As others see us

I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating. 100 years ago, or so, I had the opportunity to visit the Magic Castle and watch Slydini perform. It was like seeing the Stars of Magic jump off of the page. He performed his coins through tables, his paper balls to box and coins across if I recall correctly. I was absolutely blown away.


I attended the performance with a college friend that had only recently taken up magic. As with many beginners, he hit it very hard and was thrilled to learn each new secret and was rapidly developing an adequate performing style. Not unexpectedly, he had never heard of Slydini. The next day we were discussing our time at the Magic Castle. I asked him what he thought of Slydini. After I described who he was, he immediately said "Oh, the guy that kept throwing things in his lap"? Please understand, he wasn't being mean or disrespectful. He just wasn't fooled at all. I was devastated. Someone had dumped on a magic hero.

Over the years, I've thought of that incident many times. What does our audience actually see? Certainly, Slydini's performance was a technical success, at least from a magician's standpoint. His Han Ping Chen was a thing of beauty. The moves to his lap were well covered with his famous brand of misdirection. Nonetheless, my friend wasn't fooled. He wasn't even entertained.

I'm sure my friend wasn't the only one in the audience less than impressed with Slydini's performance. It was a polite and appreciative audience and he got the response that a legend of his stature deserved.

I guess that is one reason why I wince so strongly at statements like "it just blows right past the layman". No it doesn't! Your audience may not call you on it or embarrass you while you are performing, but so many times I'm fully convinced that few people are actually fooled and the magician is merely tolerated.

Missed Target

I’ve spent a good bit of time over the last couple of days watching John Bannon’s latest DVD effort, Bullet Party. It’s not bad, just uninspired. It reminds me so much of the later efforts of Ammar, Malone and Osterlind. They just seem tired and the best material was already used.  All of the excitement and energy shown in the earlier DVDs just wasn’t there. I feel the same way about Bullet Party. This DVD set consists of two DVDs and  two sets of cards for the headlining packet tricks. It’s a good value. There’s actually enough material for two DVDs, which is not always the case recently. Bannon has certainly improved his on camera persona. His introductions to each trick are very well done. I guess standing in the woods introducing card tricks is now the thing to do since the Paul Harris boxed set. I don’t understand that, nor do I understand performing the tricks while sitting on a weight bench in a workout room. Maybe somebody can explain it to me. It’s not that the tricks are bad, it’s just that I’ve come to expect so much more from him. I’m glad I got it and certainly don’t feel screwed, but I’m certainly not excited. OH!! One other thing. They traded Sammie Pennington for David Solomon. I don’t care which side of the tracks you play on, that’s not a good deal!






Another i/m tip: Carry a small mirror with you when you perform. Before going “on stage” look at yourself in the mirror. If you are wearing a dunce cap, fez or other humorous item on your head. TAKE IT OFF! It’s not funny and you look ridiculous.

You know and uh the retard is like, you know, pissed

Nothing can make a bad trick good, but there are thousands of ways to destroy a great trick.

Here’s one……

Now here’s a magic book I would buy

There are several books out that teach you how to get women with your magic e.g. Tricks To Pick Up Chicks or PUMA. Those guys meet the classic definition of consultant:

consultant – someone that knows 350 ways to make love, but doesn’t know any women

Criss Angel may not be much of a magician, but whatever he does must work. His latest squeeze:


Way to go Criss!!

i/m in Bug Tussle


It was one week ago today that I returned from Tennessee and the Winter Carnival of Magic in Pigeon Forge. I’ve gone off and on for over 30 (damn!) years. I always have a good time and I think this is one of the best local conventions in the country. The members of the local club should be very proud of the job they do. This year was not a good time for me to go, but I really wanted to see David Williamson. In my book, he’s the best foole in the business (to use an old George Carlin bit).

Scot at Scot’s Magical Mystery Tour has already done a better job than I could ever hope to do of reviewing the convention. Make sure you read it. I’m doing the usual i/m brain dump of impressions, likes, dislikes and opinions.


The location – When I first started to go to the Winter Carnival, it was held in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge was a general store, a Super 8 and a golf course – then came Dollywood and everything changed. Today it is a tourist trap of the first order. Thankfully, the Carnival is held in the off season and the constant onslaught is slightly mitigated.

