We were sad to read that magician John Calvert passed away last week. Mr. Calvert’s well-deserved acclaim developed the many decades of his illustrious magic and movie career.
He entertained Hollywood movie stars, worked as a stunt man and appeared in several major motion pictures. He was 102 years old.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Mr. Calvert was bit by the magic bug at the age of 8, when his father brought him to see Howard Thurston perform in Cincinnati. He immediately began working to impress his friends with his new-found skills in our wonderful craft.
Mr. Calvert and his lovely wife, Tammy traveled the world many times and were headliners in more countries than we can list. He piloted his own yacht and plane and survived incredible mishaps with both means of transportation.
The Times notes that at the age of 100 he appeared at the London Palladium. We note that we have yet to appear at the Palladium or London or any anagram of the words “Palladium” and “London.”
The Magic Castle heralded him as their oldest regularly performing member.
Mr. Calvert and Tammy were kind to Inside Magic. They were courteous and always responsive. It was clear they loved magic and each other. He will be missed.
Well, we heard of a third for the list. Fr. Jim Blantz, a member of the Order of the Holy Cross, served mass at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills and then went to The Magic Castle to start his week-long lecture series for Magicians only.
The 81-year-old priest and performer will soon celebrate 60 years in the clergy and more than 40 years as a magician.
Fr. Blantz’ first show was a one-trick command performance for a family friend. Their 12-year-old girl asked, “Do you know any magic?” The priest said he knew one trick. he performed for her. “I knew one trick. So I did it, and she was thrilled.”
He performed for kids during a subsequent mission trip to Uganda for a large audience of kids who didn’t speak English.
Fr. Blantz is a cardworker with a relatively stable and successful routine.
Inside Magic Favorite John Carney is no ordinary magician and, therefore, his show is no ordinary magic show.
Carney Magic is a melange of mind-blowing sleight of hand, good taste, quick wit and his award-winning presentation skills for pure entertainment.
We have it on very good authority Mr. Carney will perform Sunday matinees this summer and into the fall at the beautiful Two Roads Theater in Studio City, California.
Mr. Carney’s family-friendly show begins at 3 pm, July 14th and will run through September 8, 2013.
Mr. Carney has appeared on David Letterman’s Late Show, he is the most awarded performer at the Magic Castle, has authored books, columns and provided sold-out seminars attended by the best in our art.
We were perusing the Magic Castle web site seconds ago and came across what would be a fantastic lecture to witness first hand.
Fellow Chicagoan Jim Steinmeyer will take the spotlight at the Parlour of Prestidigitation on Sunday, Jan 13th 2013 at 3:00 pm. His lecture is titled, “Allow Me To Give You Some Really Awful Advice,” focusing on what magicians do wrong.
According to the Magic Castle’s advertisement, Mr. Steinmeyer “will demonstrate a number of original and useful effects, from close-up, to mentalism, and stand-up magic, and discuss the development and the selection of new material for your performances.”
This sounds like a lecture not to be missed. Mr. Steinmeyer has not only invented just about every magic trick in the history of magic, he also has written about every magician and magic event ever. We know that sounds like hyperbole but it could be true. We haven’t done our fact-checking and we’re just kind of going with our gut on this one.
The Academy of Magical Arts (AMA), its Board of Directors and Board of Trustees, in conjunction with the Dai Vernon Foundation, Inc., has established a special fund to assist professional magician Wayne Houchin, who was severely injured during a Nov. 26 performance in the Caribbean.
Houchin, star of Discovery Channel’s Breaking Magic and a performing member of the AMA, suffered serious burns on his head, face, neck and hands during a national television appearance on the Dominican Republic show Approach the Stars, during which the host threw flaming Aqua de Florida cologne in his face. Only the quick actions of Houchin’s Curiosidades team saved his life.
Rushed to the emergency room, Houchin – who has extended his stay in that country for treatment is now recovering – commented on his Facebook page, “This was not a stunt or part of an act. This was a criminal attack.”
Aqua de Florida is utilized by shamans in that region of the world – where much of the population continues to believe in voodoo and witchcraft and violent attacks by vigilantes are not unheard of – for healing and cleansing rituals. Speculation is that the host may have been motivated by superstition, as evidenced by a statement on the show’s Facebook page calling the attack a “blessing.”
TO CONTRIBUTE: Send a check (with “Houchin” written on the memo line) to: Dai Vernon Fund, c/o The Magic Castle, 7001 Franklin Ave., Hollywood, CA 90028.
