June 2018 Ring Meeting- Mystery of Photo of old magic prop

Ring Report Ring #170 “The Bev Bergeron Ring” SAM Assembly #99

June 2018  Meeting

President Mike Matson brought the meeting to order with 28 in attendance. Mike announced all the magic playing in the Orlando tourist areas. We had guest Michael Resto.

Bev Bergeron’s Teach-In feature a effect which used the Physics principle of inertia. He stacked 3 quarters with another quarter on top and flicked the card away and the quarter remained on the stack.

Phil Schwartz presented Magic History Moment #93. He began by showing a photograph of an old painting, “Boy with a Puzzle, Boy with a Toy or Cherub with a Game of Patience” which hangs in Eaton Hall, a residence in northeast London. It is oil on wood and 15 by 13 inches.  The painting is from 1520 and thought to be the first picture to show conjuring apparatus that does not depict the cups and balls! For several hundred years it was thought to have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci. The motif is of a little boy similar to the Christ child in Leonardo’s works. The painting style is Sfumato a hazy, dreamy look with softened outlines.  It was actually painted by Bernardino Luini (d. 1532)

The trick the child is holding we know today as Jacob’s Ladder and the mechanism is found in the Himber Wallet. It is a two little boards which is hinged so it can open on both sides ways.  Daniel Schwenter (d.1636) called it “The yawning mouth”. Today, you can buy it as a toy where 8 plastic boards are attached and by flipping the top broad, it looks like it magical flips down each board until it is at the bottom. It uses the math principle of topology as seen in the Tetraflexagon and Rubik’s Cube.

This month’s magic show began with Dennis Phillips doing the Nail-hidden-in-a-paper-bag spike trick. He has the audience choose which of four bags to crush and they selected all but the bag with the spike. Bryan Sullivan took a shuffled deck  and was able to correctly find and place the aces on four piles and spell where a card was in the deck.

Jaffo  did a fun routine with 10 giant cards and with free choices by spectators each dealing their own hands, Jaffo always had the winning hand.

Dan Stapleton did  some effects from his lecture on Psychologic Numbers. He counted his hands and showed that he had eleven fingers and then showed how to put 12 magicians in a hotel with just 11 rooms and they each have a private room!  Jimmy Ichihana was in top form. He did a kind of double “Out-of-this world” where a spectator unknowingly dealt piles with  both the red cards and blue cards were separated and do were their backs.  Revelli concluded the show with a coin vanish and transformation to a larger coin, routine with color changing CDs, a rope with 4 ends, and he lassoed a selected playing card from his hat.

Dennis Phillips





Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

July 2018

 ” Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto, Klaatu Barada Nikto”

-From “The Day the Earth Stood Still- 1951

Have you noticed that magicians seldom use magic words anymore? “Hocus Pocus” was a popular one.  It seems to have been a perversion of the words of the  sacramental blessing from the Latin Mass at the invocation that transforms the bread and wine into the blessed body and blood of Jesus, Hoc est corpus meum “This is my body.”  So there is a religious connection!

The first to make this speculation on its origin apparently was English prelate John Tillotson (1630-1694).

“I will speak of one man … that went about in King James his time … who called himself, the Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus tabantus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currantly without discovery.” [Thomas Ady, “A Candle in the Dark,” 1655]

Then there  is Abracadabra.  Again, a religious connection.

It  seems likely that abracadabra is derived from one of the Semitic languages. It’s from the Aramaic phrase avra kehdabra, meaning “I will create as I speak”.

  • The source is three Hebrew words, ab (father), ben (son), and ruach acadosch (holy spirit).
  • It’s also found in the Chaldean abbada ke dabra, meaning “perish like the word”

Sim Sala Bim? These magic words were made popular by the famous professional magician Dante/The Great Jansen. They also served as the name of his famous touring magic show. Sim salabim is spoken by a Turkish alchemist with magical powers in the early medieval folk play entitled Robyn Hode. Sim sala bim is “the Swedish equivalent of ‘abracadabra,’” and is known in other Scandinavian cultures as well.

