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Mac returns to Louisville.
Last month's June issue considered The Bammo Tarodiction Toolbox, recent issues of The Jerx's JAMM, and Carol Marie's Magic Castle: Beyond the Smoke and Mirrors.
It's been a busier summer so far than I had planned. Perhaps I'll get some rest in August while many of you are enjoying MAGIC Live. I'm sorry that I have to skip it this year but wish Stan the best gathering yet. I miss the magazine and still regret that we didn't get to see Legacy.
But to this month. We take a look at four days of the IBM/SAM convention in Louisville, at fantastic new books from Magic, Inc., at a new book of Allan Slaight posters from the McCord Museum in Montreal, and at an old trick from Bob Farmer. Finally, sadly, we bid fond farewell to John Moehring. Some pieces you just never want to write. (A few links are included in that obit. Access them soon, as they may not stay available.)
Meanwhile, I've been dusting off my props from my Little Egypt Book of Ghosts repertoire for a book promotion at Barnes and Noble. See photo below.
HOMECOMING -- It was a tall order for the IBM/SAM 2017 convention organizers. Not only did this convention have to compete against the innovative programming of MAGIC Lives, the rich talent pool of the Genii conventions, and the rejuvenated allure of Magi-fests, but against memories of the previous combined IBM/SAM convention in Louisville 2008, itself a model of innovative programming with a Vernon vs. Marlo presentation by David Ben and Jon Racherbaumer, a Mike Caveney interview of Frances Willard, a humor panel featuring David Williamson, Michael Finney, and Mac King, and much more. One of the great conventions ever. Did this one rise to that precedent? No, but it was a good effort, with distinguishing features. First, kudos for simply returning to the Galt, definitely among my top five convention venues, possibly the best, with twin towers connected by a full-service 24-hour skybridge. Second, by capitalizing on the Louisville location with honorees Lance Burton and Mac King. And third, by hosting the FISM qualifying competition. When the likes of pros Eric Buss and Chris Randall are competing, the bar is high. And of course, with experience comes competence. Registration ran smoothly, the lecture hall seated a thousand attendees comfortably and offered sufficient video screens that all could see and hear, Louisville's Kentucky Center provided additional seating for multiple event situations, and all the shows started and stopped on time. Throw in a strong dealer room with many new outlets, and you have the makings of a good time.
A few public and personal highlights:
Missed opportunity. Wednesday when I arrived, David Blaine was performing in Louisville at the Louisville Palace. Richard Kaufman, Gabe Fajuri, and Mac King attended and all swore David really held his breath for over ten minutes. I had to look it up to see if that was possible. It is. So is frog swallowing!
The Galt's skybridge bar looks fishy.
Southern hospitality. Lance and Mac were on hand and accessible. Nice! Not always the case with convention big shots. Note: I was a day late for Lance's movie, missed what I heard were many inside jokes and references.
Emcee, lecturer, and Seabrooke/Red Seal Comedy Award recipient Fielding West emerged as the unofficial ambassador twixt the organizations and the attendees, always smiling. I joined Fielding one morning for breakfast in the Galt's skybridge and loved hearing about his early TV show for kids. He had a peanut gallery that encouraged any kid with a question to tie the note to a rubber chicken and hurl it at him. To promote the show, Fielding bought some late-night TV time spots. These got seen by rock and roll stoners, and soon Fielding was opening for the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd. His career was off and running.
Who's that goofball behind Fielding?
Do they still make the Wildroot Cream Oil of my youth? Although youth was in a minority in this graying gathering (including this reviewer), I noticed several handsome young guys with swooping waves of well-oiled hair. Nice, Charlie. They should all look great on "AGT."
On request, Mike Perovich demonstrated the Coin from Behind Knee that he learned from Tony Georgio, discussed in The Vernon Companion. Thanks!
