We have been a fan of David Copperfield since his early days. We anticipated his television specials with the same excitement as we did with Doug Henning. These were two men with a demonstrable love for the artform around which we focused our life.
How great would it be to be either man. Have trucks, busses, roadies, technical experts and assistants working with a common cause — to entertain with the most entertaining art of all, Magic.
Given our past as prologue for this review, you can probable guess where we are heading.
We ordered our book from Amazon the day Mr. Copperfield announced it would be ready months later. Those months between our order and the book’s arrival seemed to tick slowly by. We wanted that book, we needed that book.
It arrived and we were then filled with apprehension and anxiety. What if the book was not all that we hoped. What if it was a flimsy (but hardbound) review of Magic’s history starting with tricks we already knew started our art and ending as a promotional piece for Mr. Copperfield?
We decided to cast our anxiety to the wind. This is tough to do in a small apartment located over the place where they bake dog treats here in West Hollywood. You cannot really cast anything. So we opened the book having received the cast anxiety’s boomerang back to us but with the smell of doggie cookies.
Well, let us tell you something. Our doubts and anxiety were for naught. This book is something to be read and enjoyed. It has stories about Mr. Copperfield’s love of the magical arts and those steps along his career that made him an international sensation. But even better — as if that would be possible — he shares stories and images of items from his very secret museum. These are the real objects, tricks, costumes and literature collected by someone who appears as fanatical about the history of Magic as he is in performing.
We could take hours extolling the virtues of his book but that would essentially be copying the book with our less than adequate style. We would still end the review with the gentle instruction to buy the book. You could buy it for the images, the history, the care with which it is written, or the peek inside Mr. Copperfield’s warehouse of Magic.
Our recommendation, buy the book. Get your own copy, share if you must but always with the firm instruction that the borrower must return the book promptly and would be better off buying it for him or herself.
We thought our Bucket List was complete when we were admitted as a Magician Member of the Academy of Magical Arts and their wonderful clubhouse, The Magic Castle.
But we found more to add to the list we would like to do before we kick the bucket; or, more likely stumble over the bucket in our sleep.
How about a virtual tour of the Historic, L.A. Estate, Brookledge, featuring Penn & Teller, David Copperfield, Neil Patrick Harris, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Reubens & More?
The event is being presented by the the Jack Oakie and Victoria Horne Oakie Charitable Foundation on May 10th to benefit the Dai Vernon Foundation.
What is Brookledge? Why it is only the forerunner of the Magic Castle. The cost is $10 per ticket and that money will go to a very worthy cause in the Dai Vernon Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to providing financial aid to those pursuing an education; launching ambitious performances, researching or undertaking historical projects; and supporting those in difficult circumstances or suffering hardships. It also conducts community outreach via performances at hospitals and other charitable organizations. Over the years, the foundation has provided grants to hundreds of magicians, performers and employees in need, including 165 COVID relief grants over the past year.
As a former member of the Dai Vernon Foundation Board, we can testify that it is a worthy and incredibly dedicated organization that typifies the best in our Magical Arts.
The star-studded, virtual fundraiser, Brookledge Cares, will be held by the historic Brookledge estate, May 8 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET.
This benefit will feature a who’s who of magic and Hollywood, including Neil Patrick Harris, Dick & Arlene Van Dyke, David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, Paul Reubens, Larry Wilmore, Jason Alexander, Michael Carbonaro & Peter Stickles, Puddles Pity Party and Moby. Special appearances by Rob Zabrecky, Marawa Wamp, Basil Twist & Ken Ard, Shoot Ogawa, Steven Banks, Aaron Grooves, Armen Ksajikian and more. Hosted by Two-Headed Dog (Jim Turner & Mark Fite) and Liberty Larsen.
The event will also offer a personal tour by Liberty Larsen, a rare glimpse into the location considered the “forerunner” to the AMA’s world-famous clubhouse, The Magic Castle, the historic Brookledge estate, owned by the Larsen family, founders of the Magic Castle.
Although on hiatus during the pandemic, The Brookledge Follies, an invitation-only, “contemporary Vaudeville,” variety-and-magic show, is performed once a month (April-November) in the estate’s small theater. The free show has become one of the hottest tickets in town and is frequently attended by such Hollywood elite as Sophia Vergara, Joe Manganiello, Ryan Gosling, Jason Alexander, Christina Hendricks, Jason Sudukis, Danny Elfman, Matthew Gubler, Randy Newman, Paul Reubens and director John Landis, to name a few.
That is precisely why it is on our Bucket List. We long to see it.
