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The town that magic built.
Well, this issue is special. Partly, it's special because it is illustrated with some really great professional photos from David Linsell, and partly because it covers two really special events -- the 75th Abbott's Get-Together (and my first) and the third (and my third) Essential Magic Conference online from Portugal. Both were terrific fun.
All of the people shots from Abbott's are David's, and I am so pleased to be able to run them. David is the photographer you want for your magic function. Visit with other magic friends in high res at David Linsell's web site.
Other items of note include a look back at a summer of trickery and at the new portable version of the Jinx Companion. We've been busy!
CAMP COLON -- The printed program for the Seventy-Fifth Annual Magic Get- Together sponsored by Abbott's Magic Company contains some delightful reminiscences by the likes of Stan Allen, David Seebach, David Linsell, Ardan James, Tom Mullica, Eugene Burger, and Mac King among others who also happened to be performing and lecturing this year. My own relationship with Abbott's (the company, not the Get-Together) goes back pretty far, beginning with a subscription to the The New Tops with its inaugural issue. My favorite columnists back in 1961 included Gene Gordon, George Johnstone, Sid Lorraine, Don Alan, Bob Nelson, Monk Watson, Tommy Windsor, Nick Trost, Neil Foster, Aldini, Dorny, Ren Fetzer, and Karrell Fox. Ed Marlo would later add to the list. The best trick I purchased from Abbott's was C'est Terrifique, which allowed you to turn a top hat into a bowl of goldfish. The best trick that I wanted but couldn't afford was Abbott's Chopping Block, which allowed you to chop off your assistant's head with a meat cleaver. I think it was $67.50, almost as much as a Super-X at $72.50.
Eventually, college interrupted some of my magic relationships and dreams, and I drifted away from my monthly association with a fine magic company. And those days were long before I had sufficient disposable income to attend magic conventions, hence I never attended one of those rustic Get-Togethers that I read about, featuring the likes of Duke Stern, Karrell Fox, and Jay Marshall.
Until this year. Abbott's 75th boasted a strong lineup of talent including Mac King, Michael Finney, Eugene Burger, and a gang of Long Beach Mystics, and Google Maps informed me that the place was only four hours away, so I figured it was time to trek into the boonies of Michigan and see what it was that made so many magicians not only want to party there but to be buried there. Talk about loyalty.
Regular attendees to the Get-Together tend to bunk with local citizens, both magicians and Muggles, which is not my cup of tea, hence I bunked twenty miles away in Coldwater in a Red Roof Inn whose location baffled my GPS. Given this, my first view of Colon came after a drive through the backroads of Michigan, past a few corn fields, until I came upon the main drag of a population-1200 village that reminded me of Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter series. The town revels in its association with magic, and the local ice cream parlor and pubs catered to our needs by advertising in the official publications and staying open late so that we could socialize and swap card tricks. The Amish folks seemed tightly integrated with the rest of the Colon community, and it was nice to see a young Amish couple laughing heartily at Bobby Maverick's brash street magic humor. The dealer room was in the local elementary school, and the lectures and shows were held in the high school. (You sat either in the bleachers or on folding chairs on the gym floor, not comfortable, but no one complained, and the savvy brought Bingo cushions on which to sit.) Stars bearing the names of magicians lined the sidewalks a la the Hollywood walk of fame, and the ghosts of Harry and Pete Blackstone, Jack Gwynne, Duke Stern, Bill Baird, Recil Bordner, Monk Watson, Robert Lund, Karrell Fox, Don Alan, Ricki Dunn, and Hank Moorehouse, among others, awaited in the cemetery. The town provided considerable fire and police assistance, filled the gym with lay audiences to complement the magician audiences, and set off fireworks after the Friday night gala.
Along with Abbott's, the program guide listed five invited dealers, but that hardly accounted for the dealers present. First, this tiny town counts not one but two full time brick and mortar magic dealers (the other is Rick Fisher's Fab Magic), and second, a parade of front yard dealers set up shop on the street leading to the high school. I don't know enough of Colon politics to know whether all these dealers were considered as parasites or as bonuses, but the average attendee seemed to enjoy them. Non-Abbott's related magicians did street magic, and both Fab Magic and independent pubs hosted their own talent shows.