Despite the absence of H&R Magic Books and Andy Greget, the book lovers found much to love at the Magic, Inc. booth. New books A New Angle and Conjuror at the Table flew off the shelves. (Discussed elsewhere on this page.) Sandy Marshall and Pedro Nieves were thrilled with sales. BTW, Pedro highly recommended a trick I had overlooked in Billy McComb's McCombical, his Knife Through Jacket. Check it out.
Sandy Marshall reported having recently visited Simon Lovell. Simon is currently earning his living creating decoupage art. Photos revealed very nice work.
In addition to books, my only purchases were a couple of blank-both-sides decks (for performing Lewis Jones's Avalanche and The Jerx's Good St. Anthony). Nevertheless, I was intrigued by such dealer props as Meir Yedid's KFC Coins and his new Global Coins, Magic Inc.'s Matchbox Penetration, SvenPad Supreme's Svenpads, Magicsmith's Double Cross, Korea Magic's remote control candle (a real flame ignites), Pattrick's Ouija board close-up mats, Rings-N-Things' dazzling cups, Larry from Argentina's combination lock, and Palmer Magic's H.G. Effect (an ACAAN demonstrated by Shawn Farquhar over and over).
You can talk to the dead with this close-up mat.
A remote control candle?
Soupy Sales lives. The dealer show moved along at a fast clip. Any dealer who ran overtime got a pie in the face. A few enjoyed pie.
For Magi-fest fans, one of the draws is finding Tom Gagnon in the lobby. He is full of wildly original material and is delighted to teach it. He was similarly on hand in Louisville with some amazing gaffed dice. Included were a set of three juiced dice that could be magnetically set to favor any desired numbers and a whip cup that could control another regular-patterned set or a Put and Take pair. Gamblers are crafty. Breaking news: Richard Kaufman hired Tom to hang out at the Genii convention.
Tom Gagnon can make these total anything he wants.
Fourteen lectures spanned a generous range of topics. My take-aways include words on stagecraft from Fielding West, a comedy performance from David Deeble, a coin trick that exploited Tossed Deck thinking from Max Maven, a cremated card in envelope from Jay Sankey, a travelogue from Ted and Marion Outerbridge, and a really cool tabloid headline force from Martin Lewis. (It's called Stop the Press, on his Magikraft.com web site.)
All the contestants on the Friday night gala, emceed by Fielding West with guests Tony Chapek and Michael Goudeau, stuck me as FISM worthy and I believe they turned out to be. There was a mind-boggling distribution of awards, but the one that impressed me most was the popular vote for Stuart MacDonald. Stuart's mirror trick is an illusion-scale version of Paul Harris's Twilight, pure magic. Listen to Day III of Scott Wells' podcast from the IBM/SAM for Stuart's sure-fire way to improve your act 100 percent in 30 days.
My ticket went into this box.
I don't mean this as a slight to the featured acts, but I thought the emcees were strongest part of each show. Nice work from Gene Anderson, Max Maven, Fielding West, Derek Hughes, and Michael Close.
My view for the close-up show.
OK, my real view.
Lulls in dealer activity (the spacious lecture hall was just next door) gave me time to hang out with Genii editor Richard Kaufman. In addition to his facility with passes, Richard can do all the difficult stand-up card moves from the Cliff Green book. Lovely. And is there any deal in magic better than Genii magazine?
Sessioning is the best part of any convention. Late one night on the skybridge, John McLaughlin showed entertainment director Dale Salwak a card trick he had been working on, a marvelous mix of method, acting, and opportunity that fooled me badly. That's always a delightful feeling.
Love staying at the Galt, just a short walk up the street to Fourth Street Live. You can still take the "secret" skyway from the Galt toward this venue, although construction has part of it temporarily (?) blocked. My favorite new dining experience there: Smashburger. Ate there three times. You can also take a "secret" underground route from the Galt to the Kentucky Center in case of rain.
Last and perhaps least: I really liked the badge holder. Not only did it hold the badge on one side and the daily schedule in a separate window on the back, but it provided a zippered pocket that easily held my little notepad and a pen. Otherwise, I'd have forgotten everything you just read.
