Note ye ed's email address:

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

Bob Little sells a tin from the fifties.

February 2009

Happy Valentine's Day to all, especially all the girls in magic. You are all too young for me, but I adore you nonetheless. This sweetheart month is devoted to the recent Columbus Magi-Fest, to Bill McIlhany's "You Asked For It" magicians, to Don England's poker chip apparatus, to more Dodd Vickers interviews, to a great iPod app, to Volume 2 of Nick Trost's Subtle Card Creations, and to a farewell to an old family friend. I wish you all candy, flowers, and lovely audiences.

HAIL, COLUMBUS 2009 -- There is no better way to launch another year of magic than to visit with the friendly folks at Columbus's Magi-Fest, this year marking the 78th. Quite a run. Comments follow ...

David Williamson gets reel.

DEAL OR NO DEAL -- The Dealer's Room is the social center of any convention, and this one was no exception. Items that interested me: Abbott's let me play with a set of Fakini Multiplying Golf Balls; very nice. Kozmo has put out four issues of his Reel Magic DVD magazine since I saw him in Louisville last summer. Delightful interviews with Dean Dill, Johnny Thompson, David Williamson, and Richard Turner, funny rants with Simon Lovell, enticing product reviews with David Regal, great card tricks and moves, and much more. These are such a bargain at about $10 apiece. Pat Przysiecki (is this the toughest name to spell in magic?) displayed gorgeous close-up mats in a variety of sizes and shapes, my favorite being a 35 by 11 inch mat for bar work. He makes custom sizes, for you or for such recent clients as Allan Ackerman, J.C. Wagner, Doc Eason, and Bill Malone. Mark Mason demoed the heck out of Bob Swadling's Blindspot, a cool coin in bottle effect. Bob Little always has stuff no one else has, and I was happy to walk out with one of his tins from the fifties, shown above.

Richard Kaufman socializes with subscribers new and old.

Meanwhile, Genii magazine signed up enough new subscribers to warrant Richard Kaufman's return next year, and the videos from Sorcerers Safari magic camp made me wish I were a kid again. And finally, Tony Miller, legal this year with a mini booth in the Dealer's Room, featured The Modifier, a device that will turn virtually any wallet into a Card to Wallet. Extremely practical. This is just a smattering, and the dealer traffic would suggest that no one knew a recession was going on. (Oh! Andy Greget, bless him, brought only two copies of The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts, and they sold the first day. Thanks, guys.)

Aaron gets into tension, focus, and design.

SCHOOL DAYS -- As I get older and suffer Old Dog Syndrome, I attend fewer and fewer lectures, yet did find much of interest in those I attended this year, including Andrew Goldenhersh's guitar playing, Shawn Farquhar's matrix method, and Mark Mason's force and card steal. But the Reason to Attend Magi-Fest lecture was Aaron Fisher's. Aaron walked us through much of The Paper Engine, portions of which are appearing in greater depth on DVD. It was a delight to witness Search and Destroy, The Nowhere Pass, Bluff Replacement Subtlety, Revolution Number Nine (with its beautiful, easy color change), the Gravity Half Pass, and The Long and Winding Trick. A fine lead-in to that last trick was Aaron's marketed Panic, his killer deck vanish. Much of this is within mortal skill levels and well worth your time.

SHOW TIME -- As usual for me, I snubbed the big show (I don't enjoy bus rides to remote theaters), but saw plenty of fine magic in two and a half days anyway, including Mark Mason's card magic, Scott Francis's sight gags (I loved his arm routine, sort of like Rudy Coby's Lab Man but with four arms instead of four legs, and his singing "Summer Love" with an Axtel cartoon), Shawn Farquhar's Signed Card to Sealed Deck (I attended the Close-Up Show three times to try to figure this out), and Andrew Goldenhersh's Bill to Butterfly, Hare from Hair (sounds like the title to a Bugs Bunny cartoon), Needle Swallowing, and foul (sp?) Straitjacket Escape.

