Note ye ed's email address:

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

The next Lee Asher? The next Aaron Fisher?

May 2009

Ah, May. Mother's Day came and went, and I hope you appropriately thanked the lady who probably served as your first spectator to "take a card, any card." We've an eclectic brew to consider this month, including a lecture by Martin Lewis, a sizzling debut book by Caleb Wiles, Notebooks 9-11 from Bruce Cervon, a tell-all comic book on human levitation, some nice financial news for IBM convention attendees, a retrospective peek at a spooky night at the Magic Castle, and signed best wishes to that nicest of magicians, Don Lawton. Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you soon at the summer conventions.

A drawing animates.

IT'S ALL DONE WITH KINDNESS -- "A few things done well" was the title of a 20,000-word article on Martin Lewis that I contributed to the September 2002 issue of Genii. Martin continues to do a few things well, very well, and he has been demonstrating them recently on a lecture tour through the Midwest. I caught up with the tour this month in Evanston, Illinois, where Martin held forth before a large, enthusiastic audience. I have attended many lectures over the past five decades, and I have rarely heard explanations elicit such gasps of approval. We all delighted in such Martin Lewis classics as the "Sketchpad Card Rise," the "Hathaway Rising Cards Houlette," "The Stampede Second," and the "McAbee Rings." New to me, though Martin has been doing it since 1986, was "The Bamboo Mat," a sort of strange, illusion-scale version of "Troublewit." All in all a delightful few hours with Martin as his wife, the lovely Susi, rang up sales in the back of the room. Catch the lecture tour if you can, buy stuff online from Magikraft if you can't, and try to acquire from Richard Kaufman the Martin Lewis issue of Genii, copies of which several magicians brought to the lecture to have signed. I persuaded Martin to reveal a few things in the article that he can't reveal in the lecture, at least not to a family audience, and they may inspire you.

Martin and an assistant cause a physical card to rise.

SPOT ON -- High Spots, the debut book of card magic from Caleb Wiles, is not only a bargain at $20 in today's inflated market, but is a bargain in the sense that it contains card magic you are going to look forward to showing your audiences. This is compelling material, most of it relying on clever construction than on difficult sleight of hand. I was lucky to attend Caleb's first lecture, in March 2007, a prequel to an Andi Gladwin/Tyler Wilson lecture in Indianapolis. Caleb's trick "Make a Wish" was the highlight of the evening for me, and it's in the new book. In effect, a birthday girl selects a card which is signed and then lost in the deck. She makes a wish and now discovers that her card is the only one with a birthday cake drawn on the back, candles ablaze. Of course you must blow out the candles for your wish to come true. She does, and now the drawing on the back of the signed card morphs to a cake with extinguished candles. Many variations are possible and suggested. Two other killers from the Baker's dozen of items: "Word Perfect" is a baffling, dead easy way (no memorization!) to perform Paul Harris's "Deep Astonishment." And, my favorite, "26!" ("twenty-six factorial"), allows you to shuffle half the deck and a spectator to shuffle the other half, and then you show that the cards in each half match, card for card throughout the stacks. This one is getting a lot of attention. The soft-cover book is handsomely produced by Vanishing Inc., the hot new online company launched by Joshua Jay and Andi Gladwin. If High Spots is representative of Vanishing Inc. quality, Josh's and Andi's company has a brilliant future. (Caleb is also off to a brilliant personal future. At his inaugural lecture, he was still a college student. He is now out of school and teaching math at a prominent Indianapolis high school, a career path of which I am quite envious.)

You will believe a lady can fly.

HOW TO LEVITATE A LADY -- Levitation (subtitled "Physics and Psychology in the Service of Deception") is a remarkable comic book by Jim Ottaviani and Janine Johnson. Although I have no idea of the historical accuracy of the volume ("Some names, characters, places, and incidents are used fictitiously"), the story details the development of the modern levitation of a lady, including backstage intrigue populated by John Neville Maskelyne, Harry Kellar, and Howard Thurston. Ms. Johnson's illustrations are engaging and will teach you much that you probably didn't already know about modern levitations. A deal at $12.95.