“Ala Peanut Butter Sandwiches”.   This is the catch phrase used by  the Muppet character, Mumfred the Magician, on Sesame Street to cast his magic trick spells.

Presto. It is From Italian and means (“quickly”).


Here’s a look at the world’s highest-paid magician and magic acts from across the world as of 2017.

They all have a heavy presence on TV.

The report has been compiled by Statista.  https://www.forbes.com/pictures/59ea187aa7ea436b47b4212b/highest-paid-magicians-of/#6090c6466e02

Here’s a list of the world’s highest-paid magicians and illusionists from across the world as of 2017.

David Blaine | The American endurance artist, magician and illusionist has performed famous acts such as ‘Buried Alive’, ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Drowned Alive’. Blaine has made $6 million to make him the eight highest-paid magicians. (Image: Reuters)

Michael Carbonaro | The American actor, improv artist and magician is famous for his hidden camera ‘Magic Clerk’ segment on The Tonight Show.Carbonaro has raked in $7 million, making him the seventh highest-paid magician worldwide.

Derren Brown | The English illusionist and mentalist has produced multiple television and stage shows including the famous “Derren Brown:Mind Control”. He has earned over $7 million and has been ranked sixth on the list.

Dynamo | Steven Frayne is an English magician who stars in the television show Dynamo: Magician Impossible. Frayne has made $9 million according to the report, making him the fifth richest magician.

The Illusionists | This is a touring magic production that features a rotating cast of five to eight magicians. All of them specialize in specific streams of magic. The production has made $11.5 million so far, putting them fourth on the list of richest magicians.

Criss Angel | Christopher Nicholas Sarantakos is an illusionist and musician. The 50-year-old is known for starring in television and stage show “Criss Angel Mindfreak”. He is the third-most successful magician in history having earned $14.5 million.

Penn & Teller | The American magician and entertainer duo were famous for their acts that included comedy with magic. Together, the duo has made $30.5 million, making them the second-most commercially successful magic act.

David Copperfield | The American illusionist has been called the most commercially successful magician in history by Forbes. Copperfield’s career spanning over 40 years has earned him 11 Guinness World Records. The Las Vegas resident has made $61.5 million until 2017.


This is what really gives magic a bad name…


It violates the rule of embarrassing people and transforms theatrical fright into terrorism

The sooner we condemn and expel grunge, street garbage, terrorism stunts and nonsense like this the better we will be.


Good News!

We can use rabbits again without a lot of hassle from the USDA.  The rules were  first reported by Marty Hahn, a few years back.  Many have tried to politicize this as a victory for one of the political parties, but the political action was by Marty’s Senator Claire  McCaskill (D-MO) . Common sense laws and no laws should not be a political issue.


Dennis Phillips with “Thurston the Bunny” 


As a magician, he was very good at one time… Probably could not make enough money with it… Went to the Dark Side of the Force?




How To Do The Like Michael Jackson “Lean”  The complete tutorial.



From the “How Fast they Fall” department:   This is the same Illusionist who accused Criss Angel of stealing one of his illusion ideas. You have seen him on the Masters of Illusion TV shows and others.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former Las Vegas Strip headliner from Germany lost his bid to withdraw his guilty plea in a federal child pornography case involving thousands of videos and images.

Jan Rouven Fuechtener, 39, is expected to face at least 24 years in federal prison on felony charges of possession, receipt and distribution of child pornography, according court records. His sentencing is set for Aug. 2.

Fuechtener is a German citizen who performed as Jan Rouven at the Tropicana hotel-casino. His show closed following his arrest in March 2016. He remains in federal custody.

His plea in November 2016 stopped his trial during an FBI agent’s testimony about images found in password-protected files on computer devices seized from the Las Vegas home Fuechtener shared with his husband, Frank Dietmar Alfter.

Authorities say some of the images depicted sex acts involving kindergarten-age boys.

Fuechtener’s lawyer, Karen Connolly, was unavailable Friday to immediately comment on the June 15 ruling by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro involving the guilty plea.

Connolly previously said federal authorities have recommended Fuechtener serve 24 to 30 years in federal prison and possibly a life sentence.