Please understand I was born and raised a redneck and I consider these my peeps, but it is Bug Tussle – a place Jeff Foxworthy goes for material. You can make change in the offering plate and no one pays any attention. Restaurant service is friendly and lame. They just pay no attention to detail. To get a glass of water you need to go outside and use the hose, I guess. Many, many restaurants are attached to gas stations – write your own material.

Prices are relatively reasonable for food and lodging and the $95 registration fee for the convention is a bargain. A couple of the guys checking people in were rather dickish I thought, but I guess it’s not one of the glamour jobs for the volunteers.

The actual theater where the convention was held was adequate. It could hold over 1,000 people and there were two large screens to view close-up. The camera work was horrific. The pictures on the screen were low resolution. I don’t know whether this was due to the amateur camera or whether the equipment was just out dated. One need only to compare those screens to the crisp output at Terry Evanswood’s show to see the difference. All in all, it was OK.

The dealers room was too small and left little room to session. That’s a shame, because David Williamson and Charlie Frye made themselves available throughout the convention, but the physical limitations made it difficult to take advantage of their generosity.


The contests – I always look forward to the contests. Milton Berle said many times – there’s no place to be bad anymore. Well, this is a place! At the last contest I attended, it was impossible to tell whether most of the stage acts were trying to be Carl Ballantine or were just B-A-D. There was only one act that fell into that category at the Winter Carnival and, in general, I thought most of the acts showed promise and preparation. As a matter of fact, the best magic of the entire convention was performed by the winner of the stage competition. A classic magic act from Las Vegas – very well done. Unfortunately, I don’t have his name.

As always, close-up at a convention is difficult whether lectures, professional or contests. I thought most of the contestants adapted their acts pretty well and close-up becomes parlor.

There seemed to be an inordinate amount of time violations by the contestants – I’m not sure why. As far as I could tell, that was only a deduction and not fatal – I prefer the latter.

I think the judging at all of these contests needs to be revised. All too often, the winners perform some sort of cutesy act where the magic is secondary and often just plain crummy. It is a magic contest after all!

One word of advice to the teenagers performing. Reconsider your material and make sure it is age appropriate. There were two acts, in particular, that I thought suffered because they tried to do material that just seemed out of place for someone in their teens. It a shame to waste those chops fellers. Give it some thought.


The lectures – I went to all of them and picked up something from most everybody.Some of the lectures walked on hawking stuff and kept selling their shit throughout the entire lecture. I’ll be damned if they’ll get a nickel from me. I know that’s the way you make a living, but be a little subtle and don’t price lecture notes like they are the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I wish David Williamson was a little less clown and a little more magician. He’s one of the world’s best close up magicians and, personally, I would like to see more of that side of him.

Charlie Frye – I think most of the attendees would say he was the star of the convention. As usual, at a magic convention, it’s the non-magic act that receives the accolades. Charlie’s classic juggling act was just great. He was frequently seen mingling and magishing with the attendees. His lecture was OK, but he did something that I think is inexcusable – a performance only routine to close the lecture. Charlie Frye certainly doesn’t owe any of us the workings of his prize routine, but he does owe us lecture material during a lecture. I saw Alain Nu pull this same thing several years ago. After sitting through a lecture that was totally pedestrian, he finally performed something worth doing – his spoon bending – which he didn’t explain. Shoddy!

Daryl – If you’ve been into a magic for a month or so, you’ve probably run into Daryl. If not, give him a call, I’m sure he’ll come and perform in your living room. A nice guy with great chops. An asset to any convention.

Tom Burgoon – basically a dealer demo, but I’ve seen worse.

Steve Beam – Pleasant enough.


The All Star Stage Show – The performers:

David Williamson, MC – Not the best use of his talents, but always fun.

Fielding West – I had never seen Fielding work and was pleasantly surprised. I was not impressed with his DVDs and was expecting the worst. A good choice for an opening act. His years of experience was apparent. I understand he broke his foot shortly before appearing. If so, it was a gritty performance.

Tom Burgoon – Again, an act that showed a lot of polish and exceeded my expectations – to use a trite expression.

Charlie Frye and Company – As mentioned elsewhere, he stole the show.

The Mirror Images – Let’s get right to this – whoever booked them should never, ever again be allowed to recommend, let alone book, a single act. Without a doubt, the worst act ever to appear on a professional stage. I heard a couple of apologists suggest they had an off night. Believe me, Sir Lawrence Olivier would have died with those lines and Stephen King, himself, couldn’t convey the sheer horror of the performance. There was no mystery, humor or entertainment in their act. You get the point – it was AWFUL!


