Category: Magic News

News from the World of Magic

UK Magician Damien O’Brien: “Old Skool David Blaine”

Damien OBrienThe 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.

Breaking: Fox Greenlights 10-Episodes of  Houdini & Doyle

Inside Magic Image of Houdini and DoyleAccording to Deadline.com, Fox Television has ordered ten episodes of “supernatural crime” series Houdini and Doyle based on the real-life friendship between Harry Houdini Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The two characters “join forces to investigate crimes with a supernatural slant.”

Houdini is the debunker and Doyle believes in spooks.

Some are describing it as an X-Files-esque take on two great historical figures.

We will keep you apprised as we learn more.

 

Bill Maher Hates Magicians – So What?

Inside Magic Image of Innovative BunnyIn a Las Vegas Review-Journal column by Doug Elfman this morning, comedian Bill Maher looks to stir up some controversy in advance of his show this Saturday at The Palms Casino.

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.

David Ben Advises Canadian Museum on Houdini Collection

Houdini Buried AliveMagician 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.

Read more in The Montreal Gazette.

David Copperfield Speaks About Making It

Inside Magic Image of David CopperfieldMagician 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.”

Check out the video here.

Do Magicians Need Manicures?

Inside Magic Image of Clean Fingers and FingernailsWe got our first manicure ever the other day.  It will be our last – at least our last voluntarily received.

It was inevitable, we presume.  We were in Hollywood, performing on the weekends in the amateur rooms at The Magic Castle and all the other guys had manicures and, well, we just gave into it.

We have been performing magic since we were seven and have tried to take good care of our hands and fingernails ever since we started working as a demonstrator at Paul Diamonds Magic and Fun Wagon at the Palm Beach Mall.  Barry Gibbs – our mentor and boss – explained the need to have clean hands and neat fingernails.  He never mentioned getting a manicure.

When big-time magicians would tour through our local clubs, we noticed that some of them would have shiny fingernails but assumed it was a Hollywood or New York City thing.  We did not recall seeing any of the Chicago pros with shiny, smooth fingernails.  Maybe they had them and we just did not notice.

But then we hit Hollywood.  Everyone had manicures.

In fact, even our taxi driver from the airport to our beautiful studio apartment next to the store that bakes dog food on Santa Monica Boulevard had shiny nails.

He was otherwise a gruff looking man with a very short fuse when it came to people driving slower, faster or different than he would like.  Nevertheless, if you were to examine only his nails, you would assume he was a member of a royal family.  We were going to ask him about his decision to get a manicure but he was very focused on driving very quickly and using his well-maintained middle finger to express his constant displeasure with our fellow travelers.

We debated taking the plunge.  What if someone saw us going into one of the hundreds of “manicure parlors” that line the boulevards crisscrossing Hollywood?  Fortunately, we don’t know many people out here yet and so the chances were low that we would be spotted.  Perhaps, even if we were spotted, the spotter would not care.  Maybe manicures are okay in this realm.

We tried a couple of sample runs; walking in to parlors with their specialized chairs and tables and tools with what must have appeared to be an awkward sense of nonchalance.  On the other hand, maybe we just looked addled, confused or weird.

Several times the kind Asian women attempted to get us seated to begin the process right away.  Several times we pulled away like a weirdo possessed by an infantile fear of having his nails cut.

We wanted to discuss the topic with friends in a safe environment.  One night, after performing a couple of sets in Hat & Hare room at The Magic Castle, we asked some of the other performers if they got manicures.  It took us a while to get to the point and we may have actually stammered.

We must have sounded self-conscious and/or creepy because we received no response.  The conversation broke shortly after we asked the question.  It was likely our paranoia but it seemed like they were avoiding having eye-contact with us for the rest of the night.

We read up on how to give oneself a manicure and immediately deleted our search history after determining that it was a specialty we did not possess.  We needed a pro.  We needed a non-judgmental pro who could keep secrets.