Fuechtener also faces lifetime registration as a sex offender, near-certain deportation if he gets out of prison, and an order to pay $5,000 restitution to each child sex assault victim identified in his case.

Authorities have said they could identify about 85 victims. That would total some $425,000.

The case arose after Fuechtener was identified in August 2014 by an undercover investigator in Buffalo, New York, as a collector of more than 3,500 internet pornographic videos and images using internet, Skype and email names including “Lars45,” ″LarsUSA22″ and Lars Schmidt.

Fuechtener last year accused his lawyers of misleading him about the consequences of his plea.


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Introducing Theory and Thaumaturgy and the beauty of Thayer’s lathe work

Ring Report Ring #170 “The Bev Bergeron Ring” SAM Assembly #99

May 2018  Meeting

Many stories begin with, “It was a dark and stormy night”. The May meeting was on such a night. Attendance was low but we had a good time. President Mike Matson opened the meeting and announced all the magic attractions and events in the Orlando area. Bev Bergeron was away so we did not have his Teach-in but Mike offered a new feature he calls “Theory and Thaumaturgy”. This month is was about a list of suggestions by Banachek  on how magicians should behave ethically. Jaffo amplified one point about helping other magicians tactfully with performance suggestions. He suggested that if a magician was open to a constructive critique, they could wear and pin with a logo and slogan.

For his 92nd Magic History Moment (his first was done in 2007), Phil Schwartz presented an array of wood-turned ball vases by Floyd Thayer. The ball vase, he said, has been a popular trick for centuries. It is commonly found in cabinets of magic (i.e., magic sets), close-up repertoires, dealer catalogs, magic shops and magic collections. Almost every magician has had one.

Phil described Floyd Thayer vases as “exquisite in the artistry of their lines, precise in the tolerance of their measurements, deceptive in their disguised simplicities, and elegant in their overall appearance. They have poise and presence that command attention. It is not at all surprising that they have become magic’s classic treasures.”

Bill Larsen, Sr., founder of Genii magazine and the Academy of Magical Arts called Thayer’s vases “The Crown Jewels of Magic.”

Phil showed examples of Thayer ball, silk, coin, egg and thimble turnings in maple, walnut, boxwood and yucca.

The monthly show began with president Matson doing a “Ricky the Rat” card looking for the cheese card  but the choices seemed to influence what card was really there, it was Schrodinger’s Cat. It was magic and people who know Physics will find this especially humorous. James Bailey had a volunteer signed card-in- balloon and then he pulled from it in a gem of an effect. Bryan Sullivan had a spectator select a card from a packet and it reappeared in the spectator’s pocket. Tom Parkin used 10 cards. Two were selected by a volunteer and they were the only two face cards in the packet.

William Zaballero took a dollar bill with two small holes and folded it into a red sleeve and then put a toothpick through the holes. Amazingly he could slide the bill and the holes moved. Everything was examined. He concluded with a card effect where cards changed places.

Former member Paul Osterhaut  was visiting and talked about the art of storytelling and how he used an Invisible Deck to involve all the audience members.

Dennis Phillips

Photo by Craig Fennessey



Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

June 2018


“My thought on Mother’s Day 2018

Most boys probably started off with magic tricks at a young age. Typically around 8 to 10 years old.  Lots of us Baby Boomer kids found a Joseph Leeming book in the school library and became enchanted with the idea of making tubes and boxes out of cardboard and using Styrofoam balls and a coat hanger for a Zombie Floating Ball.

Perhaps we saw a magician on TV or live. Yes, they had a lot more live magicians way back then.  We began to make props and practice performing.  In most cases, Mom was the first audience and seamstress. Dad would be drafted to help build things and typically wanted to only see your act if it was properly prepared. So , this Mother’s Day season, a note of appreciation to all the Mothers who helped out their boys, and in some cases girls learn magic. Note that in the old paper Abbotts Catalog, the female in the photo of the “Girl from Drum” ,was Roy Houston’s mother assisting him.

Here was my mother, Ethel (d. 2005) , being floated on my home-made Super X type Suspension in 1968.







