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Richard Kaufman welcomes the first registrant to the 75th Anniversary Genii Bash.
Boo and welcome. Once again, in honor of the cheesy black and white horror flicks we grew up on, we are reverting to a black and white version of Little Egypt Magic.
Addressed this month are Richard Kaufman's 75th Anniversary Genii Bash, a magic fundraiser for President Obama, Steve Beam's Trapdoor Volume Three, the new Magic Castle playing cards, and Dean Martin doing card tricks in a movie.
The Genii bash was so filled up with events that I spent very little time (and money) in the dealer room. I did pick up a Badger wallet from Tony Miller, very nice, and I thought Jeff Pierce's new book on Cardwarp looked great. Both recommended.
That's it, a very busy month indeed, and be careful out there: monsters are afoot.
THE PERFECT STORM-- The 75th Anniversary Genii Bash was that rare perfect mix of location, swag, talent, attendees, and behind the scenes expertise that made it a candidate for many of the registrants’ “best ever” lists. So much was packed into so few days (three full days plus a night before and for some a Sunday after) that I can’t begin to cover the whole shebang. I shall instead list the ten elements that defined it for me.
The swag. The gorgeous leather padfolio that all registrants received contained so much swag that it took four single-spaced typed pages just to list and describe the contents. There has never been anything quite like it in magic, with a mini magic set, numerous gaffed cards, gimmicks, DVDs, and original tricks from the likes of Tamariz and Racherbaumer written up and illustrated in full color. Of special note, a full two-hour lecture by Dai Vernon (this from his $1000 a stop farewell lecture tour with Joe Cossari in 1976) and a complete file of Mahatma. The latter thanks to the Conjuring Arts Research Center, the folio itself compliments of David Copperfield.
In addition to the folio, Richard held drawings throughout the convention to give away some serious loot, including a Losander floating table and two of the Siegfried and Roy books. As my name wasn’t called, I assume it was rigged!
The hotel. Great conventions are often made by great accommodations, and this Florida Hotel, attached to the largest mall in central Florida, helped make this one of the best stays since the Galt in Louisville. The convention schedule was packed so tight that time to dine was at a premium. Having two Starbucks and an impressive food court just steps away, with finer dining if you wanted it, was great thinking. For after hours socializing, you need to have an area available with tables and you need a bar nearby, and we had both. This setup populated with the impressive guest list made for some of the best moments of the convention.
The Florida Hotel.
Charlie Frye’s tour de farce. In a convention boasting such luminaries as Juan Tamariz, Guy Hollingworth, and Roberto Giobbi, three other performers were the ones generating all the talk: Charlie Frye, Chad Long, and Rob Zabrecky. To the others in a moment, but first, Charlie, who closed the opening lectures with a million ideas, or so it seemed. My favorite was turning a nail file into anything (the “nail file” was actually a snap bracelet flesh-colored on one side). Charlie later closed the convention with a tightly choreographed whirlwind of juggling, balancing, mime, comedy, and magic. I knew going in that Charlie had more raw showbiz talent and physical skills than anyone else on the agenda, and he exceeded expectations. The magic included a linking ring routine with hula hoop sized rings and a zombie routine with a bowling ball that fooled me badly. As my seatmate said, this is the best zombie routine I’ve ever seen. Charlie mentioned later that he has been around the world with his act five times this year.
The old hat trick.
Chad Long’s vanishing and reappearing spaghetti. This was my favorite bit from Chad’s manic lecture and parlor performance. Chad, who also seems to have a million ideas, was a last-minute sub for Michael Weber and, for my money, the stronger choice. Chad's magic is strikingly visual, such as his card from wall, knitting a silk from thin air, and color changing flash drives. I also loved his book test called Spineless and his four-coin production from a card (with gag method), but it was his hilarious helter-skelter delivery that had everyone talking. Great addition to the lineup.
Rob Zabrecky’s character from the dark side. Zabrecky was the performer I came to this convention to see. I knew of this Magic Castle favorite from his Tina Lenert article in The Mandala and MAGIC, and from his Who’s Hoo interviews, but had never seen the act. What a treat to see this Norman Bates-like character introduce his 95-year-old grandfather (in an urn), cut out paper dolls in a scene out of Charles Addams, and perform the Diminishing Cards to dance moves that would have made Peewee Herman proud. Ghoulish good fun and possibly the most talked about act of the convention. Guys were coming out of the parlor show and calling their wives to rave about him.
Rob Zabrecky and Macguffin.
Jonathan Pendragon performing Clearly Impossible with Liberty Larsen. First, it was a treat to see this third-generation box jumper carrying on the tradition. And second, nice to see Jonathan, on his honeymoon, defying the notion that there are no second acts in America. The new act is a baffling revue featuring Liberty, Jacosa (West’s daughter), and West herself as a charismatic hostess. And oh yes, the Broom Suspension fooled me when the hoop passed through the feather that served as a fulcrum.
Jonathan Levit performing Thurston’s Rising Card. This is one of the first card tricks I ever read about, and I’m glad it was brought out from the Los Angeles History Conference for us to witness. I hadn’t previously realized that the trick involved any card called for, and I understand that part is explained in Steinmeyer’s Thurston book. Now a must read.
