Looking for the Halloween photos? Click October 2003.
LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF CHERRIES -- Last month I complained that David Regal had cherry-picked some of his best tricks out of his books for inclusion in his new set of four DVDs, Premise, Power, and Participation. (The fourth DVD is David Stands Erect, which apparently didn't make it into the overall title because it broke some alliteration rule.) Well, I've viewed the DVDs now, and I'm still pissed: some of David's best tricks are in this series. I am a fan for several reasons. First, the material is technically easy, and the methods are devilishly devious. Second, the scripts are first-rate (as one might expect of a professional writer). There are excellent standup (or sitdown) lines here. Third, David's performing persona is reasonably close to my own, with plots that center on romantic comedy or plots that are weirdly self-deprecatory. Of the former, I mentioned "Journey to Love" last month, and I also greatly enjoyed "An Incredible Journey," which involves a kiss blown into a card case. (The method for this one is as bizarre as something Jerry Andrus might have concocted, yet quite practical.) Of the latter, "The Very Last Card" deals with David's buried grandfather (including a great new sight gag involving Billy McComb), and "My Best Friend" is a Chop cup routine involving David's pet mouse. Other favorites: "Not Quite Dead" is a terrific use of invisible thread. "Mucilaginous Monte" is a completely new three-card monte. "Lucky Seven" is a card-in-wallet prediction that was a feature on Hit the Road. "After Hours" is David's rewrite of "Sam, the Bellhop." "Mystic Poker" is a surreal effect in which a single card from any royal flush is predicted by drawing it (as in art class). (I find this thing more aesthetically pleasing when all the cards are hand drawn, as they were the book; David completes the hand with real cards on the video.) Finally, "Prophecy Pack" fooled me badly. It should have; at least three major methods were at play to force a single card. Several tricks in this series are prediction effects. Because an audience expects your prediction to be successful, the final revelation in such routines can be anticlimactic. It's quite a lesson in presentation to witness how David brings these tricks to an entertaining conclusion. And finally, for the real secrets of L&L Publishing. Just how does Louis Falanga get this same crew of spectators to sit through trick after trick by magician after magician? If you look closely, you'll see that he took their shoes and no doubt didn't return them until the shoot was finished. Or perhaps I am off base and he merely took their shoes to make David look taller. Whatever, this is a most enjoyable set of DVDs, for $120 retail, but both Louis and David offer package deals. Check their web sites.
MATRIX REVOLUTIONS -- For a card guy, I've certainly sat through a lot of coin magic lately. I've seen more Matrix versions than there are Mr. Smiths in the Matrix trilogy. Fortunately, most have been quite good. At the top of the heap are the Matrix variants, Assemblies, and other coin creations in Dean Dill's Extreme Dean DVDs. Dean is the real deal. Of particular note were an assembly at four corners of a dinner napkin, a faux dinner napkin assembly in which all the coins vanished, "Vanishing Matrix" in which the four covering cards turn blank and the coins all vanish, and a coin-glass-silk routine related to Kort's coins through table. The best of the lot is called "No Extras" and was also the best item on the Asher/Wilson Hit the Road DVD. Here you make any four objects assemble. Dean's photo album, his appearance on Johnny Carson, and demos of his marketed apparatus add to the delight. Two volumes*, $34.95 each.
Shoot Ogawa adds three Matrix routines to the mix in his collaborative DVD with Apollo Robbins, Cultural XChange 2, from Bob Kohler. In "No Steal Matrix" the coins assemble with no steals. In "Quick Matrix" they arrive in one corner as soon as the four cards are laid out. "Impossible Change" begins by covering four different international coins and changing them all to U.S. halves. All the routines are well thought out and well taught by Shoot and Apollo. $39.95.
And as we get caught up in all the nifty new coin stuff from Reed McClintock, Dean Dill, and Shoot and Apollo, it's easy to overlook the granddaddy of all modern coin magic, David Roth. What an oversight that would be. David's previously released three-volume Expert Coin Magic Made Easy is now available on one DVD with a brilliantly organized menu. This DVD is a wonderful complement to David's master book from Richard Kaufman. You may construe it as a recommendation that I plan to loan all my new coin DVDs to a friend except David's. Generosity has its limits. $105.
Ho ho ho. Welcome to what will be a Christmas shopping edition of Little Egypt Magic. Looking back over 2003, some very fine items have come our way. In addition to new items reviewed this month, feel free to peruse past issues via the new index below. (I liked all items that were reviewed. The stuff I didn't like didn't get mentioned.) Absolute musts for your Christmas stocking, if you missed them so far, are Geno Munari's Bro. John Hamman and Michael Skinner DVDs. Other DVDs I particularly enjoyed (in addition to the superb David Regal set discussed this month) were Cellini's Lord and Master of the Rings and Asher/Wilson's Hit the Road. As to books, still my favorite magic purchase in any year, no library is complete without The Secret Ways of Al Baker and Marlo's Revolutionary Card Technique. Finally, loathe as I am to toot my own horn, I must also mention the January 2003 issue of Genii, which chronicles all the spooky nooks and crannies of the Magic Castle. If you somehow missed that issue, I suggest you purchase a back issue from Richard while any still exist.