Launched with a bequest from the estate of renowned close-up magician Dai Vernon—the only magician to ever fool Harry Houdini—upon his death in 1992, the Dai Vernon Foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, aides, elevates and recognizes practitioners and supporters of the art of magic at all levels and in all walks of life.
More information about the famous Brookledge estate:
The Magic Castle was founded by writer, actor, magician and entrepreneur Milt Larsen (formerly a writer for the 1956-77 television show Truth or Consequences); his late brother, Bill Larsen, Jr. (a former producer of the Danny Kaye and Jonathan Winters variety shows); and Bill’s wife, Irene, who remained the Castle’s ever-gracious hostess until her death in February 2016.
Members of the Larsen family have been performing magic continuously since the mid ’20s, with the fourth generation now on stage. Milt and Bill’s parents, Geraldine (“Geri”) and William Larsen, Sr., both performed as professional magicians and are noted pioneers in the art. Beginning during the Depression in the late ’30s (the Vaudeville era), the family—now including Bill, Jr., and Milt—began touring as the “Larsen Family of Magicians,” playing upscale, resort hotels in southern California.
A stage constructed at their historic Brookledge estate—built in 1933 in L.A.’s Hancock Park and purchased by the Larsens in 1942 from the founder of the Thayer Magic Company, which they also acquired—became an informal gathering place for the magic community of the day. Virtually every famous name in illusion visited and performed at the estate, often referred to as the “forerunner to the Magic Castle.” Retired from life on the road and managing the magic apparatus company, Bill, Sr., dreamed of opening an elegant, private clubhouse for magicians, but died at just 48.
In 2009, Erika Larsen (Bill, Jr.’s daughter), who resides at the estate, created The Brookledge Follies, a “contemporary Vaudeville” variety-and-magic show performed once a month (April-November) in the small theater, which holds just 60 people. Although currently on hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, attendance is by invitation only, but the free show has become one of the hottest tickets in town and is frequently attended by a who’s who of Hollywood like Moby, Sophia Vergara, Joe Manganiello, Ryan Gosling, Jason Alexander, Christina Hendricks, Matthew Gubler, Randy Newman, Paul Reubens and director John Landis, to name a few.
About her childhood, Erika recalls magic’s most famed faces around the Larsen home and laughs, “We did see the best of the best in magic, but I grew up in a bubble. My siblings and I just thought that’s what people did—Make things disappear and carry a deck of cards everywhere.”
The elder Larsens launched Genii magazine in 1952 (its circulation considered a loose affiliation of magicians that later became the AMA’s initial membership), which is the longest, continually published magic magazine in the world.
The Magic Castle was originally constructed as the Rollin B. Lane residence (a wealthy banker and his socialite wife), built among Los Angeles’ orange groves in 1909-10. Externally, the Gothic Renaissance chateau is the mirror image of the Kimberly Crest house and gardens in Redlands, Calif. The Hollywood mansion had fallen into disrepair by the late ’40s (even serving for a time as a boarding house). In 1962, Milt Larsen approached his brother about reviving their father’s dream of a private club for magicians and, after securing a lease from the owner of Hollywood’s Yamashiro restaurant (next door) with a handshake, began restoring the landmark mansion to its former opulence.
The Magic Castle intertwines illusion and mystery with the history of the Los Angeles area. Much of the ornate décor was rescued from the wrecking ball on construction sites or from Hollywood studio sets before being dumped into the trash (long before the practice of salvaging became chic). John Shrum, former art director for NBC and The Tonight ShowWith Johnny Carson, was also an avid Castle enthusiast. (Look for the famous talk show’s original “cityscape” backdrop in the Owl Bar.) Many other AMA members, also well positioned within the entertainment industry, have left their personal imprints on the Magic Castle as well.
We don’t know the order of your bucket list and are pretty sure we don’t want to know some of the must-do activities you’ve scheduled — that’s your business — but this evening should already be on it. This is truly an once in a lifetime chance to see a seldom seen birthplace of our beloved Magic Castle and help the incredible Dai Vernon Foundation.
Carisa Hendrix is more than an accomplished magician and world-record fire-eater, she is also a Persuasive Calgarians according to a great profile in today’s Calgary Herald newspaper. But magic was not her first choice. She was “seduced by the ‘glamor of magic.'”
Like many of us, she watched David Copperfield on television with her family. She was able to “think outside the box” and correctly guess how the illusions were being performed.
Her intended career was to be a teacher. But the lure of fire-eating and card magic proved strong.
