Those in the know will say, usually with a chirpy tone, cool magic stuff from magic history and corn dogs.
Taking the list in order, we look constantly for cool magic stuff from magic history. We have a key to the city given to Harry Blackstone Jr. given by the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan. We have posters and pictures of great magicians through the years. Some of our fondest memories have been eating corn dogs.
Other great memories have been talking to older magicians about the magicians they have seen or with whom they worked.
We recalled a wonderful conversation about Harry Blackstone, Jr. (the impetus for our mention of my souvenir) and how compassionate he was for his staff and assistants. He certainly did not need to be – he was the star and his show was a hit. But he was.
We have a multi-page letter handwritten by Doug Henning in response to our question, “how can a magician who is only 12 make it as a professional.”
Not surprisingly, he did not tell us to get an agent, make posters, berate theater managers; but to practice the art, learn the rules of being a magician and have fun.
We work in a wonderful art. People genuinely love to be entertained and fooled and corn dogs.
We provide two out of the three and the more we do it, the more entertaining it becomes for us and our audience.
We wonder how the younger generation learns about our grand history. Perhaps there are still meetings over an occasional corn dog where mustard-stained young performers can hear stories of Willard the Wizard, Thurston, Houdini, Kellar, Dante and our favorite, Harry Blackstone, Jr.
Although the image is not of Harry Blackstone, Jr. or any deep-fried hot dog, we think the poster used by Kellar displaying his “latest” illusion of “self-decapitation” is illustrative of our wonderful history. No one – at least no one we have seen in the last 20-years has performed “self-decapitation” and even decapitation of others has fallen into disfavor (correctly in our humble opinion) due to world events. But his poster was drawn in sketch form, colored in, placed on lithographic machinery and literally inked with several different passes – one for each color – leaving a space to make the poster applicable to the town or setting where Kellar would soon perform. How wonderful.
You can find wonderful posters of magicians and non-magicians throughout history at the Library of Congress for your viewing and enjoyment. We hope you do.
Great news for those who love Magician Derren Brown (that includes us).
If you are a Genii subscriber, you can get tix (a cool way of saying “tickets” in much the same way saying “snax” is a cool way of saying “snacks” but that hasn’t caught on yet.
We are working on it and hope to have our advertisements and influencers ready to go soon.
We are also working on “Diet P” for “Diet Pepsi” but running up against some legal headwinds from the P foundation, ironically. We would have thought Pepsi would be upset but they haven’t said a word. It could be because the beverage consortium likely isn’t one of our fives of readers and not into magic whilst the P foundation is dedicated to all things magic. They have trademarks on P Vanishing Rabbit, P Illusions, P Close-Up Card Magic, and the letter “P.” Their shareholders also own some things related to L and K but since we rarely use words that have those letters standing by their lonesome, we’re okay. But if we had said, “we rarely have words standing by their L some, we’re K,” we’d likely receive a cease and desist (or as we have trademarked, “C & D.” See, P Foundation v. Inside Magic, 561 F2nd 232, 236 for more info (short for “information” and still available for trademarking – we think).
Here’s the dope on the deal:
If you are a Genii subscriber (and who ain’t (“isn’t), you can:
Get orchestra & mezzanine tickets for as low as $89 to see Derren Brown: Secret this fall.
From stage to screen, two-time Olivier Award winner Derren Brown has mesmerized millions worldwide with his unique brand of mind reading, persuasion, and psychological illusion. Now, for the first time ever, this U.K. phenomenon and Netflix star brings his talents to Broadway.
After a sold-out, critically acclaimed run off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company, Derren Brown: Secret returns with a spellbinding experience that dares us — in the most jaw-dropping way — to take a closer look at the stories and beliefs that guide our lives. Performances begin September 6 at the Cort Theatre.
VALID FOR PERFORMANCES 9/6/19-1/4/20
Discount Front Orchestra/Front Mezzanine $149 (reg. $169)
Tickets Regularly ($69-$169). Offer valid on performances 9/6/19-1/4/20. Blackout dates may apply. All prices include a $2 facility fee. All sales are final- no refunds or exchanges. Offer subject to availability and prior sale. Not valid in combination with any other offers. Normal services apply to phone and internet orders. Performance schedule subject to change. Offer may be revoked or modified at any time without notice.
If we’re not mistaken — and we likely are, we frequently err (“make errors, not “sounds that scare people in seasonal haunted houses in church basements”), the Cort Theater was where Doug Henning performed way back in the day (“a while ago.”) We saw him sitting on the steps of the ironically named “Standing Room Only” section in the balcony. He was still great. Even without a seatback. Much like our current 1972 Comet. We have four on the steering column so we kind of rock and impress.
