ARSENEL -- It's hard to believe that it has been eight years since I reviewed Dani DaOrtiz's Utopia, and there is still much gold to mine there. (I should spend more time with it. If only I had an excuse to stay home and tinker.) There is also plenty of new gold, at a much lower price point, in the three-part download from Vanishing Inc., Dani DaOrtiz's Collection of Weapons. At risk of tipping the methods, Part one, Happenstance, exploits a simple partial stack that you know, one instance of which is a vastly more practical way to perform the original routine. (You've done it, and the spectator has to cut and cut and cut? Not a problem with Dani's approach.) Part two, refAce, explores strategies for Spectator Cuts to the Aces, including various methods for same. And Part three, Echo, exploits pseudo duplicates. (In addition to Dani's creations, I urge you to learn So Sato's take on this ruse, from the Richard Kaufman book.) You may purchase the downloads individually, at $14.95 each, or get all three for $29.95. Get all three. Or not. It's your life.
While everyone agrees that magic is best experienced live, experiencing it on the internet is better than not at all, and many magi have been especially creative and generous with their time. I love you guys. In March we "indulged" with Lucy Darling. Last month we cited the Portland Magic Jam, links provided by friends, the Magic Castle's AMA archives, and Vanishing Inc.'s ShareMagic: Live2020. First-rate content continued to flow during April and early May, the following of which I particularly enjoyed. (And if you have a contribution I have overlooked, don't despair. I hope to get there.)
THE MAGIC CASTLE MAKES HOUSE CALLS -- True, you can't say the magic words and pass through an enchanted bookcase, but thanks to the AMA its members can still enjoy plenty of magic from the Magic Castle. The Video Galleries continue to be enhanced, with Rob Zabrecky's seminal 80 episodes of Who's Hoo being added to Fitzgerald's 64. I had missed these brief early versions with their funky sixties commercial breaks. Welcome back.
And members are rightly thrilled with the new Behind the Bookcase series broadcast twice weekly. The first I enjoyed was Max Maven's Story Time, in which Max provided amazing, often funny anecdotes about the likes of Joe Berg, John Scarne, Orson Welles, Eugene Burger, Max's own start in magic, Senator Crandall, Goldfinger, Heba Haba Al, Lou Derman, Albert Goshman, Bill Bixby, and Harry Blackstone Sr. Delightful. Joe Furlow provided a stunning tour behind the scenes at the Magic Castle, including both modern and vintage refrigeration equipment that Milt had cobbled from a battleship. (A Joe Furlow note: it normally takes him an hour and a half to drive from his home in Long Beach to the Castle; it now takes him 20 minutes.)
John Carney hosted performance clips of Charlie Miller, Al Flosso, Al Goshman, Carl Ballantine, Suzy Wandas (maybe), Orson Welles, and Cardini. What a night of magic. (My favorite thing to learn from John: Flosso performed at Ricky Jay's 16th birthday party.)
Mike Caveney conducted an hour tour of his fantastic collection in Pasadena, all beautifully organized, and he showed clips from the Sale of the Century when he and George Daily disposed of their "overage" from the Egyptian Hall purchase.
And John Gaughan showcased his collection of magic tricks and clockwork mechanical gizmos, including a human-scale automaton clarinetist that once played Beethoven pieces. Holy moly. These initial evenings have been beyond special.
THE COLLECTORS -- I cannot rank myself a collector. I am old and have accumulated a lot of stuff, but that is just life, not a serious, educated pursuit. Occasionally though, I get a peek into the world of collectors, and such was a Zoom night hosted by David Sandy, aka Magic Collectors Corner, April 26. My favorite bits were seeing Ken Trombly's Chung Ling Soo poster (and magic room) and hearing Jim Steinmeyer provide details of Soo's life ... and death.
