Thursday, February 20, 2020
43 years ago today, the very first Le Grand David Show appeared on the stage at the Cabot St. Cinema Theatre in Beverly. It would go on to be the longest running continuous resident magic show in the history of America. Over on my podcast, I have shared my recollections of the first time (and second time) I saw the show.
Please go check out https://magicdetectivepodcast.com/e/ep-44-the-first-time-i-met-le-grand-david/
And if you're interested, you can do a search here on the blog and find quite a few articles on the show as well. They closed the show in 2012, but will always live in the hearts of those of us who loved that show! Long Live Le Grand David!!!!
Friday, April 1, 2016
As of yesterday, March 31, 2016, The Larcom Theater in Beverly Ma. went up for sale. This was the second theater owned by White Horse Productions, the folks who put on the Le Grand David Magic Shows for 35 years. They owned both the Cabot St. Cinema Theatre and the Larcom.
Both theaters were built by the Ware brothers of Marblehead Mass. The Cabot opened in 1920, the Larcom opened in 1912. For a time the Larcom had both live theatrical events and films. By the 1930s they mainly showed films. But in 1984, the Le Grand David folks purchased the theatre and renovated it under the direction of Cesareo Pelaez, the company leader. In 1985, a second 2 hour production of stage magic debuted at the Larcom. Originally called Le Grand David in Concert, it was different from the Cabot Show. Only a couple of effects were duplicated, but even those, like the Broom Suspension, were presented in a different manner.
The 6,726-square-foot, 560-seat theater, located at 13 Wallis St., is listed at $699,900.
It's true they were both stage magic shows complete with illusions, hand-made costumes, incredible scenery all hand painted by company members, but there was a difference in the who shows. The Larcom show had a different feel to it. It was a tad livelier and brighter. The show at the Cabot had more grandeur and theatricality. Both shows were great, don't get me wrong, but this show at the Larcom had a profound affect on me. Much like the Cabot show from many years before, this show at the Larcom was like a shock to my system, a wake up call, if you will, to the potential of what stage magic could and should be.
When the show began, I was struck by the
brightness and burst of color from the costumes. This show had a different pace from the original show. Perhaps the word festive would be a good description of the show.
Take a look at this one costume worn by Cesareo. Like the original show, there were tons and tons of
I'm trying to remember, but I think it was the Larcom show where I saw David, Le Grand David himself present the Harbin Upside Down production box. This was something that David had built himself and to my knowledge is the only one in existence. I think there was an article about the Upside Down production box in one of the company programs at one point. Basically, it was a box with a handle on the top and the bottom had a flap/door that hung open. David would lift it up and reach under and inside the box and remove numerous items. It really was an unusual trick and a stunning piece of magic, and really a piece of magic history having been the creation of the great Robert Harbin.
My favorite routine in the show was The Orange and the Rice by Cesareo. Why? Because of his mechanical monkey! That little guy stole the show. Cesareo had the entire place in stitches with that routine and with that monkey. Last year, I purchased one of those mechanical monkeys for my own show. I named him Marco, after Cesareo's character.
The only real regret I have about that show was that I only saw it a few times. I wish I had seen it many many more times. The show at the Cabot is burned into my memory because I have a video of the entire performance given to me by Cesareo. Oh, to have one of the Larcom as well. Who knows, maybe David Bull will one day dig through the video archives and share this wonderful show with those who loved it and with those who had not ever seen it.
But for those interested in getting a piece of memorabilia from the show they are having an Auction on April 10th of the remainder of the Le Grand David items. This is your last chance to get a piece of history! http://www.kaminskiauctions.com/servlet/Search.do?auctionId=97
Sunday, March 27, 2016
"The First Time I met Le Grand David..." These are the first words from a lengthy monologue delivered by Webster Bull during the Le Grand David Show at the Cabot St. Cinema Theatre. For some reason those words have been stuck in my head now for several days. I hear them over and over and my mind goes back to the first time I met Le Grand David.
