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Once upon a time ...
AFTERNOON DELIGHT -- The January 2002 issue of Genii devotes a whopping 25 pages to Mac King, the afternoon star attraction at Harrah's. Mac recently received a coveted (and rarely awarded) A rating from the Las Vegas Review Journal and highly deserves it. The Genii issue contains a lengthy interview with Mac, a funny and thoughtful essay by Penn, a visit with Mac and Lance by Richard Kaufman, and two card tricks by Mac that are simply too good to be published. All you girls who are Mac groupies will love the extensive photo coverage. If you want to know where those Fig Newtons came from or want to add a great version of "The Homing Card" to your act, get this issue. And watch for Mac's Tricks With Your Head, due out in February from Crown Books. (Note: A few years ago, I interviewed Mac for The Little Egypt Gazette, during which I dug up everything you would ever want to know about him. That interview is still on line here, but you'll have to find it for yourself.)
AESOP LIVES -- Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you ... if you purchase Guy Hollingworth's Once Upon a Time. This delightful routine centers on a boxed "book" of fairy tales, specifically "The Three Bears," "Cinderella," and "Jack and the Beanstalk." Once you extract the book and remove its cover, the "pages" are actually playing cards designed to resemble pages in a book. By turning over the cards, the stories play out in pictures before the eyes of children (or adults; Guy has found that the routine entertains adult-only groups as well). Thanks to some simple sleight of hand, the pictures change, so that porridge vanishes, carriages become pumpkins, beanstalks grow. I like this. $30. Check Guy's site on our Favorite Links for a discount.
MAGIC IN THE DESERT -- The 25th installment of the once Desert Magic Seminar (now World Magic Seminar) is about to transpire in Las Vegas. This year's outings will include such favorites (of mine) as Gazzo and Whit Haydn and Brett Daniels. Wish I could be there. Alas, January is a dumb (I'm using that word a lot this issue) month in which to hold a major convention, and I can't swing it this time. My warmest regards to all the friends I usually convene with.
Merry, merry -- Season's greetings to one and all. I hope your winter holidays were all you wished them to be. This month's issue celebrates the Mac King issue of Genii and takes a look at a new children's (?) trick by Guy Hollingworth, notes the closing of two of my favorite institutions, tips a hat to Bill Goodwin, regrets that a great convention is too soon in the year, and says farewell to a swell fellow. In the bah, humbug department, there is even an editorial opposing a recent move at the Magic Castle. But it's hard to feel too bah-humbuggy just now. Despite the blackness of world events, it was another fine year for magic, and I am grateful to have experienced it. Warm wishes to everyone.
MONDAY NIGHT MADNESS -- In the nearly four decades that the Magic Castle has reigned as the world's most elegant destination for magicians and magic aficionados, one of the features that has insulated it from the vagaries of taste and fashion (through the mod years, through the disco years, through any year in Hollywood) has been its strict dress code: "Coat and tie for men, elegant evening wear for women." This bold nod to refinement makes any visit to the Magic Castle a special occasion, one you dress up for, one which bodes that dining or watching or performing magic will be a treasured experience. "People watching" is almost as much fun on some evenings as magic watching: the men look great, the women look fantastic. Any night of the week, the Magic Castle has always been a place in which a Cary Grant felt at home, and in which the rest of us could feel like Cary Grant. But sadly, on recent visits to the Castle, I've noted an erosion in the management's resolve. The dress code still existed at the door, but gentlemen began removing their jackets once through the secret passage in the bookcase. And now, in some confused attempt at boosting Monday evening attendance, the Board has voted to relax the dress code on Mondays to something between business casual and business. This is a dumb move. Anything that diminishes the experience of visiting the Magic Castle is a dumb idea. There are several good ideas coming out of the Board for increasing attendance, but this isn't one of them. I no longer live in southern California, but, if I did, I would no longer bring guests in on Mondays or attend myself. I wouldn't be proud to be there.
UNCOVERED -- One of magic's most respected "underground" magicians is Bill Goodwin, who compiled the index for the recent Stewart James books, who has contributed highly regarded mysteries to various journals, and whose skill with cards is whispered of with awe by those who know. A little over a year ago, in what was for me a most privileged afternoon, Jon Racherbaumer and I walked into Hollywood Magic, where we encountered Aaron Fisher and Bill Goodwin. We adjourned to Aaron's apartment (where he and Bill were stocking up supplies for a long evening of sessioning), and I happened to do a few minor things for Bill Goodwin. His laughter and receptiveness told me much about him: here was a really nice guy who really likes magic. No "I'm a big deal card expert" ego, just a genuine magician. Bill is the subject of a Shawn McMaster article in the January 2001 issue of MAGIC and may soon no longer be a secret. Watch for his material in The Penumbra due soon from Bill and Gordon Bean.
PASSINGS -- Two of my favorite institutions are about to close up shop. First is Gemini, the mega-web site started by Joe Stevens a few years ago and ably administered by Pat and Doris Hennessy. It was my privilege to have been a contributor to that and to other endeavors with Joe, and I shall miss that particular grouping of friends. I'm still not sure Joe knew exactly what he was getting into, but I'm glad he did it. Second is the closing of Al Cohen's magic shop. I never saw some of the old demonstrators work, such as Al Flosso, but, in my own time, Al Cohen is the best dealer I've ever seen behind a counter. I defy anyone to not buy the latest gizmo once they've seen Al fool a crowd of magicians with it.
STILL MY FAVORITES -- For those of you who may be disappointed that I haven't updated the Favorite Links page in six months, take heart. Several months ago I had secretly begun using a shorter and simpler list when I wanted to access a web site or contact a magician or dealer. I've incorporated this list into the Favorite Links site that you can access from this page and am using it myself daily. I hope it helps you in your own web surfing.
ALOHA -- The January Magic Castle newsletter reports the December passing of Stanley Blumenthal. I didn't know Mr. Blumenthal well, but he was a charter member and a regular at the Magic Castle, and I often enjoyed being in the proximity of his wit and good spirit. For me he was one of the fixtures, a link to the Castle's golden age. I'm sure he will be missed by many.
Personal note: Ye ed became a proud grandfather this year. For pix of Maxwell Diego Bryant,
check our family Christmas card. (That's my child bride, Maleficent,
aka Max's grandma, holding him in the first photo.)
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 a computer 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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