Jonathan Levit revives Thurston's Rising Card.
David Ben performing (and teaching) Ross Bertram’s Coin Assembly (and other coin tricks). David performs material out of Stars of Magic cleaner than anyone. I had previously drooled over his Slow Motion Four Aces, and now this! It looks as good as Armando Lucero’s Coin Assembly and drew gasps.
Uri Geller’s life story. Uri Geller catapulted what is basically a dinner table stunt into a career, and he told us how. He was fascinating and charming, as commanding a stage presence as Steve Jobs, and he stayed for two days after his presentation to talk with anyone and answer any questions. This was one of the events that made this convention a once in a lifetime event.
Uri Geller advises David Kaye.
Matt Field interviewing Irene Larsen, Erika Larsen, and Richard Kaufman. Genii has seriously impacted my life, and it was great to hear the stories behind it from those best around to tell them. News to me was that The New Yorker was Bill Larsen, Jr.’s favorite magazine. Mine too. Also nice that all three generations of Larsen ladies looked absolutely smashing, a fact that did not go unnoticed.
Matt Field interviews the Genii threesome.
And so much more, including Jim Steinmeyer’s lecture featuring his excellent Tuzot Sensu and a new illusion, the utra slow motion manipulation of Lukas (Lee Ki Suk), Scott Land’s Ballantine marionette, Alex Ramon performing Steinmeyer’s Toccata for Light Bulb and Paper Bag, the exquisite and well thought out sleight of hand of John Carney, the scary magic of Eugene Burger including my favorite 13 for Dinner, Tom Stone’s gag interlude teaching the Silk to Egg with Michael Ammar as a random guest from the audience, Tom Stone performing Of Dice and Men with Rob Zabrecky as the assisting spectator (an ideal trick for Rob to do in his act), Jon Armstrong's rubber band through neck, everything Peter Samelson did, Guy Hollingworth’s classic card tricks, Juan Tamariz’s wonderful full show (this impish performer can fill a stage with magic using only a deck of cards; the reaction he got from Cards Across was priceless, twice!), Eric Mead’s juggling (yes – and he was only the second best juggler on the program) and Thumb Tie, and Jon Racherbaumer’s just being there. (I wish I could list everyone, but the schedule was just too packed for me to see everyone, hence only a partial list. Somewhere among all this, I should note that Jim Steinmeyer and Tom Stone are the two most creative guys in magic, but then you know that.)
Juan Tamariz fills a stage.
Everyone has private moments. I loved seeing Andy Greget perform Kitties, a Tenyo takeoff on a familiar optical illusion. Charlie Frye kept nonchalantly doing 360-degree fans with my new deck of Magic Castle cards. Kent Gunn showed me his original story card trick (alas, the clean version). Sandy Marshall gave me one of the programs from Max Maven’s recent hit show in NYC. As I later waited in the dark for Max’s late night lecture on Equivoque to begin, a little girl with a teddy bear came up to me and said, “Sir, is this a show or a lecture?” I thought, “Oh, my,” And lots of folks came up to me and spoke about Little Egypt Magic. It’s nice to know you are all out there.
Andy Greget performs Kitties.
Okay, life is real, so everything wasn’t completely perfect. This or that performer had a technical glitch, my butt got sore from sitting in those chairs too long, and the lighting and video could have been better. Heck, the guy sitting beside me could have lit it better. (That was a low crack: the guy sitting beside me, at least during one session, was Broadway lighting legend Jules Fisher; it was that kind of convention.)
Speaking of which, the guest list had everyone’s head turning. In addition to Jules, there were all my favorite Steves (Minch, Cohen, Beam, and Bedwell), along with David Kaye, Daryl, Michael Ammar, Mike Powers, Robert Farmer, Paul Cummins, Gary Plants, Gene Matsuura, Julie Eng, Noel Britten, Joshua Jay, Andi Gladwin, Sandy Marshall, Pedro Nieves, Alan Kronzek, John Lovick, Gene Anderson, Bill Mullins, Charlie Randall, Dick Hatch, plus the usual host of friends I see at most major conventions (especially my Indiana friends). Lots (including me) even brought wives. These guys plus all the artists and all the dealers and many names from the Genii forum were all accessible, attended each other’s lectures and performances, and seemed to be having a great time.
Richard and Liz worked hard, but they and Emma also seemed to have a great time, which was super. I knew we were in good hands when I first saw Bill and Becki Wells behind the tables, and of course Steve Kline and crew kept everything almost on schedule. Also great to see Brad Aldridge again as well as Margret. The Genii crew did a superb job.
PREZ-TIDIGITATION -- In 2008, noted magic collector Ken Trombly hosted "A-Barack-Cadabra...Magic for Change," a night of magic to help elect President Obama. This month, to once again put the "fun" back in fundraising, he hosted Part Two of the event, this time to re-elect the President. With scheduled performers Joshua Jay, Andi Gladwin, Darwin Ortiz, Kostya Kimlat, J.B. Benn, Alain Nu, Randy Shine, Mark Phillips, Eric Jones, Karl Hein, David Morey, Dick Steiner, and Conjuror Emeritus and Dean of Deception Al Cohen, it was a resounding success.
