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.
Magician and Comedian Mac King puts on a fantastic show at Harrah’s Casino every afternoon. We hadn’t had the opportunity to see him in his theater in many years. His environs have changed dramatically. He now performs in a beautiful showroom with plenty of seats, drink service, a wonderful stage and adoring fans. A far cry from his considerably smaller stage and audience area back when we saw him last. It is nice to see talent rewarded – especially in a town that eats its stars to clear space for the next act hoping to hold a room against the considerable economic forces that must drive the rapacious need to purge and procure talent.
Mr. King was on his A-game when we saw him from our perfectly adequate general admission seats. It doesn’t seem there could be a bad seat in the house. The sightlines all looked great and sound and light work was perfect. He moves effortlessly with what the crowd gives him. Sure, at this point in his career, he has likely seen just about every audience response and has pat responses for the interaction – but it didn’t seem to be rehashed from prior shows but spontaneous and genuine.
For example, he invited a woman to participate in a card effect and asked her to take a card from the deck and sign it so it could be identified later. She did exactly as instructed but wrote her name on the back of the card not the face. Whether he has confronted this type of audience confusion before, he worked the comic opportunity to its fullest extent. She ultimately selected a card and signed it on its face. He performed his miracle and she returned to her seat. She wasn’t embarrassed or shamed – he allowed her to be part of the fun. He even pointed out that the situation was likely his fault as he did not tell her to sign the face of the card. He then did two or three call backs to the situation throughout the remainder of his act.
We were with our family – and it is a perfect family show with nothing to embarrass fans of any age – and they were impressed by the magic performed as much as we were. Magicians watching other magicians can be a cynical lot. We have seen or maybe even performed most of the tricks before. We watch for the twist or the performance decisions magicians make whilst performing standards.
Yet, with Mr. King we were impressed by his originality and the degree of difficulty of the tricks performed. He could have made his job much easier with readily available gimmicks or short-cuts but for some reason – some very good reason for which we are indebted to him – he chose to do rather difficult sleights in do-or-die moments. We have great pride in our Classic Force, but if it was absolutely essential to hit it perfectly with an audience volunteer, we would choose some alternative. Even a two-way deck would be too risky for us in such a situation.
Mr. King performed without a net and the audience would never realize how difficult he was making it for himself. From the opening Cut and Restored Rope through the very last effect, he showed his mastery of the knuckle-busting sleights that we would not dare to perform even for loved ones who would forgive our failures. Likely, that is why he is the oft-voted best afternoon show of Las Vegas and receives such thunderous applause twice an afternoon in his wonderfully upgraded digs.
If you happen to be in Las Vegas and want to see one magic show, do not foolishly choose to miss Mac King’s afternoon performance in favor of the glitzy here-today-gone-tomorrow acts. Mr. King’s dedication to magic and entertaining audiences has been rewarded by longevity and repeat fans of families of many generations. As we said, it is nice to see talent rewarded and it is just nice to see real talent exhibited.
Inside Magic Review: Five out Five – Our Highest Recommendation.
Magician Ben Young has a fancy website, a long list of appearances and likely does a fair amount of advertising for his services but for our money, nothing beats the kind of press he received from a friend in the recent edition of The Tullahoma News.
Yes, he has been on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us and befriended by some of the top performers in our craft. But for some reason we are more moved by accolades bestowed by a former classmate.
Erin McCullough’s column in the Tennessee news source inspires us to track Mr. Young on our upcoming visit to Las Vegas. That beats a Yelp or Trip Advisor review in our estimation.
Ms. McCullough knew Mr. Young from their time together in school and expresses surprise and delight in learning of her friend’s success since leaving the area.
“Now, I had known Ben was talented, but I had no idea of the depth of his craft until I saw it in person. If you’ve never been able to see a magic show, please do yourself a favor and go seek one out, because they are incredible!”
Apparently they studied Italian together in college and, sure, he would perform a few effects for fellow students but Ms. McCullough never saw him in full stage magician mode. Now, Mr. Young is beginning (or part way into) a tour of Air Force bases and cannot be confused with the talented hobbiest. He is a full-blown magician.
We’ll be in Las Vegas when Hollywood shuts down for the holiday break and will seek out Mr. Young — assuming he isn’t on tour — solely because of the apparently unsolicited but heartfelt endorsement of Ms. McCullough.
Inside Magic Favorite Mac King received well-deserved, positive press in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal for his tireless work to promote reading. This is the fifth year Mac King’s Magical Literacy Tour has visited Las Vegas elementary schools to promote the magic of books.
Beverly Mathis, director of literacy for The Public Education Foundation, praised Mr. King effusively (see how we up our adverb choice when talking about literacy?).
“Mac King is fabulous, and we know how he motivates children to read,” Mathis said. “There’s a little book by Dr. Seuss, and the title is ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go!’, and just think about that. Children can go anywhere they want, even though they’re right here at Bunker Elementary School. Reading opens up the world.”