What do magician Richard Bloch, a highly (pun intended) rated medicinal marijuana dispensary and the world famous home to the Academy of Magical Arts have in common? They each use the phrase “Magic Castle” in their names.
Mr. Bloch recently sought federal registration for the trademark “Magic Castle at Sea” to identify his particular brand of magic shows designed for cruise ships.
Magic Castle Solutions describes itself as a “North Hollywood Marijuana Dispensary” where customers can order a variety of different strains of the drug pursuant to their physician’s prescription.
“The Magic Castle” private club is also in Hollywood, California but likely does not sell any strain of marijuana with or without prior approval of one’s physician. Rather, the club is a place to enjoy the performance and teaching of the art of magic.
We support our magic habit by our day job as an intellectual property attorney and so the confluence of these three trademarks was the kind of thing about which we become giddy. We feel spiritually uplifted now that we have admitted we become giddy by such things and feel our relationship with you, the reader, has become more meaningful by our sharing.
Or maybe it’s the airplane glue we have been using to perform “Smoke from Fingertips” all night long.
But trademark law is fun with or without fumes of glue.
The purpose of a trademark is to identify the source of goods or services. That’s it.
Anyone can make bread, but a consumer looking for the taste and quality of Wonder Bread will look for loaves bearing that trademark first used in 1921. Consumers are confident Wonder Bread brand of will be the same when purchased in Los Angeles, California; Mystic Hollow, Michigan or DeFuniak Springs, Florida. Consumer confidence in the trademark is supported by civil and criminal laws to protect against counterfeiters; like rogue bakers selling bread with the Wonder Bread trademark.
Consumers interested in magic as a performing art have similarly associated the trademark MAGIC CASTLE with certain qualities. The castle offers visitors a chance to see magic performed from at least three different disciplines (close-up, parlor and stage) after enjoying a fine dinner and taking in the grand collection of magic memorabilia.
But that cannot be the standard for entry and bending the rules, right? We're guessing tons of people in Hollywood are stars of something and bunches of those make outrageous amounts of cash for what they star at and some of those probably drive cars more impressive than the lamest of the Porsche family of fine vehicles.
Apparently the front desk hostess told Ms. Cosgrove's escort or babysitter that no one under the age of 21 may pass into the Magic Castle. Nonetheless, Ms. Cosgrove was permitted entrance shortly before midnight.
We could find only two certain connections between Ms. Cosgrove and Magic. She appeared in the November 12, 2006 episode of Nickelodeon's Drake and Josh in which the two boys attempt to resurrect the career of a has-been magician ("The Great Doheny" Season 4, Episode 6). And, weirdly, she was born on the same day Inside Magic Favorite Harry Blackstone, Jr. passed away, May 14th. Ms. Cosgrove was born in 1993 and Mr. Blackstone left us entirely too early in 1997.
The story was first reported on RadarOnline and later picked up by Examiner.com.
According to our sources, he is does some acting in local Los Angeles venues and some of the television stations that have network studios in the area.
In fact, his acting is apparently so good that he won an "Emmy" Award — that's like television's version of the Magic Castle's Magician of the Year prize. So, that's pretty impressive. Perhaps Mr. Harris is recalling the words of Jean Robert-Houdin who opined "a magician is merely an actor playing the part of a magician."
Nonetheless, it is always nice to have a hobby and we are happy Mr. Harris found a way to spend his time when not running the Magic Castle or performing for adoring fans.
Our uncle Paw-Paw Lawton often quipped things in full sentences about magic when he was sober. (Actually, he was our "uncle-in-law" and even then the "in-law" part was tenuous. His marriage to our great aunt Mary Hardy was annulled because of a previous and still valid marriage to the spirit of an androgynous silver miner who pre-deceased her own birth — but, that's another story). He often said "A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician." His quips were rarely original or even necessary but we imagine the great French conjuror must have found angelic delight in our relative's confirmation of his philosophy.
But our point was this: Mr. Harris will be directing a magic show called “Nothing to Hide” starring sleight-of-hand artists Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimaraes in the beautiful Geffen Playhouse.
The Geffen Playhouse (named for Los Angeles favorite son David Playhouse) issued a press release warning attendees that “Nothing to Hide” will be different than a traditional magic show.
