Note ye ed's email address:

Finally unearthed: The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts from H&R Magic Books.
It's to die for!
Check out Jamy Ian Swiss' review in our Bookstore.

December 2009

While attempting to cope last month with the passing of the amazing Carl Ballantine, it startled me to realize that I have subscribed to Genii magazine for over 50 years. It is correct to say that Genii has influenced me more than any other source in magic, especially during my formative years when it was under Bill Larsen's rule, and I have continued to thoroughly enjoy it under Richard Kaufman's. I still feel like the fourteen-year-old boy who first sent off his six bucks for a year's subscription, and I wonder where the time has gone. To address that question, we'll take a look back at the dozen issues that influenced me the most along the way.

For those who are still looking for last-minute gifts, H&R Magic Books stocks not only my The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts, the contents of which haunted many Halloween parties this year, but the sleeper among my H&R offerings, The Little Egypt Book of Numbers. Cursed from the get-go by its title (many still falsely assume it is a book of mathematical tricks), it should have been titled The Little Egypt Book of Killer Bar Magic, for that is what it contains. Here, as I have stated before, are "items that should baffle anyone, items that get people wet, items that are sexy, items that are seriously frightening, one that will get you kissed, and one that might result in your mom washing your mouth out with soap." If you want to have fun in a bar with a deck of cards, this is the book for you. Check the reviews in our Bookstore.

Rounding out this special "old Genii" issue are a brief mention of Sandy Marshall's new book and a terrific lecture on DVD from J.C. Wagner. J.C. is currently dealing with medical issues, and I wish him the best.

Meanwhile, to all of you, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

THE BILL LARSEN YEARS -- It's astonishing to realize that I have been doing anything for as long as 50 years, and still eagerly look forward to its continuing. Such it is with my Genii subscription. For 40 or so of those years, my impressionable years, Bill Larsen surprised and delighted me monthly. When Richard Kaufman took over, he increased the incidence of spectacular issues, though it is unfair for me to pick favorites from his reign because I had the pleasure of contributing feature articles to quite a few. (Of those I didn't, the recent Jinx issue and the November 2000 Michael Skinner issue are particular favorites.) I'll address the Kaufman era in a future installment.

As to the Larsen era, Bill Larsen contributed enormously through the pages of Genii to my feelings about magic and about how to live life in general. I came to love magic, the Magic Castle, and California itself, where my children were born and where my best friends, in and out of magic, still reside. Here are a dozen issues that helped shape a life.

Genii at 25.

September 1960 -- For a magazine that had been averaging 36 pages, Genii's 104-page silver anniversary issue with its shiny cover was a whopper of a surprise. Stellar highlights included "1-2-3-4 Elevator Cards" by Frank Garcia, a complete close-up act by Franklin Davis, "Come Back Card" by Ed Marlo, a great two-card card stab by Sam Berland, a floating card by Gerald Kosky, a girl from cake illusion by Sir Felix Korim, and lots of wonderful ads, including a full-page Owen Brothers penned by Lin Searles.

May 1961 -- The Irish issue! The case was made that Dai Vernon and Faucett Ross were Irish, and they along with Hubert Lambert contributed "Emerald Isle Aces," a killer self-working ace production. This issue thrilled me with the level of the magic, also including Hubert Lambert's "And the Corner Fits," Gus Southall's "Encore Card Through Table," Albert Le Bas' miser's dream routine, and Lewis Ganson's production of four bird cages. Himber's best ad was for his "Double or Nothin' Pitcher" (only 25 made at $30), and Ken Allen's nifty ad page featured the Chinatown coins and "Scoop" (a great coin vanish). I bought both of Ken's offerings, couldn't afford Himber's.

Genii goes green.

Genii is cool: the Steranko issue.