Terry Evanswood – Thursday night all attendees were invited to Terry Evanswood’s illusion show, Magic Beyond Belief. Terry had been laboring in Pigeon Forge for over 10 years, primarily doing a day time show (at the theater where the convention was held). Last year he opened in his own magic theater. One of the money guys in town has backed the enterprise and has spent over 1.5 million dollars, to date, renovating the theater. A tremendous tribute to Terry.

The show itself owes much to David Copperfield, but what modern full evening show doesn’t? It’s a little bit saccharin in spots for my taste, but the magic is good – very good. Terry shows real sleight of hand ability in addition to the obligatory dancing around while the boxes do stuff. He’s a genuinely nice, hard working guy and deserves the success.

My only complaint (of course there is one) is they try to sell you something from the minute you get out of the car – a picture with the mascot – a picture with the tiger – concessions in the theater – DVDs – even the warm up act hawked a stupid flea rope trick. About the only thing left was taking pictures in the inadequate two holer they had for a John.


Conclusion – I had a good time. To the credit of the organizers, everything was right on schedule – a true rarity. They made a good choice of acts.

Oh, I forgot to add that the dealers were excellent. It’s no surprise that magic retailing is a tough way to make a living these days. All of the dealers were very accommodating and willing to fairly evaluate what they were selling. Unfortunately, the Internet has made the what’s new factor virtually nonexistent.

There was a single VERY unfortunate incident. We thought there was a young, blind magician competing in the close up and stage competitions. He had our admiration for sheer determination. The whole thing was a scam – I’m not sure to what end. This clown should be banned from all future magic conventions. If it were up to me, he would be banned from the human race. There can be NO excuse for this. Period.

Last Minute Gifts

ArtsyBee / Pixabay

Last Minute Gifts:

Smiling Mule – “The Best of Glenn Bishop”
Thomas Wayne – Civility
Richard Kaufman – Preparation H
Steve Brooks – A web host AND a mirror
James L. Clark, Sr., MBA – A swift kick in his pompous, overbearing and totally useless ass

Blog briefs


There’s some pretty good stuff going on in blogland these days. For any of us writing blogs, it’s an ego thing. Whether we’re trying to be entertaining, controversial, instructive or just screwing around, we’re making the large assumption that we have something worth reading – at least by some people.

Writing a blog takes time and thought. If you’re reading one regularly and like what you see – leave a comment. I can assure you that it is appreciated. If the blog sucks, then move on. It will wither and die if enough people feel that way.

Anyway, here’s a brief look at some of the blogs I read and what’s going on:

Unexpected Wonders – Jim Coles writes the most thoughtful posts about magic of anyone currently available. As I write this, he’s complaining about being 44. Hell! I’ve got socks older than that!

Reverie – Tom Frank’s very personal magic blog. I could never be comfortable exposing myself the way Tom does, but he’s been a regular poster for a long time and those of us that follow his blog really feel like we know him.

An interesting man. His description is very telling – Just celebrated the 21st anniversary of my 21st birthday. Crazy about a girl named Polly. Love to Swing Dance. Trick Deck Pitchman. I have 4 kids who won’t speak to me. See what I mean.

Be sure to catch some of his videos he makes available. The one on the linking rings is superb.

The Wizard’s Ball – Mike only posts sporadically. I wish we saw more of him. His recent post is about the disappearing Cafe topics which we continue to endure. He comes to a conclusion that I disagree with strongly:

Instead of crapping themselves every time a naysayer comes along perhaps the Cafe could learn something and perchance improve by allowing a bit of healthy debate.

Go on Steve you know you want to.

The last thing that group wants is open discussion.

The Phantom Notebooks – He’s just begun a review of the Rob Stiff / MagicMakers production of Wesley James 7 DVD set The Man Who Knows Erdnase. Actually it’s more like a public execution. e.g. his conclusion on DVD #1: A completely pointless and useless DVD…. and yet still the best of this 7 disc set. I’m not a good one to comment here’ as I’m no fan of Wesley James either. Don’t miss the series if you are into cards, at all.

Magicforge Blog Tracker – Although the MagicForge blog has been dormant since February, the blog tracker continues to perform a valuable service. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to the RSS feed. It makes it very easy to keep up with the status and postings of all the major magic blogs.


Take care………


A person who trusts no one can’t be trusted.