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Saratoga Ballantine discusses her dad.

March 2012

Boy, those Sports Illustrated swimsuit models really look great on my iPad. That Cintia Dicker sure is cute. So is that Kate Upton. And so is ... hey, wait a minute, this is my Little Egypt Magic page. I should be thinking about magic, not babes. But as I am thinking about babes, how about an all-babe issue? Accordingly, this month we visit three very lovely and talented ladies -- Saratoga Ballantine, Tina Lenert, and Erin Morgenstern, along with the original happy face, the Mona Lisa. What a range of magical interests.

Now, if I could persuade Cintia and Kate to take a card ...

EVERY MOVE A PICTURE -- From time to time, I have praised Gary Fitzgerald's wonderful Who's Hoo broadcasts from the Magic Castle. It's like watching a magically hip Letterman-like talk show, complete with a standup comic intro and a band, all leading into interviews with fascinating guests. The most recent to snag my attention and deserve the highest praise was the episode with Saratoga Ballantine, the named-for-a-racetrack daughter of Carl Ballantine, my all-time favorite magician. An actress, producer, and director, Ms. Ballantine is a most attractive lady with legs about a mile long and a personality so delightful there can be no doubting her parentage. In case any of you Castle members missed it (it was filmed in January, and Fitzgerald had a couple of really great gags about the fire), check it out to learn what a great dad Ballantine was; to learn of his relationships with Ed Sullivan, Woody Allen, Bea Arthur, Bernadette Peters, Dinah Shore, George Carlin, and Elvis; and to learn of the one time that Saratoga and Carl worked together, on the Spiderman cartoon series. All this and much more, some funny, some bittersweet, in a must-see installment.

Gary, you should use a rubber chicken in your act.

CAVE GIRL -- I like a girl who quotes John Wooden.

In her first set of lecture notes, Find Yourself by Connecting the Dots, Tina Lenert quotes not only Coach Wooden but also Albert Einstein, Saul Bass, Steve Martin, Buddha, Joel Hodgson, Harry Anderson, Steve Jobs, her mom, and others. Her influences are many, as have been her interests including mime, magic, the harp, modern dance, landscaping, and teaching yoga. In her 35-year performing career, Tina has drawn on these interests, "connected the dots," to create four different acts. In these immediately coveted lecture notes she takes us along the roadmap that she followed to create the Doll Act (my favorite -- mime plus magic with her eyeballs), Maid in Heaven (romance with her mop), Harp and Feather, and Simply Magic (Scarf and Linking Rings). For that last act, she reveals that, instead of using a live bunny, she avoided live animal problems by having a rabbit fabricated by a movie industry company and by learning to animate it from a Venezuelan Rocky Raccoon expert. (This makes me wonder: is Mike Caveney's chicken also a fake?). In these forty pages, Tina not only teaches you how to create an act, but how to quit dreaming about it and get it done. High marks. Softbound, from Mike Caveney's Magic Words, $15.

The odd couple.

Under the big top.

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH -- At least at night. Imagine, if you will, a circus straight out of Ray Bradbury, of black and white striped tents, open only at night, featuring a magician, a contortionist, a juggler of kittens. (You come very close to this in real life if you experience Jeff McBride's Wonderground.) And it isn't quite a real circus after all, but is only a venue, a stage, an arena in which two magicians compete to the finish in a contest without rules, nee Celia and Marco, a pair who muddy the waters of the competition by falling in love. This is The Night Circus, the delightful debut novel from Erin Morgenstern (my third babe of this issue, if you are counting). Hardbound, 387 pages, $26.95 everywhere.

AMUSED -- How many girls can you recognize from their smiles alone? Julia Roberts? Scarlett Johansson? Mona Lisa? Justin Flom capitalizes on that last option in his new card trick, Card Artistry, available from Vanishing Inc. Briefly, a spectator selects a card from a deck that you ribbon spread, cut, shuffle, and in general handle like a normal deck of cards. ""I'm not going to find your card. Leonardo Da Vinci is," you boast. And then using the shuffled deck like a paintbrush, you "paint" out the spitting image of the Mona Lisa, and she is holding in her hand the five of diamonds, the selected card. The image composed of sixteen playing cards is indeed a surprising work of art. "No wonder she's smiling," you say as the effect sinks in. It's a great trick, pretty easy to do (you have to come close to a fairly good faro, but I could do so and I don't faro), and very well made. Taught by DVD (nicely, and, thank goodness, briefly; some day, magic tricks from this era will be discovered, and there will be no machines to play DVDs, and magicians will speculate as to how the tricks were to be done). Justin has come up with a great improvement on a Chris Kenner idea. $35 from Vanishing Inc. Go to Josh's web site and see a video of this being performed.

Magic is an art.

Thank heaven for little girls ...

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.

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