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Archive for the ‘Magic’ Category

Okay I admit it. Now that I found out how to post video’s on Youtube I’m constantly thinking of ways to use this tool in my posts. There is one video we took awhile back that I’m searching for, but in the meantime my camera person, (my wife) is learning to use the camera and I am learning how to add titles and credits to the video.  I know for a 12 year old this is probably standard stuff.  But for folks like me, well lets just say it is darn close to rocket science.

Anywhow, here is our latest attempt.  Hope you enjoy the world famous 3 card trick.

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For the second time in the history of this blog I have a guest poster.  My friend Penney from Vancouver read my handcuff blog and offered this handcuff story that involves her husband Tony.  The following is actually a response to my handcuff story.  Thanks Penney.

Way back, before 9/11 when air travelers were all considered fairly harmless and Tony’s entire magic collection could fit into a standard briefcase. We were flying to AB, and because he didn’t trust the airline with his precious collection he planned to bring the briefcase as a carry-on. Gotta really hand it to the security lady. She never cracked a smile (though her eyes were laughing hysterically) as she had asked this strange long-haired dude (Tony) to open the case. So he does, explaining to her how the case was filled with odd stuff because he was a magician, and really, she couldn’t possibly understand the workings of what he had in that case of mystery. And when she went straight for the corner of the case and pulled out his handcuffs, he didn’t miss a beat. He said, “That is for my escapism act.” They made him give it to the steward, who I think gave it to the pilot.

For some strange reason, none of the three steward(ess) on that flight could make it through the safety procedures, because they were all doubled over laughing by the time they boarded the plane.

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Back in the day (1979 – 1998) my father hosted an annual magic convention with Vim Vermeys.  One of the features that we always looked forward to was the after party. This party was always at our house and it was a time when the dealers, performers and lecturers could sit back and enjoy each other’s company without the magic monkey looming over our shoulders

The only rule was there was absolutely no magic at these parties.  I remember one time when my father and Dick Zimmerman of magic and Ragtime fame sat at the piano while a few of the magicians and their wives sang along.  The parties always amazed me, so many egos, so many personalities all crammed into such a small place and everyone had a great time.  To me, these parties seemed to be reminiscent of scenes played out in movies based around the 1920’s. Our house was the speakeasy only with no gangsters, flappers, illegal liquor, cigarettes, prostitution, the only contraband was magic.  Okay not exactly a party like the roaring 20’s but you gets the idea.

There was one magician, Bob Little from Hat borough Pa who attended all 19 conventions in the Magie Montreal series.  Bob was a magic dealer, a lecturer, and a performer.  

Jump ahead many years.

 When I first arrived in Pennsylvania I got together with a few of the local magicians and started a magic club.  As the club took root my wife and I decided to throw a party and invite the magicians along with some other more civilized guests.  

The party which was a BBQ at our house quickly snowballed out of control.  My wife and I learned that not only were the local magicians attending, so were the Penn State Performers which included magicians, jugglers and clowns.  

 I used to work at a bank downtown,  I happen to be sitting in the lunchroom of the bank looking down the street and much to my disbelief I saw Bob Little walking down the road.  I had not seen him since the last convention, a good 5 years earlier.  I ran out of the bank and caught up with Bob.

Me: “Bob, remember me?”

He looked at me for a moment and said;

“Phil’s son?”

“Yes, how are you doing?”

“Aren’t you in the music business in Montreal?”

“No, I’m the other son”

“Don’t you have a magic shop in British Columbia?”

“I did, but I don’t anymore. I live here now.”

“Here? As in Pennsylvania?”

“Yup, I met a woman who attended Penn State and works for the university.  We got married and now I live up in the mountains.”

Bob at this point looked very confused but we chatted for a bit.  I found out he was in State College because as an alumni of Penn State he was being given some sort of an award and was asked to make a speech.  Also there was some party the next night that the magicians were taking him too.

“Ahh, that would probably be my party” Again he looked a little confused.  I shrugged and went back to work.

Saturday afternoon guests began to arrive.  There were jugglers juggling, magicians showing each other tricks, people were talking eating and being very noisy.  At one point I slipped inside to take a breather, and there was Bob all alone sitting on the couch. He looked at me a little confused by my presence.  I knew he was still trying to process me being here and not in Canada.   

Bob; “This is a really nice place”

“Thanks”

“No really it is so nice up here.  I went for a walk in the woods the path is covered in moss and is shaded by trees you should really check it out.  I was told the owners have 11 acres.  Do you know who the owners are? “

“Bob, remember yesterday when I said I lived in the mountains and that the party you were invited to was mine?  Well here we are my party, my house.”