We found just such a pro just a few blocks from our apartment.  Hong Kong Nails and Spa was open until 11:00 pm and staffed with very friendly, caring people who did not view us as abnormal or deviant.  Or maybe they did but they did not let on.

Lisa – not her real name – was the manager on duty and ushered us into the big, elevated and comfortable chair.  She did not even ask why we were there.  It was as if she just knew.  Of course, there are probably few non-manicure related reasons a person walks into a nail parlor at 9:00 pm so maybe she did not need to have the deductive reasoning skills of Sherlock Holmes.

We say that “Lisa” was not her real name because it was not.  It was the name she gave us but said it was her “American” name.  Her real name was too difficult for most customers and so she adopted “Lisa” after seeing the Simpson’s cartoon show.  We told her our real name.  We were coming to terms with our trust issues in her caring hands and warm, soapy water.

Apparently, we have been blithely ignorant of just how repulsive cuticles can be.  We had no idea.  Lisa explained that part of the reason people come for manicures is to have their cuticles removed or pushed back.  The cuticles keep growing back and trained professionals like Lisa are on the front lines, cutting and pushing against their incessant creeping.

Who knew?

Even now that we know about cuticles, we still have a hard time seeing cuticles on others.  One’s observation skills must develop in this area.  Lisa could spot our cuticles from the moment we walked into the parlor.  Hers must be a tortured life: seeing so many cuticles every day.  If they are truly as disgusting as she described, we have no idea how she could ever eat from a fast-food counter.

We watched as she applied a special gel to the base of our fingernails and then used a cutting implement from the late 14th Century to carve away more than 50 years of cuticle growth.  We expected to feel lighter and more mobile after the process but the difference was not immediately evident.

The good news was there very little in the way of blood.  We bleed easily and once we start, we do not stop for hours.  It is not an attractive trait and seems to have very little benefit to us or our progeny in an evolutionary sense.

Lisa asked if we wanted to have clear polish put on our fingernails now that they were free of the unsightly (but to us, practically invisible) cuticles and all ridges were buffed away.

We thought about it but because we are so insecure in our masculinity and have a lot issues, we demurred.  We immediately regretted declining the offer and tried to explain our “issues” to Lisa but surprisingly, it was not that big a deal to her.  She was a total pro or she didn’t care.

We tried out our new fingers at the Castle last weekend.  We discerned no improvement in our audiences’ enjoyment or appreciation for our practiced efforts.  None.  We thought about drawing attention to the manicure by saying things about cuticles and ridges but could not work those words into our multi-reveal card routine.  We even intentionally rocked our hands in the spotlight to pick up the maximum glint and sparkle but to no avail.

Perhaps having a manicure is unnecessary to succeed at performing magic.  Perhaps it is not the lack of ridges or unsightly cuticles that brings audiences to their feet, wild with enthusiastic applause and demands for an encore.  Maybe we wasted $20.00.

Maybe we should look into getting our nose hair trimmed.

Criss Angel Prepares for Second Shot at Houdini Escape

Criss Angel FoxwoodsRobin Leach has the inside track to Las Vegas magician Criss Angel and has brought readers of The Las Vegas Sun an account of the final 24 hours before Mr. Angel attempts a second “Houdini Escape.”

Mr. Angel will hang upside down in a straight-jacket with a 50-pound weight hanging from his neck to promote his upcoming appearance at the fabulous Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

He feels better prepared — mentally and physically — for the ordeal.  He worked with UFC Champ Randy Couture last time and is apparently still in training for this attempt.

His work at Foxwoods is to launch his new touring show Mindfreak Live. He will launch a second touring show titled The Supernaturalists next June, also at Foxwoods.

We read earlier today that the demand is so high that Foxwoods has added six more shows at the casino in January.

He told Mr. Leach that he will avoid injury “by being smarter, more diligent and better prepared since going through the worst case scenario — aside from going unconscious or falling. But ultimately it’s a calculated risk.”