STRIP SHOW -- We live in surprising, unsettling times, and I am not speaking only of world politics. Just when you thought close-up magic had seen it all, along comes Bob Farmer with insane things you can do by card sorting via alternate number systems and secret marks, or The Jerx's JAMM proposes plots with fairies, saints, and shooting stars, miracles the likes of which we haven't seen before. The times they are a changing. We had long been done with our Mysto Magic sets or our Sneaky Petes, and especially that first weapon in our magic arsenal, the stripper deck. (I think I can still lay hands on my childhood Fox Lake deck.) But just when you thought it could offer nothing new, along comes A New Angle, a surprise from Magic, Inc. by Ryan Plunkett and Michael Feldman. This slim yet packed volume is not your father's, or your grandfather's, 101 Tricks with a Stripper Deck. Rather, it's a radical new look at an old tool, combining advanced thinking and advanced sleight of hand with the mechanics of tapered pasteboards. The results are wonderful and unexpected.
Breakthrough card magic.
Following a couple of short, interesting chapters on styles of stripper decks and how to cut your own cards, the trick section contains 23 titled items. A few require a faro, with such useful results as impromptu Svengali or peek decks, but there was plenty for those who can't (such as I). A few standouts:
Collect Yourself is a collectors routine that is a joy to watch. Just before the climax, the cards are dribbled and you see four separate aces, then bam, and suddenly the three selections appear sandwiched between them. This is one of the effects that requires a faro. I can't do one, but Chicago's Luis Carreon (who also performed on the Close-up show) does the trick beautifully and was most obliging, on multiple occasions.
Lights! Camera! Action!
Dual Thought is a version of Tamariz's Neither Blind Nor Silly that allows you or the spek to shuffle the cards. Easy!
Shuffleupagus lets each of two speks shuffle half a deck, then you shuffle the halves together. You spread the cards and see almost a perfect separation of reds and blacks (reds on the left), with only a few cards out of place in the middle. Then you cut the deck, wait a moment, and spread again to find the entire deck in perfect new deck order. This looks like a miracle, and you will fool yourself with it. This was great fun to work through and witness.
A Satisfying Sequence is the easiest item in the book: a card is selected and later returned reversed with everything done in the spek's hands. Finish as you wish!
Flash Triumph is one of several routines in which order is created or lost via repeated shuffles. The cards are genuinely shuffled face up/face down, a card is selected, and order begins to return with more shuffles, ending in a Triumph display with the selection reversed.
Incomplete Strip-out by Harapan Ong begins with the selected card buried in the left half of the deck and two jokers buried together in the right. The cards are riffled together but not pushed flush. The deck is spread, and one card from the left half is now seen to be penetrating the two jokers. It is of course the selection.
New to me, because I don't get out much, author Ryan Plunkett is a Chicago close-up guy, a founding member of the Chicago Magic Lounge, and author of Some Assembly Required. Author Michael Feldman is a veteran of the Magic Castle, Monday Night Magic, and cruise ships and is the author of The Opposite of People. The authors are joined by contributors Edward Boswell, Nathan Colwell, Frank Fogg, Harapan ong, Brian O'Neill, and Lance Pierce.
Every aspect of this book production is first-rate. The text itself is clear yet fresh and breezy. (There is humor, but it is truly amusing, not annoying as in some books of late.) The many footnotes are as entertaining and illuminating as any I've seen since Lovick's Handsome Jack book. Crediting is extensive, and there is a full index. Illustrations are clear, crisp photos that capture exactly what is intended. Lance Pierce wrote the foreword, and the authors an introduction. Susan Marshall and Pedro Nieves get the credit for the excellent editing, and Heather Wood's book design is a joy. There is much to love about this book.
And loved it is. The day I bought my copy was the official release day, and Magic, Inc. had already sold 800 of its first 1000 printed. The team expects a second printing in the first year, a first. A New Angle, hardback, 166 pages, $45 ($55 with a stripper deck included).
