Today’s topics are: 100th Anniversary comments; Giro d’Italia 2022.
These are The Magic Memories 100, gone online Sunday, November 27th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
Officially, this is issue # 100 of The Magic Memories, with issue # 1 having started on SUN, 3rd JAN 2021, but a real count shows that the idea of these “blogs” already began on 10th JAN 2019 as Secret Newsletter. These were a combination of advertising a few new products and short essays on various subjects that are still of interest, in my opinion.
So, if you want to look them up, and maybe extract the pure information (there is a lot!) and make a new PDF of it, go ahead – CLICK HERE: And you may share it, of course.
Actually, if someone does the work and wants to share it, please send the finished PDF to me, and then I’ll upload it in an upcoming The Magic Memories for all to access (with your name).
However, between the Secret Newsletter and The Magic Memories was still another hefty item, The Magic Advent Calendar 2020, were I posted a substantial item every day from DEC 1st to 24th, with PDFs and video clips – you can still access those for free by CLICKING HERE, or if you want to show your support and say “Thank you” you can buy the collected PDF by CLICKING HERE – I just lowered the price from 24 to 10 to make this really easy and affordable 🙂
Anyway, here we go with a report on my ten-day Italian Tour, and then we’ll see how far I’ll get…
Giro d’Italia 2022
During all my professional life my philosophy has been: Never perform the same day you travel, and stay at least one extra day in any place you go to.
As a matter of fact, for practically every show I’ve done around the world, in the most beautiful cities and places, I convinced those who booked me to pay for two nights – occasionally, if the place was of particular interest, I would add a third night that I would cover myself.
I remember asking my dear and missed friend Daryl once if he had been to Florence, and his answer was “Oh, yes!”. And Rome, Madrid, Paris, London, all cities I had been, too, and he answered, “Oh, yes” each time – he had actually done a “World Lecture Tour” that had taken him virtually around the world. But when I asked him what he had seen on these occasions, he explained, “Not much. I usually came in in the afternoon, went to the hotel, prepared the lecture, was picked up for an early dinner, did the lecture, was taken back to the hotel, and next morning took off for the next city, one city a day most of the time.”
I decided then and there that I would never do that, and recommend anyone who plans to do magic professionally to do likewise, as there is more to life than magic, as Ascanio used to remind us youngsters when we sat around a good table with him handling cards instead of enjoying the meal.
Having said that, this trip broke this rule several times, reminding me that Art does not follow any rule, which is something Groucho Marx had to know when he uttered this epochal wisdom: “I have my principles, but if they don’t fit, I have others.”
THU, 10th NOV, I hit the road and drove from Muttenz to Lugano, in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, bordering to Italy.
With nine different events ahead – shows, lectures, masterclass – I admit having been a bit apprehensive about it. After all, I have – like many of us – performed very little in the past two and a half years, something that had never happened in the past 35 years of my professional life. Anyone performing knows that practicing and rehearsing is just not the same than standing in front of a real audience – all those nuances of how to stand, look, pause, deliver punch lines etc. can only be learned by combining intelligent practice with real-world performing.
Add to this that I was going to perform and lecture all in Italian. Although Italian, by linguistic definition, is my native language, I rarely use it, as at home we speak Swiss-German, and German has become the language I speak best. As an aside, you might be surprised to learn that Switzerland, with only eight millions inhabitants in a relatively small area, has four official languages and cultures. German, French, Italian and Romansh. And we all get along quite well… possibly this is Switzerland’s most important message to the world 🙂 Maybe the secret is like that of all good magic: Do the right things, and do things right.
