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Return to our June issue for a look at the 50th anniversary of my wedding night at the Magic Castle, Juan Tamariz's TV show from the 90s, and the script to Harry Anderson's Wise Guy.
First, a shoutout to Violet, the eight-year-old family friend who fooled me with her version of the Lazy Man's Card Trick. Why? All the cuts were face down! Fiendish.
As to the rest of July, it's the calm before the summer convention storm. Scott Wells is getting ne in the mood with daily reports from the IBM convention, and I hope to be catching up with 1599 of you in a few weeks in Las Vegas. I am particularly intrigued by the idea of a Richard Wiseman seance.
Elsewise, below, we discuss a fine linking ring routine, bid a heartfelt farewell to Brian Gillis, and look forward to some A-list magicians coming to town.
Enjoy the summer.
CHAIN GANG -- There have been high points in a lifetime of watching Chinese Linking Ring routines: Jay Marshall's iconic five-ring routine. Richard Himber's Three-Ring Circus* on "Don Alan's Magic Ranch." Johnny Carson doing Dai Vernon's Symphony of the Rings when I was in college. Richard Ross with his three-ring routine, the first time I saw the rings just melt into each other. Martin Lewis getting screams with his routine in a comedy club, the rings held dramatically with black gloves.
I didn't expect to see another of that caliber. But I just did! In the July 2018 AMA Newsletter, in Bill Goodwin's "From the Library" segment, John Lovick performs his own five-ring routine, and it's great. As John explains, the choreography, the combinations of linking and unlinking moments, are directly from Allan Hayden's Fancy Ring Routine. But the jokes, the gags that give focus to each important magical instant, are John's, and they make this wonderful. John uses a perverse magical premise, telling you that the rings aren't really linked (but they are), and his handling defuses every possible guess the spectators might have as to the method. He had me smiling.
Instant chain of five.
Following the performance, John gives Bill a mini-lecture on the rings, explaining why he thinks five is the optimum number, detailing his own history with the rings, and providing a bibliography of top five-ring routines. If you are a Castle member, be sure to check this month's edition out. It has to be admitted: John Lovick is more than just a pretty face.
Examinable (?) three-ring routine.
*Himber didn't price his locking three-ring routine in his sexy ads. You had to write and ask. The price, to me at least, was $200. In 1962! See his reply at the bottom of the page. I was a kid and had never seen $200.
FALLEN STAR -- It's been a hard year for heroes. The latest to fall, most unexpectedly, is Brian Gillis. His persona exuded such a strength that I considered him immune to common mortal issues. He used to box with Amazing Johnathan, he used to race motorcycles, and he used to perform flirtatiously, even though he was darn near my age, and the ladies bought it. More about that in a minute. Quite simply he was one of my favorite performers, and I miss him.
Brian rocks the Close-up Gallery.
Brian accounts for one of my favorite evenings at the Magic Castle. I was hanging out with Jon Racherbaumer--Joe Stevens had hired us to lecture at a Stevens event--and Jon and I walked down to the Haunted Wine Cellar to discover Brian performing a full unscheduled show. As always, he totally ruled with his fast-paced close-up material, then expanded it to a parlor-level experience by bringing in his partner Sisuepahn and exhibiting two-person mind reading (with a little help from Eddie Fields). I didn't know Brian, but Jon did, so we got to hang with him after the show. A lovely night.
Brian's close-up work was so fast. You can learn it if you wish, as he teaches most of it on a Penguin Live lecture, with superb help from Dan Harlan. Brian's methods were old-time classics: the classic coin palm, Han Ping Chien, the pass, the side steal, the watch steal, and so on. He could jazz. The lecture includes his sponge ball routine (with great tips), a fine one-person mental routine that combines two tricks, and an extended interview, going back to his teaching years (he hated teaching junior high boys; he was a psych major with a math minor), to his education from Eddie Fechter, and to his appearances with Johnny Carson.
Magic the old-fashioned way.
Proudly known as The Magician to the Stars, Brian was on with Carson three times, and you can find those clips on YouTube. I especially loved watching him do the Slydini paper balls routine for Buddy Hackett, and Johnny hailed Brian as his favorite magician. In L.A. he entertained the A list, his web site bright with photos posed with Paul McCartney, Charlize Theron, Eddie Murphy, Muhammed Ali, Lucy Liu, Arnold Schwarzenegger (stole his watch!), Johnny Depp, Dustin Hoffman, Jeff Bridges, Nicholas Cage, Terry Hatcher, Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner, Stevie Wonder, William Shatner, Hal Holbrook, and many others.
Brian was a Magic Castle favorite, and because of this I am conflicted. There is no doubting his appeal. Milt Larsen, in an obituary note on Brian's web site, mentions that he had asked Brian to perform at a pre-opening party for his Magic Castle Cabaret. He adds, "I knew he would be the perfect magician to impress our most influential members." Jack Goldfinger states that Brian "is guaranteed to produce howls of laughter and screams of amazement in every show that he does." But ... the July AMA Newsletter announced that even "a little bit of sexual innuendo" will no longer be allowed at the Magic Castle. If you watch Brian's act in the Close-up Gallery, you will see that the laughter and screams are because of that innuendo, that the crowd is firmly on his side. I see merits and flaws on both sides of the issue, and it will be interesting to see how the policy evolves.
Meanwhile, aloha to Brian Gillis, one of the best close-up magicians ever.
PREVIEWS OF COMING ATTRACTIONS -- I live in the sticks, magic-wise, and seldom have much of local interest to report re live shows. This is about to change over the next few weeks. First up, Justin Willman is scheduled to return to Bloomington, Indiana's Comedy Attic from August 9-11.
Back to the Attic.
I reported Justin's first appearance here back in October 2014. As I mentioned then, "I was unprepared for how tight his comedy magic act was, with many callbacks to both props and themes, with plenty of strong magic and surprises. Justin allows himself to be silly and allows himself to be deep, with discourses on the nature of magic and secrets. It's cool that on his web site he lists himself as a magician first, followed by actor, comedian, and TV personality (perhaps the same mindset as that of Harry Anderson)."
Fooling Penn and Teller, one color at a time.
And second: the Bloomington Playwrights Project (BPP), some 35 years young, is the only professional theater in Indiana dedicated solely to new plays. Chad Rabinovitz, its magic-friendly Artistic Director, has announced that the opening production for the 2018-2019 season will be Glitches in Reality, starring Simon Coronel. Simon's one-man show promises to use "close-up trickery and mind-blowing sleight of hand to take the audience on a journey through the truth behind magic and illusion; a truth that is far more amazing than the illusions themselves."Glitches in Reality will run from September 20 - October 5. And hey, Simon fooled Penn and Teller so badly they didn't even know it. Hope to see more of the same!
Exceeded my allowance.
Congratulations to the Wild Boars in Thailand and your rescuers. You did Houdini proud.
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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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