Thursday, February 8, 2024

Florida Magic Collector's Conference 2024


The Florida Magic Collector's Conference 2024 just finished up and it was both educational and historical. OH, and lot's of fun as well. A smaller conference than some, it has a charm all it's own. I missed the first day's events which had a flea market and auction. And then in the evening, a charming presentation was given by Skilldini, Tim Wright. He has a history with Abbott's Magic Shop in Colon Michigan. He worked there and knew many of the various characters who built, painted, welded, sewed and created the various treasures that were sold at the shop. A really fun presentation.

On Monday morning, the day began with a lecture by Bob Swadling. He was to lecture on The Magic Tea Kettle. He began with a history of the prop, demonstrating various early versions. And for the first time I got to see The Inexhaustible Bottle being performed. It looks just as good as I always imagined. Next he shared the first Tea Kettle, which was the creation of David Devant. He finally moved to his own version of the Tea Kettle which he built for Paul Daniels. Bob them demonstrated his version of The Magic Tea Kettle, and it was glorious. He finished with a video of Paul Daniels performing the Tea Kettle on his TV Show. For those unaware, the basic effect is that any drink called for can be poured out of the Tea Kettle, such as: Red Wine, White Wine, Port, Sherry, Mixed Drinks, Milk, Soda, Champagne, and more. It's diabolical in it's methodology. let's just say, it's pure magic.

Martin Preston and Tammy Calvert were next to talk about the touring life of John Calvert.  I saw John Calvert lecture at Denny's many years ago, and I also have a video of his performance in Memphis TN where he does his full stage show. But hearing many behind the scenes stories from their life on the road was amazing. 

Martin Preston as it turns out, had a history working with John and Tammy Calvert, so he was the ideal person to both interview Tammy and share recollections of the show. Martin presents a Liberace Tribute Act, which is his claim to fame. But he is clearly a Calvert Historian as well. A Great Talk!

The next lecturer was Todd Harris who lectured on The Master Builders of Great Britain. This was a brilliant lecture. Todd had both a slide presentation as well as actual props to show from the various builders. I had not heard of many of these people, but I could appreciate the amount of research that must have gone into this presentation. In fact, finding who builders are, has to be even more difficult than discovering the lives of performing magicians. I wish I had taken more photos, but I got caught up in the his presentation. Todd really hit it out of the park with his lecture, and from what I understand, he is making it available to the attendees via streaming. So a double win! Sadly, I didn't get a chance to talk to Todd, but I know I'll run into him again in the future. I can't wait to go on FB and check out some of his videos!!!

In the evening was The Contest that is Not a Contest, lol. The basic idea was the present some piece of Vintage Magic. But as Dan Stapleton told me, that doesn't always happen. Several performers shared clever pieces of magic. Even yours truly presented a routine. It was a fun show.

Tuesday, began with Rick Heath, the Magician with a Paintbrush, the man who painted everything from scenery to props to posters at the Le Grand David Magic Show in Beverly Mass.. But on this morning, he lectured on Robert Orben and it was sensational. I didn't have previous knowledge of Robert Orben other than he wrote some comedy books for speakers. Wow, was this an eye opening presentation. Orben began as a magician. Later turning to writing jokes and one liners for other entertainers. Then writing material for speakers and even various Presidents of the United States. But his most prestigious job was being a speech writer for President Gerald Ford. This was a wonderful and extremely informative lecture. Rick received a well deserved standing ovation.

Next up, was yours truly, presenting my lecture on Maro: Prince of Magic. This is my third time presenting this lecture, but I always try to add something new each time I present it. Maro is a long forgotten performer who died in 1908 before he really made a name for himself. But despite not making a name for himself, he still had an incredibly lucrative career. Judging by the many conversations I had following my lecture, I would say my lecture was very well received.

The next lecture was supposed to Jeffrey Alan from the American Museum of Magic, but as fate would have it, Jeffrey came down with Covid prior to the conference and was unable to attend. In his place, they showed  a video of one of John Calvert's movies. I've got to say, I really enjoyed this. The movie was fun and John plays a detective in the movie. He even does a little magic in the movie as well. This was what was a called back in the day a "B" movie. But it's better than a lot of the junk you find on streaming services today. 

In the evening was the Gala Show which I cannot report upon because I missed it. I had to head home midday. But I know that Dennis Phillips did a 100ft Rope tie. Dan Stapleton presented his version of The Sands of Egypt. And Tammy Calvert was due to perform some of the magic from the Calvert Show. I'm sorry I had to miss this show. 

They had a great dealers room, but I can't say too much about it because I had a booth of my own, and didn't leave my booth but one time. But it was nice to meet so many folks from the conference and also meet some of my podcast listeners. I enjoyed all the conversations with fellow magic history buffs. 

I've got to say, this was a charming little conference on magic history. All the presentations were top notch. Dealers room was full of folks and I know for me at least, I sold about half the things I brought with me. The one unfortunate thing about the conference was that I was not able to meet everyone there! I did meet quite a few new friends and look forward to seeing everyone again in 2025! If you want to find out more here is the web site

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.