Non-Magic, Strictly Speaking

Inside Magic prides itself in bringing the very latest magic news to magicians around the globe.  Our tens of readers depend on us for such news and we hope to never disappoint with filler or advertisements cloaked as magic news.  We obviously had some stumbles in both departments over the past 20 years we’ve been publishing.

Who can forget (unfortunately none of our readers) our filler contributions:

Spoons are Great! – June 22, 1994

Why We Love Automobiles – March 17, 2001

Magic Backwards is Cigam! – December 1, 2017

Spoons Continue to be Great! – February 2, 2018

Continue reading “Non-Magic, Strictly Speaking”

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Masters of Magic Moves to Turin

The Masters of Magic Convention is on the move from Saint-Vincent to Turin, Italy.  For those already invested in the event, the good news is that only the location has changed.  The dates, the program, the organization, and the cast will be exactly the same.  The great news for those who did not previously sign up for what is promising to be an incredible event is that there is still time to join.

According to organizers, Turin made a strong case for moving the convention to their location.  Locations and hotels will be identified to participants in the near future.  But the good news is that the prices will not increase despite the fact that the number of performers will increase and the convention will have additional activities outside of the convention and even a special program for non-magician guests.  The seats previously selected for the big Gala Show will stay the same too.

The World Championship of Street Magic will as well be organized in Turin on May 17-18-19.  If you think you have what it takes or would just like to see what you have, drop a note to mario.baldantoni@mastersofmagic.tv for an application form.

So, let’s recount.  The convention is moving to Turin – a great city with an amazing history – adding features for magicians and non-magicians alike, holding the Street Magic competition and keeping the same prices.  Who will be there you ask? Oh, some folks you may have heard of before such as: Derek DelGaudio. Luis Piedrahita, Marco Tempest, Juan Tamariz, Morgan Strebler, Niek Takens, Raul Cremona, Luis Otero, Roberto Giobbi, Stuart MacDonald, Jay Sankey, Den Den, Aaron Pang, Omar Pasha.  Organizers promise even more to come.

We are finagling our books and working favors to find a way to attend.  It sounds like our kind of event.  If you are interested in learning more, check out their website here.

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.

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”

Potter & Potter Magic Auction 2 Days Away

Two days away from Magic Only Auction

We heard from Rebecca Kaufman of Potter & Potter Auctions that this December 15th, the distinguished auction house will hold an online only magic auction.

Magicians and collectors will be able to select from more than 200 magic collectibles, posters, books, ephemera, and apparatus.

While the auction will be traditional in most ways it will have no live floor or phone bidding.  You can check out the items to be offered online in their beautiful catalog but you can only purchase the items, one lot at a time, on the day of the auction.

You can check out the sale catalog here.

Here are some of the highlights of the auction:

  1. Lot 208, a Wu-Ling Pagoda Mystery, made in Los Angeles by F.G. Thayer & Co. in the mid-1940s.
  2. Lot 198, a disembodied wooden rapping Hand, made in New York by Hornmann around 1918.
  3. Lot 183, a Walter Sheppard 1990s era head chopper stage illusion with quality paint and a dragon motif.
  1. Lot 163, an Insull for Lewis Davenport 1950s era talking skull prop.
  2. Lot 129, a Stanislaw Miedza-Tomaszewski for Cyrk “Sawing in Half Poster” from 1967.
  3. Lot 113, A c. 1900 Casino de Paris color litho of Annie Abbott, known as the “The Little Georgia Magnet,” alongside vignettes depicting her feats of strength.

It is this last piece that intrigues us the most.  We are a student of “The Little Georgia Magnet” and  her story.  It was an amazing time in our magic history and some of her effects are still being performed today.  We also noticed that the other items belie magic’s macabre side.  Disembodied hands, talking skulls, slicing women in half and a head chopper.

When we were younger than now, we used to do the finger chopper sold in most magic and novelty stores.  It was a great trick but we had dreams of one day getting an Abbott’s Discecto or a proper hand chopper.  We once even moved up to the head chopper for stage performances and finally a guillotine.

We were asked after a show if we thought it proper to do a full-sized guillotine illusion for party guests ranging from 4 to 7 years of age.

