Volume 2, Number 8 1/2
May 1997

Notice: This magazine is for magicians only. Even though this isn't a real issue, with diabolical secrets and lots of inside gossip, it's still no place for the innocent. Imposters are subject to capture and indentured servitude as an audience stooge in the David Copperfield show. You have been warned.

Officially, as noted in last month's "Stirring the Tana Leaves," The Little Egypt Gazette is on vacation. A number of alternative activities have been clamoring for my attention, not the least of which is to spend some quality time with favorite effects from the books we've reviewed so far this year, including Magie Duvivier, Haunted Illusions, Darwin's Inexpensive Illusions, Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays, From a Shuffled Deck in Use, What If?, The Lost Cheesy Notebooks, Michael Skinner's Classic Sampler, The Feints and Temps of Harry Riser, The Art of Astonishment, and Ken Krenzel's Ingenuities. And if that weren't enough to keep us all busy, nearly half the items I have on a list for worthwhile repertoire development are from Darwin Ortiz's Cardshark, the stunning card book from 1996. However, since I do have to stop in at our warehouse offices on occasion, to feed Golem's cat, I can't resist looking at the stuff coming in over the magic wire service, and so I am passing it on to you. I am also keeping the "Favorite Links" page reasonably up to date, and do pay attention this month to the entries for MAGIC, Hank Lee, and Mike Powers. But first the news . . .

WILD KINGDOM -- The World's Wildest Magic debuted with minimum of fanfare on NBC on April 26. This latest Gary Ouellet production was a disconcerting jigsaw puzzle of a show, with slices of acts shuffled together from some of magic's top comedic acts, including the Amazing Jonathan, Fielding West, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Sylvester the Jester, Michael Finney, Bill Malone, Kohl and Co., and Penn and Teller. Highlights for me included Jonathan's human washing machine, Fielding West's cross-dressing sub trunk routine, Nathan Burton's trash compactor (I'm easily amused; when a plain librarian type transforms into a scantily clad babe, I'll applaud even without the magic), and virtually all of Sylvester's human cartoon antics, but especially when he blew his head off. Rising above all this mayhem on both the quality meter and on the gross-out meter was Mac King's goldfish routine, thankfully presented in one piece. Mac had the good fortune to perform before a group of adorable kids (children of some of the Caesar's Palace employees), and how can you top the effect of sticking a carrot "goldfish" into your mouth and then spitting a live goldfish back out? (Big editorial aside: this is the stuff kids love to watch, not the wimpy crap you see written up in most kid show books or hawked in the "kiddie" sections of magic catalogs.) The bizarre cutting aside, I was delighted to see some of these moments preserved on tape, for myself, and to have them shared with laymen. Thanks to Gary Ouellet, more and more of the guys I consider familiar are also becoming familiar to all my lay friends. It's a shame Gary wasn't around years ago to introduce the world to Senator Crandall and Duke Stern and Al Flosso and so on.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS -- Last month's password clue challenged readers to name the inventor of "Flight of the Paper Balls." Although no one complained of difficulty in supplying the name I was shooting for, reader Eric Henning pointed out that said magician -- let's call him Quintino -- was not actually the creator of the routine, despite the considerable thought and experience he brought to it. One can trace, for example, enhancements from the version in Stars of Magic to the later appearance in Ganson's The Magic of [Quintino Marucci].

Still -- Eric pointed out: "your correct password for the inventor of the Paper Balls Over the Head is [quintino]. This is wrong. [Quintino] did not invent the PBOTH at all. He DID write an absolutely brilliant routine which got some TV airplay, and, in the minds of most laypeople (and magicians) forever stamps it as one of his signature effects. However, Harry Blackstone, Sr. was the actual inventor of the effect, which he tinkered with and used with great success in the 1930s. When his assistant, George Johnstone, left to pursue a solo performing career, Blackstone gave him the PBOTH as a gift. Many years later, Johnstone was performing the PBOTH at an IBM gathering where [Quintino] saw it for the first time. He asked Johnstone for permission to use it, which Johnstone graciously provided. The rest, as they say, is history (or myth, in this case). The above was related to me by Terry Seabrooke not four days ago when I spoke with him in Washington, DC. He said that he was there. There are also photos extant showing Blackstone performing the PBOTH quite some time before [Qunitino]got ahold of it."

