Note ye ed's email address:

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

Post publication announcement: Magic Inc. in Chicago is holding a benefit at 8:00 pm on April 3rd in the Jay Marshall Lecture Hall for Jim Cellini. Tickets will be $25.00, seating limited to 80. Sandy Marshall will emcee a show featuring Marshall Brodien and many others. Phone 773-334-2855 or email the shop at for details.

The father of Magic in the Desert.

March 2009

March is one of the great months of the year, not only for basketball fans who like to watch 65 teams play for all the marbles, but for magicians who are beginning to thaw out from the long winter and show up at magic conventions in springlike weather. This month we concentrate on two madly entertaining events: the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas and Simon Lovell's rare appearance in Chicago, at the world-famous Magic, Inc. You're going to wish you had been there ...

MARCH MADNESS -- Congratulations to Bob Rossi and Bill and Becki Wells for continuing Joe Stevens' love child, now known as the World Magic Seminar, well into the 21st century. From the opening party hosted by Rich Bloch to the closing party hosted by Mike Close (with great gags from That Reminds Me), it was a festive, high quality four days of magical performances, lectures, and socializing. What follows is a not a report on the whole shebang, but merely a few notes on some of the things I attended and enjoyed, hence my apologies to any not mentioned. I've not been out west for the past couple of years, and it was great to see those friends again who tend to show up at this fete. A few of us bemoaned the fact that Roger Klause couldn't attend, but we know he would have wished us the best of times. If you'd rather look at pictures than read a couple of thousand words, check out Pete Biro's photos.

FOURPLAY -- Although there was no single over the top event this year to match the Harry Anderson/Mike Close performance of Wise Guy or the Amazing Johnathan roast, there was a singular event: the U.S. return of Rudy Coby. Rudy's four-legged Labman character first galvanized the magic world over twenty years ago during a DMS contest, and it was a delight to witness him again. Rudy also proved a capable and funny emcee on a show that tested him, delivered a delightful lecture that reprised some of his best video bits (including Puppet Boy and Magic Dave; Milt Larsen had never seen the latter, a parody of David Copperfield, and he was, in his own words, "falling on the floor laughing"), and made himself accessible and in fine humor throughout the convention. It's really nice to have Rudy Coby back in magic.

Step into the parlor.

THE GRAND SALON -- My favorite WMS feature over the past several years has been Jeff McBride's salon, a special room set aside for all things McBride. This extraordinarily welcoming and amazing environment, which of course supports Jeff's Magic & Mystery School and other efforts, houses an array of products; a large table at which magicians of all levels and interests gather, discuss, and perform; and, new this year, the broadcast studio for the Street of gang. Highlights for me included watching Jeff devastate with an ungaffed version of Ryan Swigert's Kickback, watching Eric Jones amaze Jeff and others with his Ishkabibble Sandwich and his Oxy Clean coin routine, watching Eugene Burger stun a teenager with his Trick That Cannot Be Explained and Three Card Monte, listening to Max Maven's expert history discourse in answer to a Canadian's question about large touring magic shows, and eavesdropping on the numerous interviews conducted by the Street of Cards crew, with personalities ranging from Milt Larsen to Dan Sperry. Host A.J. even invited me to discuss The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts. (Note: all the interviews are available On Demand at Just click On Demand and scroll down to World Magic Seminar 2009.) All in all, the salon is magical, and I can think of no more positive force in magic the past several years than Jeff McBride.

