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: www.ring170.com . 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. http://www.penguinmagic.com/p/S19745

If you like the background song, you can find it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBfE9UPTfg8

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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Plans for Day of Magic Announced at February Ring Meeting

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

February 2018  Meeting

Incoming Ring President Mike Matson brought the meeting to order.  He brought up the discussion from the board meeting before the meeting and asked for approval of the board’s decisions. Our Day of Magic will be this May, with the date to be determined. It will include lectures and a flea market.

It was good to see some working full-time professionals back with us for a visit: Nathan Coe Marsh and Scott Pepper, who is now based in San Antonio, Texas. Guest Brandon Jackson from Goldsboro, North Carolina and Greg Solomon’s son, Eric.

Bev Bergeron’s Teach-In recalled the problems with carrying a “Color Changing Pocket Knife” on an airliner  and the correct way to do The Gypsy Thread effect. Bev said the original is the best, using wool yarn.

Phil Schwartz presented Magic History Moment #90, the strange history of The Swastika Magic Company. He began by presenting an ABC Block routine with Chinese blocks. The red block vanished between two other colored blocks in a stack and reappeared in a box. Phil mentioned that the original characters on the blocks were swastikas.  In the last 7 decades of the 20th Century the Swastika Symbol became stigmatized from its use as an icon of the German Nazi Party.  It had been a 5,000 year old sacred symbol in many religions and in the Western world a symbol of good luck. Used that way, it could be found in the pre-Nazi era on magic props. Sometime before 1904 John Petrie, the son of a clipper ship cabin boy turned factor owner, renamed  his metal working magic company, the Swastika Magic Company. He operated it from a shed behind his Connecticut home. Several years later, in 1909  Petrie teamed with A.C. Gilbert to form the Mysto Magic Company and dropped the Swastika name. The Mysto name was suggested by Petrie’s wife by combining the words mysterious and presto. In 1917 Petrie met banker Tom Lewis and formed the P & L magic company. Phil mentioned in the 1920s there was a mentalist names Swastika and an Allentown, Pennsylvania Swastika Magic Society. During World War Two, the Abbott Magic company sold a paper tear where a Swastika and Rising Sun were torn and transformed into a U.S. Defense Bond Poster.

Mike Matson opened up the monthly show with a Valentine themed Ring and String routine using a heart shaped ring and red string. He followed up with a torn corner of a selected card appearing inside  what appeared to be a wrongly predicted card.

Dan Stapleton presented the classic O’Henry  Card trick where he makes a prediction of a card  that was selected.  Brandon Jackson named a card selected and it was the only one of a different color.

Nathan Coe Marsh tried out a new routine he was working on. He took a Mike Close effect and made it staged sized. He invited a female assistant to “do-as-I-do” with IKEA signs. The humor was that it is difficult to follow IKEA directions. Of course, Nathan always got the signs in the right order but the assistant hilariously could not.

Dennis Phillips


Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

March 2018


“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster.

And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.”











All we baby boomer magicians know that Kellogg ‘s, was the original sponsor of Mark Wilson’s “Magic Land of Allakazam”.  Because a large consumer base for breakfast cereals have been kids, the cereal companies became tied in with magicians and magic.

What boy Baby Boomer did not get a few magic tricks off the back of cereal products or find tricks inside?

Few know that mass marketed manufactured Breakfast cereals are a unique American invention. It all started in the late 1800s at a 7th Day Adventist affiliated sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan run by John Harvey Kellogg an MD.  He was looking for a meatless breakfast for theological reasons. Dr. Kellogg was a deeply religious doctor who believed that cereal would both improve Americans’ health and keep them from masturbating and desiring sex. (Only half of his message made it into their later ads.) John Harvey wanted to return to the Garden of Eden and that meant living in innocent nakedness, so he favored nudity but used a bathrobe for modesty.