STIMULUS PACKAGE -- If you are staying at the Opryland Resort & Convention Center for this summer's IBM convention, note that the IBM has negotiated the daily parking fee from $18 down to $12. More money to spend on card tricks!

4E 4EVER -- The death of Famous Monsters creator Forrest J Ackerman last year created a far bigger stir among magicians than I had anticipated. Recent discussions on the Genii Forum further indicated that there had been earlier link between FM and magic, specifically the Magic Castle, and I was quickly able to get my hands on one. Issue 46 featured exclusive coverage of "Boris Karloff in the Magic Castle." The story, by Paul Linden, and riddled with Acker-puns, covered an evening at the Castle to celebrate the release of Karloff's record album, An Evening with Boris Karloff & His Friends. The 10-page article featured photos from Karloff's career, one with editor Ackerman, and one with Manny Weltman (in a Frankenstein mask, as "ghoul-in-residence" at the Magic Castle). Celebs cited included Don Post, Verne Langdon, and Milt Larsen. Of course, the article emanated from "Horrorwood, Karloffornia."

Every boy's favorite magazine.

FOR THE RECORD -- Bruce Cervon's Castle Notebooks Volume 4 is at hand, and this 372-page installment continues to amaze with its chronicle of the magic being created and performed in the Magic Castle's golden early years. I find this volume particularly interesting because I began visiting the Castle myself during those years (1967-1969). I was quite shy at the time and not privy to these inner secrets, so it's most revealing to peruse these pages. I can see what was going on during important moments in my life, such as my wedding night. (Now I have a record of where the real action was.) I've barely scratched the surface of the material in this book, but was pleased to come across a great "Spectator Cuts Aces," Vernon's "Curious Count" additions (which appeared in Pallbearers), a "Collectors" routine in which three kings find one card chosen by the magician, the other by the spectator, a nifty "Riffle Reverse," and Ron Wilson's "Chop Cup Routine." Of the last two entries, Bruce rated them as "very, very fine," one of his favorite accolades. Despite his maverick spelling, Bruce was most meticulous in describing and illustrating these routines, and magic owes him a huge debt for his effort.

SIGNATURE EFFECTS -- Don Lawton's Autograph Book, which I acquired last month at the MCA Weekend, is a thoroughly delightful book. Although I never had a true mentor when growing up, we did have one nice older magician in my home town named Albert Lee. When Albert finally managed a trip to the Magic Castle late in his life, he entered the Grand Salon to be greeted by then host Don Lawton. Upon telling Don that he was from Cairo, Illinois, Don immediately rattled off Albert's street address! (This bit of magic was aided by Don's having once been a St. Louis magic dealer and having frequently shipped packages to Albert.) The Castle has not had a nicer or more knowledgeable host since. Don's book, put together by his wife Joan, is not only a tribute to Don, but is Don's tribute to early and mid-twentieth century magic. The bulk of the book is allotted to forty photos and autographs from top-flight magicians. Each autograph and photo is accompanied by a graphologist's analysis of the inscription, and my only quibble with the book is that I think history would have been better served by a one-page biography than by this handwriting mumbo-jumbo. But the variety of the inscriptions and the warmth of the photos make this an inspiring work, ranking up there with Hyla Clark's The World's Greatest Magic. Rounding out the book are forewords and biographical information by Leo Behnke, Lance Burton, Bruce Cervon, John Gaughan, Mark Nelson, and Jim Steinmeyer, and patter presentations for some of Don Lawton's signature effects: "Clippo," "Disecto," the "Sucker Paper Tear," and the "Egg Bag." The stunning design is by Steve Mitchell. At $48.50, this is one of the finest coffee table magic books I've seen in a long time and a delight to spend an afternoon with.

Family album.

Spend some time with your mom.

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