UPCOMING EVENTS IN JUNE (IN BALTIMORE)

SATURDAY, JUNE 15, 6:00PM (NOTE EARLY START TIME) DAN HAUSS LECTURE ADMISSION-$20.00

Dan Hauss is one of my favorite people.  Always fun, always original, and definitely a bit off the wall.  Dan has been a consultant for David Blaine, creating magic effects for David’s most recent television special. A native of the Philadelphia area Dan has worked closely with other young creators Dan White, and Robert Smith (BSmith). In addition to releasing best selling effects with Paper Crane, Dan has created effects for Paul Harris Presents and Theory 11. Dan’s style combines humor, fashion and a taste for the bizarre. I am constantly surprised with the amazing ideas Dan thinks up and I love to watch him him interact with spectators. Dan Hauss, the creator of Flow, Rattled, Lit and Sleeping Queen (just to name a few),has a wealth of unpublished underground magic to share with you! His creative talents have been a secret source for many top magicians including David Blaine and Paul Harris. With many more exciting creations soon to be launched, Dan Hauss will let you into his world of magic. He will show you how to use magic in your everyday life to give you a social edge, meet people, and be the life of the party.

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FRIDAY, MAY 10, 8:00PM
NORMAN BECK LECTURE
ADMISSION-$20.00

About Norman Beck, Larry Hass, publisher of the Theory and Art of Magic Press, says,
“Norman performs wonderful close-up magic that also fools the pants off magicians. He achieves this through off-beat methods, very clever thinking, and engaging presentations. I enthusiastically recommend his entertaining and inspiring lectures.”
A native of Oklahoma and a Dallas area resident today, Norman Beck is a zany, uncanny magical performer who fools the magicians themselves at the Magic Castle in Hollywood with his “down home” Southwestern twang and colorful, sometimes befuddling character. Behind the mask of his persona, however, Norman is a most creative inventor of easy-to-learn magical pieces that, after any one of his lectures, you will want to take away with you for your own magical sets.
Norman crossed the country with his first lecture more than five years ago, but this spring, he has completed a brand new evening of magic that he will perform on tour with John Carney later this summer.
Norman Beck is most familiar to readers of the “MUM” as a witty and insightful columnist. His contributions appear also each month in the reviews of new products for the Society of American Magicians.
In his professional life, Norman’s work keeps him on the road and in the air more than 200 days out of the year during which he serves as a management consultant, an expert’s expert for casinos and other gaming establishments, in policing fraud. At other times, you will find him playing with his partner Joan in international master’s duplicate bridge tournaments around the world. Blessed with a keen memory, Norman will recreate complete hands at the bridge table from competitions completed many years ago. Aside work and card competitions, however, whenever possible, he is performing, and performing, and performing.

A QUOTE FROM JAMY IAN SWISS
Thank goodness Norman Beck is on the side of the good guys. A lot of magicians like to think they have the skills to be a professional con man or psychic. Precious few actually do, but Norman is one of them. Behind that slow-talking, dull-witted Okie mask lies a clever-like-a-fox mind and one of the best friends a man could have. Whatever branch of his wide-ranging interests and expertise he cares to share — close-up and card magic, cheating, how to win friends and influence people, and more — I recommend you pay close attention. And try to stay on his good side.
–Jamy Ian Swiss

A QUOTE FROM MAX MAVEN
Norman Beck is one of magic’s hidden gems. Until now, he has not been well known to most magicians (although that is in the process of changing). But, in “underground” networks, he is both established and respected. His magic is charming, clever and commercial, and those qualities also define his lectures.”
Max Maven, Hollywood, Ca
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SUNDAY, MAY 12, 6:00PM (NOTE EARLY START TIME)
TIM SONEFELT LECTURE
ADMISSION-$20.00

Box o’ Trix is a brand new lecture from Tim Sonefelt of Wonder Imagery.com. Tim is known as one of the most creative kid and family show guys around. However he’s done it all: from restaurants to birthday parties to schools to corporate events , libraries & churches. Some would say Tim can’t keep a job! Others would say come learn from his vast repertoire and experience. There’s something in this lecture for everyone: hobbyists, weekend warriors and full-time pros.
Some of the Trix in the Box include:
Tamariz in a Box – a card effect that’s not just s card effect. This can even play as a stand up trick. Plus it’s a card trick that even KIDS can follow while you blow away the adults.
Kaleidoscope Crayons – a colorful routine for kids and families that can play as HUGE as you want it to.
Stand Up Coins Across – normally thought of as strictly a close up effect, Tim takes it to the stage. You’ll see how he performs this classic plot for corporate audiences as well as school assemblies for 300 children or more!
Business Ideas & Thoughts – the specialists make the most money. Tim will share how he’s perceived as a specialist in each if the markets he works.
What people are saying about Tim and his Lectures:
“Tim rocked the crowd!” – Robert Baxt
“Your professionalism is unmatched and you are truly one of the nicest people I have met in my years of magic. Three lectures – and I learned more from just one of them than all the others put together.”
– Mike Norden; Tri Cities Magic Weekend; Vancouver, BC.
“I’ve come to believe that there are two types of performer: the thinkers and the performers. Most of them, myself included, perform. We get our best ideas from the thinkers and creators in magic. I can polish a tricks performance and add some patter but I’ll never come up with a new idea. It’s not in my DNA. You are a rare combination: a thinker AND a performer. I thank you for that. And you’re funny.”
– Dana Law
“Tim your lecture was KILLER! Really great material that you taught and shared. You can tell you work a lot.” – Ken Scott
“Tim Sonefelt is a Thinker AND a Doer – this is a deadly combination that we can all learn a lot from – I know I have.” – Brian Daniel; Creative Magic
“As a convention producer I understand why Tim has been asked back year after year. After personally watching Tim’s dynamic lectures and workshops for years as an attendee I knew that Tim Sonefelt was exactly what I needed to attract attendees to my function. What I enjoy the most is that Tim uses props to teach his lessons. It’s one thing to hear about a technique but another to actually see it in action. I also have seen Tim perform in front of live audiences and can attest to the fact that he practices what he preaches! Half of my own show are products from his company, WonderImagery.com! “
– Louis Meyer, Kaptial Kidvention
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WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 8:00PM
DAN GARRETT LECTURE
ADMISSION-$20.00

A Brand New Lecture from Dan Garrett
o Entertaining performances
o All new material
o Many tricks never seen before
o A fun learning experience
o Laughs galore!
o Real secrets of performing
o Take your magic to new heights
o Classic methods
o Modern presentations
Forward Into the Past is a brand-new lecture experience filled with magic
from Dan Garrett’s working repertoire of both past and present. The
contents include mainly close-up magic and mentalism with coins, knives,
paddles and cards. It has been rumored that there is even a grand illusion in
this lecture. (?)
Serious magic and comedy magic: there is truly something for everyone.
Emphasis is placed on improving your performances and tapping in to the
emotions and intellect of your audiences.
A Partial List of Contents
*Magi-Fest Jest – a hilarious MC gag.
*The GodMother of All Book Tests – Easy to perform and nothing to buy. 2 books, 2 participants, 3 minds, 1 thought.
*Pocket Knife Act – A full close-up act for walk-around, no resetting needed. You’ll love the surprise ending!
*Up the Creek WITH a Paddle – See the classic paddle move in a whole new light. Dan will make you an offer you can’t refuse.
*Hello, Mr. Chips – Duke Stern’s coin routine with special touches from Dan Garrett.
*Desire Under the Elms(leys) – a strange and wonderful biological circus routine with a few acrobatic cards.
Grab this chance to learn from one of magic’s most acclaimed performers and teachers.
If you miss this experience, you won’t be able to sleep with yourself again!
A full “Lecture Experience”
*Marked Down – A mentalism act for close-up or stage that fits in your pocket and costs less than $10 to make.
*Two Foreseen – The miracle that everyone who witnesses this lecture is talking about. A double impossible CAAN (card at any number) with no memory work or technical skill required.
Even More Magic with cards, coins, rubber bands, character impersonations, and the awesome power of words!
Who is Dan Garrett?
Dan Garrett wears many hats, as a performer, inventor, lecturer, author, columnist, publisher, teacher and reviewer. He performs at ease with every conceivable demographic of audience, large or small, children or adults, family groups or corporate clients.
What are Dan Garrett’s credentials?
Dan has been featured on the cover of the I.B.M.’s magazine The Linking Ring, and twice on the cover of the S.A.M.’s magazine M-U-M.
In the November 2012 issue of M-U-M, Dan Garrett was first on a list of magicians described as “a living magic legend [and] an artist who defined close-up magic in the last years of the twentieth century.” He is Past National President of the S.A.M., Past Territorial Vice-President of the I.B.M., Member of the Inner Magic Circle (M.I.M.C. with Gold Star) in London, and a Guest of Honor at F.F.F.F. (the original close-up magic convention, now known as “Obie’s 4F”), where he currently serves on the Board of Directors. Dan Garrett has also been a feature writer for Stan Allen’s MAGIC magazine. Dan is an M-U-M columnist and product reviewer, who has performed live on CNN Headline News.
Dan has been a full-time pro for 40 years. He has lectured world-wide, in over a dozen countries. Dan has produced six lectures and three “fully-loaded” DVD’s on magic, plus his acclaimed “Over the Rainbow” routine for color-changing disks. He performs and teaches magic for many different audiences and situations. Stan Allen has called Dan a “general practitioner of magic.” Others have described Dan as a “great teacher of modern-day magic and methods.”
Testimonials
Even if he never taught a single effect, just listening to his voice, watching his style andenjoying his performance would be worth the entrance fee. [Epic Marked Down] used only index cards and 3 different colored pens – and no props. This,
too, was worth the price of admission. We do know [that] no matter the cost of the lecture, the time spent absorbing Mr. Garrett’s knowledge is a great value…
Do not miss one of the best lectures we have seen in years!
– Tim Quinlan, MAGIC NEWS, www.insidemagic.com
Reviews in M-U-M
If you think you know card routines, or if you think you know paddle moves, you have not seen what Mr. Garrett does. Thanks, Mr. Garrett, for the laughs, for the secrets you shared, and the time you gave us.! – Tom Crecelius, Assembly 215, Louisville KY

