I like to do visual magic. I like to put magic in people’s hands. I want people to be the stars of the trick. I don’t like to give them any suspicions that let people think that I’m cheating… which I am.”
He describes David Blaine as being one of his major influences. “I grew up watching David Blaine. I loved his approach doing it close up with regular items. I like the idea of doing things close up and any time with anything.”
We probably will not be able to see the show until it is released on DVD or on the internet but look forward to checking it out.
Mr. Maher is reputed to be a star on HBO and takes pride in attacking people and groups. Religions are fair game and so are conservatives and liberals. It works for him so why stop with ideology and spirituality.
Whenever I talk to him, we’ll be talking about President Barack Obama, or weed, or Woody Harrelson, and then he will slip in a side joke that pokes fun at illusionists. Maher mocks magicians mercilessly.
“When we started back in the old days, before the iWatch, practically before answering machines, in New York, no matter how good you were, you could never do better in the small clubs than the magician guy or a guy with puppets,” Maher said.
Maher goes on to insult Cirque du Soleil, drop names of famous comedians with whom he recently worked and stroke The Palms as a wonderful place to work.
He likes Penn & Teller, though. They are not typical magicians so they escape his wrath.
We have already given too much space to him but we thought you should know.
Magician David Ben is in the news today as Montreal’s McCord Museum announced it has acquired a collection of 600 posters, 200 rare books and 200 documents documenting magic in the 19th to early 20th centuries. The acquisition cost approximately $3,000,000.00 but sounds priceless.
Mr. Ben is the Artistic Director of Magicana – an organization dedicated to the study of magic – and was a key adviser to the museum.
“It’s the second-largest collection of Houdini material held in a public institution,” Mr. Ben told reporters today.
The US Library of Congress houses the largest collection.
The materials will be made available for scholars and will be the subject of a 2017 exhibition at the museum.
The artifacts trace Houdini’s beginnings as a magician in eastern Canada, but also the rise of spiritualism – the belief that the dead can communicate with the living. It also “tracks the social history of advertising” through the use of lithography and its posters, Ben said.
The acquisition is the gift of the Emmanuelle Gattuso Foundation. Ms. Gattuso is the wife Standard Broadcasting’s Allan Slaight. Before becoming a major media mogul, Mr. Slaight was a professional magician and mind reader.
We will keep you advised on public opportunities to view the collection. We cannot wait.
Magician David Copperfield knows magic and business and how to make the two work together. He recently spoke to budding entrepreneurs and start-up enthusiasts at a recent Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference in Las Vegas.
Mr. Copperfield tells the audience things do not become simple once you’ve made it. “I wish I could tell you that it’s easier when you’ve had a career for years,” he said. “If you’re doing something new, everything will be difficult.”
Of course, it was not easy to start out either.
The key is to keep pushing despite the setbacks and use the negative feedback to hone your message.
“I knocked on doors and I always had a point of view. I had something that I could identify as a special thing and say what I did very clearly,” Mr. Copperfield said. “My mentors were in my head; my mentors were people I admired in the field that had done it. I just found enough strength to get past all the no responses. You’ve got to get up and keep fighting.”