Yes, he was injured and sidelined for a couple of months from his last attempt at just this type of escape but this time is different.  “I am completely and utterly focused, and in the moment I visualize over and over again what it should look like in my head before I attempt it. If something should happen to change that plan, I make the necessary adjustments. Life is death without change.”

Is he thinking of leaving Luxor for a national touring stint or perhaps to relocate to Foxwoods?

Nope.

“I’m so honored to have this opportunity and want to sincerely thank Cirque du Soleil, Luxor and Foxwoods for making this possible. These outreach shows I’m doing are designed to promote Believe,  still ‘The only A+ magic show in Vegas” and the incredible experience that awaits for guests at the Luxor.”

We have yet to hear from the other magic shows in Vegas on Mr. Angel’s grading curve.

Mr. Leach promises updates on the escape as they happen.  We’ll keep our eye out for the news and share with you — that’s just the kind of folks we are.

Magic Apple’s Day of Lectures Review

Paul VigilYesterday, we attended the 7th Annual Magic Apple Day of Lectures at the beautiful Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City, California.  This is our second year and came away – as we did last year – magically enriched and tired but a good kind of tired.

Mike Caveney took the first spot and presented his lecture on how he develops new effects.  He took the 50 magicians in attendance through the development of his Gypsy Thread using toilet paper.  We do not know if this is the proper name for the effect but you get the point.  Like the Gypsy Thread, the magician separates a length of toilet paper into convenient squares, hands them to members of the audience to prove they are both truly separate and ordinary.  They are gathered and then in a straightforward manner, Mr. Caveney restores the length to their former glorious ribbon of two-ply unity.

He took us from the moment inspiration hit – more than 30 years ago and not in a restroom – through the five versions he developed to perform this wonderful piece of theater.  It was a great chance to view the working of a magic genius.

Mr. Caveney showed his incredible impromptu linking coat hangers effect and explained the thinking behind his presentation and its development from years or demonstrating it for magicians at conventions around the world.  We loved the simplicity of the solution.

We could watch Mr. Caveney all day.   But it was time for lunch – part of the Day of Lectures package – and a fine lunch it was.  We dined on fresh turkey sandwiches, fresh fruit and a fresh Diet Coke overlooking the sun-drenched pool just outside the lecture hall.  We remembered to remove the decorative toothpick before eating the sandwich this year – demonstrating that pain can be an excellent teacher.

Next up was a magician we had never seen perform.  That does not make him bad – we haven’t seen many magicians but sometimes, especially after we have eaten and relaxed poolside in a glamorous Los Angeles area, we want comfort.  We want to see familiar things.  In that way, we are very much like Winnie the Pooh.  Different isn’t always bad but when we are dopey from good food and the sun, it can be annoying.

Paul Vigil caught us off guard.  His presentation is so direct and so unique that we got suckered into believing him.  We do that too often for our own taste.  It turns out he lacks any real magical power, cannot predict the future, read minds or rob innocent victims of their ability to exercise free will.  It turned out, we learned, he was performing tricks.  Using subterfuges and, perhaps ordinary fuges, he was making his miracles look like real magic.

We have not been this fooled since we saw Derek Hughes perform at the Peller Theater at The Magic Castle.  Our mind was reeling as we wrote feverishly on the convenient note pad using the free Sportsman’s Lodge pen.  We felt our forehead to see if we had a real fever and then we felt the foreheads of those around us – not to compare our body temperature but just to affirm their personhood through prayerful touching (or something like that).

As we looked up from our slobbering, stooped-over position halfway through Mr. Vigil’s lecture, whom did we notice was sitting right in front of us?

Yes, Mr. Hughes.

It was like a David Lynch version of our life.  We began to think the mayonnaise we used on our turkey sandwich (graciously provided by the Magic Apple) had turned and was now causing us to lose touch with reality.  However, it turned out the mayonnaise was fine, reality remained intact and we were just on the verge of learning effects we had never before considered.  Change, usually bad, was actually becoming good – which was a change in itself.

