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How Magic Can Help Teachers

We read a great article on a website dedicated to helping teachers be more effective.  It was about magic naturally.  It began with the question, “What do Derren Brown, David Blaine and the like have to teach us about managing our classrooms?”

The answer according to teacher and magician William Lismore is a lot.

For instance, with the four words, “Are you watching closely?” the audience — a packed house or a classroom — will very likely focus and their attention will be directed at the speaker of those magic words.

We recall seeing Harry Blackstone Jr. perform live and he said, “Watch closely.  What you are about to see you will remember for the rest of your life.”

Man did we watch closely and man do we remember.  He floated a lit lightbulb over the audience and back to the stage.  It went right over us and we could see nothing to support its flight.  That memory is locked in our peanut-sized and shaped brain.  Mr. Lismore provides three areas where magicians can use their skills to enrapt a classroom.

The three skills are Misdirection, Showmanship and Suggestion.

We don’t want to take away his thunder and suggest you read his essay — even if you aren’t a teacher.  Magicians can learn from teachers as well.

We had a teacher in the fifth grade who could perform magic.  He was fantastic.  He could pull coins from the air, from behind some kids’ ears and out of their noses.  Kids would pass him in the hall and ask him to pull a coin from their nose.

We think he taught home economics or physics.  We don’t remember but he could do things with tissue paper and sponge balls that would blow away even an adult audience.  It may have been creative writing he taught except we didn’t take creative writing in the fifth grade so it probably wasn’t that.  Still, we remember him once making a kid’s head seem to disappear in a cardboard box.  Everyone screamed and then he returned the head and all was fine.  But you know what it is like in school, if one person gets sick, everyone gets sick and there’s a mess and an investigation.

We think it was geometry he taught.  We know he used the blackboard and could make it look like he could shove the chalk up his nose and pull it out of his ear.  He was a heck of a teacher.

Continue reading “How Magic Can Help Teachers”

David Copperfield Has to Live Somewhere

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.

Yes, we know he has an Island and has done wonderful work for the people devastated by the recent hurricane by helping provide food and necessities and being physically on the ground serving people who were in desperate need.

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.

Glenn Close and Derren Brown Share Slap Fight on Social Media

One of the things we rarely see on Twitter is physical violence against prominent magicians.  And usually that is a good thing.

While people may get frustrated with great magicians, like Derren Brown – star of the one-man show Secret now showing on Broadway – we almost never see folks slap, punch or physically attack magicians.

For some reason, both Mr. Brown and Glenn Close each opted to share video of their bout on social media today.  It looks to our untrained and empathy-induced puffy eye that Ms. Close got the best of Mr. Brown with a final slap that sends him reeling into the darkness of the studio.

We have never been slapped with such fury and we have done many a thing worthy of such a slap from a celebrity.

Inside Magic readers will no doubt recall our confrontation with a former president of a prominent anti-magician association in which we said, “hey, why don’t you pick on people who don’t customarily wear hats?”

That was quite a while ago but still the former president of the organization did not accost us.  He merely knocked our opera hat from our pre-toupee wearing head.

No damage was caused to the hat (it still compressed and sprung into place with a mere flick of our spindly wrist).

Or the time we spoke with Mary Pickford about what we thought was an affront to our wonderful art contained on an interstitial card in one of her then hit movies.

The card appeared immediately after the star’s character slumped in a chair and showed a face that conveyed sadness and regret.  “What can I do? I’m not a magician!”

Ms. Pickford, ever the pro, pretended not to hear us at the red carpet premier of the film.

It could be that she didn’t hear us over the din of the other reporters and popping of flash bulbs but we prefer to think she heard us and decided it was best for her career to not physically lift our then lithe body and slam it into the cement bearing the hand imprints of Charlie Chaplin at the Chinese Theatre.

Or the time we were interviewing Lassie on her controversial spat with Rin Tin Tin’s estate over copyright issues.

Or when we featured Topo Gigio in one of our pre-internet editions of this journal and he became exasperated by our inability to understand a single word he was saying.

Or when we likened a certain movie star to Topo Gigio with marbles in her mouth.

Or when we saw Lassie on the streets of Beverly Hills without his trainer and we brought up the then-burning question about her gender.  There were some in the Hollywood press who insisted Lassie was a boy dog playing the part of a girl dog.

But we were never bitten – not even by Mary Pickford who, according to one autobiography we made up for this sentence, bit everyone.