It was many years ago now. In fact, it was in the early days of their show, in the early 1980s. I was just a kid. I had found out about the show through Genii Magazine. The ad above is the one that caught my eye. As it turned out my family was going to take a trip to New England to visit some friends and I mentioned to my Dad this magic show thing. He suggested we ALL attend, so 9 of us showed up at the box office in Beverly. Back then, there wasn't a whole lot to the town. It had seen better days. The theatre seemed to be the only life in the area. No one knew what to expect, even me to be honest.
Walking in the theatre doors, it was if the show had already begun. There were costumed characters in the lobby greeting people. Further down there was a puppet stage set up. There was a feeling of excitement even before the show began. I just soaked it all in.
When the show began, I was overwhelmed with the spectacle. There were elaborate costumes, beautifully painted props, and what seemed like tons of people on stage. Also, there were curtains and gorgeous backdrops. This was not like any magic show I had ever seen, though I had not really seen that many magic shows live. I had not even seen Doug Henning perform LIVE yet, that would still be a year or so away.
I don't remember every bit of the show, but I remember a lot. I recall being blow away by David's skill with the billiard balls. This was a trick that I was just learning at the time and I was dumbfounded at how well he handled the mystery. I think more than anything it was the smaller stuff that really fooled me. The stage illusions were great, but I was fairly knowledgeable about the inner workings of those things. I say that, but in truth, I really didn't know as much as I thought. Naturally, today, having performed many of those same illusions, I do know how they work, but back then, I'm not so sure how many I truly knew.
I can tell you this, when the show was over my head was buzzing. OH, but wait, I forgot to mention the intermission. So this show had an intermission, and everyone got up to get a refreshment or stretch their legs or use the rest room. Well, I got up and was standing in the back of the theatre by myself. I happened to look over and I see someone that I recognized, but had never met, Irene Larsen. I instantly wondered if Bill Larsen was there, they were married after-all, and sure enough he was. So I got to meet Bill and Irene for the first time! I had been writing letters to Bill for a while because he was editor of Genii and frankly, I didn't know many magicians, so I often would contact people via snail mail. I EVEN had a copy of Genii with me, and you know what, it didn't even occur to me to have them sign it! I had David Bull sign it, but I didn't even think to have the editor of the magazine sign it! Oh the brain of a child, lol.
Around my birthday in August of that year, the new Genii came out and lo and behold who was on
I never forgot that first visit to Beverly. Years later, I would send a letter to Cesareo telling him about my first visit there and he replied by inviting me and a guest up for the weekend to enjoy the show all over again. Enjoy it I did. In truth, the second visit to Le Grand David changed my life. I have never been the same since. It was an extremely positive experience and becoming friends with the company has been a bonus. I'm certainly not a close to them as some folks in the magic world, but I have always felt a bond, thanks to Cesareo and David and Rick Heath and Avrom and Ann and other members of the Le Grand David Family.
Oh, incidentally, that magic show also changed the life of that town. When I returned to Beverly years later, the downtown area was a thriving place with shops and stores and many restaurants. The show and theatre breathed life back into that area, and that magic show is what breathed life into many of us fellow magi.
On April 10th, Kaminski Auctions in Beverly is holding the second Le Grand David auction. If you're a fan of the show you have a chance to pick up something to remember the show by. There is not as much in this second auction, but there are certainly some very nice pieces.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
I just stumbled upon this new poster from the Le Grand David Magic Show online. Actually, it's not NEW as in it just came out. It's new as in, I've not seen it before. I'm pretty familiar with all the artwork done by the company. Most, including this one, were painted by Rick Heath.
