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.

Boy Scout manual for young wizards.

May 2010

Wow, a busy month. It was terrific to see some great magic on Letterman, to receive an Upton/Smith Rising Card routine in the mail, to hook up with old friends (old in every respect) at the Magic Collectors Association conference in Chicago, and to be happily surprised by how great Mac King's new book on campfire magic is. All this plus I purchased an iPad this afternoon. With the app GoodReader, e-books such as the Tom Stone books look great on it.

And speaking of Mac King, congratulations to Mac on recently completing ten great years at Harrah's. That's a lot of fig newtons.

INTO THE WOODS -- You know how it is. You are ordering something from Amazon, and you need to bump the total to $25 so that you qualify for free postage. With that as the goal, I recently added Mac King's Campfire Magic to my order to save a few bucks' postage. I figured I would skim it, say a few nice words about it (Mac never disappoints), and decorate this page with one of his cousin's cartoons. That was before I read it. Mac King's Campfire Magic is one seriously cool magic book that just earned itself the leadoff spot in this month's ramblings.

It's an interesting hook -- a book of magic tricks for camping trips, picnics, and other such outdoor venues where Boy Scouts or just plain kids congregate, and I'd love to hear how that premise developed. The tricks, of course, can be performed indoors just as well, for you city types. But it isn't the outdoor aspect that distinguishes this book, but rather the strength of the material. Mac has assembled some really great rope tricks, coin tricks, mental tricks, and card tricks (some I wouldn't mind doing in my "real" magic shows) along with those involving Scouting paraphernalia, body parts, and secret assistants. But Mac isn't just a magician; he's a professional comedy magician, and it shows throughout the book, in the professional tips (these are in little sidebars labeled Be Prepared) and in the great lines he has scripted for the tricks. As an example, I love the line accompanying a Living and Dead test: "I sense the icy presence of the lifeless. This must be the dead celebrity." Other routines are fully formed comedy routines, such as "Telepathy for Two" (a comedy two-person code act), "Cap-Cake" (a cake baked in a hat, outdoors!), and "A Comedy Magic Act" (a long, involved, hilarious torn and restored card routine, a Boy Scout-level counterpart to one of Mac's own involved routines, such as his Thumb Tie extravaganza).

Trooper Mac fills his Lota canteen.

Mac's prose is charming, as gentle and witty as that of Robert Parrish. He knows how to write for kids in language they can easily understand without writing down to them. Consider this wrap-up to "A Comedy Magic Act":

"I like it because it's not just a quick trick that's over in a minute. It has a number of situations that are naturally funny without you having to strain to tell jokes. It has a plot with tangents that seem to make no sense, yet everything ends up all tied together in the end. It makes a mighty satisfying and thoroughly entertaining magical package for your audience."

I'd love to see videos of some kids performing this material. The charm of Mac's prose is matched by the charm of his cousin Bill King's cartoon illustrations. This is especially true of the two-page panorama illustrations that open each of the ten chapters. Mac himself is portrayed throughout the book as a magical scout aided by his pal Lewis T. Monkey. How cool must it be to have a cousin who can make your writing this enchanting. My cousin was a dentist, and I spent most of my youth avoiding his services.

At the last MAGIC Live, a Scoutmaster told me his troup planned to perform six tricks from The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts at his next campout (which thrilled me). To him I would say, "Here are 50 more tricks that you are going to love." You can pick up this book from Amazon for a song, but I recommend instead flying to Las Vegas, taking in The Mac King Comedy Magic Show, and buying your copy directly from Mac after the show. You'll have a lot more fun. $12.95 retail, 178 pages, gorgeously illustrated.

SENIOR MOMENT -- I wonder if any convention does a better job of making old magic guys feel young again as does the Magic Collectors Association conference, where we get to stroll among the posters, the props, and the periodicals that lured us into this field as boys. This year's annual conference, the 41st, in Rosemont, Illinois, from May 13-15, was the first under the new leadership of David Ben and Magicana, and the transition couldn't have been smoother. David and his crew were everywhere, keeping the machinery well oiled, and were accessible later in the relaxed times. A few moments that stood out for me:

Dinner opportunity: Chicago deep dish pizza with Joan Lawton and Adele Friel Rhindress plus a few old magic friends. Joan you all know. Adele performed in the Blackstone Senior show from 1947-1950 and was his Elusive Moth. She plans to attend ten conventions this year and is a delight. Look for her.

Master collectors: The guests of honor were Mike Caveney and George Daily, esteemed recipients of the Egyptian Hall collection. George introduced Mike and vice versa, and the two recounted the incredible story of acquiring the mother of all mother lodes. Fascinating.

MCA Conference hits the big 4-1.

Walter invites a young lady to "Come fly with me."

Flight: Walter "Zaney" Blaney, Texas rope twirler and master Bird Cage vanisher, related the history of his Ladder Suspension, from inception to Johnny Carson and beyond, and presented a farewell performance of it by floating Julie Eng. Daughter Becky was on hand for this poignant moment.

Wonders: Will Houstoun spoke on his research that culminated in the book Hellis in Wonderland. Professor Hellis had a fascinating repertoire that would be great fun to witness.

