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Gaetan Bloom tells all.
Check out last month's report on Mike Caveney's Wonders and The Conference Illusions along with Steve Cohen's and Richard Kaufman's Japan Ingenious and David Charvet's Jarrow.
Although I correctly mentioned last month that Bill Taylor was the primary photographer for the new Mike Caveney books, I should have pointed out that some of the truly spectacular photos of Mike's act were taken by my friend David Linsell, two of which I ran (the coffee juggling and the chicken production), and all of which he is proud to have in the book. Over the years I have become more and more impressed with David's work. Occasionally we use the same camera, but there is no comparison in what his camera sees and what mine sees.
This month the riches continue. We take a look at yet another two-volume masterwork, Full Bloom, this time by Gaetan Bloom, and a hefty new book of John Bannon card tricks, High Caliber. Christmas came early this year.
And we fill the rest with free audio and video: recent Scott Wells podcasts, Fitzgerald's Magic Castle Who's Hoo, and Amazing Johnathan's Burn Unit. Nice month!
FROM PARIS, WITH LOVE -- When I heard that Kevin James was producing a two-volume set of books by Gaetan Bloom, I knew I would want a set. When I heard that Todd Karr was to be the publisher, I knew I had to have a set. Todd Karr puts out only the best books in the business, and this set is among the best he has put out. You knew in advance what they would look like: elegant black edged dust covers to match previous Miracle Factory volumes, smart and classy fonts and layout, and heavy in every sense, from the high quality physical production to the dense riches of content. None of Todd's books is a light read. These particular books, Full Bloom Volumes One and Two, are charmingly illustrated by James Hodges (James's lively cartoon drawings often depict beautiful ladies, as owners of his The Great Stage Illusions of James Hodges and Sexy Magic know) and with a wealth of photographs. I hadn't realized how photogenic Gaetan is, but these first-rate images convinced me. It was fun to see Gaetan posed with famous friends in magic and in show business at large over the years.
The complete Gaetan Bloom (so far).
Anyone new to the world of Gaetan Bloom can get to know him through his 43-page biographical interview with Todd Karr. I was not surprised to learn that Gaetan had worked 15 years at the Crazy Horse, but was surprised that he performed in Spanish because the owner didn't want to hire locals. I was unaware that Gaetan had done early and considerable acting and consulting for television and the movies, as far back as 1970 with Louis Malle. I was unaware that he did 26 television episodes in Spain with Juan Tamariz. We are so insulated! I would love to see these appearances and will be on the lookout for some of the movies. The overall interview makes fascinating reading.
I came to appreciate Gaetan's ingenuity early on when I purchased his Visible Monte from Jeff Busby and later what he calls herein the Paris Lecture notes. (From the latter I learned his magnificent Standing Card, which I performed at Illusions in Indianapolis.) I caught back up with Gaetan through his first appearance at EMC 2010, when he impressed everyone with a hodgepodge of crazy, workable ideas. Gaetan's brain is a trick factory, and you have to laugh at his off-the-wall thinking behind very practical tricks.
James Hodges knows how to illustrate a glass suspension.
The books are far too dense to try to summarize their contents, hence let's make only a couple of quick swags. Thread (invisible thread, normal sewing thread, thin wire) secretly lurks behind many of the items. With the thread work of most magicians (a bill floats, a white handkerchief dances), you kinda think, maybe there is some invisible thread at play. With Gaetan's magic, you have no clue that threads are involved. Secretly it makes possible balancing an egg on another, making a playing card stand on edge, divining which card was moved from a row, animating sponge balls, forcing a page in a book, creating a Chop cup with no magnets, preventing a number on a die from turning up, causing an alarm clock to ring when the selected card is turned up, lapping for the standing performer, predicting in chalk on a slate any four-digit number, and plucking cards from the air and dropping them into a top hat. I so wish I had the time to experiment with all these ideas.
