Today’s topics are: Thoughts on signing a card; If you like I can write you a postcard
These are The Magic Memories 88, gone online Sunday, September 4th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
To Sign or Not to Sign a Card
Each time we meet, my dear friend Claudio Viotto asks me some interesting questions. Here is one that might find your favor, too: “Have you ever discussed the question of why to sign a card (or not), and how to do it?” Like every seemingly easy question, beneath this outer simplicity hides great internal complexity, to paraphrase Miguel de Unamuno.
To Label or Not to Label
I remember when I started out in magic, with little funds and when good decks of cards still were quite expensive here In Switzerland, I had the obvious thought of using some kind of self-adhesive label which could be signed and then stuck on the face of the cards. After the performance the label could be removed, and the precious deck was saved.
Generally speaking, I think that this is not a good idea, for at least two reasons. First (dramatic construction), it is more laborious and takes more time. Second (psychological construction), some spectators will suspect that the label can be removed and placed on another similar card, even if this is not true, for we know that the only “truth” is our “subjective reality”, and that’s all that counts. (Briefly: homo sapiens is not interested in what is true, only in what he or she thinks is true – two different things, and one of the important messages of the Arts in general, and the Art of Magic in particular.)… So, unless you come up with an especially clever presentational ploy that coherently justifies the use of a label, don’t.
Sign, or What?
Another problem is what to write on the card. Does it need to be a signature? In my writings I have offered several alternatives, such as writing the date and the exact time at the moment of signature. This idea alone is worth exploring, as it literally imposes itself as a presentational plot…
“Instead of having an object signed (card, coin etc.) ask the spectator to think of a “secret number”, from 3 to 6 digits, like a PIN Code, and to then write it on the object.”
This is a great opportunity to open a new note in your “Magic Notebook”, maybe under the heading “Signing a Card, Coin etc.”, and there note all ideas you can come up with on the subject. You can start the note by copying and pasting this article – don’t forget to write. “From Roberto Giobbi’s The Magic Memories 88 – 4th SEP 2022″ 🙂
BTW: The spectator’s (first) name on the card can also become part of a trick, e.g., in an Ambitious Card routine. Assume the lady assistant’s name is VERA and she has signed the face of the card with that name. In one of the last phases of the routine bring the ambitious card fourth from the top (corresponding to the number of letters in the name). Snap your fingers and show that the card is… not on the top. “Oh, we have to call the card. What is the name of the card?” They will usually call out the Five of Hearts, or whatever the ambitious card is, whereupon you reply, “No, no, the card’s name is VERA.” This will produce a smile (better than a laugh, because a smile is an “intelligent laugh”). Spell VERA, and then reveal the ambitious card on the last letter. This is even better if the name is a long one, like MARIA-MADDALENA…
Back and Front
And do you sign on the face or on the back?
Although it is a standard joke to say, “Please sign the card – not on the back, on the face…”, there are some tricks that require the exact contrary, and some very good pieces sign the card on both sides. Obviously, there is room for some engaging presentations, such as when a couple writes their first name each on one side…
Make a list of the ten best tricks you know that use a signed card – nice exercise 🙂
The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword
Yet another question is what writing tool to use to sign the card. Obviously, any type of permanent marker will do. Meanwhile, as far as I know, Sharpie has conquered the world-market and is available even in the most remote locations of this planet.
I might be a bit of an exception here, as I’m still using a fountain pen to write. I gave myself a Montblanc Solitaire as a gift for having completed Card College 1&2 (in German) in 1992, and every since I write a postcard to someone almost every day.
So, when it comes to having a card signed, I like to use a writing tool that looks nice. After years of search I found a green Edding that looked elegant enough, but meanwhile we have “sherpa”, a really nice looking pen that accepts most Sharpies.
To carry the “sherpa” together with a green and a black sharpie, I use a three-partition pencil.
Next question is what color to use. It was Carlhorst Meyer from Nuremberg, one of my early mentors, who suggested to use a green marker since it could be seen equally well on a black and a red card, and it even shows off better on a court card.
When I put this information in Grosse Kartenschule (Card College) in 1992, I never imagined that it would be such an influential idea: Suddenly everyone was signing their cards with a green-tipped pen!
I vividly remember how they asked me to sit in the jury of a German national magic convention, and several contestants had their card signed with a green pen. When the president of the jury asked another jury member why they all used green instead of black, he answered: “Because it’s in Grosse Kartenschule!” That’s when I realized that those book I had written were much more influential than I ever thought.
Sign it, Really?
I’ve left the most important question to semi-last: Do we really need to have the card(s) signed? Always? When is it completely unnecessary? Great question!
First, there is a communicative aspect: If a spectator is asked to sign a card, not only does he or she personally get involved, but also the rest of the audience, because, as always, when only one member of the audience is asked to assist, you really are speaking to the entire audience through this one spectator, it becomes sort of a pars pro toto strategy.
Furthermore, the act of signing confers an extra portion of importance to the proceedings and becomes therefore a desirable element of the dramatic construction.
Finally, a signed card lends itself to be given away to the assisting spectator – see my way of doing it, based on an idea by Vanni Bossi, in Secret Agenda p. 48 (to any performer this is worth the proverbial price of the book). This is not just a marketing trick, as many would see it, but much more important a possibility for the spectator the relive the experience of wonder and to tell it to someone else.
However, in plenty of situations signing a card is unnecessary, even undesirable. For once, on stage carefully consider whether it is really necessary to have a card signed, for on stage seconds are like minutes, whereas it is a completely different thing to do so at the table, especially in informal situations, where a moment of relaxation is most welcome. Not so on stage, where, as a rule that might have its exceptions, you want to keep the pacing up.
Have a look at the tricks in Stand-up Card Magic: Although cards are selected, in almost none of them is a signature (or whatever) required. This is because I designed the psychological construction of the tricks in such a way that the use of a duplicate card is excluded by the dramatic construction.
Take “Stickler” (a title my publisher Stephen Minch created for my “Card Stab”, p. 242, palindromic, the page, not the title…). In this trick it is made crystal clear that there cannot be any duplicate, therefore signing is completely superfluous.
On the other hand, if you perform a trick where the only solution is a duplicate, such as making it appear outside of a window, the card must be signed, or some other strategy applied to explicitly confirm that it is the very same card (even though it might bot be…).
Lines & Bits of Business
That’s of course another note “Signing a Card – Gags, Lines & Bits of Business” to open in your “Magic Notebook”: List all you can find in the archives, literature etc., and all you have come up with in years of performing in front of a real audience, that keeps the ball rolling, shows that you have a sense of humor, and charmingly helps to interact with your audience.
But remember: Whenever you use “lines”, you want to laugh with your spectator not at your spectator. Here are just a couple of lines as an example:
“Please sign the card… write anything you like… maybe your social security number…” This might be better than asking for the classic “phone number” in today’s politically (over-)correct society; at least in Switzerland and in most parts of Europe the social security number is VERY long, and virtually nobody knows it by heart, so asking for it causes spontaneous amusement.
Here is another line I found in my archive: “This is NOT the pen with which Barack Obama signed his marriage certificate – but you, Sir, may sign the card with it.” Change the name and the “certificate” in any way you like…
BTW: A much neglected chapter is Chapter 64 in Card College 5, “A Cardman’s Humor” (includes Cardwomen, of course). A reviewer criticized this chapter, and I really do not understand why – he probably failed to carefully read my short introductory essay on the matter (p. 1385 and 1386)… Sure, humor is personal and situational, but once you are clear about that, “standard lines” can open up doors to new ideas, but as always you’ve got to “use your head”.
Write Me a Postcard
As I was discoursing above on the subject of fountain pens and cards, a business idea occurred to me that could make me a rich man in a short time (hey, just joking!). Seriously, maybe some of you don’t believe that I write nice cards, with precious fountain pens, send them off in envelopes with a real (lovely!) stamp.
So, if you want an autograph (definition of “autograph” in a general sense: something written or made with one’s own hand; also in a stricter sense: a signature, especially that of a celebrity written as a memento for an admirer), send 10 (Dollars, Euros or what have you) to my PayPal address firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll write you a lovely magical postcard from the Taschen Collection. You then only have to wait about 50 years after I’m dead, and can then sell it for maybe $ 20…
Please indicate your address in Paypal in as simple a manner as possible (especially UK & USA), i.e., : name & surname, street & number, ZIP, city name, country – NOTHING ELSE is required; forget districts, counties, provinces etc. – the ZIP and the city name (for USA, Canada plus state abbreviation) identifies it all.
OK, as you’re reading this I’m off to Austria and then Spain, so I’ll miss you, but wish you three great weeks!
All the very best,
PS: As announced earlier, there will be no Magic Memories for the next two weeks, as I’m attending two consecutive magic conventions. I’ll see you back here on SUN, SEP 25th, inevitably at 0:07 o’clock sharp.
Today’s topics are: on Stand-up Card Magic; Thoughts on note-taking; Contact & program form; Idea for a card trick on stage; Remembering Herb Zarrow
These are The Magic Memories 87, gone online Sunday, August 28th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
As I’m writing these Magic Memories 87, I’m preparing for my attendance at the Austrian National Magic Convention in Bad Aussee. See HERE what a lovely spot this is.
Living in the Old World is not always an advantage over living in the New World, not at all, but a few things are just, well, different, and I for my part prefer to attend a magic convention in a beautiful natural or historic environment than to get stuck in a huge hotel that has nothing more to offer than convenient facilities (and sometimes not even those…).
Anyway, I’m booked to give a 90-minute lecture on Stand-up Card Magic, appear in their Parlor Magic Show with a 20-minute performance, and sit in the jury of their close-up and stage competition – so, you see, I won’t get bored 🙂
In today’s Magic Memories I will discuss a few things in regard to performing card magic standing up, things that are not in my book Stand-up Card Magic, but also remind you of a few that are, for it is inevitable that many things have been overlooked… that has always been so, and in today’s times of over-information especially so.
How do you avoid missing or forgetting the good things in a book or video? I have found the best thing really to be to write into the books, highlight and underline, make notes on the margin, or use post-its.
The most important thing is to identify polyvalent concepts, name them if they do not already have a name (in my writings most do…), open a note in your notebook (Evernote, OneNote, etc.), describe the concept and your ideas along with various applications (every concept needs an application to be understood). If the original description is longer, use a Scan App (e.g., ScannerPro from Readdle) to scan that part of the text as a PDF (NOT as a JPG) and insert it into the note; being a PDF it can be multiple pages in one file (you can’t do this with JPGs) and you can then even write into it, with underlines and highlights.