Egyptian Tombs reveal stage magic was performed in Ancient Egypt










Cairo (CMN ) The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, or Museum of Cairo, in Cairo, Egypt has announced that massive archeological evidence has been discovered that confirms that stage magic was a major form of entertainment in Ancient Egypt.  Director Sabah Abdel-Razek was not available for immediate comment but sources within the museum announced the find.  The curator in charge of this project is himself a magic hobbyist and member of magic societies so he did not reveal his name or the methods of the illusions but he offered some modern references.

He showed a photo of a recently discovered tomb and explained the effect seen is known today as the “Aga Levitation”. The Owl supports can be seen on both sides.  He did not reveal the method but said that steel or iron were not used but woven bamboo reeds are stronger than steel and could easily be used to make the gimmick. He showed us the Egyptian text for “gooseneck”.


He showed another photo of what he described as, “The Jam illusion” or “Palanquin” . He explained that contrary to modern magic historians, it predates  Servais Le Roy’s rediscovery at the turn of the 20th Century. Some may argue this is a Thayer “Noah’s Ark” but clearly the curtains and the load area show it to be a “Double Jam. He added, “They may have also used the old Jarrett method of loading assistants in the top. There is room there.


He said, “We not only have the props but we have playbills and reviews of ancient shows!”  He called reporters over and read the Egyptian characters describing a very bad magic act, “and Ahmose Sapair’s act smelled worse than crocodile dung. His assistant moved like a Hippopotamus!”  He added, “ Critics could be cruel back then. Criss Angel would have gotten nowhere  in Egyptian show business ”

He pointed to another row of characters and said, “ These two magicians were no Penn and Teller or Pendragons. These folks were awful.




You know them from Jewish and Christian traditions as  “Jannes and Jambres” found in the Hebrew Tanakh and Christian Bible in   Exodus 7:10-12.  They botched up the “Rod to Snake” trick, which was an early version of the Walsh Cane. They were so awful that their legendary bad show was included in the Bible.   In your Bible story you know that Moses beat them in a Pharaoh Palace show competition called “Egypt’s Got Talent”.  Moses apparently had a double Walsh Cane, like Fantasio later invented, that ate up their snake. There was no golden buzzer on the shows.  The frogs and locusts came for the losers!   Moses was even better than David Blaine! We still remember his Burning Bush and Red Sea bit. Not even Franz Harary or David Copperfield has tried those. ”

He said, “Here is an early Lotta Bowl” and apparently they had an insert that also could turn water to blood. For some reason it is sitting on a Multiplying Chairs trick”








“Here is a view of a Dekolta Chair but the base is not too deceptive. There was no Floyd Thayer, Carl Owens, Bill Smith ,Willie Kennedy or David Mendoza back them.” His voice was excited. “They didn’t even have a Paul Osborne to sell decent plans!”







“Yep, they had fake hypnotism!  Here is an example of their wardrobe and , as producers in the States say, you need some “shtick  like hypnotism.” He added, “Peter Reveen had nothing on these performers”.






A complete list of illusions, acts and collectors items will be released as soon as the Egyptian Museum  completes it fundraising. The color glossy catalog will sell for $75.

It is hoped that a stage show can be created in the Museum so tourists can witness the antiquities.

© CMN Conjuror’s Magical Network


As you know, Phil Schwartz has been providing a “Magic History Moment” for all of the Ring Meetings where we have a Ring Show. Bev Bergeron also does a Teach-in.

I found the December 2007  Linking Ring Report that I wrote when I reported on the September 2007  meeting where Phil did his very first report!

I thought that many of you old timers would enjoy reading the names and reliving that very first report! With this month’s #92 Magic History Moment, Phil came full circle by talking again about Floyd Thayer.


President Trump’s Rising Necktie Trick


President Trump was seen practicing his “Rising Necktie” Trick on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base. The majority who saw it were impressed. His signature ties are long and always hang low making them perfect for rising up.

