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Tenth edition of a classic.
Return to our July issue for a look at John Lovick's linking rings routine, a farewell to Brian Gillis, and high hopes for Justin Willman and Simon Coronel, coming soon to Indiana.
You once couldn't say this in August, but welcome to the Back to School issue of Little Egypt Magic. My grandkids are back at the grind already.
Reporting on the last weeks of summer, we enjoyed another MAGIC Live, a new book of professional magic from Steve Spill, Rob Zabrecky's Alphabet Talk in print, a killer comedy club performance from Justin Willman, and incredible magic on the screen from Danny Cole. Alas, and a fond farewell to my friend and photographer extraordinaire David Linsell. Too many obituaries this year!
Last month we discussed John Lovick's linking ring routine and his fondness for five-ring routines. Circa 1976, my boy Urchin favored a three-ring routine. See photo at the bottom.
BACK TO LAS VEGAS -- MAGIC Live 2018, the first post-magazine edition I have attended, is in the books and was another hit, with the usual transcendent moments. The theme this year was Questions, a choice I initially found, ah, questionable, but it grew on me over the course of four days of innovative programming, and I am pleased to cast this review as a sequence of interrogatives. Caveat: I shall mention only stuff I found out of the ordinary, that I actually attended, and that I actually stayed awake for (not easy as I get older). No disrespect is intended toward anyone or things not mentioned. If you were there, you were great. Uh, pinky swear?
For the record, the usual MAGIC Live elements were in place. My photo badge came out fine and quickly, the swag included a nice sweatshirt that many wore in the Orleans' A/C, and the notes may be the most complete set Stan has released.
Just in time for fall.
What's New? -- One of the neat things about MAGIC Live is that Stan persuades the dealers to hold off their big releases until his convention. It makes for exciting shopping. Amid what I am sure were many other treasures, I confined my dream shopping to the following dealers:
Vanishing, Inc.: My favorite booth! Josh and Andi set up a high tech environment populated with 21st-century packaging and the most new products. A few:
* Tom Stone's HUG/KILL routine, now complete with props.
Don't anyone breathe!
* Baffling Blocks Hotrod by Eric Leclerc. A paddle/hotrod made of LEGOs. $25. I bought one to wow my grandkid. See the Pete McCabe book for great patter.
Meir Yedid Magic: Meir had several new items --
It's a book! It's a hand!.
* Parade of Jokers, a precursor to B'Wave that is very direct.
Squash Publishing. Gabe Fajuri's booth offered two new books --
David Solomon demonstrates.
Genii. Richard Kaufman had a mockup of the Deland book to peruse, and he was taking pre-orders for it. Plus lots of books half price and Genii itself always a bargain.
Magikraft. Martin Lewis now has Cardiographic as a close-up item. Fabulous. One of my friends went home very happy with one.
Collector's Workshop. Not a new item, but new to me. A spirit trumpet for $1295! Very spooky to hear it speak into your ear.
High tech voices from beyond.
How we listened to ghosts in the fifties.
What's Different? -- One of the things that sets MAGIC Live apart from the run of the mill conventions is unique presentations, experiences that transcend the usual magic shows or how-to lectures (and often invoking the name Richard Wiseman). A few that scored this year:
Splitting a dollar. Blake Vogt taught how to do this. Don't ask me why, but cool.
Haunted Coke cup. Special effects whiz Paul Kieve used Pepper's Ghost to create a "hologram" of a cup of Coke for Ghost the Musical. Not so easy!
The Cave You Fear Most. OK, kinda like a normal lecture, but Michael Weber on kid show magic? Specifically, how to create the single perfect moment for one kid, uniting magic with the act of giving. Michael had three methods: a paper tree with a candy production, a sand from nowhere and candy production, and the production of a table full of gifts. Could have used this a week earlier! (When my grandson turned five. But for the record I gave him a copy of Horrible Bear and I performed Lubor's Flying Carpet from Tenyo. He burst into laughter when he put on the glasses and saw me hovering in the air.) Later Michael drew dealer room crowds demonstrating from his trick set Ten.
Technology, Magic, and You. By Chad Long? What sounded like a serious topic quickly became a hilarious topic as Chad rolled out his "slide show from 1987" featuring the latest and greatest in the computer world.
Chad Long: A boy and his flow chart.