Finally, tag the note so you can easily find it: Name of author, instrument used, category (is it an effect [production, vanish, travel etc.], a technique, a presentation, a subtlety or what).
Reread your notes regularly.
Yes, this is a lot of work, but in 63 years I have found no other way to satisfaction and success…
Contact & Program Form
“Stand-up Card Magic” is usually a subject that I would typically treat in a one-day Masterclass as the subject is huge; it is a profession within the profession, you might say.
For my lecture at the convention I will only have 90 minutes, I shall therefore do it the “Mosaic Way”: Pick practical examples from various areas, seemingly unrelated, to eventually convey a useful picture of the subject.
Anyone who then wants to study the matter in depth, will have to do his or her homework by studying the literature: Many books, magazines, videos etc. have excellent material concerning this subject (e.g., The Tarbell Course in Magic), but to my knowledge only two works treat it in a systematic way, identifying the basic problems and providing good and solid solutions for them in an organized and didactically attractive manner, and that’s my book Stand-up Card Magic as well as my first Penguin Live Lecture, which is the video companion to the book.
I believe that the first two chapters of the book have been read over by most. These two chapters deal with the particular conditions of a stand-up performance, as well as with how to manage assisting spectators. However, many will dive for chapters 3 and 4, with the techniques and the tricks. This is a misconception, for these two chapters are the upper floors that reside on the basement and the first floor. If the latter are missing, the house falls down.
I remember that when the book first came out in 2016 I wrote to my esteemed friend Steve Cohen, who had just advertised his successful show “Chamber Magic”, now at the Lotte NY Palace Hotel. The photo showed his audience sitting in a straight line in front of the performance area, and I suggested to arrange them in a slight arc for better communication and visibility.
He enthusiastically wrote back and promised a bottle of Opus One when we next meet a a thank you – unfortunately due to Covid I had to cancel my travel to NYC, so am still looking forward to it 🙂
For those who don’t have the book I have taken a photo of page 5:
If the event is a small one, the necessary arrangement can be done on location, but it is best to foresee the potential problems of a performance, and then prepare beforehand.
I always do this before the event by calling up the client and discussing the program and to get the best possible conditions for the client and his or her guests. Years ago Barbara listened into such conversation and later commented that I should charge extra for event planning! (BTW: This also worked when an in-between agency handled the deal. I simply explained to them that they could do everything on the business side, and once this was done, I would like to talk to the client personally; this was never refused, as it was seen as a sign of professionalism.)
Although this is true for any type of performance, when getting booked for a stand-up show that takes place in a private home, a restaurant, hotel or other venue that has not been designed for visual performances as theaters and similar locations would, it is primordial to arrange for the best possible viewing and communication conditions.
To give my discussion (ca. 20 minutes) with the client a structure, I devised a specific “Contact and Program Form”: By simply following its system I would be able to identify and solve any problems, provided there were any.
I then discovered that doing so came with a huge bonus: Asking all those questions from the form made me look very professional, and more important, that I cared for the client and the event. In my case I didn’t have to pretend, because I sincerely cared, as I do with everything.
The inspiration for my Program and Contact Form came from a series Michael Ammar originally published in Genii magazine; later most of the material found its way into “Chapter Eight – Magic Management” of his excellent book The Magic of Michael Ammar. Over the years I have revised it completely to suit my needs and reduced it to a one-page form.
The PDF I have for you as a gift has two pages. The first page is the empty form, which you are welcome to print and use: I always have the form sitting on my desk as I converse with the person who wants to book me (call them client, customer or patient, according to your sense of humor), and I write into it by hand; to me this makes the process feel more personable than if I compiled the form on the computer – that’s a question of attitude… The second page is the same form, but filled in with a fictitious example, and that should clear all questions you might have.
To read and download the PDF of the “Contact and Program Form” CLICK HERE. “Kontakt- und Programmformular” deutsch HIER.
A Little Idea
I wasn’t going to write about specific tricks in today’s post, but looking for the photo with the chairs above, I found the scan I had made years ago for possible use, but it never made it into the book, so I’ll put it here – maybe someone will want to devote further thought to it. Denis Behr, the formidable, found the snippet comes from Genii, Vol 14 No. 2, Oct. 1949; CLICK HERE to view the complete article.
Remembering Herb Zarrow (1925 – 2008)
I had the great pleasure of being quite friendly with Herb and Phyllis Zarrow for many years. We met through our mutual friend Ron Wohl, originally from the same city than I, Basel (Switzerland).
I could write a lengthy essay about our meetings in the USA and in Europe, and I might do so one day. Suffice it to say that Herb was one of those “inspired amateurs”, if there ever was one, who have contributed more to magic, especially card magic, than most professionals. And I would be hard pressed to name a person who was more humble and modest than he, in spite of his extraordinary creativity and skill.
The photo below came about as the result of various facts falling into place almost by magic… Hank Moorehouse had booked me to appear at the SAM Magic Convention in Las Vegas in 1996. I told Ron Wohl, who at that time would visit his parents about once a year here in Basel, and each time he did, he called me up and we would spend an afternoon doing magic and the evening going to some stellar restaurant, for Ron like myself had a love affair with gastronomy.
On that occasion he said that Herb, Phyllis and he were planning to fly to Los Angeles a week before the convention, rent a car, and then drive to Las Vegas, visiting all those famous spots in-between, such as Red Canyon, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, etc.
Imagine my surprise when he asked me if I would want to come with them. I hesitated three seconds, and then said ‘Yes’ 🙂
This was quite an adventure, I can tell you, touristically and magically…
Once in Las Vegas I experienced never ending surprises: Thanks to Herb and Ron, I could get into the surveillance room of the Bally’s Hotel, then managed by George Joseph, see Mike Skinner perform at the Lily Langtry at the Golden Nugget, and have some memorable sessions with Zarrow, Skinner, Thompson… And that wasn’t even the convention! Needless to say I had a grand time.
Herb came to my lecture I did in a showroom of the Bally’s Hotel (so I can honestly say that I worked in a Las Vegas Casino with a contract and a fee!). Afterwards he was very complimentary about it, and said that he always thought that this is the way to do a lecture: Only a few tricks (I did three, I believe), and then talk in depth about them.
An early meeting with the Zarrow’s was in Paris at Bernard Bilis’ home, actually one year before above-mentioned convention. Bernard called me up and invited me for dinner, saying that there would be a few other guests. When I arrived at his home I was greeted by Herb and Phyllis!
In the photo below, taken at Bernard’s home in Paris, from left to right: Bernard Bilis, Roberto Giobbi, Yves Carbonnier, Herb Zarrow.
On one occasion Herb and Phyllis managed to come to the Escorial Card Conference, another memorable meeting. Below you can see me do the “Zarrow Shuffle” for Herb Zarrow, and everyone else watching like hawks 🙂
When asked to do his shuffle, Herb would occasionally simply do an ordinary shuffle and then humorously remark, “Every shuffle I do is a Zarrow shuffle!” Of course 🙂
On another occasion Jamy Swiss had booked me for his “Card Clinic” in NYC, the first of four. The Zarrows heard of it, called me up, and invited me for dinner, and afterwards they took me to a concert in the world-famous New York Philharmonic. I only remember that they played pieces by a modern composer, whom I had never heard of (shame on me!), and whose music really went above my head – I did not like it at all. But that didn’t matter at all, as I will cherish the memory of this evening for the rest of my life (the Zarrows and their kindness, not the music…).
Request for Help
In last week’s Magic Memories I asked if you, my readers, could let your friends know about this blog: If every reader would tell just one other person, that would be nice. Looking into the stats nothing changed from last week, on the contrary, there were fewer logins. Whether this is because nobody cares and no one sent out any message to friends, or if everyone did, but nobody to whom it was sent cared, I cannot say. But I will not hide from you that I am, well, quite a bit disappointed…
Wish you all a good week!
All the very best,
Advance Notice: Sorry to report that The Magic Memories 89 and 90 will be canceled as I’ll be at the Austrian Convention in Bad Aussee, and the week-end immediately following it at the Magialdia Convention in Vitoria. I’ll see you back on The Magic Memories 91, SUN, SEP 25th, as always at 0:07 o’clock sharp!
Today’s topics are: Terminology in magic – let’s define our terms; Dictionaries in magic; Remembering Borra Sr.; Your help is required
These are The Magic Memories 86, gone online Sunday, August 21st, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Define Your Terms!
Gladstone (1909 – 1998), a former Prime Minister of the UK, to whom the utterance is attributed (without the “Ladies”, as government at that time was exclusively male) blew into the same horn as Voltaire (1694 – 1778), who opined, “Define your terms, you will permit me again to say, or we shall never understand one another.”
I wish this was more often quoted and lived by than Robert-Houdin’s quote, which he never meant the way it was later interpreted – I know, because he told me through his reincarnation in Juan Tamariz 🙂 (See my short take on the subject in Sharing Secrets, “Be Yourself; Magician and Actor – Two Professions”, p. 27.)
Atsushi Takizawa, who is translating and publishing some of my books in Japanese, asked about the definition of the terms “effect”, “trick”, “routine”, “act”, and “performance”.
Considering that magic is still far from being treated as an academic discipline, this question is not as trite as it might look at first sight. I therefore thought it would be of interest to most who are following these Magic Memories to briefly discuss this important issue.
Fact is that these terms – and others for that matter (!) – are used very loosely in the literature. Any attempts through history to establish a unified terminology have miserably failed, as we know. In my opinion this has two major reasons.
First, magic is not treated as a science and art. In the sciences, once a discovery is made and named, everyone refers to it by this name. And every science is based on an established taxonomy with a generally binding terminology that is taught in a formal training with a final exam and graduation and title (BA, MBA, PhD, etc.). Not so in magic. “Magician” is neither a recognized profession nor is there a protected title, anyone can call her- or himself “magicienne” or “magician” and practice the discipline.
Second, most authors refuse to accept another’s terminology. In Card College I have tried to establish a sophisticated and detailed terminology, based on some already established terms, but if I look at today’s magical writings, few have taken notice, and still keep writing, e.g., “left long side of the deck”, which is a tautology, as a “side” is “long”, and it suffices to write “left side”. Or many still insist on using “Biddle Grip” crediting Mr. Biddle for seizing a deck in the manner it was already seized in 1370, when cards are first documented; “End Grip” is a logical and intuitive term, but few have accepted this.