Mr. Vigil’s Sympathetic Cards was outstanding and even though he explained it with patience and professionalism, we did not believe him.

He told us things that could not be true.  How could someone mix up the order of a deck of cards and have them spontaneously return to a preset order?   We were relieved to see that even Mr. Hughes appeared to disbelieve the claims.

We tried the effect during a later break and it turns out Mr. Vigil was not lying.  Even though it looks impossible, the effect can be done using his method.  Amazing.  Absolutely Amazing.  The impact on our little cranium was as dramatic as when we first learned Paul Curry’s Out of this World, The Hofzinser’s Cull or that (spoiler alert!) Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus are the same person.

We will bring a lobster bib the next time we watch Mr. Vigil perform or lecture.  Because we were chewing blueberry gum, our slobber ruined one of our favorite dress shirts and there is likely no chance we will again happen upon the exclusive men’s store/fireworks stand from whom we purchased it, some Slim Jims and a pack of Black Cat M-80s.

Last up was Helder Guimaraes‘ lecture.  It was not a lecture about tricks per se but more about the theory of magic and presentation.  Along the way, Mr. Guimaraes demonstrated a couple of killer effects but only to explain his approach to our art.  He has incredible skills and is an accomplished performer – including a FISM win – and yet a very approachable and effective teacher.

Unlike virtually every lecture we have attended ever since we started magic in the late 1920s, there were very few things offered for sale.  No over-priced lecture notes, gimmicked cards, one-trick DVDs, CD-ROMs of PDFs of magazine articles or gaffed coins.  Only Mr. Caveney had anything to sell after his lecture and that was hardly a collection of typical lecture fare.  He had his outstanding  Wonders book set and other volumes featuring some of the best magic writing available today.

It was disorienting to not have the last 20 minutes of each lecture consist of a recap of what can be bought and at what discount.  Perhaps that was why we walked away feeling magically enriched and wonderfully tired.

Salon Author Decries Houdini Industrial Complex

Harry HoudiniOnline magazine Salon has posted an article marveling at Houdini’s current cache with the public.

We read it a couple of times because we were not sure what the author hoped to express.

Its hook is the recent Potter and Potter auction of Houdini memorabilia and the History Channel’s miniseries, Houdini.

The author interviewed magician, writer and president of Potter and Potter Gabe Fajuri, Houdini historian extraordinaire and author of Wild About Harry, the definitive Houdini blog, John Cox and Lisa Cousins, Houdini-lover and outstanding librarian The Magic Castle’s William J. Larson Memorial Library, among other super-Houdini fans. She seemed to have an agenda and was seeking quotes to support her thesis that magicians are male, hide their secrets for no good reason and that there exists a “Houdini Industrial Complex.”

She writes, “[b]ut there is one irritating thing about Houdiniana today that also dates back to his life: the code of secrecy mystifying his tricks.”

Irritating? Why Irritating? Irritating to whom?

“It’s time to end the reflex of keeping these tricks secret—perpetrated most forcefully among the small group of magicians and magic collectors that in my darker moments I call the Houdini Industrial Complex.”

She admits that she admires – or at least a part of her admires – the commitment to keep magic’s secrets secret. “But part of me believes that it misses the point entirely. In the twenty-first century, it’s not how Houdini did it that matters. It’s who he was.”

We agree that Houdini’s mystique and staying power is due to his personality and star quality.  But he was  also someone who kept secrets. Audiences came to see him perform escapes and magic not provide lectures on how to open a pair of handcuffs or the best way to make elephants vanish.

Presumably, if we agreed with the author and would just expose our secrets, people would like us more. We learned long ago this logic does not work.  “C’mon tell us how you did it.” None of the relationships we thought we could enhance by exposing our magic secrets actually grew stronger.

But, even if we did publish our secrets, the authors says we would still be outsiders.

“Besides outliers like David Blaine, magicians are no longer part of the mainstream cultural conversation. And unlike burlesque, a twentieth century pop culture fad that has reinvented itself by using the language of gender studies, magic, with its largely male population, doesn’t really appeal to women.”