The one thing that comes to mind when I see this painting, what a loss the magic world has felt since Le Grand David has closed it's doors. One of the grandest shows to ever grace the stage.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Just a few months ago the historic auction of Le Grand David Magic items was held at their theatre in Beverly Mass. Among the items for sale was the Broom Suspension Bronze created in 1984 by David F. Bull, father of David Bull who portrayed the character Le Grand David in the show. The bronze depicts an actual scene from the show of Marco the Magi levitating David on a broom surrounded by other cast members.
This bronze sold at auction for $8,000.00. Well now the bronze is back on the auction block and the price has gone up, a lot. The asking price is $75,000.00 or best offer. I can tell you in my opinion the $8,000 was pretty low so the person who purchased it got a bargain. As for the $75,000 price, that is up to the person who wants it. This piece is much more than a magic collectable, this is real art and real art carries these type of prices.
There are actually three of these, but only one is being offered for sale. Of the two remaining, one is in the Ray Goulet Magic Museum and the other is in the American Museum of Magic in Marshall Michigan.
The link to the ebay auction is here http://www.ebay.com/itm/Monumental-Magic-Bronze-Iconic-Le-Grand-David-Rare-Subject-Shows-Action-/321525251223?pt=Art_Sculpture&hash=item4adc65fc97
Sunday, March 16, 2014
I just found out yesterday that back in 2012, Mandala Magic Magazine had an article about HOUDINI and in the article they spent a little time talking about THIS blog. They also discussed John Cox's Blog and Kevin Connolly's blog as well. It was a pleasant surprise and the article itself was posted to another website by the original author of the piece, so you can read it here.
Also, coincidentally, yesterday was my first introduction to the Mandala Magazine itself, even before I found out about the earlier article. I found out they had done an rather extensive interview with David Bull of Le Grand David and also interviewed Rick Heath and Ellen Sheehan from the show as well. It is a FANTASTIC article which shares some insights on the last few years of the show, the death of Cesareo and how it affected the cast and the reasons why the show closed and what is going on currently and what the future holds.
The issue can be found in the 'past issues Volume 4'. If you are interested in checking it out click the link, the issue costs $5.95 and is digital, so they will send you a link to download it.
The Mandala Magazine is a product of and owned by Shawn McMaster.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
I just found this online. It's a video of behind the scenes footage of the LeGrand David Magic Show in Beverly. Now that the show is finished, sold off and will no longer be seen, this gives a nice view of some of the spectacle that once graced the stage at the Cabot St. Cinema Theatre.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
I have to admit, as much as I love the show, this was never a favorite of mine. But now upon reflection, I think perhaps I may have been mistaken. There is quite a bit of magic here and as far as engineering it's pretty remarkable.
It is kind of a combination of the two Okito effects. The routine called Hi-Strung, has a pagoda like structure and the doors are opened front and back to show it empty. It's closed up and a long rope is threaded through the box. Suddenly the 'Lotus Flower' or female assistant steps forth from the pagoda with the rope passing through her costume!
In the Mandarin's Dream, according to Okito, it is a transposition of the boxes with a living person. And in fact, it is a very elaborate playlet with several characters, multiple boxes or tea chests as they are called in the routine, and a pagoda and another raised platform with a canopy that is flown in to cover the boxes.
The method for created the Mandarin's Dream is very involved. It's quite a remarkable concept and I'm not sure if the original Okito props from this illusion remain today.
Okito mentions in his book Okito On Magic, that this was the most sensational illusion he ever performed but due to weight and size it was impossible to travel with. I wonder if the effect was eventually given to his son, or if it remained behind in Europe?
When the doors are eventually opened, the chests are gone! In it's place is a masked figured whose costume is threaded with the rope. The costume figure steps out of the pagoda and lo and behold it is none other than Marco the Magi! This leads to the final bows by each member of the company and a few surprise effects along the way.
