Inside Magic has been online since 1992 or 1996 depending on what you mean by online. We began as a monthly newsletter sent to subscribers obtained through Boys Life classifieds and converted to CompuServe, Genii (the GE electronic service – not the magazine) and then the Internet.
We advertised through Yahoo at a cost of $140.00 (1990s dollars) and later advertised through the new and unproven Google search service. Much less cost but at the start, many less clicks.
There were months when the clicks were three or five. But it was cheap so we kept with it. We advertised on magic websites – there were very few back in the early days but Meir Yedid was a dependable site. People trusted him, they trusted his opinion on magic and enjoyed his very honest description of magic for sale or for viewing.
They still do.
In the old days, Inside Magic had a news side and a catalog side. We would never review tricks we sold – because that seemed improper.
Eventually the catalog side faded from existence. We sold the bulk of our remaining inventory on eBay and Amazon and focused on the news and reviews side of the website. We liked that. Selling magic is a tough business. The margins are tight, there are so many sites now selling effects, and we are softies. We can’t stand to disappoint people. We did what no sane magic seller does, we gave refunds – even if the trick came back beat up and without instructions. It just seemed fair.
Bright we are not. We love magic and want to do nothing that could or possibly could interfere with an individual’s enjoyment of this great art. That doesn’t make us ethical or smart – just us. Similarly we would never interview or review a performer or trick/act we didn’t like. We want to be positive always. Maybe we didn’t like the trick or the act or the performer but that didn’t mean it/he/she/they weren’t great in the eyes of others.
Additionally, there are so many young performers and their first crack at getting publicity is through a review. How terrible for the first review to be negative or mean. We got our first review in a newspaper and it was horrible. The trauma on a 12-year-old’s psyche is so significant. We got later, more positive reviews but the first one stung and made getting back on stage difficult.
Some magic-oriented questions keep us up at night. We toss and turn – our own body, to be clear – and stare at the top of the tent, wondering things, magical things.
Last night (and we’re writing this on our Palm – not the ancient electronic organizer but our own palm – so it is still last night technically) we wondered aloud, “What is the strangest thing David Copperfield has ever packed for a trip?”
We should have kept the question to ourselves and not uttered it aloud. That wasn’t polite to the other campers (we call ourselves “campers” because we’re sly and think that gives us an edge if we are ever taken to the hoosegow by the coppers for setting up a small circus tent in a vacant field near the Ralph’s grocery store over by the Citgo across from the Bumper Bumper auto repair shop).
Nonetheless, we wondered aloud about David Copperfield’s packing for trips and were reminded by one of our fellow campers that David Copperfield was both a fictional character who was fascinated by cake and a magician who has toured the globe. The camper – who will remain nameless because we were never introduced – suggested we be more specific in our wondering.
We knew the David Copperfield about whom we were wondering and so we ignored the camper and went on wondering. We could not wait until the public library opened to have access to the internet and learn the answer to our wondering.
We have seen his show 17 times so far. It is by far one of the best ever. We wouldn’t see something 17 times if it was terrible or even just good. For us to see something more than twice, it has to be great. That’s why we don’t have mirrors.
There are three things we love: Magic, Houdini and Pinball Machines.
Imagine our glee to learn that our triad of triumph has been combined in one device.
The brand new Houdini Pinball machine from American Pinball Inc. in Streamwood, Illinois is a trifecta in our books. It comes with special Houdini-esque obstacles and features that just makes us smile like a fool in a ball pit.
Three Magnets to Control Houdini’s Magic (Remember the Thurston one had one magnet)
Over 20″ Launch into Houdini’s Steamer Trunk (Three more inches than a normal launch into a steamer trunk in non-pinball games)
Animated & Interactive Theatre Marquee (The glass is like a show. No wooden numbers turning with a clunk and bump)
API Theater Stage (The API Theater was a fine theater on the Bilbox Vaudeville Circuit later taken over by the forerunner of the Keith system)
Real Wood Laser Engraved Planchette (Like at the country fair where they carve your family name except this is for disembodied spirits through an Ouija board)
Theatre Spotlights (Of course. Always shining from the front to enhance angles)
Custom Padlock & Gear Bumper Tops w/ Chains (Our first movie made in Hollywood was coincidentally called “Custom Padlock and Gear Bumper Tops and Chains)
6 Balls (because they are related to Houdini, likely larger than other pinballs)
5 Multiballs (This is a quantum anomaly or simply five balls. We prefer to think the former)
10 Stage Modes including Straight Jacket Multiball (If you have never played pinball in a straitjacket you don’t know what you’re missing – but that’s okay because there are probably few that have so it’s not like you’re being left out of some really cool group)
3 Magician Modes (What? Who else would they put with Houdini? Kellar, maybe. Dante, c’mon. Carrot Top, not even a magician)
1 Master Magician Mode (You get to play as the Master Magician plays – includes cape between well-manicured fingers the bumper buttons)
5 Secret Mission Combo Modes (Likely as H.H.)
5 Houdini Silent Movie Modes (We would totally do voice-overs for the silent dialogue to compliment our playing)
5 Jail Escape Hurry Ups (In our book, every Jail Escape is a Hurry Up. We reviewed Houdini’s notes and found very little evidence that he trifled during any escape, especially a Jail Escape)
1 Video Mode (As far as we know, there was no video back in Houdini’s time – maybe he did a YouTube that we didn’t see yet)
Milk Can Playfield Multiplier
Imagine a game without a Milk Can Multiplier? You cannot, can you? It’s impossible. Houdini wrote to his brother Theo “Dash” Weiss in 1919 “Now that I have the Milk Can and understand it’s multiplying effect, I cannot imagine the world without it.” We have no word what response Theo provided his brother but likely it was along the lines of “Nope, I sure can’t, brother!”
The device is so pretty and so perfect, we just want to touch it and buy it. It is more likely that we will touch it one day but not own it so soon. Our magic friend Keiser got to try it out at the Arcade Expo in beautiful Banning California this weekend. As he spoke about the Houdini machine and unrolled the special poster he brought us, we smiled beyond capacity; leading to slight tears to the corners of our well-chapsticked lips. We were so enthralled, we worried that our special anti-enthralling medications were not working or, at best, overwhelmed. But it was apparent, the medication was just whelmed – not overly or underly.
The machine cost a mere $7,000.00 USD ($6,999). At $7.50 a show (assuming a complete sell-out of the back of the room Svengali Decks and knock-off Bullet Catch Trick with Nerf Guns), it would only take us a bunch of shows and lots of balloon animals (and we can only do poodles and giraffes (or poodles who look like giraffes or swords), to make enough to buy one.
Consequently, we are hoping one of our readers will decide to contribute the machine to us and perhaps through in some AC Generator wiring so we can play indoors. We were going to do a Go-Fun-Me page but when we went to the site, it didn’t seem like a place one could raise money. It seemed a little provocative. We erased it from the computer and were thankful we didn’t use our own computer to search and find the site.
See or play the game, we would love to hear your experiences – and perhaps touch your hand to get some of your special luck.
We thank Keiser for his poster and his constant ability to fool us and be patient with our bad acting when we pretend to know exactly what he has done.
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.”
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.