Furthermore, in other disciplines (mathematics, music, medicine, etc.) publications (magazines, books, etc.) are supervised by experts in the field and edited for unified terminology, whereas in magic most texts are just checked for grammar, style and credits 8if at all); every author (most of them not professionals) then uses what she or he knows and likes.
A big subject, I know, that deserves a closer look, so consider these just a few thoughts to start the discussion (that won’t happen as few care…).
Back to Atsushis’s terms and his question. Here are my definitions I submit for your approval:
1. What the spectator experiences when a trick is performed, what he would tell someone else (“The card vanished and appeared in his wallet.”). 2. Often used in written instructions of a trick to convey to the reader what the audience will see (“A card is selected, lost in the deck, and then shown to have vanished. The card is then revealed in the perform’s wallet.”). 3. Names the category of the phenomenon, i.e., the basic theme of the trick (“Travel”, “Levitation”, “Restoration”, “Divination & Location”). 4. Often (wrongly) used as a synonym for “trick”, with the intention of upgrading its image (“I’ve been using the following effect with great success for a children’s audience.”).
Technical term used among magicians to denominate a specific piece of magic (Dai Vernon’s “Slow Motion Aces – 2nd Version”; Robert-Houdin’s “Card to Wallet”). I advocate its use in the technical literature, in lectures etc., as it has become an established term over centuries and it would be hard to replace it. However, when speaking to a lay audience, I prefer synonyms. In Secret Agenda, entry for November 24, I dealt with the issue (for your convenience you can read or download the one-page-PDF, CLICK HERE).
Any performance piece that is made up of several effects with the same instrument and with the same theme, such as “Follow the Leader”, “Ambitious Card”, “Linking Rings” (“What’s your routine for the Linking Rings?”).
1. Loosely used for the complete program of a performer (“This was a lovely act”). 2. Dictionary.com defines “act” as: “A short performance by one or more entertainers, usually part of a variety show or radio or television program.” 3. A sequence of tricks with a dramatic unity, usually ca. 6 to 10 minutes (Norm Nielsen, The Great Tomsoni, Cardini etc. did acts).
The act of presenting a trick in front of an audience (“Her performance of the Card in Wallet was remarkable.”).
Of course, magic not being an exact science as mathematics, the application of terms might occasionally be stretched. As an example, if you combined various quick tricks, such as in a “Multiple Card Location”, you could refer to this as a “routine”, but also as an “act”, especially if it extends for a certain duration of time. Also, if someone does a series of rope tricks, and only those, such as Edernac or Tabary used to do, then you would refer to it as an “act” (Edernac’s Rope Act), but if someone did the same piece as part of a let’s say 40-minute program, then it would be a “routine”.
This little excursion into a subject that is much neglected in our circles wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that there are, in spite of all things said, various dictionaries that have attempted to organize and define the concepts used in magic, to name and define them. Actually, most languages have at least one dictionary (see photo above).
In English Im aware of Bart Whaley’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of Magic (Jeff Busby Inc., USA 1989). The fact that this has been long out of print shows how little interest it has found. Fortunately, it is still available as an e-book from lybrary.com. The other one is T. A. Waters’ The Encyclopedia of Magic and Magicians (Facts On File Publications, USA 1988). This one is still available from Amazon. Whaley’s work costs quite a bit more than Waters’, but is clearly superior and recommended.
BTW: To compare the quality of two dictionaries simply take one term, e.g., “effect”, and then compare them. So, if at school or college you need to buy a dictionary for your son or daughter, the more expensive will usually be the better investment.
In the photos below you will see that Whaley’s definition is more detailed and complete than Waters’:
In the Asian cultures the number eight is considered a lucky number: It is symmetrical, looks the same if mirrored, if turned horizontally symbolizes the infinite – what a beautiful number (and idea for a Prologue to a trick using the number eight).
“This will fly by perfectly, if it is correctly understood and capably executed.”
“As always when practicing a sleight, exaggerate it and slow down. Then, after a while, do it a little faster, until you get real speed, and also bring the exaggeration down. ” (“Hofzinser” Top Change)
“This might not be your cup of tea. The important thing is that you identify the problem, and now find a solution that fits you: Not too short, not too long, but just right.” (“All’s Well That Ends Well” in Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction)
“Of course this needs a reason. With any kind of movement you do or text you say, you always need a reason, implicit or explicit.”
That’s the concept of naturalness: Avoid that the spectators wonder, “Why is he doing that?” If you can accomplish that you’ve attained naturalness.
“There are things that cannot be simplified, or else they become trivial.” (The Magic Memories 65)
The three “S” – Sophistication, Simplicity, Safety: As sophisticated as I can, but as simple and safe as possible. (The Magic Memories 65)
This is the path to perfection: You’ll never reach perfection, but having it as a vision will lead to excellence. (The Magic Memories 65)
Borra Sr. (Borislav Milojkovic, 1921 – 1998), not to be confused with his son Charly Borra, was one of the best and popular pickpocket entertainers (as opposed to real ones…) of his time.
I had the immense pleasure and honor to be booked together with him at the same event in Frankfurt, many years ago, when I was just about twenty or so, still a student at the University of Basel. My good friend Wolff von Keyserlingk, a bona fide German Baron, whom I will remember in a future Magic Memories, had received a very lucrative engagement for a prestigious corporation to organize and lead through the entertainment part of a customer event.
I forget many details, but one thing I remember was that the event location was the Intercontinental Hotel in Frankfurt, at that time the number one hotel in town. Since I had to come from Switzerland, a 3-hour trip by train, I was offered to stay at the same hotel. Well, never before had I been in a larger and more luxurious hotel room! I had no idea that in my future professional career I would be lodged in many similar hotels around the world…
Anyway, Wolff had received a generous budget that allowed him to book three other magicians: Camilo Vazquez from Spain (1st prize Close-up in 1973 FISM Paris), Piet Forton (a three-time FISM winner in Card Magic), and myself (a nobody at that time, but Wolff apparently had a high opinion of me). And then there was the star of the show, Mr. Borra Sr. himself!
The four magicians of us were each assigned a table in a corner of a large room – a “Magic Show Corner” – but I remember only little of that. Very probably we each did several shows during cocktail time for different groups of people. How much better this “Show Corner” idea is than the “Walkaround Magic”, or worse, “Table Hopping Magic”. That idea stuck with me, and I’ve used it many times later during my own professional work.
The neat thing about this engagement, besides being hired in the context of such a high-profile event, was that after we did our “Show Corner” thing, the three of us were free to enjoy the rt of the evening together with the customers, while Wolff and Borra would do their stage show after dinner.
Wolff did his stage act as usual to great success, and then introduced Borra, who would do at least half an hour, maybe more. I had seen Borra before as a child when he worked in the Swiss national Zirkus Knie in Basel. My memory of his performance in Frankfurt was just that he git a long standing ovation, of course.
However, the reason I’m telling all this, is another memory that far outweights everything else, a minor thing to an outsider, maybe, but to me as the young chap it was sensational: All the artists, the five of us, shared the same dressing room that had a large table in the middle. I was practicing my card sleights on a close-up mat at the table when suddenly Borra, already dressed up, sat next to me, to my left (I remember that!), and asked if he could have my cards. Imagine my surprise when he then started to show me card sleights. I can recall him doing a second Deal and a Push-through Shuffle!
He wouldn’t have survived at a card table with it, but one could see that he knew and that he had put quite bit of practice into it. He went on for a while, and was highly amused to show me all this and telling me how much he liked magic. He then graciously asked me to do a few tricks for him and was very complimentary about my little performance. I was deeply impressed by his sincere humanity, a star who still was a child at heart, humble and modest, and still fully aware of who he was. I often think of him and find him to be a role model on and off stage.
What a pity that we did not live closer to each other, as I’m sure we could have become good friends, the benevolent world-famous “grandpa” and his *grandson” 🙂
Lots of things to be said about his act, which I won’t. Watch it for yourself on YouTube. Especially his opening with the cigarettes – world class magic.
An interesting question to ponder is why a pickpocket would open with a magic sequence that had nothing to do with the rest of the act. We find a similar ploy used by Al Koran: When working as a mentalist in a night club, he would open with a purely visual Linking Ring Routine with three rings.
I’ve never found anything written about this, but my assumption is that he had three reasons. First, it was an Overture that would introduce his stage persona. Second, it would establish his competence: Here was someone who really knew what he was doing. Third, it was a quick and visual opener.
The problem of pickpocketing, similar to the performance of card tricks or mentalism, is that it takes time and procedure to get to the first “effect”: at least two spectators – Borra used to call them “patients” – needed to be brought up, seated, and only then could the “stealing” part start. The visual opener with the Cigarette Catch would provide a first series of baffling miracles that would get immediate attention from everyone in the audience. But most of all, besides establishing his stage persona, it would clearly show his competence and endear him to his audience through a charming and completely magical gambit. To be understood and lived by.
A Little Help
An occasional look at the statistics of my webpage tells me that there are more or less 500 people reading these Magic Memories, at least that’s how many log in. I would like to reach a few more, and for this I need your help. If each one of you who is reading this would send just one email with the link to these The Magic Memories to one friend, we could double our community. So, if you want to say Thank you in a tangible way (yes, Gee, I know, I’ve used the expression before 🙂 let your friends know, and while you’re at it, tell them to get Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction (also available as a USB Card), because it will be more useful to them than the money to me, although the latter is a necessary side-effect to keep bringing these Magic Memories and other information for free to you. THANK YOU, VIELEN DANK, GRAZIE MILLE, MUCHAS GRACIAS, MERCI BEAUCOUP, ERG BEDANKT, DOMO ARIGATO ETC.
Today’s topics are: Shigeo Takagi Addendum with five rare film clips; Remembering Henk Meesters with film clip.
These are The Magic Memories 85, gone online Sunday, August 14th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
Several wrote in to point out the misspelling of “Tagaki”: It is, of course, Takagi. Thank you all for caring, and it is now all corrected 🙂
As I’ve mentioned several times, I usually write these Magic Memories in one go on the same Saturday they are posted, and my time only allows for reading through them once. Therefore, if you find any gross errors, please let me know so I can correct them for future readers. Thank you.
Shigeo Takagi Addendum
My dear friend Roland Heuer from Germany, who regularly sends in much valued words of appreciation for these blogs of mine, is married to a charming Japanese lady, Ikuko, also a violinist as Roland, and he asked her to search some Japanese sites for hidden Takagi material.
