Thursday, December 8, 2011

2011 Gifts for Magicians

I provided two lists of holiday gift ideas for the magician and/or magic fan last year and I thought I'd do the same this year. Last years lists were fun and for the most part rather lighthearted. This year I'm offering suggestions for gifts that someone serious about their magic would enjoy.  I've tried to give a mix of fun stuff, practical stuff and things for the serious performer. Please follow the links to see where to purchase the items and services*.

MASTERS OF MYSTERY by Christopher Sandford. This is a new book, just recently released. It's about the friendship and struggles of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini. Ideal for the Houdini fan, the magic fan and even the Sherlock Holmes fan!

The Conjuring Anthology by Jim Steinmeyer. Every person who does any sort of stage magic, or is even considering doing stage magic should have this book in their library. These are the columns that Jim wrote for MAGIC Magazine, gathered together in one book. I'm sure he probably added a few things as well. The amount of good, solid, deceptive magic in here is staggering.

A Subscription to Genii Magazine and Magic Magazine are worth their prices in gold! They are put out by two different publishers so you'll have to subscribe separately but you'll be glad that you did. They both offer digital versions of their magazines as well.

Hire professional Director/consultant Joanie Spina to help you with your act. Let's face it, most magicians do not need new tricks. We need to know how to make our magic better, stronger, more entertaining. There is one lady in magic that has been helping performers take their magic to higher levels for many years. That person is Joanie Spina. She has worked with all the top professionals, and if you are serious about your magic, it's time you talked to Joanie as well.

Doug Bennett has been one of the creative minds in magic for many years. He has created a number of marketed tricks and also wrote scripts and dialog for some of the biggest names in magic, like Doug Henning, David Copperfield, Siegfried and Roy and Harry Blackstone Jr.. Now he is offering his services as a writing consultant. This is for the serious performer only, and if you are a performer in todays market you damn well better be serious if you expect to work.

Another thing you can do to take your career up a notch is to hire a professional photographer. I'm listing two photographers here who are top notch. I've had my photos taken at Beckett Studios and was thrilled with the results. The other photographer, Zackary Belamy, works mainly overseas, but he is coming to the U.S. in January of 2012, so the door is wide open to use his services as well. Both of these gentleman will make you look like a celebrity!

Let's face some reality, in the magic world the majority of working professionals are not illusionists, not trade show magicians, not mentalists, the majority of the full time working professionals are family entertainers. For years they've had to suffer the scorn of others in the business who look down their nose at 'kiddy performers'. But the world of the family entertainer has changed thanks to the efforts of Mark & Tami Daniel and the staff at Kidabra International. They have a bi-monthly magazine, and local chapters throughout the U.S. and abroad. They also have the single best convention of it's kind. Do yourself a favor, if you are in this market and you are not part of Kidabra, JOIN!

Now, for the collector, if you are not already a member of the Magic Collectors Association, you need to be. Their periodical is great and their website is superb. And while you are at it, why not join the Conjuring Arts Research Library. Their AskAlexander database is the most incredible online research tool for magic that there ever was.

I've been a been fan of the Essential Magic Conference from the start. The first conference in 2010 was fantastic. The 2011 conference was even better! Do yourself a favor, pick up the DVDs for both conventions and then when the time comes, register for the 2012 convention.

For the close-up worker who would like to add a novel card routine, I can't recommend Aaron Fisher's two DVDs highly enough. I'm a stage magician, but I really enjoyed the effects taught on these DVDs. The first is Search&Destroy and the other is The Revolution & Helter Skelter. Aaron is passionate about card magic and he is an excellent teacher. I understand he offers lessons and tutoring so you could be learning from a modern day master.  He offers other products at his website so please check them out!

If you are a close-up artist and you've not heard of Theory 11, you're living under a rock. I don't know how they do all that they do, but it's extremely impressive. I'm not endorsing any specific product, but instead encouraging you to check out all that they offer, they're that good.

For the Illusionist & Stage worker, The Magic of The Pendragons 4 DVD Set. I know these came out a few years ago and I know the Pendragons are no longer together. But the information on these DVDs is just too good to pass up for anyone interesting in learning to work with illusions. If you just want to know how illusions work, don't waste your money. These are for people who are serious about techniques, methods and ideas to make illusions look like real magic.

