Tag: Dai Vernon

We’re Back as if by Magic

Picture of Inside Magic EditorIt has been awhile since we posted on this esteemed website and while we could discuss the reasons for our absence, we will leave the details to TMZ’s excellent, though somewhat biased, coverage.  We can say that we find the Royal Family to be a delight and to be honest, we were not aware that the Queen could operate Zoom so well.  We appreciated her kind admonition, “We believe you are still on mute.”

We have been spending much time at The Magic Castle and though it has reduced operating days, it is still the same clubhouse that we love and where our friends and magical family gather.  We never leave without feeling ebullient and informed.

We have seen so many acts that were new to us.  Acts that featured performers we have wanted to see for a long time and thus our wishes were granted.  All of this is on top of the great food.  Not literally on top of the food, that would be a violation of the LA County Health Guidelines and certainly not welcomed by us.

During this break from life as it once was, we have taken to purchasing books to help us learn moves and sleights that we thought we knew well but realized were really just a collection of lazy and bad habits formed over our decades of performances.  We have re-learned Twisting the Aces to try to imitate Dai Vernon’s method.  He worked so naturally and flawlessly.  We have worked on our coins across and cut and restored rope as taught by Pop Haydn.

We have worn and perhaps permanently damaged our relationship with family members with our constant request that they watch or select a card.  They now do so without truly watching or memorizing the card selected.  To the extent they do either – even if only to appease us – is a testament to their love for us.

We look forward to the end of this pandemic and pray for those fighting the virus regardless of their occupation but certainly including medical professionals and front-line workers.

One day we will be back to normal.  Here’s to hoping we do not lose more of our fellow magicians, their family members, their community, our nation and the world.

We will work with our dedicated staff to update this site more frequently now that we have things to relate from The Magic Castle.

Here is to hoping you are all safe, staying safe, and will be with us on the other side of this horrible pandemic.

Unfortunate Article on Phantom of the Card Table

Inside Magic's Famous BunnyWe are loathe to ever write anything negative on the pages of InsideMagic.com.

We do not provide reviews of new effects if the review would be less than at least four stars.  We just don’t review tricks we have found to be unsatisfactory.  We don’t promote articles or videos that we believe expose or denigrate our art.  We have held this position since our start in the mid-1990s.

The reason behind this philosophy is based on the fact that as a whole, magicians are good people and their work represents a source of income and a source of pride.  We would be the last organization to interfere with those sources of positivity.

And so, why are we writing this post about the two-part series published in Genii last month and this?

The series was written by Jamy Ian Swiss on the momentous night in Brooklyn when the Phantom of the Card Table, Walter Scott performed seemingly impossible feats of card dealing whilst wearing a blindfold.

The event has been captured in books and has gone down in magic lore.  Most recently, a copy of Cardini’s version of the manuscript has been published by Conjuring Arts with notes, a preface and forward.  It is a fine production and we have been pouring over it since our purchase on the first day it was available.  Please take the time to read about the making of the new book, Phantom of the Card Table, Critical Edition.

Mr. Swiss concedes the publication itself offers the magic community something of value and is well produced.  In doing so, however, he attacks several magicians, magic historians and dealers.

We don’t mind honest criticism and we have no puppy in this battle.  But we were distraught at the vitriol used in the attacks. He questions the motivations and credentials of contributors to the effort in harsh terms and provides his “considered opinion that Joe Crist, Walter Scott and Eddie McGuire all had a lot in common.  All three were confirmed bull___t artists.”

We think the Phantom / Walter Scott story is fascinating and view the new book as a major step-forward in the study of our great art’s history.  It is just a shame that a two-issue article on the matter could not be presented on a higher, non ad-hominem, level.

There are some in our art that we like and some we like more or less.  We see no need in attacking those we like less, especially publicly.  We also realize that this post does exactly what we are against.  That explains our reluctance to write it and even greater reluctance to post it.  We mean no ill-will to Mr. Swiss or Genii.  We are devoted fans of both.  Our complaint is only with this two-part article on a subject in which we are so interested.

Richard Turner’s Card Mechanics Lecture – Inside Magic Review

Image of Richard TurnerRichard Turner is an incredible performer with exceptional talents and amazing skills.

He is, in our very humble opinion, one of the best cardsharps we have ever seen – ever.  His lecture at The Magic Castle on Sunday was more of an exhibition of amazing card technique that even if we were taught with hours of patient instruction, we would still be unable to perform without his “fifty years of dedicated practice.”