I stated above it was not my favorite illusion. I think part of the reason was it was very slow. I did enjoy Webster's story however, I thought that part of it was fantastic. And there is a moment of great surprise in the routine near the end when the doors are open and the chests are seen, the doors are closed and then opened and the chests are gone and Marco the Magi is there. I'm sure the slowness is probably unavoidable, but perhaps other things could have been done to mask the time. At any rate, it was their closing illusion for years and in all honesty, it's pretty amazing. I just watched it again last night on video and was taken back by the vanish of the boxes and appearance of the person. Perhaps, my previous opinion was just a bit jaded.
There is good news too. This wonderful effect is available! It was in the recent Kaminski Auction of the Le Grand David show. It did not sell. It had a very high reserve which was part of the problem. But it is still available and I'm sure they are wanting to find a new home for it. It was lot # 9040 and if you contact the folks at Kaminski Auctions ask them about it and see if perhaps you can make a bid on it. Keep in mind, this thing is gigantic! I don't think it packs flat, but it might break down a little for shipping, I don't know. You'll have to ask them. Keep in mind unless you pick it up, the shipping is going to be a lot. But, this will certainly be the ultimate in Okito inspired collectibles and the crowning jewel of the Le Grand David Show. Contact them and see!
Monday, February 24, 2014
|Cesareo Pelaez as Marco the Magi|
I saw the show the first time in 1980 while on a family trip in New England. I had seen the advertisements for the show in Genii Magazine. In fact, I would get LeGrand David himself to sign my issue of Genii. And if that wasn't wild enough, attending the performance that same night were Bill and Irene Larsen, editors of Genii Magazine and co-creators of The Magic Castle! So I was able to meet Mr. Larsen that evening as well.
The show had a profound effect on me. For years later my mind would go back to that night when I witnessed a truly remarkable event. I remembered a speech that Marco the Magi gave during the show about the origins of the program, and how the members of the company made most everything by hand. I would look through the programs that I purchased that night, many times over the years, and vividly recall the first night I saw the LeGrand David Show.
Years later, April 2000, I was invited by Cesareo to be a guest for the weekend. I brought my girlfriend with me. She knew nothing of the show or the people. As we went up, I showed her an issue of MAGIC Magazine that was done on the show and tried to give her some idea of what to expect. Before I left, I had mentioned to my good friend Ralph, that I had a strange feeling that I wasn't going to be the same person when I returned.
Before I go further, let me ask you. Have you ever had a car that was not quite tuned properly? It would run, but was always sluggish? Or perhaps a computer that would work well about 80% of the time but would seem to crash or lock up at the worst times? Well, that was me. I mean, that's kind of how I was when I went up there. I was not running at full capacity and had some issues with things in my life. But during that trip, I had a conversation with Cesareo that was like a mechanic giving a car a tune-up. It was nothing major, nor earth shattering. But it was just the right thing that I needed to hear at that moment and it seemed to straighten out all the conflicts I was having.
I would have many conversations with Cesareo afterwards, but looking back, not as many as I would like to have had. I remember him telling me several stories of the magic shows he saw in Cuba. I remember the suggestions he gave me about my own show. He would often give advice that seemed a bit harsh, but upon reflection was the perfect solution. On one visit I mentioned the current state of my show and he said that when I returned I should bring a video of the show and we would watch it together and he could make suggestions, if I was interested. Of course, I was! And then, a week later, his health started to decline. There were concerns he would never return to the stage and of course concerns for his everyday life. To everyone's amazement he did return to the stage, briefly, just to show that he could. But his health was limiting his abilities to do much on stage. I'm sure he continued to direct, create and give advice off stage. I sadly, never got to share my show with him in person or via video.
But in some ways, Cesareo is always with me during shows. I hear his advice constantly. That might sound weird. But I understood the way he thought. Through the many books on Cesareo and the company I was able to get to know more about his life and who he was. I was not able to get to know him better after his stroke and continued health problems, but I did return to Beverly when I could.
