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In case you missed it, check out last month's August issue. We enjoyed books and ebooks by Tom Stone, Juan Tamariz, and Bill abbott, Woody Allen made a magic-themed movie, Allan Slaight turned up in a sci-fi novel, and Amazing Johnathan talked to a dragon.
September, there is an early nip in the air, and this little college town is abuzz with freshly returned students. It's a nice time to be here.
This month I greatly enjoyed a little-known biography, I caught up to Fitzgerald's Who's Hoo Johnny Carson episode, and I immersed myself in Milt Larsen's new web site. And next month: a big announcement (at least for me).
On a sad note, I also learned today that Phil Willmarth has passed away. Phil's early books changed my life, especially the Schulien book, in a single stroke. Until then I had no real clue as to what close-up magic was. Best wishes to Robbie and the family and to heartbroken magicians everywhere.
O CANADA-- Last month I mentioned being surprised at encountering card man Allan Slaight's name in a Margaret Atwood sci-fi novel. I was equally surprised, in Ms. Atwood's acknowledgements, by a reference to an Allan Slaight biography of which I was unaware. This led to that, and, thanks to the generosity of some folks in Toronto, I've had the privilege to read the book, slaight: off hand/the astonishing journey of media mogul allan slaight. It's a beautiful hardback, a companion to Allan's card trick collection Spins & Needles, and from the same team. David Ben wrote it (a three-year effort), and Michael Albright designed it, again in the shape of an LP record album (for those of you who remember such objects) and with chapter headings cast as record labels. Given that it's as much of a photo album as it is a detailed bio, it's arguably more beautiful than its predecessor.
"Spins and Needles" was the name of Allan's first radio program, a late-night hour of jazz on his father's radio station. Although young at seventeen to be a radio journalist and producer/deejay, Allan had already discovered magic--and Stewart James. Both radio and magic would play a huge role in Allan's future, radio leading to a business career that earned him over a billion dollars, and magic earning him a niche for, among other things, enduring friendships, a full volume of brilliant card tricks, and three mammoth volumes of Stewart James material (Allan co-edited with P. Howard Lyons Stewart James in Print: The First 50 Years, and he compiled and wrote the two-volume The James File, with Max Maven).
The chapter heads look like record labels.
Kudos to Allan Slaight for living the life and to David Ben for writing it: the combination makes for a true page-turner. I found it especially appealing in that Allan parlayed things that were dear to me as a youth -- seminal rock and roll, deejay promotions, vintage country, even basketball -- into a media empire built on Top 40 stations, pirate radio, country radio, television, outdoor advertising, and an NBA team. (I was reminded of another business biography I loved, How March Became Madness by Eddie Einhorn and Ron Rapoport, chronicling the growth of the NCAA basketball tournament.) It's also a true rags to riches saga, beginning back when Allan had to daringly retrieve a stolen roast beef from his dishonest cobbler in order to provide his young bride Christmas dinner, and advancing to his becoming one of Canada's most successful businessmen and philanthropists. Not a bad back story for someone who is, deep at heart according to his legacy and his friends, just another card guy.
Alas, the book is not readily available and to my knowledge was never marketed. Printed under the Magicana auspices, there were only enough for family members and lay and magician friends, with copies for the 31 Faces North attendees. Having been lucky enough to enjoy a copy, I would wish for a larger distribution to reach others, given that it's among the very best efforts by David Ben and Michael Albright and is a heartfelt tribute to Allan Slaight. Those interested in the story itself can find a condensed yet detailed version in Spins & Needles, in an eleven-page bio by David titled "No Big Deal." Hardback, 220 pages, tons of photos, many in color.
JOHNNY CARSON AT THE MAGIC CASTLE -- I've frequently cited the Magic Castle's Who's Hoo, the in-house talk show started by Rob Zabrecky and continued, indeed taken to new heights, by Fitzgerald. Perhaps the best ever in this series is the July 4 two-hour tribute to Johnny Carson, with great live guests and video clips. Gary opened by welcoming Johnny's brother, Dick Carson, then later had a panel of Tonight Show performers Brian Gillis, Mark Wilson, and Dean Dill, then a following panel of Orson Bean and Jeff Altman. The video clips intertwined with these included such celebs as Bob Hope and Jackie Gleason, Jack Benny, Orson Welles, Dick Cavett, Burt Reynolds, Lance Burton, Tracy Newman*, and psychic Susie Cottrell. (By the way, Susie Cottrell fooled me, as she did Johnny. Anyone have an idea?)
Dick shares stories and early family video with Fitzgerald.
"The Great Carsoni," Johnny introduced himself to Hope. "Magic, mirth, and ventriloquism. Five dollars for thirty minutes. Without the ventriloquism, ten dollars."
Learn this, Bob, and you'll be ready for the big time.
Speaking of vent, there is a great clip of Johnny doing ventriloquism, along with clips of him doing a three-ring Linking Ring routine, Cards to Pocket, and of course nice work with card fans and productions. Not on the program was Johnny's card fan productions and six-ring Linking Ring routine that I saw him do in college; I fear that one was not recorded.
Johnny's Cards to Pocket.
If you watch the episode, be sure to watch after the credits, for the wonderful clip of Johnny as El Mouldo pulling ringer Tracy Newman from the audience.
Tracy and El Mouldo.
WHAT'S IN A NAME? -- One of the small perks of Magic Castle membership (sic) over the past forty years or so was reading Milt Larsen's entries to the Friday lunch menu. When the lunch transitioned to a buffet, a menu was no longer required, hence Milt's contribution was no longer required.
The good news is that Milt is a born writer, and writers always find someplace to write, so Milt has created a more public platform for his musings, a web site called Milt Larsen's Milt-ing Pot. Milt is one of the warm writers whose words are always a pleasure to read.
Milt's new web presence.
The bad news is that one of the topics Milt has had to address lately is a small turf war over the names "The Academy of Magical Arts" (AMA) and "The Magic Castle." I am guilty, above, of referring to the latter when I should have said AMA membership, hence my sic. Conversely, it seems that the AMA is guilty of trying to deprecate the Castle to the benefit of the AMA, most notably via a new sign that says "Welcome to the Academy of Magical Arts." I love the AMA and have probably been a member longer than any Board of Directors members or Board of Trustees members except Mark Wilson and Joan Lawton, and would prefer the sign to say "Welcome to the Magic Castle, home of The Academy of Magical Arts."
Ah, a rose by any other name. I hope that Milt, Erika, and anyone else involved can work this out amicably, as I expect they will. Meanwhile, I look forward to Milt's ramblings on this and any other topic that suits his fancy.
The girl has chops.
Congratulations, USA basketball for the gold, 129-92.
*Tracy Newman is a former girlfriend of Ricky Jay and is still the sister of SNL star Laraine Newman. She is also pretty darn famous herself. To borrow from one of her YouTube sites, she is an American television producer and writer. Her credits include "Cheers," "The Nanny," "The Drew Carey Show" and "Ellen" for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award for co-writing "The Puppy Episode". All of the aforementioned work was with fellow writer and producer Jonathan Stark. In 2001, she co-created the sitcom "According to Jim" with Stark starring Jim Belushi. Sheis a founding member of The Groundlings (as is her sister, Laraine Newman), an improvisational theater troupe. She is also a singer-songwriter, as well as an original member of The New Christy Minstrels. She is the lead singer of her band Tracy Newman and the Reinforcements. In 2007, they released the album A Place in the Sun. Her second CD, I Just See You, was released in 2012. You can learn more about her at www.tracynewman.com. As I said about Allan Slaight, not a bad back story for a magician.
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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