Eureka! Roland and Ikuko sent in FIVE links to some rare footage where you can see Shigeo Takagi perform in various situations. Several of the routines you will see in the video clips can be found in Kaufman’s book The Amazing Miracles of Shigeo Takagi, some on his instructional videos. There is some great classic magic here.
And here they are, the Takagi videos, for your entertainment pleasure and instruction, and compliment of Roland and Ikuko:
Remembering Henk Meesters
A few years ago I learned about the passing of Henk Meesters, and greatly regretted that we got out of touch.
Henk was a truly gentle person and a very talented performer with great charm and audience appeal. For several years he worked professionally touring Europe and the USA, but then decided for a more steady life and became a restaurant manager in Basel, my hometown. He and Erika married and had one daughter, Bianca.
Originally from Holland, Henk had worked with Richard Ross when they were both very young in Henk Vermeyden’s magic shop.
Henk came to Basel, Switzerland, in the Eighties. I can’t remember how we met, but at some point he came to a few of the local magic club’s meetings, and it’s there that we got to know each other closer.
The magic club scene was not his cup of tea, so, after a few visits he stopped coming to the club, but we had already established a firm friendship, first, because he was probably the most talented of the group, and I the most promising 🙂
Briefly: I asked Henk if he would help me with an act I was going to present in the Magic Castle’s Close-up Room, an engagement I had obtained, I believe, through Max Maven. This was to happen after my first US appearance (!) at the IBM convention in Nashville in 1987, so, two en suite engagements.
Henk was truly experienced in all aspects of professional performing and a great help.
All of this is now too far away, so I don’t recollect details, but one: He suggested that at the end of the act I gave the two ladies assisting a small box of chocolate. I can’t remember exactly what I did, but those chocolates I can! And as proof of their effectiveness and memorability, I found two reviews of my appearances at the IBM convention as well as at the Magic Castle that mention part of the act and the chocolates!
You can read/download the PDF with Tom Ogden’s column in Genii by CLICKING HERE, and Rick Johnsson’s and Phil Willmarth’s reviews by CLICKING HERE, for your “Giobbi-Archive”, if you have one 🙂
Back to Henk: I remember that everything he touched shined. One of the many things he did so well were the multiplying thimbles using the very nice ones at the time produced by Werry in Germany and which stacked in pairs. He taught me his routine with eight thimbles, and I used it for several years, and then I taught it to Steve Sheraton, whom I coached for two seasons when he performed as a talented youngster in the Basel Youth Circus Basilisk, but that’s another story 🙂 Steve later reproduced and sold similar thimbles with glowing characteristics through his company HOTTRIX (I believe still available).
Another thing Henk excelled in – actually this was his forte – were the Linking Rings, which he taught me in great detail. Even today, I still use several of the beautiful moves he shared with me and which at the time were unpublished. Although he had various routines for the Linking Rings, he became famous in magic circles for his 3-Ring-Routine, which is still commercially available from magic dealers as an illustrated manuscript.
He was one of the first to do a routine reduced to three rings, possibly inspired by his close association with Richard Ross, and his handling of the rings was superb: It was truly a perfect example of the Artist and his Instrument coming together, with a capital “A” and a capital “I”, sheer beauty. And next to Fred Kaps’ handling of the Chinese Sticks (see The Magic Memories 22 of 30th May, 2021), Henk’s touches on the Linking Rings taught me that props really are instruments, provided an artist handles them.
In the photo below, which was taken at International Magic’s shop (still at 89 Clerkenwell Rd, London), you can see from left to right: Ron MacMillan, Bobby Bernard, Tommy Cooper and Hank Meesters.
Henk also helped me with my close-up act I used for my very first appearance at Ron MacMillan’s One Day Convention. Again, I can’t remember details, only that I did a coin routine very much inspired by Fred Kaps’ coin routine with the giant coin finale sold by Ken Brooke (but I had reconstructed it from hear-saying), as well as a personal handling of David Roth’s “Bermuda Triangle”. Paul Arden once said, “Good is better than original”, and although at that time I did not even know about Arden, let alone his sayings, I would say it was the motto I lived by…
One more thing that showed Henk’s humanity: He had arranged with Ron MacMillan, who was a close friend of his, to book me at said convention. He was very proud of this, and I even more so! I can’t remember what the fee was, but as a youngster in my twenties, still at university and not yet a professional, I certainly didn’t care for that, and Henk said all expenses – airfare from Basel and hotel – were taken care of. Wow.
Only later did I find out that there had been a misunderstanding between Henk and Ron: Ron’s budget at that time did not allow for more than the fee, maybe ca. £ 200, and no expenses. But Henk, the gentleman he was, never talked about this and took all expenses upon himself. When I learned about this much later I was so ashamed that I didn’t even dare thanking him for it. Looking back, this is one more thing I deeply regret. He’s no longer with us to forgive me, so I have to forgive myself, one of the hardest things in life…
Unfortunately there is little material on Henk as he was not an inventor, but certainly an exceptionally gifted interpreter of classic magic with a very likable and easy-going way of connecting with his audiences.
I did find a video clip of him performing his Six-Ring-Routine at a magic convention of the Göteborgs Magiska Klubb 1977 – Top Hat Festival.
To see a short video clip of Henk performing his Linking Rings (at 05:55) CLICK HERE.
I wish you all a successful week and look forward to our next magic chat in a week’s time!
Today’s topics are: More thoughts on FISM competitions; How to establish magic as an art; Remembering Shigeo Takagi.
These are The Magic Memories 84, gone online Sunday, August 7th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
More Thoughts on Competitions
Last week’s The Magic Memories brought in a few comments concerning competitions, thank you, so I assume there is some interest in it, and I’m going to explore the subject a bit more in today’s blog.
Benefits of a Competition
As I reported in last week’s installment, winning the FISM competition did have a decisive impact on my professional career. As a matter of fact, I see at least three benefits of entering a competition, especially one of the importance and magnitude of FISM:
First, it forces you to create a high-caliber ten-minute act. If you’ve never done that I can assure you that this is a major operation, and although it will be different for each performer, common to all is that you are forced to think in new dimensions, become creative to a point you didn’t think was possible, practice and rehearse efficiently, and a lot more (yet another topic!).
Second, a good performer – thanks to the recently introduced idea of preliminaries most FISM acts are at least good – gets exposed in front of his and her peers, thus gaining attention, recognition and bookings. This is especially useful for young performers, or those coming from lesser known countries, or countries with weak economies that do not allow performers to travel easily (yet another reason why there should be a foundation that sponsors such acts).
Third, it can greatly facilitate breaking into professional show business. I’m not talking about getting booked at magic conventions, as too many convention organizers (fortunately not all!) simply exploit the artists by paying lower fees than they could afford. (This is really another big issue that needs to be addressed at some point!) An award is the welcome hook the media are looking for in order to report about the artist.
I remember when I won my award at FISM 1988, I got interviewed by one of the most prominent columnists (-minu) for a national newspaper. The next day the CEO of a restaurant and resort chain personally called me up, his name was Ulrich Leuthold, and asked to meet me.
His company, the Berest AG that still exists, managed some of the most important restaurants, hotels and night clubs in Switzerland. He booked me to regularly appear at one of their top bar-restaurants in Basel, at that time called “Classico” (and worth a column of its own!), where I did not only get my first professional experience in high-level close-up magic at a handsome fee, but also met lots of decision makers who then booked me for prestigious and lucrative corporate and private work.
Ueli (Swiss short for “Ulrich”) and I then became quite friendly, and many interesting projects and bookings followed – if you remind me I’ll report on one of them, the “Soirée 200”, a yearly event with only 200 guests who each payed 100 Swiss Francs (that’s ca. $ 250 of today’s purchasing power). I did three such events, booking acts like Tommy Wonder, Tina Lenert, and other national and international talent.
Lots more to say about “benefits”, but let me bring this part of the discussion to an end by mentioning that I’ve seen competitors also live the exact contrary to encouragement and boost to their career: There have been performers who simply misjudged their talent, entered a competition, and experienced the flop of their lives, some of them being booed off the stage, or even had the curtain closed by decision of the jury.
Both are cruel intrusions into the life of a usually sensitive individual, who has more often than not devoted a lot of time and thought to his or her performance, and is now brutally made aware that his or her expectations don’t match the reality. These people have then left magic with much bitterness and chagrin.
The Position of Competitions in Magic
Competitions can be an integral part of any artist’s career, independent from the discipline: There are competitions in music, film, literature, architecture etc. However, to my knowledge, it is only the “art” of magic where competitions are given such a prominent position.
That’s precisely the problem I see. And before proceeding let me state once again that all you read in my blogs and other writings is of course simply my personal opinion, no more, no less, and I’m not writing this to be controversial nor to offend anyone, I’m just interested to explore the subject and offer my point of view after decades of practicing and studying magic in a scholarly manner.
So, albeit in the magic community the call for magic being recognized as an art form is loud and argumentative, few seem to understand what this means and how it should be implemented. The problem, however, as Juan Tamariz once said to me in one of our conversations, is not the public, but those practicing magic, many of whom do not believe that magic is an art form. How can we convince the public that magic is art, if many of “us” do neither believe it nor act (in performances and outside) accordingly?
The position competitions get, especially at big conventions such as FISM, displays what in my opinion is a big misunderstanding of what constitutes an art form.
Granted, as we’ve seen, all arts have competitions and formats with a similar function, mostly to encourage and sponsor young talent, but no other art would give a competition the importance for instance FISM is giving it, which even hails the competition as the “Olympics of Magic”. This metaphorical expression is used as an analogy, of course, but it brings magic, sensed to be an art, down to the level of sports – and magic, whatever it might be, is certainly not a sport.
What shocks me, but does not surprise me at all, is that many who attend FISM, or other conventions with a competition, go there primarily to watch the competition. Wow, that’s quite something, I say.
I remember when I attended my first convention at age 17, I went there with the idea that I would learn new things (techniques, tricks, presentations, strategies, insights etc.), and meet new kindred spirits, people as obsessed about magic as myself, make new friends, see new developments in material sciences and creations (inventors, dealers), and so on. Competitions, to me, where the least important.
Later I came to understand and accept that competitions at a high level also have an educational function, as you can see the creativity of others, how they solved problems etc. So they are indeed part of the training and self-improvement, but never ever the most important part of it. And I started to wonder why so many love competitions and make it the main raison d’être of a convention.