November 1962 -- As you can tell from the distressed cover, this is the issue I read the most. Although I was secretly excited over Himber's ads featuring a girl in a tiny bikini, the Steranko material excited me as well and started me down the road of loving card magic. The Steranko section was literally a book within a magazine, with seven strong card tricks illustrated with copious photos, plus a full-page review of The Ultimate Move, the book that Steranko never released despite or because of copies circulating on the underground. Elsewhere, as usual, Ed Mishell wrote trick reviews in "Tricks of the Trade" and Lloyd E. Jones wrote book reviews in "Light from the Lamp," each a refreshing one page.

The Willard issue.

July 1963 -- I was in my early 40s before I had sufficient disposable income and sufficient disposable time to attend magic conventions. Prior to that, Bill Larsen and his Genii stringers attended for me, and their writings made me feel I was there. This issue was the first convention oriented issue to make a huge impression on me, with Frances Marshall reporting on the IBM Convention in Knoxville, Bill Larsen himself on the PCAM in San Diego (Art Baker, John Daniel, Anverdi, Frakson, Marion Chavez, etc.), and Ed Mishell on Lou Tannen's Jubilee (Don Lawton, Sam Horowitz, Senator Crandall, Gen Grant, Barclay Shaw, etc.). But it was the Frances Marshall Knoxville report that did the trick, almost all of it devoted to Willard the Wizard and his beautiful daughter Frances. I came to love the Spirit Cabinet and everything else this amazing Willard did. The trick section in this issue also earned high marks with William Larsen Sr.'s "Fatima," "The Magazine Memory Feat," and "Pseudo Psychometry." Bill Jr. this month, when not attending conventions for me, was working at CBS on "The Danny Kaye Show."

October 1964 -- Steranko returns, this time with escapes instead of cards. "Steranko's World of Escapes" was a 48-page (!) book within a magazine characterized by its avant-garde layout, its numerous photos of the handsome young escape artist (still coiffed myself with a crew cut, I coveted Steranko's hair!), and its dynamic artwork that would foreshadow Steranko's career as one of the world's best known comic illustrators. Although I never caught the "escape" bug, Steranko's artwork instilled in me the notion that magic could be cool, even sexy.

The escape issue.

"Magicana" takes off.

November 1964 -- Charlie Miller's "Magicana," a self-proclaimed "magazine within a magazine," began in this issue, running for hundreds of months and presenting some of the best material being developed and shown at the Magic Castle along with Charlie's fascinating ruminations about life and magic. Its quality was often stellar (the fifth installment would be Larry Jennings' Chop Cup routine), and many of the routines would be parlor rather than merely close-up effects. If Richard Kaufman ever publishes the entire set, it will be one of the top five books in magic, and an arguable rival to the $1000 Cervon Notebooks as a record of the era.

Mickey O'Malley's Magic Coloring Book.

December 1964 -- I miss the old Genii Christmas issues, usually depicting a Christmas tree with photos of Larsen family member heads adorning it like baubles. In this issue Bill inserted a surprise gift, a 24-page coloring book by Mickey O'Malley and Frank Garcia. It was a kick to receive something like this, just as it was to receive the recent Jinx insert. What a nice magazine.

January 1965 -- This Leo Behnke cover issue influenced me more than any other; it's the one that made me fall in love with the Magic Castle. Bill printed much of this "Magic Castle second anniversary issue" on special paper to give it an elegance, including an eight-page photo spread on the Castle itself. Lou Derman explained what his Friday Night Lou act was all about. Superb magic included a complete Castle act by Fred Shields, an edge marking system by Gerald Kosky, a clever math trick by Leo, "Cutting the Aces" by Dai Vernon, and the first trick I would eventually perform after becoming a Castle member -- Jay Ose's "Do As I Do with One Pack." Possibly the only person to enjoy this issue more than me was Milt. (In case you hadn't noticed, this makes four issues in a row that Bill hit out of the park!)

The Magic Castle issue.

An artistic triumph.
October 1966 -- I love issues that get me excited about magic, and one way to do that is to grace clever magic ideas with ground breaking art, such as we encountered in Steranko on Cards. In this case, a 27-page insert by Mickey O'Malley -- part biography, part magical instruction -- did that for me. In my younger days, I enjoyed performing Mickey's "Tri-Cut," a one-hand triple cut. Elsewhere in the magazine was a full-page ad for The Pallbearers Review, 12 issues for $3.60.

