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.