TEEN TOWN -- The title here was the name of my high school youth center, and it seems an appropriate description to not only address what has become the most inventive and enthusiastic subset of WMS attendees, but a subset who all seem to be able to dance. Sixteen teen acts, having already bonded over weekend visits to Lance Burton's show and his home, competed over three days for closely contested prizes, and, cliche though it may be, they were all winners. Of items that especially appealed to me: Petite Sherry Nelson, with a fine bird act, flung a dove toward the audience, then turned her back to it and walked smartly away, the bird turning and following her until she pivoted toward the audience and caught it, a nifty piece of cooperation. (Sherry won a scholarship to Magic Safari in Canada.) Siphiwe and Nkumbuzu, from South Africa, presented the most original act, a soccer themed program that showed off fine acting. (The lads won the "Sarmoti Jr." cash award; in the post-performance interview, one indicated an interest in soccer, the other in opera, and he astounded us with his vocal power.) The Yamagami Brothers from Japan, who presented Smothers Brothers-like "dueling magic" that included a sawing and a metamorphosis, astounded me with a sort of zombie floor lamp, a five-foot tall lamp that floated behind a scrap of cloth. (I voted these guys first place; they came in third.)

The Yamagami Brothers.

Chicago's Bill Koch amped up the energy with an iPod/CD act (and earned second place). And Japan's Hiroki Hara garnered first place with a mask with glowing eyes, umbrella and confetti productions, and one-hand card fans that each spanned 360 degrees. (Hiroki's tears upon winning expressed his joy, as did the group hug with his fellow contestants.) Although the prize money still fails to acknowledge it, the teen contest has become the more significant contest at WMS. The brilliant innovation that we used to see in the old DMS adult contests (think Rudy Coby, think Kevin James) is now more likely to show up in the teen contest.

STAGECRAFT -- A wealth of fine stage acts enriched four strong days of magic. James Dimmare danced at the opening night party in one of the strongest sets I've seen him do, the highlight a salt pour into an umbrella to "Singin' in the Rain." Also on that bill a fine puppeteer named Anthony Rais; I loved his "Rigor Mortise," a skeletal stripper whose bones occasionally flew apart. It was like watching an old black and white cartoon. Dave Kaplan produced a lit candelabra from his jacket, dodged skies that rained bowling balls, and played a ukulele with missing strings (thanks to one of the bowling balls having hit it like an asteroid). Luis Manuel produced single cards and split fans using jumbo cards. Soma from Hungary, who got not only my vote but the majority of the audience's vote for first place adult, created magic with a pay phone version of Miser's Dream, a torn and restored newspaper that made time run backward, and a briefcase that followed him around and slammed itself shut when opened, like something out of the Addams Family. Greg Frewin, second only to Lance among today's dove acts, and arguably the most original, closed the convention with his surprising dove productions and his Cage to Girl finale. But it was Jason Latimer whose levitation of a girl impressed me the most. Once she was high in the air, and Jason was passing a rectangular hoop over her, the entire illusion rotated, so that you could see her from all sides. It was like a scene from The Matrix, a hip, cool interlude.

CHARITY CASE -- The Encore Foundation show, an extra-pay event, constituted the most successful single event of the convention, with Max Maven smoothly emceeing a dozen top acts. Michael Holley juggled an apple, a hatchet, and a bowling ball. Jeff McBride created magic with light, climaxing with a string of lights that teleported from his hands to Eugene Burger's beard. Mac King performed a new double rope restoration, with the spectator's rope restoring as easily as Mac's. Chris Randall manipulated cards. Eugene Burger demonstrated a ten-card poker deal with jumbo cards. Bruce Gold divined a card with the help of a toaster. Andrew Goldenhersh turned a tattoo into a live butterfly. The card on Rich Bloch's head matched one on a lady's head. Tomsoni and Co. performed a burlesque two-person mind reading act, ending with a most puzzling transmission of a bill's serial number. Shimshi flipped over backwards and located a card. Mark Kornhauser accompanied a mumbling vent figure. And Miss Katalin looked ... wonderful. There was ball manipulation, a great costume change, but mainly just ... her. Check out this dazzler from Hungary at Katalin's web site.

Miss Katalin mystifies.