This is the first time we have heard that magic does not appeal to women. Our recent, very unscientific poling of magic audiences has confirmed that those in attendance were just about equally divided between the two main genders.

Perhaps the author is noting there are few female magicians. That is a valid point but we do not believe it can be attributed to a so-called Houdini Industrial Complex, the tendency of magicians to keep secrets or even the eccentric manner in which one magic library catalogs its volumes.

“The library at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, archivist Lisa Cousins explains, uses its own ‘eccentric cataloging system—not Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress’—and is closed to non-magicians. (She rushed to say that it allowed researchers.)”

We did study the Dewey Decimal system in the 1970s and agree that it is unfit for effectively cataloging an entire library of magic books. All of the books would have the same number, 793.8. In fact, the author could go to just about any public library and use that secret number to find troves of books that told her secrets to many effects.

It was nice to see Ms. Cousins quoted in the article but wonder if the author bothered to ask her questions about women in magic – a field Ms. Cousins knows well.

Could a magician perform tricks that he or she has exposed before performing? Sure. Would anyone go to see that magician?

A ventriloquist could do his or her routine without a figure and not hide the fact that he or she was speaking in a different voice.  We probably wouldn’t pay to see it though.

Part of the essence of magic is mystery. Mystery separates what we do from what one might see on a cooking show or at a craft class.

We are not sure what the author hoped to accomplish by her article. We hope she finds satisfaction in its publication and future success with other articles. And maybe it is us – it probably is – but we did not get her point. We think magic is doing fine and do not see a reason to change what has been working for hundreds of years. Again, that’s just us.

What If There Was No Magic Castle?

The Magic CastleSome famous person spoke about the dark night of the soul. We think it was a religious text about doubt – the kind of doubt that comes in the darkest hours when one realizes their whole understanding of everything could be wrong. It seems like a neat literary device but one that would make a horrible Broadway musical; unless it involved puppets or something.

But we had our dark night of the soul last night thinking about what Los Angeles would be without The Magic Castle. Our reading of some of the latest science journals (found at our pet’s orthodontist office here in West Hollywood) confirms that there can be infinite parallel universes and that the one in which we are now confined is just one. In the other universes, we were never born, we were born into royalty, and we never signed up for the Columbia Record Club at the age of 18 and were thus free from the years of forced purchases of second-rate vinyl albums to make up for our impulse buy of 20 records for one penny in 1988. The last one alone would have saved us about $55,000.00.

So, it is entirely possible that The Magic Castle could not exist. What would that mean? What else would Los Angeles or even California have to offer? What? Water – there is some on the East Coast of the U.S. and plenty in the Great Lakes Region from whence we come. Sunshine – okay, there is more of it here than in Michigan but is that enough? Jack-in-the-Box and In-and-Out Burger restaurants – big draw before our second angioplasty / stenting (if that is a verb) but we do not care about them so much any longer.

Basically, without The Magic Castle, Los Angeles is just a big city with nearby water, sunshine and incredibly tasty but unhealthy hamburgers. Others may know of things that we have missed – we heard there are mountains and non-magic cultural events and apparently some film studios have offices nearby but we haven’t really explored beyond The Magic Castle.

Without The Magic Castle, we would never get to see incredible shows like John Carney, Dana Daniels, Lindsay Benner and Jon Armstrong – and that was just in the last week.

We would never hear great interviews on topics of interest to us by Fitzgerald in his Who’s Hoo series. This week he interviewed world-famous ventriloquist team Willie Tyler & Lester and Castle Librarian Lisa Cousins.

We would never have discovered the great joy of performing in The Gallery and Hat & Hare for audiences that came to see magic.

Fortunately, in this universe and at this time, there is The Magic Castle. We cannot imagine what life or the western United States would be like without it. We tried to ease our mind and fall back to sleep but remembered we were actually driving at the time – but fortunately, we were in a traffic jam so our car wasn’t moving.