A perennial assumption among vegetarians is that vegetarianism increases longevity. Somehow this meshed with American religion and personal holiness.  In the last century, Grahamites—devotees of the Christian “hygienic” philosophy of Sylvester Graham (1794-1851)—taught that adherence to the Garden of Eden lifestyle would eventuate in humankind’s reclamation of the potential for super longevity, such as that ascribed to Adam (930 years) or Methuselah (969 years). By the way, Graham’s messages inspired the creation of today’s Graham Cracker. He would have been quite upset that Nabisco added sugar to the cracker and would he detest using them as a melted chocolate and marshmallow campfire treat.  Sylvester Graham was no relation to the late evangelist, Billy Graham.

The Adventists (who are now big in the hospital business, especially locally here in Florida!)  still follow a movement called Restoration Theology from the American Second Great Awakening.  It basically believed that people should get back to a meatless “Garden of Eden” type lifestyle (along with not burning with lust -1 Corinthians 7:9 ) because the world is ending soon and God will save and restore only  those who choose to live that way. Near the end of the 1800s, health and healing, were big religious, as well as secular movements.

John Harvey Kellogg created some tasteless and bland cereals because he preached to avoid the 5 White deaths: White Flour, White Sugar, White Salt, White Lard and White alcohol… See! Dr. Oz is nothing new!

One of his patients at Battle Creek was a mentally unbalanced promoter/salesman named C.W. Post (later became very rich but committed suicide) who copied the foods but added lots of sugar and salt and created Postum, the breakfast drink (overly roasted barley grain), Grape-Nuts and Post Toasties.

Not to be topped, John Harvey Kellogg’s brother, W.K. was not as religious, so he started sugaring up his brother’s “health food” so he could compete with C.W. Post! It worked. It made WK rich. This all began while John Harvey was on a mission trip to Europe.

WK breaking John Harvey’s rules led to them becoming estranged until shortly before their deaths. WK was making a whole lot of money.  The Battle Creek Sanitarium burned down in 1902. It was partly rebuilt but economically suffered in the Great Depression and became outdated due to modern antibiotics, psychiatric drugs  and medical care techniques and was eventually sold to the Army as a Hospital in World War Two.

But this was not the only quasi-religious and cultic nutritional approach!

Webster Edgerly, under the name Everett Ralston, published a 1900 edition of The Book of General Membership of the Ralston Health Club.  The name RALSTON came from Regime, Activity, Light, Strength, Temperation, Oxygen and Nature. Edgerly was also a racist. He promoted a superior race, based on Caucasians, and free from “impurities”. He advocated the castration of all “anti-racial” (non-Caucasian) males at birth.   Watermelons were supposed to be poisonous to Caucasians.  I am only telling you the historical facts. You will never feed your dog Puppy Chow again, will you?

Edgerly joined forces with William Danforth, of Purina Food Company, to take the name Ralston Purina Company. It made whole-wheat cereal that Ralstonites were to consume. Thus, the food company Edgerly founded evolved into what is now called Ralston Purina (Ralcorp) and was the original owner of the cereal brands Chex.

I will bet you never knew the connection of magic and breakfast cereals. With advertising and the consumer economy, much of this history has been lost!



I have to hand it to Dan Stapleton. He has the unique ability to dig into old books and recover what had been old chestnuts from bygone days and revive them and make them the foolers they used to be. At the last meeting he performed the O’Henry Card Trick. It is a self-working stunner. I could kick myself for dropping it out of my arsenal 40 years ago. What always made the trick so great was that what you think you saw is so much greater than what really happened and your mind is incapable of reverse engineering the procedure.

Let me help you out. Here is a link to a free site where the O’Henry Trick is explained, as well as dozens of others.  Bookmark it and look there.  There is magic gold buried on those free webpages!













Tommy Trent

The caption says:      To  Dennis! A refreshing young magician. You’re great!!

                                     Always your friend.

                                     Tommy Trent


The Tommy Trent “Punch and Judy” Routine

I met Tommy Trent during the Christmas Holidays in 1977. I was hired to work with him doing family-children’s shows for the employees at the Harris Company in Palm Bay, Florida.  My agent was Burton Van Dusen, an old vaudeville agent who was semi-retired and lived in Lake County.  Tommy had done the shows for years for the Harris Christmas Party but they had gone through a series of other acts and magicians and had not been pleased with them until Tommy and I became their team for the next 4 years. When variety shows faded in the early1960s Tommy became a draftsman. He would come up from Miami Beach for the show day.  We did six performances on the Saturday before Christmas.