5 Ways To Make a Killer First Impression

From FindHow.com

Most people will judge you within the first second of meeting you and their opinion will most likely never change. Making a good first impression is incredibly important, because you only get one shot at it.

Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov and co-author Janine Willis, a student researcher who graduated from Princeton in 2005 had people look at a microsecond of video of a political candidate. Amazingly, research subjects could predict with 70-percent accuracy who would win the election just from that microsecond of tape. This tells us that people can make incredibly accurate snap judgments in a tenth of a second.

How can you ensure people are judging you accurately and also seeing your best side? You never want to give people an inauthentic impression — many people can intuitively feel if someone is being fake immediately. However, any time you meet someone for the first time, you always want to start on the right foot. Here are a few ways you can make sure people’s first impression of you is a good one:

1. Set an intention. The most important thing to do for giving a good impression is to set your intention. This is especially important before any kind of big event where you would be meeting a lot of people — i.e. conferences, networking events or friend’s parties. As you get ready or when you are driving over think about what kind of people you want to meet and what kind of interactions you want to have. This can be an incredibly grounding experience and works very well to focus on what kind of energy you want to have for your event.

2. Think about your ornaments. Clothes, make-up, jewelry, watches and shoes are all types of ornamentation and people definitely take these into account when making initial judgments. I highly recommend getting some of your favorite outfits or ornaments together and asking friends you trust what they think of when they see them. For many men, they do not realize that their watch can say a lot about them. For women, purses and large earrings or jewelry can also indicate a lot to a new person they are meeting. Make sure that what you are wearing and how you do your hair or make-up says what you want it to say to the people you are meeting for the first time.

3. Be Conscious of Your Body Language. Body language is a crucial part of first impressions. Everything from your posture to how you carry yourself to the way you’re angling your body. Often, simply being aware of your body language can result in immediate improvements. Another way to examine your body language is to look at yourself on a video walking around a room. Subconscious cues to keep in mind include noticing where you point your feet, the position of your shoulders, and the way you shake hands.

4. Avoid bad days. People who go to cocktail events or mixers after having had a bad day typically continue to have a bad day. If you are in a depressed or anxious mood, others will pick up on this from your facial expressions, comments and body language. If you’re having a bad day, stay home! Otherwise, find a way to snap yourself out of your bad mood. I find working out or watching funny YouTube videos before events often gets me in a more social, feel good mood.

5. Be interested and interesting. If you are truly interested in meeting people and are open to learning about who they are, they will get this in a first impression. We have all had the experience of meeting someone and knowing instantly that they were dragged here by a friend and are just waiting to get out the door and head home. When you are meeting people for the first time approach others with a genuine interest in who they are. This is often contagious and you will have better conversations and lasting connections when you are interested because they become interested.

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STAGE PRESENCE: WHAT IT MEANS, WHY IT MATTERS, AND HOW TO IMPROVE IT

Whether you call it “star power”, “the x-factor”, or simply “It”, stage presence can be hard to describe – but easy to spot. Stage presence refers to the certain charisma and charm that a theater actor or performer possesses that draws in an audience and commands their full attention. But does stage presence really matter? And how can you improve it?

Does it Matter?

Stage presence can, quite simply, be a defining factor in an actor’s success. Of course, it’s not everything; an actor can still be considered talented at their craft without exceptional stage presence, and all the stage presence in the world won’t help an untalented or undisciplined actor succeed. However, when combined with skill, experience and hard work, stage presence can create a combination that turns “good” actors into stars.

Stage presence is more than the ability to recite your lines, hit your marks, and sing the right notes. Essentially, a good stage presence pulls the audience into the performance. It’s the ability to make the audience connect with the performer and envelop them in the story being told, and in turn to express what the audience feels.

How Can You Improve It?

  • Relax! Coming across as stiff or robotic makes your acting seem unnatural and forced, making it more difficult for the audience to find your performance believable – unless, of course, this type of movement is appropriate for your character! The more natural and uncalculated your movement, expressions and speech are, the more likely the audience is to feel captivated by your performance.
  • Practice. The more comfortable you feel on stage, the better you will be able to truly get into your character’s mind, helping you give a better, more convincing performance. This comfort level can only come with feeling completely confident in your ability to nail every line, hit every note, and know your role inside and out. To reach this level, of course, requires as much practice as possible. Become as comfortable as possible with not only every element of your performance, but with simply performing in front of an audience as well.
  • Study. To polish your stage presence, study the work of those who exhibit skill in the area. Find actors – or other performers – who captivate you, and study how they act and behave. Enrolling in acting school or musical theatre classes can help you gain insights and tips from industry experts. Not only will they share their expertise, but will be able to work with you one-on-one to fine tune your performances, helping you to develop techniques for a better stage presence. If possible, finding a mentor in the industry to work closely with will also help you learn to develop your skills, including a more highly effective stage presence.

 

Makeup can be used to create an infinite number of effects on stage. Learn the basic techniques for applying stage makeup.

On stage, one’s features must be clearly visible to everyone sitting in the theater, even the people in the very back row. Both male and female actors use basicstage makeup techniques to enhance their natural features, correct or diminish other features, and change their appearance. Often, a role calls for “character” makeup, such as stylized fairies, animals, or a look of old age. Makeup can accomplish all of these looks and many more.Assembling Your Makeup Kit

It’s not necessary to buy a ton of professional-quality makeup and tools, but do buy the best quality makeup you can afford. Cake foundation is the most common type used in theater because it covers well and blends easily, but you can also use street liquid foundation. More expensive foundations and powders do cover and last better than cheap drugstore brands; on the other hand, you can probably get away with cheap eyeshadows and lipsticks. Keep an assortment of brown eyeshadows and different shades of blush on hand, as well as brown and black eyeliner pencils and mascara. If you’re good at mixing colors, a theatrical quality “color wheel”, which is a single disc with red, blue, yellow, black, and white crèmes, can save you a lot of money in the long run on eyeshadow, eyeliner, and blush. You will also need a cosmetic pencil sharpener, cotton balls, and your favorite type of makeup remover.

 

A few good tools can drastically improve your makeup application. Sponges are necessary for applying foundation and blending. You’ll need several small brushes, especially if you’re going to use crèmes for eyeshadow or eyeliner. Q-tips can work in a pinch and are also indispensable for touching up smears and smudges. You’ll also need several large brushes for powder and blush. If you’re going to share the makeup kit, you’ll want to purchase disposable brushes, sponges, mascara wands, and mixing palettes. Finally, a toolbox or tacklebox will keep all of your makeup and tools organized.

