“Day of Magic” 2017 a Success

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

September 2017  Meeting

 President Craig Schwarz called the meeting to order. We had on guest, Ryan Steiner and 26 members present. We were all excited about our Hurricane delayed “Day of Magic”.  It did happen on  September 23rd and was a great success with a giant flea-market and lectures.

Craig reviewed all the magic that can be seen around the Orlando area.

Phil Schwartz presented Magic History Moment #88, “And Now, For My Final Illusion”, which was a sad list of 17 performers who died, by accident while performing or working on magic. Some notable tragic accidents included the 1930 death of Charles Rowan, (stage name “Karr the Magician”), in Springfontein, South Africa. He was killed when he failed to escape a strait jacket chained to the ground and was run over by a speeding car.  On Halloween 1990, there was the sad death of escape artist Joe Burrus at Blackbeard’s Fun Center in Fresno, California when he was trying to honor Houdini and was bound in chains and locked in a glass and plastic coffin and lowered into a 7-foot hole.  Seven tons of dirt and wet cement were poured on top and he was crushed to death as the coffin collapsed. Phil continued with stories of magicians who were accidently shot to death in the classic Bullet Catch, the most famous being on March 23, 1918 when Chung Ling Soo, American William Robinson was shot to death on stage in England. The sad list also includes magicians killed in theater fires. One local event was the February 17, 1948 death of Walter Price and his wife. They both died in their Winter Park, Florida home when a batch of homemade flash paper and chemicals exploded.

Our ring show was again emceed by Phil Schwartz . Bev Bergeron led off with the Classic Three Frog Monty using two audience assistants. They never could find the toy frog that squeaked. Dan Stapleton did one of his classic card effects that he used on cruise ships called “Mirror Image” where he makes a prediction with two unseen cards and the  spectator’s freely selected cards match the prediction. Mark Fitzgerald has an excellent Linking Ring routine using small rings. And Greg Solomon presented the Sure Shot die box and asked for routine suggestions. Ari Novak had a deck of cards with half the deck fun things to do and the other half, not so fun.  The spectator freely selected cards for a date night and they were all fun things. Thom Parkin revealed a card by spelling down in the deck and JC Hyatt revived his Three Pigs went-to-market trick and an effect with cards. Dennis Phillips finished the show with a psychometry demonstration and then showed his antique Abbotts Chinese Head Chopper.

Dennis Phillips, Secretary Ring 170






Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

October 2017



Philip Morris, Businessman and Entertainer


Philip Morris (born Philip Morris Smith) died Sunday September 24th, 2017, in Charlotte, North Carolina after a long illness. He is survived by wife Amy, son Scott and daughters Terri and Sandie and grandchildren. Morris was influential and encouraging to countless magicians and performers, as well as one of the creators of modern Halloween business.

Phil was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan on June 5th, 1935. He became interested in magic and ventriloquism as a boy and performed with his dummy “Smitty” on radio. Soon he moved to magic and with his young girlfriend, Amy, began doing larger magic illusions and “Ghost Shows”, which were popular in the 1950s.  They would fill the seats in a downtown movie theater and use spooky magic tricks to set the mood and then shut off all the lights. By using theatrical scare tactics, they would frighten the crowd into seeing ghosts and goblins.

Soon local circus promoters and booking agents invited Philip and now wife, Amy, to join them. That led them to travel all over the country and eventually they were brought  to Charlotte by his agent where his ghost show was popular with Southern rural audiences and the circus and carnival outdoor business had a longer playing season.

Morris returned to broadcasting part time and worked at WBTV doing a live and local Saturday Night Horror show based on his “Dr. Evil” stage character.  On Saturday Morning TV, he was “Captain Phil” on Bozo’s Circus. When I moved to Charlotte in 1972, I filled the TV slot that Phil had once done.

In addition to providing circuses with costume spectaculars, Phil also was a frequent ringmaster for the Royal Hannaford Circus.  Lacking a source for gorilla suits, he began manufacturing them and one was secretly bought and used in the infamous Bigfoot film.

