Magicians may face this more than other realms of the variety arts. After all, our whole job is to be an impostor. We recall Robert Houdin’s famous saying that a “magician is an actor playing the part of a magician.” We weren’t around when he said or wrote it but we think it applies in spades to our feeling each time we take the stage or the close-up table.
Part of being a magician is deciding how we represent ourselves to the audience. Do we claim to have magical powers (or can a psychic truly read minds)? Or are we simply using skills undetectable by the audience to accomplish what appears to be real magic? Or are we just presenting puzzles for the audience to guess their method?
Pop Haydn taught in his phenomenal School for Scoundrels that when presenting the Three Shell game, the audience doesn’t see it as true magic because they know there must be some way the invisible movement of the pea is being accomplished. But that does not diminish the effect.
We are a sucker for charts. You could tell us that the earth was round, the sky is blue and grass is green, and we would nod knowingly. But if you showed us in a chart or a graphic, we would say things like “of course, now we see!” and we would say it in a manner that implied an exclamation point at the end of our statement. Probably by speaking emphatically and nodding like a bobble head and smiling like a fool who is doing brain damage from incessant head nodding.
We mention charts not only because we love them but also because Santiago includes charts in his essay.
If you have pondered the Impostor Syndrome or are suffering from it, you should check out the essay and sign-up for Jeff McBride’s newsletter. It has yet to disappoint.
We first met Nick Lewin through Pop Haydn when Mr. Lewin was performing on the same bill with Mr. Haydn. To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect. Mr. Lewin took the stage with a befuddled look on his face and seemed to be overly relaxed in his approach to the magic. Yet, he blew us away.
His Slow Motion Torn and Restored Newspaper was a thing of beauty, his Linking Finger Ring was a thing of beauty as well but also a thing of mystery. We know or thought we knew how the routine should be done to achieve the effect but Mr. Lewin was doing something slightly different and yet achieving the same effect plus.
Since that experience, we have seen Mr. Lewin perform in various locals and he is the same. Always smiling, slightly befuddled, easy-going, and amazing. He has the classics of magic finely tuned from years of practice and actual performances in his hands and is in no rush to perform them.
He is not being chased and so there is no need to run. His jokes and humorous approach to the effects do not overwhelm or take away from the magic, they fit in the routines because there is time for them to fit. He is going to amaze and there is no reason to rush to what will be a wonderful conclusion – he is a friend of the audience and we are all looking at it together.
We have bought several of Mr. Lewin’s routines and we will have reviews in the future but we received one just the other day that seemed perfect for our act – at least according to the advertisement. The Ultimate Color Changing Deck is an effect that would be the right ending for our card routine as performed in the basement of the Magic Castle. We currently end with the emotional equivalent of “Yeah, that’s about it. No need to stick around, there ain’t no more. Skat! Get!”
We order the effect and received delivery within a very few days. We watched his DVD, checked out the props and smiled with the gleeful look of a very satisfied magician or someone in need of further attention by trained professionals. It would work, it would work really good. (When we become gleeful, annoyingly gleeful (“AG”), we lose our ability to think in proper English. The effect could even be transferred to our pet deck and we already could do the relatively easy sleights to accomplish the apparently impossible.
There are other color changing decks on the market. Some of them might be good. We have seen many of them in person either being performed or explained in lectures but none of them come up to this standard. Mr. Lewin credits Ken Brooke for the idea and effect and even provides an interlude that may or may not fit your style. The last sentence makes sense once you receive and review the effect.
The cost for the pre-release is $65.00 and it is well-worth it. This is a color changing deck that will really work in real situations for real magicians in front of real audiences and leave them really amazed.
Inside Magic Favorite Pop Haydn sent along word today that he and and his very talented friends have scheduled a true shindig this week.
We have tired of the incessant faux shindigs foisted upon an unsuspecting public or the half-hearted shindigs with inadequate ratios of shins to digging and so we welcome any bona fide shindig but even more, one from our favorite magical performers and jugglers plus a shindig presented with a steam-punk theme.
Performing with Pop will be Inside Magic Favorite Juggler Lindsay Benner, Bonnie Gordon, Andrew Goldenhersh, Liberty Larsen. Kevin Story, John Eddings and Patrick Culliton.
Pop advises that whilst “the entire family is welcome but some material may be over the heads of children under 12 years old.”
The fete will kick off at 5:00 pm, this Thursday, August 18th in the Caldwell Hall, Faith Presbyterian Church
5000 Colfax Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91601.
We have it on very good authority that there will be audience participation and involvement and that attendees of the shindig can dress in their favorite steam punk- inspired garb, if desired.
Check out the full details here. We look forward to seeing everyone there.
Unlike eating an entire pint of ice cream whilst binge watching previously unseen How It’s Made episodes, we are not left feeling too guilty or dotted with chocolate stains when we watch the master perform.
Recently we attended a private party at The Magic Castle and saw the incredible Pop Haydn own the crowds gathered in the Peller Theatre for four performances. We legitimately attended the first show of the evening and then snuck in again for a later show. It was wonderful.