The question came from a little kid who was not related to the person paying us for the show but we still took it seriously – or at least gave the impression that we did – as we packed up the illusion in the back of our Volkswagen Fastback to head to our next engagement.  It was a non-magic engagement, we had to buy puppy treats because of a bet we lost with our dog.

Continue reading “Potter & Potter Magic Auction 2 Days Away”

What Goes Into Inventing a New Magic Trick?

What goes into inventing a magic trick?

That’s a question we are trying to answer as we develop, possibly for sale, an effect that could be popular with close-up magicians.  Because that’s what we do, close-up magic, it seemed natural to make commercial offerings of the tricks we do for audiences in the amateur rooms at The Magic Castle.

So we have this trick that audiences seem to enjoy and it really just depends on sleight of hand invented by our forbears.  We don’t know who invented the classic force – perhaps Johann Hofzinser back in the 1800s or someone more recent.  We want to credit the right person and so we search.  We can tell you one thing for sure, do not look up “Classic Force” on Google from your work computer.  Wow.  There is something not right with this world.

The second part of the trick involves a false pass of an object.  Who invented that?  Maybe one of Hofzinser’s friends or students or maybe it was T. Nelson Downs (“The King of Koins”).  We want to credit this move to its rightful owner as well.

But inventing a trick means more than giving credit to the right person.  We found we needed to write instructions for magicians wishing to practice the effect and performing it to maximum effect.  We are not big on giving a link to the magician and letting him or her find the instruction video on-line.  It seems impersonal and an easy way out.  We’re more of a UF Grant kind of organization with illustrated instructions covering each move and describing how to perform said move.

Let’s assume we get past the crediting and the instruction writing, the next step will be to come up with a name that grabs users’ attention.  We never had a name for this trick.  It was always just the effect we working on.  We’ll have to work on that as well.

Finally, we have to write ad copy that doesn’t mislead potential buyers.  We want to be honest about the effect to be presented from the audience’s point of view, the skills necessary to perform the effect, any angle issues, and whether the performer will need to practice to perform.

Let’s assume we get the ad copy correct and have no blatant lies in our listing, we will have to get friends and associates to write one sentence, objective recommendations for the effect.  We know some influential people and maybe they would be kind enough to write such praise.  We’d like some of the praise to follow the current trend of “fooled me badly,” “the kind of trick you will carry always” “I was floored” “Not since biblical times has such a miracle been seen,” “I rank the inventions as Sliced Bread, [the yet to be named trick] and the cotton gin,” “if I could buy only one trick that I would use constantly it would be …” “the finest trick of its kind anywhere” or the ever popular “I wish this wasn’t being sold so I could be the only one who had it.”

Then comes the pricing.  We don’t know how to price an ordinary deck of cards (with which one can perform second deals) and the special gimmicks that make the trick possible.  We’re thinking the cards could be supplied by the performer so we would only need to send the gimmicks.  They don’t weight too much – maybe a couple of ounces but they are specially made and cost us about $14 each.  So we’re looking at a total cost of $30 or so.  By checking mark-up of similar effects, we figure that means we should charge anywhere from $45 to $75.

Of course the second we launch the effect, we’ll learn from the various forums that the trick was actually invented by someone either a year ago or back in the 1920s.  We’ll feel terrible, apologize and take it off the market.

That’s just how we work.  We believe in not stealing effects, even if it is done without actual knowledge.  We don’t steal jokes either.  In fact, we have a non-stealing philosophy about most things – we’ll steal a kiss from our sweetie or steal fake fruit from a movie set if the script calls for it – but otherwise we’re this side of taking things we don’t own outright.

We wonder how so many magicians can invent new tricks, take the criticism of theft that comes from the magic public; or worse, failure to properly credit the innovators who invented parts of the trick.  They must have iron constitutions.  It would send us into a shame spiral – and not a good kind where you’re ashamed that you won a beauty contest over someone who came in second only because she couldn’t remember a good answer to one of those questions asked by celebrity judges.  A bad kind of shame spiral where you doubt everything you have ever done and assume no one like you.