Manhunt: Diego Domingo and Gary Hunt spoke on "Finding Your Man," their techniques for tracking down elusive characters in magic history. I'd hate to have these guys on my trail.

Rhyme time: Sandy Marshall told us some of the things that didn't make it into his biography of his dad. My favorite was an Ellen DeGeneres limerick, unprintable here.

Coins across: Bob Olson, of whom I've been a fan ever since Sick Sorcery came out, demonstrated with considerable humor a vintage coin box that caused another coin to automatically vanish every time the spectator opened it. Very funny stuff.

Bob Olson's slick sorcery.

Diego discusses Rajah Raboid.

Sci-fi: David Charvet's talk on Jimmy Stoppard's Phantom Ray delighted, but the subsequent performance was so funny, and its method so transparent to modern audiences, that I wondered if the whole thing wasn't a gag. (It wasn't: the Phantom Ray was indeed the first winner of the Houdini Award.)

Bargain hunting: Shopping for bargains, or at least reasonable treasures, is one of the treats of MCA gatherings (and I'm not even in the bunch that was looking forward to the fourth Jay Marshall auction on Sunday). My prize catch was a copy of Peter Samelson's Theatrical Close-up, from J.P. Jackson for only $15.

The Friday night free for all: Do your own thing! Some took a free shuttle downtown to see Supernatural Chicago. I stayed in the hotel to watch Jason England's incredible gambling skills and, as one of the key highlights of the weekend, a video of Max Maven interviewing Billy McComb at a 31 Faces North convention. Billy, near the end of his life, was in top form, and didn't hesitate to critique, with exact figures, his colleagues at the Magic Castle. Oh, Billy. He also provided great insights into the Himber linking rings. And then the late night strolling magic of Tomas Medina in the lounge. Quite an evening.

Mike Caveney plays Robin Hood.

The Saturday night big show: Jeez -- Mike Caveney with his lunatic Cup of Coffee and Powers of Darkness and Archery routines, Tina Lenert making Linking Rings look swell, David Charvet with his million dollar voice presenting Jimmy Stoppard's Phantom Ray (a goofball science fiction method of floating a ball), and the magical clowning of Ardan James, his character struggling valiantly with the universe. It just doesn't get much better than this. I feel sorry for the mere mortals out there who rarely see a show of this caliber.

Tom Baxter resurrects a classic.

DR. HOOKER, EAT YOUR HEART OUT -- Many years ago, when I could not afford such products (the fee was $125), someone posted this description of a rising card method (I've kept it so long I no longer recall from where, but it was probably from the EG):


This is based upon an effect marketed in the 1920s and 30s called The Upton Rising Cards. The original effect was made of metal and glass, and had a metal hook. This current model is made of walnut, and has several improvements over the original model. The late Harry Smith of Toronto was the originator of this particular version of the Rising Cards.

A pack of playing cards is shuffled freely by a spectator. The pack may even be borrowed. The performer takes the pack and has one or several people freely choose cards. Once the cards are seen and remembered by the participants, they are returned to the pack. A wooden houlette or holder is given out for examination. The holder is nothing more than its seems, several pieces of wood glued together to form a frame that holds the cards. It is completely un-gimmicked. Next, two small panes of glass are handed out for examination. These also are just what they seem to be, and are completely free of guile.

The performer now slips the cards into the holder, and then places a pane of glass into the frame, one on each side of the pack of cards, front and back. The performer exhibits the framed cards on all sides, and then places the frame on his outstretched right hand. Making a magical gesture with his left hand over top of the cards in the frame the performer causes one chosen card at a time until all have been revealed. He may stop cards rising half way out of the pack, and then continue their rising. He may also partially disassemble the holder, removing the cards and glass panes from the wooden frame while a chosen card has partially risen from the pack, reassemble the prop and then continue the card rise."

That description haunted me for years, and I have always wondered how the thing worked. Nothing in my extensive piles of literature provided a clue. Recently, Thomas Baxter from Ontario began selling limited editions of the item on the Genii forum, and I was fortunate enough to purchase one of his units. It's everything it's cracked up to be, and indeed uses no "motors, threads, elastic, loops, springs, plungers, electronics, gears, wires, extra cards, weights or pinky moves." It's dead easy to do and gives you total control over the rises. Tom packages it in a lockable metal case and provides written instructions along with DVD instruction plus a CD detailing how you can merely have the audience think of a card.

Secrets should be kept under lock and key.

It's a first-rate product, a first-rate method, and a first-rate effect. The bad news is that it's sold out, and I have to selfishly say I hope it stays that way. I know, it's evil of me to call your attention to something unavailable, but hey, I waited a long, long time too.

The week of May 17-21 was Close-up Magic Week on the "Late Show with David Letterman." David hosted the fine work of Jason Randal, John Carney, Johnny Ace Palmer, Steve Cohen, and Michael Ammar, all of whose segments you can find on YouTube. It was a great week for showing the viewing public just how good magic can be, without the camera trickery and studio enhancement that seem to accompany specials these days. Dave seemed to truly enjoy it. Kudos to all involved.

A classic begins ...

... and ends with a fuzzy surprise.

At MCA with Adele Friel Rhindress, Blackstone stage star.

Spend some time with your mom.

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

A JSB Creations product

Copyright© 2010 by Steve Bryant