 

Basic Stage Makeup Techniques

 

Basic makeup techniques are used for all types of theatrical productions, including high school, college, community, or regional professional theater. When working with young child actors in class plays or community productions, foundation and other heavy makeup is usually not necessary unless an animal or fantasy look is necessary. Always consider the style of production, type of character, and size of theater when planning a makeup design.

 

Before applying any makeup, wash the face thoroughly with a gentle soap or face cleanser. Be sure to remove all traces of street makeup. Next, apply an even coat of foundation over the entire face, and blend into the neck. If you are using dry cake makeup, drag a slightly damp sponge across the cake, then apply. Crème and liquid foundations should be applied with dry sponges. If you want the foundation to create a skin tone different from the actor’s skin tone, then you also need to cover any exposed skin on the neck, and possibly the hands, with makeup.

 

Once a base coat is on the actor’s face, use lighter and darker foundations (or blend white and brown makeup into the base foundation) to emphasize or create highlights and shadows. Use subtle highlights and shadows to emphasize the natural contours of an actor’s face. You can also change the shape of an actor’s face with highlights and shadows. For example, a crooked nose will appear straight with a strong straight highlight down the bridge of the nose, or you can bring out deep-set eyes by highlighting under the browbone. Be sure to blend highlights and shadows well, unless you are going for a very stylized look.

 

For male actors, a little color is needed on the cheeks and lips because stage lights tend to wash out the face. Apply blush with a soft hand, unless the male actor wants to look like he’s wearing blush. For lipstick, choose a matte color that is slightly darker than the actor’s natural lip color. Use a matching lip liner first to help the lipstick last.

 

If a female actor is playing a character who should not look like she is wearing makeup, then she should follow the same guidelines as male actors. For example, proper women in many time periods did not wear cosmetics, and it is rarely considered appropriate for young girls to wear makeup. On the other hand, a female actor playing a contemporary woman or a character such as a Cabaret showgirl will wear more makeup. For these types of characters, apply makeup in a similar manner to street wear, only more of it. Everything must be more dramatic than a woman would normally wear because it must be able to be seen from the back row of the theater. Apply your makeup, then stand under the stage lights and ask a fellow cast member or the director how it looks from the back row of the theater.

 

Character Makeup

 

When a young actor has been cast to play an older person, often makeup is required to achieve the necessary look. First, figure out how old the character should look, and then find pictures of people in that age group. Take note of where the skin has wrinkled and sagged, then use the principles of highlighting and shading to create that effect on the actor’s face. Have the actor smile, frown, raise his or her eyebrows, and scrunch his or her face together to see where the skin would naturally wrinkle, then use a brown eyeliner pencil (or mix colors from your color wheel) to draw in the wrinkles. Highlight the skin around the wrinkle, and then blend carefully.

 

Plays set in periods other than our own will have different makeup needs. In some time periods, men and women alike powdered their faces white, painted their lips red, and drew on beauty marks. In many periods, “proper” men and women didn’t wear any makeup at all, but lower class women did. A little research can help you to figure out what would have been common for the given time period, or consult the director for ideas.

 

Many plays feature animals or fantasy creatures. Masks can be used, but makeup can also create effects limited only by your imagination. When turning an actor’s face into an animal’s, study pictures of the animal and attempt to capture the essence of the animal’s expression. Sketch some designs first on paper, then use crème paints to draw on the actor’s face. Powder to set. One common fantasy character is the fairy. You can use highlights and shadows to make the face look more angular, and glitter and swirly eye makeup is common. Search the Internet or your local library for additional fantasy makeup resources.

 

You can also use makeup to create fantastic special effects—latex and spirit gum can make scars, wounds, and large crooked noses, but it can take much training and practice to be able to achieve effects that look realistic. If you are interested in learning more, many books, websites, and classes cover special makeup effects in detail. However, if you practice and experiment with the techniques covered here, soon you’ll be able to create a variety of looks for the stage

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Have you ever seen an elegant ballerina floating across a stage like a graceful swan? As she spins into perfect pirouettes her movement seems so effortless that she leaves you with an insatiable urge to register for ballet lessons the next day? Have you ever gone to an amazing concert featuring your favorite band, and the electrifying performance and equally astounding crowd response made you think, “Yes, yes, yes! This is what life is about! This is the kind of stuff we live for!”?

Irrespective of the type of stage performer, there are a few things in common among skilled performers who have the ability to motivate, inspire and captivate their audiences: Enthusiasm, discipline, the ability to own a personal unique style, great stage presence and excellent costume selection skills are some qualities that are high on the list of those exhibited by exceptional stage performers.

Enthusiasm

Most great performers are usually very enthusiastic about their skill of choice. They need little or no motivation to get them going. Practicing to them, is like breathing- it’s something they want to do, something they love to do, and something they take pride in doing. Most great performers are so passionate about what they do that performing in front of massive crowds becomes second nature to them. Their excitement for what they do allows them to develop stage presence and the ability to connect with their audience.

The enthusiasm of great stage performers is inescapable and is the one element of the performer that is infectious and commands audience response.

Discipline

Regardless of how great a performer one thinks he or she is, discipline is a trait that is essential for the success of every performing artist. Although eagerness for the art makes the discipline of practicing seem effortless, there are so many more fields of discipline that are required by a successful stage performer.

Rehearsals with band members, instructors or stylists demand punctuality. Thus a performer always has to be disciplined enough to plan his day in such a way that he or she is able to attend his or her rehearsals on time.

Many performers are heavily criticized if they appear to be out of shape during their performances. This can be decided based on both physical appearance and control levels during performances. Successful artists who want to stay on top of their game usually develop the discipline of maintaining a healthy lifestyle- they go to the gym, they eat well, and they sleep well. I am sure you will agree that most of the performers that you adore maintain a great looking physique and are rarely out of breath during their performances.

Discipline is directly tied in to a performer’s confidence on stage. If a performer feels like some aspect of the performance was not well prepared before hand, it can definitely affect his or her confidence levels, and consequently the performance as a whole.

The Ability to own a personal unique style

Many great artists are inspired by those that have come before them; and although at times we can in fact detect similarities amongst many great performers, there is always undoubtedly a unique quality about each great artist that separates him or her from the rest.

Having been in many talent competitions myself, and having prepared dozens of students for performances, I have often heard comments like: “You possess an amazingly unique style that is so captivating”, “I have never heard this etude played this way before”, or “You bring nothing unique to your audience, I am sorry”.

Producers are always looking for unique voices, original styles and unmatched talent to work with and to promote. There is no great math to it. People in general are always craving new things; and when they discover something new that they like, their desire for more becomes insatiable.

 

Great stage presence

What good is a performer with great musical skill, or great dancing talent, if he or she is unable to utilize the stage in a manner that allows him or her to connect with the audience? Commanding the stage is an art in itself, and most definitely does not come over night. It takes a few performances well, before artists begin to connect with the crowd before them. Some artists begin their performances by saying, “This one is for each and every one of you that has come out to join me tonight”. Others work the stage by using movements and gestures that keep the audience’s eyes glued to them. Many performers utilize the entire stage, working it from left to right as they sing, dance or move with their instrument.

A performer’s challenge is to make each and every person in the crowd feel special and appreciated during the performance.

Exceptional costuming

I am sure you have witnessed the entrance of a performer in a costume so alarmingly outstanding that you become totally tuned in to the performance the second he or she appears. While eccentric costuming can definitely aid in engaging and audience, there must be just the right amount eccentricity so that the value of the performance is not lost.

Most artists like to own a dress style that is unique to them. Artists like Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Shakira often go for the glamorous sexy look. Other artists like Lady Gaga and Nikki Minaj go for more daring costuming; and performers like Katie Perry, Rihanna and Christina Aguilera are usually a combination of both bold and glam.

Group performers usually choose costumes that lend uniqueness to each member of the group, while allowing some commonality amongst them. The common colors may be black, white and green, but the style of the suits may be different.