Anyway, as I was driving down I was more nervous than usual. And rereading my own essay on the subject (CLICK HERE) did not help much… But then I reminded myself in what an incredibly privileged situation I am: I have been able to turn my hobby into a profession, actually living what Confucius had said over 2’500 years ago: “If you do what you love doing, you’ll never have to work in your life.” This is what I have been doing since 1988 when I turned professional. In all these years I have not done anything else than magic to spend my days and earn my life, not just for me, but also for my family: a wife, children, a house, a car – in Zorba’s words “the complete catastrophe”, which was not so bad after all 🙂
I’m neither a dreamer nor particularly romantic, but rather down-to-earth. Nonetheless, I’m fully aware of the poetry contained in my life when I think that as a child and youngster I was reading these magic tricks, imagining how it would feel to be a magician who could do all these wonderful things, and how they must look for the audience, and had to admit that I am doing exactly that, right now, living my passion, transferring it to my audiences, sharing my experience and knowledge and not keeping it all to myself, through my performances and books and videos, and honestly paying taxes to contribute to my country’s welfare. Meanwhile, I’ve come to believe that the Meaning of Life, the Trinity of Life, resides in finding your talent, developing it to its best, and to then share it with others.
I have neglected to put these thoughts into my above-mentioned essay on how to master nervousness. But as I pondered these questions while driving the burden literally fell from my shoulders, and I was also reminded what Cato the Elder had told his son as they discussed speaking in front of an audience: Rem tene, verba sequentur – if you master your topic, the words will follow.
I can honestly say that I have dedicated the past forty years of my life to the study and performance of magic, never putting fame or money first, but love of magic before anything else, the rest having somehow followed in various proportions that allowed me and my family to live a happy and satisfying life. Not so bad, after all 🙂 My nervousness vanished like a mirage on the hot desert sand, to paraphrase Albert Goshman 🙂
The almost three-hour car drive flew by on these thoughts, and below you can see the view from the lovely hotel I stayed in, which looks like an island in the Mediterranean, but is a village in the hills of Lugano. I arrived early, had a proper lunch in a “Grotto”, the equivalent of a Bistrot in this region, checked out the performance location (see below), and still had time to walk around the beautiful city of Lugano (see photo above) for a few hours enjoying a late Cappuccino (only tourists have a Cappuccino after 11 in the morning… but I was a tourist, so…). Back to the hotel, Siesta (with capital “S” and part of my “success ritual”), and then off to the event, with the show starting at around 10 pm.
The show in front of 60 people in Lugano went well, although I had to draw on all my experience and authority to obtain a setting that would result in a satisfying performance. The room was long and rectangular with eight tables one next to the other, without the possibility of special lighting nor microphone, a truly sub-optimal situation that would have caused great aggravation to less experienced performers.
I politely explained the situation and made them change the orientation of the tables, and just before the show started I had the host move the guests from the two extremes of the room to the center, some sitting, some standing. This resulted in a compact audience configuration that could hear and see well. Furthermore I quickly adapted my tricks substituting a strong mental effect (conceptional) with the Linking Rings (visual), and together with my Rope Routine as an opener, the Card Stab as a closer and the message cut from a large paper as an encore (Kirigami) I had the ideal act for the situation.
The magical phrase to use in such cases and to make even difficult customers listen to you is: “In my professional experience of many years…” Take note.
Lecture at CLAM , Milan
Milan is just a good hour’s drive from Lugano, so I was at the Hotel Sunflower (where the “European Close-up Magic Symposium” organized by Giacomo Bertini had taken place for several years) and was able to enjoy the full afternoon as a tourist in Milan with weather and temperature like in spring.
Below you can see the breathtaking beauty of the world-famous Cathedral of Milan. Needless to say that visiting Milan is a top priority if you ever travel to Italy. The specialty is “Cotoletta alla Milanese”, which I had at “Brunello” said to have the best in town – it certainly was good (white wine recommended over red as its acidity balances out the slight fat in the veal and fried bread-crumbs).
Milan is a city that still boast lots of privately owned shops and not only the big brands you can find anywhere and which are everywhere the same.
In the evening I gave an almost 3-hour lecture on Stand-up Card Magic at CLAM (Club Arte Magica). President Jordan (Giordano Riccò) who had welcomed me before several times to his club, was the perfect host. We started the lecture at 9:30 pm and it lasted to almost midnight.