In the mid-1960s he began producing family fantasy themed magic shows. His first was The Wonderful World of Fantasy which he toured with 6 people. Tickets were sold and theaters filled by an innovative telephone marketing campaign in every town.

In 1965 Amy was busy raising their children while Phil was on the road. She wondered what else they could do with their basement and attic full of costumes. At Halloween, people who knew them wanted to rent costumes and buy makeup. So, she began a small rental business out of their house. Within a couple of years, they bought an empty building in a business district and Amy added ballet and dancewear as well as theatrical makeup and Morris Costumes was created.  That business grew to fill a massive warehouse complex and become one of the world’s largest suppliers of costumes, magician’s supplies and theatrical needs.

In 1979 Philip and I co-wrote a textbook ,which is still in print, on “How to Operate a Financially Successful Haunted House”.  It continues to be the reference manual for the Halloween Haunted House industry.

As Phil’s health declined from Alzheimer’s, his wife Amy and son, Scott, and daughter Terri took over the family business.

One of Phil’s legacies is he is known as one of the fathers of the Modern Halloween Holiday as we know it. The well-stocked, one-stop Halloween party store was his creation.







































I was happy to link up with many old friends at our “Day of Magic”  on September 23rd at the Holiday Inn Resort on Kirkman Road here in Orlando. It is the Resort where Dan works as a “land-based” cruise director and he helped arrange the location. Many of the Ring members and Board members did a magnificent job of volunteering and bring the event together. It was a success day with a big flea market along with several lectures.


Dennis Phillips







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August 2017  Meeting and Excited about Day of Magic

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

August 2017  Meeting

 President Craig Schwarz called the meeting to order and with 25 present.  He went over some brief announcements of upcoming ring and local magical events .

Bev Bergeron’s Teach-in featured his story of performing in LA for bank openings with Dai Vernon. Vernon was frustrated by the kids who would grab at his cups when doing the Cups & Balls. He said Bev only had a gag yet it “killed. ”Bev’s gag was something he saw. A clown using an old Lux Soap Bottle and string that looked like you were squirting soap on someone. He showed the method to Frances Marshall in Chicago and before long she put out the same effect with a Mustard Bottle. Today the gag is very common using both a mustard and ketchup plastic squeeze bottle.

Phil Schwartz presented Magic History Moment #87. It was on Magic Exposure over the years. Phil began with Penn & Teller being denied membership in the Magic Circle. Then he presented the history of Exposure Committees in all the major magic organizations where members like Blackstone, Dunninger and Devant were thrown out due to exposing secrets. He told of how Floyd Thayer was falsely accused and exonerated for allegedly exposing illusions to a Hollywood movie production and how Howard Thurston’s book was edited by the Expose Committee of the SAM in the early 1930s.

Phil’s insight into magic history made us aware of how things have changed in the way magicians understand magic exposure.

Phil Schwartz followed by being the comedy Emcee and Bev Bergeron opened the Ring show by turning selected playing cards red as they were revealed and finished with the Devano Rising Cards.  Dennis Phillips produced a live rabbit for a 3-d Bunny Box, showed the Marshall Vanishing Alarm Clock and finished by producing a person from a colorful Arabian tent illusion. Bev Bergeron recounted the story in how he was able to produce two people out of the tent using clever misdirection…

Craig Schwarz did an unbelievable card effect where a spectator selected card revealed. Joe Zimmer had a couple of volunteers come up to the table and he did a well-received classic Chop Cop routine. James Bailey the Third then had a helped assist and he did the Keller Rope tie Routine.  Jimmy Ichihana and Ed McGowan teamed up for a hilarious “memorized card deck” routine where Ed always knew which card was selected. J.C. Hyatt pulled apart twisted straws and did a color changing pocket knife routine with a vanish at the end.

Tom Parkin did a mind reading card effect where selected cards matched cards with holes and squares cut in them. Dan Stapleton closed with show with some excellent “play big” card magic that he used when he was a cruise director. He put a card deck back in order after a “slop shuffle” and did the Out of this World Card Trick but rather than any moves he simplified the ending into a powerful finish.