Naturally, one of the reasons is that a large part of the convention goers have magic as a hobby. And as such they love to see magic performed, and to be surprised and even better be fooled. And of course we have to admit that in all of us watching those competitions there is a “little judge”: We simply love to “class” the act, and for a moment even imagine we were one of the judges and gave the act so-and-so many points, and then get upset at those judges 🙂 It makes us all feel a bit more important.
I have absolutely nothing against this, it is human, and it fulfills an important function in our life as aficionados of magic.
All I’m saying is that it must not be given that primordial importance as it is currently given, especially not when communicating magic to the public. If we ever want magic to be recognized as an art form and its practitioners as artists, at least some of us, we must stop making competitions the most important feature of a FISM convention. Take painting: There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that painting is an art form, but not everyone who paints is an artist, only a few are. Nobody would be offended if I said so. Same in magic: Magic is an art form, but not everyone practicing magic is an artist.
How to establish Magic as an Art
As a consequence of the above you might ask me: If you want to lower the prominence of competitions, what would you do to promote magic as an art?
For years I have been suggesting measures that could be taken, but few seem to be interested, and even fewer have acted.
In reference to FISM I think that there is the greatest potential to help the public gain a new and different view of magic, but almost nothing is done.
Possibly the only and most important innovation was Max Maven’s wonderful idea of installing three Special Awards outside of the competition. These should not be attributed for a single performance done in ten minutes on a specific day, in front of a specific jury, but be a kind of lifetime achievement award. This was first done at FISM 2006 in Stockholm, where the three awards for “Creativity”, “History and Research”, as well as “Theory and Philosophy” were given.
I consider these the three most important awards in magic, not because I received one, no, but because it recognizes that magic is more than just entertaining show business. Because that’s precisely the crux of the matter: As long as the public keeps just seeing magic acts, regardless how good they are, they will put magic into the box “fun-nice-entertaining” – of course it should be that too, but not only!
The Special Awards are a great way of reframing magic in the perception of the public, and communicate that magic has a huge historical tradition, with some fantastic personalities, not just performers, but also inventors, authors, researchers etc. And all those ideas they see are the fruit of exceptionally talented creators. Also, it opens for them the door to the complex and infinite substructures on which the “show” they see resides, make them wonder how it is possibly that the most sophisticated mind in this universe, the human mind, can be deceived by essentially simple concepts and thus become aware of magic’s multi-facetted artistic and philosophical implications.
The trouble is that those who should and could exploit this amazing potential of these awards simply do not understand this. Instead of using this unique possibility, the Special Awards are not even communicated to the public, at least I’ve never seen them mentioned in the press or on TV.
When I got my award, the convention organization in Rimini had failed to even write on the otherwise lovely trophy what the trophy was for, let alone my name, it just reads in very small type “FISM World Championship of Magic”, no year, no name, that’s how much the organization cared – I didn’t even get a certificate. (I should emphasize that this was not Max Maven’s fault, who has put a lot of time and energy into preparing the award ceremony). When I later wrote to the FISM secretary about at least getting a certificate, they said they would take care of it. They didn’t. And when I wrote in a second time – I can be stubborn (!) – they didn’t even answer. And the media were not even informed that these three awards existed. When I then contacted a few newspaper, something I truly hate doing and am terrible at for that reason, their first question was, “How much money went with the award?” I had to answer, “None.” Unfortunately, in the perception of the media and the public an award without money is not considered interesting. Certainly, if the Nobel Prize was not endowed with over one million Dollars, nobody would even know it existed. Again, another subject that should be discussed emotionlessly but intelligently.
Speaking of media and TV: It certainly helps finances and to some degree the image of magic to televise some FISM acts, but it doesn’t do much to change magic in the public’s eyes. A good show, a good act is what they expect magic to be, good entertainment, but it does nothing at all to add to their perception of magic. However, this is what we need: New possibilities for the public to see the world of magic.
New Possibilities in Magic
My suggestions have gone in the direction of opening other platforms of information about magic during a FISM. Let’s face it: The only moment the public gains access to what we are doing in six days is the evening gala, which is repeated for the public – sometimes even this doesn’t happen, since the theatre is sold out with the conventioneers alone, and a second or third show would have to be set up, but the theatre stage is occupied by other convention activities…
My idea would be to create external activities before, during and after FISM: lectures on various subjects (history, psychology, philosophy, biographies) in public libraries and other cultural hot spots, inter-disciplinary workshops and encounters with other artistic disciplines (magic and literature, magic and cinema, magic and painting), expositions in museums and art galleries (paintings with magic symbolism, optical illusions, etc.), movies with magic topics and introductory talks (Méliès is good, but there is more), bookshops with magic books (not only teach-ins but also literature that picks up “magical” themes – there is a lot more than Harry Potter…), activities in small theaters, pubs, bars, performances on the street, and an almost infinite etcetera.
As far as I know none of this has ever been done, not even partially, or if it has been done, in a very small scale. One of the laudable exceptions (there might be others, I hope, and I should be happy to report them here) is the Magialdia Convention in Vitoria, Spain, run by José Ángel Suarez and his team for more than thirty years (!), and which is sponsored by the city itself (!): During ca. three weeks there are dozens of activities of all types that show the rich and faceted world of magic to the public, and as a small part of it there is a three-day magic convention.
I know, some of it will be difficult to implement, if the event location and the organization team keeps changing, and money is needed… definitely another complex matter, and another conversation…
These are a few of my ideas and opinions, and maybe you want to discuss one or several of the points brought up with your magic friends and in your club. (Please understand that I cannot get into a correspondence over this or any other subject. But you can always approach me at a convention, buy me a drink at the bar or invite me to a slow-food meal 🙂
Remembering Shigeo Takagi
I’ve only had the pleasure of visiting Japan once, but that one time was certainly an intense and memorable one.
To start with, it was my first “culture shock”, because speaking six languages and being able to at least make heads and tails out of another half a dozen languages when I see it written down, well, In Japan it was all Greek to me 🙂
I had assumed that the most important signs in big cities like Tokyo or Osaka would be translated in English and Latin alphabet, and that most people would speak English. None of that was the case, at least not in 1989.
However, this was not an issue, since once you have the status of a guest, the hosts take care of you and you are treated like a VIP. I will never forget how we were strolling through Osaka and it started raining. Immediately our host, who was nobody less than Fukai, from “Fukai and Kimika” fame, asked us to wait under the entry portal of a mall, run in and out in less than two minutes, and came back with an umbrella for each one of us!
I have a dozen such stories, and they all show the wonderful and unique hospitality of the Japanese people. And I won’t even start to tell you about the exclusive meals we were treated to, the Asian cuisine being arguably the richest in the world, and in Japan you get some of the best.
Briefly: I was brought in by Max Maven (who else!), together with Eugene Burger, Tommy Wonder and Aurelio Paviato. After a day or two in buzzing Tokyo, with lots of magic and visit to Ton and Mama Onosaka’s “Magicland”, we were off to Hakone National Park (gorgeous!), were an intimate Close-up Convention was held.
But that was only the overture, as the main reason of the trip organized by Max, Ton and Max’s agent David Belenzon, was to attend one of the largest conventions Japan ever had, in Kitakyushu. I was told that this was meant as a kind of test run for an upcoming FISM convention in Japan (as a matter of fact, in 1994, FISM went out of Europe for the very first time, and was celebrated in Yokohama).
Below you can see a photo of the company I had the honor to be in, briefly stated: If the airplane that took most of them from Tokyo to Kitakyushu had crashed, magic would have lost at least 50% of its top talent. See if you can find them: Lance Burton, Max Maven, Kevin James, Fin Jon, Billy McComb, The Pendragons, Jeff McBride, Princess Tenko, Mac King, Tina Lenert, Goldfinger and Dove, Eugene Burger, Tommy Wonder, Aurelio Paviato, Ton Onosaka, Michael Moschen, Barclay Shaw, The Napoleons, Fukai and Kimika, Franz Harary, and others… quite something, eh 🙂
I had met Shigeo Takagi, Japan’s “Professor”, already in Tokyo the week before (see photo below), but it was on the Bullet Train that we got to “session” for almost the entire trip.
Although I do not speak any Japanese, except “Konnichiwa”, “Arigato”, and “Sayonara”, and Takagi’s English was, well, rather eccentric (Vernon bless him!), he kept performing for me great classic magic in his very own style, unforgettable! We kept speaking to each other without understanding what the other was saying, but we had the greatest of all times, and I experienced some fantastic magic 🙂
At some point Takagi gave me two VHS videos of his, which I was not able to watch for about two years, because in Europe at that time I could not get one of those multi-system video recorders playing NTSC format. But once I did, I learned his rope routine on it, and it has since then, to this very day (30 years plus!), remained the opening sequence of my professional act that has taken me to four continents. I am forever thankful to him just for that, let alone for all the rest!
He was not only an exceptional scholar of magic, he also considerably influenced the Japanese magic world around him to this day. See Richard Kaufman’s book on his magic (only a small part of his creative output),
Surprisingly I did not find much video material on Internet about Shigeo Takagi, but this short private 3-minute sampler clip should give you an idea of his exquisite taste and handling, CLICK HERE. And find some biographical info HERE. Finally, you might enjoy Michael Vincent discussing the book, and performing a beautiful routine from it, CLICK HERE.
I wanted to take a break from this blogging because it is so hot here, and look at what came out as a result – so much about taking resolutions!
Have a great week and see you all back here in a week.
Today’s topics are: Legend to FISM 2000 photo; Memories of FISM 1988 in The Hague; Roberto Giobbi FISM competition act (with video); How to prepare for a competition; Remembering Bob Jardine (with video).
These are The Magic Memories 83, gone online Sunday, July 31st, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
As you’re reading this, FISM 2022 in Quebec is a thing of the past, but it gives me a lovely reason to continue my reminiscences of my own attendances to this most important of all magic conventions that I started in The Magic Memories 82. I received various comments and questions, and would like to deal with a few here.
Legend to FISM 2000 Photo
Several readers asked me to reveal the names of the “stars” on the photo below – I had wrongly assumed that all was clear 🙂
So, here we go.