“It’s never had to be a career; just what I did to survive. “
“The 32-year-old Calgary-born wizard is at the top of her game today, performing in iconic clubs – in her sexy personality Lucy Darling – setting a Guinness World Record for Eating Fire, inviting Penn and the TV show Teller and co-hosting Shezam, a popular feminist podcast on magic.”
Her abilities have been noted not only by her peers in the magic community (a tough crowd) but also magic clubs. She no longer needs to send audition videos.
“I wouldn’t exist if not for the other magicians who encouraged me, paid me to be their assistant when I was 16 and 17. It was money between hunger and no.”
Three years later, “I did everything – fire, acrobatics, chair dance, magic – whatever he wanted. I was making money until it was no longer scary.”
Ms. Hendrix is looking forward to a possible Canadian television tour to her North American club appearances.
“The magic has to be proven directly,” she says. “It’s just so powerful.”
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.
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.
There is a reason we love Inside Magic Favorite David Copperfield. He is not just a great performer but an outstanding innovator. According to The Hill, his latest public attempt will be to restore the 15th star on the Smithsonian’s flag from the war of 1812.
We have checked the magic catalogs we keep in our vault and under our mattress, and did an extensive search of all on-line magic stores but have failed to find the Restore a Star on a Historic Flag trick. We found several tricks involving flags (Sympathetic Silks with Flag; Unsympathetic Silks with Unsympathetic Flag; Flag through Body; Flag Hat from Paper Tear; Torn and Restored Flag; Burnt and Restored Flag;Washed and Dried Flag to Doves; Washed and Dried Doves to Flag; Cups and Balls (presumably with some flag oriented finale); Appearing Flagstaff; Disappearing Flagstaff; The Town of Flagstaff (this may be an entry from an Arizona specific map but we include it just in case – plus we are paid by the word); Flag through Nose (this is actually a medical procedure documented in a 1920s version of the Journal of the American Medical Association but could be considered magical by some); Restoring Stars to Paper; Restoring Torn Stars (please be very careful when searching for this item and spell “Torn” with precision to avoid unwanted photographic and video results); and a patriotic version of the classic “What’s Next” with stars rather than dots made during the American Bicentennial (we think that was around 1976 but need to verify). Continue reading “David Copperfield to Add Star to Historic Flag”→
How could you not be intrigued by a man who is quoted as saying, “[a]nyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin”?
But you would correctly ask, what does this statement have to do with magic, Las Vegas, Barry Richardson, Criss Angel, David Copperfield and Doug Henning?
The answer that would come back would, at first, be unsatisfactory.
Dr. John Von Neuman was a distinguished polymath who could speak ancient Greek, helped to determine the scientific models necessary for the first atomic bomb and several schools of mathematics. To say he was a genius is an understatement.
But it is his connection to magic and magic tricks that brings him to the front page of this humble publication.
Personally, we’re not good at book tests and don’t really enjoy watching them. We have seen perhaps hundreds over our very long life but none have left a lasting impression.
While we take pride (also a sin) in our ability to speed read books but we don’t remember every word.
But Dr. Von Neuman could memorize entire phonebooks. For real. In fact, on one occasion he recited every entry until those listening agreed he had the phonebook memorized – that was after about fifteen minutes of reciting the name and associated phone number on each page.
The late genius of mentalism, Barry Richardson would often couch his effects with a story about some incredible individual who actually lived a real life and could be identified. He would then duplicate the effect they performed allegedly by psychic powers but disclaim such powers in his performance.
We watched Mr. Richardson duplicate a demonstration performed first by a young Russian girl who could allegedly read any item with her fingertips. She would be blindfolded or perhaps she was legally blind (we can’t recall) and could, through a pane of glass held by her examiners, read the serial numbers of currency, handwritten notes and other documents using only her fingertips running along the glass. The pane of glass was used to prevent her from sensing the characters by feel.
Folks were amazed and attributed great powers to the young lady.
Mr. Richardson would then duplicate the effect, pane of glass and all, whilst blindfolded to the satisfaction of the magicians in the audience. He could then read the serial number of a bill previously offered and signed by a random audience member. The bill was signed to prevent his memorization of a pre-prepared note. It was an outstanding performance. We were astounded not only by the effect but also the story upon which it was based.
Dr. Von Neuman’s ability to memorize a phone book handed to him by a volunteer was performed as a trick for entertainment.. He used the power he had to entertain, not to boast. Unfortunately for us magicians, he apparently actually did memorize the content of the phone book and there was no trick employed; thus making this duplicate by his method.
