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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Chris Rawlins Mentalist lecture March 2018

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

March 2018  Meeting

President Mark Matson brought the meeting to order.  Forty people were in the seats.  Thanks to Craig Schwarz  we have a new look to our website: . Special guest Dan Rodriguez, Executive Director of The Society of Young Magicians too  few minutes before the lecture to discuss the history & creation of the S.Y.M. & methods in which we may recruit younger members and pass the magical arts to the next generation.

Our lecture was by English mentalist, Chris Rawlins ,whose mentalism has earned him top accolades by some of magic’s greatest names as well as a strong reputation for his clever thinking. He opened up with a classic psychic effect. He was able to predict who would sit in which chair and in which order. His method was simple but very effective. He next did a design duplication, where he draws what a spectator drew in private. The method he used was original with him and involved inexpensive items easily found at an office supply store.  He then had an effect which he credited to the late Bob Cassidy. White note cards had movie names and Chris was able to predict who chose what movie.  He then had a “one card poker” effect when he always had the higher card. Chris then demonstrated a shuffled and then flash memorized deck, the classic “White Dwarf” effect , which is another design duplication. He concluded with a novel way in which the spectator freely selects a card  and then the spectator seems to have psychic powers , that he was unaware of, and eliminates cards one by one and the last one is his card.

Chris is a very likable performer with a rapid fire delivery, in an English accent. It is filled with stream-of-consciousness comments about the source of the effect and alternate presentations. He has some very intriguing and diabolical presentation techniques that all excellent mental magic demands.

Dennis Phillips





Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

April 2018

“I was very mature for my age. In fact, I was born with a moustache. My mother was tickled to death”

-Fielding West-

When I was a kid, I always wondered, when I saw the lock-and-keys trick named “Seven Keys to Baldpate” — where the name came from. I suppose now, that when Annemann named it , everyone already knew this:

In 1913, American novelist Earl Derr Biggers (who wrote the Charlie Chan mysteries) penned a comedic mystery novel titled “Seven Keys to Baldpate”, that became so famous that it inspired as many as seven film adaptation, and a smash Broadway stage play of the same name. It also inspired Gordon and Ethel Mace to borrow the catchy name, as well as the theme of the story, for their mountain hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.

“Seven Keys to Baldpate” is a story about a writer who attempts to write a novel within 24 hours. Seeking some peace and seclusion, the novelist travels to remote summer mountain resort named Baldpate Inn, in the dead of winter, and locks himself in, believing he has the only key. But all throughout the night, visitors keep barging in through the door—seven times in all. Everyone had a key to the Baldpate Inn.

I do the Lee Earle/Larry Becker version.  I use an normal Master lock and 5 similar keys but the real one is steel, the others brass. Most Ace Hardware stores can fix you up. I have a small paper bag and a tiny Nico magnet that  sticks through the bottom to the steel key. All five spectators are invited to take a free choice from the bag you are holding with your palm underneath. When the magnet falls into your hand you know that spectator has the key!   The whole impact of the effect is reliant on your skill at story and acting.

My Canadian friend, Larry Thornton suggested  a version that he constructed himself . He says that it is  likely not original with him.  He said that all the shoulders of all of the keys were cut back enough so all keys, if pushed in too far will not work . He gimmicked the keys with a file and vice.  A fancy-looking treasure chest had a padlock on it.  Each of six people selected a key, and the last (7th) key was left for the magician. The key holders are instructed to push the keys well into the lock before turning. The last key to go in is pulled back a quarter of an inch by the performer. When turned ,it springs open the lock. Presentation is important he adds.


A magician, unable to find enough employment doing magic, is hired by the circus to walk behind the elephants and shovel their droppings into a pail as they walk in line.

He is seen by a news reporter getting peed on and dumped on many times during the parade. Each time he throws his broom down, kicks the poop pail and cusses.

The reporter follows him to the end of the parade and says, “Hey Buddy, can I ask you a few questions?” The magician snaps back, “Okay ask me!”.  The reporter says, “I have been watching you in the parade and you have been crapped and peed on. You must love your job?”

The magician answers, “You have to be joking! It’s a horrible job. I  have to walk behind those  huge beasts and shovel up their crap. My arms are exhausted and my shirt, shoes and pants are filthy and every night I shower and I still can’t get the stink off of me!”