Please note that the show is recommended for those over 12 years-of-age because (“cuz”) There is a cerebral nature to the performance and the duration of the show may cause issues with concentration.
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.
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.
Lot 208, a Wu-Ling Pagoda Mystery, made in Los Angeles by F.G. Thayer & Co. in the mid-1940s.
Lot 198, a disembodied wooden rapping Hand, made in New York by Hornmann around 1918.
Lot 183, a Walter Sheppard 1990s era head chopper stage illusion with quality paint and a dragon motif.
Lot 163, an Insull for Lewis Davenport 1950s era talking skull prop.
Lot 129, a Stanislaw Miedza-Tomaszewski for Cyrk “Sawing in Half Poster” from 1967.
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.
Although not strictly about magic, we do listen to Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast every week. His humor is not for everyone – like minors, people with normal emotional values, the sensitive among us – but he is funny to us.
This week’s episode features Lewis Black and a short discussion about David Copperfield and Doug Henning.
We were listening whilst walking to the busy editorial office of Inside Magic and getting strange looks from the folks we were passing in the street, along the sidewalks, through narrow crevices, around bends and over small mounds of what appeared to be clothing or people wearing clothing but not moving. We are accustomed to being stared at. We chalk it up to our boyish good looks, effervescent charm, efficient use of tartar control toothpaste, naturally curly nose hair and willingness to take adventures in clothing choices.
For instance, today, we wore contrasting animals from the Garanimals collection. We went with a Tiger “Top” and a Giraffe “Lower.” That says “Wild Human” in any language.
We know, crazy, right?!
We thought people were staring because we were laughing so much. We thought maybe they were sharing in our glee and not staring derisively but when one elderly woman was nearly struck by an auto as she tried to scurry across Santa Monica Boulevard to avoid our path, we figured out that the people of West Hollywood just have not seen unadulterated joy. Chances are that if they haven’t seen it enough, they haven’t experienced it either.
So we offered to share our podcast listening experience with those we encountered. We even cleaned the ear bud of the unsightly wax build-up (our own — we think) before trying to stick it into the ears of our fellow pedestrians. We were not aggressive in our ear bud offering and were certainly not, as was written in an “incident” report “trying to stab victims in the head with an implement.”
Long story short, people were staring at us because we apparently accidentally sat in a chocolate cream pie at some point and our Giraffe pants needed dry cleaning stat. We were pretty sure it was chocolate cream pie residue and that certainly explained why we left stains everywhere we sat in the last few days.
Tonight, we return to the Magic Castle with our new routine – freshly choreographed and scripted. We will change our clothes before visiting the amateur rooms downstairs at the Magic Castle. If you are in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello. Just don’t stare and point.
Time and Life magazines paid homage to our noble profession’s gathering in Indianapolis this weekend by looking back at the 1947 Society of American Magicians held in Chicago in 1947.
If you follow the link to the Google books page of that original Life Magazine article you can see wonderful images of some of the greats performing for the Life cameras. It could be that Dr. Harlan Tarbell did perform the Balancing an Egg on a Fan While Blindfolded trick as part of his nightclub act. Maybe magicians did do Multiplying Golf Balls in a strip club and drew all eyes from the dancers gyrating on stage to their strained and stretched fingers. But is also just as likely that the convention attendees were doing what magicians do best at convention time – getting good press.
Time and Life’s website gives a link to the SAM 2016 registration page, a 2014 blurb on the ill-fated efforts to exhume Houdini’s remains to test for poisoning and a 1994 essay by Penn Jillette explaining why Vegas was the most logical place for magic to reside. He has some snarky things to say about Siegfried & Roy and Melinda but that was the old, “bad-boys of magic” Penn.
From the post-war era, to the 1970s with Doug Henning’s The Magic Show raking in $60,000.00 each week on Broadway ($307,175.32 in today’s dollars), to David Copperfield’s globe-trotting success, and later David Blaine taking it to the streets with camera in tow, Magic has endured.
In that 1974 Time article reporting on that decade’s fascination in magic and magicians, James Randi said the upsurge in interest is “a sign that our society is still healthy. When people stop being enthralled by a magician who can make a lady vanish, it will mean that the world has lost its most precious possession: its sense of wonder.”
Magician, inventor and Inside Magic Favorite writer, Jim Steinmeyer has signed with Princess Cruises to create the magical effects in a new show, Magic to Do.
Mr. Steinmeyer is famous for so many things, including his work with Doug Henning, Siegfried & Roy and David Copperfield, his books on the history of magic and his own performances.
If the title of the show sounds familiar, it is likely because you recall the opening number from Stephen Schwartz’ Broadway smash, Pippin. We recall it fondly for the great music and use of Grant’s Flying Carpet illusion. Mr. Schwartz was also responsible for the music in our favorite Broadway play of all time, The Magic Show starring Doug Henning.