AN EVENING AT THE HEAD TABLE -- In the mammoth David Ben book Zarrow, Persi Diaconis discusses the pecking order of the tables at the cafeteria on 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, in the golden age of New York City card magic, when the "big guys" table belonged to Howie Schwarzman, Ken Krenzel, Frank Garcia, Harry Lorayne, and others, often including Dai Vernon. What a thrill it must have been to sit at that table. At Magi-Fest, Mike Powers and I, along with others, experienced a glimpse into the history and into the greatness that defined that era. Our escort was Howie Schwarzman, and it began at the bar: Howie placed two half dollars into his small hand, one coin with two heads, the other with two tails. A squeeze, and the two coins became one, with a single head and tail. Another squeeze, and the coin evaporated. Howie then moved us to a table for a divination effect with a pencil stub in a matchbox, followed by a card visibly penetrating a slatted frame. All this a prelude, of course, to the sleight of hand by a guy who, at 81, can still do "everything he could at 80," whether it's flying a plane or skidding two cards as one across a table. Here was the real work on the Spread Pass, the Bluff Bluff Pass, the Elmsley Count, and how to pick up a deck from a glass-smooth surface. Here were demonstrations of the S.W.E. Shift, Howie's Impeccable Double and Impeccable Prediction (from Cliff Green's Professional Card Magic), his Night Risers, his Night Visitor, and a devious One Card Across routine. Some he performed, some he performed and taught, and always there was the clear, underlying, why-didn't-I-think-of-that? logic. It's not the big shows, but this little stuff that makes a convention stand out. This was one for the record books.

TABLE HOPPING -- It wasn't that the other tables weren't busy. I paused for a while to watch Tom Gagnon show Andrew Goldenhersh his original table pass and its uses. I couldn't get close to the table where David Williamson was sitting, so don't know if he was performing or just enjoying himself. But I did get to sit for a spell with Caleb Wiles, a highly original magician from Indiana. Unlike other young magi who like to show off superhuman moves and flourishy cuts, Caleb invents devious, practical, commercial card tricks. He showed me a baffling routine in which cards from shuffled halves match, and he explained a most practical approach to Deep Astonishment. Now out of school and a full-time math teacher, Caleb has been working on a book, and I predict it's going to make a big splash. Very cool material.

MISSING IN ACTION -- The most notable absence this year was that of Joshua Jay, who I assume is still on his book tour. Nick Trost of course is no longer with us, but his fans are in for a treat as reported elsewhere. I failed to spot, if they were there, Tom Craven, Andrew Martin, and John Born, all fun presences in years past. And the Reed girls were noticeably absent until the last day. (On Saturday night I was watching a young magician in the lobby performing a card trick for one of his friends. Suddenly the lad's patter stuck in his throat and his hands on the cards froze. "What's the matter?" his friend said. "The Reed girls just walked by," the magician said. Hmm. They do have an effect.) I spoke with the family, and the exciting news is that the girls have been booked to perform on the French Riviera. Congratulations to all, and Magi-Fest should feel a bit of "parental" pride in their success.

REALITY TV: GENESIS -- Long, long before television audiences enjoyed watching people weigh or watching girls fighting for a bachelor's attentions, television filled the airwaves with such reality programs as the quiz shows "Queen For A Day" and "Truth or Consequences." A favorite from those early years, and one that employed a lot of magicians, was "You Asked for It." Apparently in response to viewer requests, the show would accommodate by showing Bela Lugosi turn a girl into a bat or Blackstone, Sr., sever a lady with a buzz saw. In 1999 Bill McIlhaney released a VHS set containing 67 magic acts from this 1950s show, and they are available again in DVD format from Todd Karr's The Miracle Factory. This was way, way before high definition, before color: the black and white images are fuzzy, and the music, stage sets, and pure hokum of the lead-ins make the acts look like excerpts from B-grade horror movies. Join Art Baker (Milt's stepfather) as he brings you such stars as Kuda Bux, Think-a-Drink Hoffman, Aubrey, Harlan Tarbell, Bob Haskell, Dante, Al Wheatley, and Lee Grabel, among many others.

Arguably the best Miser's Dream ever performed.

