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!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFU4nOoFMm0

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dennis

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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”)

https://brightside.me/article/the-fascinating-explanations-behind-six-classic-magic-tricks-41605utm_source=fb_r69f58&utm_campaign=2a68c0ad80ab&utm_medium=cpm

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:

Origami

Interlude

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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June 2017 Meeting and stories of Dr. Elliott and The Smileys

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

June 2017  Meeting

President Craig Schwarz called the meeting to order with 30 present. Tom Parking was with us again and we welcomed Don Arthur, one of the founding members. Don had a long career as a magician with the Ringling show and wrote, “Illusions in the Round” and worked with Night Club great Tony Marks.

Our Day of Magic, a mini convention is coming up the first week of September.  Craig also showed the logo and T-Shirt design he came up with for the combined IBM-SAM Convention.

Bev Bergeron’s Teach-in featured all the fun you can have with the uncommon Two Dollar bill on waitresses.

Phil Schwartz presented Magic History Moment #85.  He spotlighted Dr. James William Elliott who was called the “Card Wonder of the 19th Century” by The Mahatma.  Born in 1874 he trained at Harvard and became a medical doctor. He preferred magic and worked for Servais LeRoy as Bosco and later for Felix Herrmann.  He left touring to perfect card manipulation and sold secrets to his effects for high prices. In September of 1898, he published a challenge in which any man in the world could dispute his claim to the title “Champion Card Manipulator of the World.” He offered big money prize, a challenge which was never accepted. The 1923 book “Elliott’s Last Legacy” was edited by Houdini three years after Elliott died of kidney disease.  Phil showed a nice original LeRoy Talma Bosco poster and drew a connection between Thayer and Elliott. He also brought and demonstrated the original 1933 Thayer Silk Cabby.

Dennis Phillips opened up the meeting show by showing the props in the Joe and Georgi Smiley Dove Act, Dove Catching, a fall apart box vanish and a paper frames reappearance. Joe and Georgie performed up until 1995  Dan Stapleton did one of his signature effects, Miraskill. Dan has taken the Stewart James card effect to greater heights. Dan apparently can weigh cards and know how many of each color are in the pack. Greg Solomon, ever in the lookout for inexpensive effects showed a clever math effect using cards with numbers and cut outs on them. He was able to know a selected number. Jams Bailey III showed a dollar bill mysteriously penetrating through rubber bands held by a spectator.

John Arroyo had a very polished Okito /Boston Box routine with coins vanishing out of the box and into the box. Jimmy Ichinana , card wiz, shuffled a deck of cards and somehow quickly got his fingers where each kind was in the deck. He then made the kings migrate through the deck and finish on top.

Dennis Phillips

 

 

 

 

Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

July 2017

The Smileys

“Joe, Joe! the birds are out.”

“The birds are out? Well, let’s find them!”

 -Joe and Georgi Smiley introducing their Dove Act with Dove Catching-

 

 

 

In the photo with Kenny and me  is Joe and Georgi Smiley. I was 12 years old.

The above photo was made in July of 1961  at Seaside Park at Virginia Beach, Virginia.  My late brother, Kenneth, is on the left.

In the back ,on stage, you can see The Chinese Chopper, Houdini Pillory and on the floor is the duck cage for “Where do the Ducks Go”

This is a blast from the past!   My adventures from 56 years ago. Relive them with me.

My Dad was in the Navy and stationed at Dam Neck, Virginia and my family lived in Virginia Beach. I went to Linkhorn Park Elementary in Virginia Beach where one classmate was Julie Shepard, the daughter of Alan Shepard, our first man in space.

Langley Air Force Base in Virginia was the astronaut’s headquarters before Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston was built.  The day of Shepard’s flight, she stayed home from school. The whole school watched the short flight on a TV in the cafeteria.

Most weekends I begged my mother to take me to downtown Norfolk to Earl Edwards Magic Shop where I might see Bob McAllister behind the counter. Bob went on to star in Wonderama, the New York based kid’s TV show,. In 1961 he worked for WTAR TV.

Also familiar during those years was Charles “Chuck” Windley who had been at the local Western Theme town “Frontier City”. By 1961 he moved to New York. We magically connected again in the late 60s when Charles lived near me in Bowie, Maryland.

Years earlier, I had seen Harry Blackstone Sr. at the Center Theater in Norfolk. He did a very slimmed down routine and I think  that it he was just an act in a variety show. He was no longer touring the big show.

You can imagine the thrill that I got on hearing that Joe Smiley was bringing his illusion show to Seaside Park for two weeks.

 

In those days, Dudley Cooper owned Seaside Park and Oceanview, both were seaside boardwalks and amusement parks.  Each has an outdoor stage and Cooper would book in variety acts. He also used magician Frank Scalzo.

