Note ye ed's email address:

Finally unearthed: The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts from H&R Magic Books.
It's to die for!

MCA Weekend turns older than Jack Benny.

April 2009

Wind's in the East, there's a mist coming in --, like something is brewing and 'bout to begin. So goes the opening to Mary Poppins, a beloved movie that became a beloved musical in 2004. This month we take a look at Mary on stage; at Ron Wilson, Slydini, and Doc Eason online; at a big hole in the ground; and at the 40th anniversary edition of the Magic Collectors' Weekend. What a nice April.

(Note: if you didn't see this April edition until May 1, blame it on your internet service provider!)

Rare Alexander litho from the Jay Marshall estate.

ANNIVERSARY PARTY -- The Magic Collectors' Association weekends routinely supply the best swag of any conventions I attend, this year's loot including a glossy 28-page program, a 34-page 1941 interview with Al Baker, and the whopping 98-page The Magic Collection of Jay Marshall Part III auction catalogue. Although I might have wished for a few more attendees, a few more dealers, and a few more talks, I thoroughly enjoyed this 40th-anniversary bash held in Schaumburg April 23-25, once again under the steady, accomplished hand of Gabe Fajuri. Every talk was excellent, but I'll mention a few that particularly grabbed me: Eugene Burger and Jack Gould discussed growing up in Chicago, though the best information on that topic came from honoree Johnny Thompson, in the audience. Gabe introduced a fascinating recording of a lecture by Dunninger. Young non-magician Kirsten Voris shared her research on her grandmother's favorite psychic, the beautiful Gene Dennis. David Ben produced nearly an hour of 16-mm footage that Sid Lorraine shot in the 30s and in 52: boy, did those guys smoke a lot! Amazing to see a young Mel Stover, a young Gerrie Larsen. And David interviewed this year's guest, Johnny Thompson. My favorite part was Johnny's explaining that Criss Angel did not use trick photography or stooges for his surrounded levitation of a girl on Fremont Street. What you saw is what the spectators in the street saw, all the way around. Hint: you could possibly do this only on Fremont Street.

The MCA weekends are mostly for enabling old guys or rich young collectors to stock up on old books, props, and posters. You rarely see any informal magic, and therefore I was delighted that David Ben showed me the details of Vernon's Slow Motion Four Aces, that David Solomon showed me the Jamesway Poker Deal, that Ken Trombly showed me a surprisingly good trick from Linking Ring, and that Claude Crowe showed me a bloody Jack the Ripper card trick. Thanks, guys. You do see magic at the Saturday night banquet. Emcee David Kovak and manic magician Ken Mate were excellent, but the best magic came at the hands of Johnny Thompson (I loved his Balls and Net and his Egg Bag routines), the best comedy from Mark Faje, whom I delighted in quoting around the water cooler the following week. Google "Mark the Knife" and behold his insane blazing spiked bowling ball and scorpion routine, which he performed live for us. Yikes. For many, all this was a prelude to the third auction of the Jay Marshall estate, held the Sunday morning after. Me -- it was time to catch up on some quality time with my granddaughter over in Evanston, so I've no idea how the buying went. I'd love to have bid on those Korda Ra Mayne window cards, but probably not enough to have procured them. Ah, well. I hope everything (and there was plenty of everything) found a nice home.

UNCANNY -- During the golden age of the Magic Castle, one of the strongest acts in either the Close-up Gallery or on the Palace stage was that of Ron Wilson, most of whose material is available in the Richard Kaufman publication, The Uncanny Scot. Recently, vintage performances of Ron have been showing up on Youtube, particularly his newspaper tear (the best ever!) and his multiplying bottles routine. Check them out!

The real work.

Yale superstar.

CAVETT, THE MAGICIAN -- My son is a fan of Dick Cavett's blog in The New York Times online, and he was among the first to alert me that Dick Cavett had posted two thoughtful and very well-written articles on Slydini. The pieces are not only valuable in themselves, but each contains a 30-minute or so video of Slydini doing his best material (originally filmed for Cavett's PBS televison series). Spend some time with the master on the March 27 and April 10 posts.

THE DOCTOR IS IN -- As most know by now, Doc Eason won the Magic Castle's award for 2008's magician of the year in the Close-Up Gallery. What you may not know is how much Doc appreciated the win. Take a look at his radically redesigned web site, where you can find a blog celebrating the win (including photos of two celeb cuties -- Christina Hendricks from "Mad Men" and Mac King) and a video of his entire Magic Castle performance. The closing item will fry you if you are unfamiliar with it.

Doc does close-up.

You will believe a nanny can fly.

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY -- Jim Steinmeyer gets the coolest gigs, from consulting on Simon Drake's dark television series to turning Ringling Brothers' Circus into a magic show to collaborating with Mike Caveney on what is going to be the biggest, heaviest magic book ever written. A few years ago, Jim bestowed elements of magic on the musical version of Mary Poppins, which opened in London in December 2004. I recently had the pleasure of attending the Chicago production, and it's glorious. Although the Steinmeyer elements are indeed cool, the real magic is in the songs composed by Milt Larsen's buddy Richard Sherman (and his late brother, Robert): every song and dance number is rousing. My party agreed that Bert, the chimney sweep, was the most talented in the cast, with one dance segment that is the most innovative since Gene Kelly did Singin' in the Rain (it will remind you of Criss Angel walking up a building), and we gasped as Mary Poppins not only flew, but flew far out over the audience and up to the folks in the balcony. Let's see David Copperfield do that! In Chicago through July 12 and touring elsewhere. (For those who are curious, many of Jim Steinmeyer's books are still available at his web site, but in particular you should not miss out on The Conjuring Anthology, one of the best magic books ever, reviewed here back in May 2006.)

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE -- Going to the IBM convention this summer? You might want to escape the heat and venture down a rather magical hole in the ground. About 300 feet down, to be specific. If you are planning to be in Nashville this summer, and are coming from remote parts of the U.S. or from a different country, here is a suggestion: take a side trip to Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky.

Mammoth Cave is one of the true natural wonders of the world, by far the longest cave on the planet with over 365 miles mapped and a potential 1000 miles of passages total, with spectacular chambers and formations. Mammoth Cave is part of the National Park system and offers 16 different tours. I recommend the 2-hour Historic tour for first-timers, and if you want lunch underground you'll need the 3-hour Snowball tour or the 4.5-hour Grand Avenue tour. The cave is 92 miles (1.6 hours) straight up Highway 65 from Nashville.

You'll need advance registrations (ticket purchases) to ensure that you are included in your desired tour, as the park handles 5000-7000 visitors a day during the summer. Also bring along a light sweater or jacket: it's 54 degrees F inside, quite a drop from the outdoor temperature in Kentucky summer. So, just an idea if you have a day to spare before or after the convention, or if your spouse and children have accompanied you and need something to do. All details are on the Mammoth Cave web site at

Don't try the Card on the Ceiling!

Learn a new card trick.

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.

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