Jordan said they had not had such a large turnout in a long time – the room had ca. 60 seats, and some had to stand. I take it as a success that all stayed until the end, and beyond to take photos and sign books: Twelve of my seventeen books are translated in Italian, so I’m the Italian author with the largest number of magic books 🙂
CLAM is the club I have possibly given the most lectures over the past forty-plus years, having been “discovered” early in my career by the then President Ottorino Bai. I have since made many wonderful friends in Milan but won’t name them here for fear of missing one or two!
Busca and Dronero
The next day was arguably the toughest of my tour: I had to travel about four hours by car to the village of Busca, a small hour from the world-famous city of Alba, which is known for its white truffles. CLICK HERE to see how a large white truffle is auctioned off at 184’000 Euro (over US $ 190’000).
At Busca the local magic club BLINK! – tag line: “The happiest magic club in the world” – had organized a show at the local theatre, which was sold out at its 150 seats.
This was the event I was most afraid of, as I’m not a theatre magician, although I have done hundreds of corporate shows before even larger audiences, but the expectations of theatre-going audiences are different and would warrant a lengthy essay of its own which I’m not doing now 🙂
Briefly: The show started with the short performance of four club members, and I then did a small hours, resulting in a ca. 80-minute event which I can say without exaggerating was enthusiastically received – and everyone was happy, even I was!
My “act” was: Rope Routine (Shigeo Tagaki), Exit (Thomas Vité), Tutti Frutti (Roberto Giobbi), Card Stab (Roberto Giobbi), Kirigami (unknown).
On hold were Linking Rings (Dai Vernon and Richard Ross) and The Red Card (Roberto Giobbi), which I did not perform, as the show was already running late (in Italy they start the shows at 9 pm, this one started at 9:15 pm).
If you like to practice your Italian and read a short review of the show and see some action photos, CLICK HERE.
And to watch a 20-second-clip of the show CLICK HERE.
The next day was supposed to be a “morning lecture” – it ended up being a full-day masterclass starting at 10 am and ending after 6 pm, with a lovely lunch break in-between… and if you say “lunch-break” in Italy you mean a two-hour lunch with aperitivo, four courses, wine, coffee and lots of amicable chatter about magic and life. This was exhausting, but it is exactly the way I like it!
In the evening I undertook the one-hour drive to Cherasco to visit and stay with my good friend Don Silvio Mantelli, a Salesian priest, who has a magic theatre, a magic museum and one of the largest magic libraries in the world with well over 10’000 titles, not counting the hundreds of magazines in countless languages. I reported about Don Silvio and my experience in earlier The Magic Memories and let you find them…
MON, TUE & WED were days off, which I spent in the library studying, discussing magic with my friend Marco Aimone, and sharing a few meals, the Italian way… no comment 🙂 The highlight being the yearly truffle lunch at Tre Re in Castellamonte.
Next stop was Livorno, a lovely port city on the Ligurian Sea on the western coast of Tuscany. Although all regions in Italy have something extraordinary to offer, Tuscany seems to have the ideal balance between the sea, hills, magnificent cities like Florence, Siena, Volterra, Pisa, even some a bit too “touristic” like San Giminiano, but still worth visiting, and, naturalmente, stellar food and some of the best wines in the world.
On the way to Livorno I made a 30-minute stop at the city of Recco, right at the coast of the Mediterranean, and the place of choice for many retired North-Italians in the cold months of January and February as the climate is mild with lovely weather. If you have a “travel notebook” make a note to go there, in virtually any bakery, and buy a “Focaccia di Recco” which is the most simple and delicious Focaccia on this planet. As the “Guide Michelin” would say: “Worth a stop” (and even a detour).
I had to get up at six in the morning in order to arrive in Livorno just in time to have their specialty for lunch, Cacciucco, a fish and seafood soup reminiscent of Bouillabaisse, but with an identity of its own. Luciano Donzella and Francesco Fontanelli were my gracious and generous hosts.
I spent the late afternoon until the lecture at Luciano’s splendid home discussing magic and admiring his impressive collection. Luciano is a journalist by profession with some remarkable books to his credit, and the president of the club called “la corte dei miracoli”, the court of miracles, nothing less!