CUPS APLENTY -- Bill Palmer's Cups and Balls museum pieces in the dealer room served notice that cups would receive their due at this convention, the cups still considered the oldest trick in magic despite Bill's Power Point talk that argued that the cups never appeared on the walls of the pyramids in Egypt. Also receiving attention in the dealer room was a cup designed by Auke Van Dokkum. Incredibly, its base pivoted open, sort of how a layman might think the Cups and Balls works. I don't understand the value of this feature, but it was impressive to behold. As to performance and explanations, Kent Gunn was inexplicably excluded from the formal Cups and Balls Symposium, presenting instead a joint lecture with Curtis Kam (who taught a fine Ramsay Cylinder and Coins). Perhaps Kent was just too different. If you take a guy with a goofball sense of humor who does Fourier transforms for a living and apply him to the cups, what you get is the Fun Shop Cups and Balls, a popular Youtube feature. And, as David Roth once said, if you love the effect you're really going to love the method, and I did. Kent applies some seriously offbeat thinking to this ancient magic trick, to excellent results.

A few of Bill Palmer's Cups and Balls.

The Symposium itself, hosted by Pete Biro and Bill Palmer, opened with the previously mentioned talk (I am reminded of a New Yorker cartoon in which Satan, interviewing a new assistant, says, "Do you know Power Point?"). Fine performances followed. Johnny Thompson, an incredible mimic as well as sleight of hand performer, did the cups as Malini, as Pop Krieger, as Vernon, and as Danny Dew. Antonio Romero did a startling version with bright red and yellow balls in covered glasses. Rafael Benatar applied e-commerce patter to his version. And then came Jason Latimer, whose Clear Cups and Balls won him the Gran Prix at FISM. This was the first time I've seen Jason do the act live, and it's a thrilling combination of magic and music.

LET'S MAKE A DEAL -- I sensed from overheard comments that dealer business was way down, but I've no numbers to substantiate that. There were moments that the dealer room seemed "dead," but this may have been the result of the heavily attended lectures, of the magic going on in the hallway, or of the magic going on in Jeff McBride's salon.

Theory 11 -- where the cool kids buy magic.

Of the dealers I visited most frequently, Andy Greget had a steady crowd, as did the always busy Mark Mason; it was a pleasure to see Chris Kenner at the Theory 11 booth; Auke Van Dokkum attracted the curious with his "bottomless" cup and with a nested coin set that exploded into coins all over his close-up mat; Dean Dill had an interesting Any Card to Envelope (he called it Revelation); Lynetta Welch had her fabric magic; Losander made furniture float like real magic (I lucked into being part of a Travel Channel audience for this); Norm Nielson had his usual tempting posters and rubber bottles; Stan Allen, Mike Close, and Kozmo signed up subscribers; and Joe Stevens, who looks great in "retirement," had a large display of high class merchandise, including a portrait of Houdini that bursts into flames.

Eric Jones -- a cool dealer sells magic.

But the dealer it was hippest to frequent was Eric Jones. Eric was a triple threat at this convention: he sold stuff, he lectured, and he closed the Big Six Close-up Show. His magic is engaging and eye-popping, and you are going to hear a lot about him. Just a first-rate magician. Check him out on Kozmo's Reel Magic, the David Williamson issue.

SERENDIPITY -- At any convention, the best magic is the magic that happens in private moments, away from the formal shows and lectures. Failing to attach myself to a team at the Midnight Bowling Tournament, I wandered downstairs at 12:30 to find Mickey Silver just as he began a twenty-minute display of things you can do with his marvelous retention vanish. His Jackpot routine, in which coins pop into view from facial orifices, is incredible, as was his seeming ability to pass coins through the glass front door of the Orleans. I still have my fingers crossed that he will some day release the work on this. Armando Lucero pleased a few of us, not with magic, but with a mini lecture on pacing and modulation. Fascinating. And Charlie Frye amazed and amused us with his Flea Circus, the first I've ever seen, and an incredibly charming exhibition. Or should I say lousy? But the best magic trick I saw at this convention belonged to Bizzaro, a popular and frequent guest on Street of His Silk Through Hand is a stunning visual effect. Milt Larsen watched it and cracked up, telling Bizzaro it was one of the best tricks he had seen in 77 years. (You are going to love his promo video; check it out.)