Although costumes are extremely important for embellishment and effect, it is important to note that costuming can make or break a performance- If it is too distracting, the crowd focuses on the costume to the extent that it understates the performer’s skill; and if it is just right it complements the artist well and aids to an outstanding performance.

As the audience, we are used to getting the final product. We look on, we criticize, we praise, we emote, and we enjoy. I have listed some of the major attributes of great stage performers, but I am sure that there are many more qualities that contribute to stage performances that exude perfection.

For me, the most important of all the qualities a performer must possess is the ability to be true to who he or she is. All other attributes are definitely necessary, but that unique quality or trait that sets one performer apart from the rest is always going to be the most invaluable of the lot, and the one that gives longevity to the performer’s career.

http://gisr07.hubpages.com/hub/What-makes-a-great-stage-performance

Most Perfect Trick in Magic

eggbagTHE MALINI EGG BAG is the answer.ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED???  Perhaps you were expecting some hidden secret trick.As I said, “It’s right under your nose!”

The Egg Bag goes back much earlier than 1913 and was always a popular trick.  In 1913, Max Malini changed the design of the bag to make it the perfect trick.

The fact that you all had an egg bag when you were starting in magic sometimes makes you pass over the Malini Egg Bag becasue you think it is the same
thing.  IT IS NOT!  The Malini design takes this from a good trick to a mind blower.

DO YOU ALREADY OWN A MALINI BAG? Some who called said “Oh, I already have that.”  I then asked “Are you doing it yet?'”  The answer is usually “No, I haven’t got a routine for it yet.”  It is surprising as to how many of you have this effect in your drawer and again are searching for the Holy Grail of presentations.  JUST LEARN THE MOVES AND START DOING IT.  The routine will
develop as you perform it.  The effect itself is so strong that your audiences will love it even while you are still learning it.

YOU DON’T LIKE THE EGG BAG??  I have heard that statement before.  That’s why I wrote the last newsletter.  Forget the name of the trick.  If it fullfills the ten criteria listed from the last newsletter, don’t you think it’s time
you reconsidered??  Once you see how much your AUDIENCE loves it, the  YOU will
love it also.  Remember, most who have never owned a Malini Egg Bag think it’s
just another egg bag.  I don’t care how many egg bags you own, if you are not familiar with the Malini Style bag, IT WILL AMAZE YOU!!!

STILL NOT CONVINCED?????

The only way you will ever really know is to LEARN IT.  Just ask Johnny Thompson, Jeff Hobson, Tom Mullica, John Carney, Harry Riser, Danny Tong, Wayne
Dobson, Eric DeCamps, Bob White, Gazzo, Bob Sheets or any of the guys who are doing it.  But then again, what do THEY know??

Below is everything you will need.  The Bag, The Eggs, the Instruction Manuals, and the DVDs.  It’s all here.

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THE BAG

The style of the Malini bag is different from the ones you have owned.  It’s not a Tarbell Bag, A Sterling Bag, a Mardo Bag.  It’s a MALINI BAG!  It is a difficult bag to make. No more fumbling.

THE MALINI EGG BAG by Pauline Tong-$30.00

If you don’t have this yet, wake up and smell the coffee!  The most “perfect trick” in magic.  Do it close-up and surrounded, as walk around, for small groups, or on the largest of stages.  A long time staple in my own act for over 30 years.  Available in either black or red.  Absolutely amazing vanish and reproduction of an egg under challenge conditions.  Audiences talk about this
one long after your show is over.  The book, Ken Brooke & Friends on the Malini Egg Bag ($7.50), is recommended to learn this correctly and the Charlie Miller Egg Bag Routine ($5.00) will give you a wonderful routine.

LEGACY MALINI EGG BAG by Lynetta Welch-$87.95

Here is the highest quality Malini Egg Bag in existence.  All hand made by Lynetta Welch, this is the bag used by Johnny Thompson and others.  If you already perform the Malini Egg Bag and realize its strength, then you might
consider making this investment.  This bag is made to the Max Malini specifications being 7″ wide and 8″ deep.  The gimmick is slightly larger than the standard Malini bag allowing you to use a larger egg and yet the handling is exactly the same.  The thumb covers it all.  The seamwork on this bag is immaculate and it turns inside and out like a dream.  Available in either black or burgundy
colors.

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THE EGGS

The enemy of a Malini Bag is WEIGHT!  Please do not destroy this effect by using wooden eggs with the “decoy duck line.”  To an audience, the effect is heightened by the fact that they think you are using a real, raw egg!!  Don’t
use billiard balls, wooden or plaster eggs, etc.

BLOWN EGGS (PACK OF 6)-$13.00

Here is a set of six blown eggs for use in your Malini Egg Bag.  These are the eggs I use personally in my own routine.  Each is made from a real egg, but
the insides have been blown out for lightness (so important in the Malini Egg Bag). The  holes in the eggs should be covered with white spackling compound
and then sanded down with fine sandpaper to give the look of a solid egg. The six eggs come in a plastic case to travel and protect the eggs at all times.  It’s good to stock up on these eggs.

EGGSACTLY EGG (MEDIUM OR SMALL)-$12.50

These eggs are actually made from real eggs.  Each egg has been emptied and the inside coated with a “hardener” for greater durability.  Eggs are available in  medium size or small size and are great for use with the Malini Egg Bag.

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THE MANUALS

Without the proper instructional manuals on the handling of the Malini Bag, there is no reason to buy the bag.    You must learn to handle it correctly.

Below are the two BEST manuals I know of.  These are the two manuals I learned from.

KEN BROOKE & FRIENDS ON THE MALINI EGG BAG by Ken Brooke-$7.50

I honestly consider this booklet to be the finest work on the Malini Egg Bag ever.  Ken Brooke, Charlie Miller, and others cover all aspects of handling the Bag, working with spectators, the routines, the patter, the gags and bits
of business, etc.  If you own a Malini bag you MUST have this book.

CHARLIE MILLER EGG BAG ROUTINE by Charlie Miller-$5.00

Here is an 18 page instruction manual for the Malini Egg Bag as performed by Charlie Miller.  Here is the complete handling and presentation of this terrific effect exactly as performed by Charlie throughout his career.  Complete
with instructions on making the perfect “blown egg” for the effect.  This is the method with a single hole in the egg shell as well as how to seal it and make
it look soooo natural.

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OTHER BOOKS WITH MALINI EGG BAG WORK

The magic world is full of egg bag material.  It always helps to read and study as much as you can.  The more information you have, the better you will be.

EGG BAG BOOK (NOW OUT OF PRINT-I HAVE A FEW LEFT)-by John Novak-$20.00

This book explains the history behind the bag and explains many of the bags used.  The standard, the Tarbell, the Sterling, Mardo, Highpocket, Miller/Malini, how to prepare the eggs, moves and handling, etc.  Plus a
bibliography and where you can find egg bag work and routines in various books and magazines.
This is a great research work for anyone with an egg bag.

MALINI AND HIS MAGIC by Dai Vernon-$30.00

Finally reprinted by L&L publishing, this is one of Vernon’s most sought after books. 107 hardcover pages depict the life and magic of Malini, one of
conjuring’s most extraordinary men. Malini worked for royalty and tycoons for top dollar. Find out how he did it and the effects he did to create his fame. A very valuable book.

SECRETS OF AN ESCAMOTEUR by Harry Riser-$45.00

Harry Riser’s reputation as a magician’s magician, a man who can astound both the public and his peers, has been established for many decades. His ability to hone the “cutting edge” has kept him firmly among the avant-garde to the present day. If the Riser name is new to you, here is a short sampling of opinions by others:

“Harry Riser has been my very close friend, confidant, and mentor for over 33 years.” JOHN THOMPSON

“Harry knows how spectators think. He knows what throws the observer’s brain
into overload…”- TELLER

“It wasn’t just that I couldn’t figure out how Harry was doing the tricks he performed. I couldn’t figure out how any method was possible.” MICHAEL CLOSE

“His magic sneaks up on you…then all of a sudden explodes!”- JON RACHERBAUMER

“Harry…made several suggestions for the Malini egg bag which I immediately included in my routine.”- CHARLIE MILLER

Get the idea.

