We are devastated to hear of the passing of Master Magician Brian Gillis.
Mr. Gillis was always so kind and supportive of the Magic Arts and Inside Magic. He was the consummate performer and could hold a room better than anyone we ever saw. He was famous for his performances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and among magicians for his high-energy work at The Magic Castle. His two-person telepathy act with his partner Sisuepahn was not only baffling but so entertaining, we wanted it to continue all night.
One of our greatest honors was being asked by Mr. Gillis if he could squeeze in to perform ahead of our spot in the cellar of The Magic Castle. We could not stop smiling and nodding as we took a position to the side of the room and watched how magic should be done. He was simply amazing.
Our prayers are with Mr. Gillis and Sisuepahn and all who have lost so much in his passing.
The Magic Castle’s Founder, Milt Larsen, has written a special tribute to Mr. Gillis here.
The obscure philosopher and scion of the Hardy magic family, Thomas “Big Tom” Hardy, wrote, “we take our honor where we find it.”
We never understood what he meant by that and think it may have been used in the closing argument in one of the many trespassing prosecutions he faced over his life. But, it resonated with us Friday as we ventured back into the Magic Castle after too long a time away.
Hollywood was inflamed with Oscar preparations. The streets were crowded with famous, nearly famous and gawkers walking at a virtually identical pace with the vehicular traffic coursing along Sunset and Hollywood boulevards. No one was moving quickly but all seemed to be enjoying their journeys.
We have been away from the Castle for about three weeks for unimportant reasons – none of which have to do with anything you may have read on certain Chinese-language blogs published out of Hong Kong. Plus, if you look carefully at the video those blogs tout, you can see we were at least an unwilling participant in what may or may not have been an unfortunate turn of events, at worst, or a miscommunication with fellow travelers stuck in a chilly airport terminal facing a lengthy flight delay. We should note that the goat was not ours but was part of the Chinese New Year’s celebration and was certainly well-behaved until the 11:02 mark of the video when all heck broke loose.
Regardless, that is, as the investigating officer said ironically, behind us.
We went back to the Castle Friday night. Did we say that already?
It was so nice to see old friends and even meet some new people with whom we hope to establish friendships. Dinner was wonderful as always and the entertainment offerings were befitting a star-studded awards weekend. Bruce Gold was in the Palace of Mystery, Derek Hughes was in the Parlor of Prestidigitation and Pop Haydn was working the Close-Up Gallery like the boss he is.
In between shows, we ventured downstairs to the amateur rooms and performed a couple of sets. We had two new effects on which we have been working. You may be different but we find that no matter how much we rehearse – and we do rehearse a lot – we really have no feel for the pacing of the effect until we actually perform for real people. By our third set, we had some comfort with the tricks, their presentation and the swelling seemed to abate.
We were getting ready to perform another set – undeterred by the fact that we did not have an audience, not a soul – when who should enter the room but Brian Gillis. We find it hard to shake the star-struck wonder when we meet celebrities or heroes. For instance, we are still unable to speak in coherent sentences when we talk with Pop Haydn or Mark Wilson.
Mr. Gillis asked if we were going to do a set and we may have nodded and giggled and twirled our hair (which at our advanced age is not only embarrassing but also tough to do). He noted that there was not an audience for whom to perform. We likely nodded again. At some point, we volunteered to get him an audience. He said he did not want to impose. He offered to wait until after we performed. We declined his generous offer and set about inviting folks downstairs to watch Mr. Gillis.
Within minutes the room was packed. We do not credit our audience-wrangling skills – the crowd came because we told everyone we met that Brian Gillis would be performing shortly.
Mr. Gillis was on and on fire. He had people cussing with disbelief at his ability to make the impossible happen so naturally, so easily. His signed bill to a volunteer-selected sugar packet evoked screams from the packed room. It was an honor to be in the same room with such an amazing performer.
We were then ready to start our set but saw Handsome Jack enter the room. He asked if we were going to perform and we again deferred to the better magician and said we would love to watch – which, ironically, was precisely what we intended to say in the Hong Kong airport video. Mr. Lovick performed a bit of the routine he will do this week in the Close-Up Gallery at the Castle. It was fantastic. The audience loved it and we were genuinely fooled by his work. He, like Mr. Gillis, works so smoothly and so naturally.
Again, it was an honor to be able to tell our grandchildren – one day – that we performed after such amazing magicians. We finally did our last set of the night and the crowds were pretty well dissipated. That was okay by us. We weren’t anxious to provide such a stark contrast between our plebeian skills and those of the two previous masters. We felt no shame in our lesser abilities but basked in the honor they unknowingly bestowed on a true fan of great magic.
We caught Pop Haydn’s final show of the night and were again in awe of how well magic can be presented. He is the complete package. A master of difficult sleights, audiences and entertaining performance. There is much to be learned and we feel blessed that we are always ready to learn. We may be star-struck but at least we are always open to the lessons.
The Magic Castle had a great presentation last night tracing the late Johnny Carson’s life-long appreciation of magic.
Dick Carson is an Emmy Award winning television director and the younger brother of the performer known as The Great Carsoni and proved be a great historian on the topic.
Dean Dill, Brian Gillis and the incomparable Mark Wilson came on after Dick Carson’s segment to share their experiences as performers on the iconic late night mainstay. Mr. Gillis and Mr. Dill were also called to provide the star personal tutorials in his Malibu home.
It was a great night to again enjoy the very unique talent Mr. Carson shared with the nation for so many decades.
Although Mr. Carson was very modest about his magic abilities, his talents were anything but modest. He performed difficult sleights with polish and skill. So many great magicians got their big break on Mr. Carson’s show and his support of the local (Los Angeles) magic community in general (and The Magic Castle specifically) was constant through the years.
One of the commentators observed he has never been replaced. We agree.