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The new look of MAGIC Live lecture notes.

Last month's July issue considered the SAM convention in Indianapolis, Raj Madhok's Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser, Lewis Jones's Top Deck, Angel Idigora's Adventures of 51 Magicians and a Fakir, a Penguin ad journal, and Magic Castle library videos.

August 2016

Dang. If you leave town for five days, it takes a while to catch up.

For five days I enjoyed Las Vegas, attending MAGIC Live 2016 (the eighth!), and there are a few notes on it below. To the incredible magicians with whom I spent time, thanks for being there, and double bonus points to a few who actually brought me gifts!

There isn't enough of August left to get to the Lovick or So Sato book, so I hope to address them next month. Both look fabulous.

Also discussed below are a magazine article on Simon Aronson and his pals, John Bannon's new book Mentalissimo, Bill Malone's Penguin lecture, and a local magic show performance by Caleb Wiles.

As mentioned last month, the big bookstores are now taking pre-orders for McGrave's Hotel. Spooky! You can make reservations today.

CELEBRATING SILVER -- This is not a comprehensive review of MAGIC Live 2016. That's so last year, when I wrote up a full review of MAGIC Live 7 for Stan's magazine ("Adventureland," in the October issue of MAGIC). Rather, it's an anecdotal list of 25 events or encounters that I enjoyed over five days as MAGIC celebrated its 25th anniversary, abbreviated from a much longer list. These are in no particular order.

I love the Orleans' 70-lane bowling alley.

1. Yummies. The celebration opened with thousands of cupcakes and closed three nights later, as it did the year before, with a swell full pasta dinner. Dee-licious.

Thousands of cupcakes.

2. The jacket! The swag at MAGIC Live events is usually a bag or a padfolio, nice but we've been there. This year, in addition to a commemorative deck of cards and personalized room keys, we each received a really nice jacket. I'll be wearing mine when fall days arrive. Too bad about you guys who live in Hawaii. (BTW, my mug shot sucked this year, so I won't be subjecting you to the annual badge photo.)

3. Stage standouts. Lately my least favorite part of any convention is the big stage show. Partly my Thurber-like vision doesn't allow me to see much (I need large-screen video to have a clue as to what manipulators are doing), partly I am jaded. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a few moments: Joseph Gabriel's dove act, Christopher Hart's music and hand magic, Jinger Leigh's very pretty floating ball, and David Williamson's harassment of four kids. Rocky still kills. But the best: Amazing Johnathan on stage making me laugh again. When he announced a 2017 return to magic, Mac King stormed on stage and kicked over his props.

4. It's Magic! Milt Larsen showed me a first copy of his new book, Sixty Year Celebration It's Magic! Anniversary. I collaborated on the book with Milt and Carol Marie, so it was a delight to see it. Huge thanks to Randy Pitchford for financing this full-color hardback volume. Look for it before the 60th anniversary show in October.

Milt's new book, 60 years in the making!

5. Ice cream with Scott Wells and Don Wiberg. Scott showed me a cool prediction with cocktail napkins, and Don had a hilarious anecdote about Mr. Ash, Al James, and a third magician all showing up for the same birthday party gig.

6. Ice cream with John Bannon. It was fun to talk about his new book (Mentalissimo), his tricks Chronic and AK-47, and Lewis Jones's trick Avalanche.

7. Chatting with David Starr. David created the art deco designs that characterized the whole party, from our room keys on arrival to the gratis decks of cards to the stage proscenium. (He also created last year's fabulous Indiana Jones-like Adventure look.) I first met David at the world premiere of Brett Daniels' Wohscigam show. Quite a night!

Even the room keys looked great.

8. Chatting with Raj Madhok about his new book (Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser, reviewed last month) and Peter Duffie's Triple Humdinger. Great trick. Do you know it?

Jared Kopf, as Vernon, cutting silhouettes.

9. Chatting with Bill Goodwin about the Library video series in the Magic Castle newsletter. I love these. Look for Bill to perform something new from the Walton 3 book.

10. Walking with Joe Hanosek past the Flamingo Hilton, where my mom once won $50,000 on a slot machine. It was just before Christmas. Mom always had great timing.

At the Flamingo Hilton, where Mom won $50,000.

11. Stan Allen's first "news' letter. Since 2006 Mike Caveney's "Classic Correspondence" column has annotated 72 letters and filled three beautiful and fascinating books. Mike's latest is a 47-year-old letter from Stan Allen himself. Prophetic. (Speaking of classic letters, I checked a 25-year-old letter that I had written myself, as Stan had invited me to submit a Letter to the Editor to Issue number 1. I am pleased upon reading it to realize that Stan has taken my advice several times over the years.)