We sat for a moment, looking through the window two of the jugglers were juggling torches, magicians were in little groups showing one another card tricks,  a fire was going in the fire pit, the grill was fired up and spewing hamburgers and hotdogs.

“You know” Bob said, “The last time I was at a party that was anything close to this was at your father’s convention I miss those days”

As I sit back during this holiday season and think about all the twists and turns my life has taken me I find myself wondering where it all went, when did I do all that stuff? Where has the time gone?  How can my friends have grown children? How can my little sister have two kids? Where did it go? When did it all happen?  I don’t understand the difference between a 3G and a 4G network!  Did an inner city Jewish Canadian really go get a live Christmas tree from a tree farm in Central Pa?  Was it really 25 years ago that my best friend and I were riding our bikes through the town of Hampstead?  Do I seriously get out the blow torch to fix the copper pipes in my own home? Did my wife seriously buy me the greatest winter boots and gloves so I could be comfortable while I am out SNOWBLOWING my driveway?  Are there not other people who are supposed to do that sort of work? 

Bob, I too miss those days.  But I love my days now.  I love my wife, my family, my life.  I hope in another 25yrs I’ll be sitting with my wife missing the ‘old’ days and still loving the current ones.

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Magic

This post is basically geared towards the magicians in the crowd, but I think you normal people will enjoy it as well. 

Not long ago I was asked if there were any magicians or effects that manage to impress me.  I’m assuming I was asked because I am quite ‘jaded’ when it comes to magicians.  The answer however, is a big yes. 

I still like finding clips of Doug Henning and Paul Daniels.  Watching Eugene Burger, Jeff McBride and Ricky Jay is always a treat. There are guys like Shawn Farquhar who I’ve discussed in these pages before.  Donovan, Tony Chris, Matthew Johnson, Ray Wong and of course the late Tony Eng and Sid Lorraine are also on my favorites list, all for different reasons, all are extremely entertaining.    Ben Salinas, here in State College is just a hoot to watch, his smile and enthusiasm are infectious.

Montreal is a mecca for magicians.  While there are many reasons for this, I honestly believe the majority or reasons can be attributed to Tom Auburn (Magic Tom).  It always amazed me how many people I have come across that had been on his magic show.  In University so many of my classmates would come up to me with the same, similar story: “…your family is in the magic business?  Do you know Magic Tom?  I loved magic Tom, I was on his show when I was a kid, and I never missed watching that show.”  Nobody showed any shock that my father owned a magic shop.  In BC, I got odd looks when people found out what I did. After Magic Tom passed away people would come to me telling me about the time they were on the show, eventually I would be asked if I could make an introduction, at which time I would have to deliver the sad news.  I always had a hard time telling my friends and acquaintances that Magic Tom had passed away, every time they would get that look in their eyes as if I had just killed off part of their childhood. 

Perhaps my father, or other magi from Quebec will comment on this post giving possible explanations as to why magic is so popular in Quebec.  Because of this popularity Quebec has produced some excellent magicians. There are too many to name but a few examples are

David Acer:  Unfortunately I can only watch him for short periods of time as my stomach and sides quickly begin to hurt from laughing so hard.

Richard Saunders:  Crap man, I hate this guy.  I once sold him an effect.  I saw him perform it a few days later and I had no idea how he did it!

Roger Benoit:  Never failed to amaze and amuse me.  Roger may find it interesting that he is one of my favourite magicians.  

Gary Kurtz:  Gary would stand at the front door to the shop and call over to me.  ‘Brian Pick up that deck of cards you are using and spread them face up on the table and think of one card when you have the card in mind shuffle the deck”  That done he would then name the card I was thinking of.  Doesn’t sound like much but believe me it is nothing short of a miracle

I was in the Montreal shop practicing a small cups and balls routine, (Three balls penetrate three cups) a customer walks in and offers to give me some pointers.  I want to say it was Jean Boucher but can’t swear to it, anyway he has me set the effect up.  We go through the routine together very slowly.  I picked up the first ball made it vanish from my hand only to appear under a cup that is on the table.   The ordeal is repeated with the second ball.   I pick up the third ball and the customer says to me.  ‘We should change this up, pick up the cup first so we can see that there is nothing underneath”  I picked up the third cup and underneath it was my own wrist watch. Son of a Bitch!

Alain Choquette:  I’m not even going to discuss Alain’s magic.  He performed live on a popular french TV show and all the girls loved him.  He made me quite popular by association, Thanks Alain. 

Sorry there are just too many to name such as Romain, Carl Cloutier, Patrick Reymond, Blair Marshall, Ted Outerbridge, Lawrence Larouche and sorry to all those that I have forgotten to name here.

