Advanced Lab 7/97-9/97
Bill Wisch 7/1/97
I would like to give a few opinions about the subject, this month, the first of I.C.O.M Online. Simplicity is the opposite of complexity. If you think about actions and words as being the tools we use in the art of magic, then keeping them simple would be the best policy. Believe me…it is.
To discuss why is not to experience why. If you have ever wanted to learn a classic of magic, more than likely it has very few steps and a rather simple and easy-to-follow patter line. When you experience the reaction to a classic you realize why the effect is indeed a classic. It maintains attention, interest, excitement and fantasy throughout.
Complexity, on the other hand, usually leads to boredom,lack of interest and inattention on the part of the spectator. Why? Because usually the performer him or herself is so involved in details that the artistry of the acting and the spontaneity of the performance get as far along the yellow brick road as the toll booth.
Think about how you like to see magic done. To the point with the magic just occurring, I would suppose. I know that the more a magic effect, routine or show appeals to me the more direct and involving it is. This is all common sense so far but it amazes me how few performers really create the artistry and excitement of the magic.
There must be some sort of list of rules about lifting a magic performance out of the mundane or boring state? Yes, there is, and simplicity comes at the top.
I taught literally thousands of salespeople about showmanship and selling during the 1980’s. There was no list of rules about creating showmanship at the time so I had to research and create a list myself. This material has proven to be stunning in application and believe me when I say that anyone can use the five elements I found predominant with fantastic results. I plan to teach everything about the subject in the lessons ahead, possibly as a series, so I’m excited about the opportunity to share these secrets with you at I.C.O.M Online, but for now I only mention the fact that keeping a sales presentation simple is one of the most valuable techniques used by the top producers in any selling venue.
Any magic that you now do, just analyze sometime. See if you can’t break things down and get rid of all unnecessary actions and words. You’ll be surprised at the results in interest. Also, it isn’t a bad idea to check out a few books on selling and on acting if you’re really serious about developing your magic into powerful and dramatic performances.
So many magicians, clowns, entertainers, use magic as a “throw-a-way”. It’s no wonder that the general public has little respect for the art. In Europe and other parts of the world magic is reverently performed and artfully prepared. Magicians are looked up to as stars as opposed to little more than a hobbyist with a few secret props or clever strategies.
Please don’t misread my feelings. In magic anything goes to get the effect, but if effects are kept to a simple conclusion and if spectators don’t have to sit through minute after minute of cluttered mayhem, the artistry almost has to show itself.
I once was given the opportunity to write a few words about my teacher, Slydini. His main performance strategy was simplicity of action and word. This was taken to a high art by the great master and even though I’ll never attain that level*, I certainly was amazed and captivated by it.
Theophrastus and Slydini had much in common…they were both right. Keep everything you do and say simple and, believe me, you’ll have a lot more fun…and so will your audience.
*Co-directors comment: Magicians and audiences the world over would argue this point!
Advanced Lesson #2
Stick it in your ear!
It is most ideally performed with no sleeves or with them rolled up. I’ll describe it with a dime.
The left hand holds a dime at the fingertips.(index finger, second finger and thumb). The right hand comes over to take it and pretends to do just that. However, the dime stays behind and the right hand comes away pretending to be holding the dime.
NOTE: The best way to practice any pretend move or sleight in magic is to actually do the real action several times first. Pay special note to how your fingers, hands, arms, etc. carry out the particular action. Now duplicate the actions exactly when you pretend. This practice technique works and is a valuable lesson because the art if magic comes from the craft of your actions and words.
Bend the left arm at the elbow as if you are going to look at the elbow itself. Notice that the hand comes up to the vicinity of the left ear and the right fingertips(supposedly holding the dime) come to the left elbow/forearm. Now if you can coordinate both actions at the same time so that right (empty) fingertips contact the left arm at the exact same moment, you will have the timing sequence.
NOTE: At the end of both, coordinated movements, try to have the dime (in the left hand) in the opening of the ear. Practice this a few times until it becomes normal to you.
The right hand pretends to rub the coin into the left forearm. At the same time the left hand moves away from the ear and is open. All the attention is on the left elbow and right hand rubbing motion.