The Art of Magic First Day of Issue Dedication Ceremony. Jeffrey Williamson from the post office and David Copperfield unveiled the new magic stamps, Nathan Phan sang the National Anthem, and Justin Willman performed the best magic trick of the convention. Justin had folks from the audience call out their zip codes, and he identified the towns and added color to the locations. After ID-ing over a dozen, he had the callers stand, and then he rattled off their zip codes as each sat down. Impressive!
Fun from the Post Office.
MAGIC Dead! A Richard Wiseman seance. Richard sent nine members of a larger audience into a pitch dark room where they sat at a table with a medium and experienced a seance. The rest of us could watch via infrared as a secret assistant entered the room and triggered manifestations. Spooky.
A Richard Wiseman seance.
Cardistry: It Is Magic! Dan and Dave Buck, so old they appeared in the first MAGIC Live, back in 2001, discussed the world-wide community they have spawned, with plenty of clips. I love watching this stuff.
Who Am I? A la museums from past MAGIC Lives, this was an art gallery showcasing pieces by Sebastian KonoPIX. Each captured the essence of a famous magician. The viewer's challenge was to guess who. Where possible, the artist used actual materials (real bird poop for Johnny Thompson, real blood for Teller's Shadows). Sebastian's images graced the trading cards that we all swapped on the opening night party.
Who am I?
And who am I?
Close-up Clinic. This year's focus session featured Jason England, Tom Gagnon, Bob Kohler, John Redmon (Jerry Andrus material), Bill Goodwin, Gary Plants, R. Paul Wilson, and Laura Cohen. I spent my time with Bill and Paul.
The Willard Spirit Cabinet. Frances Willard, still a dazzler, shined in two moments. David Charvet interviewed her re A Life Under Canvas (I always enjoy hearing of her attending a different grade school each week), and later David performed the Spirit Cabinet with her. For many it was the first time seeing this, and they were so impressed. One of my fiends suspected that it was real, that she couldn't be moving in there. Hmmm. Maybe ghosts walk among us?
David and Frances discuss life on the dusty road.
Who's Wonderful? -- There are "normal" shows and lectures of course, always a surprise as Stan doesn't reveal in advance whom he is featuring. A few of my favs:
Pat Hazell. Pat was my favorite performer of the convention. After dropping out of magic for 25 years to, oh, write for Seinfeld and such, he returns with some truly funny bits. To wit, a tape recorded card trick in a wacky voice, a family slide show, and Slydini Paper Balls done with coins.
The Close-up Experience: The most original setting since MAGIC Live 2, when we witnessed close-up in four real-world venues. In 2018 we were stacked such that every seat had a perfect view. Fine talent, with Barry Oliver, Robert Ramirez, Jason Ladayne, and two of my all-time favorites, Bob Sheets and Chad Long. Bob's three shell game, with hugs for the losers, is the best ever, and Chad had a new bit with a sheet of chocolate chip cookies that is as bizarrely funny as, say, Rob Zabrecky's Barbara Streisand moment. I could watch these guys night after night.
Julie Eng and Jonathan Levit. Julie and Jonathan hosted the general sessions and kept things lively. What can I say? They are cute and perky and fun to watch. Jonathan's schtick was that he planned to win the Big Prize. Nicely played. Great choices for emcees.
Morgan & West. These two Time Travelling Magicians, first reviewed here for Magi-fest 2014, starred in their Parlour of Victorian Mysteries. The night I saw them should have been billed as their Parlour of Borrowed Mysteries, as their trunk had been delayed and they had to contend, most successfully, with props on loan from the dealer room. At least their outfits and accents were on hand and they lived up to my prior assessment: "Their rapid-fire chatter, almost stepping on each other's lines, was a masterpiece of timing and writing." (Some wag said, "If they are time travelers, why didn't they just go back in time and fix the problem?")
Justin Willman. Justin was interviewed by fellow St. Louis magi Jonathan Levit regarding his new Netflix series, "Magic for Humans."He shared some hilarious clips from the show, and I especially enjoyed the one where a kid is alone in a room with a marshmallow. When the marshmallow vanishes from under the cup, the conclusion is that the kid ate it. Where the heck did the marshmallow go? This and Justin's zip code stunt were the best magic I saw. (Note: the series airs August 17.)