Almost ten years ago Ed Brown wrote The Feints and Temps of Harry Riser, a large selection of Riser magic. It was immediately acclaimed by the cognoscenti.
A sequel was always planned, but various factors delayed its completion. Hermetic Press is proud to announce that that book, written this time by Mr. Riser
himself, is now completed. Secrets of an Escamoteur offers Riser material that the professionals have long been waiting for. In its 247 pages, full details are given on-
THE MALINI EGG BAG: its construction and the extraordinarily cunning Riser routine.

Denny Haney is the owner of Denny & Lee Magic Studio and a wealth of knowledge. 

I was just sitting and thinking about how much magic has changed since David Blaine, Criss Angel, and the Internet. The name “Close Up Magic” seems to have been replaced with “Street Magic.” This seems to be all the rage with new products constantly being produced and sold on internet shops throughout the world. When you watch live demos of these “new” effects, the accent seems to be on spectators running down the street and yelling obscenities about what they just saw. I have been told that this is “progress” and a few have suggested that I must change with the times. Well, I gave it some thought and I must admit that this is the way magic is “sold” today. Some have said that I am old fashioned and stuck in my ways. Again, I thought about that. They are correct again.

Progress and change do not necessarily mean “better.” Don’t get me wrong. There have been great improvements in magic over the past decade as far as “method” and the ability to fool an audience of spectators. Some very clever things have been produced and released. The appeal of the “bizarre” type of magic seems to be the end game in these effects. So what is todays general performance of close up magic lacking…and why?

I think that the key ingredient missing from most close up or “street” magic is “entertainment value.” I don’t mean shocking an audience into a flurry of expletives. I mean giving your audience a truly pleasant experience. Making them smile or laugh seems to be the last goal of todays “new” magician. Thinking about this caused me to open a book that was published over ten years ago and has been almost forgotten because the “hype” is over. That book is titled “In A Class by Himself, The Legacy of Don Alan” and it was written by Jon Racherbaumer. [Continue Reading…]

SOME THOUGHTS ON HISTORY & BIOGRAPHIES- Denny Haney
Some personal thoughts…
The great Paul Rosini, one of the most successful magicians of our time once stated that he has learned more about performing magic by reading the life stories of other conjurers than he ever did from books and magazines explaining how to do tricks.
Think about the above statement. Doesn’t it make sense?? How can one possibly learn to be great if he knows nothing about those who were great before him??
My thirty year career as a performer was based primarily on the study of magicians from the past. In general, the younger magician of today has approached magic in a different way. I have seen a great display of skill by young magicians. They have learned their sleights, moves, and effects very quickly from teaching DVDs and television. As skillful as they are, there is a lack of “foundation.” Most are unaware of how to use their skill, present themselves as performers, or how to put together an act or show that will be commercially successful and pleasing to a lay audience.
The knowledge of the history of magic gives your craft the “soul” that is necessary to present a credible performance. No matter how great your tricks or effects, an audience can sense a feeling of “shallowness” in your presentations if you lack the necessary foundation upon which your art is built. Believe me, your audience can FEEL it come across.
The entire history of magic is an interesting, colorful, and exciting adventure. From the scribblings on the walls of Egyptian tombs to the television specials and Las Vegas spectaculars of today, the study of the history of magic is a true joy. It will make you laugh, cry, increase your heart beat, and fill your head with thoughts and adventures that will affect your performances for the rest of your life.
If you will look at every single successful magician of today, they have a wealth of knowledge in the history of magic. They read it, they live it, they think it, and most of all they LOVE it.
Just think about the magic that you do. Where did it begin, how did it evolve, and how did you get to where you are?? If the answer is “I learned it on a DVD,” then you have missed that foundation that I spoke of earlier. Your performance has no soul.
Every time you perform an effect, you are becoming a part of magical history. You are affecting someone’s life. They may talk about the effect they witnessed for years to come. If you feel that magic history is not important, than the effects you do throughout your lifetime will be equally as insignificant.
Be the best you can possibly be. Learn about your art. If mediocrity is “good enough for you” and you have no interest in the history of your art, then your chances of being a better performer are very slim.

The Honor System

Stealing magic has become a commonplace crime. Teller, a man of infinite delicacy and deceit, decided to do something about it.

By Chris Jones reprinted by Esquire Magazine

 

Peter Yang

Published in the October 2012 issue

On or about March 15 of this year, Teller — the smaller, quieter half of the magicians Penn & Teller — says he received an e-mail from a friend in New York. In that e-mail, the friend included a link to a video on YouTube called the Rose & Her Shadow. Teller, sitting at his computer in his Las Vegas home, within eyeshot of a large black escape cross once owned by Houdini, clicked on the link. The video lasted one minute and fifty-one seconds. “I had what I can only describe as a visceral reaction to it,” Teller says today.

The video was posted by a magician who works under the stage name Gerard Bakardy; his real name is apparently Gerard Dogge. (Bakardy, a fifty-five-year-old Dutch national born in Belgium, is more than a magician; he prefers the title entertainer, because he’s a musician, too. Along with his blond partner, Nadia, he was, until recently, part of a lounge act called Los Dos de Amberes, the Two from Antwerp, booked mostly in the resort of Fuerteventura on the Canary Islands off Spain. “A lovely way to spend an evening,” they said in online advertisements that have since disappeared.) Leaning into his computer screen, Teller watched Bakardy perform some kind of trick.

Against a crimson curtain, Bakardy had erected an easel with what looked like a large pad of white paper on it. Perhaps six feet in front of the easel sat a small wood table bearing a glass Coke bottle filled with water. That bottle also contained a single rose. A spotlight, outside of the camera’s view, cast the rose’s shadow on the paper on the easel. Dressed in a dark suit, Bakardy appeared in the frame carrying a large knife in his right hand. He sliced it deep into the rose’s shadow. And when he cut into its shadow, something impossible happened: The corresponding part of the rose fell off the stem and onto the table. Petal by petal, Bakardy cut at the rose’s shadow until that Coke bottle somehow held only a decapitated stem, which he removed as though to demonstrate the absence of wires. He then lifted up the bottle itself — still no strings attached — and poured out the water. Ta-da.

The video ended with Bakardy’s e-mail address and an offer to sell the props necessary for the Rose & Her Shadow for what turned out to be 2,450 euros, or about $3,050 at the time. In bold white type across the bottom of the screen, Bakardy left a final message for his fellow magicians, including a dumbstruck Teller: EASY TO PERFORM.

Teller is sxty-four years old; he has been a full-time magician since 1975, but he first began performing magic tricks when he was five and had nearly died. The only child of Philadelphia artists Joe and Irene Teller, he had contracted a viral infection that blossomed into a heart ailment called myocarditis. After a long stay in the hospital, he had to spend more time recuperating at home. Luckily there was a relatively new marvel called TV to occupy him, and he watched Howdy Doody, from which he ordered the Howdy Doody Magic Kit. It included a trick with a box and two lids. When Teller opened the box on one side and showed its contents to his indulgent parents, there were six tiny Mars bars; after he’d theatrically rattled it and spun it so that he could open the opposite lid, there were only three. “This is an absolute miracle I can do with my own hands,” he says today in the present tense, as though no time has passed.

Because Teller performs almost entirely without speaking, his voice, strong and certain, comes as a surprise. He speaks in prose, in long, languid paragraphs peppered with literary and historical references. (He once taught high school Latin; dissatisfied with the prescribed textbook, he wrote his own.) But his round face, particularly his eyes and mouth, continue to do much of the talking for him. He is capable of great expression with just a turn of his lips, and his eyes are big and shining. They are also quick to brim with tears. “I’m more apt to cry at something beautiful than at something sad,” he says.

Attempting to explain magic’s hold on him, Teller invokes the psychiatrist in Equus, Martin Dysart, who tries to understand why the boy at the play’s center has a blinding love of horses. A child is born into a world of phenomena all equal in their power to enslave, Dysart says. It sniffs — it sucks — it strokes its eyes over the whole uncountable range. Suddenly one strikes. Why? Moments snap together like magnets, forging a chain of shackles. Why? I can trace them. I can even, with time, pull them apart again. But why at the start they were ever magnetized at all — just those particular moments of experience and no others — I don’t know.

Now Teller’s voice isn’t strong. He’s gasping, choking on it. “I don’t know,” he says. “I don’t know.”