Dennis Phillips






Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

September 2017


The notes I handle no better than many pianists.

But the pauses between the notes-

Ah, that is where the art resides!

-Artur Schnabel

If you think back to amateurish magic performances, you are probably aware that one mark of an amateur is that they speak entirely too much meaningless verbiage. Or they have far too many body movements.

Part of the problem is that we are all used to broadcasting and especially radio where “dead air” is considered the biggest sin next to profanity.  When I was in radio, there was the fear that if you had any dead air for more than a second, the audience would change the station.

Most Top 40 programmers wanted to keep up the excitement level, so there were no pauses in the format. If you weren’t playing a records, you were running a station jingle, a commercial, the news, weather, time and temperature.

All the audio was modulated near the maximum all the time.  We used audio processors like a Gates “Level Devil” or Orban’s Opti-Mod.Station carrier output was at 125%!

But on stage with the visual element, silence can be golden and needed for emphasis and pacing. Watch a professional actor with the pauses, the deep breaths and sighs.

Watch a dancer where all the choreography is punctuated by pauses and  distinct movement to movement. As the late Carl Ballentine would say, “Every move a picture!”.

A relentless and continuous meaningless blur of words and  less-than-crisp physical movement distracts and inhibits the full perception of the content.

I hate to point out examples but here is an act that makes me dizzy watching and comes off hilariously silly, even though his basic dove effects are solid. He has far too many leg kicks, wobbles and is constantly bobbing up and down and side to side with no pauses. His music is entirely wrong. A little coaching and directing and more parsimony in movement would look better!


A few months back, I posted some pictures of Joseph Smiley. I heard from another fan of Joe’s , Gary Ponton,who lives in Virginia and he kindly sent some photos of Joe in the 1970s and with Gary’s permission, I would like to post them in the future.

I mentioned the name Frank Scalzo in that story of Joe Smiley and the other  Seaside Park acts ,I  immediately heard back from our past Ring president M.J. Emigh (now in Texas)  who knew Frank and commented what a small world it is.

Dan Stapleton also mentioned seeing Frank.

Scalzo was from Eastern Pennsylvania, in the Easton area  and I believe also owned a chain of Dry Cleaners. That gave him a lot of opportunity to work as a semi-professional. He was a frequent customer at Tannen’s and told me he had taken lessons from Slydini.

Frank had a classic 50s night club act. He was also one of the Boardwalk acts at Seaside Park in Virginia Beach where Joe Smiley played. The last time that I saw Frank was at the 1969 Abbotts Get Together where he won the “Jack Gwynne Award for Presentation”.

At that time his act had evolved into all his props being red and white with lots of red velvet. He was one of the few people who used the Super Dooper Floating Balloon and the finale of the trick was that he used it for a “Dove to Balloon”. The effect uses a blower fan that rotates and is hidden in

In the table. The balloon ( not helium but blown with breath) is held aloft and in position by the wind stream using the Bernoulli principle ( a part of the physics of fluid dynamics)  This science video tells you all you need to know https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUyD-NoDQWk

Of course’ Frank also had all sorts of complications with his act from the ocean breeze  and its effect on his delicate props and silks from the wind and the salty moist air.

For a few years, I used the floating balloon in my act but found the blower to be noisy and the trick could be ruined by the slightest breeze. One evening  the draft was very strong on stage from the air conditioner and I was at a loss as to how to solve the problem.  My long time stage assistant, the late Tony Todaro, suggested that I do the trick just like I did the Blackstone  floating handkerchief.   So I rigged the stage with black thread ,that I always carry to mend my pants and costumes if need be, and simply attached it to the balloon with a small bit of Scotch Tape. Tony manipulated the balloon well. The other end we tied off using some looped rubber bands to the other side of the stage, a Vince Carmen idea.  After that, I never chanced using the blower system again. It sits in my warehouse.

Here is the brochure that Frank Scalzo gave to me in 1961. Yes, I believe that Ed Mishell did the artwork.