When I first met him, I had no idea how famous Tommy was. He had been a top headliner at Radio City Music Hall and had appeared in the early 1950s on the Ed Sullivan Show with his “Punch and Judy” act.   Later, I was able to see his Sullivan act and Trent had definitely evolved his puppet’s personalities and modernized them.

Trent’s “Punch” during the 1970s was a mischievous immature child who was playing like an adult. Tommy no longer used a mouth swizzle.  Trent’s normal voice was naturally nasal and immature and sounded like Charlie McCarthy. Tommy just added a little more juvenile vocal tones for his Punch character.   Punch was playful and a big tease for the children. The classic violence was downplayed. The Baby became a baby doll and the slapstick was called a baseball bat. Punch was not a bully but a tease using ridicule and sarcasm.

Trent’s puppet stage was a 3 fold screen that was painted to look like a small house with 2 curtained windows below and a chimney. The puppets could poke their heads out of the 2 windows or come up on the flat roof or come up through the chimney.

Trent ad-libbed a lot when talking to the kids. Every year he would have a different set of puns and topical humor.  He would open the Christmas show with a 2 or 3 minute monologue out front and then go behind the stage.

In the early 90s, I called Jay Marshall in Chicago to ask about some magic props and I mentioned the name Tommy Trent. Jay asked, “Did you know Tommy Trent”?  I said, “Yes, I worked with him for a few years.”  Jay said, “Please tell me that you have a tape of his act.”  I said, “No, but I know it by heart”. Jay said, “Please write it down!”

Here now is Tommy’s basic routine as I remember it from the late 1970s and as I have performed it.


The Routine:

Punch: (pops up)   Oh!

(Looks around- shakes and looks some more as if he can not believe what he is seeing)

Oh! Hello boys and girls.

(Pauses and then says in a loud voice)


(Repeats again slower and louder)


That’s better!  Now… always let me know that you are out there.

We are going to have a lot of fun playing together.

Open up your eyes really wide (rubs fingers on head and then jerks to attention)

Oooba Oooba    that’s good!

Now open up your ears really big (again rubs fingers on head while shaking and says)

Arrrga   Arrga  Arrga   Ahhhh rump!  (And jerks to attention)

(Reaches down and grabs his slap stick)

I’ve got my stick and I am ready to play ball.  (Swings stick like a ball player)

Wee. Strike one!   (Swings again very overt and wildly swings 4 or 5 times)

(Judy comes up on the left but Punch does not see her. The kids will scream)

Strike two!  !   (Swings again very overt and wildly swings 4 or 5 times)

Judy:  You’re out!  (Judy pops up and ducks down)

Punch:  Who said that?   (Looks at audience)

Did you say that? Did you see someone boys and girls?

Judy pops up but Punch is looking to the right- bits of business with her popping up and the kids screaming at Punch to look at her as she pops down)

Ohhhkay.  Back to the game.  Wee… whooo.

(Punch swings the stick a couple of times and Judy pops up and grabs the stick and whacks him 5 or 6 times)

Judy: Hee hee hee,  Home run!  I win!

Punch:  Judy!  My wife! I love you Judy!

(Punch drops stick and grabs Judy and bends her over side ways kissing her all over with loud smooches- rocking back and forth and ending up pinning her to the stage. She tries to get away but he grabs her back)

Punch: What a heavy kisser!

(Judy finally breaks away and spits several time)

Judy: Tuh Tuh Puft Puft… Yuk!   Punch, I have to go shopping and I need you to take care of my doll baby.

Punch: The baby! The stinky little baby!  Pee-u!

(Judy brings up the baby and hands it to Punch)

Judy: You be nice to my baby.

Punch: (sarcastically) Oh, I’ll take care of the baby.

Judy: Bye bye. Have fun (Judy drops down)

(Punch swings baby wildly from side to side)

Punch: (sings) Rock-a-bye-baby on the tree top.

Go to sleep. Go to sleep, kid.

(Baby screams)

Wooooo ahhhhh!