Some of the guests made fashion statements.
As to the formal program, the undercurrent was an homage to 75 years of magical Get-Togethers. It would not be out of place to see Professor's Nightmare, Clippo, or the Six Card Repeat performed, or a classic manip act such as Dale Salwak's, the act that most reminds me of Neil Foster's. A few of my favorite moments follow:
I arrived early to catch Gabe Fajuri's lecture on Abbott's history, with its surprising revelation that Percy Abbott had a family (wife and children) in Australia before abandoning them after an evening show and bolting to America. This family is wholly unmentioned in Percy's autobiography.
Gabe reveals Abbott family secrets.
Usually it's the juggler who steals the show; this year it was the photographer. David Linsell received the first, most spontaneous, and longest standing ovation of the weekend for his photo tribute to 75 years of performances, mostly with his own photos. David has established himself as the go-to photographer for any modern magic convention.
David Seebach oversaw a delightfully spooky spirit cabinet routine, always one of my favorite exhibitions. David is great at the spooky stuff.
I considered skipping the talk by Adele Friel Rhindress, the one-time assistant to Blackstone, Sr., (for three seasons) as I had heard it before, but I'm glad I didn't. She managed to raise a lump in my throat with her story. Just a lovely lady, and most straightforward.
Veteran box jumper.
In the context of a card trick, Gay Blackstone introduced all the Blackstone grandkids. A nice bunch!
David Charvet became Harry Blackstone, Jr., for two classic Blackstone routines, the Bird Cage Vanish and the Dancing Hank. Time turned backward as Harry walked again. I had seen David a year ago with the Buzz Saw illusion and knew how amazing the resemblance was.
David Charvet becomes Harry Blacktone.
I watched some of the Abbott's stage contest (one year its one-two-three winners were Lance Burton, Jeff Hobson, and Mac King) and would definitely have placed a youngster, whose name I think was Caleb Boyer, ahead of the eventual winner. I never pick the right guy at these things.
Tom Mullica was transcendent. Years ago I didn't like it that Tom gave up magic to do Red Skelton full time. I thought, why be the second-best Red Skelton when he could be the first-best Tom Mullica? After seeing Tom do a substantial bit of his Skelton show, I stand corrected. I think he is now the first-best Red Skelton. Although he nails Red's voice and appearance, Tom's own humor and heart shine through, and the result is even funnier and more endearing. All of us, as Red and Tom both no doubt said at one point, had tears running down our legs.
Tom Mullica becomes Red Skelton.
Stan Allen, freshly back from the EMC in Portugal, proved once again that puppetry can be magical. Many around me hadn't seen Stuart before and were amazed.
Stan entrances a bunny.
Dana Daniels performed his whirlwind trifecta No Show, of which I crack up at the magic trick endings only. Dana has a funny parrot named Luigi, but not as funny as the foul-mouthed mechanical parrot I saw at Curly's (it kept squawking, "Polly wants a blow job" and other such witticisms).
Dana also did a closeup stint.
Tina Lenert rocked the gym with her lecture on connecting the dots. Does anyone else her age in magic look that good?
Tina sticks to the classics.
Ardan James creates magical effects with his body. His hat routine and his balloon routine are amazing feats of mime.
Ardan James defies gravity.
Michael Finney amazed me by getting away with his Lady Rope Routine for this very family-oriented crowd. He later taught it in his lecture.
If I was a knot, I'd be gone.
Mike Caveney fools me more than any other magician working today. I just don't know how he does what he does. (But maybe I will some day! See an important announcement in the EMC portion of this issue.) It was fun to see him do a closeup routine as well as a few of his standup classics.
Mike's close-up trick goes haywire.
Victor is a Long Beach Mystic and a former Abbott star.
Although I have seen bits and pieces many times, this was my first time to see Eugene Burger do a complete closeup set. Sooo mysterious. This was worth the drive up.
Eugene gets serious.