The reporter says, “Then you must be paid very well with good benefits and a retirement?”

The magician says, “Are you kidding me? I get paid minimum wage and have to pay kickbacks to even get this job. I never come out ahead. I have debts that you cannot imagine!”

The reporter probes more, “Then you must like the people you work with?”  The magician grits his teeth and says, “ You aren’t serious! They are all back-bitters and thieves and will stab you in the back if they could!”

The reporter is baffled. He finally asks, “Well then why don’t you just quit? Find a better and more rewarding job to do? I’m sure you have a skill and talent that can be put to use somewhere else!”

The magician gets a look of horror on his face and blurts back, “WHAT!? And give up Show business!?”

That is a classic funny show-business joke… Originally it was about a clown in the circus…I switch the job role.

It is quite well known and told in Hollywood . Johnny Carson many times  on his show  but he only told the punch line in response to actors who talked about personal problems. Everyone knew the story behind the joke when they heard the punchline.

Buddy Hackett: It was a tough room to play in the early days. Drunk guys would throw bottles, the dressing rooms were dirty and cold, there were rats backstage.

Carson: Tough job. Every consider quitting?

Hackett: What? And give up show business?

Carson’s guests like, Hackett, like Dom DeLuise and Joan Rivers, started out in show business as inexperienced no-talents who wanted desperately to get into show business in the worst way. And “the worst way” is how all three did it. I read River’s autobiography an eternity ago, and she was stealing everybody else’s jokes, and she recounts how a very young fat guy did an actual belly-flop off a balcony of a tiny theater, onto the stage. Turns out it was Dom DeLuise, who, as a rank beginner in show business, would do almost anything for a laugh. Same with Buddy Hackett.  But through incredible persistence and a heck of a lot of hard work, all three talents ended up becoming just that: highly talented in comedy.

Like Milton Berle and Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers (over the span of her career) built a massive collection of jokes and one-liners that were meticulously filed on index cards in metal file cabinets. Her daughter gave a journalist a tour of River’s home, and the collection of material in the rooms was astounding. Rivers kept everything — costumes, awards, photos, you name it.

Another guy who worked very hard at comedy, in a cerebral kind of way, even, was Flip Wilson. I guess the devil made him do it! (One of his famous lines if you are too young to remember)  …And we’ve lost count of the many dozens of brilliantly funny and successful comedians who, we’ll after they’d achieved fame and fortune, then admitted that when they started out, they were terrible.

The difference is that back then, there were “low-expectation” venues to be bad. There were lots of supper clubs, circuits and places to practice and “get it right” and learn, plus a lot of mentors. Those don’t exist anymore. Today, if you don’t hit the stage with a solid act, you never get on it again.

The Borscht Belt was a place to develop and act and that is why most of the New York comedians, up until the 1960s, mostly learned there and became the foundation of TV variety show comedy and writing. The original Comedy Clubs were created in the 70s to fill that gap. Now, you can tune into top-notch entertainment on your 500 channel TV or download millions of You-Tube comedy videos.

Because of the lack of a farm system today,  far too many magicians have the distinction of starting out abysmally also. — And with a lot of persistence and hard work, they stay that way!  Probably it is not totally their fault. We need mentors today and lots of places to start out, learn and develop an act.


Okay, I am a stage guy… I just thought that you would enjoy seeing this twist of The Floating Microphone trick.

If you like the background song, you can find it here

I think the magician does a great job on the video demo on the Penguin Magic site….  It combines several principles and is very visual. Sadly, the effect is out of stock at this time.


A friend asked me:


Do you know how to do the bed of nails stunt? Someone asked me if I could do it? How would you make it?


I responded:

The Nail Bed Carnival stint , it is based on the Physics principle that distributing the weight , lessens the pressure on each nail and the pressure is less than the amount to break the skin and cause you harm.

You would need to buy a ¾ inch sheet of plywood 2 feet by 4 feet and space the nails (large spike nails) no greater than half inch apart.  Lots of hole drilling and the bed will be very heavy! (Think of all the steel in it)

Regarding the Bed Of Nails engineering.