Standing, from left to right: unknown, Carlos Vaquera, Dominique Duvivier, Lee Asher, Lennart Green, Topas (Thomas Fröschle), unknown, Eugene Burger – only his bald head is visible :-), Bebel, Billy McComb, El Duco (Christer Gustavsson), Daryl Martinez, Alison Easton (Daryl’s wife, magicienne in her own right, and pregnant with their first daughter)
Kneeling in front row, from left to right: unknown (from Holland), Richard Ross, Hans Klok, unknown (from Holland), Juan Tamariz, Roberto Giobbi
Memories of FISM – The Hague 1988
After Brussels (1979), Lausanne (1982), Madrid (1985), The Hague in 1988 was my fourth FISM convention, and the most important to date for me, as I had then decided to enter the competition in the category of “Card Magic”.
This links to a question Spain’s Pedro Bryce asked as a reaction to last week’s The Magic Memories:
Could you tell us a bit about your experience competing at FISM 1988 (The Hague) and 1991 (Lausanne)? I’ve long been very curious about these two complete acts! Is there any video footage of them? As an anecdote I’ll tell you that Juan Tamariz kept telling Pepe Carroll «I saw Roberto’s act… it’s very good!” This was of course meant as an incentive for Pepe to work even more on his act! (Note: Pepe Carroll and I competed at FISM 1988 – see below.)
I had briefly commented on Pedro, who is one of the young outstanding magicians in Spain, in The Magic Memories 44 of OCT 31st, 2021, at the end of which I also included a link to a short performance of his on YouTube; it is all you need to appreciate his extraordinary talent.
The FISM 1988 Competition Act
Although this is a looong time ago (almost 35 years!!!), let me try to go back on the timeline and tell you a few hopefully useful and amusing things about this unique experience (it certainly was to me).
A few general things first, some amusing, some sad.
The most important – the result: I got 2nd prize in the category of Card Magic, with 0,9 points out of 100 behind my late friend Pepe Carroll from Spain, as a judge later told me.
Of course the whole thing was completely unfair, since Pepe was a genius, and I merely a man of talent 🙂 Certainly, Pepe completely deserved to win, simply for being one of the truly outstanding performers of the second part of the 20th century – I wish he had been able to get more recognition from outside of his own country, where he made an admirable career on national TV.
Unfortunately, later TV dropped him, as TV so often does with some stars, and he fell into a deep depression which finally lead to his premature death, in 2004, at the very young age of 46 (the same age my father died when I was only 14…).
A simple search on Google and YouTube entering “Pepe Carroll” will allow you to appreciate this talent of the century.
On a brighter note I should mention that Lennart Green also participated and got classed 17th or so.
The legend then circulated that this was because the judges thought that Lennart was using confederates and special cards. As amusing as this reads in hindsight, it is not entirely true. Truth is that Lennart had then just started to get into the limelight of the magic world, and these were his very first attempts at performing at all.
As we all now now, Lennart is another of these very rare geniuses (and I really use this term very, very sparingly!), as a creator-inventor, as a technician with truly idiosyncratic techniques, and as an eccentric performer. However, he had developed his talents as a performer only after 1988.
I watched Lennart compete, since he was on another day then I was, and what I saw was extraordinary originality and a most innovative technique, but an almost non-existent communication and an immature presentation. All of us who know Lennart also know that he is one of the most sincere, generous people in the world, with a BIG heart, and if I had to put my life in the hands of anyone in this world, I would choose Lennart, and I really mean that.
But Lennart is also a soft-spoken and introvert person, one who will always step back and let others receive the glory, even though he is the one to deserve it.
This very characteristic, which makes him possibly the most beloved magician in the world, is not very useful in “show business”. Certainly, Lennart learned to live with that, and as we all also know has been able to turn himself inside out when he performs so as to become the exceptional performer he has then become. BUT, at FISM 1988, he had not yet reached that point, and this is the true reason why he did not get a prize. Magic is a performing art, and at that time he was “merely” a highly skilled and innovative demonstrator.
Amusingly, though, and as a matter of additional curiosity, three years later, at FISM 1991 in Lausanne, Lennart and I again competed against each other in the category of “Card Magic”: I got again second place, and Lennart got first! Well deserved, as in the time in-between competitions, he had transformed into a brilliant performer – Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling of magic 🙂 A star was born! Of course it did not matter that he entered the competition with almost exactly the same act as in 1988, something which is against the FISM rules. But when it comes to true genius, who cares about pedantry 🙂
A Magician Prepares
Here a few comments on how to prepare for a competition.
One of my early influences in magic was Piet Forton, of his real name Pieter de Beaufort, who himself had won three times in a row the FISM first prize in Card Magic. At that time we were quite friendly and met regularly to talk magic. The one thing I remember he said to me was that you need to have your competition act ready at least a year before the competition, and then use that year to fine-tune it. Other than that he was not involved in any other aspect of the act.
But this was good advice, and I got most of the act together toward the end of 1987, and then seeked all types of occasions to perform it. Obviously, living in Switzerland where all speak Swiss-German (or French, Italian, or Romansch!), I had to always find audiences who at least had a basic understanding of English, for this was the language to perform in.
I remember that a few months before the convention, once a week, I invited a few friend for a cocktails to my home with snacks after work, and would then perform my act for them, in costume and all that jazz, and of course in English. This helped a lot. I did this about a dozen times.
Also, at that time I was already under the influence of the Spanish School of Magic, absorbing the teachings of Ascanio (a winner at FISM 1970 in Amsterdam) and Tamariz (a winner at FISM 1973 in Paris), and that helped, too.
At one of our sessions in Madrid Ascanio talked to me about “mental training” and recommended the books by Morehouse and Garfield (see Card College 2, the “Recommended Reading” section on p. 485). I took this to heart, and it is a strategy I’m using to this day, sometimes even more than physical rehearsal (!): Weeks before the competition first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, I would close my eyes and run through the complete act, including imagined audience reactions. This is a procedure I can truly recommend, especially to all those like myself who find it easy to practice, but who have difficulties to rehearse. If you’re interested in this subject, reread the chapter on “The Study of Card Conjuring” in Card College 2, pp. 476.
Another point that became clear to me very early in the process was that nerves were the number one thing to gain control over.
After having been into magic for almost 15 years then (in the meantime it’s almost 50 years!), and after having attended dozens of magic conventions and seen performances and competitions, I was convinced that most who failed did so because of their nerves, commonly known as “stage fright”. I’ve written a length essay on the subject HERE. You can get the German version HERE.
So I spent quite a bit of time to master nerves. At that time I did Yoga and TM, had done Autogenetic Training and things I forget, before that. Well, anything in which you believe can help… but most of all thinking, practicing and rehearsals will do the job…
I remember that I was scheduled to compete as the second to last act on Friday late afternoon.
Of course that was an acid test: The convention started on Monday, and I had to wait until Friday! The afternoon of that Friday I “took off” and went with Barbara to an indoor swimming pool to relax and prepare mentally. Then I got to the hotel, prepared, set-up etc. , then went to the convention center waiting in the tiny and overcrowded dressing room provided to contestants. I went through my mental routine, pushed up for maximum performance.
Imagine my shock when shortly before I should have gone on (ca. 5 pm), the organizer came into the dressing room and announced to the last two participants that unfortunately they were running late, and that our performances had to be moved to the next day!
I cannot describe my emotions at that moment: If that happened nowadays I would simply have a heart attack and die a dishonorable death, but in 1988, at age 29, I somehow survived it.
Worst of all was that Friday night they had a wonderful party, and of course it would have been the way of celebrating the performance. Instead, more nerves, and going to bed fairly early, missing the great action of the after-party, so as to be ready in the morning. At least I could negotiate with the organizers not to go on first , but later in the morning… at least that.
The performance itself went very well, actually better than anytime before: The mental and physical preparation at this moment paid high dividends. I wish there was a recording of this… there might be some pirate video somewhere – if you know it, let me know 🙂
A Magician Transforms
Maybe hard to believe, but this competition marked a turning point in my life, as thanks to this award (certainly completely unimportant if considered in the context of the history of humanity) I decided to leave my excellent, secure and very well-paid job as the head of the translator department of Autodesk, at the time the market leader in CAD software (AutoCAD), and turn full-time professional – talk about a Butterfly Effect! I’ve never regretted this landmark decision, and it gave my life a new direction.
The reason was that Switzerland being such a small country – 7 million inhabitants, less than Los Angeles at that time – and the German language having the term “Vizeweltmeister” (vice-world-champion), which sounds much better than the English “runner up to the first prize”, brought me an above-average coverage in the media.
Later it even brought me an appearance on national TV on Saturday night prime time in Switzerland’s most prestigious entertainment program “Supertreffer” – I’ll tell you more about this in the next The Magic Memories 84, with a video clip of me doing the act (the “other” act that won at FISM Lausanne 1991).
Judging What Cannot be Judged
As some will know I’m also a FISM judge 🙂 I’ve been a judge in several national and international competitions, but only once at FISM 2006 in Stockholm.
After that I was “judged” as “team incompatible”, or whatever term they gave the reason for not asking me back. My first mistake was to send in an essay on magic (“Artistic Magic” from Sharing Secrets) before the convention to the president of the jury, suggesting that it could be used to review the judging criteria (nobody from the panel ever answered this…).
Then I maintained that judges should be paid their expenses (travel, hotel and convention fee – I had to pay all my own, and even the convention fee for my accompanying wife). This is a big issue in itself, and we’ll leave it at that 🙂
And then I made my biggest “mistake” by not immediately agreeing with the decision of the other judges on the Grand Prix and another prize: Rick Merrill and Gaston – both very talented (that’s not the question) – played the role of mentally retarded individuals taking to magic as a kind of “therapy”. I simply objected that we might not want to signal to the public that people who turn to magic are mentally handicapped. Some might disagree 🙂 It was just an opinion, and I gave in, of course.
The question if competitions in magic make sense at all, and how they can be judged, since an act cannot be measured precisely as long jump or a football game, well, that’s another huge issue that could make the topic of another The Magic Memories.
Suffice it to say that as a contestant you must of course know exactly by what criteria your performance is going to be judged. For this most organizations nowadays will provide the Contest Rules, or you can download them from the convention’s homepage. If you want to amuse yourself, find the ten-page (!!!) Contest Rules of FISM by CLICKING HERE.
In spite of all of this being written down – the “theory” so to speak – the “practice” of judging is, well, another thing.