Mac King. This is the strongest act in Las Vegas and one that drives me crazy because Mac can do his entire show out of a little suitcase. Mac deviated from his norm by introducing his plaid suit as Jay Marshall's old suit rather than as his grandfather's. This led to several great lines throughout his act.
Let's see. Which thumb goes on top in the Thumb Tie?
The three funniest Mac King lines that I've never heard Mac King say before:
You had to be there to understand the context, but these were all screamingly funny.
Above and beyond the nuts and bolts of the weekend, this was an amazingly friendly convention. Everyone felt welcome, and I loved chatting with friends old and new. Some went way beyond the call of duty, such as Jerry Costello and his wife who threw two great parties at their cottage on the lake. But let's take it back to Abbott's, to Greg Bordner and the others in that black building with the skeletons on the front. They have been doing this a long, long time, and have created a family of magicians who regard Colon as their home away from home. My personal "homecoming" to Abbott's occurred on the first day, when I laid eyes at last on an Abbott's Chopping Block, the trick I had coveted back in my teens and which is only recently back on the market. As it is now $895, I can still only covet it, but it was oh so cool to finally see one.
The Chopping Block from my childhood.
OBRIGADO, LUIS, MARCO, AND DAVID -- To use a phrase of Paul Harris, one of its participants, the "level of discourse" at the third and final EMC was astonishing. For my first time in the last three outings, I had to watch the videos after the fact, and I found the watching riveting. Here were some of the best minds and best performers in magic, and standing before them, to borrow a phrase from Topas, was like standing before an assembly of Jedi knights. Huge thanks to Luis de Matos, Marco Tempest, and David Britland for three great years.
A few of my favorite moments ...
Best news out of EMC III: Mike Caveney is working on a new book of his material, and Eric Mead is working on a book of all Tim Conover's material. Teller already has a film version of Play Dead and is considering live versions in other cities. And David Blaine is a new dad!
Most inspiring talks at EMC III: Steve Cohen on his road to the Waldorf-Astoria (including a stint in Japan at the hotel featured in Lost in Translation), Dynamo on his road to British television fame (including his walk across the Thames), and David Williamson's being influenced by Quacky the Clown. (I'm serious.) And Gene Matsuura on Winston Freer, whose magic was so off the wall, including the levitation of a girl above a table, the creation of an entire universe inside a tennis ball, and linking three solid rings (this Gene demonstrated). Add David Blaine with his own success story and you have quite a list. I found myself applauding physically at these tales.
Gene Matsuura speaks of impossible Winston Freer effects.
Best tricks performed but not explained at EMC III: Armando Lucero's standup color changing cards and closeup Nudist deck. Max Maven's Panache card trick in which a selected card becomes blank (to be explained later). Cyril with flames leaping from the palm of his hand, closeup. Richard Wiseman doing Magic Square with numbered playing cards. Dani DaOrtiz's Card at any Number. Topas's orange juice teleportation. Derren Brown's shoe monte. Michel Clavello's vanish of a silk-covered coin from a girl's hand (both items). Eric Mead doing Tim Conover's version of the Ramsay Coins and Cylinder. Tina Lenert's linking ring through arm. Gaeton Bloom's card to impossible location. And the best of the lot: Luis Piedrahita doing Matrix with four coins and two small squares of thin bubble wrap. You could see the coins through the bubble wrap, and they just blinked into and out of existence as they migrated about the table.
Luis Piedrahita with a stunning visible Matrix.
Richard Wiseman with a commercial Magic Square routine.
Best magic tricks performed and explained at EMC III: Tom Stone's Benson Burner. David Williamson's 10s become Jacks become Aces become Kings, and so on. Yigal Mesika's rising bill. Woody Aragon's Finding Your Other Half. Steve Cohen's Malini Brick Trick. Daniel Madison's pocket index. Graham Jolley's Koran Countdown (newspaper prediction). Luis de Matos's incredibly complex Angry Birds prediction. Guy Hollingworth's utility deception for numerous card tricks. Michel Clavello's Invisible Hand, a great holdout that allows silk vanishes, the Neff rope trick, and much more. Mike Caveney's Valadon vanish of a girl from a table top, titled Well I'm.
