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A daring life.
Last month's March issue considered Lewis Jones's Card Party, my first YouTube magic trick, The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion, and the loss of Tom Mullica and Irene Larsen.
As it was with Pluto, so it is with Antarctica. Because of global warming and new population requirements, Antarctica has been downgraded from a continent to a super-island, leaving Earth with only six official continents. President Obama, under pressure to "do something about it," has been ... But enough of this April Fool malarkey; it's too late in the month.
This month, we take a look at a new play about the life of television host Marc Summers, at card magic through the eyes of a ten-year-old Londoner, at stage magic through the eyes of a six-year-old Milt Larsen, and at continued farewells to magical icons Irene Larsen and Paul Daniels, two who knew far better than most how to laugh.
A STAR IS BORN (2016) -- I recently had privilege and pleasure to introduce a ten-year-old visitor from England to card tricks. Although it was nice that his jaw dropped at what I was doing, it was immediately apparent that he wanted to perform his own miracles. I taught him two, one mathematical and one requiring modest sleight of hand, and his professional career was under way. There was no way I could persuade him to practice awhile before showing off his new powers, but I now chalk this up to admirable enthusiasm. "How do I learn more?" was the battle cry.
David teaches a trick.
How else? The internet. The next day, he fooled me with a fine trick he had learned online from David Blaine. I was amazed at how adeptly he lied about working with a shuffled deck. Check out David's trick. Some might call this exposure. I call it the perfect bit of teaching at the perfect time in a young magician's progress. Move over, Dynamo. A new star is on the rise.
A STAR IS BORN (1937) --Recently, one of the things I really enjoy is getting out my iPad, clicking on the iGenii app, then clicking on Issues, which brings up all the Genii covers back to the very first in 1936. I recently clicked on the November 1970 issue, with Milt Larsen on the cover (producing a dove from a top hat!), and was moved by something Bill Larsen Jr. said about his brother: “When only about six years old, he was the modus operandi of a spirit cabinet.”
Genii time machine.
As I am a longtime lover of the spooky side of magic, I wanted to hear about that, so suggested to Milt that he reminisce about it in his blog. To my surprise, he did! I won't spoil the story; you can check it out yourself in the April 11, 2016, installment of The Milt-ing Pot.
Some Milt Larsen covers.
That (November 1970) was a great issue of Genii, by the way, with Al Schneider’s Matrix and a lovely well-illustrated review of the 16th It’s Magic, featuring Blackstone Jr. et al.
I DOUBLE DARE YOU -- I first mentioned the Bloomington Playwrights Project (BPP) in December 2013, after witnessing its excellent production The Banana Tree. The BPP is a professional theatre devoted solely to new plays, serving both the Bloomington and national community. All this and it is magic-friendly. Its executive director Chad Rabinowitz is friends with Washington D.C. mentalist Max Major (who occasionally performs at the BPP), and yours truly once worked a private party there.
Marc about to be slimed.
The BPP's latest offering is Everything In Its Place/The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers starring (who else?) Marc Summers. Most will know Marc from his hosting duties on Nickelodeon's "Double Dare" and the Cooking Channel's "Unwrapped." The play follows Marc's life as a magician, a standup comic, a host who mentored under Bob Barker, and his rise to a household name who now is executive director of Dinner:Impossible and Restaurant:Impossible. On the serious side, the play also deals with Marc's life under OCD and encounters with a life-threatening disease and accident. But it's a fun play throughout, with a little close-up magic and a lot of Double Dare physical challenges. You might end up with a pie in the face or being slimed. In addition to Marc's excellent turn as the lead actor in his own story, he is assisted by the brilliant actor Mike Nappi who plays all the other characters in Marc's life, from Johnny Carson's casting agent to Marc's wife. The playwright is Alex Brightman, currently starring as the lead in the Broadway production of School of Rock. It all makes for a delightful evening that I hope is destined for bigger and better things. (Next stop for the play is the Adirondack Theatre Festival in Glens Falls, New York, in August.)
Lance performs The Magician's Assistant with Marc.
Ah, but though you may know Marc Summers from "Double Dare," I know him as the star of the 1986 Halloween special "Marc Summers Mystery Magical Tour." Shot at the Magic Castle, the show stars Marc along with three young kids and features Lance Burton and Tina Lenert. (You can watch it on YouTube.) I recently dug my old VHS copy out of the garage and watched it myself. The biggest surprise was that the little girl in the show was and therefore grew up to be Shiri Appleby, star of the tv series "Roswell," one of my favorites. What a small world this is.
It's a shame that so much space has had to be allotted to obituaries this year, to magi that we all loved. We continue ...
A ROYAL FAREWELL -- Following Irene Larsen's immediate remembrance reported last month, her family and friends hosted a more formal farewell at the packed Wilshire-Ebell Theatre, on April 5. The AMA seems to still have the event online here, and I hope you get to watch it. Be prepared for great photos, videos (one porno!), stories, jokes, tears, songs, and testimonials. I just watched it a second time and laughed and cried all over again. On the agenda were Erika, Dante, and Blair Larsen; granddaughters Lily, Jessica, and Liberty; Max Maven; Deanna and Luna Shimada; Johnny Thompson; Dale Hindman and Milt Larsen; Richard Kaufman and Randy Pitchford; Diana Zimmerman; Jim Steinmeyer; Jonathan Pendragon; Amazing Johnathan; Rich Bloch; Marvyn Roy; Siegfried; Tina Lenert; and a clown named Puddles. Lots of love is spread around.
Good night, Irene.
With all the interest in Irene, it's a nice time to think back on Bill Larsen. Bill gave us so much in Genii: the Steranko issues, the Charlie Miller Magicana years, the Vernon Touch, news from all the events he attended around the world, and of course news of the rise of the Magic Castle, at which he played a dominant role. I'll close this issue with a letter that Bill sent me in 1968. (Pay attention to the details: Friday and Saturday were members only nights at the Magic Castle, and the cover charge for remaining nights was a dollar!)
PAUL DANIELS -- Alan Howard wrote a great cover story on Paul Daniels for MAGIC, and Barry Murray followed with a similar piece for Genii. I'll exploit the occasion as another excuse to run a photo of "the lovely Debbie McGee" (and she is!), Paul's perfect assistant on stage and in life.
MAGIC honors Paul Daniels.
With the lovely Debbie McGee, 2004.
I was a fan of Paul Daniels, the guy himself even more than the magician; he seemed to take great joy in life, to get more out of it than most. As to his magic, he fooled me badly one year in Las Vegas with Nick Einhorn's self-levitation. Possibly the biggest laugh I've had in the last year or so came from a Paul Daniels joke. You can hear it in Scott Wells' most recent podcast with Paul, at themagicwordpodcast.com (Tea Time with Paul Daniels, hosted by Luis de Matos, July 2015). Look for it in Scott's archives.
A letter from Bill Larsen, 1968.
Congratulations, Kobe. What a finale.
April showers got you down? Curl up indoors with Lucas Mackenzie and The London Midnight Ghost Show. And ... stay tuned for the cover reveal for my next spooky novel.
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Little Egypt Magic is the erratically updated web site of Steve Bryant, spawned (the site, not Steve) by a former internet magazine known as The Little Egypt Gazette/for magicians only.
Steve Bryant is an obscure magician and writer who generates this site from an iMac in Bloomington, Indiana. He used to frequently journey to and perform magic in Little Egypt, the local name for extreme southern Illinois, where the towns bear such names as Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak.
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