Immediately the Liberal Mainstream Press and Democrats criticized his performance as, “A cheap trick that is horribly outdated and easy to figure out.” Many long time Washington Democrats said they remember Al Cohen having a magic shop and selling the effect for 75 cents. “It is nothing but a piece of thin wire in the tie with a small bend on the end and a hidden thread to pull!” screamed Rachael Maddow in a 20 minute expose of the trick and other classics  like Glorpy and the Asrah Levitation.  “I guess this is what he means by making American Magic Great Again, by returning to outdated ideas.” CBS 60 Minutes announced a 6 part series on an expose that says that all his ties are made and imported from China.

President Trump reacted by signing an Executive order that will place Whoopie Cushions in the Press Briefing Room. Sara Huckabee Sanders said, “I will not let them tell you those are fake sounds!”

The Democrats have taken up political donations for “Rubber Doggie Doo” and “Sneezing powder”. They have not announced where they will place them. “Mueller isn’t talking and neither are we!”

George Will , now labeled as a RINO, wrote in his newspaper column that, “The vividness of transient events and the atavistic pejorative tone of what has now transformed this town into the city on the river Styx, has led to a futility which finds virtue in the meaningless struggles of Sisyphus.”


I hope you all have enjoyed this mostly “Fake Magic News” edition of my Deliberations.

All the writing was original and I take all the blame.

Dennis Phillips

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P.T. Mortimer’s Magic and Medicine at Ring Meeting

Ring Report Ring #170 “The Bev Bergeron Ring” SAM Assembly #99

April 2018  Meeting

President Mike Matson called the meeting order. Lots of guests: Don Carpenter, Christian Bryan, Jim Leach, Stefan and Territorial VP Scott Humston. Jaffo took the floor to remind us to be friendly to all visitors all the time.   There were announcements of the many magic events always happening here in Orlando.

Bev Bergeron’s teach-in featured ideas on how to use a balloon to make a cover for a glass of water production. He also showed how he produced uncovered glass of water from his coat.

Phil Schwartz presented Magic History Moment #91.  The subject was Frank Van Hoven, an unusual comedy magician who specialized in absurdist humor.  He was born in 1886 in Sioux City, Iowa and apprenticed for his Uncle in Vaudeville and for Roland Travers, a traveling magician.  Hoven’s early attempts at being a serious machines ended in disaster and he realized that could be the basis for his act.  He continued to work and fail and improve until he had a high paying act. He was successful in Europe and the U.S.

His act was filled with” accidentally” revealing trick methods and doing absurd stunts such as leaving two boys on stage holding or sitting on blocks of ice while he left the stage for a drink at a nearby bar. Magic historians say that his style can be seen as a prototype of many of today’s comedy magicians.

Frank Van Hoven, a victim of alcoholism, died in Ireland at age 44 on January 17th, 1929.  He was known by audiences as “The Mad Magician” and by magicians as “The Man Who Made Ice Famous.”

The meeting show began with Bob Swaddling fooling us all with a clever Okito Box routine and cards. A coin migrated between cards and into and out of the box. Bob used a clever method to do amazing things. Dan Stapleton showed a baffling wooden finger chopper made many years ago by Chalet Magic. He then did a tableware prediction  where all 4 volunteers making random moves with their knives, forks and spoons ended up with what he predicted. Christian Bryan had selected cards traveling between pairs of cards. He did a nice series of sleights with a cigarette and lighter.  Nathan Coe Marsh repeatedly had spectators randomly pick cards and he always knew what they freely chose. Jimmy Ichihana dazzled by being able to cut to selected cards and then having a spectator deal in piles which all cards matched.

Concluding the show was Phineas T. Mortimore’s Magic and Medicine Show, a new creation by our own Greg Solomon.  Greg was costumed and had a nice historic-looking table with banners and he pitched his medicine that was guaranteed to cure, clean and fix everything.  The magic medicine did cause some great magic to happen and everything fit into the theme.

Dennis Phillips


Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

May 2018


Grammar lesson: we find the present tense and the past perfect…

-author unknown-






I was happy to finally see Greg Solomon’s new signature act, Phineas T. Mortimore’s old-fashioned Medicine & Magic Show with PT Mortimer extolling the virtues of his “Miracle Elixir” while infusing the show with magic, mirth and a little bit of mystery.