Punch: Shaddd-up!

(bangs baby against the  stage a few times)

(Baby screams)

Wooooo ahhhhh!

Punch: Shaddd-up!

(bangs baby on the stage a few more times)

(Judy pops back up)

Judy: How dare you mistreat my baby!  Give me my baby!

(Punch holds on to the head while Judy pulls on the body- The baby has a stretchable rubber neck made from the rubber tubing on a shark gun)

Judy: Give me my baby!

(Neck stretches out long with rocking and pulling by Judy with the body)

Punch: You want the baby?  Do you really want the baby?

Judy: Give—me—my—baby!

Punch: You can have him!

(Punch lets go of the head and the head flies back knocking Judy and the baby down and off the set)

Punch: Ha Ha!  Got rid of the stinky little baby!

(you will need to fill a little time while changing your hands in the puppets. Move punch from side to side as if looking for something and talking to the audience at the same time. This is the standard filler)

Punch: Root-ee Toot-ee Toot-eee. Who else do I see? Do you see anyone?

Ghost comes up behind Punch alternating from the left to the right side without Punch seeing him. Ghost hold out hands making a spooky sound)

Ghost:  Oooo Oooo Oooo

(Kids scream at Punch)

Punch: What is it?  Who? Where?

Ghost:  Oooo Oooo Oooo

(Do bits of business with Punch looking one way and ghost going on the other side. Finally the ghost and Punch come face to face)

Punch:  Yikes! (Shakes with fear)

Who are you?

Ghost: Ooooo  Ooooo

(Punch gets up courage and becomes sassy)

Punch:  You don’t say much, do you?

(Ghost gets angry and speaks louder)

Ghost: Ooooo  Oooooo!

Punch: You lost a lot of weight, Skinny. You need to eat better! You look really pale.

You need a little meat on those bones.

Ghost: Huhh?  (Does a double take to the audience then turn in anger to Punch)

(Even louder, holds out hands)


(Punch looks at the audience, laughs, goes down and returns with slap stick)

Ghost:  Oooo Oooo Ooooo Ooooo?  ( voice gets weaker and with a kind of up inflection as if he is asking the question if Punch is scared)

(Punch beats down Ghost and looks down)

Punch: Go wash your sheets, use lot’s of bleach!  Ha ha!  I took care of him didn’t I,

boys and girls?  (Looks down and yells) Find somebody else to scare!  Ha ha.

Root-ee Toot-ee Toot-eee. Who else do I see? Do you see anyone?

(Devil comes up behind Punch- same bits of business with kids yelling and Punch looking in the wrong direction. Finally they come face to face)

Punch: Oh!

(Devil with deep slow evil voice)

Devil: Mr. Punch, I have come for you!

Punch: You are really red! You have good sunburn!

Devil: No, I have a BAD sunburn!

Punch: Huh? (pause) (Does a double take to the audience) I guess that makes sense.

Devil:  Mr. Punch, I have come to take you down, down down

(moves down as he says this)

Punch: I don’t wanna go down down down. I wanna go up up up

(For this bit both puppets are moving together up and then down)

Devil:  Down Down Down!

Punch: Up Up Up!

Devil:  Down Down Down!

Punch: Up Up Up!

(Punch takes slap stick)

Devil: I have come for YOU Mr. Punch!

(Smacks devil down)

Punch: Oh yea! Now you can go for me!  Down (smack) Down (smack) Down (smack)

Root-ee Toot-ee Toot-eee. Who else do I see? Do you see anyone?

(Dog, Toby, pops up on side of the stage with Punch on the opposite side and runs , like a dog, in bouncing movements over to Punch while panting and jumps on him and bends him over like Punch did to Judy earlier)

Toby: Arf..Arf…Arf…

(panting and breathing and licking Punch with a very wet  slopping licking sound)

Schu-loff  Schu-loff

Punch: It’s my dog, Toby. Go away dog. Down Boy, Down

(continues licking and pinning down Punch who can not escape much as he did to Judy earlier)

Wow! What a heavy kisser!

(Toby breaks it off and stands upright center stage and whines)

Punch:  Whatsa matter boy, gotta go outside for a walk?