Engineering is based on building math models. Since all energy and motion and matter are changing, you need a math to be able to tell rates of change and amounts of change and that is called “Calculus”.  Otherwise it is expensive “trial and error”. Years ago circus prop builders way overbuilt the stability of their props.  There is an old joke: An Optimist sees a glass half full. A Pessimist seems it half empty. An engineer looks at it and calculates and says, “That glass is twice as big as it needs to be!”

One of the grand principles behind of math and engineering is Euler’s Constant. “e” .   (2.71828)  This is called the “natural logarithm”.  You may have seen that button on financial calculators and it can be found anywhere there is a need for calculating uniform changing rates and amounts of change . In finance, we use it for computing the money amounts for mortgage and interest rates.

It has to do with continuously dividing a function curve into smaller and small parts until more dividing gives you less and less return.

In math we say a natural logarithm  forms an asymptote. (Slowly rises to infinity)

This all was discovered by computing interest rates on money way back when lending money with interest was first allowed by the church! ( 1600s)

i.e. if I get 10% interest on 100 dollars paid yearly, at the end of the year I have $110.  (i = prt)  BUT, if I paid the yearly rate every 6 months, then at the end of 6 months you would have $5 deposited to your account, and you would be then earning interest on that!  So.. at the end of the year you would have a little more than $110!

Obviously if I paid you at the 10% rate every month, you would have even more and if I compounded the interest daily, you would have more still!

This is the power of compound interest!   BUT, the more you cut up the time you pay the additional interest payments, there is a division rate where your return increases very little, and this where Euler’s Constant comes in…  It gives you that information.

This is what the “e” button means on a calculator that you use for your financial figuring.

The “function curve” on the Bed of Nails ( gravity force on your body divided by the distance distribution of the nail heads) is

what you would use to make the prop.  Of course, all that has already been worked out. Here is the story behind it:

As you know from Physics, Weight = Mass x g

(g=9.8 m/s2) So, they worked out the force on the skin, and the elasticity and breaking point of the skin. Unless you plan and slamming your body into the bed, all you need to worry about is the weight because you will have no velocity. It becomes apparent that spacing the nails too close will give you no safety advantage and may make the method obvious.

The “natural logarithm” (“e”) is used a lot in calculus and engineering.

This is because it models “rates of change” on curving functions. (the Calculus Derivative  dy/dx – slope is defined by “rise over run” and is the rate of change at that point) Everything about material existence has a “rate of change” (Differential Calculus) . “The amount of change” (Integral Calculus) is the area under a designated segment of a curve, called an integral.  They are both connected by the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.

Fourier Analysis ( indispensable for sound and video compression engineering) is vital. Recall that all these contain waves.




You can see the integral goes from infinity to infinity. You can see the “e” and the “i” ( imaginary number of the phase vector) and the 2 pi. That is math short-hand for a complete wave revolution. (Circumference = 2 pi  times the radius)

Fourier Transforms are wonderful for converting solution methods  for differential equations into simply arithmetic, adding -subtracting -dividing and multiplying.

I am sure your audio and video editing programs you have seen terms like Fourier, Nyquist Shannon Sampling rate ( 44.1)

All of this is important.  Every good artist in a technical field like audio-visual production should have a basic understanding of these things.

I was intrigued, as a kid, by all this and the late Math Magician ,Martin Gardner’s writings were an inspiration. In his later years, we corresponded.


Some Reasons Why You Should Join a Magic Club and FAME.

  1. To learn from other members who have a good background in magic
  2. To meet visiting pros, part-time pros, and skilled amateurs
  3. To get the monthly magazines with tricks, reviews, ads, news
  4. To get member discounts at conventions and lectures
  5. To give back to the art by helping others

Also, you benefit by face-to-face networking with other magicians who you meet through magic clubs–networking that leads to more shows including doing magic for clients and companies. Plus, you learn the way the magic business works, if that is your desire and lay people respect that you are a member of a magic organization.

A lot depends of course on who else is in the magic club. And virtual on-line magic clubs like The Magic Cafe and Facebook groups like this one have stolen some of the thunder that used to belong to local magic clubs. But you should still go to the monthly meetings and do what you can to make them worthwhile. By belonging to and supporting the local magic club you are honoring your mentors and those who helped you become the magician that you are today.


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