Maybe the slap fight was part of a promotional campaign.  There must be a reason for the slapping.  Dr. Thomas LeTray writes in his seminal treatise on the subject, Slapping: Its Causes and Meaning, “… it is unusual, in fact, statistically unlikely, that rational people will engage in slapping behavior without a cause or meaning.”

We look forward to learning the cause and meaning of the slapping.  If you would like to see the video, you can visit the Onion’s AV Club site here.

Typing in a Dying Mall

We are possibly in the last Sears store left in the tri-city area.  It is in a mall that is dying or has died depending on what one values in food court offerings.  There is a knock-off of Panda Express called China Express that sells virtually the same items — likely because it purchased the space from the departing Panda Express.  

In fact, this is being written on an electric typewriter found in the “discard” bin by the back of the electronics section.  So far the typewriter seems to be holding its own against our incredible 55 words-per-minute speed and the correct ribbon, while limited, it doing its job.

We write today from this once fine store to talk about magic in the age of the internet.  Sears lost out to internet retailers (we think that’s what happened) and many of the stores that once considered Sears their “anchor” store did the same. 

The center court is a mere shell of its former self.  There are no information booths, discount ticket vendors, people.  The fine benches on which men would wait for their partners while the latter shopped in the 72 stores the mall held, are no longer in place.  There are chairs but they are of the folding variety and likely pulled from failing merchants to provide a meeting space where the daily walkers can rest after their several laps of the mall.

There is no sense of danger here though.  The customers are not really customers so they carry no cash to rob.  The gangs prevalent in the city near-by seem to avoid the place — perhaps to avoid very small mobs of elderly speed-walkers or maybe they have other things to do during the day.

Sears, though, used to sell magic tricks to kids.  We bought a Houdini Magic set here when we were knee-high to some insect and returned many times to the quasi-magic counter in the Sears toy area to learn from the salesperson.  

A new store opened in the mall that drew the magic traffic from the internal location of the Sears to a brightly colored show wagon that had windows on both sides, in between the fixed circus-type wheels – where young people and older folks (over 14) could come to see the latest magic, novelties, books or just talk.  

We were fortunate enough to get a job there after begging and waiting until we were 12.  It was the most wonderful job on earth. We still had our paper route, so we were making serious cash and didn’t mind being paid in store credit.  On our first day, the proprietor gave us a set of Color Changing Knives. He demonstrated the trick and then taught us to perform it correctly — not so much like a magician would perform it but as a demonstrator of magic would show its effect and entice those watching to purchase a set.  

The proprietor also instructed us to clip  and clean our nails, remove any blemishes or hide cuts on our hands from our morning job of folding and throwing newspapers before coming into work. Continue reading “Typing in a Dying Mall”

Magician Nick Lewin’s Western Swing

The chances are you have seen magician Nick Lewin before.  But then again the chances are you have not.  It’s that way with chances – they can go either way.  Regardless of the side of the fates you fall, you need to take time to see Mr. Lewin for the first time or again as he begins his Southwestern swing.

Mr. Lewin is to magic what oxygen is to many people; at least us.  He is an essential ingredient that keeps life sustained.  We have seen him perform many times and each time end up with what feels like a broken rib from our laughing and enjoyment.

Mr. Lewin performs effects that we know well but cannot comprehend how he performs them so effortlessly.  He performs magic that we assume must be based on one of the magic principles but we don’t which one or ones and we don’t want to know.  But on top of all that, he is funny.  Not just funny for a magician, but funny in the real comedic sense.  Finally, he is an outstanding actor.  When he explains something from the stage, audiences (or we) believe it.  He could say the landing on the moon was real, and we would accept it without question.

He has opened for Tony Bennett, Reba McEntire, Charlie Daniels, Paul Anka, Fortune 500 companies, as well as private functions for David Bowie, Steve Forbes, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Iacocca, Tony Curtis, Orson Welles, Steve Wozniak and others.  If that wasn’t enough – and it should be for anyone – he starred for five years in his award-winning one-man show in Las Vegas called “Comedy Magic.”

On the 27th, Mr. Lewin will be substituting for Mac King at Harrah’s in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He will take the stage at 1:00 and 3:00 pm.

On July 29th, he will be headlining Magic at the Tavern in Austin, Texas.  Joining him on the bill will be Rolando Medina (close-up expert) and Little Jewford, musician.  You can purchase your tickets here.

At the end of the summer, Mr. Lewin will be at TAOM 2019.

He also offers (for sale) some of his great effects at Nick Lewin Enterprises – of which we have purchased many and been delighted with each one.

 

Do not miss your chance to see Mr. Lewin.  He is a true Inside Magic Favorite.