We read this a couple of ways. If they mean one of our typical magic shows we are relieved. We would have to imagine it will be much different than one of our shows. In fact, as we have testified under oath, we would never pay to see us perform and even if we did, we would demand our money back because we would either be working through the entire show or sitting in the seat waiting for the show to start. Either way, it would not be our idea of fun. Our idea of fun involves the delicious but rarely seen melange of slapstick and pre-revolutionary Russian literature interpreted by blindfolded marionette performers at Sea World. Unexpected splashing makes us giggle without regret.
On the other paw, Mr. Harris' new show sounds like our idea of fun sans bumping puppets, spit-takes and pratfalls. (We acknowledge the passing of the lead singer for the 1980's counter-culture acoustic disco house band, Bumping Puppets, Mary Knuckles).
It is well documented that we love magic. In fact, we challenge anyone to question our nearly fanatical obsession with all things magic. As we said under oath during a U.S. Senate hearing recently:
“Senator, simply put, we love magic.”
Of course the question posed was not directly related to magic — it was about something related to alleged embezzlement of crop insurance premiums and we needed to stall — but still it was under oath and without ambiguity.
We also love cruising (not “cursing”) as our spell-check incorrectly substituted in the earlier editions of this post. Given a choice, we would live aboard a ship sailing the smooth seas from port to port whilst we puffed on a fine cigar, sipped an appropriately aged and chilled Diet Coke and practiced our one-hand shuffles. We have often offered to be a boy-toy to any rich matron with the resources to keep us in cigars, cards and Diet Coke but we are beginning to think we have signed up for the wrong social networking site. We have received many offers but not one from rich widows. The closest offer was from a sea captain working a trawler in the North Sea who thought the expression “boy-toy” meant “boy robot” like Astro Boy. Once the translation was cleared up, he had no interest.
But we digress.
This morning, we read that the very ritzy “Crystal Cruises has pulled the ultimate rabbit out of a hat with a new, industry-1st program named ‘Magic Castle at Sea.'”
It was nothing less than amazing that the name of the program was virtually identical to the advertisement we had on PensionersPals.com. Ours was “Tricks on a Boat.” Pretty close.
The cruise line engaged fellow lawyer and magician Rich Bloch to perform aboard the Crystal Symphony. Similar shows will be available on the stunning Crystal Serenity. But wait, it gets better.
Once the passengers return to dry land, they will be given a special ticket for entry into the exclusive Magic Castle.
“Considering club guests might only get entrance if they’re in LA and invited by a member, Crystal’s Magic Castle at Sea secures rare admission to a truly spellbinding entertainment experience,” told in a statement Crystal’s Vice President of Entertainment, Bret Bullock. “We’re excited to suggest our guests yet another amazing opportunity in high-caliber vacation fun.”
This is a combination we cannot resist. Great magic, outstanding cruise and a ticket into the the Magic Castle. We look forward to seeing you on board. Read more about the deal here.
He was not only an accomplished performer and lover of all things Magic, he was also the founder and chairman of the nation’s largest landscape services company, ValleyCrest Landscape Cos.
The Magic Castle and Inner Magic Circle member turned $700.00 into a company that today boasts more than 150 locations around the world, with 9,000 employees and nearly $835 million in annual revenue. The transformation was performed not by magic but his tireless work and keen business sense. He purchased the nursery business from the widow of the owner. He was just 19 years-old.
ValleyCrest Landscape worked some of the most prestigious projects in the landscape milieu including the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, Newport Beach’s Fashion Island and Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. He preferred the title “Head Gardner” to CEO or “Boss.”
“Work is something you don’t want to do,” Mr. Sperber told the Los Angeles Times this year. “I love doing what I do, and there’s nothing else in this life that I’d rather do.”
Landscaping was not his sole passion. His love for performing, watching, learning, teaching, inventing, sharing and chronicling Magic was evident always.
Mr. Sperber owned one of the largest magic book collections – with texts from the early 16th century. His passion for our craft covered the spectrum from collector and preserver of classic magic books to inventing his own effects. Nick Lewin posted a great story about meeting Mr. Sperber aboard a cruise ship and learning card effects from this remarkable man. You can read Mr. Lewin’s post here.
“Believe it or not, I am actually better known in the world of magic than I am in the landscape world,” he said in a 2008 interview with C-Suite Quarterly business magazine. We can vouch for the truth of this statement. Continue reading “Magician Burt Sperber Passes”→