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Aloha, Johnny Thompson and Gary Darwin.
Return to our February 2019 issue for a look at Juan Tamariz's The Magic Rainbow, at his Secretos de Magia Potagia, and at Jim Krenz's trick Victorious Triumph.
Apologies! For the first time in months, I have no new products to review. My credit card companies will wonder what is wrong.
Rather, we will consider the hit Broadway play Network and one of its magic-savvy producers, we'll muse on the opportunities for basketball legend Bob Weiss, and we'll bid farewell to Johnny Thompson, Gary Darwin, Steve Dusheck, James Hodges, and Marshall Brodien.
Over the past few years, personal half-century milestones have been just whooshing by. This month marks that anniversary of my first foray into parenthood. Fifty years ago was a nice era in which to be a kid, when "Sesame Street" was brand new and inspired, when Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader taught kids to read on "Electric Company," and when a kid could, as mine did, enjoy Charlie Miller on Sunday brunch at the Magic Castle. Best years ever.
Finally, below, a cover shot of a Bruce Elliott book I keep close at hand in my office. It's a fascinating compilation of modern takes on classics, with brilliant effects, methods, writing, and Stanley Jaks illustrations. It will stand tall against virtually any book in your collection.
ANGER MANAGEMENT -- Bryan Cranston is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore, nightly at the Belasco Theatre in NYC. Bryan stars in the hit Broadway reimagining of Paddy Chayefsky's prescient 1976 movie, Network. In the stage production of the same name, a large TV screen looms with 1975 images of Patty Hearst and Billy Graham and Muhammad Ali, while early patrons enjoy a four-course on-stage dinner featuring a Mad as Hell cocktail. This immersion extends to the rest of the spectators who serve as a studio audience. The play premiered in London in November 2017 and opened officially in New York December 6, 2018. It has been extended through June 8.
We should have heeded 1976.
So why mention this play -- that I have not seen -- in Little Egypt Magic? Ah, because one of the producers is one of magic's favorite sons, Sandy Marshall. In magic we know Sandy through his pedigree (he is Al Baker's grandson, Jay Marshall's son), as the owner of Magic, Inc., as the author of the mammoth Jay Marshall biography Beating a Dead Horse, and (if you are as old as I) as a comedy magic performer on the Haunted Wine Cellar stage at the Magic Castle, in the sixties. While joy comes from magic, Sandy earns his living in other aspects of show business: CEO of the film company Sanmar Productions, Inc., winner of two Emmy Awards (out of seven nominations, including one for The Revenge of the Sons of the Desert, re Laurel and Hardy), winner of the Clio Award, Golden Eagle, and Gold medals at the New York Film & TV Festival, writer of a play about John Lennon, critical acclaim for productions in Great Britain nd Australia, lyricist, and book author. Judging from the glowing reviews and the extensions, Sandy's latest endeavor, Network, is a happy addition to his resume.
Sandy and Pedro, St. Louis, 2014.
Magic, Inc. continues to thrive in its new location on W. Lawrence Avenue. The shop sponsors frequent lectures (look for Thom Peterson on March 24 and Christopher T. Magician on April 4), is hosting Summer Magic Camp 2019, and recently reprinted A New Angle, its surprise book on stripper decks, with a reprint of Marlo's Revolutionary Card Technique in the works. I was thrilled to read and review the 69-chapter Beating a Dead Horse back in January 2010 and highly recommend it as your next purchase if you don't already enjoy a copy. It's gorgeous. Meanwhile, congratulations to Sandy for Network. I hope he and Susan got to taste one of those signature cocktails.
HARDWOOD WIZARD -- It has been a while since I have heard of him, but one of my heroes in life is Bob Weiss, NBA player (I particularly enjoyed his six years with the Bulls) and NBA head coach as well as a fine close-up magician. During a March 3rd game between the Golden State Warriors and the Denver Nuggets, the camera lingered on what the announcer called NBA royalty sitting behind the Denver bench. One of that lot was Mr. Weiss, who at nearly 77 is still an NBA assistant coach.
Nuggets assistant coach Bob Weiss.
I enjoyed this interchange between former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and play-by-play announcer Mike Green:
Jeff: They also have Bob Weiss, the greatest magician/coach in NBA history.
Mike: What kind of magic does Bob Weiss do?
Jeff: Everything. Unbelievable magician. He could make money. If the day job ever ends, he's got a chance to make money on the circuit.
Mike: Are there different levels of circuit for magicians?
Jeff: I would hire Bob Weiss at a birthday party without a question.
Mike: That's quite a circuit that he wants to be on (laughing). Come entertain the Van Gundys.
Jeff: Come on, that would be great.
Mike: But a terrific player in his day and a longtime coach.
By the way, the Warriors won 122-105. Perhaps you guys in charge of the circuit should give Mr. Weiss a call.
ALOHA -- Although I had no strong personal connection with Johnny Thompson, Gary Darwin, Steve Dusheck, James Hodges, or Marshall Brodien, their passings at the respective ages of 84, 84, 74, 90, and 84 diminish me. So many contributions to magic!
Johnny Thompson was of course one of the giants of magic, both a successful performer and a repository of so many secrets from the Vernon era and earlier, and mentor to the stars. I am pleased for him that his legacy was so beautifully captured in the boxed set reported here last April. More about him there.
From The Magic of Johnny Thompson.
If there was ever a mayor of Las Vegas magic, it was Gary Darwin. His decades long midnight magic club was one of the iconic gathering places in all of magic, the place to be. When Gary was collecting (hoarding?) Melinda ephemera in her heyday, he was kind enough to sell me some. I adore the charm of some of his books that I possess (Darwin's 201 Jokes for Card Magicians, Darwin's Inexpensive Illusions, and Dondrake's Black Art Breakthroughs). Additional titles include Darwin's Thumb Tip Miracles, Thumb Tip Secrets, Thumb Tip Thinking, Close-up Miracles, Who Invented the Magic?, Autograph Poster Gallery, and 101 Thumb Tip Tricks. Scott Wells treats you to a video tour of Gary's home here and of course to a podcast. (Note: The sketch of Johnny Thompson at the top of the page is from Gary's 201 Jokes book, for which Johnny wrote the Foreword.)
Gary's books were golden.
Gary's sketches make you believe you can do this stuff.
Although Waltzing Matilda came first, it was Steve Dusheck's Wunderbar -- a silver cylinder that floated out of a test tube -- that first caught my notice. I never figured out a use for it, but I thought it was cool. Only one of Steve's books is in my library, Dusheck's Close-up Magic, with three dozen small apparatus items, several with gimmicked dollar bills, easy to make up. His other titles, all from the early nineties, address Thumb Tip Magic, Coin Magic, Card Magic, and Mental Magic. The thinking in the close-up book is stellar. Steve was a very creative guy.
James Hodges I knew only through his artwork, his very sexy artwork. (I note that he was far more versatile: see Jean Merlin's obituary of him in the April issue of Genii.) Of the books in my own collection that his art adorns, it is great fun to page through Full Bloom (two volumes, Gaetan Bloom), The Great Stage Illusions of James Hodges (two volumes, James Hodges), and Sexy Magic (James Hodges).
A James Hodges illustration from Full Bloom.
And then there is Marshall Brodien, Chicago's uber purveyor of TV Magic Cards and Wizzo the Wizard (puns intended) on "Bozo's Circus." The Chicago Tribune gave him a nice sendoff here. I met Mr. Brodien only once, briefly, at the premiere of Brett Daniels' wonderful Wohscigam. A fun night.
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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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