Indeed, their club location is a small theatre, with fully equipped stage, where I gave my lecture on Stand-up Card Magic to a full house. Again, it ran until almost midnight, and the audience was most appreciative to say the least.
Next morning I left Livorno and reached Florence after a short ride to meet my good friend and publisher Francesco Maria Mugnai, of Florence Art Edizioni fame, who has been of great help in publishing and printing my German books as well as my latest literary effort, Sharing Secrets.
As a little thank you I invited him to the legendary “Bistecca alla Fiorentina“, for lunch, with a worthy Brunello di Montalcino, one of the great Tuscan wines. (BTW: I’m just back from Berne, Switzerland, where such a piece weighting over three pounds costs over three times as much and is half as good – now you do the math…and it reminds me of what Vernon once said to his friend Tony Giorgio in jest: “Tony, if you were only half as good as you think you are, that would still be twice as good as you really are!”).
After coffee – in my opinion the best in the world is in Italy – and a Grappa, of course, a short Siesta (Spain’s most important contribution to a healthy lifestyle), I gave another almost three-hour lecture to a group of about 30 people. The topic I choose for them, since they had already seen my lecture on Stand-up Card Magic a few years earlier (I have a standing invitation in Florence…), was “How to find original presentations” (this is now number 63 in a series of original lectures…).
As so often it ended up being a mixed lecture, as I have long since stopped adhering to a strict curriculum: I consider magic a complex and infinite universe, and everything connects to many other topics. Therefore, although following a guiding thread, I also mention ideas and concepts on how to practice, how to take notes, how to prepare and construct an act, how to handle difficult audience members, how to deal with nervousness, and a myriad of other relevant topics.
From Ascanio I learned that a lecture must never have a commercial purpose, at least not as its top priority, but rather be structured like a university lecture and discuss a subject in an academic way, without ever losing the connection to the real, professional performing world. Like a good book, I believe that after a good lecture the audience must leave knowing more than before, having been given information and an experience which goes beyond what has been said and done. I’m glad that the feedback I received confirmed that I am successful in doing this most of the time.
The following day was a rainy day, so unfortunately I could not enjoy the city of Florence, one of the most remarkable in the world, but fortunately could get together with a few of my friends for another memorable dinner.
Below you can see, from left to right: Alessandro Daloisio, an inspired amateur magician, student of Paolo Morelli (see The Magic Memories 75), Giacomo Bertini, organizer of the European Close-up Symposium and author of System of Amazement, Francesco Di Luciano, a lawyer by trade, who translated Erdnase into Italian, transcribed the complete Revelations video tapes (!) and other prodigies, as well as Francesco Maria Mugnai, Italy’s foremost publisher of magic books and an accomplished theatre performer. So, you see, I keep good company 🙂
Milano e Ciao Bella Italia
Finally, the last day arrived. Magician extraordinaire Hernan Maccagno from Buenos Aires had just completed his lecture tour through a few Italian cities and met me in Florence, from where we drove together to Milan. The conversations we had would make an interesting book!
In the evening I did a very special private show for just 12 people whose identity I’m not supposed to disclose, suffice it to say that it was exclusive company…
I did my “act” as can be seen on my Penguin project “The Act”, plus a few extra items, and Hernan did, as an encore, his very original Cups & Balls Routine, and I hope that you get to see it at some point, as it is truly astounding.
Next morning we hit the road, and after a five-hour plus trip arrived at my home in Muttenz, near Basel, where Hernan did his excellent lecture to an intimate group of only 5 people. This is really a shame, as he would have deserved a full house, but attendance at lectures has dramatically dropped in the past years (not to speak of Corona, of course), and we are seriously thinking about dropping the tradition of having from five to six lecturers a year, a tradition that I started about forty years ago, when we used to have forty or so attendants!
I hope today’s The Magic Memories are not too long (yes, they are…), but, to paraphrase Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662): “I did not have time to write a shorter one.”
Wish everyone an excellent week and hope to see you back in seven days (always on Sundays, always at 0:07 o’clock)!
All the best,