But for him, magic was what struck bedrock. He has dedicated his life to the distortion of reality, to trickery and benign deceit. His startling, angular house, built against a hillside in the red Nevada desert — “a poorly camouflaged military installation” is how he describes it; it’s the one with the giant skull painted on the roof — is a monument to his love. Every room has a secret. His library is filled with ancient magic books, including what’s considered one of the art’s seminal texts, Discoverie of Witchcraft, from 1584. (It’s extremely rare, because, as the story has it, King James ordered every copy burned.) One of the hallways is built in forced perspective, so it seems longer than it really is. The window that appears to be at its end is actually in the adjoining wall; a full-length 45 degree mirror explains the illusion. In the garden, there’s a large bronze bear that somehow greets guests by name. The bear also does card tricks. Inside the house, Teller might hand a bewildered visitor a deck of cards and ask him to pick one before they head outside. The bear will then growl, “Was it the five of clu— no. It was the five of spades,” and the bear will be right. “That one fools magicians,” Teller says.

Other parts of his house reveal rather than hide. In some ways it feels like a museum in which all the exhibits have another exhibit behind them. Houdini’s black escape cross? There’s a small pedal tucked into its base. When Houdini pressed his bootheel against it, three sets of blades hidden in the cross’s arms sliced through the ropes that bound him. Those blades still work today. Teller has a supply of rope to prove it, because he likes people to believe him.

There is a lecture about belief that Teller has given exactly four times. He has never allowed the lecture to be recorded in any way. Unless you were in the audience, it has never happened. It is called the Red Ball, after a trick he added relatively recently to Penn & Teller’s Las Vegas show. Before Teller performs the trick, Penn announces to the hushed theater: “The next trick is done with a piece of thread.” Teller then takes the stage, on which there is a simple bench, with a red ball and a wooden hoop in his hands. He bounces the ball. He gives it to a member of the audience to bounce. And then he drops the ball before he somehow makes it roll around the stage and back and forth along the bench, as though on command. Sometimes the ball is stuck to one of his fingers or to the small of his back; sometimes it is several feet out of his reach. He even has it jump through the hoop. All of which makes it impossible for him to be performing the Red Ball with a piece of thread. Penn must be lying. There must be something more to the trick.

In his lectures, Teller explained that the trick did not originate with him. It is based on techniques developed by a largely forgotten man named David P. Abbott, a loan shark who lived in Omaha and did magic in front of invitation-only audiences in his specially built parlor. Houdini, Kellar, Ching Ling Foo, Thurston — all the great magicians of the era made the pilgrimage to Omaha and left baffled. One of Abbott’s tricks involved a golden ball that floated in the air around him. But rather than use a thread suspended from the ceiling, Abbott revealed posthumously in his Book of Mysteries, he ran the thread horizontally from his ear to the wall. By manipulating that thread with his careful hands, he could make that golden ball seem as though it were defying reality. Best of all, he could pass a hoop over it — what magicians call a prover — and eliminate a piece of thread from his audience’s range of possibility, because a horizontal thread had never entered their imagination. They were looking only for the vertical.

The real point of magic, Teller said during those lectures, is “telling a beautiful lie. It lets you see what the world would be like if cause and effect weren’t bound by physics.” It’s the collision between what you know and what you see that provides magic’s greatest spark.

So Teller rigged a thread in his home library, and he put Abbott’s ancient instructions on a music stand — pages that had been miraculously saved from a trash fire years before — and he went to work on making the impossible seem real. Eventually, he decided that the ball shouldn’t float but roll. That would look simpler, but it would be harder. He practiced some more at a mirrored dance studio in Toronto, and at a cabin deep in the woods, and on the empty stage in Penn & Teller’s theater. After every show for eighteen months, he would spend at least an hour, by himself, trying to make the Red Ball obey. (“Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect,” Teller says.)

“I have to screw around,” he told those four audiences, “to sniff the scent of an idea and track it down like a wild boar in the forest.

“It’s still the hardest-to-execute piece of magic I’ve ever tried. In six months or a year, it will start to settle into my bones. In ten years, it’ll be perfect.

“And so, what turns out to be the idea in the woods?

“I think: I’m depicting a magic trick done with a thread by using a ball that’s actually alive. And I’m doing that depiction by using a piece of thread. Just one. Just a piece of thread.

“So now you know everything.”

In the dusty rumble strips just outside Las Vegas, there is a man named Bill Smith who owns a company called Bill Smith’s Magic Ventures. He doesn’t invent tricks, but he builds them. He has built them for David Copperfield and Lance Burton and even Penn & Teller. He knows nearly all of the secrets. And one day earlier this year, while sitting behind his desk in his strange magic factory, Smith talked about the Red Ball and how much he would love to know how Teller does it. “That one has me fooled,” Smith said. “There’s no way he does that with a piece of thread.”

But here’s the truth about the Red Ball: Penn isn’t lying to the audience, and neither was Teller in those four lost lectures. There is no such thing as magic. He really is doing that trick with a single piece of thread.

 

n or about March 22 of this year, Teller called Gerard Bakardy. They would talk many times on the phone, Teller says, and they would also exchange e-mails. Teller told Bakardy that the Rose & Her Shadow looked a little too much like a trick of his own called Shadows that he conceived when he was a teenager and has performed at nearly every one of his shows since 1975. If you saw Bakardy’s version and only it, you would think that it was very good. To paraphrase Penn, it would be like hearing the Byrds play “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Watching Teller performing Shadows is like hearing Dylan.

The stage is black, except for the spotlight trained on a single rose in a plain white vase, casting its shadow on a large sheet of paper clipped to an easel. Teller walks slowly toward the easel, his knife flashing. First, he cuts into the shadow of a group of leaves, and down the real leaves fall. He casts a sidelong glance at the rose. Some people laugh. He steps between the rose and the easel — unlike Bakardy, proving there are no wires before he has completed the trick — and cuts down a few more leaves, which flutter and float clear. He then finishes carving up the shadow, killing the rose in a cascade of red petals.

That’s the moment when Bakardy stopped, perhaps because the trick’s final act might not have been suitable for a dinner show. Teller surveys his deadly handiwork, the audience rising around him in the dark, before he “accidentally” pricks his finger with the knife. He stares at the damage he’s done to himself, and then he puts his hand in front of the light, casting its shadow where the rose’s used to be. A small trickle of red blood spills down the paper, as though out of his shadow, exactly where he cut himself. With a final silent flourish, Teller runs his hand over the blood, smearing it like a thick streak across a butcher’s apron. And then the lights go out.

Shadows is the most elusive sort of trick, beautiful and mystifying. It’s also particularly ripe for theft, because it’s small and self-contained. Penn’s solo tricks might involve nail guns or fire eating, and together, Penn & Teller shoot pistols and risk asphyxiating each other inside giant bags of helium. But in Teller’s solo tricks, in his silent, lonely tricks, the only props might be a red ball or a single rose in a vase and a knife. When Teller is just Teller — he has legally dropped his given name, Raymond, as needless clutter — his tricks are stripped down to their glowing white cores.

It’s actually Penn who best explains the power of magical restraint in his autobiography, God, No! Penn was once a student at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in Florida. There, he learned a way to distinguish professional clowns from amateurs: the red makeup around their mouth. A professional clown stops his makeup at his top lip. He won’t paint where his mustache might be, because he knows that too much makeup actually obscures his expression rather than enhances it. Amateur clowns assume that more makeup equals more expression, and they paint from the bottom of their nose to the point of their chin. Professional clowns refer to this phenomenon as the “busted asshole.”

While someone like David Copperfield can fortify his grand illusions against larceny by making them too baroque and expensive to copy — to do the Appearing Car, you have to have a car, for starters — Teller has to rely on simpler defenses. In 1983, he obtained a U. S. certificate of copyright registration for Shadows. It was the first time he’d attempted anything of the sort. Teller knew that Houdini, beset by copyists, had tried to protect his tricks by writing them into one-act plays. (Pantomimes were, and remain, protected by law.) Teller wasn’t seeking to defend Shadows as a magic trick, but more as a piece of performance art. His filing even included a typewritten description of the trick in which he refers to himself as “the Murderer,” along with an illustration of a grinning Teller, clad entirely in black, carving up a rose by slicing into its shadow.