NOTE: Take your time. Give the spectators a chance to see what you are doing. One of the most violated rules in this art is the tendency to rush through actions. Rushing your magic is one habit you do not want to acquire. Try watching a two hour movie in fast forward on you VCR…get the point?
The hands are separated and the coin is gone. The spectators never catch the coin in the ear. You’ll find that having the coin in the ear is a strange sensation at first but the coin stays safely lodged. provided that no quick motion or leaning over is done.
NOTE: Again…take you time at this point and show that the hands are completely empty.
Now comes the retrieval of the dime. The left arm bend again as before and the right fingertips go to the same instant that the right fingertips go to the same spot above the left elbow on the forearm. At the exact same instant that the right fingertips get to the forearm the left fingertips take the coin from the ear. All the attention is on the forearm.
Without delay, the right arm bends and the left fingertips (with the hidden coin) go to the right elbow and produce the coin as if pulling it right out of the skin of the right forearm.
I have used quarters, nickels, and pennies and also two or even three coins one after the other. The misdirection* is so strong with this effect that the reaction to it will astound you.
I have chosen this effect to open this section of I.C.O.M Online not only to give one of the finest tricks that I use constantly (ask thousands of witnesses…you may be one of them) but to show that expensive props and complicated routines are not necessary to create the magic. It’s not what you do but how you do it. I plan to give many outstanding items to our students in the coming years but this gem will always be the classic effect of “Simplicity” in any mind. I hope you work on and enjoy it.
Co-directors comment: Readers that have reviewed this month’s beginners study would have seen how to make a coin vanish using a tried and true basic sleight of hand method. This routine in the advanced lab is a perfect example of how the same effect can be brought up several higher levels magically and made even more bewildering and exciting using creativity, subtlety and thought.
- An action of interest capturing the audience attention.
The Classic Corner
Thoughts on the classic “X-Ray Deck”
Bobby J. Gallo
As stated earlier, there are no tricks like the classic tricks. However, is it possible for a trick to be a classic when it is rarely performed?. I think it is. One such routine that stands out in my mind is the classic “X-Ray Deck”. This gimmicked deck has been around for almost a hundred years. Vernon in various instances even talked about this deck back in his early days. It has been purchased by thousands of magicians over the decades only to be relegated to the dark recesses of the bottoms of most magicians magic drawers.
The purpose of this lesson is to relate the impact of this particular deck. If performed properly, this is the only card trick you need to do in a close-up act. Which, by the way, is fortunate, because the “X-Ray Deck” can only be used for one basic effect. The revelation of a freely selected playing card.
Do “I” use this effect?, truthfully I will say that I only use it on occasion. My repertoire consists mainly of sleight-of-hand. Many working magicians will tell you, sleights are arguably the best route to go. but even when working pure*, gimmicks have their place. I myself after roving* for around three hours, start to lose a bit of coordination due to the natural fatigue that is often associated with doing 500 double lifts, 200 palms, and 700 forces!. So when those times come, the “X-Ray Deck” more than fills the bill.
The “X-Ray Deck” comes with very basic instructions, hence the need for this lesson. Rather than making your own, we encourage you to buy a deck that is ready to go. It really isn’t worth the trouble of making it yourself. That is to assume that you do not already have one. (I’m sure half of the magicians reading this are searching for theirs as I speak!). To our knowledge, a tried and tested handling has never before been taught, so here for the first time is a professional handling of, “The X-Ray Deck!”
The “X-Ray Deck” is divided into two sections. 26 regular cards, and 26 cards that are gimmicked by having an oval shaped hole punched into the upper left hand corners of the cards. This clever secret allows the performer to glimpse* a selected card that is inserted into the gimmicked half of the deck only to revealed in some way at a later time. Fig #1 shows the construction of the cards.
Have the spectator look over their cards selecting any that they choose. (A point that makes this routine “very” strong!) then, while your head is turned, they are to place their card face down into your half. Make sure you maintain a tight grip on your cards so that the cards maintain a squared appearance throughout this process. This also aids in keeping the cards in “your” hands not the spectators!