Ding Yang. This young lady from China, currently studying with Greg Frewin, first fooled everyone with dove productions despite her trim costume, then fooled us again by producing them upside down! (Her, that is, not the doves.) A former contortionist, she did a handstand and produced silks and doves with her feet. Beautiful, baffling.
Interviewing Ding Yang.
Who's There? -- As everyone knows, regardless of the talent lineup and the special events, the real fun of any convention is the old friends you bump into and the new ones you make. At risk of name dropping, I am going to list some of the acquaintances, friends, and heroes with whom I had a least a minor personal encounter. In many cases it was little more than "Hi, nice to see you again." But there were also shared special moments, shared meals, and swapped magic tricks. I know I haven't remembered everyone, and there were some I encountered more than once but didn't catch the last names. Apologies.
Anyway, as a sample of who was there from my perspective, and in no order, here goes: John Signa, Dustin Stinett, Michael and Pat Perovich, Richard Kaufman, Gabe Fajuri, David Solomon, Martin and Suzi Lewis, Kozmo, Garrett Thomas, John Lovick, John Bannon, Tom Lachance, Raj Madhok, Harry Monti, Marvyn Roy, Jeff Haas, Jonathan Levit, Scott Wells, Sandy Marshall, Pedro Nieves, Luis Carreon, Joshua Jay, Andi Gladwin, Chris Kenner, Chuck Rubye, Fred and Manya Casto, Tom Frank, Gene Anderson, Julie Eng, Erika Larsen, Charlie and Sherry Frye, Bill Malone, Marc McGuire, R. Paul Wilson, Chad Long, Noel Britten, Bill Goodwin, Stephen Bargatze, Glenn Morphew, Meir Yedid, Steve Reynolds, Jeff McBride, Tom Gagnon, Larry Hass, Chris Korn, John McLaughlin, Ken Trombly, Charlie Randall, Richard Hatch, Dick Olson, Bill Mullins, Gene Matsuura, Danny Orleans, Steve Silverman, Andy Greget, Simon and Ginny Aronson, Alan Howard, and of course Stan Allen. Other friends were there with whom I didn't have opportunity to converse, such as Paul Harris and Mac King, and I would love to have met the magic dragon walking around with his dog. I heard a great review of his show.
(To old-time Little Egypt Gazette readers, I'm sorry I didn't have time to rhyme these names. I'd love to have a crack at Bargatze.)
The point is that each of the folks listed above had his or her own list of encounters, as did the well over 1000 that I didn't list, hence a wonderful environment for magical socializing. The opening night party, the closing night party, the Back Room (complete with bar), the smoke-free corridors, and the spacious dealer room only facilitated the mix.
Most popular topics of discussion? The Brian Gillis tribute at the Magic Castle. (Great lines from Amazing Johnathan that I can't repeat here.) The new Chicago Magic Lounge. How great Ding Yang was. And how did Justin Willman do what he did?
Shoot Ogawa entertains at the opening night party.
In the Back Room, Tom spreads the deck for Jeff.
How's tricks? -- Stan encouraged those who wanted to perform to wear Ask Me! butttons, and at least two of my friends did.
Raj Madhok fooled me with a new business card trick in which he unscrambled four numbered cards without looking, sort of a Rubik's cube effect with no cube. I winced as he sucked me in, the trick apparently not working until the end. And then, he nailed me with a trick from Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser, which I had reviewed and enjoyed. Try Spreading the Mystery from that book. It is oh so sneaky. Fossa Nature also fooled me.
And Chicago's Glenn Morphew entertained me with an ungimmicked (I think) ring and rope routine. Lovely sequences.
What's ahead? -- Getting together with the movers and shakers of magic lets you catch up on the latest rumors. What products are in the pipeline?
First will probably be Richard Kaufman's Theodore Deland Mystery an Madness. He was taking orders at the convention.
Charlie Randall is working on the next Nick Trost book. Should be out by the end of the year.
Eric Mead is working on the Tim Conover books, One will be on close-up magic, the other on mentalism.
Larry Hass is working on Eugene Burger's books. The first will be on spirit magic, the second on Eugene's unpublished close-up tricks, including The Trick That Cannot Be Explained.
And Bill Malone is working on his book. Expect lots of humor.
