Tag: Derek Hughes

Brian Gillis, Magic Castle and Honor

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.

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Magic Apple’s Day of Lectures Review

Yesterday, we attended the 7th Annual Magic Apple Day of Lectures at the beautiful Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City, California.  This is our second year and came away – as we did last year – magically enriched and tired but a good kind of tired.

Mike Caveney took the first spot and presented his lecture on how he develops new effects.  He took the 50 magicians in attendance through the development of his Gypsy Thread using toilet paper.  We do not know if this is the proper name for the effect but you get the point.  Like the Gypsy Thread, the magician separates a length of toilet paper into convenient squares, hands them to members of the audience to prove they are both truly separate and ordinary.  They are gathered and then in a straightforward manner, Mr. Caveney restores the length to their former glorious ribbon of two-ply unity.

He took us from the moment inspiration hit – more than 30 years ago and not in a restroom – through the five versions he developed to perform this wonderful piece of theater.  It was a great chance to view the working of a magic genius.

Mr. Caveney showed his incredible impromptu linking coat hangers effect and explained the thinking behind his presentation and its development from years or demonstrating it for magicians at conventions around the world.  We loved the simplicity of the solution.

We could watch Mr. Caveney all day.   But it was time for lunch – part of the Day of Lectures package – and a fine lunch it was.  We dined on fresh turkey sandwiches, fresh fruit and a fresh Diet Coke overlooking the sun-drenched pool just outside the lecture hall.  We remembered to remove the decorative toothpick before eating the sandwich this year – demonstrating that pain can be an excellent teacher.

Next up was a magician we had never seen perform.  That does not make him bad – we haven’t seen many magicians but sometimes, especially after we have eaten and relaxed poolside in a glamorous Los Angeles area, we want comfort.  We want to see familiar things.  In that way, we are very much like Winnie the Pooh.  Different isn’t always bad but when we are dopey from good food and the sun, it can be annoying.

Paul Vigil caught us off guard.  His presentation is so direct and so unique that we got suckered into believing him.  We do that too often for our own taste.  It turns out he lacks any real magical power, cannot predict the future, read minds or rob innocent victims of their ability to exercise free will.  It turned out, we learned, he was performing tricks.  Using subterfuges and, perhaps ordinary fuges, he was making his miracles look like real magic.

We have not been this fooled since we saw Derek Hughes perform at the Peller Theater at The Magic Castle.  Our mind was reeling as we wrote feverishly on the convenient note pad using the free Sportsman’s Lodge pen.  We felt our forehead to see if we had a real fever and then we felt the foreheads of those around us – not to compare our body temperature but just to affirm their personhood through prayerful touching (or something like that).

As we looked up from our slobbering, stooped-over position halfway through Mr. Vigil’s lecture, whom did we notice was sitting right in front of us?

Yes, Mr. Hughes.

It was like a David Lynch version of our life.  We began to think the mayonnaise we used on our turkey sandwich (graciously provided by the Magic Apple) had turned and was now causing us to lose touch with reality.  However, it turned out the mayonnaise was fine, reality remained intact and we were just on the verge of learning effects we had never before considered.  Change, usually bad, was actually becoming good – which was a change in itself.

Mr. Vigil’s Sympathetic Cards was outstanding and even though he explained it with patience and professionalism, we did not believe him.

He told us things that could not be true.  How could someone mix up the order of a deck of cards and have them spontaneously return to a preset order?   We were relieved to see that even Mr. Hughes appeared to disbelieve the claims.

We tried the effect during a later break and it turns out Mr. Vigil was not lying.  Even though it looks impossible, the effect can be done using his method.  Amazing.  Absolutely Amazing.  The impact on our little cranium was as dramatic as when we first learned Paul Curry’s Out of this World, The Hofzinser’s Cull or that (spoiler alert!) Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus are the same person.

We will bring a lobster bib the next time we watch Mr. Vigil perform or lecture.  Because we were chewing blueberry gum, our slobber ruined one of our favorite dress shirts and there is likely no chance we will again happen upon the exclusive men’s store/fireworks stand from whom we purchased it, some Slim Jims and a pack of Black Cat M-80s.

Last up was Helder Guimaraes‘ lecture.  It was not a lecture about tricks per se but more about the theory of magic and presentation.  Along the way, Mr. Guimaraes demonstrated a couple of killer effects but only to explain his approach to our art.  He has incredible skills and is an accomplished performer – including a FISM win – and yet a very approachable and effective teacher.

Unlike virtually every lecture we have attended ever since we started magic in the late 1920s, there were very few things offered for sale.  No over-priced lecture notes, gimmicked cards, one-trick DVDs, CD-ROMs of PDFs of magazine articles or gaffed coins.  Only Mr. Caveney had anything to sell after his lecture and that was hardly a collection of typical lecture fare.  He had his outstanding  Wonders book set and other volumes featuring some of the best magic writing available today.

It was disorienting to not have the last 20 minutes of each lecture consist of a recap of what can be bought and at what discount.  Perhaps that was why we walked away feeling magically enriched and wonderfully tired.