There is close-up, stand-up, comedy, mentalism, bizarre, illusions, you name it. Other items I'd love to try: My Egg Bag (I've come to loathe all the famous egg bag routines, but might like to try this one with a wine glass*), On the Rocks (recently seen in MAGIC, ice floating in a drink is magically separated from its liquid), The Pirate (you perform the card sword trick a la Captain Hook), The Gift Box (a spec easily lifts a large cardboard box; you immediately produce a human from it), A Standing Ovation (a Disney Haunted Mansion feature earns you a standing O), The Demonic Cigarette (two fine ideas with a scary hand puppet), and A Pure Racket (51 playing cards penetrate a tennis racket, leaving only the selected card).
A sporty card trick.
Rounding out the surfeit of magic are intros from Todd, Kevin, and Gaetan; a few essays by Gaetan; chapters on Gaetan's marketed items (the Intercessor, the Escorial Monte, the Escalator); and a two-chapter appreciation of Winston Freer.
Two hardback volumes, 736 pages in all, satin-finish acid-free paper, Smyth-sewn and hardbound with beautiful full-color dust jackets, $150 plus postage. I bought mine directly from Kevin James at kjmagic.com. Lovely!
*If you are going to try this egg bag routine, and given that it involves a wine glass, it might be cool to end it with a bottle production a la Tom Mullica.
BULLSEYE -- There are few pleasure in magic (or in life) that top an afternoon spent with a deck of cards and a new collection of card tricks by John Bannon. John's latest is High Caliber, a large hard cover compilation of all his published work since Dear Mister Fantasy. To my surprise, as a huge Bannon fan, I was previously familiar with only two of the nine sources, hence there was much new to admire. Stealing from the dust jacket, I concur that John's methods are practical, commercial, innovative, elegant, and thought provoking, all of which makes them the most satisfying of the methods in my overstocked card trick library.
There has been much to praise in the magic book world the past two months, with last month's Caveney and Japanese books and this month's Bloom books, all full of material, but it is the material from High Caliber that I will be doing for my friends. Reading these tricks makes you want to go out and find someone to show them to. "Oh, honey ..."
John Bannon hits the mark.
Let's consider a few that stand out.
Fifty-One Fat Chances -- An Open Prediction effect; you bet one dollar that the six of clubs will turn up last, the spec doing all the turning. Self-working.
Riverboat Poker -- You demo a real overhand shuffling run-up system to deal yourself four aces for any number of hands. You repeat, but it's a riverboat situation in which players keep dropping out after each round. You get the royal flush to beat the last spec's full house.
View to a 'Skill -- You play a game similar to War and keep predicting the outcome no matter what choices the spec makes. Self-working.
Mega 'Wave -- A terrific version of B'Wave or Twisted Sisters in which any named queen transposes to a banded packet of blank-faced cards*.
Chronic -- A clock trick, or so it seems. But is it? Very, very sneaky. Self-working.
Spin Doctor -- It starts as a very clean Twisting the Aces, the ace of spades vanishes in the second phase in a very spooky fashion, and then all the backs change to different backs. Just four aces, a blank-faced card, and simple moves.
Montinator 5.0 -- A crazy game in which the spec must select one red-back queen labeled "Queen" from among three blue-backed jokers labeled "Joker." But suddenly you have three queens and only one joker, and all three queens are the wrong ones.
All this and so far I haven't mentioned my favorite chapter, from 2011's Bullet Party. Those of you following my Magic Monday summers know that I continue to perform tricks from that book, and the book is now only one chapter of High Caliber. To repeat my original assessment: Drop Target Aces allows you to bury aces repeatedly, dribbling cards atop them each time, until only four cards remain--the aces. Flipside Aces allows you to prove the aces are buried amongst the indifferent cards, until you reveal that they were separate all along. Box Jumper updates a recently popular Simon Aronson trick, allowing a chosen card to transpose with a memorable boxed card; key to the method is a dead-easy new Convincing Control. Fat City Revisited is a two-phase sandwich effect; both its "normal" opening phase and its most offbeat second phase feature new techniques and the freedom to tell the audience what you are going to do just before you do it. But my favorite is Question Zero: from a shuffled deck, a spectator merely thinks of one of five truly random cards, all five are lost in the deck (even the spec has no idea in which order the five were returned), and yet the magician locates the selection.