Now comes a bit of showmanship. With your head still turned, openly square the cards stating that by doing so, you have completely removed the possibility of finding the card and it is now totally lost in your half. (this is what is called “Magician’s logic*”)
Now, turn your half of the deck toward you so that the faces of the cards face the body and the gimmicked corners are in the upper left hand corner of the deck. Then proceed to remove the joker, displaying it to the audience and creating a line*, something like, this is my friend, the joker, he likes to have fun, but tonight he’ll be serious and tell me what card you are thinking of. Hold the joker up to your ear and listen, but at this point, do not be tempted to look at the deck and glimpse the card. You will have enough time for that, just keep acting at this point. Pretend that you are not getting any vibrations or that the joker isn’t telling you anything. Replace the card on the face of the pack once again. casually show it around stating that at this point in time you cannot reveal the card due to the fact that the joker won’t cooperate. Ask the spectator to ask the joker, maybe he/she will have better luck! (this always gets a laugh!)
After seeing that spectators are not having any luck comes the critical move. Turn the joker towards yourself and scold the card for embarrassing you in this routine(don’t scare the kids now!). While you are doing this, use your left thumb to slide the joker slightly to the right leaving the upper left hand corners of the cards exposed for just a second. The selected card will be staring you right in the face through the cut-out holes!
At this point, get the message, and reveal the card in any entertaining manner you wish. Go through the cards, remove the selected card and you are already to do the routine at the next table!
Note: We strongly suggest that you visit your local magic shop and purchase one of these decks from them, however, we will be stocking these in the I.C.O.M Online catalog for those who do not have a shop locally.
- Working pure: Performing magic utilizing sleight-of-hand as the main form of modus-operandi.
- Roving: A style of performance where the entertainer strolls around to small groups of spectators exhibiting close-up magic rather than a set stand-up program.
- Glimpse: A technique used by magicians as well as card sharps to gain the identity of a particular playing card chosen by a spectator or dealt during a card game.
- Magician’s Logic: Reasonings that the magician uses to persuade an audience that a given routine is fair and above board. This technique aids in misdirection and keeps the spectators from questioning certain handlings in the effect.
- Line: A scripted piece of speech used by an entertainer to give justification to a trick or routine.
Bobby J. Gallo
The effect is very strong. It is one of the few experiments a conjurer can undertake that actually gives him/her the appearance of supernatural powers. Perhaps this is because we have witnessed superheroes use this “super power” if you will, in comic books and on television. Nevertheless, it has great appeal with audiences and never ceases to amaze me that so few entertainers actually use this type of act in their show. Then again, maybe we should all be thankful of that fact.
In last months lesson, I gave a routine to be used with the classic x-ray deck. Though it is a fine routine, I wanted to touch upon how a similar effect may be applied to stage presentations with the same or even increased effect.
Effect: The magician after being legitimately blindfolded is able to name a single, or number of ordinary playing cards freely selected and placed in a spectators pocket.
Needed: A bandanna handkerchief and a pack of cards.
Working: The main secret of the effect is the way you are blindfolded. When the bandanna is folded and tied around your head, it appears as if there is a very thick layer of material obscuring your vision. However, before the the actual application of the bandanna, you have folded it in a very special way to facilitate vision.
Start by laying the bandanna on your table and accordion pleat each end towards the center without ever reaching it. What you are left with is a thin layer of cloth in the center of the bandanna that can be seen through. Fortunately, you have second avenue with which you can see as well.
After the application of the bandanna around your head, covering your eye’s, look down. You will notice that you have a line of vision unobscured down the sides of your nose. Do not let the spectator tie the handkerchief on. Only the performer should do it. Remember, they are not aware of what you are about to attempt, so there is no reason whatsoever for them to suspect that you are trying to see “through” the bandanna.
Now, after you are blindfolded, take the cards out of your pocket and hand them to the spectator. Have them remove any card that they choose and hand it to you. Take this opportunity to glimpse the card down the side of your nose. Use the transparency feature only to make sure that the volunteer from the audience isn’t trying to foul up your performance in any way. This is the first application to my knowledge of a magical secret being used to keep an audience in check!
Have the spectator place the card in his/her pocket. Use you magical powers to look into their pocket and pick out the card. Repeat the moves again for additional cards. The trick is mainly presentation, so make the most of it.
I.C.O.M Online is extremely proud to present a world exclusive!