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July 2017 Meeting packed with performers

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

July 2017  Meeting

 Although it was in the heat of the summer, our July meeting still saw twenty five attendees at the meeting. President Craig Schwarz called the meeting to order and introduced guests Patrick Goldberg, Tom Parkin, Don Carpenter and Nick Coomis. Schwarz then announced the upcoming (annual) Orlando Day of Magic to be held Sept. 9 at the Holiday Inn Resort-Lake Buena Vista. Only $15 for admission and two lectures…quite a deal for the day. Bev Bergeron gave a review of the combined SAM/IBM convention in Louisville and Dan Stapleton plugged the 2018 SAM convention to be right here in O-Town next summer.

Phil Schwartz presented his 86th Magic History Moment on the subject of Magic Restoration. He defined the meanings of restoration vs repair as well as a magic collector’s philosophy of doing each with antique magic apparatus. He showed a photo of a Thayer billiard ball stand that someone repainted in bright green and red. Then he showed the same piece after it had been restored to its original black and gold colors. Phil described the ways to preserve magic ephemera, antiquarian books and how to properly frame magic lithographs. He displayed examples of each with Thayer promotional pieces in 4 mil mylar and other acid-free materials, a 1739 book in an acid-free container and a framed Leon Herrmann window card museum mounted behind UV Plexiglas.

Phil also did master of ceremonies duties for the second half of our meeting. He introduced eleven performers using classic one-liners from Robert Orben, Sid Lorraine, Jimmy Muir and Terry Seabrooke.

 And then it was time for the magic presentations, usually submitted by only a choice few, but this month we had ten performers showing their “chops”. Phil Schwartz was MC with his new/old one- liners, many of which still gain laughs along with a few groans. Ventriloquist Jackie Manna was up first showing a few of her newest additions created by artist and magic engineer, Chance Wolf. Jackie introduced her magician-puppet, “Marvelo” and had fun with her “skunky”. Bev Bergeron performed his sponge ball routine ending with his wonderful impromptu vanishing glass (while standing) with two spectators on his sides!

Nick Coomis, from his weekly performances at Sleuth’s Mystery Theatre, showed the group his Linking Rings-to music with some beautiful moves. Mark Fitzgerald performed a slick card spelling revelation. Greg Solomon commanded his little balloon mouse to jump through a hoop of sharp daggers in meeting his fate, only to be miraculously resurrected appearing in a paper bag. Josh Arroyo performed a very nice routine with acrobatic cards…very smooth.

Tom Parkin must be an inventor in coming up with a digital/video of finding a card, on screen. Dan Stapleton performed the world’s fastest card trick that lasted three minutes. It actually took two seconds but nearly three minutes to get there. Terry Ward is a true professional and cracks up every audience, this time with a fun card trick revelation with the help of a magnifying glass. Really fun. Michael Madsen, from The Great Magic Hall, was very entertaining with his three card trick that contained large holes, looking absolutely impossible. Closing the show was the star of the recent Penn & Teller television show, Jimmy Ichihana, who again, amazed us all with his amazing skills with a deck of cards. Jimmy is truly an up-and-coming star of magic.

Report by -Dan Stapleton (Secretary Dennis Phillips was away on a family trip to Virginia)






Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

August 2017

 “Hypotheses non fingo “

-Issac Newton-

Massive internet exposure continues and it is good that most lay people do not care:

(I am just reporting the facts and offer no reasoning other than that we live in a “Post-Modern Magic Era”)


It really is the end of the classic style illusion show of the  Modern Magic era.

The end was brought about by several factors:

*The Internet and instant ubiquitous secrets ,as well as unlimited handheld amusement and shorter attention spans.

*The Mega destination resort where the audience moves and the complex show stays. These killed the smaller amusement attractions.

*The economic and social collapse of small towns and rural areas along with the dissolution of “community” which destroyed the marketing base.

*Competitive Capitalism without regard for local culture and art. Also seen in the end of local non-news TV programming and local radio.

*Complex Theatrical technology which makes everything else obsolete and mundane.

*The only economically viable magic market: Walk around and street magic.

I watched most of this happen during the 1980s to 2000.