Mr. King acknowledges that young audiences can be tough audiences.
“It’s hard doing magic for kindergartners and first-graders, you know?” he said. “They kind of believe it; they believe it’s real.”
“I started doing a few school assemblies when I first started at Harrah’s,” said King, “and I started seeing libraries in Las Vegas and thought, ‘Maybe we can get some more books in there.’ When I was a kid, I checked out a book about magic —Tricks Any Boy Can Do — from my school library, and it literally changed my life.”
Mr. King’s multi-award winning show runs Tuesday through Saturday afternoons at 1pm and 3pm at Harrah’s in Las Vegas.
Each student got a free book, courtesy of a book drive sponsored by local companies and the YMCA of Southern Nevada.
“Some of these kids, it’s the only book they’ve ever owned,” King said. “And that’s just appalling. But, for them, it’s like Christmas.”
Mr. Maher is reputed to be a star on HBO and takes pride in attacking people and groups. Religions are fair game and so are conservatives and liberals. It works for him so why stop with ideology and spirituality.
Whenever I talk to him, we’ll be talking about President Barack Obama, or weed, or Woody Harrelson, and then he will slip in a side joke that pokes fun at illusionists. Maher mocks magicians mercilessly.
“When we started back in the old days, before the iWatch, practically before answering machines, in New York, no matter how good you were, you could never do better in the small clubs than the magician guy or a guy with puppets,” Maher said.
Maher goes on to insult Cirque du Soleil, drop names of famous comedians with whom he recently worked and stroke The Palms as a wonderful place to work.
He likes Penn & Teller, though. They are not typical magicians so they escape his wrath.
We have already given too much space to him but we thought you should know.
To say we love logistics would be an understatement of unwieldy proportions.
If logistics were a woman, we would flirt with it and hold our eye contact for an uncomfortably long period of time. If it were a child, we would adopt it, put it in special schools to be taught by singing nuns and far from all evil. If it were a dog, we would also adopt it and send it to special obedience schools with singing nun trainers. We really love logistics.
We have seen David Copperfield on tour in cities all over America (that makes us a fan not a stalker – the clump of his hair that we bought on eBay makes us a collector, not a stalker either. We have no innocent explanation for our ownership of a salad fork he once used, however).
The Copperfield show is always great but our favorite part is watching the load-in and load-out from and into the huge semi-tractor trailer bearing Mr. Copperfield’s face. We cannot see that much because his crew is very discreet in their moving of the big crates and rigging. Still, it holds our attention for a good hour or so.
When we were very young, we got to work for a day as a roustabout for the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus during its performance in Vero Beach, Florida. We spent the morning helping to set up the grandstands, moving chairs, lifting things, pulling things and watching the big tent appear like magic. We admired how the bosses knew exactly what to do and in what order. We imagine they learned from experience to put all the stands and chairs into the area before they erected the tent walls; or figured out in advance to get the tent poles up and positioned within the holes before hoisting the canvas up. They were pros and they knew logistics. We were in love.
When Penn Jillette describes the behind the scenes of the Las Vegas Penn & Teller show on his weekly podcast, Penn’s Sunday School, we smile involuntarily.
This week’s podcast made us smile like a goof – as our Irish grandmother would say.
We usually listen whilst walking great distances to get our cardiovascular workout and test the range of the court-ordered anklet we wear. We used to think that people were intolerant and judgmental but now realize that the strange looks we received were likely because of our glowing goofy smile – and probably the anklet (autographed by Lindsay Lohan).
In his latest episode, Penn recounted an experience from a recent show at the Rio Resort and Casino’s Penn & Teller Theater. We won’t ruin the story for you but it has to do with a specially gimmicked jacket that resulted in him being fooled twice unbeknownst to the audience. He recounted his internal dialogue as he tried to figure out what was happening whilst he was on stage performing a different effect. An incredible story and if you love logistics, you too will smile with the best of the goofs as you listen.
As we mentioned, his podcast has adult language and themes (whatever an adult theme is) so we do not recommend it for our younger readers or those who are easily offended but for those of us with very thick skin – in our case, from the incessant rubbing of the anklet – it is a wonderful chance to hear about the preparations and logistics of a big time magic show.
According to Variety, the CW has ordered another season of “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” and “Masters of Illusion” for 2015.
That is great news for magic fans and portends great things for the future of our great art.
Fool Us originally aired ITV in the UK in 2011. The production team edited those episodes and repackaged the shows for the CW’s US broadcast this year.
The series received consistently great ratings and – if you asked us – it was a no-brainer for the network to order a new season.
That’s good news but even better news is that they will need to shoot new shows to meet the CW’s order. Penn Jillette promised if renewed, they would film in the US and with US magicians. We have no doubt he will keep his promise.
“Masters of Illusion” had some fantastic acts in this year’s episodes. We do not know if they will need to tape additional acts to meet the renewal order but will report as soon as we hear.