This is a fascinating revelation and was new to me (obviously). I took the liberty of passing this story on to Max Maven, who added the further information that the routine predates both Blackstone and [Quintino]: "The basic technique (uncredited) can be found as part of a more elaborate routine in Volume One of the Tarbell Course ("A One-Man Handkerchief Vanish," pp. 401-404), which takes it back at least as far as the mid to late 1920s, and it is almost certainly older than that. Prior to [Quintino], the trick was usually done using a balled-up silk or handkerchief. An assistant was often used to catch the tossed item (although not always; Dunninger had a devilishly clever solo method for getting rid of the evidence). Harry Blackstone Sr. did indeed include the trick in his repertoire. I do not know the details of his routine, and there may well have been original elements, but he did not invent the trick itself. I have no idea as to whether [Quintino Marucci] learned the effect from seeing George Johnstone perform it in the 1940s. The timing seems right, as [Quintino] began doing his own celebrated version toward the end of that decade. However, there were plenty of others doing the trick (e.g., a multiple phase rendition was a feature in George Jason's act), so [Quintino] could easily have come across it elsewhere -- or, for that matter, he could have seen it in the Tarbell Course . . ."

This too is fascinating, and my thanks to Eric for pointing out my original naivete and to Max for the additional illumination. The routine is indeed there in Tarbell, which fixes the date at quite early. I'll let my password clue stand in the April issue -- perhaps I can hide behind an April fool ploy? -- with the additional modification here that the name is that of the magician who contributed "Flight of the Paper Balls" to Stars of Magic. As always, both Userid and Password must be entered completely . . .

HAMMER TIME -- The May 1997 issue of Esquire features an entertaining article called "Fleecing Las Vegas," by Michael Angeli, which describes a team approach to ripping off the casinos at blackjack. While it's the most entertaining scenario I've read since Team Thorp's card counting field tests in Beat the Dealer, it reads more like an episode of Mission Impossible than like something that really occurs. The collective ploys used here are called the Hammer. Although the Hammer includes "expert card counting," its most devastating technique involves quickly observing small sequences of cards when the dealer ribbon spreads the deck face up after the shuffle. (Does the dealer really do this? In a $25 grand limit game? The credibility of the article turns on this act.) That is, trained observers, such as beautiful women "with near-photographic memories" memorize a few cards preceding each ace ("ace sequencing") or any random run of 12 cards. Once these small runs of cards start to appear in play (in known sequence), the observers signal the player with the cash to increase or decrease his bets accordingly. The player need not count cards or observe sequences; his partners do this for him and inform him when to up the ante. In one fantastic episode, the leader of Team Hammer single-handedly takes Caesar's Palace for half a million dollars using the techniques of the article. How does he manage to walk away with this much loot (and apparently without receiving a W-2 form)? Easy -- his plan is to have a movie star show up at just the right moment to prevent any funny business. In this case it's Emilio Estevez, a secret member of the team. I'd use Meg Ryan, but we each have our own methods. So, combine these techniques with those of the recent Dustin D. Marks books (Cheating at Blackjack 1 and 2) and you too can take the big Las Vegas casinos for easy millions. Why didn't I think of this for last month's April-Foolery issue?

THE TUBE -- It's another "A-May-zing" month, to borrow Stan Allen's adjective, with two new prime time magic specials to appear. First up is David Blaine: Street Magic, on ABC Monday, May19. According to TV Guide, young Mr. Blaine "astounds his audience with sleight of hand, mind reading, contortion, and levitation -- of himself." Closing out the month is Disney's Melinda, First Lady of Magic, on CBS May 30. No teasers yet, but I eagerly anticipate them. Both shows will air in the 8:00 time slot.

THE GODFATHER -- The 25th anniversary edition of The Godfather has been playing in the theaters and is available on video, the classic Coppola film that features one of Tony Giorgio's finest screen moments. Tony is both an excellent magician and actor, but, if any of you are familiar with the "Last Word Card Stab" from Little Egypt Card Tricks, that's one effect I'll never ask Tony to perform for me.

TAKE A CARD OR I'LL BITE YOUR THROAT -- I've heard good things recently of a Karl Fulves offering called the Vampire Chronicles, a "collection of offbeat card tricks based on vampire themes," which originally came in a deluxe version with special cards (the "Vampire Activity Kit"). This is now sold out. I think the book alone is available for $18 plus postage. Also from Karl is the intriguing title New Card Rises, featuring among others a Walter Brusa effect in which any card named immediately rises from the deck. $15 plus postage. Order direct from Karl Fulves, Box 433, Teaneck NJ 07666. Postage in U.S. is 10 percent of order, with a $3 minimum. Or contact H & R Magic Books, 3702 Cyril Drive, Humble, TX 77396-4032. Richard and Charlie routinely carry Karl's books.