Best moments with the ladies: Debbie McGee's firm handle on the role of a magician's assistant, and Tina Lenert's detailed history on the development of Mr. Mop Man.
Funniest moments at EMC III: Any time Bill Malone opened his mouth, and Armando Lucero's zany alter ego.
Most unique voice at EMC III: There is no one in magic like Marco Tempest. His appearances are always pure pleasure. Check out his TED talk on Tesla.
Marco Tempest: Is he live or is he Memorex?
Best lists at EMC III: Stan Allen's Things to Think About (continued from the previous two EMCs) and Bill Kalush's amazing list of card tricks found in really old books.
Best performing advice (often conflicting): Eric Mead, Bill Malone, Paul Harris, Armando Lucero, and Paul Daniels.
From Svengali: which box conceals Derren's shoe?
It wasn't perfect -- remote interviews with Derren Brown and Teller had technical difficulties (they will be completed later and provided on the DVDs) -- but it was far better, as usual, than most conventions you will attend live. I've omitted mention of fascinating panel discussions, individual interviews, and surprise guests. Check these out for yourself. The complete sessions are still available. Buy them, thrill to them, be inspired by them.
THOSE LAZY, HAZY, CRAZY DAYS OF SUMMER -- You are supposed to know only six tricks. Although this would make life much easier and would make you a better magician, you would be denying yourself a lot of the fun that you encounter from discovering and mastering new material. There is so much available these days through books, magazines, DVDs, and the internet that keeping abreast of what is out there is daunting, much less trying to master any of it. Fortunately (or not, depending on the point of view), I continued to do “Magic Mondays” this summer, a weekly lunch session with some children of my day job colleagues, which consumed eight new tricks a week. These same kids already experienced my A material years ago and expected new A material weekly, hence this was a huge drain on the repertoire. What follows is a list of some of what worked out quite well, and I hope it encourages you to try some of it.
Missing Player -- From Dani DaOrtiz’s Utopia. The specs shuffle all the cards, deal five hands in any order, and fill those five hands. The magician gets a royal flush. A self working miracle poker deal.
Duplex -- Bill Goodwin’s and Gordon Bean’s killer mystery with the ace, 2, 3, and 4 of any suit, from Evolution.
Business Card Prediction -- From Dani again. Prediction text is printed on the backs of various magic business cards. As you turn them over, you home in on the selected card. A funny climax here.
Finding Your Other Half -- Woody Aragon’s popular spectator interaction trick with four cards each.
Three Frog Monte -- Any of three realistic rubber frogs can be made to squeak at will. “If you want to marry a prince, you know what you have to do.”
Three frogs walked into a bar ...
Gary Plants Rising Cards -- One of my two favorite methods. Now that we all carry iPhones, we have music with us at all times. I did this to the theme from Dark Shadows, and the kids loved the spooky accompaniment.
Upton/Smith Rising Cards -- My other favorite method, again with the spooky music.
Spectator Cuts to the Aces -- Two fine methods from the Malone/Marlo DVDs.
Cannibals and Zombies -- Straight out of Little Egypt Card Tricks. A closer combining strong ideas from Bob Stencel and Bert Allerton.
Marlo’s Perfect Stop Trick -- An old one for me, but a new touch from Bill Malone raises the ante on how deceptive this is. (From the Malone/Marlo DVDs.)
Marlo’s Simple Triumph -- One of the easiest Triumphs you can do yet will fool magicians. From Bill Malone's Here I Go Again DVDs from L&L. These of course are also great fun to watch.
Spectator Cuts and Counts Down to the Aces -- Great followup to Spectator Cuts to the Aces. Did this as a running gag through the summer, with the same little girl cutting to the aces. What luck!
Card Artistry -- Justin Flom’s great trick with which you “paint” the Mona Lisa with playing cards and she identifies the selected card for you.
You Spelled It, You Dealt It -- David Williamson’s wacky spelling trick from his Vanishing, Inc. lecture download.
Slop Shuffle -- Still a masterpiece from Sid Lorriane.
Vice Versa -- A Jim Ryan classic and a terrific out if a previous trick messes up. This is how I first saw it done after a young lady failed with the Slop Shuffle trick.