August 1984 -- No one comes up with as many illusion ideas as Paul Osborne or draws them in such a way as to suggest that you might look tall and handsome and mysterious on stage performing them. Paul has contributed hundreds of ideas to Genii, and continues to do so. The first special Paul Osborne illusion issue contained 17 pages of great ideas from Paul, my favorites being "The Lady from the Light" and "Out of Thin Air," two very practical productions of a young lady. I've rarely performed illusions, but Paul Osborne makes it fun to dream.

Let's put on a show.

Genii at 50.

July 1986 -- Holy smoke! I remember Genii turning 25 as though it were yesterday. For the 50th anniversary issue, Bill inserted 36 pages of Volume 1 Number 1 of Genii, when his dad's magazine was the official house organ for the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians. As expected, there is fine material from the late T. Page Wright and William Larsen. The cover art by Paul Butler looks as above if you spread the magazine open. Elsewhere: Bill Larsen reported on the IBM Convention aboard the Queen Mary featuring Doug Henning, and regular columns included Dai Vernon's "The Vernon Touch," Tom Ogden's "Absolutely Ogden," Pete Biro's "The Reel Works," and Carol Roy's "It Ain't All Glamour." "Light from the Lamp" was a brief two pages.

Genii is still cool: the Rudy Coby issue.

December 1987 -- Genii continues to reflect the cutting edge of magic with a special Rudy Coby issue, featuring tributes, interviews, and trick contributions from Franz Harary, Robert Baxt, Max Maven, Jay Sankey, Jeff McBride, Joe Givan, Steve Cohen, Michael Baker, Jonathan Pendragon, Kevin James, Mahka Tendo, Hiro Sakai, Tomo Maeda, and of course Rudy. This was stirring material (Jeff's card rise would eventually be marketed to great success), dubbed New Wave magic, and all adroitly packaged and noticed by Bill Larsen. Elsewhere in the issue: future editor Richard Kaufman wrote an ongoing column "Conjuring Omnibus," and Bill reprinted a Variety news story: "Melinda and Her 88 Follies Review a Hit at the Landmark." Ah, my kind of issue.

THE KID WRITES A BOOK -- Although I had seen him on "The Ed Sullivan Show," I didn't begin reading about Jay Marshall until I had received the January 1960 issue of Genii, pictured at right (and handy this month!). In it, Frances wrote a great piece titled "How America Lives," describing what an accumulator Jay was. I would love to give a glowing review to Beating a Dead Horse, Sandy Marshall's fat new biography of his dad, but I am resisting looking at it. My family has purchased a copy for me to open under the tree on Christmas morning, autographed by "the kid." I haven't anticipated a Christmas gift this much since I was, oh, fourteen. The good news is that the book is in the shop and available. Give the guys at Magic, Inc. a call at 773-334-2855 and order a copy today.

The Marshall family issue.

MR. PERFECT -- San Diego's J.C. Wagner, who has long reigned at San Diego's premiere magician, was the hit of the 2009 IBM Convention in Nashville for those who love direct, diabolical, entertaining card magic, the type that Larry Jennings and Michael Skinner used to do. In case you missed J.C.'s work this summer, or caught it and wish to relive it, pop a copy of The J.C. Wagner Lecture (an International Magic DVD) into your computer and enjoy some intimate moments with a master. J.C. is a perfectionist, and you will love the decisions he has made to perfect his material. Several of the items contain substantial improvements (i.e., they are easier) over what J.C. published in The Commercial Magic of J.C. Wagner. I bought my copy from H&R Magic Books for $34.95.

J.C. Wagner in London.

Peace on Earth, good will to men.

If you're old enough for 50 years of Genii, you're old enough for cute grandkids.

Sarah and Simon (Vixen and Spike to old Gazette readers) were married on April 1, 2006. You may access their wedding photos at wedding photos.

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.

Past issues of this web site: Index to Past Issues

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