Al Cohen lights up an Obama fundraiser.
Ken reports that the magicians were fantastic and occasionally fooled each other. The goal was $25,000, and the 75 guests at $300 a head or $500 a couple plus outside contributions raised well over the goal. (Of course, $25,000 is only half a dinner plate for the opposition and they have magic underwear, but don't get me started.)
SOMETHING'S MOVING UNDER THE FLOOR -- From 1984-1998, Steve Beam's The Trapdoor entertained subscribers not only with excellent new magic tricks but with plentiful idiosyncratic good humor. With this month's publication of Trapdoor 3, you can now relive the entire run of the journal in three supersized volumes. The latest edition takes us from years 1994-1998, from Issues 51-70, from pages 921-1482, with an additional LXXII pages for gladiators. (Steve calls most of these extra pages, in which he looks back at each of the issues, Addendum. Actually, he had a much funnier name for this section, but taste prevailed.)
A quick skim of the contents reveals the usual first-rate submissions, including a brilliant routine from Jack Birnman (my favorite, which also appeared in The Looking Glass), material from Jack's student Aaron Fisher, and from Aaron's friend Lee Asher. Tom Gagnon filled two issues, one with his Tap Illusion, one with his incredible Versatile Spread Control (this now also dealt with at length in Avant Cards). Still, you saw it here first. This volume also contains one of the first, if not the first, descriptions of the Goodwin/Jennings display in Triumph. There are numerous fancy cuts throughout the book that appeared, I think, before fancy cuts became crazy popular. One issue contained ten or so great tips on the Rub Away Vanish of a playing card. (Aside: the best Rub Away Vanish I've ever seen -- it looks like a card version of Mickey Silver's retention vanish of a coin -- is Glenn Morphew's, available as a download video at Vanishing Inc. I can't do Glenn's myself, so the Trapdoor tips are still of great value.) And ... some years ago I toyed with doing Matrix with photos of coins instead of real coins. I never got anywhere, but Vance McGee did in a terrific four-card version called Sticking Together, one of my favorites in the book. Other names heavily represented that would have attracted me to this book are Chad Long, the whole Gallo family, and of course Steve Beam.
Tricks aside, there is great fun to be had in the humor, this volume containing Tom Swifties galore ("Please subscribe," said Erika genially), lists such as "How do you know someone is not a card magician?" or "How to stay awake at magic conventions," new lyrics to Bob Hope's theme song ("Thanks for the memories/To cardmen like Dave Evans/Nikola and Si Stebbins/And hey, make way for Ricky Jay/Who uses Cards as Weapons"), and so on. But my biggest laugh came when I encountered a photo in the Addendum area. Here was a room full of my absolute heroes in magic, fellows who are also successful doctors, engineers, attorneys and so on in their real lives, to a man giving a one-finger salute to Steve Beam, this at a 31 Faces North gathering. I love it that we never grow up, and thanks to The Trapdoor for reminding us, in many ways.
Hardback, humongous, $90 plus shipping. If you take a look at Trapdoor Productions, you can page through some of the book online. A cool feature and hard to have imagined thirty years ago.
HOOOOOOOO -- A recent addition to the Magic Castle's online and physical gift shop is a deck of Magic Castle playing cards with a new back design. Although I love the old design, I also quite like the new, more cartoonish design, which reminds me of the work of former Genii artist Mickey O'Malley.
The owl knows all.
The new design is attributed to Steve Mitchell with Milt Larsen's approval, and even though the deck comes with a card that says, "Beware! This is not a trick deck," it is! There is a subtle one-way feature on the back. The Castle's iconic Open Sesame owl figures prominently in the back design and is indeed the main symbol on the jokers and the ace of spades. These high-quality U.S. Playing Card decks are available in blue and red and handle beautifully. (At least in Charlie Frye's hands.) Seven dollars from the Castle or your favorite dealer.
WHEN DINOS WALKED THE EARTH -- Netflix finally stocked a DVD I've been seeking for some time, Who Was That Lady? starring Dean Martin, Tony Curtis, and Janet Leigh. Although it's a deplorable comedy on several levels (the most deplorable being its treatment of women as idiots that you would of course want to cheat on with even more idiotic women), the basic story being that Tony is caught cheating on his wife Janet, and Dean concocts the excuse that Tony is secretly an FBI agent. Real FBI agents and real baddies eventually get caught up in the charade.
Dean Martin cuts left handed.
I mention all this here because there is a brief scene in which Dean picks up a deck of cards and does a few passable moves -- a Hindu shuffle, a card fan, a color change, and a Charlier cut. We also get to see Tony in his handsome Houdini-era days. (As dumb as the movie was, there was a genuinely funny scene near the end where Dean and Tony are trapped in the basement of the Empire State Building. They think that they are trapped inside a submarine and so try to sink it. Chaos ensues.) C- for the movie, B+ for the card moves.
The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts is now out of print. You have been warned.
Charlie Frye photo courtesy of Kari Hendler.
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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