Just to give you an idea of what a profound effect Cesareo Pelaez had on me, not only did he help me to get my life in focus, he also encourage me to write, and he encourage me to paint. This blog, would have never existed without that encouragement. The hundreds of paintings that I've done since 2000 would never have been painted had it not been for Cesareo. The magazine articles on my artwork would have never happened, the commissioned paintings would not have been done and the sale of my artwork would not have happened because I would never have continued painting. As for writing, besides this blog, I have two books on escapes that I wrote, two sets of lecture notes, a bi-monthly column for a magic magazine and a book on Houdini (not quite finished) and a children's book (almost finished). One man, who inspired me to live a better life and through his own creative endeavors, inspired me to be a more creative person myself.
And now, their iconic show is no more. It has been sold off. 270 items ranging from props, to curtains, to illusions, to costumes to scenery and posters and paintings. All sold off. In some ways its good because some folks who truly cherished the show now get to keep a piece of that wonderful show in their collections. One person in particular is David Oliver. I read his story on Facebook earlier and I smiled as I read his story because his first encounters with magic and LGD were the same as mine.
|Original Floating Tables|
In the end, I did get the backdrop for the Floating Table, One of Cesareo's costumes and because my
|Costume worn by Cesareo in Early Years|
To ANYONE, who won an ILLUSION in the auction OR the Thief of Bagdad Trick OR one of the hand painted posters, OR most specifically, the Floating Table & Painting, IF you are ever interested in selling these, please contact me email@example.com as I would be very interested in preserving these amazing pieces of magic art.
In the meantime, I hope you cherish these wonderful pieces that were created and performed all by kindness.
|Mail Bag Escape|
This is the screen partition for the Mail Bag Escape that David presented in the show. I first saw this performed in 1980 and it was just as amazing all these many years later.
This is owned by my assistant Denise now.
|The Peacock Curtain used during the Floating Table|
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Well, it finished. I'm not even sure what to say. Some prices so low it wasn't funny. Some soared. I picked up several things, but missed out on some really special pieces. I thought I'd show you the incredible sculptures that were part of the auction.
All of the bronze sculptures were created by David F. Bull. I should have said the father of LeGrand David, and also of Webster Bull, who was in the show for many years as well.
This piece sold for $1000 I believe, which was below the auction estimates.
Next we have Marco the Magic and the Floating Table. This is one we were trying to win. We did
not, however. This piece sold beyond auction estimates at something like $3500 or more. It's a beautiful piece. We had a game plan to get all the Floating Table related stuff. I won the beautiful backdrop curtain that was used during the presentation of the Floating Table. But lost the Floating Table and Painting. Yet, we won the original Floating Tables. So I'm sad that we didn't get them all, but we did pretty well.
This next piece is massive and I believe it's one of three. There were two others, one is in the
It depicts the floating of LeGrand David on the broom in the show by Marco the Magi. It is the moment when David becomes LeGrand David. It's an interesting routine because it has it's origins in Richiardi's original version of the broom suspension.
Here is the curtain/backdrop I won (below). The Peacock Feather Curtain. It's stunning. I remember the first time I saw it, I was awe struck. I am so looking forward to having this as part of my show in the near future.
By the way, just because their show is over, doesn't mean it's the end. I'll be writing more articles about them in the near future. I will continue to carry the LGD torch far into the future.
Friday, January 11, 2013
The theatre was originally known as The Ware Theatre and it was designed to be a silent movie and vaudeville house. It opened on December 8, 1920 and was managed by Harris and Glover Ware, two brothers and former vaudeville performers from Marblehead Mass. This was their second theatre in Beverly Mass, the first was the smaller Larcom Theatre a few blocks away. Today it's known as the Cabot St. Cinema Theatre and it has spacious seating on the lower level and has upper balcony seating as well, a total of 750 seats in the auditorium. The stage is enormous with plenty of wing and fly space for curtains. The dressing rooms are in the basement below the stage. The original stage included an orchestra pit for musicians.
