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.
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!