The Smileys were regulars playing there every year.  Joe and Georgi were from Lewistown, Pennsylvania and Joe’s brother was a circus clown and Joe also worked in little theater and at the local radio station.  He had a very deep mellow voice such as David Seebach, Harry Blackstone and David Chauvet’s. His diction was perfect and elegant.

Many of his props were Abbotts, but he used a Marshall Botania and Plumes. Joe  had made several of the props himself: The Buzz Saw was made  from an A.B. Brill Carnival equipment plan, The Woman from TV (combination mirror and shadow box) was his design as was the Dog House (Tip over box).

He used a P&L bowl of water vanish and a Thayer Houdini Pillory Escape and Devil’s Mailbox.

The day came for Joe to show up on the last week of June and I had to be there. My mother refused to drive me the 3 miles to the beach so I told her I would walk. Mind you this is before cell phones, so she gave me a pocket full of coins. She allowed me to do it because my elementary school was at the half way point but she was not really comfortable with me walking.  I got to the grandstand and Joe had pulled his step van up to the stage to unload props and was nearing completion. I walked up and said, “Wow, All that stuff is in the Abbott’s Catalog!”   He said, “Well young man, I can see you like magic and are probably good at it.” I said, “Yes and I even built a Dagger Head Chest, Square Circle and Chink Cans.” He said, “Very good! Meet Georgi.”  Suddenly he treated me like his Grandson. “Is your Mom or Dad here?”, “No, why don’t you call your Mom and tell her where you are and you met the magician and he gave you a job”. “Make sure you drink lots of water, it is hot outside”. I rode with him to park the van next to his travel trailer in a lot across the street. He had me sit in the back of the van (we used to call them a bread truck) and assemble the Chinese Chopper with all the screws, washers and wing nuts. He emerged in a few minutes from the trailer in a full-evening cutaway Tailcoat suit.  We walked back over to the grandstand. I carried the chopper. Georgi had used the office dressing room and was now in a stylish cocktail dress.

 

 

 

Joe had a reel to reel tape recorder and he explained that he recorded  the tapes at his radio station. He started the pre-show music and the park secretary came over to the side of the stage and took a microphone and did the introduction. “Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s show time! The Marvels of Mystery, Joe and Georgi Smiley….”

 

Joe came out and took total command of the stage.  “ Welcome Ladies and Gentleman. This afternoon we are going to make things appear and make things disappear and the boy sitting right over there ( he pointed to a random kid) may disappear just like that (He snapped his fingers).

But let’s get started. I have some amazing  magic. Let me show you!.”  A Walsh cane transformed into a silk and he went into an Abbotts Round-Circle production (method like the Square Circle)  silks appeared and then he did a clever steal and produced two large feather flower bouquets, a long streamer and ended with two giant flag staffs. Next was his Dove routine with Dove Catching, vanishing from a breakaway box and reappear in the paper frames. His first audience participation was 20th Century Silks. Followed by a sucker version of the Twin Die Boxes  and then his Chinese Death board with 3 volunteers. He then went into his finale with the haunted parasol, color changing plumes, blooming bouquet and finally the giant Marshall botania.

Well that did it!  I was at every show that he did for the next two weeks. The following week my Mother and Father invited Joe and Georgie to come to the house for a home cooked spaghetti dinner.  Joe was more than kind to look at all my creations which included a fair number of oatmeal boxes covered with contact paper and painted tin cans.  He also loaded me up with samples of his advertising materials and brochures.

That began my friendship with Joe and the next summer of 1962, he was back for a repeat.

Between knowing Joe and being mentored by Bob McAllister and Troy Strait  and regularly watching The Magic Land of Allakazam  with Mark, Nani and Bev, I had a good start toward my own magic career. A little later in the 60s Charles Windley and I reconnected .

In this photo below I am on stage at Seaside Park at Virginia Beach in July of 1961. I am on the left of the photo with the two 20th century silks in my T-shirt. Joe is vanishing one in his P&L Change Bag.

In the photo behind Joe you can see his Dove Frame production, The Dog House to produce Sir Chumley , the St. Bernard and the TV set that Joe produced Georgi from. The color changing plumes are on top of the TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this photo, Joe is doing his Chinese Death Board (Grandma’s Neckless) with three audience volunteers. The blue draped table  used for his silk production is seen along with The very edge of the top frame of his Buzz Saw (Goldin Style open sawing a woman through)

 

 

Joe with his Abbotts Dove Catching.

“The birds are no longer out”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe died in 1995. Georgi died November 18, 2005 in Lewistown, Pennsylvania.  She was 96 years old.

Georgi sawed through with a visible sawing that Joe made from an A.B. Brill Plan.

 

 

 

 

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