YIKES!!! -- You say you want to come up with something "different" for your big Magic Castle entrance examination? How about opening by eating some glass, then washing it down with a snifter of acid, and closing by sticking needles in your eyes? This and more you can learn from Swami/Mantra, the latest from Richard Kaufman. This limited edition hardcover contains three volumes of Sam Dalal's Swami (containing "previously unexplained Jaddoo stunts") and two volumes of Mr. Dalal's Mantra (containing card, mental, and bizarre material). Or you could opt for a more classical debut by learning material from Charles Bertram The Court Conjurer, by Edwin A. Dawes, likewise a limited edition from Kaufman. The latter is a 360-page biography with nearly a hundred pages of routines. Most of us are familiar with Mr. Bertram (shown at left) through his effects in C. Lang Neil's The Modern Conjurer, in which he comes off as quite a character in the photos. I'd rather wait until I had read these books to comment on them, but I did that with last year's limited-edition reprint of Seance, and the book sold out before I could review it. If you're interested, buy early. $60 each, with only 1000 copies each in print. From Richard Kaufman, 4200 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Suite 106-292, Washington, DC 20016.

EVOLUTION -- In 1992 Eugene Burger released a set of three audio tapes called Growing in the Art of Magic. The tapes covered such topics as "The Origin and Symbolism of Magic," "Seeking a Magical Vision," "Managing People Close-Up," "Before and After the Show," and more. Originally sold for $28, the material has just been transcribed and published as a 45-page softbound book for only $15 plus $2 p & h. The book is available only from Eugene (no dealers) at 1260 North Dearborn Parkway #105, Chicago, IL 60610. Eugene is also currently marketing his "Shotglass Surprise" (production of a shotglass of liquid from a paper bag) for $44 pp and "Thought Sender" (his updating of "Brainwave") for $23 pp.

PASSINGS -- "He spent his life amazing people," one radio newscast opened. The media was full today with news of the death of Harry Blackstone, Jr., who died on Wednesday, May 14, of pancreatic cancer. Not every magician's name is a household word, but Blackstone's was, both on his father's account and on his own, and it was nice that the world noticed. Blackstone (pere and fils) performed full illusion shows, but both will be remembered for what they did with a birdcage, a handkerchief, and a light bulb.

Two other significant deaths caught my attention in the May issue of MAGIC, those of Ronnie Berg and Howard Bamman. When I moved to California in 1968 I met many original characters, and one of the most unique was Ronnie Berg. I had the good fortune to run into him just a few years ago, when I was doing a show in California, and we reminisced about the "old days" in the 60s. He died far too young at only 55. I knew little of Howard Bamman (I've never been a big Linking Ring reader), who died at 80, except for one performance that stuck in my mind, from many years ago on Don Alan's Magic Ranch. He stuck his head into a Grant guillotine, and, when Don couldn't get the locks open, Bamman had to return to his seat in the audience wearing the whole contraption. It was a very funny moment.

You say it's May and you just received a huge refund from the IRS and you're trying to figure out what to buy? You've landed in the right paragraph, because not only do we have our usual sensational book and lecture notes available, but also Virtual Foolery, the new booklet published by Amy Stevens to introduce the world to the columnists who write for GeMiNi, the Greater Magic Network. Edited by Jon Racherbaumer and T.A. Waters, this nicely produced 32-page monograph contains "The Sound of Music" by Ian Adair, "Billion-Dollar Bill Switch" by Pete Biro, "Everywhere and Nowhere Goes Hollywood" by Steve Bryant, "Sand-Which" by Aldo Colombini, "Pieces of Eight" by Karrell Fox, "Persistence of Thought" by Mark Garetz, "Dai's Wager" by Pat Hennessy, "Two Teasers" by Roger Klause, "The Supra-Selling of the Lemming Man" by Simon Lovell, "At Homb With McComb" by Billy McComb, "Mullica's Four-Ace Ending" by Tom Mullica, "Magic for the Rest of the Week" by Anthony Owen, "Marlo's Favorite Devilish Miracle" by Jon Racherbaumer, "On Line, Who Is, and Who Cares" by Mike Rogers, "Gypsy Cursive" by T.A. Waters, and "Double Restoration Rope" by Ron Wilson. Stevens Magic Emporium sells it for $15, and we have a few copies here for that price, postpaid in North America.

For a look at our own favorite material, consider Little Egypt Card Tricks or The Little Egypt Gazette: The Lecture 96, which contains the best of the personal card tricks from Volume 1 of this periodical. Included are "Let George Do It" (a presentation for Paul Harris's "Night Shades"), "Everywhere and Nowhere Goes Hollywood," "From the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes," "Ranch Hand," "Red and Blue Cannibals," "The Great Al Baker Three-Card Mental Test," "Satan's Monte," and "Celebrities." The notes are $15 and the book is $22, postage free in the U.S. Forward remuneration to Steve Bryant, 1639 Sycamore Court, Bloomington, IN 47401. No passwords, no hassles. Add $6 for overseas addresses for the lecture notes, $9 for the book.

As always, our Favorite Links page contains links to some of the best magic sites on the web. Check new or revised entries for MAGIC, Hank Lee, and Mike Powers.

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Copyright© 1997 by Steve Bryant
Send your cards and letters to sbryant@kiva.net.