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History on parade.

May 2012

If it's May, it must be time for the Magic Collectors Weekend in Chicago, and so it was. This month we'll take a brief look at the 43rd such outing, a delightful assembly of people, information, and products, and possibly the last such gathering until 2014, as plans are afoot to make it a biennial event. I picked up a fabulous book of photos plus a special Ireland yearbook at the convention, both described below. Also on tap this month: a very funny mockumentary by Charlie Frye and the penultimate issue of Karl Fulves's Prolix.

Good luck to all those heading to FISM and other summer conventions. I'll catch up with you at the Genii bash in October and look forward to hearing about your summer. Me, I'm headed to the beach. Surf's up ...

The 43rd Magic Collectors Weekend is in the books,and it was a fine third Chicago production by Magicana's hardcore team of David Ben and Julie and Sandra Eng. I love to attend as I get to be a kid again: many of the participants are actually older than I am, yet all seem to have a teenager's enthusiasm for magic.

OPENERS -- Hosted by Tom Ewing, the opening day's Tricks Old and Seldom Seen segment always provides memorable moments. The first of these for me was a pair of color changing Deland cards, demonstrated by who else but Richard Kaufman. Richard promises to have the Deland book out this year, and it should be sensational. Last year at this time, Gale Molovinsky made Julie Eng's head vanish via some U.F. Grant prop. This year he made it slide around like a die in a Die Box, to her similar discomfort. It's hilarious that he bothers to construct these crazy gadgets.

The Kaufman and Hagy Show.

HONORABLE MENTIONS -- This year's honorees were Richard Kaufman and Jim Hagy. In a departure from the normal format, the principals interviewed each other. Richard and Jim complemented each other perfectly, and the format was ideal for showcasing two very different and interesting lives. The most fascinating nugget re Richard is that he financed his house by selling off 800 magic sets, and he financed the purchase of Genii by selling off his collection of James Bond posters. Collecting can be profitable! The most fascinating re Jim is that he started a monthly magic magazine at age eleven (!) and attracted contributions from dozens of famous magicians. His exploits as a young performer, with a program of 29 tricks in 30 minutes that required the client to drive him to the venue and back, were similarly impressive. (Later, when I visited his booth for the hundreds of pages of freebees he was giving every attendee, he was able to list off the 29 tricks for me!)

TALK SHOW -- I attended all the talks this year and found something to enjoy in each. Some of the topics were all over the map, some in clusters (there was a small Hoffman cluster, a larger Houdini cluster). With no disrespect intended to any not singled out, here are a few that resonated with my own interests:

  • "Guests & Ghosts of 278" by John Cox was my favorite of the Houdini group. Mr. Cox uncovered a guest sign-in book kept at Houdini's brownstone (he lived there 1904-1926) and kept going long after his death. The signatures revealed when S.A.M. meetings must have occurred, when seances must have occurred. A delightful find.
  • David Charvet presented a history of Emil Jarrow, exciting as it was a preview of a book on Jarrow coming out next month, with all of Jarrow's five most famous tricks fully revealed, with patter.
  • David Ben filled us in on the magical life of Max Malini with the interesting assertion that most of Malini's magic came directly from Sachs' Sleight of Hand. I shall have to spend more time with that book, as I confuse it with Magic Without Apparatus, which stands next to it on my shelf.
  • Charlie Miller, aka magic's house guest, was the subject of a 31 Faces North panel discussion in 2004. For those of us 32 and higher outsiders, it was a treat to see a video of this tell-all look at Charlie by some of his best friends.
  • "The Prophet, the Assassination, the Cult of Doom, and Top Hat Magic" by Diego Domingo wins as title of the year and was the story of a Reverend Ike wannabe whose godlike powers came from a plastic Lota bowl.
  • "Magical Jews - By One of Them" was an update of the talk Max Maven gave at the Skirball Cultural Center in L.A. last year. Max made the case that Jews account for about 20 percent of the magicians you know by name, a higher than expected showing, and he posed five theories on why this is so. Although the scholarship was interesting, it was just fun to watch so many beloved faces projected onto the screen, climaxing with my favorite, that of Carl Ballantine.
  • Mark Wilson and Nani Darnell were on hand to introduce a video montage of their life in magic and to answer questions posed by a room full of lifelong fans. An interesting trick in the video was a McDonald's Aces done with no Elmsley counts. Mark and Nani rated a standing O at the end of this encounter.

Shopping at MCW.

THE SHOPPING MALL -- The dealer room seemed to be doing brisk business throughout the weekend. In addition to the usual suspects, it was nice to see Mario Carrandi in the house. I'll mention a couple of my purchases elsewhere in this sheet (Smoke and Mirrors, Ireland's Yearbook 1961). I also acquired a pristine Nelson catalog (number 27; mine of that era has been read to shreds over the years) and a new book on Charles Dickens by Trevor Dawson. Trevor gave a well-received talk,and physically the book is beautiful. On the down side, Ian Keable poses serious challenges to the scholarship in this blog. Finally, I placed an order for the Jarrow book, due in June.