But, by combining Dr. Von Neuman’s story with a book test, magicians could elevate the effect on audiences. In place of a book test, the memorization of an entire deck of cards ala Bob Cassidy could also benefit from the real-life story of Dr. Von Neuman.
We have performed the Bob Cassidy method of memorizing a deck of cards shuffled together by four audience members and then reviewed by us for just 15 seconds. We never had a story to go with it. It was at best a stunt or demonstration of our alleged powers.
But just think how using Dr. Von Neuman’s story in a method similar to that employed by Mr. Richardson could boost the effectiveness and interest in the trick by audiences. It would no longer be a stunt but a duplication of a talent possessed by a real person who really existed. It would therefore be possible and real.
We never claim to have psychic powers and disclaim any such ability but until today, we have never had a satisfactory story to present along with our performance. We can now move beyond “hey, look at me and my clever stunt” to “let me tell you the story of an extraordinary man with a real history who had a real talent.”
Most book test performances we have witnessed involve the apparent guess of a word selected by the volunteer from a book selected from a collection of two or three volumes. The magician asks the volunteer to select a page (either directly or through some apparently random process) and then proceeds to read the volunteer’s mind by having her concentrate on the selected word. The magician presses his hand to his forehead for effect and then announces the word or phrase with some guessing (in some methods) or directly. The volunteer is thanked for her participation and the audience applauds.
Perhaps this article is just a note for us and will be dismissed by those performing putative memorization or psychic readings. We hope that it is more than that.
Mr. Richardson’s performance left a lasting impression on us not because the effect was impossible – the solution would be apparent to most magicians – but because it was couched in a story and built to the demonstration of what was apparently sufficient to have the young woman in the story proclaimed to be psychic and exceptional.
The memory of such a presentation lasts long after the volunteer retakes her seat and we move on to the next effect. It brings the audience on a journey and leaves them with questions about the real person on whom the effect is based as well as the performer now duplicating that effect.
That’s a win in our book.
Read more about Dr. Von Neuman and his amazing skills and contribution to our everyday life through higher mathematics here.
Each year we miss the Sundance Festival and kick ourselves for it. There, wonderful films seeking distributors are offered, promoted and awarded with prizes. For instance, we first heard about La La Land through Variety’s review of the film at the Sundance Festival. We knew that if and when it was picked up by a major studio, it would be a must see.
But, because we didn’t go to the festival, we missed it.
This year we missed the Amazing Johnathan documentary. It is currently untitled but we’re guessing the words “Amazing” and “Johnathan” will be in or very near the final title.
As readers of this award winning magic news site know, we have never actually won an award and we never let the truth get in the way of a good headline or story. Readers will also know that we love the Amazing Johnathan and one of our greatest disappointments – other than our failure to play for the Chicago Cubs or even be a batboy for goodness sakes – was missing the performance of this great entertainer at the Magic Castle in what was billed as his last performance ever, anywhere.
Johnathan has a fatal heart issue and literally any show could be his last.
Nonetheless, he continues to work and provide entertainment for thousands. We saw his show in Las Vegas and laughed so hard we split our shirt collar – we always keep it buttoned to prevent body lice from either entering or escaping, depending on the season or our access to showers.
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.
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.
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.
Some magic-oriented questions keep us up at night. We toss and turn – our own body, to be clear – and stare at the top of the tent, wondering things, magical things.
Last night (and we’re writing this on our Palm – not the ancient electronic organizer but our own palm – so it is still last night technically) we wondered aloud, “What is the strangest thing David Copperfield has ever packed for a trip?”
We should have kept the question to ourselves and not uttered it aloud. That wasn’t polite to the other campers (we call ourselves “campers” because we’re sly and think that gives us an edge if we are ever taken to the hoosegow by the coppers for setting up a small circus tent in a vacant field near the Ralph’s grocery store over by the Citgo across from the Bumper Bumper auto repair shop).
Nonetheless, we wondered aloud about David Copperfield’s packing for trips and were reminded by one of our fellow campers that David Copperfield was both a fictional character who was fascinated by cake and a magician who has toured the globe. The camper – who will remain nameless because we were never introduced – suggested we be more specific in our wondering.
We knew the David Copperfield about whom we were wondering and so we ignored the camper and went on wondering. We could not wait until the public library opened to have access to the internet and learn the answer to our wondering.
We have seen his show 17 times so far. It is by far one of the best ever. We wouldn’t see something 17 times if it was terrible or even just good. For us to see something more than twice, it has to be great. That’s why we don’t have mirrors.