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One of my favorite Genii cover subjects--back with two new documentaries.
Return to our May 2019 issue to consider consider Mike Powers' new book Tesseract, four more tricks from Nick Trost's Subtle Card Creations Volume 7, and a new Little Egypt Magic photo file.
On the basketball scene, I am so depressed. I favored the Warriors in the NBA finals and have never seen a team so cursed with injuries. Nevertheless to David Ben and Julie Eng and others in Toronto, congratulations for the Raptors' well-fought win.
On the magic scene we turn to video with new documentaries about Amazing Johnathan and a new (to me) lecture by Rob Zabrecky. These guys are heroes of mine, and the really great news is that their new material is free.
Overlooked last month among a recent quintet of deaths was that of John Cornelius, in April. Farewell, John, and I hope your works live for a long time.
Meanwhile, we close with three amazing sets of wheels, circa 2003. Thanks for the visit, AJ.
MAGIC. METH. MAYHEM -- At some point in 2000 -- has it been that long? -- I was hanging around Hollywood Magic and noticing its display of the curent magazines. Stan Allen's MAGIC was there, but I couldn't spot any issues of Genii. When I asked, they said it had sold out. Yes! I was happy because thai issue, September 2000, featured my cover story on Amazing Johnathan. If you are a subscriber, I suggest you re-read it, for a lengthy Amazing Johnathan interview, a review of his show in a Tunica, Mississippi, silo, an interview with Billy McComb, and two great AJ bits you can perform at dinner. Later, I had the privilege of doing a Genii story on AJ's tricked out house in Las Vegas, in December 2004. I am a longtime Amazing Johnathan fan.
I am reminiscing because Johnathan is back in the magic news with not one but two new documentaries. The first, Always Amazing:The True Story of the Life, Death and Return of Amazing Johnathan, is directed by comedian Steve Byrne and is available now on Youtube. The second, The Amazing Johnathan Documentary, is directed by Ben Berman and will be out on Hulu August 16.
Lying to his principal, reporter, and parents.
Always Amazing is bittersweet, given Johnathan's medical situation--three years ago he was given a year to live--but there is plenty of sweet. The slick documentary ably portrays Johnathan as I have always considered him to be: a big lovable bear of a guy, incorrigibly and off-the-charts funny (even more so off stage than on), an A-list show business personality, aware of magical history and proud of his niche in it, surprisingly and vulnerably romantic, someone who really enjoys friends (a treasure to his close ones, an idol to legions), dangerous to anyone in proximity of his practical jokes, a tad loose with his personal well-being, and valiant in the face of dismal medical odds.
Long before there was a David Blaine.
If there is a focus and continuity to Always Amazing, it is Johnathan's relationship with his friend and road manager, Australian Joel Ozborn. Joel was initially a 12-year-old kid who grew into a position of trust and confidence in Johnathan's world. Joel speaks frequently in the program, and there are additional cameos from the likes of David Copperfield, Penn Jillette, wife Anastasia Synn (an amazing performer herself), Penny Wiggins, and Johnathan's mom Doreen Szeles. Nice inputs from all.
Joel was there for the road trips, the Las Vegas successes, the television specials, and some incredible lows, such as the aftermath of divorce involving suicidal thoughts, a Hunter S. Thompson pistol, police, laughing oneself out of big trouble, and quite a practical joke. Only AJ could turn personal tragedy into a dig at Billy Joel's music.
Aside number 1: NOT mentioned in the documentary, or anywhere else in the magic journals that I know of, is Johnathan's excellent online video interview series, "Burn Unit." It is still there at burnunit.tv, and you can enjoy all 49 episodes. I just re-watched the premiere episode, with guests Johnny Thompson and Pam. If you have been missing Johnny lately, you will adore this visit.
Aside number 2: My all-time favorite Amazing Johnathan bit was his goofing around with Princess Stephanie on "Champions of Magic III." Who saw that coming in high school?
Back to the new material. As mentioned, Always Amazing is in the can and you can enjoy it today, and The Amazing Johnathan Documentary will be on Hulu August 16. The first is terrific, and I expect the second to be so. Have fun.
ODD.MAN.OUT -- For some time now, the Society of American Magicians has been hosting monthly Sunday night lectures on its Virtual Assembly V1.1. The lectures are live but are subsequently available on demand to members. Until recently, I had not watched any, given that Sunday night has always been crazy busy with family demands. But yes, that is a lame excuse given the On Demand feature, and I finally overcame my reticence when I realized that there was a new lecture from Rob Zabrecky. Given my longtime fascination with spooky magic, nothing by Rob Zabrecky is to be missed. He's just the weirdest, in a good way.
The new lecture itself was swell. The feed was a bit choppy, but not so bad that it wasn't understandable, and the tech host, John, was super friendly and helpful. The questions posed by viewers who watched this live were excellent and enhanced the experience.
Rob and John chat.
As to content: For those of us already familiar with his Rob's ABC lecture, it was a nice departure that dived a little deeper. Serious Zabrecky students would recognize it as drawing mostly on his A = Acting and on his M = Magic Biography talks. The acting segment included eight practical tips, and the Bio segment expanded on his original ABC talk with advice on persona from Lovick's Handsome Jack book. Rob illustrated points with his Boy Next Door paper dolls and his Regrets Gypsy Thread routine. All this accounted for about half the evening, and the other half was devoted to questions. Both the planned talks and the part he was winging illustrate how deeply and precisely Rob Zabrecky thinks about his magic.
Highly recommended and free to SAM members.
It's hard to watch one Rob Zabrecky performance and not avail oneself of others. His longer online lecture, the Penguin Live lecture reviewed here in May 2014, is nicely hosted by Nate Kranzo and consists of four basic phases: a performance, a biographical segment, the entire Alphabet Talk, and questions. Two full hours, only $29.95.
Rob and Nate chat.
Although I have enjoyed Rob's ABC lecture both live and on video, I am a book fan, and so it's great to have A, B, Z's of Magic available from Vanishing, Inc. as part of its Astonishing Essays series. Check my review in August 2018.
What's in that box?.
New to me Zabrecky experiences include:
A hirsute Jack Black and Rob Zabrecky seance to contact Kurt Cobain.
A Boo Crew audio podcast with Rob as guest. Contains a great story about doing a show for Michael Jackson.
An iTricks Ouija board seance conducted for the cast of the movie Ouija. A great lesson in how messages from beyond can be spooky.
ALOHA, JOHN CORNELIUS -- Finally, and briefly, a belated farewell to John Cornelius. I didn't know John, but have long admired him. Though he was in his 70s, I think of him as a young man, which he was back when he was winning at FISM and appearing in The Pallbearers Review and putting out such groundbreaking tricks as Pen Through Anything and Thought Tranmitter. I have always credited him with launching the modern era of television magic, when Doug Henning caused his Fickle Nickle to melt away, on live TV. My favorite John Cornelius prize is his book, The Award-winning Magic of John Cornelius, by Lance Pierce, reviewed here in September 2012. I carry a copy always on my iPad.
A first look at John Cornelius.
Get well soon, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
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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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