The members of what would become the Le Grand David Magic Show purchased the run down Cabot Theatre in 1976. The first thing they did upon being able to occupy the building was do a floor to ceiling cleaning of the place. They reopened the theatre 48 hours later showing movies. However, they didn't show movies the current run movies. Their idea was to show 'Films Worth Seeing More Than Once'. The movies were selected by Cesareo and included such gems as Lawrence of Arabia, Camelot, It Happened One Night, Yankee Doodle Dandy and other classics. The theatre lobby always had fresh cut flowers and the doormen wore tuxedos (they still do today). Often members of the company dressed up in costumes that reflected the movie that was showing. Every movie became an 'event'. If that wasn't enough for new audiences to enjoy, they would have been amazed to know the flurry of activity taking place after hours and often into the wee hours of the morning.
For six months they worked building illusions, magic props, painting scenery, sewing costumes and redecorating and restoring the theatre. Once the items were built, then they had to rehearse. All this took place after the regular movie showing hours.
On February 20th 1977 the debut performance of 'LeGrand David and his Magic Company' took place on the Cabot theater stage. The name would be altered slightly over the next year to become 'Marco the Magi presents...LeGrand David and his own Spectacular Magic Company'.
The Cabot St. Cinema Theatre also has several store fronts and a second story above the store fronts. The entire building is owned by White Horse Productions, which is the actual business name for the Le Grand David troupe. The storefronts serve as offices and storage/display areas. The rooms on the second level include a painting room and a sewing room where most of their wonderful costumes were created over the life of the show.
The LeGrand David show ran for 35 consecutive years. Over the years they had a number of milestones, one of which was purchasing a second theatre, the Larcom. The Larcom theatre was the first theatre built by the Ware Brothers and now both theatres are again owned and managed by the same company. The Larcom is a smaller theatre and the restoration to that property is quite amazing. It is truly a treasure all its own.
These two theatres were home to the LeGrand David troupe. However, they did venture out on several occasions to perform elsewhere. They performed at the White House in Washington D.C. on numerous occasions at the invitation of President Reagan. I believe they did an abbreviated version of their show at the Magic Castle at some point. And there may have been one or two other 'off location' showcases that they took part in. But the bulk of their work, thousands of performances, took place in Beverly Massachusetts.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
There is a magician who in my opinion is one of the great performers of the 20th and 21st century. But he is often overlooked and that is a shame. His name is David Bull, but you probably know him better by his stage name Le Grand David. He was the star of the Le Grand David Magic Show in Beverly Mass, along with Marco the Magi and a big cast of fantastic fellow performing artists.
The Le Grand David Show was the longest running resident magic show in the United States. They began back in 1977 and ran the show every year until June 2012. This fall was the first time in the history of the company that they did not return for a new season. The patriarch of the company, Cesareo Pelaez passed away in 2012 and it's clearly been hard on the members of the group. And frankly, they more than earned a break.
I remember trying to put my finger on David's style a few years ago. I ran down the list of attributes and then it dawned on me, David exhibited from the stage pure confidence. Not arrogance, not a prideful or boastful attitude, just plain confidence and he was pleasant and friendly the entire time. There was also a playfulness about his on stage character at times and other times a seriousness to his performing. He commanded the stage when he was on it but could easily share the stage with fellow artists and performers and had no problem with letting their light shine as well.
As I mentioned, Cesareo Pelaez was David's magic mentor and he was also the creator of the show as well as director. I often wonder if Cesareo had someone in mind that he wanted David to be like when he was helping David along, or if he just showed David what tools he needed and let David himself shine. Ah, and there is the answer, Cesareo was letting David's personality shine on stage!
It appears that one chapter of the Le Grand David saga is over. I was fortunate to watch that first chapter unfold. A new chapter awaits. The pages are blank and I hope that David returns to the stage, along with his fellow artists and performers. Who knows what the future holds for them? For over thirty years they did what countless others only dreamed of, they did miracles. I think whatever they decide to do, it will be enchanting!
|Carnegie, David and Denise April 2012|