Clearly, complex stage trappings are difficult to transfer into small platform, floor show, or parlor staging areas. The number of performances per day, logistics of the venues, and transportability are additional considerations of the allowable elaborativenessess of setting. Cruise ship magicians frequently must prepare themselves for staging area entrances in narrow ship’s passage ways. Itinerant magicians performing in private homes, social clubs, corporate hotel banquet halls, restaurants, comedy clubs, school auditoriums, and night clubs each have particular restrictions placed upon them. this present series of articles predicates ideal proscenium stage conditions. As a matter of course each performer must trim down that which is possible under ideal stage conditions to suit the restrictive demands of each actual venue.
The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as a bare stage or bare staging area. If left unaltered by settings, the stage or room in which the magician performs will retain its original visual character, into which environment the magician enters as a visitor reinforced only by his costume and properties. Pulling the audience into his magical world is effected psychologically by the artist magician. Where and when possible, limited stage lighting, if only a follow spot, will provide focus upon that magical world. Otherwise, the magician must depend entirely upon his personality, charisma, stage presence, magnetism, wit, and skill while surrounded by found objects, furnishings, and natural light foreign to the magical world he must create and into which his invited audience must willingly enter in a suspension of disbelief.
On the other hand, stage settings visually and concretely establish the environment of the magician’s magical world. Stage settings set the tone and the mood of a magical theatrical production into which, as the father of modern magic, Houdin, pointed out, the magician enters as an actor playing the part of a magician. Stage setting includes not only scenery or back drop but also stylized stage furnishings and properties which are consistent with the character which the actor/magician is portraying. The portrayed character appears as the protagonist of the magical theatre piece. The protagonist may be a hero, as in the case of David Copperfield, or an anti-hero, as in the case of Johnny Thompson. The hero magician is an actor performing the part of a real magician possessed of real magical powers. The magical anti-hero must be a comedic magician who frequently fails in his attempts to invoke magic.
Dr.OM, himself, chooses to be a comedic magician, an anti-hero, a magician in trouble, a bungler, and a fumbler upon whom the magic happens to his own surprise, rather than the wizard performer of actual magical feats. Of course, as Shakespeare exemplified, if you can first make them laugh and then make them cry–that’s good too! Confessedly, Dr.OM is beyond middle age, rather portly, balding, and neither young nor handsome enough to assume a persona of the kinds assumed by David Copperfield or Lance Burton. Later in the article dealing with characterization more will be discussed about the choice of character appropriate to the physical appearance of the actor magician. In the context of this present discussion of stage setting, characterization inevitably must be mentioned, because the setting does much to establish the character of the actor-magician for the audience. Be it said that the choice of character must be left to the reader on his own terms and in accordance with his own self image.
Having chosen his anti-heroic character, Dr.OM constructs and decorates all components of his stage settings including: scenery, furniture, and props; unless, items such as silks, balls, and linking rings are readily available, given careful and thoughtful selection, in the commercial market place. Generally however, appearing before an audience in a store-bought setting, which has that slick and sterile look of sameness with other magician’s store bought settings, is as lamentable as smiling at an audience with store bought teeth; not that that can’t be done by the right actor portraying the right character. In art anything is possible. However, nothing can beat a lovingly wrought setting which bears the personal stamp of the magician himself as actor-character. Therefore, the serious magical performer must be a jack-of-all-theatrical trades and must acquire education and skills in set design and construction, as well as all of the other components of magical theatre production. The demands are great, but you can ,meet them, and must, because setting provides the place for the magic to happen.
By Bill Wisch
“Misdirection…it’s all an act!”
In 1995 I had the pleasure and honor to lecture in New York City for Assembly #1 for some of the finest and most knowledgeable magicians anywhere. When they asked me to appear they wanted me to cover something that would be new and pertain to the ideas and methods of the great Tony Slydini. I must say I wrestled with what I’d do for quite some time. Then, almost out of nowhere, I remembered what everyone had always said about Slydini…the fact that he was the “master of misdirection”. I knew it, but actually did not know for certain what it was that he did differently from other magicians that actually made him the master of misdirection.
At the lecture I asked the magicians what they felt was the meaning of misdirection. After they got done with the strange looks they actually realized I was serious. One person said it was getting a spectator to look in a different place from where the secret action was taking place. Another said misdirection was an action that took attention to where you, as the performer, wanted it to be. There are, I’m sure, many versions of the same thought…that misdirection takes something someplace. But taking attention away from or to someplace or whatever you do with it is actually a result rather than a cause. In other words…WHAT IS IT THAT TAKES THE ATTENTION AWAY? Most magicians accept the cause rather than the effect…I was one of them.