It's December. Dine early, dine often.
THERE'S A TROPHY IN MY STOCKING -- The Magic Castle has already played Santa Claus by giving out some of its annual awards. Mac King is the Magician of the Year for 2003 and most deserving. The other awards include a Masters Fellowship to Terry Seabrooke, a Lifetime Achievement award to Al Cohen, a Performing Fellowship to Walter Blaney, a Creative Fellowship to George Proust, a Literary Fellowship to Jim Reilly, and a Special Fellowship to Manfred Thumm. Congratulations to all.
A STEINMEYER FOR THE REST OF US -- Andrew Mayne continues to be the best thing to happen to the world of low-cost illusions and parlor effects since U.F. Grant. His latest work, Mayhem, is a 24-page photo-illustrated book that teaches how to produce a cup of hot coffee from an empty paper bag, how to cut off your tongue with a pair of scissors, how to produce a lot of water from a bucket you were wearing on your head, how to sneeze a brick, how to float and vanish a brick, how to eat a light bulb, how to stick a pushpin into your thumb, and how to tolerate a ghastly paper cut. (Just the stuff to do for walk-around at an elegant dinner party.) Seriously, I love this stuff, and it's all within range of both your skills and your bank account. Hmm, for my next Halloween show ... $19.95.
MAGNIFICENT SEVEN -- Michael Huot's (rhymes with hot) Seven by 1 (if I got that title right) is the first of a "Seven by" series expected from David Acer (rhymes with hacker), the author. The book contains seven tricks and reminds me of such great little books as An Evening with Charlie Miller and Kort Is Now in Session. The quality of the material is amazingly high. "I Really Knew It" is a card prediction from a small packet with a lot of possibilities. "D'Christmas Tree," "Acid Trip," and "Cellular Fun" are impromptu killers (startling magic with a Christmas tree, a cup of coffee, and your cell phone). "Signed Quarter in Balloon" could easily be featured in a David Blaine special. Good stuff, most amusingly described by David Acer. I applaud a return to this format and look forward to more. $12.
DRIVE-IN MEMORIES --Some of the finest moments of my life were spent at the 51 Drive-in in Little Egypt, out on Highway 51. This has nothing to do with the trick to be reviewed here, except to predict that you may have some fine moments in store if you acquire and learn Ben Harris's new Exit51, an 18-page booklet describing a single astonishing effect. I constantly read through dozens of card tricks in search of that next genuine miracle (the most recent was Paul Harris's "Deep Astonishment"), and Exit51 just may be the next. What can I say? You remove a deck from a case, freely fan it, shuffle the deck, have a card selected and signed (signed by you, but any text), and then bam! all 51 cards except the chosen card vanish. By the time the magic occurs you are oh so clean. (This is a significant updating of Paul Harris's "Vanishing Deck." Are Ben and Paul some sort of weird intercontinental genius cousins, or what?) $20.
THE WORLD'S GREATEST CARD TRICK -- To cite Erdnase on the "Three-Card Monte," "... there is not a single card feat in the whole calendar that will give as good returns for the amount of practice required, or that will mystify as greatly, or cause as much amusement, or bear as much repetition, as this little game." A favorite of Dai Vernon, it not only gets the money under fire in genuine gambling situations, but has served magicians well over the years. Tony Giorgio established his Magic Castle reputation with it. Bodine Balasco used it to name his price for a 25-year career on the Delta Queen. Lee Asher used it to clinch a job with Caesar's Magical Empire. Just this month, Lee has released his original professional routine, "Catch 33," as a pdf download. It's a three-phase routine climaxing in some ground breaking torn corner work that will find application outside monte routines as well. It's a routine to get the money, entertain the populace, and fry magicians. "Catch 33" is a 75-page mss, thoroughly illustrated with color photos, covering all the performance details, all the psychology, and all the stories of Lee's saga of becoming a Caesar wizard on the strength of what a guy can do with two red cards and one black. Lee has also recently done a complete makeover of his web site. Check it out (via our usual Favorite Links) for an introductory price for Catch 33.
For Mayhem, Seven by 1, Exit51, Cultural XChange 2, Expert Coin Magic Made Easy, and the two Extreme Dean DVDs dealers should contact Murphy's Magic Supplies on the web at www.murphysmagicsupplies.com or by phone at (800) 853-7403.
*One odd complaint. Volume 1 of Extreme Dean would not play on my iMac. It did play fine on the family DVD player and on an old PC. Volume 2 was fine.
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 a computer 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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Copyright© 2003 by Steve Bryant