Passing of Magicians Thompson and Brodien

We are easily affected by many things.  We cry at weddings, movies, supermarket openings.  But we were very moved by the passing of Johnny Thompson and Marshall Brodien.  We knew both – although we are sure they didn’t know us – and respected each for their incredible contributions to our wonderful art.

We are originally from Chicago and watched Mr. Brodien on the Bozo Circus show as Wizzo the Wizard.  As a young (first very young and then just younger than we are now), Wizzo was wonderful.  It was live television and Mr. Brodien was performing real magic effects for both the studio audience and the kids home for lunch during school days.

Later, Mr. Brodien was seen nationally with his TV Magic Cards.  Realize we had never seen a Svengali Deck before and so Mr. Brodien’s commercials were memorized and worshipped.  We could not understand how he could pull off the miracles he performed with a simple deck of cards.

We bugged our father for days to take us to Walgreens to purchase the deck.  We had saved the money and when we brought it home, it was worth ten times the $2.95 we paid for it.  It was incredible in construction and instruction.  Within an hour, we were performing the effect for family and then in our shows at the elementary school we attended.  A true miracle.

It also taught us a very important lesson: never perform the same trick twice for the same audience.  A Svengali Deck is to be seen only once.  Once is enough.  Put the deck back in the case and back in our pocket.  We learned this lesson the hard way when one of our classmates asked, “Is it always the 2 of Spades?”  We said something about how she was just lucky and moved on to our next trick. Continue reading “Passing of Magicians Thompson and Brodien”

Dai Vernon’s Legacy

This cannot be an endorsement of Magician Edward Brown’s book (The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown by Trevor H. Hall and Andi Gladwin) because we have not yet had the chance to read it.  But when you have praise from the true Dean of Magic, Dai Vernon, one’s attention must be drawn.  “England’s finest sleight-of-hand performer.” That is what Dai Vernon said of this performer and yet we never heard of him. 

Dai Vernon’s word is good enough for us. 

In our youth we had a chance to watch Mr. Vernon perform close-up (within a few inches on one occasion) and he astounded us. 

He astounded us to the extent we had an existential crisis.  On a warm afternoon in May of 1974, five hours after we won the Florida State Magic Close-Up Award as a 14 year old, we encountered Mr. Vernon sitting beneath a large table umbrella.  While we were convinced our win was due to luck we were still a bit full of pride as we sat down near the master.  We were feeling our oats or whatever we had stuffed in our pockets to provide sustenance during at our first magic convention. 

We sat with Mr. Vernon on the pool deck of the beautiful Langford Hotel.  It wasn’t a private audience – we were one of ten or so magicians of all ages – but it felt special and private.  We studied the famous Stars of Magic publications and even could perform some of Mr. Vernon’s effects – not well.  What we saw that afternoon was too much.  There was no rush, no strange configuration of fingers, apparently no distraction – although we knew there had to be – and no end to the incredible card and coin magic performed. 

Being 14 and having acne problems weighed in our existential decision.  We didn’t have the suave manner of Mr. Vernon.  We couldn’t perform sleight of hand whilst holding a drink or cigarette.  We couldn’t even legally drive in the state of Florida. 

We knew, at that moment, that our freshly gained title would not serve as a sufficient bed of laurels upon which we could rest.  But, we wondered, did we have the innate ability to perfect our sleight of hand to the level of this phenomenon.  Again, Mr. Vernon never rushed, never gave a hint of performing anything other than what the audience could see.  We, on the other hand, feared being caught out with sleights and our clumsy palming talent that was usually distracted by humor. 

We are proud that we took the path we did.  We resolved in that moment that while we could never master the true Master’s ability, we could be inspired by him to continue working and performing in his style – never rushing, nothing out of the ordinary, sharing in the magical experience with the audience.  An audience willingly in attendance to watch something they could not explain but enjoyed.

We could have given up magic in that moment. 

Despite our big trophy and gift certificate with which we purchased “Instant Art” by Supreme Magic ($25.00).  But we didn’t.  Now decades later, we have come nowhere near the perfection we sought.  In fact, as we have aged, our hands have grown drier, our moves less certain and our reliance on humor to hide our moves has only intensified.  Still, before we perform – especially at the Magic Castle – we think about Dai Vernon and his kindness to our younger self and his encouragement to continue “what you’re doing.” 

It was hardly the endorsement received by Mr. Brown but, to come full circle, it provides a great incentive to learn more about the performer who received such accolades from the man we respected so well. 

We look forward to reading the new book from Vanishing Inc.  You can do the same by clicking here.