Mr. Schwartz is slated to create four shows for the cruise line and has assembled coterie of top talent to help including producers, writers and lighting folks with multiple awards and great shows to their credit.
We need no encouragement to go on a cruise or to see anything Mr. Steinmeyer so if you put the two factors together, we should be on the next boat out of West Hollywood.
Magician and endurance maven David Blaine takes to the air this evening in the United States through ABC television to ask Real or Magic? He is joined in this endeavor by Will Smith, Olivia Wilde, Woody Allen, Stephen Hawking and other celebrities who, we are informed, will react to his tricks.
We like David Blaine and believe he has done much to revitalize our wonderful craft and feel badly that we want him to be different than the way he is. He is not Doug Henning or David Copperfield or Harry Blackstone Jr. but he is very talented and, in his own way, charismatic and captivating.
Still, we miss Doug Henning performing the Water Torture Tank live on national television. We miss David Copperfield’s well produced escapes and illusions performed on tape but with the assurance the home audience was seeing the events unfold in real time without camera tricks. We miss Harry Blackstone Jr. for many, many reasons; not the least of which was his wonderful persona – so serious and light-hearted at the same time and able to convince even the most jaded teenager that he could really perform magic.
But David Blaine is bringing magic to the audience of the times where camera trickery is expected and even celebrated. Attention spans are short and expectations are high. Each generation of magic faces a similar challenge. Jim Steinmeyer’s outstanding book, The Last Greatest Magician in the World tells of Howard Thurston making the transition from vaudeville to the traveling, full-evening show and the ultimate demise of that elaborate show type. We know of Thurston today because he survived and conquered the new formats and met his audience where they sat. They were no longer in vaudeville halls watching one of eight shows in a day’s time. They came to see a full-length show and he had the props and chops to show them what they wanted to see – year after year.
We like David Blaine and wish him the best with his newest take on a classic art. If there is anyone that can again move magic in a new direction, it is David Blaine.
We received the May edition of Genii today and were delighted to read Jim Steinmeyer’s incredible recollection of the logistics, politics and creative process that went to bring Doug Henning’s second Broadway show to life.
Mr. Steinmeyer’s “The Merlin Crusade” (subtitled, “Doug Henning’s Infamous Magical Musical Appeared 30 Years Ago. Onstage It Was a Magic Show. Offstage It Was a Holy War”) is a compelling read. We could not stop reading once we began.
Yes, we had to apologize to those waiting to use the restroom, but to be fair, providing just two lavatories for a full coach section of a cross-country flight is hardly our fault.
We have two great loves: magic and logistics. You give us an article about the logistical challenges of creating great illusions for a Broadway show and we give you our undivided attention. It is an incredibly detailed account of a 24-year-old Mr. Steinmeyer as both participant and observer. You should subscribe to Geniias a matter of principle but if you have not, get to your local magic shop or the Geniiwebsite to get the May edition.
Mr. Steinmeyer was part of the “magic department” brought to Broadway to seamlessly integrate Mr. Henning’s magic into a complex and challenging musical.
Because the magic was integrated with everything in the show, there wasn’t a repair, a change, or a piece of scenery that didn’t have something to do with a trick. Each of our changes on the work list was worded, “fix,” or “add,” or “align.” Because no other department cared to understand the magic, it was the magic department that had to work with everyone else, watching what the painters were doing, seeing if the new pieces of scenery would foul on our illusions. Each one of these jobs involved standing in front of the prop, scratching your head, experimenting, figuring out how the dancers were doing the routine, and then devising some solution.
The New York Times reported this weekend and Theater Mania reports this morning that magician, consultant, confidant and innovator Charles Reynolds passed away on November 4th from complications related to his battle with liver cancer.
Mr. Reynolds assisted with the magic in many Broadway shows. In fact, he received a Drama Desk nomination for his special effects for the 1983 Broadway musical Merlin starring Doug Henning and Chita Rivera.
He assisted on the theater productions of Big 1996, Into the Woods 1987, Sleight of Hand 1987, Doug Henning & His World of Magic 1984, The Stitch in Time 1981, closed in previews, and Blackstone! 1980. The Times quotes Mr. Reynolds as describing his work as “providing ‘chaste, charming, weird, wonderful and supernatural illusions’ — and who proved it by coming up with two entirely different ways to make an elephant disappear.” The Times also notes that Mr. Reynolds was Chief Magic Consultant to Doug Henning for all eight of his one-hour television specials. Mr. Henning proved he had a winning product when the first network show had more than 50,000 viewers. Continue reading “Sad News: Magician Charles Reynolds Passes”→