Greg has developed a great commercial act that is unique and ideal for his target audience. It is good solid magic along with a clever prop set up.


Here I am being belted into my straitjacket (Abbott made)  at a youth church function in the early 1990s.



I received this comment: “Dennis, I often wonder why magicians still try to entertain with the straitjacket escape. It’s now so archaic. And you get these young “nobody” magicians who’ll put one on and make glib claims about breaking Houdini’s record…”

My answer:

Trust me, it plays big….  I play it mostly for laughs and novelty. What the jacket routine usually lacks is a strong shock-surprise at the end.  One you have gotten out, it is sort of a letdown and begs for an encore to top the escape so I fixed the ending.

I present it as a kind of historical lecture and never as a Houdini Challenge.  I do mention Houdini and how he did it upside down which I explain is easier than upright because gravity becomes your friend.

I start out by explaining ( as I am unbuckling the jacket)   that very little could be done for the aggressive mentally insane until about 60 years ago. The insane  were laughed at, taunted and pitied and locked away. Today, we give them therapy by putting them on the Dr. Phil Show.

“Bedlam” is a corruption of “St. Mary of Bethlehem” ,an English Hospital for the insane in old England.  The mentally ill were chained. There was little else they could do. When electricity was invented in the late 1800s, shock therapy came about and sometimes resetting electrical brain activity through an induced convulsion did help.  Restraints like strait jackets, wet sheet beds and other restraints were used.  Finally, in the early 1950s the phenothiazine antipsychotic drugs came into wide use with Thorazine , the tranquilizer, being the first.  A dose of  this high-power anti-histamine and all the voices in the head stopped. Later we learned that tardive dyskinesia ( involuntary twitches) was a side effect from long term use. Over the years many families of psychiatric drugs were developed:  Benzodiazepines, monoamine oxidase  inhibitors, atypicals and SSRIs.  So, the strait jacket became less used and known.”

I invite a guy up to help and I demonstrate on him (without any buckling) how it goes on  and then I put it on myself with all the standard comedy lines, especially about the crotch strap and the high pitches voice gag.

I then deliberately explain step by step what I am doing and talk about the importance of keeping your cool and staying with the reasoned sequence step by step.  I always say that the guy did too good of a job on pulling the buckles tight and I end up rolling all over the floor and struggling.

Then I have about 3 cues for applause. I get my arms over my shoulders, applause.  I get the crotch strap loose, applause.  Then I wiggle out of the jack without  having to unbuckle the back straps, only the neck.  I hold the jacket up, do a Rocky fist pump and toss the jack on a small low cart and do the bows.  When that applause dies down I reach over and pick up the jacket ,which is laying on the cart, and say, “I wonder why it was so tough tonight? What is this?” and a bowling ball drops out with a thud!  That usually brings the house down.  (The ball is loaded in a bag which is the same color as the jacket and it is stolen from the cart).

Archaic?  Maybe, but it never fails to please and interest a crowd!



The following marketing method, by a magician, is hilarious. It is from this guy’s web page!  It seems ,to me ,the totally wrong way to sell yourself!

He takes pains telling you what he does not do! And how bad and hackneyed other magicians are!

The implication is that the answer is to go back to vaudeville! One hundred years ago! Does that make sense?






In his words:

Ninety percent of working stage magicians include at least one of these items listed above in their performances and for many this list comprises half their show: for some, this is their show!  If you are a professional entertainment buyer, you probably recognize some of these worn-out routines. Magicians who perform these catalog bought routines are a dime a dozen. Though some of those magicians may perform these routines well, they are still only rehashing old material. If you want something new and fresh out of magic, Vaudeville Magic is the only answer.

Routines you will not see:
(Follow the links below to see magicians performing the same routines.)

This fellow seems  to not realize  these effects are used because they are familiar and they are modern classics.

Sure, some effects can get over used but it depends on your venue.  I would not try to play Vegas or a TV show with these but most magicians can not afford creating new material and most people have never seen these effects.