226 -- The Midnight Bowling Tournament, a convention feature you can enjoy only at the Orleans with its seventy-lane bowling alley, has grown into an exceedingly popular event, at least for the night owl set. The alleys saw the likes of Losander and his wife, Luna, competing against the likes of serious bowler James Dimmare, with the likes of Chris Kenner and Katie Egleston looking on. Did any of these people get up to watch the teen contest? I am pleased to immodestly report that, despite the hotly contested action, the single game high score of 226, posted in the first year of the tournament, still stands as the high score. And I wasn't on steroids back then. I swear.

ODDS AND ENDS -- I had a great time. My seat for the shows was excellent, in the same row as the Joe Stevens family. There were many highlights, more than I've had space to mention here. John Gaughan was the honoree, and he received a lengthy, hilarious introduction from Mark Wilson. Mike Close emceed the last show, and he offered a mock award to any act that left the stage clean of confetti and streamers. No one earned his prize. My only excursion outside the building was to attend Lance Burton's show. This is his final year of Lance's contract, so he may be unemployed by the next time I visit Las Vegas. Thirteen years have only enhanced his show. He's the best. My favorite bit: Lance produced a flock of ducks that marched in unison to his commands -- this way, that way, reverse, clock right, whatever, and they obeyed perfectly. "Let's see Criss Angel do that," Lance boasted. Let's see it indeed.

Two guys you shouldn't trust with your daughters.

BLIMEY, IT'S SIMEY -- The most satisfying performing situation to which one can aspire in magic these days, or perhaps ever, is the "full evening" magic show driven by a strong character. A shows with legs, a show whose word of mouth keeps customers buying tickets week after week. Las Vegas has Penn & Teller, The Mac King Comedy Magic Show, and Amazing Johnathan/The Madman of Comedy. Audiences have similarly loved Tom Mullica's Evening at the Tomfoolery, Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants, and Harry Anderson's Wise Guy. Max Maven's Thinking in Person attracts intelligent audiences; Steve Cohen's Chamber Magic Show attracts millionaires. Another of this stripe, one I've longed to see for years but had failed to attend for lack of an excuse to visit New York City, is Simon Lovell's Strange & Unusual Hobbies, now New York's longest-running one-man Off-Broadway show. Fortunately, Simon brought his show to Chicago on March's Friday the 13th, for a one-night-only engagement at the Jay Marshall Theater, part of the resurgence of Magic, Inc. I was happy to land in a front-row seat, to "go along for the ride," as Simon put it, for a fast 90 minutes.

Magic, Inc., early evening.

Of the other shows mentioned, Simon's is perhaps most similar to Harry Anderson's, for its salty language, its over the limit hilarity (Simon's Sarah Palin joke was as deliciously "wrong" on as many levels as Harry's Elephant Man vent routine), and its biographical nature. Note that Simon's is an intimate parlor act, with the audience close enough to observe card maneuvers and for the performer to banter with the spectators. In New York it typically plays for up to 40 spectators, and it played to 40 to 50 in Chicago, with Simon flanked by the Great Leon's Miniature Haunted House on one side and a sixties' television set with spectacular rabbit ears on the other. How Jay Marshall is that?

The Great Leon's Miniature Haunted House.

The material begins with magic, takes various detours that follow Simon's lifeline, and then returns to magic. After his longtime favorite Fingered Number Three card transposition opener, Simon segued into the world of practical jokes on steroids (this part of the show reminded me of Amazing Johnathan-style mischief), some of which have landed him in jail. Here are things you should not do with the police observing, with a Gideon bible, or with grocery store dividers. (Simon's hobby was to steal those little conveyer belt barricades, change their wording, and sneak them back into the store.) Cons came next, bar bets that ballsy spectators can use to get their ticket money back. (At Magic, Inc., entrance was a steal at thirty bucks.) Next up, one of Simon's earliest interests, gambling. Here he demonstrated second deals, bottom deals, hand mucking, and riffle stacking. The work was lovely to behold and left the audience believing Simon could do anything. And then he did "anything," concluding with magic. There was a funny "cold reading" deck (Marotta's What Your Future Holds), Simon's Predicted Bermuda triple coincidence effect (which fooled me badly, as I hadn't read Simon Says recently), a Floating Orb of Zanzibar, and a Multiple Discovery routine in which Simon located cards signed by six spectators. I should add that he also performed Card to Wallet at strategic moments throughout the program. Then, "Thanks for coming, so now to the bar." And a goodly portion of the crowd did just that, following Simon to the Atlantic Bar & Grill, a great Irish bar a couple of doors away from Magic, Inc. What more could one ask? It's a tight show, with a strong, likeable character, zillions of laughs, world class sleight of hand, and enough personal biography to tie it all together and make it real.