Devilish Miracle – Lots of methods out there. I favor Jim Ryan’s.
Deep Throat -- More Jim Ryan influence, getting silly with a flashlight and a Superman theme. From Little Egypt Card Tricks.
Return to Motel 666 -- A scary interlude from The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts.
Duffie Deep Sixed – A closer from The Little Egypt Book of Numbers. The specs have no clue.
One Deck Do As I Do – The first trick I performed after joining the Magic Castle in 1968. I have always attributed this to Jay Ose (it was published under his name in Genii and in Vernon’s Ultimate Card Secrets), but I recently found it published earlier in Al Baker's Magical Ways and Means (1941).
Super-Clean Ace Assembly – This Marlo ace assembly fooled me badly. From the Malone/Marlo DVDs.
The Unexpected Prediction -- A Marlo comedy presentation for anywhere, any time, any deck. From the Malone/Marlo DVDs.
Forte's No Look Aces -- You really shuffle the deck, show no aces on the top or bottom, then cut to an ace, four times in a row. Looks like the real thing. From Bill Malone's Here I Go Again DVDs.
Comedy Blackjack -- I used jumbo cards, dealing myself a seven and a fourteen of spades.
The Match Game -- I just made that title up. This was a new card matching routine that Caleb Wiles showed me at the TFD convention.
26! – Caleb Wiles’ masterpiece, from High Spots.
Invisible 21 -- Jack Parker’s version of the 21-Card Trick in which the selected card vanishes. From Racherbaumer’s excellent The 21-Card Trick.
Mr. E Takes a Stroll -- The best trick in John Guastaferro’s One Degree. A very sneaky takeoff on Bro. John Hamman’s Signed Card.
Assembly Line -- From Ready Set Guastaferro, John’s latest e-book. The four jacks vanish from packets held by three spectators to assemble in the packet held by the fourth.
Heavy Breather -- My favorite Allan Slaight trick, from Spins and Needles. The aces are freely buried in different parts of the deck, the magician deals ten hands and gets them. It is quite funny and deceptive when he fails to get the fourth ace and eventually gets it on the next round. Then he offers to deal five, six, or seven hands and gets the royal flush.
Triple Humdinger -- A lovely Peter Duffie bar trick in which you write three predictions on three napkins.
Beyond the Veil -- A friend in the spirit world identifies two selected cards. This summer I peered into a crystal ball to contact him. In The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts and in The Little Egypt Gazette, British issue.
Deep Astonishment -- Paul Harris’s masterpiece. See The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts for my mnemonic.
Well-Timed Miracle -- Tom Stone’s cool trick with a Svengali deck from Maelstrom. Instead of a real watch, I used a watch app on my iPhone.
Mullica Wallet -- I used Bill Abbott’s “autographs” routine from his DVD on close-up kid magic. Great reaction.
Chop Cup – Our big finale show this summer featured a sports theme, hence final loads of a large golf ball and a tennis ball. After decades of toying with this prop, I’ve finally settled on a fast routine that works for me, standing or sitting.
Torn and Restored Card -- From George Kaplan’s Fine Art of Magic (and inspired by seeing Doc Eason do a version). The torn pieces are dropped into a manila pay envelope through which you thread a ribbon. (In the sports theme act, the ribbon came from "my early years doing rhythmic gymnastics.") I used a card one of the kids had signed in a previous week, so this upped the mystery.
Who says less is more? What did you do for your summer vacation?
JINXED AGAIN -- Back in May 2011, when I reviewed the excellent Jinx Companion by Craig Conley, Gordon Meyer, and Fredrick Turner, I argued that it was delightful, clever, witty, thorough, and beautiful. Add to that list of adjectives portable. The Jinx Companion has now been issued as an iBook, the first in magic in this format from Apple. Just go to the iBook store and you'll find it at a bargain price of $8.95. You can install it on your iPad along with a full run of the Jinx itself and provide yourself with a guided tour that will last you hours and hours.
A Jinx activity kit for your iPad.
Congratulations to London for a terrific Olympics.
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 frequently journeys to and performs 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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