The Second Deal is a personal point of pride for us.  We have only been practicing it for about 30 years and of that 30 years, we slept, ate, had a life and worked in our non-magic world so it was not entirely dedicated to perfecting our work.

We saw Mr. Turner’s incredible dealing prowess and later performed our routine in which we rely on Seconds and felt shame.  We wanted to stop our presentation and admit to the innocent lay audience that we were showing them the clutching, tightly gripped mechanics of muscle memory when they deserved so much better.

We did not actually stop our performance mid-deal but we felt it would have been warranted.  We watched our hands deal Seconds that seemed so apparent that they looked (to us) more like a Glide from the top.  We try to be humble (maybe not the most humble but of course if we were the most humble we would not claim to be) but seeing Mr. Turner’s lecture brought us down several rungs on the humble ladder towards humility.

Did we mention that Mr. Turner is blind?  He is blind.  Not “legally blind” or “partially blind” but really blind.  He is demonstrating cardsharping with absolutely no ability to see what he is doing.

He has perfected the perfect Second deal without a visual reference.  His Seconds are slowly done as if he were dealing directly from the top of the pack.  There are no moves, no tells, no flashing or signs that a Second is in the offing, is occurring or has just happened.

Seeing Mr. Turner perform is like sitting in Plato’s Cave with a periscope for just a few minutes.  We saw, briefly, what the real Second Deal looks like rather than the shadows on the wall we have been watching in our own hands or the hands of other performers.

His lecture is a delight to attend.  It is not a study in basic sleights or fundamentals.  In fact, there were very few sleights actually taught.  It is more of an opportunity to watch a true master perform impossible effects using imperceptible skills.  He discussed his involvement with the United States Playing Card Company and playing card production methods.  We could have listened to that type of inside information for another ten hours.  He told us about his interaction with Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller and their collaborative work on cardsharping skills.  We would have gladly paid to listen to more of those stories.

The lecture went for about two hours but we had a feeling he was just getting started.  We departed humbled but hopeful.  It is satisfying to know that there is a perfect Second Deal.  While we will likely never achieve it, we at least know our quest is not Quixotic.

Whit “Pop” Haydn’s New Book: A Treasure


Inside Magic Image of Whit Haydn's Newest Book, Stories of a Street PerformerWhit “Pop” Haydn is to Magic what Marconi was to communication. He is a legendary performer with the skills of a ninja and the charm of a religious idol. In a word, we think Mr. Haydn is pretty impressive.

We recently saw his performance for Magnetized Water at The Junkyard in Simi Valley, California (“Simi” is pronounced “see – mee” and not “seh meh” or “Sigh My” as we learned from about five people along the way).

He was in full character as Pop Haydn extolling the virtues of his latest discovery. With illustrated charts and graphs, he explained how Magnetized Water matches up with the body’s own natural polarity. It was a fantastic routine filled with genuine magic and a convincing sales pitch.

Even more exciting, for us, was the well-developed character of Pop himself. He is a treasure from an earlier century who readily admit his inner hustler tendencies but promises to lie only once per show. Once that one lie quota is met, he will shade the truth and perhaps be less than candid but promises to never lie outright. You have to respect an honest con-man.

We met Mr. Haydn aboard a ship decades ago. He was performing for the huddle masses on the luxurious over-sized yacht and even called upon our bride to be his assistant in his famous Four Ring Routine.

We were more excited than she at his choice and her performance. Our beloved eschews the spotlight and despite her elegance on stage, was happy to return to the relative anonymity of our stage-side booth.

“You were on stage with Whit Haydn,” we exclaimed with a mouthful of caviar.

“Who is Whit Haydn? Is he famous?” She asked, dabbing away the delicious roe from our lips, chin and tie.

“He is the man,” we offered proudly.

“Oh, the magician?” She asked.

“Yes. Yes, that is Whit Haydn and you were on stage performing his Four Ring Routine.”

“He seems very nice. Why can’t you do magic like that?”

We admit that she was very young at the time and it was likely the champagne and fluster talking. Nonetheless, she continued to sing his praises throughout the rest of voyage. Despite our natural jealous nature, we could not begrudge her crush-like admiration for Mr. Haydn.

To see Mr. Haydn perform is to forget about magic entirely. We tend to have a critical eye when watching other performers. We are not critical but we do see flaws in sleights that can distract from the overall experience. Mr. Haydn reminded us then – and now – of Dai Vernon or Slydini. Natural without forcing the impression of being natural.