Slydini was a fantastic actor. His acting ability was so developed that his mannerisms, words and actions always fit his personality perfectly. I believe that the real definition of misdirection is simply ACTING. Think about it. When you move an object from one place to another the audience will follow the action with their eyes. If you move that object in a manner that is suspicious then the audience will become suspicious. If you move that object in a natural manner then the audience will not pay it any mind or think anything was abnormal. Now, if something must be accomplished that you don’t want discovered, then in order to carry out the task, secretly you must act normally with another action; by the other hand; the eyes; the turn of the head; body shifting…ANY normal action that people will notice instead of the secret action. That’s where the acting comes in.
Slydini acted so naturally that any secret action went totally unnoticed…even after having seen the effect many times or even being shown the secret! When you see the term misdirection printed in the instructions for a magic effect or routine try substituting the word ACTING. In fact, the best advice I can give about misdirection is the same I mentioned to the S.A.M.assembly during that lecture…take notice of how you normally do things. It sounds ridiculous but pay strict attention to how you perform natural actions…moving an object…picking up an object…placing an object down…ANY natural action you perform when you do you magic. It’s absolutely amazing how easy it is to divert attention when you think of it as doing a natural action as opposed to having to just DO something to get attention. I remember Slydini freaking out when he saw a well known magician lap a ball during a cup and ball routine by just bringing his hand back to the edge of the table while he moved the other hand. It was on a TV show we were watching and Slydini yelled out, “he didn’t even move his body forward when he moved the object with the other hand!”. The magician had simply moved the hand to the edge of the table and dropped the ball into his lap, and even though he moved another object while he did that,everyone in the viewing audience, magicians and lay people alike, saw and noticed the lapping move.
I could probably beat this premise to death…maybe I already have, but I certainly expect to continue discussing this topic from time to time as other thoughts and ideas come to me. I just wanted to get the basic thought to you so you could think about it at your leisure. One thing for certain…there was a reason Slydini was the master of misdirection…it was all an act. He was a masterful actor and the misdirection just came naturally. It will for you too if you give it some serious thought.
Beginning this month you notice that I have entitled this page “T.I.P. of the Wand.”The T.I.P. is an acronym for “Theory In Practice”. I’d like to make this a monthly discussion of a piece of magical theory being put into actual practice…
“A World-Class Feature Close-Up Mystery in the Miracle Class!”
Ronald J. Dayton
This is the way the effect appears to your audience. First of all, an ungimmicked wine glass is standing to your left on the close-up mat. This is a stemmed goblet, approximately four inches in height. The interior of the glass itself is about two and one quarter inches deep. The opening of the mouth is nearly two inches wide. The base is slightly larger in width.*
In your right hand you are holding a cased deck of Bicycle Rider Back playing cards. The deck is held at one end between the first finger and thumb of the hand.
You ask for a loan of a quarter. The coin is received in your left hand and openly tabled. You casually show the card case in your right hand front and back then the case is carefully placed over the mouth of the wine glass. Both hands are used to position it. The case effectively makes entry into the glass impossible.
The borrowed coin is now picked up in the right hand. The right hand moves over to and above the cased deck. With a quick tap, the fingers of the right hand bring their coin down on the top of the case. In that instant, the quarter is seen to visibly penetrate the ungimmicked case and fall into the bottom of the wine glass. The right hand lifts and is seen to be empty.
The card case is lifted from the mouth of the glass and is set down on your table. The glass is taken by the left hand, and the coin is poured into the waiting right hand. You then transfer the coin to your left hand after setting the glass aside. The coin, glass and card case may be freely examined if so desired.
METHOD: First of all, it is important to note that the color of the ink on the back design of any given deck of cards is usually not as dark as the matching design printed on the back of the card case itself. It will be necessary for you to make a color photo copy of the card case you intend to use. Open the case and carefully remove the cello cover. Now carefully disassemble the case…opening out both top and bottom flaps so the case may be flattened. In this flattened state, make a color copy of the back design on the case. Reassemble the case. Put the deck back in and slip on the cello covering.