We learned over the weekend that Murray SawChuck was awarded Career Achievement in the Magic Arts at the beautiful Avalon Theater in Hollywood, California.
Not that everyone visiting Hollywood needs to check in with us.
Inside Magic has never been like some sort of police department where magicians and variety artists need to register before taking up residence (however temporary) here in Hollywood.
Gosh knows we are busy enough listening all night to the various police scanners and searching the ‘net for the latest in magic news.
Still, it would have been nice if we had known.
We would have gone by the Avalon Theater and waived knowingly – even if they would let us in. Then we would have run back to our spacious studio apartment next to the dog food bakery to listen to the police scanner to hear if anyone noticed.
Nonetheless, Murray did receive the Career Achievement in the Magic Arts award right here in Hollywood. His lovely wife, Chloe Crawford, joined him at the LA Music Awards and Hollywood FAME Awards.
But as if that was not enough, he was also named the Best Comedy Variety Act for 2014 by LA Comedy Awards for his show at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mr. SawChuck was gracious in victory, telling reporters “This has been a fun week! I announced my new hotel I’ll be moving my show to and received two new awards to add to my wall, not a bad week for a guy that does magic tricks for a living!”
Mr. SawChuck’s show MURRAY Celebrity Magician is moving from The Tropicana (or “Trop” in Sinatra-lingo) to The Sin City Comedy Theater at Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino. His is a wonderful, high-energy show with Ms. Crawford and sleight-of-hand artist Douglas “Lefty” Leferovich that makes you proud to be a magician. He will open at his new digs on December 10, 2014.
Congratulations to a hard-working performer with mad skills.
Read more about Mr. SawChuck’s work and life on his website here.
Robin Leach has the inside track to Las Vegas magician Criss Angel and has brought readers of The Las Vegas Sun an account of the final 24 hours before Mr. Angel attempts a second “Houdini Escape.”
Mr. Angel will hang upside down in a straight-jacket with a 50-pound weight hanging from his neck to promote his upcoming appearance at the fabulous Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.
He feels better prepared — mentally and physically — for the ordeal. He worked with UFC Champ Randy Couture last time and is apparently still in training for this attempt.
His work at Foxwoods is to launch his new touring show Mindfreak Live. He will launch a second touring show titled The Supernaturalists next June, also at Foxwoods.
We read earlier today that the demand is so high that Foxwoods has added six more shows at the casino in January.
He told Mr. Leach that he will avoid injury “by being smarter, more diligent and better prepared since going through the worst case scenario — aside from going unconscious or falling. But ultimately it’s a calculated risk.”
Yes, he was injured and sidelined for a couple of months from his last attempt at just this type of escape but this time is different. “I am completely and utterly focused, and in the moment I visualize over and over again what it should look like in my head before I attempt it. If something should happen to change that plan, I make the necessary adjustments. Life is death without change.”
Is he thinking of leaving Luxor for a national touring stint or perhaps to relocate to Foxwoods?
“I’m so honored to have this opportunity and want to sincerely thank Cirque du Soleil, Luxor and Foxwoods for making this possible. These outreach shows I’m doing are designed to promote Believe, still ‘The only A+ magic show in Vegas” and the incredible experience that awaits for guests at the Luxor.”
We have yet to hear from the other magic shows in Vegas on Mr. Angel’s grading curve.
Mr. Leach promises updates on the escape as they happen. We’ll keep our eye out for the news and share with you — that’s just the kind of folks we are.
We were as shocked as anyone to read the news today in the Las Vegas papers that Houdini, the musical biography slated for the 2015 Broadway season will preview in Sin City starring Scott Thompson a/k/a Carrot Top.
The more we considered the choice, however, the more we were able to see the logic.
It is a brilliant move for Carrot Top and the producers. Carrot Top brings great name recognition to the project and Las Vegas is a perfect location to ready the show before bringing it to New York. Plus, the show’s backers needed to do something to counteract the negative press it has received as of late.
We have been following the show’s progress over the last few years and were disappointed to read that Hugh Jackman had to bow out of the lead role due to “scheduling conflicts” and that its original book writer, Aaron Sorkin has also left the show. Still with music from Stephen Schwartz and our favorite magician providing the story, we know the show will be a hit.
It is not clear whether Carrot Top will star only in the Las Vegas previews of the show or if there are plans to have him follow the role to the Broadway stage.
Carrot Top observed that in many ways, Houdini was a “prop guy too.”
We suppose Houdini did use props in his shows (but then again, most magicians do) and Carrot Top has a well-deserved reputation for being the best Prop Comic ever, so the reference makes sense.
Carrot Top is currently doing capacity shows at the Luxor in Las Vegas and has been honored as Entertainer of the Year and Comedian of the Year on several occasions. We have no reason to believe he will have any trouble adopting the role of Harry Houdini and singing his way into yet more awards.
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