FAMILY VALUE -- It was approximately 1985 that my family (moi, Maleficent,Urchin, and Vixen) vacationed in Chicago, the highlight of which was dinner at Schulien's on West Irving Park. Ever since the Phil Willmarth book of my high school days, Schulien's had been one of my most hallowed destinations.
The magician at our table that night was Al James, and he had my kids laughing and amazed throughout. The food was great too. Especially because of that memory, it was a nice surprise to stumble upon a new Al James book at the Magic, Inc. booth. According to the flyleaf, the former Schulien's is now O'Donovan's, and it still proudly has the magic, including Al James on Friday nights. Saturdays he is downtown at Timothy O'Tooles. My kind of town!
Al James joins you at your table.
Al's new book, Conjuror at the Table, is both a primer and a master course on restaurant magic. The text is conversational, as though Al is talking directly to you, and is filled with stories of the Chicago close-up magic scene. The first four chapters cover the basics. "Preparing Yourself" deals with what kind of magic you should do, how long you should perform (10 minutes!), what you should wear, and real-world financial considerations. "Booking a Restaurant" tells you how to select a restaurant and then get booked. "Publicity" discusses both in-house and media publicity. "Working the Tables" gets into how to approach or be requested at tables. And should you stand or sit?
The last three chapters are full of first-rate magic. One covers the magic of Heba Haba Al, as he actually performed it. Another the Nick Pappas card control. And the final chapter the magic of Al James, including his Almost Impromptu Card in Balloon, previously a Magic, Inc. DVD.
My favorite chapter was "Historical Perspective." Al claims the whole Chicago scene really got started when Harry Blackstone taught a young Matt Schulien a trick. The story takes us to Schulien's, the Screw Ball Club, the New York Lounge, the Pickle Barrel, Little Bit O' Magic, Houdini's Pub, the Pump Room, the Ivanhoe, the Old Barn, Allgauer's Restaurant, Manny's Deli and Cafeteria, and the Chicago Magic Lounge, plus out-of-town offshoots the Brook Farm Inn of Magic and the Tomfoolery. A Salvatore Salla drawing of the Chicago Roundtable hangs at the Magic castle, and Al's book provides a key that names all 108 performers pictured. Many of these are the names I grew up with, thanks to the Trick Talks, ireland Yearbooks, and other writings from Magic, Inc. This book is a great reminder of my past, mine and my family's.
Conjuror at the Table is edited by Susan Marshall with a foreword by Johnny Thompson, illustrated with photos and clippings. Hardback with dust cover, 102 pages, $35 ($45 with Card in Balloon DVD).
ONE MAN SHOW -- As of 2015, the McCord Museum in Montreal became home to the Allan Slaight magic poster and Houdini artifacts collection, acquiring 600 posters and 1000 Houdini-related documents. The collection had been one of the five most important collections in the world.
Of the 600 posters, 250 appear in Illusions, The Art of Magic, a fabulous work published to accompany a 2017 exhibition at the McCord. The lovely full-color art is brought into context by seven essays. Except for David Ben, who provides an essay on "The River" (the flow of magic collectibles), the other writers come from backgrounds other than magic. David points out that about half the Slaight posters came from the David Price collection. Christian Vachon writes on "Magic in Montreal," the intersection of the Golden Age of Magic with Montreal culture. Vachon also writes on "The Art of Magic Posters," introducing the reader to lithography. Zeev Gourarier contributes "The Minspring of Modern Magic," re the period prior to the Golden Age. Kevin Grace examines "The Power of Symbols," re the devils, imps, and large secret books of knowledge so common in magic posters. Ersy Contogouris's "More than a Lovely Assistant" notes that the rise of magicians "using women as assistants in their most violent numbers" coincided with women getting the vote. And the most interesting to me was Katharina Rein's claim in "Fantastical Lives" that most magician biographies were clever mixes of fact and fiction, with similar fictions. All interesting reading.
A collection finds a home.