Toby: (nods yes about 5 or six times and says)  Uhh Huh!

Punch: Go do your duty! (Toby goes down behind set)

(the fir-covered leg of the squirt-gun comes up and you squirt it a half dozen times so that water sprays out over the audience!)

Aim for the tree. Be careful where you go!  Peee U  (The kids will scream!)

(Dog barks and sound gets weaker as Punch looks down)

Root-ee Toot-ee Toot-eee. Who else do I see? Do you see anyone?

(Skunk pops up on left facing Punch- kids will scream)

Punch: Oh, look boys and girls, its pussy cat! (Kids will scream that it is a skunk)

Punch: No boys and girls it’s a pussy cat!  Nice kitty kitty, nice pussy pussy cat!

(Punch vigorously pets skunk against the fur grain- so much so that it would hurt a real animal)

Punch: Pussycat, you have bad breath!

(Kids will keep screaming as the skunk slowly turns around so the tail is facing Punch. Punch looks right onto his back side)

Punch: Oh Pussy cat! This side doesn’t smell good either!

(Punch grabs his slap stick)

Punch: Shall we send him away too?

(Takes practice swings with the stick while counting)

Punch: Uh One…uh Two… uh

(skunk squirts out 3 or 4  puffs of powder from the tail)

Punch: (spits and coughs)  Ah choo pst pst yuk!  He is a real stinker! Chanel #5.

Root-ee Toot-ee Toot-eee. Who else do I see? Do you see anyone?

( small cute alligator pops up surprising Punch)

Punch: Who are you, Greenie?

Alligator: I want to be your friend.

Punch: You are green and ugly and have a long face.

(The cute alligator slumps on the stage and cries and acts sad)

Alligator: You hurt my feelings.  Boo Hoo.

Punch: That’s not all I can hurt. (Lowers down to get slap stick)

Alligator:  You’re a mean man, Mr. Punch.

(Punch beats down the Alligator as it cries)

You are a mean man. I am going to get my big brother on you.

Punch: I am not afraid of your big brother!  Go get him. I can take care of him too!

I am not scared of his big brother. I have my stick.  See my schtick?

(Just the tip of the nose of the long alligator just peeks up from below and the nostrils look like the eyes of an even smaller Alligator)

Who is this?  Ha. This is your big brother?

(Punch grabs slap stick as if to hit the small nose. As he turns away to wind up for the swing, you thrust out the entire large alligator -20 inch mouth!-with the huge mouth open toward the audience. The kids will scream but Punch is looking the other way. You lay the mouth open on the stage and Punch goes right into it looking on that side of the stage while the mouth stays open.)

Punch: I don’t see anything. Where did he go? Where is that little brother? I can take care of him!

(Punch then moves to the other side of the stage as the huge mouth snaps closed with Punch avoiding getting bitten. The kids will scream)

Is he over here? Where is he?

(The mouth opens again and Punch goes inside looking off the corner of the stage)

Where is he?

(Keep playing this bit a few times more and the kids will scream. Finally Punch sees the open mouth and plays with it. Going in and going out as it snaps closed and opens)

Punch: Wheee.  This is fun!

(Punch finally turns the stick up on its end and wedges the mouth open and dances around the stick through the open mouth.)


At this point you keep the puppets in this configuration and walk out from behind the set and show them it is just you and the puppets and take a bow.


Tommy’s Punch and Judy set can be seen upstage from my props.










This photo was made in December of 1978 at The Harris Company

in Palm Bay, Florida.  Tommy and I was their Christmas entertainment. He did 6 shows to accommodate all the children of the employees.   My assistant is Debbie Abraham.

The photo was made by Cecil Stoughton who was John F. Kennedy’s White House Photographer. He took the famous photo of Lyndon Johnson being sworn in on Air Force One after the Kennedy assassination in Dallas.  He left Washington and was the photographer for the Harris Corporation.

My Punch and Judy set and stage: Puppets made by my wife Cindy Phillips. Cindy was an Elementary School teacher.   I made the set.  This is a photo of Cindy and me in 1972.

























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