Is he talking to magicians here, or the public?  The “I want to bring things that people have never seen before” statement is ridiculous. Walk into any typical urban cookie-cutter magic shop, and chances are, you’ll see 99% of the stuff in there that has NOT been seen by 99% of the people walking by the shop out on the street. By magicians’ standards, even the most “overworked” and “hackneyed” tricks and illusions become brand new revelations to those not into magic. And that’s precisely why the locals in every city and town rely so heavily on what we call those “overworked” classics of magic.


I would suggest there is another reason Criss Angel should be telling us (the magic community AND the public) why he wants to avoid the illusions of the standard magic builders and tricks from the magic shops: Being a Las Vegas headliner, he has to sell himself to the longtime talent agents stationed there who have “seen it all”. And so he needs to come up with some spectacular (new?) magic that they have never seen before.   And he’s simply trying to avoid the puzzling psychological nature of the people who, after having seen a few touted “spectacular” magic shows, go back home and rave to their friends about that geeky cornpone magician in the checkered suit who pulled a chocolate chip cookie out of his fly…



I am sharing a few thoughts , on Harry Anderson, that I had by e-mail with Larry Thornton, my long time Canadian magic friend:

Harry Anderson, is no longer with us. He passed away at his home in Ashville, North Carolina at age 65.  Harry started out as a Street Magician and most of us first saw him on Saturday Night Live in the 70s doing his “Geek Trick” ( Pain in the Vein-Needle through the Arm) . He went on to land the staring role in “Night Court”. Who can forget that quirky hilarious show filled with oddball characters.  Harry even managed to revive the career of Mel Torre by letting it be known that he was a big fan.

Anderson was very much like Johnny Carson and Steve Martin in that he transcended magic and became a comedy actor and star. People tend to forget they started out in magic.  Harry tried to not let forget it but the mostly did. Which constitutes a sad indictment of the art: that if you really want to make it in show business, chuck the cringeworthy magic and make people forget — or never become aware of — your laughably humble beginnings as a ‘no-talent’ kid perpetually glued to a deck of cards and constantly craving attention.

Bev Bergeron noticed that Jimmy Stewart worked with Bill Neff  but after movie fame, his early connection with magic was never mentioned.

Wouldn’t it be nice if some magician could become as famous as a mainstream performing artist without having to transcend their original chosen profession?  I guess the first criterion would be to become original.  In the entire history of modern stage magic, only Houdini reached such a height.  And that’s why he’s still such a memorable legend today.


There is a “contest” television series on now, called Showtime at the Apollo (Thursdays on Fox) that’s hosted by Steve Harvey. Though it’s touted as a “variety” show, singers, and to a lesser extent, comedians, outnumber other kinds of performers by at least 5-to-1.  If a performer is really good, the audience goes into hysterics of ecstasy that makes the kids on Blaine’s first television special look like semi-responsive zombies. But if the act stinks, within about the first 3 seconds that same crowd suddenly morphs into a crazed “lynch mob” booing and shouting as loud as the can. And that’s when an eccentric dancing guy prances onto the stage with a large hook and ushers the idiot performer off.

NOW HERE’S MY POINT: I happened to see a few of the shows that featured a magician, or to be more specific: an illusionist, an escape artist, and on the third show, a mentalist. Now in every case these guys were fantastic, fooling the audience completely, and I’m not just speaking as a died-in-the-wool magic fanatic. The Apollo audience showed a strong appreciation for them, and the ‘dancing clown’ stayed off the stage.

But on all three shows, when it came time for the judging, the audience applauded and made as much noise as they could — only for one of the singers, and sometimes the comedian

And I was reduced to wondering, “What the heck does a magician have to DO to win over this crowd!?”

As a magician, you could have flown onto the stage, walked on water, cured a guy of his leprosy, multiplied fishes and loaves, and as a grand finale – made both yourself and the M.C.  VANISH IN A PUFF OF PINK SMOKE!!  –And you wouldn’t have had the slightest chance of winning the contest.

Dennis Phillips

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