Pop f/k/a Whit Haydn works a room better than anyone we have ever seen. He interacts with the audience effortlessly and handles volunteers so well that each outing was like a lesson in advanced magic techniques.
He performed his iconic The Six Card Trick, Color Changing Silk, Mongolian Pop Knot and finished with his world-famous Four Ring Routine.
Magicians know that Pop has been performing these effects for many years but he brought each alive for his enthusiastic lay crowds last night as if it was the first time. He has a tremendous ability to take what the audience gives him and work it to the further betterment of his routine. He never drops his character or varies from the spirit of his persona.
We checked with our friends who attended the shows last night and to a one, each thought Pop was absolutely incredible, the highlight of the evening. That is saying a lot considering they had the entire Magic Castle filled with performers with whom to compare.
If we could have, we would have watched all four of his performances. Some would say that is obsessive and they would usually be correct but not in this case. Unlike fattening ice cream, excessive watching of Pop Haydn cannot clog one’s arteries, stain clothing or rot teeth. It can lead to bewilderment and disorientation but we are willing to take those risks for the benefits received.
Inside Magic Review: Five Out of Five – Our Highest!
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.
This weekend, we will be at the feet of the masters, Pop Haydn, Bob Sheets and Chef Anton together teaching the ways of the Scoundrel at The Magic Castle here in Hollywood. It is a two-day class in the essentials of scoundreling with special attention paid to Three-Card Monte, The Shell Game and Fast and Loose.
The esteemed professors note that the course is “perfect for the historian, steampunker, gambler, lawyer or police officer as well as the magician, this course gives you the inside information.” We are at least two or three of those types of people so the course should be a perfect fit.
We understand there were only 20 seats available and they may have already been sold out by the time this article posts.
We will report back on what we have learned both in the classroom and in any wayward attempts to scoundrel on the mean streets of Hollywood or Beverly Hills.
We are thinking of getting a specially made cardboard box on which to perform our soon to be acquired Three-Card Monte skills just outside the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset.
We could make it look like it was a shipping container for Louis Vuitton handbags or Christian Louboutin shoes so it would not arouse suspicion amongst the throngs we expect will encircle us with cash money in their hands and dreams of big winnings in their hearts.
Check out the School for Scoundrels site for more information and peruse their great offerings here.
The Magic Castle bestowed on us a kindness that we will not soon forget. The greatest magic club in the world, overlooked our nervous, shaking hand and sweat-covered brow to grant admission as a Magician Member Monday night.
It has been such a whirlwind since Monday night when we auditioned before the likes of Shoot Ogawa and Gay Blackstone that we have not had time to update this humble news outlet. In the past few days, we have seen great magic performed by the best in our business like Whit “Pop” Haydn and Nick Lewin at the Magic Junkyard in Simi Valley Wednesday night and so many of the performers at the Magic Castle this weekend. We are tuckered-out but it is a good kind of tuckered-out.
We anticipated the audition process for the Magic Castle would be difficult and it was. The judges were kind and compassionate and tried to set an atmosphere to allow the performers to do their best. Still, it is an unnerving process performing for such esteemed peers.
We were on cloud nine (or its Metric equivalent) all week and visited The Magic Castle Friday night – our first visit as a Magician Member. There was a lot to take in. We visited The William W. Larsen Memorial Library and met the very helpful and knowledgeable Lisa Cousins, our guide for all that the center had to offer – and it offers so much.
From instruction sheets to videos and recorded material, lecture notes to rare magic tomes, and just about every essential magic resource a studious magician could need populate the well-adorned library shelves and reading areas. We camped out in the stacks, listened to the more experienced members discuss topics of interest and picked the brain of Ms. Cousins about The Magic Castle.
Tonight (Saturday), we decided to perform. Magician members can show their stuff in The Hat and Hare Pub and The Gallery by coordinating with the Host. We performed the same card routine we used for the audition and the first show went well. We were nervous but excited in equal parts. The nerves got under control for the next two sets in The Hat and Hare and held together for our last set in the larger Gallery. The audiences were enthusiastic and kind and we had a great time.
Our routine depends on our second deal, two false shuffles and a successful breather crimp. We figured out just about half-way into our second set, the crimp had stopped breathing. We lost control of the selected card but somehow managed to find it without too much embarrassment. We tried to rehabilitate the breather but nothing was working. Our last set was breather-less. We kept the same routine but had to figure out a different method of control.
It is late at night as we type this on our old Remington portable typewriter here in the West Hollywood editorial office of Inside Magic. The Olympic® Games are being broadcast silently on a television set we can see across the alley. Life goes on around us and we feel fully alive having lived a dream harbored since our youth.
Our big night is Monday evening at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. The former home of The Magician, Tony Blake and real, non-fictional magicians is where we are heading this evening to audition with the hope of becoming a Magician Member of The Academy of Magical Arts. We are anxious, nervous, excited and hopefully prepared.