An aside: Allan Slaight provides a brief note at the front in which he recalls his teen years performing as the mind reader "Will Powers." This made me wonder what he performed (material from The Jinx, perhaps?), and part of the answer lay in his biography slaight: off hand. During a Q&A routine he created a sensation by realizing that everyone in the audience was thinking the same question (Who is poisoning our dogs?). But a more specific answer turned up in a biographical chapter of Spins and Needles, when at nearly 18 Allan sent Stewart James a detailed list of some 25 tricks he had performed for some magicians in Calgary. Several were James creations.
Illusions/the art of magic is edited by Suzanne Sauvage, president and CEO of the McCord Museum. It's a large format volume packed with stunning full-color posters, handsomely designed in black with gold detail and with black-edged pages. About 250 of them. I could see this being offered for hundreds of dollars, but in fact is available on Amazon prime for $31.42.
ACAANADA -- As a result of various back and forth communications re last month's Bammo Tarodiction Toolbox review, I became interested in another Bob Farmer trick -- the Bammo Dekronomicon. This is an ACAAN effect, one that meets some pretty special conditions. The spek thinks of any card in a face-up deck. Another spek thinks of any number 1-52. The deck is spread face-down, and the magi never touches the deck again. Only now are the card and number named. One of the speks counts to the number, and there is the card!
Bob Farmer used to include everything you needed, but now sells only the secret. That will set you back only $20. Some investment and assembly is required once you know the secret, but it's quite easy. Performance is also easy; no skill is required.
Meanwhile, The Tarodiction Toolbox is the gift that keeps on giving. I think we are up to eight addenda, and some of these, to me, are stronger than the original offering.
LAST KIND WORDS -- Please read Jon Racherbaumer's words regarding John Moehring in the August 2017 Genii. Jon is far more eloquent than I and does a nice job of capturing John's essence and how badly we feel that he is no longer with us. I probably don't even remember the first time I saw John Moehring. It would have been on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1966. I would have enjoyed him as one of the many fine manipulators that I loved on that show. I've seen that clip many times since, and the memories tend to smear. We eventually became friends at conventions, first at Desert Magic Seminars. John gave me far more than I was able to give him. His fun house/magic show The Wizard's Secrets at the MGM Grand was the coolest thing I've ever seen in Las Vegas. He capably edited ten years of MAGIC magazine, and he made M-U-M the best it has ever been. (We'll forgive him one month when he even put me on the cover.) His book on Del Ray, complete with DVD, is among my favorites. When I worried that Del Ray might have trouble with his opportunistic blackjack strategy, John sent me additional video of Del Ray employing his system under fire. Amazing work.
Friends had gathered round John as his disease progressed. He was a Dallas Super Session honoree in 2014, and there is a nice 26-minute documentary associated with it. Even beter, in its way, is a collection of accolades from friends who couldn't attend. Watch for a cool trick from Michael Perovich. Additionally, Stan Allen put him on the cover of MAGIC for June of 2016 with articles about John and about "The Ed Sullivan Show" by Alan Howard. It's a nice issue, one of the magazine's last. (John had earlier graced the cover of Genii, in February 2006, with an article about him by Jim Steinmeyer and showcasing two of his tricks.)
I often contend that magicians are both nicer and smarter than people, and John was a capital example. One of the things John and I shared outside of magic was a fondness for the books of Larry McMurtry. Indeed, John was a personal acquaintance of and friend to McMurtry. John had one funny story about finding a first edition McMurtry in a used book store. He could tell from the inscriptions that it once belonged to him. John had lost possession of it via a breakup with a girlfriend, and he could no longer afford his own book. I'd like to think that Larry McMurtry's last book, published in 2014, found its way into John's hands and brought him some joy and escape. It's called The Last Kind Words Saloon and is an innovative retelling of the Wyatt Earp story. I suggest you read it, both for a grand instance of American writing and to share a moment of pleasure that I assume was enjoyed by our friend, John Moehring.
Books and ghosts.
Enjoy MAGIC Live.
Have an endless summer. Take McGrave's Hotel and Lucas Mackenzie and The London Midnight Ghost Show to the beach.
The official Lucas Mackenzie web site.
The official McGrave's Hotel web site.
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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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