Stan had the coolest shoes at the Gatsby party.

12. Channeling Ernie Kovaks. Luis Piedrahita exposes magic, at least wacky methods, on his television show in Spain. If you see Luis float in the air, is it because A, B, or C, where C is "a crane raises and lowers the entire room"? You guessed it: C. He has concocted such methods for several seasons.

13. The Dailies. Years ago, the daily notes were three-hole-punched sheets that you stuck into a three-ring binder, last year they were nostalgic treasure maps, and this year they were mock issues of MAGIC magazine. These were excellent daily summaries of what we saw, detailed card tricks taught, and additional content such as Alan Howard's "The Story of MAGIC," a complete illustrated timeline. Are these "real" issues? With 25 years behind us, 25 Legacy issues ahead, and four Dailies, this should confuse the serious collector.

14. "Parallax." Max Maven has long been a favorite and varied columnist (my all-time fav was The Inquisition, in Genii), and it was fun to revisit his MAGIC column that began in Issue 2. Commenting on the state of magic, he now considers himself a pragmatic optimist ("The glass is a quarter full").

15. Michael Weber is also a favorite commentator, though I didn't find his Update comments as biting as they might have been in the past. Even more enjoyable was his Session speech "The Drink That Fooled Einstein," a highly visible rendition of the effect, accompanied by a new theory regarding Koran's boast.

16. To round off this trio, the more stinging comments these days belong to Master Payne, who scored big laughs and my approval for challenging an attempt to make magic an art by Congressional decree. It's like some mad Wizard of Oz ending.

17. Back-handed compliments to a horrible magician. Mike Caveney provided ten, these were very popular, and fortunately were reprinted in one of the Dailies. The only one I knew before was "You were never better' which came in at number 3.

Selfie with my pal Jack White.

18. Marc McGuire teaching me an impressive impromptu deck suspension.

19. Mac King encouraging me to leave the convention and fly to Los Angeles to catch Derek DelGaudio's show. If only! (I was secretly hoping it would be a surprise one-man convention show.)

20. Practical close-up magic you can do. MAGIC has taught an impressive body of magic in 25 years, and three of its trick columnists did so in live Session: Steve Reynolds, Josh Jay, and Richard Kaufman. All great stuff and spelled out for us in the Dailies. I've always been keen on Josh's oddball Any Card at Any (Page) Number routine. In his "Practical and Performable" Focus Session, Daryl taught similarly useful material, with amazing enthusiasm.

21. Medical assistance. Jeff McBride packs an extraordinary amount of practical advice into his "Show Doctor ICU" lecture. My favorite take away from the session was an impromptu floating card routine that he learned from Leah Orleans when she was twelve.

Entering the museum.

The Mr. Electric exhibit included a genuine Marvyn Roy.

22. Early in the convention, someone asked what I had enjoyed most so far. That was easy: a hug from Julie Eng. Julie's General Session talk inspired everyone with her life history and with her current work as program director of Magicana and director of My Magic Hands (an educational program for children in at-risk communities) and Senior's Sorcery (a program bringing magical entertainment to seniors). An amusing incident occurred later when someone mistook Gene Matsuura for her father. "You must be so proud of her."

23. Poetry! The star turn highlight of the convention was Johnny Thompson and Penn Jillette reciting The Gambler's Ballad or An Incident at Jake's Saloon. This marathon ode was a joy rendered by two masters. At one point Johnny lost his place a bit, and Penn steered him back on course as if it were part of the act. Capital!

24. Sessioning, the old-fashioned kind. Although this has never worked particularly well at the Orleans, kudos to Stan for trying and for those who made it successful. A room ("The Back Room Bar & Sessioning Lounge") was set aside on the convention level with a bar open seven to midnight and sponsored by Bicycle Playing Cards, including a playing card vending machine. I found it most often anchored by Allan Ackerman, and he fooled me badly with a squeaky clean ace assembly using Steve Reynolds' deck. Rumors are that the gatherings sometimes went until two A.M (as I slept).

Bicycle playing card vending machine.

25. Formal close-up. "The Close-Up Experience" this year was "traditional," that is, a stellar lineup of talent in a normal setting (as opposed to the changing venues of MAGIC Live 2 or the "Stars of Magic" theme of MAGIC Live 7). No complaints about the talent. Steve Valentine hosted and fried me with a vanishing stack of decks and an endless production of silks from some little metal gizmo. France's Bebel, FISM winner's Pierric, Jared Kopf, and Charlie Frye rounded out the talent. Impressive to witness Jered's unique personality rather than Vernon's, and what can I say about Charlie Frye? Charlie transcends magic and belongs to the very upper level of showbiz superstars. This was my first time to see him do close-up magic, stuff with cards and coins I've never seen from anyone before. Has anyone ever been this good? Perhaps Ballantine, Channing Pollock, Mr. Electric? Hey, do you remember who performed close-up at the first MAGIC Live? Answer at the bottom of the page.