Continue reading “Whit “Pop” Haydn’s New Book: A Treasure”

Our Award Winning List of Magic Loves and Loathes

Inside Magic Image of Ed Mishell DrawingThere are things in magic we love and hate.

If there is one thing we cannot stand, it is trite or cliché opening sentences to rambling essays about personal likes or dislikes by someone hiding behind an artificially inflated pronoun choice.

But that is just us.

Other things that bother us include the following:

  1. Older magicians telling younger magicians that they have no future in the business.
  2. Younger magicians refusing to listen to older magicians when they are telling them how it is.
  3. The meaningless objectification of women as mere props for male mutilation fantasies poorly set forth as some sort of “illusion set.”
  4. Magicians explicitly or implicitly demeaning their assistants or any audience member.
  5. All one-trick DVDs – even if the DVD is free.  Write it down, make a photocopy of what you wrote and wrap it around the trick, bundled with a DVD if you must.  We won’t watch the DVD unless it is absolutely necessary to do so – perhaps because we are reviewing the trick as sold.  If you cannot write the trick, chances are you cannot teach it on a DVD or at least teach it in a cogent, organized way.
  6. Theft of another magician’s bit, trick, flourish or act.  Sure, if we could do all the moves and flourishes necessary to duplicate Lance Burton or Dai Vernon’s best routines, we wouldn’t.
  7. Mentalists who claim they have real supernatural powers.
  8. Jugglers who claim they do not, that it all comes from practice and skill.
  9. Magicians who perform whilst attending another magician’s show.  If you’re not on the bill, keep you tricks in your pockets.
  10. Balloon sculptors who use pre-inflated balloons.
  11. Anyone who still uses the line “This silk is imported, I got it from a broad.”  It is the modern era – we can call them by their proper name, handkerchiefs or pocket squares Continue reading “Our Award Winning List of Magic Loves and Loathes”

Magician Ricky Jay Can Make You Cry, He’s So Good

Inside Magic Image of Deceptive Practices Movie PosterInside Magic Favorite Magician Ricky Jay is so good, his magic can make people cry.

That’s how The Jerusalem Journal begins its very positive review of Deceptive Practices: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay.

We are told of a British journalist who dined with Mr. Jay in a café on a hot, sticky day. (The article doesn’t say “sticky” but we believe it was implied and will stand by our interpretation).

He related a story about Max Malini, “who once borrowed a woman’s hat, placed a silver dollar underneath it, then lifted the hat to reveal that the coin had transformed into an enormous chunk of ice. And at that moment, the journalist recounts, Jay lifted his menu with a flourish to reveal his own 1-foot-square block of ice, which materialized as if out of thin air. The journalist was so astounded by ‘this supreme piece of artistry,’ she says, that she ‘burst into tears.'”

Deceptive Practices lovingly created by filmmakers Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein will open this Friday, May 17th in Los Angeles. You can check out the official movie site for listings in other areas and states here.

The Journal says Mr. Jay keeps his secrets – particularly when it comes to magic effects or personal matters – but does perform some pretty amazing things for the camera and the audience beyond.  It “unfolds like a magical mystery tour of Jay’s professional art and artifice. On camera, he transforms a paper moth into a real insect, flings a card at 90 miles per hour to pierce the skin of a watermelon and dazzles audiences with his specialty — astonishing card tricks — with maneuvers so virtuosic they defy the imagination.” Continue reading “Magician Ricky Jay Can Make You Cry, He’s So Good”

Copperfield Picks Next “Great Magician”

Inside Magic Image of Paw-Paw Lawton's Instructional DVD Teaches the Magic Trick Glorpy (a/k/a Hyrum the Hilarious Hank)

David Copperfield made the tough choice of successor, sort of, as part of the NBC Today Show’s Magic Mondays.

The finalists, in order of the last letter of their first name: Kayla DrescherJeff Prace and Ben Jackson.

NBC’s publicists claim “hundreds of aspiring magicians sent in videos of themselves performing magic tricks in TODAY’s quest to find the next David Copperfield. Producers teamed up with Copperfield to pick the three best to perform on Monday’s show.”

Ms. Drescher is a magic bartender from Boston and performed “a magic bottle cap trick, swapping Heineken caps with Sam Adams and Bud Light tops right before their eyes.”

Mr. Prace is college student created a stir by producing “a full pack appear from just a single stick.”

Mr. Jackson tore a picture of the show’s hosts and restored same.

Mr. Copperfield chose Ms. Drescher to win the show’s Magic Mondays trophy plus a trip to witness the master magician’s acclaimed Las Vegas show currently at his home in the desert, the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.