SHOW TIME -- The big Saturday night magic show transpired this year in the guise of a vaudeville performance at the McVickers Theater in Chicago, May 12, 1912. An opening Bioscope featured rare footage of the Titanic and its aftermath and such great entertainment as a singing duck. Very funny. David Charvet appeared briefly as Jarrow himself performing the newspaper tree. Later he returned to do Jarrow's Sawing a Lemon in Two among other items. David Ben did magic by Bertram, Miller, and Malini, my favorites being Charlie Miller's Magnetic Knives and Malini's Card Stab. The Surprise guest was Mark Wilson with a streamlined Torn and Restored Napkin and with Silk to Egg. The napkin idea was a clever updating.

Classic magic show.

And closing was Max Maven with a portion of his Max Maven Thinking in Person show. As does David Charvet, Max has a great voice for show business and could have been huge in radio. The magic was quite baffling and entertaining, my favorite being a routine in which the spectator kept choosing the same card from a deck, under different conditions each time. Normally the magician makes it harder to choose each time (one out of ten, next one out of fifty-two, etc.). Max went the opposite direction, ending with a one out of two choice, and he made this the strongest challenge of the set. You have to see it. And you can, in New York City, June 12 - July 1 at The Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex. The show will be produced and directed by Sandy Marshall and will have lighting by the amazing Jules Fisher. Max has probably never looked better than he will in this show. Meanwhile, for those of us this past weekend, it was a treat to see a preview in Chicago.

Way off my diet.

Still farther off my diet.

SWEET JESUS -- The social side of the MCA weekend kicked off with a wine and cheese reception with drinks on Thursday night and closed with a dessert reception on Saturday night. The catering was first rate, and just the idea of having a party on two nights out of three with a small convention (MCA usually numbers around 200) is brilliant. I loved the company, and I fell so far off my diet ...

PICTURE PERFECT -- My highlight purchase at the MCW was Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of photos by Miami based photographer Christiaan Lopez-Miro. The collection was shot over a three-year period at the Magic Castle, at Monday Night Magic, and at Magic on the Beach in Miami. Subjects include the likes of Milt Larsen, John Lovick, Simon Lovell, Chris Capehart, Todd Robbins, Rob Zabrecky, and others. Only 100 copies were printed for the first edition, and these should go immediately. I want to play fair with the creator so will not run any of his images, but you can find them on line at his web site. As beautiful as the photos are individually, the book is even better, opening with title pages you can see only reflected in the opposing mirror page and ending with an interview with the photographer. Published in April 2012, 32 color plates, 78 pages, perfect bound, $30 plus shipping, available here. Gorgeous!

Photo shoot.

ENDORSED -- A second great purchase at the MCW, for personal reasons, was a copy of the Ireland's Yearbook 1961.

A book from my teens.

Why? Several reasons. First, 1961 was a time I was into reading the Ireland yearbook series, and I didn't have this one. Indeed, I had contributions to the 1960 issue, with a cover by Steranko. Second, this issue contains some great stuff, including a five-page photo-rich reprint from Rogue magazine called "Chicago: Magic City." The first several photos are of Marshall Brodien doing hypnotism, including standing on a girl who is rigid between two chairs and levitating one on a broom. (Hypnotism?) I also loved another of Senator Crandall doing his mid-air card stab.

Hi, I'm Marshall Brodien.

Third, there are some extended sections on magic with rabbits and a long Marlo section on his Master Position, a useful and not difficult sort of palm up rear palm.

Marlo remembers.

And finally, this particular issue is endorsed to Al Sharpe by Marlo himself, which makes it nifty bit of history. Only at the Collectors Weekend.

IN THE CHIPS -- "The Chip" is a high tech YouTube promotional video for the Holland Casino, with the camera following a rolling, falling, and occasionally flying poker chip through the various offerings of what appears to be a delightful casino. Ever wonder how such a brilliant video gets made? "The Man Behind the Chip" is a documentary that takes you behind the scenes and shows you just how, shot by shot. Of course, it takes a Chip Master, someone with supreme power over poker chips to get them to behave like trained puppies. And of course, once you realize that the Chip Master for this shoot was Charlie Frye, you may realize that I am not being entirely serious. Click the links for a hilarious mockumentary. The Best in Show guys should hire Charlie.

Charlie Frye masters the chip.

NINE DOWN, ONE TO GO -- Long before there were any Real Secrets (I am referring to a new trick of the month community which I have chosen not to avail myself), Karl Fulves was issuing monthly magazines along with props necessary to try out the effects described. The latest journal of this nature is Prolix, and the ninth issue of ten promised landed in my mail box a few days before the MCW. (There was also a trick called Foxy Lady/Find the Queen, two issues of Xtra Credit, and a page of Odds and Ends.) Karl's prose always makes for welcome reading. This issue takes us from page 557-630.

The latest from Karl Fulves.

The lead item is a cut and restored rope routine by Rick Johnson, and it lives up to the hype of using a killer method. The trick became a topic of discussion at MCW, eventually with Phil Willmarth. Regarding his late pal Rick Johnson, Phil related that he and Rick once hosted a convention at which Karl Fulves was the guest of honor. As Fulves subscribers (especially Pallbearers) know, Karl is fond of posing problems. At the convention, attendees divided up into teams to attack 24 problems, two to a team. By the end of the session, they had come up with a solution to every problem. Hint to Mr. Fulves: this might make for an interesting issue. Along with this latest Prolix, Karl mentioned that he will begin a new magazine after Prolix, a smaller and more frequent journal. It behooves you to get on his mailing list.

A bonus look at Charlie Frye's video.

Spend some time with your mom.

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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