We thought about copyrighting, patenting or trademarking the trick to prevent theft – assuming we are the inventor of the trick but our research shows that none of these intellectual property laws would help.  Copyright goes to the expression of an idea on paper or in action.  We could copyright our instructions but someone could come along with a new set of instructions and avoid a copyright claim.  A trademark only protects indications of origin of the effect.  As long as the thief differentiated the source with a new trademark or name for the trick – which right now would be easy because it doesn’t have a name – he or she would be scott-free.  A patent would not help because we would have to expose the secret to the patent office and to the world.  There would be nothing to sell, the secret would be out.  There are plenty of examples of patented magic tricks.  We would normally link such things but do not want to give away secrets — even very old ones.

Maybe we’ll keep the trick in our act, teach magicians we know if they ask, and watch as they improve upon it in their performances.  No shame spiral is likely and pride is almost certain to come.

If you see us and want to know the trick (assuming you are a bona fide magician) we’ll share it with you if it isn’t already obvious from our performance.  Sharing is caring and we care deeply about our wonderful art and the friends we have met.  The same friends we would have imposed upon to write glowing reviews such as “I literally lost control of my bodily functions upon seeing the effect,” or “this is the kind of trick with which you can start a cult.”

Houdini Magic Shop Owner Aids JFK Investigation

Geno Munari, magician and owner of Houdini’s Magic Shop in Las Vegas and, most importantly for us here in Southern California, Disneyland, had a key role in finding historical documents related to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Harry Connick, father of performer Harry Connick, Jr. served as district attorney in New Orleans and in that role ordered the destruction of files related to JFK’s assassination.  Apparently the order wasn’t followed and some of the files, 67 boxes in total, remained.  The police officer charged with destroying the documents thought they may have some historical relevance and copied them for safekeeping.

Years or decades later, the files showed up on eBay and Mr. Munari bought them.

Investigation enthusiasts and scholars are delighted the files still exist and are combing the boxes for insight into the assassination, according to the website American Free Press.

As a side note, Inside Magic once uncovered files relating to the attempted theft of a magic trick invented by a rather famous magician who travelled through the United States.

Paw Paw Lawton was a part of the Inside Magic staff back in the day when we distributed this blog through cutting and pasting together a newsletter sent to over 20 subscribers on our list (six were members of our own family or claimed to be related by marriage.  The image above was our first logo.  In the latter case, it turned out that Tony Spain was not properly married to our sister-in-law because he had been married three previous times, to the same woman, and none of those marriages were properly ended by divorce.

Tony has held a grudge against Inside Magic since and once had a website called, Down with Inside Magic and its Terrible Blogging (downwithinsidemagicanditsterribleblogging.io).  That site became inactive after one or two (actually one and a half) blog posts and our recent check of the very tough to remember or type URL shows the site is long gone.

Our sister-in-law was devastated and turned over to Paw a letter in which Tony was about to publish Paw’s Glass and a Half where liquid was poured into a glass from a pitcher and yet was able to hold all of the liquid poured.  Sort of a Multum in Parvo but with the added benefit of no set-up.  The trick was never published by Paw or Tony.  Tony is lazy and never got around to publishing the secret or claiming the trick was his.  Paw thought the secret was too good to share because he kept it in his act until his unfortunate passing in the early 2000s.)

But from that one experience we realized how important pieces of paper could be.  We used to think paper with writing on it was a novelty that would fall out of fashion.  After extensive research, spurred by our sister-in-law’s jilting, we learned that many things were written on paper; such as the Magna Carta, the Constitution of our very country, and shopping lists.  That discovery in the early 1990’s essentially changed our way of thinking.  So imagine how excited we are to learn that a magician, Geno Munari purchased 67 boxes of pieces of paper and audio tapes for any reason, much less the New Orleans’ investigation of the Kennedy assassination.

We are old enough to remember the assassination although our memory is only of the funeral and the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald on live television.

We credit our outstanding memory to taking some extract from jellyfish that we learned about on a late-night/early morning infomercial.  We didn’t even know jellyfish had brains much less great memories.  We wonder often what the typical jellyfish remembers.  Perhaps good times as a young jellyfish with its jellyfish mom and dad and its ambitions to be a great jellyfish that other jellyfish will remember in their great memory banks right before they are used to make supplements that we purchase online.  But that’s us.