In my show markets, of small towns, as local factories, the economic base evaporated , downtowns died and only the regional Walmart survived.

The pace quickened with the 2008 Great Recession and Malls began to die. Middle class and small town America has not reverse the downward trend since the 1980s

In the meantime, more jobs are headed off shore, more social division, more Malls and stores close, there are less stage magic shows….

Sadly for magicians, America may never have great stage magic again.

Perhaps one reason is that most Illusionists perform the same dozen illusions. This seems to be a sad fact. I realize they may not have the ability to pay for creative consultants or cannot  make their own unique illusions.

Spend one hour on YouTube and view videos and you will find this to be true: Same illusions, same choreography, same movements and same presentations

Here are 12 illusions that are too commonly seen in programs of illusionists worldwide:



Packing Crate Sub Trunk

Fire Spiker

Suspended Animation

Fire Cage

Modern Art

Wakeling Sawing

Mini Kub Zag

Chair or Broom Suspension

Snowstorm/ Snow Animator

Floating Table

The last two are not illusions but they are larger stage effects and almost everyone performs them.

So what drives this uniformity?

1) Convenience. It is easier to buy a stock illusion prop rather than to create, prototype and fabricate an original illusion.

2) Illusionists want no risk. They would rather invest in illusions that are proven. Seeing another illusionists success with an illusion makes it easy to feel assured of the same reactions from the audience.

3) Illusionists feel confident with the illusions. Their judgment is compromised because they believe they will succeed with that illusion.

4) More than a handful of illusionists do not care that they are performing the same (and pirated) illusions because they feel their audience reacts well to those illusions

5) Technology has made the world flat and the Internet & YouTube allow media to be shared worldwide at the click of a mouse. Illusions are also more accessible to illusionists from different parts of the world because of the Internet.

Illusionists say: “it is not what you do, but how you do it!” That is true, but only if you do something different. Just because you use a different piece of music or smile instead of act dramatic or add a costume change at the illusion does not warrant enough of a difference.

The people who do matter, educated clients, agents, show bookers , the media know the difference.  If you want to make it to the top, you need to not be the “best” but be “the only” and that means a lot of originality.


My wife keeps telling me about “Chicken Soup for the Soul” articles. Reader’s Digest Warm and Fuzzies, I call them.

I think she subscribes to online “Chicken Soup for the Soul” articles.

I always considered them, as good as they may be, stories that appeal mostly to women. In fact, I’d hazard the guess that if there were only men in the world (hah!) that the multi-million-dollar “Chicken Soup” industry would have been dead in the water from the get-go. Yes, we men are sentimental, but not THAT sentimental!  — Not enough to build an “emotional empire” on it, anyway.  Oprah was built on female appeal.  Nothing wrong with that. I am just taking a realistic look at marketing and audience demographics.

Here is humor for a limited market but it would probably be a loyal one:

“CHICKEN SOUP for the STARVING MAGICIAN”     Byline: For the magician who is having trouble putting FOOD on the table — they’ll always have CHICKEN SOUP!”

Note the byline: So I looked for “Chicken Soup for the MAN’S Soul” — it doesn’t exist!

And just how BIG is this industry? It’s astounding: http://www.amazon.com/Most-Popular-quot-Chicken-Books/lm/R381X3M8XAEUV

I had an old friend years ago who had been a music director on Broadway. At one point, Liberace flew him out to Vegas to interview for being Liberace’s Music Director.   My friend said, Liberace told him, “My secret is that I PLAY TO THE WOMEN! They are where the money is!”

All marketers know this… Copperfield’s biggest demographic was late 20s women with a kid or two. There has never been a successful general public magician or illusionist whose main appeal was not to women.

I am not sure that some of these gender classifications work anymore.  David Blaine and Cris Angel do not seem like Fabio type guys, although Angel has recently glammed up his image. Lance Burton and Copperfield may be the last of a kind.

Most of the magic acts on America’s Got Talent seem more geeky or bizarre than with the sophistication of Channing Pollack, Norm Neilson or Marvin Roy.

Consider that in your career planning.

Dennis Phillips



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