MY FAVORITE BOOK of 2011, Memoirs of An Elusive Moth by Adele Friel Rhindress. I totally loved this book when I read it. I was thrilled and surprised to see my entire review of the book up on their website. If you like magic history, this is a very fun and enjoyable book. Plus if you are lucky enough, maybe you can track down Adele at one of the magic conventions and get her to sign it!

Finally, support your local brick & mortar magic shop. I always send people to my favorite magic shop, Denny & Lee's. Denny Haney is a great guy, he was once a full time performer, he was a manipulator, an illusionist, you name it, he's done it. If he doesn't know the answer, then there probably isn't an answer to your question!

Bonus: THREE FREEBIES: WildaboutHarry and HoudiniHimself are two of the best sites on Harry Houdini. And the third freebie is my site Carnegie: Magic Detective. I work hard to make this the best general magic history website there is and I think I've done that or at least come awfully close. I'm not too shabby in the Houdini department either if I do say so myself, though John Cox and Kevin Connolly constantly amaze me with the stuff they come up with. The three of us offer free articles on the history of magic and HOUDINI all year long.

*For the record, I do not make a dime off of any of the above items. I'm only suggesting them because I think each one of them is first rate. It would be nice if you told them that Carnegie: The Magic Detective sent you though, at least that helps more people aware of my site.

The Gifts of Doug Henning

I couldn't stop thinking about ole Doug Henning after my blog the other day so I thought I'd share with my readers some of Doug's 'gifts' or contributions to magic. There are a number of effects that are instantly associated with Doug Henning. The top of the list: Sands of Egypt, Things That Go Bump In The Night, Metamorphosis, The Water Levitation, Double Sawing, Mis-made Lady,  and more. You'll notice that many of these have links. The links are too Youtube videos of Doug performing those particular effects.


ZIG-ZAG Lady. Today this trick is rarely seen because it was so overdone in the 1970s and 80s. It was the creation of Robert Harbin and Doug built his career with this prop. It was in his Broadway show The Magic Show and he toured with it. When it became a popular illusion for other magicians, he replaced it with other routines.

The Sands of Egypt. This is the effect where three colored sands are dissolved in water and then removed completely dry. It's a great effect and certainly associated with Doug, but he didn't create it, nor was he the first to perform it. The trick dates back pretty far. To give you an idea of some others who presented the effect: Charles Bertram, Eugene Laurant, and Jack Gwynne just to name a few.

Things That Go Bump In the Night was actually the creation of Servais LeRoy. His original creation was called "The Three Graces". And the effect was quite similar to what Doug Henning presented. But I think it's safe to say that Doug resurrected that routine and today it's more associated with Henning.

Metamorphosis. Before the Pendragons came along, Doug had probably the fastest Subtrunk in the business. As we all know, the effect was Houdini's though the trunk trick itself predates him. The substitution of two people though was all Houdini and many other performers have presented it since. It's become a staple 'starter' illusion for young performers. In Doug's version the first thing that you notice is the condition of the box. It was always beat up and did not look anything like his other props. This was on purpose of course. It just looked like a wooden crate, not a magic prop and this helped sell the routine. Doug's costume change at the end was another bonus, though he was not the first to do that either. But prior to the Pendragon's I think many people associated this prop with Doug. After Jonathan and Charlotte came around, they pretty much owned it.

The Water Levitation was Doug's. At least, as far as I know he was the very first to present it. It was basically an older method revamped onto a tall platform and the addition of the water fountain was genius. This was pure Doug Henning.

The Double Sawing is a routine that Doug presented on his TV specials and also on a number of TV shows, like the Tonight Show and others. I believe they even created a version of it for the Broadway show MERLIN. I believe the Double Sawing can be credited to Channing Pollack actually. At least that is what my memory is telling me. If I am incorrect, please let me know. Doug resurrected the routine and many other performers since that time have used it.

The Mis-Made Lady was a fairly new trick when Doug started doing it. This was a creation of Chuck Jones, but Doug was probably the first to use it on TV and he even created a version using a Giant Muppet Character!