The most delightful to me was Arthur Buckley doing the Miser's Dream. It was a talk act, with a line for virtually every coin, and there were a lot of coins. Just beautiful. The funniest --I howled with laughter -- was a guy named Victor Ahlheim explaining the difference between "theatrical" and "scientific" hypnotism. Of course, his scientific version couldn't have been more theatrical. This is a wonderful set of magic history, and somehow the magic presented in these shaky black and white images, as they originally reached us through rooftop antennas, seems more real than that of many of the slick images that we Tivo today. $100.

FROM ENGLAND, WITH LOVE -- As Genii readers know, a contest is in the works with a set of Paul Harris True Astonishments DVDs going to whoever comes up with the best take on Paul's Pointer Anomaly. Champaign's Don England recently posted his response on Youtube, and it's brilliant. Speaking of Don England, he is currently manufacturing some gorgeous apparatus using poker chips, and readers are encouraged to check out Don England's Poker Chip Magic.

A hole in the secret load chamber could spell disaster.

SNAKES, CROCODILES, AND PODBOOKS, OH MY -- I continue to marvel at how much fun my iPod Touch can be. The coolest toy ever. Magical podcasts, most from Dodd Vickers' The Magic Newswire, continue to entertain and educate me (interviews since last month include those with Kevin James, Mike Caveney, Kalin and Jinger, Mark Wilson, and, amazingly, Tony Curtis!). My son then introduced me to Stanza, one of the 15000 apps (most of them free) currently available for the iPod/iPhone. Stanza allows you to connect to various online libraries, the largest being Project Gutenberg, with over 27000 titles. You can then download any book to your device and read it at your leisure. You can also directly connect to Project Gutenberg on your computer. (Just google it.) I searched for magic books, and the only one I found was Indian Conjuring, but it's a compelling read, with such effects as the Mango Tree Trick and the Production of Snakes and Crocodiles. The latter could create quite a stir.

TROST TRICKERY -- At the IBM/SAM Convention in Louisville last summer, Jon Racherbaumer buckled my knees with a Nick Trost packet trick. I had no idea what was going on. That a sleight-of-hand artist of Jon's standing would resort to such a nefarious subtlety is a testament to what Nick Trost's thinking can do for you. I've been a fan since I first encountered Trost's work decades ago in The New Tops, and I was particularly thrilled to meet him a couple of years ago at Magi-Fest. Over time, Nick Trost has been extaordinarily prolific, his quality and quantity ranking up there with the likes of Marlo, Maven, and Hartman.

Volume 2 ships this month.

As Trost fans know, H&R Magic Books began publishing a new series of Nick Trost magic in 2008, titled Nick Trost's Subtle Card Creations, drawing on 21 notebooks of Trost innovations. Volume 1 contained 11 chapters along with a 51-page appendix on all the important moves, shuffles, counts, and cuts you might need to tackle most modern and ancient card problems. (Volume 1 is worth having for this appendix alone; the descriptions are first rate.) The series is handsomely laid out, with vintage decorative illustrations at the start of each chapter and the tricks themselves copiously and competently illustrated by Tony Dunn. Regrettably, Mr. Trost passed away in October 2008, and Volume 1 is the last he was to see published.

The good news is that Volume 2 is at hand, with the chapter numbers and pagination picking up where Volume 1 left off. Accordingly, chapters 12 through 22 include More Coincidences, Hotel Mysteries, Divinations, The Four Aces, More Gambling Tricks, Poker Deals, More Predictions, More Transpositions, Pinochle Puzzlers, Packet Tricks - Part 2, and ESP Cards - Part 2. Of them all, only the Pinochle chapter might require special knowledge of the game. (But then, there is a religious sorority in my home town called the LutherAnns, that plays the game weekly and reports the scores in the local paper; the ladies might enjoy these unusual Trost explorations.) Most of Trost's work can be done with an ordinary deck and ordinary skill levels (most, indeed, require no skills at all). A few, particularly in the Packet Trick chapter, might require special cards, some of which are still readily available from dealers (notably L&L Publishing). Even should you not purchase the special cards, it's nice to see these Nick Trost specialties recorded for the ages.