We wonder about a lot of things, constantly.

We wonder why jellyfish, with their great memories, would put themselves into a position where they could be used for the scientists who derive the extracts.  We wonder if by taking the extracts to help our own memory, we are actually capturing some of the jellyfish memories.  Perhaps that is why we like the ocean so much.  Maybe we are living the hopes and dreams of so many jellyfish.  Or maybe we just like getting wet and having sand in our shoes and walking uncomfortably back to our car to deposit the sand throughout.

We just bought a new/used Nissan Eczema and love it  but it is filled with beach sand and the interior smells of dead fish.  We don’t know why they stopped making it in 1989 but it is a great car with very few seatbelts but it does have a cigar lighter that works so we have that.

Back to our story.  We are delighted to see Mr. Munari’s name associated with this historical event and subsequent investigation that has lasted since the assassination of JFK – more than 15 years have passed since November 22, 1963, maybe more than 15, but at least 15 years.  We’re not good at math.

Check out the full story here.

Visit Mr. Munari’s Houdini Magic Shop here.

Science Channel Greenlights Houdini Series

The Science Channel is set to carry a docuseries titled Houdini’s Last Secrets.  The series purports to be an expose of Houdini’s effects by looking at the scientific and engineering allegedly utilized in the effects performed by the great magician.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series will feature not only engineers and scientists but illusionists to “unravel the mystery around the man who caught a speeding bullet, survived live burial and imprisoned himself inside a water tank, spurring celebrity and conspiracy theories. The show will also look into the late magician’s personal life, through authentic scrapbooks, letters and pictures, to piece together his legacy.”

Each of the episodes will seek to discover the secret behind one of Houdini’s effects.

Said Science Channel General Manager “Harry Houdini is the definition of mind-blowing. He was clearly ahead of his time when it came to using engineering to accomplish his stunts, so much so that his methods continue to be debated by today’s master magicians. It’s no wonder that just the name Houdini still stirs the imagination of people, nearly a century after his death.”

Variety reports that the first effect to be explored / exposed will be the Water Torture Cell escape and the other shows will include stunts that we don’t believe Houdini actually performed such as “burning alive” and “catching a bullet.”  In fact, we are rather sure Houdini did not perform the bullet catch after receiving advice from Kellar.  We defer to John Cox, the Houdini expert, for his recollection.

The best scenario would be that the scientists, illusionists and engineers on the show fail to solve the mysteries and keep the secrets safe but unfortunately, we fear that won’t happen.

The show is set to premiere on the Science Channel on January 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Read The Hollywood Reporter’s exclusive on the show here.

Check out John Cox’ Wild About Harry website here.

Russian Magician, Magu Takes on India

Sharing a sentiment of many magicians, Alexander Magu, tells the Indian newspaper The Pioneer that if it weren’t for  magic, he would be working on Russian Railroads.

He saw a trick at the age of 17 and became hooked.  Now he is performing around the globe and will be in India for a series of shows.  It is his second tour in India.

“It isn’t a profession very highly preferred or chosen. It’s all about ideas, imagination and a story-telling capacity to hold the audience,” he told The Pioneer. The initial years were a struggle for Magu whose parents were reluctant about his career choice. Had it not been for magic, he would “have been working in the Russian Railways.”

He credits Derren Brown, David Blaine and “of course, David Copperfield” as inspiration.  He loves his work in our beloved art.  He gets to travel and “explore the human mind and its numerous possibilities. The beauty of the human mind is that no matter how fearless it might condition itself to be, it is as fearful, unbelievable yet believable. It’s amazing how certain things can amaze the mind.”

His show includes mind-reading, telekinesis, levitation and gravitational illusions and the article is clear that he is performing “illusions” and not “magic.” “An illusionist might leave your eyes wide open and make your jaw drop but a magician can make miracles happen. That’s magic.”

He will be performing in the beautifully appointed Upstage, Roseate House, Aerocity every night at 9 pm from today through November 25th.

Check out the full article in The Pioneer here.

Visit his expertly constructed website here.

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.