Until Bakardy came along, Teller had never needed his copyright filings to stake a claim. “It’s not like good manners and generosity are inappropriate ways to behave in the world,” he says. When he has contacted light-fingered magicians in the past, they have always apologized and stopped performing the trick. For instance, he does a trick in which he spills handfuls of coins into a tank filled with water, and they somehow turn into living, breathing goldfish. It’s a throat-catching effect, and a magician in Sweden, who had seen Teller performing the trick on TV, studied the tape and finally lifted it. After Teller called him, the magician said sorry, boxed up his props in a crate, minus the fish, and shipped them to Las Vegas.

This time around, Teller offered to pay Gerard Bakardy several thousand dollars for the time he spent working on the Rose & Her Shadow. He had to promise only that he would stop performing and selling the trick. Bakardy, after asking whether Teller might help him bring Los Dos de Amberes to America, countered with a higher price. No one will confirm exactly what that amount was, but it was allegedly more than $100,000. “It really wasn’t possible for me to come to any terms,” Teller says. “It ended up having certain elements that reminded me of a kidnapping.”

Teller, who had already persuaded YouTube to take down the offending video, asked Bakardy whether his demands were firm. Bakardy said they were.

Teller had a decision to make.

One of the greatest inventors of magic can be found inside a brick bungalow on a quiet tree-lined street in Burbank, outside Los Angeles. His name is Jim Steinmeyer. He is fifty-three years old, with silver hair and a neatly trimmed beard. In his office behind his house, he works amid towering stacks of magic books and some very worn-out tricks: the cups and balls, the linking rings, a box used to hold the woman doomed to be cut in half. (Actually, he owns two of those.) He is the man who taught David Copperfield how to make the Statue of Liberty disappear. Steinmeyer has also invented more than one hundred other illusions, many of which have become industry staples. His most famous is Origami, which he devised for Doug Henning. Copperfield also performed Origami, wearing a puffy white shirt; so did Siegfried & Roy and the Pendragons. More than one hundred magicians have legally included Origami in their acts after buying it and its secrets from the builder Steinmeyer has authorized to build it. (That builder is not Bill Smith, but Smith does build a number of Steinmeyer’s inventions, including the popular Windshear, in which the performer appears to climb through the blades of a spinning fan.) At least another thousand magicians have bought knockoffs built by a man in Indiana, and a guy in Sicily, and a team of reverse engineers in China.

“Things are just out of control,” Smith says. “It’s the world, and it’s getting worse. There have always been thieves in magic, but thievery has never been so bad as it is now. The biggest shame is, guys like Jim — Jim is retreating. I’m sure he has tons of other good ideas, but he’s not making them, because it’s not worth it. He’s writing books instead.”

“Invention is all fuzzy, sloppy stuff,” Steinmeyer says. “I have patents, and I have had patents that have expired. Everything has a limited lifetime. But when a person can’t make a living by coming up with new material, that’s when you have to wonder about the system. I would say that over the last few years, the last ten years, it’s a net zero. I’m putting as much money into it as I’m getting out.”

Steinmeyer is surrounded by so many pirates, he’s almost given up fighting them off. Because some venerable tricks, like the Zig-Zag Girl, have become so commonplace — much to the likely despair of its late inventor, Robert Harbin — many magicians have convinced themselves that every trick is fair game so long as they’re able to crack its code. Pursuing the Origami thieves alone would be more than “a full-time job,” Steinmeyer says. While his patents have provided some theoretical protection, he has never actually sued one of his robbers, because he knows how consuming and costly that grim task could be. Court cases might also require the magician to reveal too much about his trick in public, making the very act of protecting magic one of the easiest ways to destroy it.

And so, books: Among his many works, Steinmeyer wrote Hiding the Elephant, his best-selling history of magic. In it, he writes that the best tricks are a “collection of tiny lies, in words and deeds, that are stacked and arranged ingeniously.” Like jokes, tricks should have little plots with a twist at the end that’s both implausible and yet logical. You shouldn’t see the punchline coming, but when you do see it, it makes sense. The secret to a great trick isn’t really its method; the method behind most tricks is ugly and disappointing, something blunt and mechanical. (When Penn & Teller have famously exposed a trick, they’ve almost always invented a ridiculously poetic method and built the trick around it; by making their art seem more intricate than it is, they force the audience to assume that the rest of their tricks are equally complex. Penn & Teller’s exposures are really part of an elaborate con.) What matters in magic is the idea — not just the idea, but the expression of the idea. The shadow in Shadows has nothing to do with the execution of the trick itself, but Shadows without the shadow is just a rose falling apart. The value of a trick lies mostly in how much it stokes that battle between your head and your heart, and how badly it makes you want for your heart to win.

“A great trick, like a great song, should be an inspiration,” Steinmeyer says. “It should lead you to other things that are also wonderful. That’s what happens in literature, and it happens in music, and it happens in art. But in magic, they don’t do that. They just take it. You would hope that what you do inspires, but instead it just inspires theft.”

Which means that Jim Steinmeyer has a stockpile of tricks that might never exist anywhere other than here, in his office behind his brick bungalow. “Origami was a thrill, it was wonderful, and I’ve seen it beaten into a bloody pulp before my eyes,” he says. Bill Smith is right. Steinmeyer is still creating tricks; it’s the production of them that has slowed. His invaluable green notebooks with big spiral bindings sit in a pile on his crowded desk, bursting with ideas that may remain locked away forever, because he’s finally invented a pickproof safe: Nobody can steal what they can’t see.

 

 

Teller performing Shadows in 1976 at age twenty-eight, seven years before he copyrighted it. He conceived the trick as a teenager and has performed it onstage for more than thirty-five years.

On April 11 of this year — that date is precisely known — Teller did something it seems no magician has done in decades: He became the plaintiff in a lawsuit in United States District Court to protect one of his magic tricks against theft. The defendant is Gerard Bakardy. “This is an action for copyright infringement and unfair competition under federal statutes,” the Nature of Action reads. “Plaintiff seeks damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.”

When Teller filed his lawsuit, it made news: ROGUE MAGICIAN IS EXPOSING OUR SECRETS!!! read the TMZ headline. Teller did not like the coverage. The publicity might have sold more tickets to the show, but it misunderstood his purpose. Most of the stories suggested that he was suing Bakardy to protect the secret of his trick, the method. “The method doesn’t matter,” Teller says. He has performed Shadows over the years with three different methods, seeking perfection. The first involved a web of fishing line that took a painfully long time to set up; the second version required rigid, uncomfortable choreography; the third, today’s version, he has never revealed. Bakardy, who said that he had seen Penn & Teller’s show, almost certainly didn’t use Teller’s present method. He knew only the idea and the effect it had on the audience. He felt the crackle that runs through the otherwise silent theater when Teller wields his knife; he saw that some people start to cry, little soft sobs in the dark; he heard that some people make strange noises and other people try to make noises and fail. What Bakardy stole from Teller wasn’t a secret. Bakardy stole something that everybody who has ever seen Shadows already knows.

“It’s a particularly great trick,” Steinmeyer says. “It’s beautiful and elegant. It needs no stupid patter. It needs no stupid presentation. Every one of its little surprises makes perfect sense. It has some feeling that it’s bigger; it hints at things that are bigger and more interesting than the trick itself. It’s three minutes long, and it’s just perfect.”

“It’s so beautiful, I have tears in my eyes when he’s finished, I really do,” says the Amazing Randi. “The hush in the audience, my God, nobody breathes. I swear they’re turning blue. You hardly blink. That’s what makes it a very brave trick.”

“Teller tapped into this idea of magical thinking,” Penn says. “I see it as a reminder that this isn’t the way the world works. I see it as a cautionary tale. To me, Shadows is a reminder of how happy we are that the world is the way it is.”

“It’s one of the top five tricks of all time,” Bill Smith says. “There’s no question about it.”

That’s what Bakardy stole from Teller: not the secret, but the magic. In his hands and in the hands of his desperate customers, Shadows risked becoming another Origami or the Zig-Zag Girl. It risked becoming ordinary, remembered for what it was only in eulogies.

But then Bakardy pulled a pretty nifty trick that was all his own. A lawsuit like Teller’s has to be served to the defendant; a physical copy must be put in his hands. And over the last several months, a server has tried and failed to deliver those papers to Bakardy at addresses across Spain and Belgium. On May 8, Bakardy uploaded a video to YouTube that featured only blaring accordion music, gaudy text, and a photo of a rose in a Coke bottle. It promises a great reveal, the true story — as well as “The better than in Las Vegas trick… . ” He also sent a short, cryptic e-mail declining to be interviewed for this story. (“Not now. Soon you’ll see why.”) That’s all anybody has seen or heard of him in the months since Teller’s lawsuit became public. Gerard Bakardy has vanished.