My supreme regret is that I did not read this volume prior to attending Magi-Fest. It would have been tempting to assume command of a table, announce that I had some new Nick Trost mysteries at the ready, and proceed with the demonstrations. In that imaginary setting, here is the material I would have presented.

1. The Hotel Mystery. You know the plot, particularly the Diaconis variation. Two ladies and four gents are up to hanky panky in a nearby hotel. The hotel detective bursts in to find the ladies alone in one room, the gents in another. Trost provides five clever methods, equally compelling.

The remaining descriptions are straight from the book.

2. Mental Fingertips. In this double-barreled effect, the performer hands the deck to a spectator and turns his back. A spectator removes a small number of cards and slips them into his pocket. A second spectator then selects a card at random, which he pockets. The deck is shuffled and dropped into the performer's pocket.

Explaining that he has "mental fingertips," the performer removes two cards from his pocket. When the values of the two cards are added, their total corresponds to the number of cards hidden in the first spectator's pocket. For the second climax, the performer produces from his pocket the exact mate to the second spectator's card.

3. The Eleven Routine. The performer writes a prediction, and a spectator drops it onto any one of nine tabled pairs. The pairs not selected are shown to add to different totals. The prediction reads "The mysterious total is 11," and the spectator's pair totals 11! The cards are shuffled, then the performer deals pairs one by one on the table and has a pair selected. The other pairs show different totals again. The selected pair totals 11! The cards are mixed thoroughly and dealt into two piles. The spectator eliminates either pile. The procedure is repeated until one pair remains. Again, just as predicted, the pair totals 11!

4. The Slippery Aces. The four face-up aces are sandwiched between the two face-down red jacks. The sandwich is dropped on top of the deck, then the top two cards are immediately turned face up. They are the two red jacks, but the four aces have vanished! The red jacks are tossed aside, then the deck is ribbon spread face down on the table to reveal the two black jacks face up with four face-down cards between them. These face-down cards are the missing four aces.

5. Triple Climax Clock Trick. The performer places a prediction card on the table, then pockets one other card without showing it. The rest of the deck is shuffled as a spectator thinks of any hour from 1 to 12. He removes a corresponding number of cards from the deck and conceals them. If he thought of 8, for example, he removes eight cards. A clock dial is formed. While the performer turns away, the spectator notes the card at his thought-of hour, eight o'clock in this case.

The performer faces front and removes the card he pocketed earlier. It is an eight, corresponding to the spectator's hour. Now the card at eight o'clock is shown to be the KH. The prediction card matches perfectly -- it's the KD. The odd thing is the KH and KD are both red, but the rest of the cards in the clock are black!

All the above play exactly as described, and all are dead easy. If I needed an encore, I'd have considered Shuffle Tracking the Aces, a takeoff on a James Swain trick that fooled me as I performed it and would easily fool an audience. The aces are randomly lost in the deck, then are located at positions indicated by each of four spectators rolling a pair of dice. Despite all the mixing and dealing, the deck is also found to be separated into suits.

An excellent book of original, subtle card mysteries, 288 pages, hardback, $40 from H&R Magic Books.

ALOHA, FREDA -- I seem to have the bad fortune of losing family members and friends when I am attending magic conventions, and it happened again while I was attending Magi-Fest. This time it was a very nice lady named Freda Powell, who, at just shy of 90, had been my mom's best friend and was my last direct link to my mom from that generation. It was a generation that enjoyed going to night clubs in the 40s and 50s, with real bands and real dancing. Whenever I watch, say, the Thin Man movies, I feel I'm getting a look at lives my parents lived, and I realize they had far more fun than I. Freda herself, along with her husband, hobnobbed with the actor Peter Lind Hayes, so she always rated even higher in my estimation. She had no direct link to magic, so my mentioning her here is somewhat gratuitous, except that the last time I enjoyed her company was for dinner at the Magic Castle. Although she enjoyed the dinner, she could hardly wait "to see some magic shows." That we did, and it was a fine evening. My kind of guest. So aloha to not only a really special lady, but to a really special generation.

Congratulations to Neil Gaiman, Newbery Medal winner.

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.

Past issues of this web site: Index to Past Issues

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Copyright© 2009 by Steve Bryant