26. Escape! The High Roller at the Linq in Las Vegas is a 550-foot tall ferris wheel, the world's largest. Each passenger pod holds up to 40 brave souls. From this, magician Mat Franco escaped (that is, vanished!) and immediately appeared in the center of the contraption. At MAGIC Live, he told us how!

Mat Franco vanished from this thing, 550 feet up!

27. Shades of Tron! Did you ever went to be inside a video game? My gamer grandson would love The Void, an immersive video game in which you run about inside it, with friends, feeling water, wind, and heat, as you try to avoid whatever monsters and perils the parallel universe throws at you. Designer Curtis Hickman explained the jump from virtual reality to hyper-reality. (Too bad this couldn't have been a MAGIC Live immersive experience.) Check it out at thevoidcom.

28. Close-up Clinic. This could have been the paradigm for an entire convention. As last year, a team of nine or so close-up experts were on hand to share their expertise. You could move from performer to performer for an hour. I sat at Allan Ackerman's table and didn't move. A professional teacher and brilliant card handler, he is just the best and taught us how he fooled us in the Back Room.

Posers could put themselves in cover photos.

Stan assembled the real cover boys for a group photo.

29. Autographing a copy of The Little Egypt Book of Numbers. Thanks, A. Marshall Peterson of H&R still has copies and still gets compliments from new readers.

30. Lovely! I had planned on this being a book-buying convention, and indeed picked up the John Bannon book, the John Lovick book, and the So Sato book. Sometimes, a surprise book makes an appearance, as happened a few years ago with Gordon Meyer's Jinx Companion (also with Craig Conley and Fredrick Turner). This convention's surprise was The Spirit of Magic, a stunning full-color 138-page collection of David Linsell photos. David is magic's best and hardest-working photographer, a most valued friend, and recently a 50-year veteran of Abbott's. Ever since 1976, The World's Greatest Magic (by Hyla Clark, photos by Paul Levin) has been my favorite inspirational magic photo collection. This book is even better. E-mail David at to check availability. Limited edition.

David Linsell's masterpiece.

Stunning photography.

OK, so it was 25 for "large values of 25." We're over the limit, and I haven't even touched on Lance Burton's intro speech, Martin Lewis's gravity pull, Meir Yedid's insanely nifty gadgets, the jaw-dropping museum, Mark Haslam's and Gordon Bean's The Secret Class cabaret show, my San Diego buddies, Bizzaro, whatever the heck 25 Legacy issues will be, and much more. But I am running out of August so am signing off on this thing.

WEEKLY WIZARDS -- Over the years there have been pockets of white-hot magical creativity -- the cafeteria at 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue in New York, the Chicago Round Table at Drake's, the Marlo Table at the Three Bears and the Palladium, the Long Beach Mystics, the Magic Castle in Hollywood -- that have generated both star performers and star material. For the past 25 years, such a prolific group has been convening on Saturday mornings on the 29th floor of a Chicago highrise, namely David Solomon, John Bannon, Simon Aronson (it's his place), and newbie David Finkelstein. This month Chicago Magazine featured the gang in its pages and online here. A very nice article, including footage of John Bannon performing. Enjoy.

The four amigos.

And speaking of Mr. Bannon, let's turn to his latest effort ...

I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING -- We've praised John Bannon many times over the years. His material is a nice fit to my capabilities, and his methods are warmly satisfying, with just the right amount of skulduggery. If you want to channel your inner Dunninger or Kreskin, John's latest book, Mentalissimo, is the book for you. When I asked him in Las Vegas what he thought of it, he proudly stated that "it has a nice cover." Indeed it does, like the cover of a pulp mystery magazine.

Pulp mentalism.

Weighing in at 216 pages hardback, Mentalissimo contains some 20 items and counting. I say "counting" because this is a chatty work, sometimes with multiple setups for a trick and sometimes multiple revelations. One can imagine dropping in on one of the Saturday sessions and experiencing this sort of language.

All the items are completely workable, and most begin with "Think of a card, any card at all." Despite the uniform excellence, I'll mention a few favorites.

Collusion. Two speks create a card and a number. The actual card winds up at that position.

Proximity. You read the spek's mind and select two cards to prove it. Four times out of thirteen you divine the correct card. The rest of the time, you surprisingly divine its exact location. This is all with a shuffled deck! I love this and am already performing it.

Mundo. An in-your-hands OOTW with a great kicker. This is fun to do.