Regardless of what the criteria are, and the points attributed to each criteria, it is impossible to express the elements that make up a performance in figures. The truth is, that it is a “gut” judgement, i.e., a judge likes or dislikes the performance according to his or her criteria, and then tries to translate it into numbers in order to hand in the final score: Is it a 1st prize, is it a 2nd prize, is it a 3rd prize, or none at all; then you adjust your numbers accordingly. I’m possibly the first person to admit this, and most “established” judges will dement this, of course, but that’s my opinion and belief of how it works.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that the results of the judgement are bogus, not at all, provided the judges are experienced performers, creators, historians – either in combination, or ideally each one. A difficult thing, no question. And those who criticize judging should first think about the larger context (as always in life).
In any case, from many years of watching competitions, I would say that the criterion by which an act is judged more than anything else, is originality. In my opinion this is overrated, as I very much believe in what Paul Arden once said. “Good is better than original.” Obviously, if you are good and original, you’re a winner.
A topic that would deserve a longer discussion…
A Magician Performs
OK, and here is what you’ve been waiting for: This is a low-quality home video recording of an early rehearsal of the act I performed for the FISM 1988 World Championship which took place in The Hague, Holland, in 1988. The clip shows me at Joachim Wolf’s, aka Marnac, at a yearly gathering he called “The Magic Coffee” (it was much more than that!).
I make several mistakes, as you will see, and afterwards made some changes, but essentially that was it. To watch the not-so-perfect rehearsal version of my FISM 1988 act CLICK HERE.
Remembering Bob Jardine
Although today’s blog has become quite lengthy, I want to retain the tradition of remembering friends in magic, today Bob Jardine. I lost touch with him, but know that nowadays he’s living in Las Vegas and doing well.
At the beginning of the 1980s I performed for the first time at the Magic Castle, in the Close-up Room. One of the people who came to see me was Bob Jardine. We became instant friends.
This man was a true pro and knew how to entertain an audience. Unfortunately, there is not much material around, a mere three entries show up in the “Magic Archives”, but you might want to follow up on them.
Not a Full Deck
Besides a set of lecture notes of his (ask him about it on Facebook where you can find him), I found the following trick of his on YouTube. It clearly shows the mark of the professional who not just demonstrates a clever trick, but finds an emotional hook to it.
It looks like a precedent to the “Thinnest Deck…”, a presentational ploy later used by Jim Steinmeyer in a completely different piece to make the use of a packet meaningful. I had identified this problem in Hidden Agenda: For your convenience, and because Hidden Agenda sadly is out of print, and there is nothing I can do about it as Vanishing Inc. is holding the copyright, you can read the article by CLICKING HERE.
Bob Jardine recognized the problem, and starts by saying, “Most people that know me, they think I’m not playing with a full deck. And in fact… I am not.” He takes a card packet out of a normal seized card case, and then performs a packet trick with 4 Kings and 4 Queens.
To watch Bob Jardine perform this piece with an unexpected ending CLICK HERE.
Bob has a few more video clips of him performing in the early years of his career – to get to his YouTube channel CLICK HERE.
That’s the end of this week’s The Magic Memories – have a fantastic week, and see you all back next Sunday.
All the very best,
PS: Please understand that I only reread my posts once, as my time simply doesn’t allow for more. So, I beg your understanding for any typos and linguistic inelegances. But I hope you still appreciate some of it. And one more thing, if I may: Please tell your friends about The Magic Memories, as it could need a few more readers 🙂 Thank you.
Today’s topics are: Multilingual shows plus Robert Jägerhorn’s essay on it; On theory, featuring a Phil Goldstein essay; Remembering FISM, stories and photos.
These are The Magic Memories 82, gone online Sunday, July 24th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
My good friend Robert Jägerhorn from Helsinki, Finland, wrote in to ask my opinion about multilingual shows. I should precede this by saying that Robert is a successful professional magician who works internationally, and there is a good chance that you might have seen his act he does to music at a magic convention. Like most pros, though, who have a choreographed act, he realizes that most venues in the paying market require a spoken act, for various reasons.
Most private and corporate functions hesitate to pay a professional fee for an act lasting ca. 10 minutes, but will gladly book a performer who can communicate with an audience, more often than not with various degrees of humor, and for at least 30 minutes. All my life, since I’ve turned pro in 1988, I’ve made a comfortable living by offering a 40-minute parlor/stage performance, plus, if appropriate, magic at the guests’ tables before or after the formal show.
So, here are a few thoughts on the topic of performing for international audiences, and I hope that even those who perform in just one language might pick up an idea or two.
Close-up or Parlor/Stage
There is a big difference between using several languages in close-up and stage. Here in Europe private and corporate festivities usually have set tables at which a menu made up of several courses is served. This has the advantage that the guests tend to remain seated at the same table for most of the event, with the exception of going out for a smoke, and maybe dance, the latter almost only happens with private events (weddings, birthday parties etc.).
Since birds of a feather indeed flock together, those who speak the same language usually gather at one table: The French with the French, the Italians with the Italians, the Spanish with the Spanish, and the remaining guests usually come from all corners of the world and speak English among each other!
This, to me, is a gift from the Gods, of course: When I approach a table I immediately find out their nationality and can usually speak their language. That’s a big plus, since they did not expect a perform addressing them in their own language in a foreign country. Not only do the shows at these tables work like clockwork, they give me a lot of advance likeability that I can then use in the stage show: Even thought I might then not speak their language in every instance (see below), they willingly follow along, and I thus overcome the initial opposition that would naturally be there if they hadn’t got to know and like me before.
So, whenever I have a multilingual audience, or a room where some guests are sitting far away from the stage, or both (this happens and is one of the most difficult things), I make it a point to do some magic at the tables, and if there are too many, I’ll identify the “problem tables”, and do some magic just there between the courses and before the show. (Under “normal” conditions I prefer to go to the tables after the show, once they’ve had dessert and while they are having coffee etc.)
I can tell you that this has saved me from dying on stage on several occasions, and turned a potentially disastrous situation into a triumph, without loud music, smoke, laser or dancing girls… just with the tools of communication, and some good magic, I should add…
Most of the multilingual shows I do are for international corporations that have some kind of meeting here in Switzerland. In almost all such cases, people from all over the world gather, but at their meetings they use a common language, which fortunately is English. (Hope it won’t be Russian or Chinese in the future, as this would literally put me out of business… I simply don’t speak their language.)
I don’t say this is easy, but it certainly is the easiest of all possible multilingual situations you can get. In this case English will be my fil rouge language, the one that carries the important messages and also the gags, funny bits and lines, but to these I add very short lines that address the guests speaking other languages (that I also speak). Definitely, a small book could be written about this (again!), as the devil is in the details.
From all the techniques and strategies I use, here is just one, and it is so simple, anyone could use it. After I have been announced and I get on stage with the help of a musical flourish (if there is a music band) I greet the audience thusly:
First in the language of the hosting country, in this case Switzerland, in Swiss German or German: “Vielen Dank meine Damen und Herren, und herzlich willkommen zu einem zauberischen Intermezzo am heutigen Abend:” I follow with the language that has the most guests (assume France): “Je souhaite la bienvenue a toutes et tous les invités de language française, bienvenues à un interact de prestidigitation.” This is followed by a similar short sentence in Italian (“Benvenuti gli ospiti di lingua Italian, bevenuti ad un intermezzo di prestigiazione”), and Spanish (“Benvenidos todos nuestros invitados de idioma Castellano, bienvenidos a un intermedio de magia potagia” – “Magia Potagia” having been a popular TV show by Juan Tamariz), all done at a brisk pacing.
And then I always end with the key sentence that closes the info circle and brings me the sympathy I need to successfully communicate for the rest of the show: “And of course I would like to welcome everyone else, whose language I do not happen to speak, but who I’m confident will understand my English – welcome!”
I always get a big hand after this intro delivered with much panache and a smile.
After decades of professional experience in the most diverse situations, I can assure you that such a merely verbal intro often gets deeper into the heads and hearts of the audience than an opening with loud music, smoke, laser and a dozen half-naked ladies…
One more thing: I talk at lest twice to the person who books me, first, when they contact me and usually book me (sometimes they call back, so that would be a third time), second, about one week before the event. I run with them through the event event mentally, and make sure my show is scheduled in the right place (usually after the main course), and that they provide everything I need (see Chapter 1 of Stand-up Card Magic for details).
As part of that I ask for a list of the invited guests. This allows me to identify how many language groups there are, and how many people there are in each group.
Sometimes there will be 60 people, and only 2 speak French, as an example. In this case I don’t even bother, because I know almost for sure that these two people do understand German or English, however, they pretend not to, because they want to be recognized for their cultural diversity, which is understandable. I take care of that in case I can do their table by addressing them in their language, so during the show I have all their support. Or I take care of it in my initial greeting. Occasionally, and if I see that one of them is a good sport, I will repeat some pieces of information or gags especially for them in their language and addressing them directly – this becomes a running gag. Such a ploy may not sound sensational, but I can assure you that if well done it can bring the audience’s experience of the show to the next level.
Ah, so many more things to say…
There are other cases where the audience is really split into groups that do not share a common language, such as at marriages, when e.g., a Swiss-German marries an Italian, and the Italian family was brought in. Although I’m fluent in both languages, this is a dilemma, as I could experience after the first such event.
May I suggest two solutions.
Solution One: I double my fee so I won’t get booked, and if I do, it will be “pain and suffering money”.
BTW: Doubling the fee has been a successful ploy whenever I wanted to take a vacation or attend a magic meeting such as Escorial – this worked most of the time, and I could successfully eschew the booking without losing my face, on the contrary (but that’s something for another blog).
Solution Two: I select the most visual tricks from my repertoire that will be understood almost without text. If possible I accompany them with some music. Also, perform classics of magic, such as Cut & Restores Rope, Miser’s Dream, Linking Rings, Cups & Balls, Sponge Ball Routine, Card Stab etc.
BTW: This made me understand why classics have become classics, because the effect is straightforward and will usually be repeated several times, and their symbolism is recognizable in all cultures, by all ages, ethnicities, social status etc. Make a note of this, as it is an important thought.
Additionally, I try to convince the organizer that a 20-minutes show (instead of the 40 minutes I usually do) is best, and as a “compensation” for doing a shorter stage show, I offer to perform “little private shows” for his guests at the cocktail reception, or between the courses and before the show. See my thoughts above “Close-up or Parlor/Stage”…
BTW: I never ever use the term “table hopping” or “strolling magic”, I only do “private shows” – you can add a zero to your fee.