Mr. Copperfield correctly observed, “[t]o have more women doing magic is a great thing.  We’d like to see more of that.”

Congratulations to the finalists and to Ms. Dresher for bringing home the big win.

Mark Panner, the erstwhile Inside Magic stringer, said a NBC producer returned his entry tape with a perfunctory note.  He performed Hippity Hop Rabbits in the 43 minute video.  He was proud that the “turn-it-around” portion of the trick lasted more than a half hour and featured a student audience from Mystic Hollow Elementary School.

“I think a lot of it is political,” Mr. Panner wrote.  “They didn’t want someone on the show who could show up the big star.  They knew I could milk their studio audience with the trick like nobody’s business.  Copperfield’s tricks are all over in a few minutes – that’s why he has to do so many in his shows.  It’s like five minutes and bang, on to the next illusion.”

We do not disagree that Mr. Copperfield performs effects more quickly and of a greater variety than Mr. Panner but do note that some audiences actually prefer more tricks per show rather than less.  Mr. Panner disagrees.

“Copperfield does like six illusions in the first 24 minutes of his Vegas show.  That averages around four or five minutes an illusion.  The audience never really gets a chance to see what’s happening.  Boom, Copperfield appears on stage.  Boom, girls appear out of nowhere and then vanish.  Boom, his motorcycle appears flying over the audience.  Boom, a duck eats a scorpion while Orson Welles talks about cards or something with a license plate with graffiti.  Continue reading “Copperfield Picks Next “Great Magician””

Jim Carrey on Starving for Magic Physique

Jim Carrey with Perfect Magician's Body from Burt Wonderstone Movie Publicity StillIt is a familiar story to magicians, the incessant physical training and weight maintenance to achieve the perfect body for magic. For actor Jim Carrey, however, the rigors of our art were daunting.

He told People (the magazine, not just a collection of individuals standing near him) his strict diet gave him a great body but “it’s not a happy place to be.”

“It’s not a natural place to live in that kind of shape,” he said. “It looks great. It’s fantastic and gets a lot of attention, but you have to eat, like, antimatter to stay in that kind of shape.”

Indeed, many magicians have found the diet and exercise required to maintain the perfect “magician’s body” just too demanding and have left the profession.  Michael Jordan once commented that he had hoped to be a magician but found the constant physical conditioning “just impossible.”  “It was like trying to hit a curve ball in triple-A; I just couldn’t do it.”

Magic historians credit Harry Houdini with setting the standard for the “magician’s body.”

“Before Houdini,” said one magic scholar, “magicians looked like the average audience member.  Some were in great shape, some were in terrible shape and some looked like they were in great shape but were really in terrible shape.  There were none who looked like they were in great shape but were really in terrible shape.”

Houdini’s emphasis on physical conditioning forced him to run several miles a day and perform calisthenics.  He ate right and did not smoke.    In his youth, he was a competitive runner and circus performer.  Those two avocations sculpted his body to near Adonis perfection and set his own personal standard for a lifetime of physically demanding discipline.

It was not commonly known that Harry Kellar could bench press in excess of 200 lbs or that Adelaide Herrmann could perform one-handed push-ups with either arm.

“In those days, most magicians kept their superb bodies under wraps, so to speak.  Audiences were not attracted to performers because of their physiques,” one commentator noted.   “Only freak show performers removed enough clothing to show anything.”

Today, most magic conventions look like a gathering of Olympic competitors.  “Compared with the other performing arts, amateur and professional magicians have far and away the best bodies and physical conditioning.” Continue reading “Jim Carrey on Starving for Magic Physique”

The Whit Haydn Interview

He was chosen by Caesars Palace to be one of the acts to open the $60 million Magical Empire at the Las Vegas Resort. Whit performs regularly on the most prestigious cruise ships including the Queen Elizabeth II, the Norway and the Westerdam. He has opened for Jerry Seinfeld, Loretta Lynn and Gallagher. He consulted and contributed to the Discovery Channel’s documentary, “Houdini – They Came to See Him Die.”

Whit will also appear in a 30-part series on magic for the Canadian Discovery Channel called “Grand Illusions,” and in the PAX Television series “Masters of Illusion.” Speaking of television and film, he has consulted on David Copperfield’s television specials, was the chief magic consultant for the Norman Jewison film “Bogus,” starring Whoopie Goldberg, Gerard Depardieu and Haley Joel Osment.