As part of the evaluation, candidates are asked to demonstrate their magical abilities. We fretted over what to perform and ruled out anything involving animals, huge props, lovely assistants, fire or the classic Pea Can. We are honored that Pop Haydn has sponsored us for consideration and do not want to let him down or embarrass him.
After much consideration and thought, we decided to go in with a deck of cards and do our best to wow the judges with the few sleights we can do. Like a great Olympic figure skater, we will start out strong and do the hard stuff right off the bat. If we screw up our second deal and false shuffles, it will set a bad tone for the rest of the eight minute routine. But, if we land the tough tricks first, the rest of the routine should go fine. For those keeping score, the sleights will be: false shuffle, Charlier pass, false shuffle, second deal, buckle, flustration count and second deal. Plus we’ll be talking and stuff at the same time.
We have kept our hands moist using the most expensive emollients available to the common man. We have practiced our patter whilst walking in our neighborhood in West Hollywood and have been largely ignored by passers-by. We will get our shoes shined and fully intend to brush our teeth and eat a medium-sized meal before heading to the Castle.
It is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and as an ebook. We ordered the paperback late last night and are downloading the digital rendition as we type this very line.
To say that we worship Mr. Haydn is to grossly misstate our true feelings. He is not just an incredible magician with enviable skills and perfect timing; he is a great person as well. Mr. Haydn has supported Inside Magic since its very earliest days. In fact, his was the very first Inside Magic Celebrity Interview and still one of the most read.
We will give a full review of the new book as soon as the download is complete and our uploading (reading) is finished.
Looking back over the last year, we have much for which to be thankful. But we are never sure when we are supposed to be thankful. We may have been thankful at the wrong time, at Thanksgiving and so technically our thankfulness will either be redundant or just for the blessings received since the day before Black Friday.
But there have been many things since the official start to the shopping season that we consider thank-worthy. For instance, our eyebrows are growing back following what could have been a horrific flash paper ignition accident when we looked down the business end of our flash wand to see if the glow plug was working. It was but we couldn’t see it because of the over-stuffing of the muzzle with what we thought was too old flash paper.
We are thankful that our neighbor here on Santa Monica Boulevard was evicted and we do not need to lie awake worrying whether he was abusing cats or learning to play a stringed instrument. The new tenant seems nice. She operates a “call service” – we’re guessing that means she acts as a human alarm clock and calls customers at appointed times to make sure they get a fresh start on the day. Apparently some of her customers do not have phones – or maybe they don’t have good phone chargers – because she frequently has to leave her small office to call on them personally. She works around the clock but is very quiet and frequently brings us gifts of personal-sized shampoo and conditioner from some really nice hotels.
We are thankful that our audition at The Magic Castle is coming up. We will be performing before the membership committee in February and we were sponsored by the incomparable Pop Haydn. The extra time before our ten to fifteen minute presentation has given us plenty of time to completely re-work our act at least twelve times. We know the committee wants to see our skill set and so store-bought magic is eschewed. So, we dropped our rather lengthy Hippity Hop Rabbits routine. That could run – with the right crowd – fifteen minutes by itself.
We are thankful for finding Paper Cream to keep our very dry hands more moist and thereby allowing us to perform sleights like dealing seconds and bottoms. We were getting complaints about our constant licking of our fingers before dealing cards or performing card maneuvers. It got so bad we were asked to leave a party for licking one of our volunteers’ fingertips before she dealt the cards in a spelling card trick. It is tough to say if it was the licking or the fact that we did a spelling card trick with someone named Ida. Maybe the hostess didn’t appreciate us using a name that was so short. Maybe she was jealous of our ability to triple lift. Maybe we should have worn pants. Maybe we should have shown up on time and not the next day, at 3:00 am. Life is full of questions, just like the police.
We are very thankful for the invention of The Stripper Deck. We use ours constantly and wonder how magicians survived without it. We read that Dai Vernon once made his own using a shard of glass he found in a bathroom. He was very industrious and wise. We hope he washed his hands after making the deck, though. We do wish they had a different name for the deck. If you go to any of the stores here in West Hollywood and ask for a Stripper Deck, they treat you like you are crazy or they try to sell you something that is not a proper magic trick. Because we take seriously our oath to not reveal magic secrets, we never correct the sales people or explain what we mean by the term “Stripper Deck.” If you ever come to our editorial offices / kitchen / bedroom / guest room / den, you will see piles of odd decks and personal-sized sample bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body cream. If we are ever raided by the authorities, it will be difficult to explain that little corner of our little space.
We are most thankful for the friends we have in Magic. Those who we left behind in Michigan and those we have met since coming to Hollywood. Magicians share a common personality type that transcends the influences of environment and access to sunshine. The magicians here have accepted us despite our pasty complexion and regional differences. We would like to think they have been so ready to include us in their magic circles due to our exceptional skills and winning personality but fear it is really just because magicians are friendly and accepting.
Magic is a wonderful art daily brought to life and changed in exciting ways by people who are in it for all of the right reasons; and for that we are thankful.