I don’t think that I’ve ever read anyone discuss this topic of multilingual shows, and now realize that this would not only justify a book, but also a lecture at an international magic convention – I’ll make a note…
The Jägerhorn Experience
To read Robert Jägerhorn’s short essay that brings in some additional considerations about how to perform multilingually CLICK HERE.
More Rumination – On Theory
In The Magic Memories 79 I started a subject area dealing with short theoretical essays I discovered in unlikely and hard to find places. The first was by Fred Kaps from his London lecture notes – if you missed it, you can access all blogs from the past 3 years (The Magic Calendar, The Magic Memories 2021 and The Magic Memories 2022) by CLICKING HERE.
Today’s short essay comes from a very early set of lecture notes by Max Maven, who then used the nom de plume of Phil Goldstein (his real name actually), and gives an insight why this gentleman and artist has become who he is today, namely one of the most important and influential thinkers and practitioners of our art, besides he has been a friend and mentor for decades, and behind his stage persona hides one of the most generous, helpful and, yes, sweetest people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing in the big world of magic (still a small world in the big, big world).
As you are reading this the FISM World Magic Convention is about to start in Quebec, Canada. I had been asked to deliver a special lecture on a historical subject, but somehow negotiations got stuck at an early phase. Frankly, I’m glad, considering all the current hassle with travel and cancelled flights, and the increasing incidence in Covid infection, I’m afraid this could easily be a Corona hot spot.
Then again, I greatly regret not being there, as the FISM conventions have always been my favorite ones: Nowhere do you get so close to the best in the world.
My first FISM was in 1979, in Brussels, Belgium, and like any “first” I will never forget it 🙂 There I met Ascanio, Tamariz, Vernon, Jennings, Bilis and many lesser known who have later become big names in our field.
This convention was also the incentive to start my first notebook, and the very first note that went into it was Juan Tamariz’s personal explanation of his fantastic and versatile Tamariz Perpendicular Control (TPC).
About twenty years later, on the occasion of one of my many visits to his summer residence in Andalusia, he gave me a whole lecture on the multiple applications he had found in the meantime, and that lecture lasted over an hour.
Juan is currently writing a book on the TPC and its many uses it can be put to – it can only be hoped that he will soon publish it for the benefit of all of us 🙂
As you can see, I already got off track, and I haven’t even started!
Yes, those FISM conventions I’ve attended since 1979 (Lausanne 1982, Madrid 1985, The Hague 1988, Lausanne 1991, Dresden 1997, Lisbon 2000, The Hague 2003, Stockholm 2006, 2015 Rimini) would justify a book (yet another one!). I just decided to dedicate a complete edition to more FISM memories, because there are so many, but will postpone this to cooler days. However, here are a few teaser photos & reminiscences.
The photo below with Harry Blackstone Jr. was taken in the super hot Palais de Beaulieu, Lausanne, Switzerland, where the FISM took place in 1991 (no air conditioning in the hottest July ever).
The organization had been taken over by Jean Garance and his team, after the sudden death of Prof. Alberto Sitta, who was supposed to organize the FISM 1991 in Bologna, Italy.
At this convention I won 2nd prize in Card Magic (for the second time after The Hague in 1988), which was a triumph, but I also should experience the biggest failure of my magical life, an event that is traumatizing me to this day (only if I think of it)… the day I get over it, I’ll tell you more about it 🙁
Other than that it was a great convention 🙂 with many superb memories (Vernon, Ascanio, Andrus, Lavand, Copperfield, and, and. and…)
FISM 1991 with Barbara and Harry Blackstone Jr.
The photo below is a story in itself, I’ll spare you for the moment, but it shows me after driving David Copperfield, Gary Ouellet (producer of the first Copperfield TV specials), and Don Wayne (illusion builder to Copperfield at that time), together with Barbara (my wife…), to the hotel we were staying – I was a booked as an artist, so had the privilege of staying with the “Greats” 🙂
With “casual” Copperfield FISM 1991
The next photo is of course a blast: It was taken in the bar of the hotel where the artists were staying for the FISM convention 2000, which took place in Lisbon, Portugal, one of the very best, regardless of what some have later reported in the magazines. I challenge you to recognize the greats and near-greats in it 🙂
I’ll stop here, or else this is never going to end…
And now, as always, I wish you an excellent week, drink a lot, eat lightly, and don’t do any physical work – it’s too hot (at least over here!). Come to think of it: This is generally good advice, isn’t it?
Today’s topics are: Part 4 of “List of tricks & bits from Sharing Secrets“; Video of “TTTCBE”; PDF of “Golden Rules of Magic”; Remembering Rolf Andra with PDF.
These are The Magic Memories 81, gone online Sunday, July 17th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
List of tricks & bits from Sharing Secrets – Part 4 (31 – 40)
This is the fourth and last part of this series listing and briefly discussing the “practical” stuff from Sharing Secrets.
31 – p. 109: “The Trick That Can Be Explained”. It has become a cliché to say that “this trick is worth the price of the book”, but in this case I can’t think of anything more appropriate to say. I assume that this is the most overlooked item in the book (as some others are), and it is all my fault, the reason being that an item that is given only one page cannot be any good, can it? But this, alas, is the concept of the book, and all in all I still firmly believe that it is an excellent idea.
Note 51 explains most of the “extras”. To this I would add that I have fooled the pants off almost everyone with this over the past ten years I’ve been performing it, mostly as part of my lecture on deck switches. I remember doing this for Juan Tamariz in his summer residence in San Fernando years ago, and he had no idea of how it worked, which is very, very rare, believe me – I hesitated to call this “the trick that fooled Juan Tamariz” 🙂
On another occasion I did it for Bernard Bilis, another super-card-expert, in Paris at the dinner table of my dear friend Yves Carbonnier, and it left him with no clue, as he readily admitted, and Yves as well 🙂
Now, a trick that fools magicians is not necessarily a good trick for laymen, but this one is.
For your convenience I’ve uploaded a very early performance of it on my YouTube channel, and you can watch it by CLICKING HERE.
Since this is part of my deck switch lecture, and in case you wonder where the deck switch is, well, it comes right at the end, and is “The Joker Deck Switch” on p. 87 The Art of Switching Decks(the book will soon be out of its third printing, and if you don’t have it I urge you to get it before it remains out of print – you won’t regret it, as the many reviews and comments will tell you). BTW: To ring the deck in after performing “”Card Call” (p. 105 of Stand-up Card Magic), and before getting into this trick, I used “The Simplex Deck Switch” (p. 127 of The Art of Switching Decks).
Possibly the most useful lesson in this performance is how to use a short anecdote as a Prologue to a trick. This gets often forgotten, especially when you have an already good trick and think this is self-sufficient. Well, it is not, in my opinion…
32 – p. 113: “CardSpeak”. I have performed and explained this trick as “Belchou Aces” in Lesson 2 of the video download course Card College 1&2 – Personal Instruction, but here it is written down for the first time, with focus on the importance of text.
Besides being arguably the best version of the “Belchou Aces” family of “Spectator Cuts to the Aces”, it should make you take another look at anyone of the tricks you are performing, especially so-called self-working tricks, in case you have that in your repertoire, and ask: “What is the effect? What is my prologue? Do I have a dramatically meaningful reason to do what I’m doing? Does my presentation have an emotional hook?”
33 – p. 115: “The Persian Flaw”. This little amusing anecdote makes a charming “out” when you miss a trick and there is no way around everyone noticing it. Tell this little story, tongue-in-cheek, and everyone will love you and pretend to believe that you did the “mistake” on purpose. To absolutely put in your note titled “Final Outs”, which is a list of outs to use in desperate situations.
34 – p. 117: “Triple Prediction”. If you’ll perform this once, you’ll experience that this is much better than you think… and it will fool most of your magic club members, too 🙂 And if you do, remember Rolf Andra (see below), please.
35 – p. 119: “Waiter’s Theory and Actions of Recall in Practice”. Here are four four very practical ploys you should use if you do any of the mentioned tricks or variants thereof (they are all “classics”, so it’s a good idea to have a t least one version in your repertoire). Above all: Take a trick you are actually doing, and then think about where you could insert an “Action of Recall” – it will make the piece clearer and more memorable. Do this with all the tricks in your active repertoire.
36 – p. 120: “Four Coins Through Table in Glass”. This is one of the best routines of its genre, actually the best I know… Going through it in a practice session will also help instill the many theoretical concepts discussed in the book. Yes, it will require work, but like everything else in life, you won’t get something for nothing, for everything has a price, and even death costs your life.
37 – p. 128, “The 13 Golden Rules of Magic”. Use this as a check-list and it will be of great practical value. For the benefit of those among you who give magic classes, regularly or occasionally, for beginners of your magic club, laymen or children, I herewith authorize you to photocopy and distribute this short essay-list. By CLICKING HERE you get a nice PDF that you can use.
38 – p. 134: “Artistic Magic”. Although this is not really a “practical” trick or technique, it still is very practical if you use it as a check-list to go through maybe your very best trick, and ask yourself how the criteria I discuss are present. If they are not, think about why, and how you could implement them.
I remember Flip wrote to me when I published an early version of this essay in my Genii column saying he had photocopied the easy and distributed it to all of the members of his magic club in Holland. I can’t think of a higher compliment. I truly think that this is one of my best essays I ever wrote. Maybe you want to read it again…
39 & 40 – pp. 142: “The Lists”. All of the lists are of great practical use, in my opinion, else I would not have included them, but possibly most of all the “List of Card Plots” (p. 144): Have you got a version of each? If you do, you may consider yourself a “Complete Card Expert”, maybe 🙂
All That Jazz…
As I’m writing this it is a very hot day, and the sound of “Jazz on the Place”, a yearly one-day Jazz event in the village of Muttenz where I live, reaches me through the open windows, so I want to keep today’s The Magic Memories shorter than usual 🙂 Nonetheless, I do not want to neglect my “Remembering” section…
Remembering Rolf Andra
Rolf Andra was one of the magicians that influenced me most, not so much for the tricks and presentations, in both of which he excelled as a consummate professional, but more for his unconditional and unselfish love for magic, something that is hard to put into words, and that brings tears to my eyes each time I think about it…
Rather than a lengthy text, below are a few photos showing Rolf Andra, and a short essay I wrote about him as part of my Genii column “The Genii Session” (May issue of 2012).
To read my little homage to Rolf Andra CLICK HERE.
And now I wish you all a great summer week, and a sunny winter day for my appreciated readers on the other side of the planet 🙂 reminding myself that we are all “on the other side of the planet” as well as “foreigners”, depending from where we look.
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