Big Bad Add. Two speks arrange random pairs of cards to form two-digit numbers that add to a predicted total. This seems impossible and comes with a sucker climax.

AK-47. Reprised from Destination Zero, where I liked it before. This seems like real mind reading.

Lost in Translation. Three forced cards (two great methods supplied) lead to a great Christian Painter gag climax.

Go-Figuration. You and the spek magically produce four of a kind. This too begins with a shuffled deck. No setup.

Proxy Shock. (And its variants.) A physically selected card morphs into a mentally selected card.

Blank Thought Remix. A mentally selected card "appears" between two jokers, then as a blank card between the jokers, and then to the real thing. The method will make you smile.

Geez, I should have mentioned only five. The book is handsomely produced by Squash Publishing, and each trick leads off with an epigraph. I was surprised at how eclectic the sources were, including Danica McKellar (was there ever a Winnie Cooper in your life?) and Cindy Crawford. Highly recommended. $55.

YET ANOTHER CHICAGO LAD -- When it comes to instructional DVDs, it's easy to list my favorite collections: Bill Malone's On the Loose, Bill Malone's Here I Go Again, and Malone Meets Marlo. I keep them handy in my office and watch them frequently for both education and entertainment. Why? What's the common denominator? That's easy: they are all produced by Louis Falanga, and Louis hires some fantastic looking young ladies to populate the audience. I could watch for hours. (Insert a great Harrison Greenbaum joke.) Oh, yeah; that Bill Malone guy isn't bad either.

If you want to study Bill's work, I suggest buying all three sets. If you can afford only one, I'd go with the Marlo set, and Bill himself also recommends this. Just great material and not too difficult.

Bill tells all.

But what if you already own all three L&L sets and still need a new Bill Malone fix? Ah, the answer is the subject of this piece: the Penguin Bill Malone Live lecture for only $29.95. It's a 190-minute visit with Bill in the familiar Penguin format, including interjections from and conversations with Dan Harlan. A random smattering of the content incudes Steve Forte advice on jogs, lots of praise for Mr. Forte in general, potent gags, advice on card handling in general, the Optical Shuffle, a Ben Earl false shuffle (looks great), a Marlo Ribbon Spread Palm, an Edward Victor money count gag, details of the Vernon vs. Marlo multiple shift, Bob Stencel on the Elmsley count and palming and Triumph, Marlo's Triumph including how to set it up, tales of Bill starring on "NCIS," and the funniest adlib Bill ever came up with. And the best take away from the entire visit? Bill is finally working on a book of his stuff. I love the Penguin lectures, and this immediately became a favorite. Instant download, $29.95.

SURPRISE! -- I've written of the Bloomington Playwrights Project (BPP) in the past, Bloomington's professional theater devoted to new plays. (A Marc Summers bio play was a recent example.) This week I attended a $100-a-plate BPP fundraising gala whose theme was Surprise. Following a notable dinner (salad, pork chop glazed with pomegranate and blueberry creme de cassis, herbed goat cheese polenta, and roasted baby root vegetables followed by vanilla/Kirsch mousse served with brandied cherries), live auction items, and a few wacky surprises, the host introduced the big surprise of the evening, magician Caleb wiles.

Caleb Wiles entertains.

Video made close-up accessible.

I've often seen Caleb lecture and/or session, and you all know him from his books and Genii column, but this was the first time I've seen him hold forth before a large, theater-seasoned, well-to-do lay audience. He easily took command, holding the audience in rapt attention as much with his words as with his wizardry. (I didn't appreciate until later how well-written the show was; there were absolutely no hack lines. Indeed, nothing sounded like "lines.") Caleb's stage persona is that of a math nerd, and he emphasized this with Rubik's cube demonstrations as well as card magic. Following his (stand-up) opening Rubik's cube effect, card magic, and a nifty Pegasus Page-type book test, he shifted the scene to table card magic, rendered to us on large video screens. This was the highlight for me, including a Kurtzian Ambitious Card, repeated four kings productions, Invisible Palm Aces, Monte, and Triumph, among others. The sleight of hand was squeaky clean, fun to watch. Thanks to perfect audio and video, the audience, especially the ladies at my table, gasped and shrieked at every minor revelation. Caleb closed with a blindfolded Rubik's cube solution that took up to 45 seconds, and I realized this was the sort of thing Houdini tapped into as the audience held its breath, watching something real.

Caleb has been working with BPP's magic-savvy Producing Artistic Director, Chad Rabinovitz, on honing a commercial one-man show, and this show was evidence that he is well down that path.



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Close-up stars at MAGIC Live 1: Paul Gertner, Guy Hollingworth, Chad Long, Bill Malone, and the Buck twins. Not bad!

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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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