Looking at the card design you have copied you will see two circular areas which have the image of a cupid or angel riding a bicycle within. These circle are very nearly the exact same size as a U.S. quarter. Place a square of carpet tape on the back of the color copy sheet so it is in the same area as the two angel circles. Now, with a good pair of scissors, carefully cut each of the rider back circles out. Make the cut just above or outside of the thin blue line within the circle. Once this is done, peel the backing off from one of the circles and adhere the rider back circle to the tail side of the quarter. You special gimmick is complete. Keep the backing paper on the second circle and retain this as a spare gimmick.
Just before you’re ready to perform this effect, position the circle gimmick over the lower circle on the card case. This is the one opposite the top flap. The first finger of the right hand rests on the chest of the angle, the thumb grips the deck at the opposite side or front of the deck.
With the visible wine glass in place upon your table, the loan of a quarter is made. You follow through as explained earlier. Casually flashing the card case front and back will not reveal its secret. Now, using both hands, carefully set the coin and case on the mouth of the glass. The tip of the right hand first finger can assist in pushing the coin edge flush with the outer surface of the glass. You now pretend to pick the quarter up off the table with your right hand. In reality, it is lapped. The hand now moves over the top of the case, and with a downward tap it is pressed against the case. This tap dislodges the hidden coin which will fall, nine times out of ten, heads side up in the bottom of the glass with your left hand, covering the interior of the glass briefly until you know the result of the coin fall.
The empty right hand is shown casually, then it lifts the case off from the mouth of the glass and sets the cards aside. While this is being done, the left hand goes to the lap and retrieves the borrowed coin. The left hand then lifts the glass and pours the gimmicked coin into the waiting right hand. Using a shuttle pass once the glass has been tabled, you seemingly place it into the left hand. The gimmicked coin is lapped, and the borrowed coin is tossed from the left hand on to the table. Everything may now be examined.
An alternate handling..the borrowed coin is actually picked up by the right hand and openly placed on top of the card case. Now, when you make the tapping motion, the fingertips of the right hand come down on the deck dislodging the gimmicked coin. The right hand fingers momentarily cover the borrowed coin. The thumb of the right hand now pulls the coin back, down and around the edge of the case, and flat against the underside or back of the case. This is a bold but pretty move if you take the time to perfect it.
The case is now picked up by the right hand in a simultaneous action and placed on to the left hand. This deposits the borrowed quarter right where you want it, on the palm of the left hand.
The left hand then tables the card case and immediately reaches to pick up the glass by its stem. The visible coin is poured into the right hand. Left hand tables the glass, then the right hand shuttle passes the gimmicked coin, seeming to place it into the left. In reality, the gimmicked coin is retained in the right and lapped as the borrowed coin in the left is then displayed. Again, you are clean, and all props may be examined if you so desire.
If the gimmicked coin should have happened to have fallen gimmick side up during this handling, simply execute the cover move with the left hand. Lift the case and borrowed coin from the glass with the right hand. Table the case and lap the coin. Do a full turn over the glass with the left hand to unsure the gimmick comes up tail side up on the right hand. Set the glass aside. Secretly get the borrowed coin with the left hand as the gimmick is displayed in the right. Pretend to transfer the coin in the right hand to the left. Lap the gimmick and toss the genuine coin out for examination or simply return it to its owner.
If you would like, Bill Wisch has suggested holding the gimmick secretly in place with a rubber band which is around the deck from the start. This is a great idea. It allows you to carry the set deck in your pocket. Remove the wine glass from your case…and the deck from your right hand pocket. Openly remove the band, retaining the gimmick behind as explained earlier.
Make the gimmick coins in both red and blue. This offers you variety…and often, you are able to borrow the deck itself, and the host will be amazed at what you can do with it.
Try this effect many times for yourself, and then for a handful of friends you trust. Work out the angles and handling ploys. Find out for yourself if you’d rather use the left hand covering ploy of the glass in every instance or not. In all fairness, it would probably be best to do so rather than tip the working method.
The rounded bottom of the glass I have described seems to control the coin rather well. That is not to say that you shouldn’t try a variety of glasses to find which will and will not work. Never take one suggestion as THE rule of thumb. You must find your own individual way to success.
*Of course you may experiment with different types of glasses and cups. Young magicians may find it difficult to obtain a wine glass therefore any plastic drinking cup will suffice.
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