When Teller was in high school, he had a strange and pivotal teacher named D. G. Rosenbaum, an actor and magician who looked diabolical, with a black goatee and pince-nez. Rosey, as the kids called him, smoked black cigarettes and liked to crack raw eggs into his milk shakes. One snowbound afternoon, when his classroom was nearly empty, Rosey read a short story to those few students before him, including an enraptured Teller: “Enoch Soames,” by Max Beerbohm, written in 1916.

In the story, Beerbohm relates the tragic tale of Soames, a dim, hopeless writer with delusions of future grandeur. In the 1890s, Beerbohm recounts, Soames made a deal with the devil: In exchange for his soul, Soames would be magically transported one hundred years into the future — to precisely 2:10 P.M. on June 3, 1997 — into the Round Reading Room at the British Museum. There, he could look at the shelves and through the catalogs and marvel at his inevitable success. When Soames makes his trip, however, he learns that time has almost erased him before the devil has had the chance. He is listed only as a fictional character in a short story by Max Beerbohm.

Thirty-four-and-a-half years after that snowy reading by his satanic-looking teacher, and accepting the large risk that he might be the only person in the world who cared about an old short story called “Enoch Soames,” Teller flew to England ahead of June 3, 1997.

As it turned out, there were about a dozen people in the Round Reading Room that afternoon — a dozen people who had been so struck by that short story at some point in their lives, they too had decided to make the trip to London. There was a woman from Malibu named Sally; there was a short, stocky Spanish man; there was a slender woman wearing pale green. And at ten past two, they gasped when they saw a man appear mysteriously out of the stacks, looking confused as he scanned empty catalogs and asked

unhelpful librarians about his absence from the files. The man looked just like the Soames of Teller’s teenage imagination, “a stooping, shambling person, rather tall, very pale, with longish and brownish hair,” and he was dressed in precise costume, a soft black hat and a gray waterproof cape. The man did everything Enoch Soames did in Max Beerbohm’s short story, floating around the pin-drop-quiet room before he once again disappeared into the shelves.

“For some reason,” Sally from Malibu said, “I’m having to fight tears.”

And all the while, Teller watched with a small smile on his face. He didn’t tell anyone that he might have looked through hundreds of pages in casting books before he had found the perfect actor. He didn’t tell anyone that he might have visited Angels & Bermans, where he had found just the right soft black hat and gone through countless gray waterproof capes. He didn’t tell anyone that he might have had an inside friend who helped him stash the actor and his costume behind a hidden door in the stacks. Even when Teller later wrote about that magical afternoon for The Atlantic, he didn’t confess his role. He never has.

“Taking credit for it that day would be a terrible thing — a terrible, terrible thing,” Teller says. “That’s answering the question that you must not answer.”

Now, again, his voice leaves him. That afternoon took something close to actual sorcery, following years of anticipation and planning. But more than anything, it required a man whose love for magic is so deep he can turn deception into something beautiful.

For years, Penn & Teller sought a way to test our resistance to magic, to come up with a trick that forced us to make a conscious choice between wishes and facts. It took them more than twenty years to come up with the right trick, because they are a particularly patient brand of obsessive. They called the trick Honor System. It was an escape.

Before the show, there were two boxes waiting on the stage, which they invited members of the audience to inspect. One was clear, with a lid like a shoebox; the second, the larger one, looked like a wood crate with a hinged lid that swung open like a door. Teller climbed into the clear box — so the entire audience could see him — and then assistants put him and his box inside the wood crate and locked the crate from the outside. Houdini had done a double-box escape; it was a good trick, because it seemed impossible to push the lid off the clear box without opening the wood crate first. Someone could look at those boxes for a long time and not be able to figure them out.

Penn began his patter. He told the audience that they were about to be given a choice. Teller was going to make good his escape — there was no doubt about that, Penn said. Penn was going to start playing a song on his bass, and Teller was going to finish it on his vibraphone, done deal. The choice for the audience was whether it wanted to be mystified or informed. Keep your eyes open if you want to know the secret, Penn said. Keep your eyes closed if you want to be amazed.

Penn began to finger the strings, and on most nights, most of the people in the crowd kept their eyes open. They chose heads. (If you chose hearts, skip ahead to the next paragraph.) They saw Teller push up both the clear box’s lid and the wood crate’s lid with his feet — the wood crate was built with a hidden rig of pneumatic pistons so that the lid that opened like a door could also rise and fall like a levitating table. He then stepped out of the box, pushed down on the lids to close them, and began playing his vibraphone. It was an elegant little trick, simple and clean. It was an artful reveal.

But for those members of the audience who kept their eyes closed, Honor System was confounding. One moment Teller was locked inside a pair of boxes, and the next he was playing music beside his partner, Penn. There were people who went to see that show seven or eight times, and they never opened their eyes. It became a test of their personal resolve. Given a choice, they chose mystery. For them, Penn & Teller had turned magic into something more than entertainment. “Magic gives you the gift of a stone in your shoe,” their magician friend Mike Close once said. In that short time between Penn’s first hit on his bass and Teller’s opening note on his vibraphone, magic was also an act of will.

On August 9 of this year, Teller received unusual permission from the court to serve Bakardy by e-mail and by running weekly notices in Antwerp and Fuerteventura newspapers for four consecutive weeks. The undelivered lawsuit had been hanging over him for months, and it sometimes showed on his face, these burdens of the man leading life’s artists in their latest fight against life’s thieves. “If he can find him and sue him and win, that would be huge for the world of magic,” Bill Smith says. “It would set a precedent where there’s never been one.”

Nobody seems to know whether Teller’s copyright filing will stand up in court. The law seeks clarity. Magic is expressly designed to be murky. Teller has requested a jury trial; whether he wins or loses could depend on how those twelve citizens see Shadows: Is it art? Is it the sort of art that one man can own?

At its recent World Championships, the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques gave Teller a special award for creativity and artistic vision. Some saw it as an unspoken show of support, a way to steel his resolve while also acknowledging that it’s time for magicians to confront the kidnappers in their ranks. Even if Bakardy never answers the virtual summons, even if the lawsuit never gets settled or goes to court, maybe just the filing of it will be enough to change the order of things. Teller has sometimes told himself as much. “Nothing fools you better than the lie you tell yourself,” he says.

For now, the fate of Teller’s lawsuit, and of Bakardy himself, remains a mystery. The strange thing is, most of the evidence of Bakardy — the stills from his disappeared YouTube video and long-gone online advertisements, his aliases and nationality and birth date — survives only as legal exhibits in Teller’s filing. Bakardy’s name doesn’t come up in magic forums except in reference to the lawsuit, and there are no ready accounts of anyone actually having seen him perform in those distant spots on a map. He has no known current address or phone, and anybody could be behind an e-mail. No one has any idea where he is. It’s as though he’s disappeared off the face of the earth, almost like poor Enoch Soames after he made his deal with the devil.

Is it possible that something beautiful, something implausible and yet logical, will emerge out of what appears to be a perfectly ordinary copyright suit? Could Teller’s lawsuit be part of some incredible trick — that Gerard Bakardy is a stooge or an actor or never existed in the first place? (“The better than in Las Vegas trick…” “Not now. Soon you’ll see why.”) Even for someone as devoted as Teller, even for someone so good at long cons and keeping secrets, that would be an almost impossible trick. That would be the trick of a lifetime. That would be the sort of magic that would make you want to close your eyes.


UPDATE: On September 10, someone purporting to be Gerard Bakardy e-mailed Esquire, TMZ, Reuters, and Magic Magazine to inform them that he has filed a complaint in Belgian court against Teller for “libel, slander, defaming, fraud, extortion-blackmail, etc.” He claims to be seeking damages of 8,000,000 Euros, or about $10,330,000 U.S. dollars. His email concluded, “Mr. Teller is fully informed about this, and I presume he’s eager to give you more details. That’s how celebrities are, they love the media spotlight, at least, that’s what Mr. Teller told me.”