Walking Thru A Mirror: This was a Jim Steinmeyer creation and Jim worked for Doug. It's a beautiful trick that was debuted on one of the World of Magic Specials.

Origami Box: Yes, Doug was the first magician to present the Origami Box. Another Jim Steinmeyer creation. And sadly, it's been way overdone since Doug's time.

The Elevator: Doug was the first to present the Elevator, though he used a method different from what many others are using today. I remember the first time I saw it and it fooled me badly. Another Steinmeyer illusion.

The Pole Levitation: I don't know if this ever made it to a Doug Henning Special. But I know I saw him do it on a TV Talk Show and of course I saw it live several times. Another first for Doug and yes, another Jim Steinmeyer creation.

The Rube Goldberg Illusion: From what I understand, this was actually Doug's idea. To take the Rube Goldberg puzzle effect and turn it into an illusion. I can't find a video of this one unfortunately.

There was a lot of smaller magic that Doug made popular too. The Enchanted Rubiks Cube, The Flexible Mirror or Needle Through Mirror, The Double Dancing Hanks, The Torn and Restored Newspaper and the Vanishing Nickel.

The Double Dancing Hanks were a creation of Ralph Adams. The Torn & Restored Newspaper was of course, Gene Anderson and the Vanishing Nickel was John Cornelius's creation. Many of these effects, both small and large are still presented today.

There are some things that Doug did that still stand out to me today. His version of Houdini's Walking Through a Brick Wall is one example. Doug also used Houdini's Vanishing Elephant on his second special with a very different method than what Houdini used. Though I think Milbourne Christopher was actually the first magician to vanish and elephant on TV. NO FEET is a great routine created by Andre Kole and can be seen at the end of the Enchanted Rubiks Cube clip that I posted above. Basically, in the NO FEET illusion, the performers feet seem to vanish!

One of my favorite Henning routine's was a Ring in Bread routine that he presented in his last tour and on the Tonight Show. This was based on an idea by Orson Welles and Jim Steinmeyer built the effect around it. I can attest to the strength of the routine as I use it myself today.

The Jarrett Box is another highlight in my memory. The production of 21 people out of a fairly small cabinet. This was the creation of Guy Jarrett and Doug brought it back to life. I'm not sure if it had been seen since the days of Howard Thurston. Recently, Scott Alexander presented the Jarrett Box on TV producing a Gospel Choir from the box.

Apparently, the idea for vanishing the Statue of Liberty was first presented to Doug who passed on it. That idea was then given to David Copperfield and that trick put him on the map so to speak. Another was an illusion called Permeability, which illusionists will know as Interlude. This is the person through person effect first debuted by The Pendragons. Well, I just learned the idea was originally going to be for Doug, but it never made it. Permeability, as well as many of the above effects were creations of Jim Steinmeyer.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Doug Henning and Christmas

As I kid, I can remember one thing that always made the Christmas Holidays a little more magical, the annual Doug Henning World of Magic Specials. The very first one aired on December 26th, 1975. It was NOT a Christmas special, though it did air during that time period. What an amazing special that first one was. Many magicians have opened their TV specials with some grand illusion, but Doug opened his with a very small piece, the nickel that vanished. The camera came in very tight and without any funny movements, Doug closed his hand and then opened it and the nickel was gone!

The very first special contained many of Doug's signature routines, like the Gene Anderson Newspaper Tear, the Sands of Egypt, Things that Go Bump in the Night and the Shadow Box. And the closer of the show was none other than a recreation of Houdini's Water Torture Cell. This was the 'hook' to the show, the thing that was supposed get viewers to tune in and stay tuned in. Frankly, it was probably the one trick in the show that was not a Doug Henning trick, but he did it in classic Henning style. Rather than just escape, he vanished from the cell and reappeared as his own safety man! It sure fooled me when I was a kid.

For the next several years Doug would have an annual World of Magic Special in the month of December. In 1979 he appeared as a guest on the Crystal Gayle Special which aired in December. Then in 1980, Doug was part of the Osmond Family Christmas Special as well.

If you'd like to get a great gift for yourself or a magic friend, the book Spellbound by John Harrison is a must have. It's a fantastic biography about Doug Henning.
Finally, the video below is Doug during the Osmond Family Christmas Special. Enjoy.