Monday, January 15, 2024

The Rice and Water Mystery


Here is a forgotten gem. It's called The Rice and Water Trick in Later Magic by Professor Hoffmann. In Greater Magic it's referred to as The Rice Bowls. As a dealer item sold at magic shops it's often referred to as The Chinese Rice Bowls. The basic effect consists of two empty bowls. Rice is added to one of the bowls, then the two are placed together. When separated, the rice has doubled in quantity. Then the doubled rice is leveled off and the bowls are again placed together. This time when separated, the rice is gone and in it's place is water! It's an amazing trick.

The actual origin of the effect has been lost. Some scholars believe however that it originated in India as opposed to China.  In Greater Magic there is a method attributed to Frank Ducrot. And there is also a method attributed to Al Baker. What I find fascinating is how this basic trick has so many different methods. I've discovered 8 so far and there are probably more out there. 

I first encountered the Rice Bowls when I purchased a TV Magic Set as a kit. Good ole Marshall Brodien. In fact, here is the video of Marshall doing the Rice Bowls, it's the third trick in...

I could never get my TV magic set bowls to produce THAT trick, lol. But it could have been low attention span Dean who didn't follow the instructions to the letter. I was better at sleight of hand than this type of thing. Eventually, that would change, but I can't blame Marshall for my failure.

I mentioned above this is a forgotten gem. Not many people perform it, and for those few I found online, most do a terrible job. However, one exception is Jade. She does a superb job and her handling of the props makes the effect even more magical. Here is a video of Jade, her Rice Bowl routine is about 1:40 into the video:

One of the better performances of the rice bowls was done by Charlie Miller. I don't care much for his whistling presentation, but his handling is flawless. Sadly, I don't see that version online. It can be found on the Great Magic Video Libraries DVD with Charlie Miller. There is no explanation, but if you can see the handling you might recognize a mistake that is often made in inferior handlings. Btw, Jade has her own way of overcoming the weakness, which I'll not divulge.

My all time favorite version of the Rice Bowls belongs to Richiardi. I always thought his was the most unique version. Imagine my surprise to discover his version in the pages of Later Magic. But though the routine is listed there, the Richiardi flare is not. This is one routine that I have used in my shows in the past, and always listed in the program as 'A Tribute to Richiardi'! Here is the master doing what he does best. 

Magician Ben Hart presented a version of the rice bowls on America's Got Talent-Champions and frankly I thought his presentation was fine. All the judges hated him. Strange. I've seen them dumbfounded by much less and certainly by weaker magic. But for whatever reason, they all sat there confused and not sure what they just saw. Perhaps the story Ben told could have been tweaked a bit. What do you think?

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Frank Ducrot's Iconic Tie.


Magic Dealer and performing magician, Frank Ducrot had some very memorable things about him. First, he had 3 nicknames: Fritz, Duke, and Dukie. Next, he was well known for three things, a magic wand, his slippers, and his flowing tie.

I kept reading about this 'flowing tie' in articles on Frank but I had no idea what it was. I assumed maybe it was some sort of bit or joke he used in his act. The opposite turned out to be true. The so-called flowing tie turned out to be nothing more than an unusual neck tie that he wore.

If you've ever seen images of Buster Brown from the Buster Brown Shoe company, you've see this type of

neck tie. I guess, as 'the boy magician' Ducrot must have worn a tie like that. And as he got older, he continued to wear this really big floppy tie. I finally, found an image below that shows his tie in all it's glory. To the right is a buster brown image. 

By the way, even in his 50's Frank Ducrot happily went by the moniker, 'The Boy Magician'.

Sadly, Frank Ducrot was buried with this tie.

I bring it up because there are so many performers who have 'something' that people connect to them. Tommy Cooper had his big red fez. Doug Henning and his mustache and rainbows. Siegfried and Roy, the Tigers. In the main world of show biz, you have folks like Charlie Chaplin, with his bowler hat and cane, Jack Benny and his violin, Bob Hope had sort of a signature walk, John Wayne had a walk and a very particular way he spoke, performers like Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey had faces of rubber and outrageous personalities. Steve Harvey has his giant mustache and bald head, plus he is always dressed immaculately.  I think it's those that have that thing about them that stands out, that go further. Ducrot was known to be one of the busiest magicians in NY. No doubt because he was easily remembered.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Tommy Smothers Has Died


Tommy Smothers, one half of the famous comedy duo, The Smothers Brothers, passed away on Dec 26th, 2023 at the age of 86. He passed after a battle with cancer. Though Tommy was not a magician perse, the duo does have a couple really special connections to the world of magic.

First, one of the writers on The Smothers Brothers Show that ran on CBS in the late 1960s was magician/comedian Steve Martin. In fact, Steve appeared on one of the episodes and did presented his comedy magic act. See below.

But the second and lesser known connection to magic was Mr. Harry Blackstone Jr.. Harry was an associate producer on the Smothers Brothers Hour TV show. This was before Harry would decide to devote his career to magic like his father. He would also make three appearances ON the show doing his magic. I've not been able to find any of that footage however.

And there is a third connection to magic. Later when the Smothers Brothers returned to TV in the 80s, they had on the fantastic comedy magic, Ed Alonzo!