You may also have enjoyed and learned from Whit’s lecture notes, videotapes and lectures. He is a featured performer and lecturer at conventions and seminars around the world. In his spare time, Whit teaches a popular ‘masters’ course known as the “School for Scoundrels” for magician members of the Magic Castle. This course concerns the famous street swindles the Shell Game, Three-Card Monte, and the Endless Chain—the subject of Whit’s forthcoming book, Unfair Advantage.

I first met Whit while my wife and I were vacationing on the last voyage of the Queen Odyssey. The ship had just been bought by Seaborn from Royal Cruise Lines and the cruise was the transition to the new company. Seaborn was trying to impress the loyal Royal Cruise Line passengers that the new owners could keep up the fine reputation the ship had earned. They hired Whit as the only non-musical act to appear in the main theater and obviously had great confidence in his abilities to impress the crowd they hoped to retain for future voyages. We attended his show and as luck would have it, my wife was invited to join him on stage to perform the Four Ring Routine.

I have seen Whit perform several times since that cruise and have always been impressed by his very natural approach to handling and sleights. When he holds a deck of cards, he holds it as if he is doing only that. He isn’t holding the deck to set up a bottom palm or a second deal. When he displays a knife in his fantastic “The Intricate Web of Distraction,” and explains the history of the term “pen knife,” he looks and acts as if he is doing only that – not setting up a vanish or a change.

Q: How did you get introduced to magic?

My first real experience with magic was watching a Methodist minister perform at a summer camp when I was very young, maybe seven or eight years old. He did standard magic like the rings, cut and restored rope, etc. At one point, he pushed a silk into a pink cone (Abbott’s Bang-Gone) with a wand. When the cone was popped open, the silk was gone.

The kids yelled that the silk was in the wand. After playing with the hecklers for a few moments, he snapped the wand in half and threw the broken dowel pieces to the audience. I was stunned. I would have given my eyeteeth, which were practically new, to own a magic wand, and he broke it just to show the kids were wrong.

I stayed up all night thinking about magic. I wondered what it would mean if you could do real magic, and also, knowing there was no such thing, tried to figure out how he did the tricks. It was probably the first time in my life that I had such a concentrated session of creative thinking. The next morning I awoke in love with all things magic.

Continue reading “The Whit Haydn Interview”

Buy Dai Vernon’s Ashes at Auction

We learned from Alan Watson’s weekly newsletter, Magic New Zealand, of a once in a lifetime auction featuring the collections of Dai Vernon and Bruce Cervon scheduled for January 30, 2010.

(If you do not already receive Mr. Watson’s newsletter, you should.  It is must reading for any magician or lover of magical things.  Visit his site and sign-up today by going here).

In addition to the items from the Professor and Mr. Cervon, Gabe Fajuri has included additional “rare books, apparatus and ephemera.”  You can check out the on-line catalog here.

The auction will be live and held in Chicago but accessible to participants around the world via the internets. Make sure you visit http://www.liveauctioneers.com/catalog/20344 to register and gain approval to participate well-before the auction day.

The catalog of items up for sale is better than any wish book we can recall.  Amazing things, interesting magic, incredible collections of props and manuscripts are all up for bid.

Bruce Cervon was not only the essential author of all things Dai Vernon, he was also an accomplished magician, performer, actor, and lecturer.  After his passing in 2007, his wife published the now famous Castle Notebooks, called by some the “Holy Grail” of magic texts.

Of particular interest to the Inside Magic Editorial Board is a small glass bottle identified as Dai Vernon’s “Ashes.” We know from reading Karl Johnson’s extraordinary biography, The Magician and the Cardsharp: The Search for America’s Greatest Sleight-of-Hand Artist,  The Professor was cremated and his ashes were brought to The Magic Castle.

Could this be a bottle containing the real remains of Dai Vernon?

No.  No, it’s not.  Close, though.

The auction catalog describes the item as:

Dai Vernon’s “Ashes.” Small bottle with cork stopper and color label bearing a silhouette of Dai Vernon and half-full of what the label describes as, “Guaranteed to have possibly come from the cigars of Dai Vernon, lovingly known as “The Professor.”/Collected from the upholstery of the love seats outside the Close Up Gallery of The Magic Castle between 1968 – 1987.” A decided novelty. Good condition.

It is a very good thing Dai Vernon smoked cigars rather than chewed tobacco.  As witnessed by our collection of spittoon drainings from the Thurston and Carter touring shows, evaporation is the constant foe of a diligent body fluid curator.

Check out the auction, get registered and approved.  This looks to be a great opportunity for collectors, scholars, and working magicians alike.