My point being is yes I am jaded when it comes to magic.  Yes sometimes I tend to run the other way when I see a group of magicians, yes I may break out in a rash when I see somebody with a deck of cards.  But in the end I can honestly say that magicians, despite their reputations as being complete nerds are some of the most incredible people around.

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The more I write about the trials and tribulation about life in the magic store, the more I like it, and slowly the memories are coming back. Not all are about the magic and probably every retailer has such stories. I claim no exclusivity of the strange retail experiences.  I do have to be careful as not to take stories away from my mother’s blog, However I am more than willing to share.

For the end of this post to make sense you also have to understand that I am Jewish.  Keep reading it should make sense.

The shop in Vancouver was located in a strip mall, up a flight of stairs.  Really if you were not looking for it, you would never find it.  I had Bobbie Looney one of the most talented people I’ve ever met paint up a sandwich board which was placed on the walkway so people could find me.  

So, I am minding my own business when this old lady, complete with bonnet and cane walks into the shop.  And she really had to work to get up the few steps she probably should have been in a wheelchair.  In any case she came in with a purpose!

“So” she makes the statement, “This is a magic store?”

“Why yes it is. Are you interested in magic, or perhaps know somebody who is?”

“What sort of magic do you sell here?”

“Oh quite the variety…(getting that feeling that something isn’t kosher) all for entertainment, like David Copperfield, you know, card tricks, coin tricks, tricks with rope all kinds really. Here let me show you something you might find amusing”

“OH NO YOU DON”T!  Magic is the hand of the DEVIL!”

Blink

“Not this kind, there is no ‘higher power’ doing the tricks we just make things happen by sleight of hand, by showing and telling you one thing, but secretly doing another, here I can show you its…”

“No, it is the hand of the devil. THE DEVIL I’m telling you”

Okay I know its best not to argue just nod and smile and grin stupidly but sometimes, I’m just not programmed that way.

“No, no it is not, it is just sleight of han…”

“That’s what he would have you believe…(she nods knowingly) but you can repent, and I will pray for you”

“Thank you very much, but really it is not necessary, after all I am one of the chosen ones”

And with that she was gone.  Best trick ever! I vanished the closed minded. Top that Mr. Copperfield!

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Doug Henning believed that it was his job to create a sense of wonder for his audience.   

I remember the first time I saw an effect that created that sense of wonder.  I don’t remember how old I was, I don’t even remember a lot of detail. I just remember an overwhelming sense of ‘holy shit’ for lack of better words.

The magician in question went by the name of Israel.  If you asked him he would tell you his mother is the earth, and his father is the moon.  He was just that kind of guy.  He came into the magic shop, (our basement at the time) took off his sandals, sat cross legged on a bamboo mat he had set up and proceeded to perform ‘coins across’ where magically, four coins travel one at a time invisibly from one hand to the other.  This is a standard effect that most magicians perform, and to this day it is one of my favorites. Perhaps it was my age, where I was in my life, his presentation or a combination of many things at once.  But for me that performance created a sense of wonder.  I think (possibly blame) that moment for my inability to escape magic.  

Another such moment happened years later, only this time I saw it from the other side.

Once again I was in the magic shop in Montreal.  A good friend and brilliant magician Romain was helping us out behind the counter as he often did.

For you magi out there who don’t know who Romain is, well suffice it to say he was a student of Slydini, He was a demonstrator at Tannen’s magic shop, one (if not, the) oldest magic shops in the USA, He has an effect written up in ‘Million Dollar Secrets’ by non-other than Frank Garcia. Romain is the Monarch of Manipulation.  He is known around the world and he is a magic icon in Canada…And, for those in the know, he is one of Canada’s top ballroom dancers.

A young girl wanders into the magic shop.  She actually belonged to the owner of another retail shop a few doors down.  Romain is sitting behind the counter and decides to show her a magic trick.  The response from the little girl is indescribable But it was easy to see what was going through her mind.  She was just old enough to know that magicians show tricks, that things just don’t vanish or appear intellectually she knew it could not happen, yet it just did!  And she was young enough that she only recently left that wonderful childhood place where everything is possible and most things are magical.  Romain let that girl know that despite what she had learned, there is still magic in the world. I will never forget the look of wonder on that girls face.  After she left Romain turned to me and said, “Brian that is what this is all about” It was one of many valuable lessons Romain has taught me over the years. 

Romain, if you are reading, thanks for the lessons you probably don’t even realize you taught me.  I’ve been watching So You Think You Can Dance, it is nice to see your influence has gone beyond magic.

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