Books on magic theory often come from writers you've never heard of before, which puts their advice into question, and on rare occasions from those who have put in the flight time and earned both a reputation and a living. This is the latter case, from two of the most successful magicians I know. Read and learn.
DIABOLICAL DOZEN -- This is about Steve Spill's new book of magic, How to Make Love the Steve Spill Way. But before we dive into that, let me repeat my advice from April 2015 to read Spill's I Lie for Money, one of the most enjoyable magic autobiographies you will find, spanning Steve's early life as a sort of Magic Castle mascot studying under Vernon and Charlie Miller to his recent decades as major domo of Magicopolis in Santa Monica. And hey, it's way cheaper than the new book, at less than three bucks on Kindle or twenty in hardback.
OK, you're back from that? Good. On to the new tome, which contains 12 Steve Spill magic tricks that you can do. Adhering to the sex manual metaphor, the book is divided into two sections, Foreplay (theory) and Seduction (the 12 tricks). In the opening chapter "Hello, Sailor" Steve establishes the goals: (1) How to make the 12 routines in the book, or any book, truly yours and (2) how to make your magic you, adding comedy, and how to develop your own original material. The next chapter "Exposing Myself" is a short version of the life I told you to read, above, establishing Steve's bona fides as a Castle kid (Charlie Miller once made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!), as an opener for rock stars, as half of the Brook Farm Inn of Magic, and of course proprietor of and the performer at Magicopolis. On to theory. The next three chapters "You Are Who You Is," "Seriously, I'm Joking," and "Wired to Create" accordingly cover how to make your magic you, how to be funny, and how to be creative. Steve is definitely pro-comedy and argues that point well as he provides the specifics that the chaapters address.
A few of the dozen tricks:
Sharp Pointy Things. In my fourth-grade summer I performed an outdoor magic show, tacking up hand-lettered signs advertising what I would do, among those things the Houdini needle swallowing trick. Fortunately, I came to my senses, or maybe my mom did, and I skipped that trick. So many decades later, I am still not going to do it. But if you want to, here are the complete details of how Steve Spill does it, and I have seen him fool doctors.
Citric Acid. Steve's famous Bill to Lemon trick, once shared on a Doc Eason VHS, now taught with all the details. This is the bill routine to learn.
Modern Family. An R-rated version of Soft Soap. I love typing those words. Does anyone out there under, say 60, remember what Soft Soap is?
Abra Cadavers. This is a spooky Do As I Do with toe tags and death certificates, with a flashy surprise ending, my kind of trick! If I were still doing Halloween shows I'd be working on this right now. Steve should have left it out and sold the rights to Zabrecky.
Coping with Eddie. A surprisingly relevant stand-up card routine based on a Steve Bedwell trick, about bullies.
Go Himber Free. The Himber linking finger rings without a Himber ring. Just beautiful to watch. Every detail taught in 51 pages.
Three rings actually linked.
Hard cover, 270 pages, highly entertaining writing, with funky illustrations by the author*, from Magicopolis.com. $125. Steep, yes, but fair for fully scripted professional routines with all the little details worked out.
*I have a fondness for primitive cartoonish art in magic books, such as encountered in, say, John Carney's 1987 booklets. Note that young Steve Spill was the staff artist for Talisman.
THE ART OF THE ESSAY -- As mentioned above, Vanishing Inc. has launched a new series of essays, each 6 inches square, softbound, about 66 pages, beautifully laid out with color photos, from a variety of authors. The first five appeared at MAGIC Live, at $20 each. I saw several full sets walk out the door.
Zabrecky from A to Z.
I limited my indulgence to volume 2, The A, B, Z's of Magic, by Rob Zabrecky. Over the years I have performed a lot of spooky magic, but I've never quite created a memorable spooky persona. Rob zabrecky has, and it's oh so creepy. If he ever tires of magic, he could be a late night TV horror movie host, with stunts at his disposal. What is more important to the rest of us, he remembers how he did it and can articulate his choices. I have enjoyed Zabrecky's Alphabet Talk (winner, Magic Castle lecture of the year 2016) live and again on his Penguin Live lecture, but this is the first time I've seen it in print. He is expansive, and points are illustrated via compete scripts from his iconic act. Here in 26 alphabetically arranged micro-essays, the author (in Vanishing Inc.'s words) "dissects examinable steps you can take to become a better performer."