MAGIC FROM DOWN UNDER AND ALL OVER -- Another recent favorite is the Laneway Live broadcasts from Tim Ellis in Australia. Nearly 50 are available, interviews with famous magicians following a cool opening trick by Tim. I thoroughly enjoyed my first two: Carisa Hendrix (Episode 44) and Rudy Coby (Episode 46). Carisa at time of taping was back in Canada, and Rudy was isolating in Randy Pitchford's home in Texas. There is great joy on Tim's face as he conducts the interviews. I look forward to more, and have Max Maven (Episode 48) queued up. Prediction: We are going to be in quarantine long enough for Max to organize his bookshelves.
BPPFLIX -- What? Ah, here is an odd option for your time. Several times on Little Egypt Magic, I have reviewed performances I enjoyed at the BPP, or Bloomington Playwrights Project, whose magic-friendly director Chad Rabinovitz showcases original and contemporary plays only.
Like most facilities that require live audiences, BPP is currently dark. To maintain interest and make a few dollars, BPP is offering a service called BPPFLIX, a video stream of 25 of their favorite past shows. Two of these are complete magic productions, including Max Major's Mind Tricks and Simon Coronel's Glitches in Reality. There is also a comedy called The Banana Tree about a young lady convenience store clerk who aspires to be a Las Vegas stage magician, and the autobiographical The Life and Slimes of Mark Summers, starring Mark Summers.
To access the 25 shows, go to BPPFLIX and make a donation. There is no minimum amount, but I would encourage you to contribute what you usually would to support local theater. A single donation covers all 25 shows. Access will cease on September 1. I can vouch for the four shows I mentioned, and you can find more complete reviews if you search the Table of Contents at Little Egypt Magic.
So many interesting options keep cropping up! Enjoy.
ALOHA, NORM NIELSEN AND ROY HORN -- Alas, Death has been working its way through the world's Greatest Magicians, recently taking the elegant Norm Nielsen and the fabulous Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy. Norm of course was a handsome and envied manipulator/magician, a dealer, and a collector. I recall once being moved to imitate him, and assumed all you had to do to create something as captivating as his floating violin was to make a list of interesting objects, from A to Z, and apply Zombie technology. Hmm. Let's just say the world wasn't ready for my floating xylophone.
And Roy? I first saw Siegfried and Roy live just after my daughter was born, at the MGM in Hallelujah, Hollywood, 1977, as part of that variety spectacle. It occurred to me that they took off from where others closed. For example, Channing Pollock could close with a vanishing cage full of doves. Siegfried would open with dove productions and that vanish, then move on to larger scale magic involving Roy and the big cats. And the act grew and grew. Roy's rapport with the animals was uncanny, the original Tiger King. I later saw them many times at the Mirage, in what is arguably the best magic show ever assembled. I hope it is on film and will be available some day. Farewell to two amazing entertainers and fascinating individuals.
A WOP BOP A LOO BOP A LOP BAM BOOM! -- And the world has lost another amazing, creative, and fascinating individual in Richard Penniman, aka Little Richard. His passing warrants the same paragraph I composed when Chuck Berry died: "This section has nothing to do with magic, but a lot to do with entertainment. From around 1956 through 1962, when I was first becoming aware of the world of magic via names like Steranko and Lorayne, also my years of junior high and early high school, something amazing was happening in the world of music: rock and roll. A friend recently summarized it: every week there was a new artist on the radio, and every new song from that artist was a mega-hit. It was magical and exciting. Over the years that followed, I was privileged to see many of those pioneers in live performance. I enjoyed concerts by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, the Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Linda Scott, and Diana Ross and the Supremes along with ballad and folk singers Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. So great. A few I saw multiple times."
Little Richard came into my life even earlier than Chuck Berry, and everything about his music made my parents hate him as much as it made me love him. I eventually saw him live on my honeymoon, in Las Vegas. We caught Little Richard in a paid show, and we caught Fats Domino in a free lounge show that same weekend. It's been awhile since I have listened to my favorite music. I'll rectify that and fire up iTunes, or perhaps dig out some old 45s, and be young again. I'm gonna rip it up. Aloha, Little Richard.