September 2013 update: Question Zero is still one of my favorites.
Hardback, 306 pages from Squash Publishing, clearly illustrated with photos by Jessica Bannon, with design and layout by Gabe Fajuri. $60.
*The transposed queen in this trick is replaced by a "smoke and mirrors" card per the patter. Note that you could very easily have it replaced by a card found (or not yet found) from a prior trick, even a signed card. I'll be heading in that direction.
REALITY TV -- It was tough for my generation, growing up in magic. The best chance we had of catching a magician on television was an occasional appearance on Ed Sullivan. We had Ernie Heldman's "Parade of Magic" out of St. Louis, Don Alan's "Magic Ranch," and a six-week summer run of "It's Magic." Milbourne Christopher managed to get an hour special on, and then there was a long dry spell until Doug Henning, David Copperfield, and Gary Ouellet began runs of specials, with Johnny Carson using magi when he could. And of course we taped these shows on clunky VHS tapes for posterity. Today is so different: you can catch moments of virtually any act in the world on Youtube. Going even deeper into magic, there are interview programs that investigate lives behind the scenes, and the three discussed below caught my ears and eyes this month. If you aren't keeping up with these, you are missing a great deal.
Audio Magic. Given the recent absence of Dodd Vickers' Magic Newswire podcasts, Scott Wells has been filling in nicely with his Magic Word podcasts, interviewing the attendees and the movers and shakers of recent conventions. Scott made it to the recent IBM, MAGIC Live, and TAOM conventions, and some of the stories he has captured are pure gold. I thoroughly enjoyed the podcasts from all three conventions, but will point out a few episodes that were special. IBM day 3 had a nice Eugene Burger interview. IBM day 4 had Todd Robbins, Fielding West, and especially Walter Blaney with a hilarious story about himself and David Hoy. TAOM day 2 had a good-sized chunk of Arthur Emerson's Order of Willard talk (that I hope gets written up in MAGIC or Genii) along with a most interesting talk by Russell Bruce who worked for Siegfried and Roy and was there the night the show closed -- and eight months after. TAOM day 3 had good stuff from Rob Zabrecky, Johnny Thompson and Pam, Chip Romero on Doug Henning, and Tom Mullica. Lots of new stories here. I subscribe to Scott's podcasts via iTunes, but you can go directly to themagicwordpodcast.com where you will also find photos and related text.
Tom and Scott.
Hollywood Magic. As readers know I am a huge fan of Who's Hoo, the Magic Castle's members-only talk show hosted these days by Fitzgerald. Two recent episodes included David Williamson, who gets serious with a card trick near the end, and Orson Bean. You all know David. You should know who Orson is, but, for the youngsters, he's a comic, actor, and magician who guest hosted "The Tonight Show" over a hundred times and often performed card tricks for Johnny Carson when he was merely a guest. Orson and Fitzgerald chatted over such topics as orgasms, doing a hypnosis act for the mafia, and being blacklisted from television. Definitely a special guy with special stories.
David and Fitzgerald chat at the Magic Castle.
Orson Bean is at home in a talk show.
Amazing Magic. I've been hyping Amazing Johnathan's internet talk show Burn Unit since April and am shocked that neither Genii nor MAGIC has yet done a story on it. AJ's goal is to do an episode a week and, as of this writing, he is up to 25 episodes. Two recent outings were special. The first was with David Saxe, Melinda's brother, who has twelve shows running in Las Vegas at the moment. I first met David at Branson when I visited to do a Genii article on Melinda, and he couldn't have been nicer. This comes across in the interview, and it will surprise you that anyone this nice could be as successful in Las Vegas as he is. It's a most illuminating chat.
David Saxe knows Las Vegas better than anyone.
The second was an "on the road" episode of Burn Unit shot at the Magic Castle. The subject was Jack Goldfinger, another heck of a nice guy, and it's the first in-depth talk I've seen with Jack. As you know, he is the talent booker at the Castle. If you want to work there, he says, it's easy. Just be better than the guys who are working there now. Both episodes await your viewing at burnunit.tv.
AJ begs Jack Goldfinger for a job at the Castle.
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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