Learn how rock star Rob Zabrecky became this guy.
I love this little book. Pick up a copy and enjoy Rob Zabrecky's thoughts on Acting, Balance, Collaboration, Directing, Effects, Failure, Give It Back, Honesty, Ideas, Job, Know Your Audience Longevity, Magic Biography, Needs & Wants, Open Mindedness, Practice & Preparation, Questions, Risk, Scripting, Tommi, Understand Your Material, Vision, Writing, X Factors, Yes, and Zabrecky. Ah, E for Excellent. I'll keep this close at hand and look forward to more titles from the boys.
STILL LIVING IN THE MOMENT -- I returned home from MAGIC Live on a Thursday, in serious need of sleep, amazed that Justin Willman could have raced me home in time to open, full of pep, a three-night stint at the Comedy Attic in Bloomington. As my ticket was for the Saturday night early performance, I had time to rest up and enjoy the show.
It's hard to believe that four years have passed since I first reviewed Justin's Comedy Attic show, but Little Egypt Magic doesn't lie. Following two local comics who were quite funny, Justin put in a solid hour of incredible material. The economy of his apparatus, working against the traditional brick wall, impressed. The focus as he opened was a cardboard Fedex box atop a metal stool, and the stool would be used later as a makeshift table.
Justin in the Attic.
So what did he do? I logged nine routines. He opened by solving a Rubik's cube with his mouth. Next, his Vanishing Computer Printer, a double whammy both of which fooled me. Then two bits with a borrowed cell phone, including a convincing Bank Night effect smashing envelopes, one of which contained the target phone, with a hammer. A variation on the Tom Stone HUG/KILL routine, with different props and wording, more suited to a comedy club. Two tricks with a can of Coke, the first an audience participation routine that surprised me along with everyone else. The penultimate routine was Justin's Zip Code act that he performed at MAGIC Live and which played very strong with a lay audience. I was watching closely and saw no way someone or some device could be cuing him. He looked the specs in the eye as he rattled off their home towns. The crowd gasped and giggled as their home towns were identified. (If you could memorize over 30,000 zip codes, you could do a heck of a memdeck routine.) Justin closed with his note in a bottle routine that he closed with before, a masterpiece of mentalism and timing. I won't spoil the surprise.
But this is just a list of titles. What makes Justin great is how funny and quick he is, especially improvising with the audience, and how much energy he puts into the show. The sold out crowd ate it up. Somewhere during the hour he played the marshmallow clip from "Magic for Humans," which opens today as I am typing this. Just hilarious. Life is good.
FOOLING AROUND -- Penn and Teller's "Fool Us" has been airing some of the best magic in the history of television. I must say that the trick that fooled me most in recent times is Danny Cole's block trick. Someone posted the probable solution on the Genii forum, otherwise I would still have no clue. Danny has also been posting low-budget magic experiments on YouTube, and I especially enjoyed this clip where he produces a bunch of helium balloons, hangs on to them, and floats out of sight. "Bye!" Hand the trophy to Danny Cole!
Danny Cole stacks up a winner.
Up, up, and away.
ALOHA, DAVID LINSELL -- Two MAGIC Lives ago, my Chicago friend David Linsell told me he had a gift for me. I thought it might have been a news clipping or a photo, as sometimes friends will send me such things to run on this site. To my surprise, it was his book, The Spirit of Magic. It became my favorite book of the year, and I posted this paragraph: "Sometimes, a surprise book makes an appearance, as happened a few years ago with Gordon Meyer's Jinx Companion (also with Craig Conley and Fredrick Turner). This convention's surprise was The Spirit of Magic, a stunning full-color 138-page collection of David Linsell photos. David is magic's best and hardest-working photographer, a most valued friend, and recently a 50-year veteran of Abbott's. Ever since 1976, The World's Greatest Magic (by Hyla Clark, photos by Paul Levin) has been my favorite inspirational magic photo collection. This book is even better."
David Linsell's masterpiece.
To our regrets, David Linsell passed away August 11, and Julie Eng posted this tribute on Magicana. David was one of the nicest, most generous, sweetest guys I knew in magic or anywhere, and my best wishes go to his family and friends.
Three-ring routine, 1976.
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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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