Thanks to Sandy Marshall for luring this show to Chicago. I failed to mention that Sandy opened the show, in true Jay Marshall fashion, with a dirty joke, a local requirement. Sandy and his wife, Susan, make their home in New York, and Magic, Inc. is run day to day by the enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and quite funny Pedro Nieves. With great publications such as the Marlo books, shows such as Simon's, and upcoming appearances by Sal Piacente, Richard Potter, and David Solomon, Magic, Inc. is definitely back on the magical landscape. The most exciting news is that Sandy's biography of his dad is due out in August. Ah, summer reading ...

The Jay Marshall Theater.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE ... -- For those who didn't get enough of Simon on Friday night, he returned to the Jay Marshall Theater for a Saturday afternoon lecture, to another packed house. After a second -- and even funnier -- dirty joke by Sandy, Simon led a two and a half-hour discourse on his peculiar magic, including such favorites as Fingered Number Three, Pen Through Tongue, Packed Wallet, Another Departed Point (a killer, one of my favorites and still available on this web site if you are clever enough to find it), Heartless, The Lemming Ace Exchange, The Nightmare Deck, and Twisted Roses. Simon presented far more than the mechanics, adding how and why to do his magic, and why not to float a paper rose or turn it into a real one. Again, a zillion laughs, great insights, great magic. Simon closed with a heartfelt story about why we are in magic, why we do what we do. For those wishing to learn any of Simon's material, the best thing you can do is acquire a copy of Simon Says and its sequel. Above and beyond that, Simon has some great products on his web site, many of which he had available at the lecture.

Pioneering magic television.

SIX PACK -- Of the many CDs and DVDs that Todd Karr is putting out lately, one of the most enjoyable I've recently viewed is It's Magic, the 1955 television magic series. I think it ran only four weeks, and this DVD contains material from two of the series. Specifically, you get to see, in their primes, the acts of Al Flosso, A. Robins, Kuda Bux, Roy Benson, Tommy and Betty Tucker, and Fred Keating. Virtually all of this is marvelous magic that would be just as entertaining today. The acts are charmingly introduced by Paul Tripp, who does a little magic himself as part of the nice buildup that CBS gives this material. (It's also fun to watch the CBS promos for such shows as Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town and What's My Line?) It's Magic was one of the major influences that lured me into magic, and I can see why from watching these acts again. At the end of one of the thirty-minute shows, Paul Tripp performs a torn and restored Chinese Laundry Ticket, available to the viewing audience for twenty-five cents in coin sent to P.O. Box 51 in New York. I didn't purchase the laundry ticket, but I do recall purchasing a handkerchief pull for $1.50. It looked beautiful in Paul Tripp's hands and eventually in mine. I'd love to see more if Bill McIlhany can ever find them. A few acts still missing include Cleopatra, Kajar, Jerry Bergman, Blackstone, and Gali Gali. Until they are discovered, there is plenty here to enjoy, from The Miracle Factory. $35.

Congratulations to Magic Castle magicians of the year for 2008: Kevin James (stage), Shoot Ogawa (parlour), Doc Eason (close-up), Jeff McBride (lecturer), and Guy Hollingworth (overall).

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

A JSB Creations product

Copyright© 2009 by Steve Bryant