Brian Gillis, Magic Castle and Honor

The Magic CastleThe obscure philosopher and scion of the Hardy magic family, Thomas “Big Tom” Hardy, wrote, “we take our honor where we find it.”

We never understood what he meant by that and think it may have been used in the closing argument in one of the many trespassing prosecutions he faced over his life.  But, it resonated with us Friday as we ventured back into the Magic Castle after too long a time away.

Hollywood was inflamed with Oscar preparations.  The streets were crowded with famous, nearly famous and gawkers walking at a virtually identical pace with the vehicular traffic coursing along Sunset and Hollywood boulevards.   No one was moving quickly but all seemed to be enjoying their journeys.

We have been away from the Castle for about three weeks for unimportant reasons – none of which have to do with anything you may have read on certain Chinese-language blogs published out of Hong Kong.  Plus, if you look carefully at the video those blogs tout, you can see we were at least an unwilling participant in what may or may not have been an unfortunate turn of events, at worst, or a miscommunication with fellow travelers stuck in a chilly airport terminal facing a lengthy flight delay.  We should note that the goat was not ours but was part of the Chinese New Year’s celebration and was certainly well-behaved until the 11:02 mark of the video when all heck broke loose.

Regardless, that is, as the investigating officer said ironically, behind us.

We went back to the Castle Friday night.  Did we say that already?

It was so nice to see old friends and even meet some new people with whom we hope to establish friendships.  Dinner was wonderful as always and the entertainment offerings were befitting a star-studded awards weekend.  Bruce Gold was in the Palace of Mystery, Derek Hughes was in the Parlor of Prestidigitation and Pop Haydn was working the Close-Up Gallery like the boss he is.

In between shows, we ventured downstairs to the amateur rooms and performed a couple of sets.  We had two new effects on which we have been working.  You may be different but we find that no matter how much we rehearse – and we do rehearse a lot – we really have no feel for the pacing of the effect until we actually perform for real people.  By our third set, we had some comfort with the tricks, their presentation and the swelling seemed to abate.

We were getting ready to perform another set – undeterred by the fact that we did not have an audience, not a soul – when who should enter the room but Brian Gillis.  We find it hard to shake the star-struck wonder when we meet celebrities or heroes.  For instance, we are still unable to speak in coherent sentences when we talk with Pop Haydn or Mark Wilson.

Mr. Gillis asked if we were going to do a set and we may have nodded and giggled and twirled our hair (which at our advanced age is not only embarrassing but also tough to do).  He noted that there was not an audience for whom to perform.  We likely nodded again.  At some point, we volunteered to get him an audience.  He said he did not want to impose.  He offered to wait until after we performed.  We declined his generous offer and set about inviting folks downstairs to watch Mr. Gillis.

Within minutes the room was packed.  We do not credit our audience-wrangling skills – the crowd came because we told everyone we met that Brian Gillis would be performing shortly.

Mr. Gillis was on and on fire.  He had people cussing with disbelief at his ability to make the impossible happen so naturally, so easily.  His signed bill to a volunteer-selected sugar packet evoked screams from the packed room.  It was an honor to be in the same room with such an amazing performer.

We were then ready to start our set but saw Handsome Jack enter the room.  He asked if we were going to perform and we again deferred to the better magician and said we would love to watch – which, ironically, was precisely what we intended to say in the Hong Kong airport video.  Mr. Lovick performed a bit of the routine he will do this week in the Close-Up Gallery at the Castle.  It was fantastic.  The audience loved it and we were genuinely fooled by his work.  He, like Mr. Gillis, works so smoothly and so naturally.

Again, it was an honor to be able to tell our grandchildren – one day – that we performed after such amazing magicians.  We finally did our last set of the night and the crowds were pretty well dissipated.  That was okay by us.  We weren’t anxious to provide such a stark contrast between our plebeian skills and those of the two previous masters.  We felt no shame in our lesser abilities but basked in the honor they unknowingly bestowed on a true fan of great magic.

We caught Pop Haydn’s final show of the night and were again in awe of how well magic can be presented.  He is the complete package.  A master of difficult sleights, audiences and entertaining performance.  There is much to be learned and we feel blessed that we are always ready to learn.  We may be star-struck but at least we are always open to the lessons.

Eric DeCamps in ‘Pure Magic’ Homage to Rene Lavand

Eric DeCampsThe New Jersey Herald reports sleight of hand master Eric DeCamps will be performing his Pure Magic — A Performance of Contemporary Conjuring this Saturday at the Sparta Avenue Stage.

Mr. DeCamps will perform at 7:00 and 9:00 pm dedicated to Argentinian close-up maestro Rene Lavand.  Mr. Levand was a guest on the Ed Sullivan Show and Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show and a true legend in our business.  He passed away last week.

Mr. DeCamps has serious skills as well.  He was The Society of American Magicians’ Magician of the Year and only the second person to receive the Society’s prestigious Gold Medal of Excellence for Close Up Magic.

Mr. Levand was a mentor to Mr. DeCamps.

“He was an inspiration to so many in and out of the world of magic. I admired his artistry, respected him as a person and cherished his advice, friendship and mentorship. I am adding an additional performance piece inspired by Rene’s work. The piece is not part of the original show program. It is one that Rene and I spoke about over the phone. However, much to my sorrow, I never had the opportunity to actually show him the finished piece in performance.”

Pure Magic — A Performance of Contemporary Conjuring is a special Valentine evening edition of the Sparta Avenue Stage’s Friday Night Magic Series. Admission is $20 and  you can learn more about the event at the Sparta Avenue Stage’s website here:

Visit Mr. DeCamps’ website here.


Lance Burton Teen Seminar Set for Jacksonville Convention

IBM Jacksonville Convention LogoEugene Burger and Larry Hass will be facilitating the Lance Burton Teen Seminar at the 87th Annual I.B.M. Convention in Jacksonville, FL on July 13-15, 2015. The McBride Magic and Mystery School has been facilitating Lance Burton’s young magician’s events since its inception in 2003.

Along with Eugene and Larry we are expecting participation from I.B.M. International President, Shawn Farquhar and Oscar Munoz.  This event is being sponsored by the I.B.M. Endowment and Development Fund and is open to all magicians ages 13-19 that are registered for the I.B.M. Convention at NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE. Stay tuned for future announcements about the event!

If you haven’t registered yet – don’t wait any longer – register today!! Registration fees increase on March 1, 2015!!!

To register go to

David Ben Advises Canadian Museum on Houdini Collection

Houdini Buried AliveMagician David Ben is in the news today as Montreal’s McCord Museum announced it has acquired a collection of 600 posters, 200 rare books and 200 documents documenting magic in the 19th to early 20th centuries.  The acquisition cost approximately $3,000,000.00 but sounds priceless.

Mr. Ben is  the Artistic Director of Magicana – an organization dedicated to the study of magic – and was a key adviser to the museum.

“It’s the second-largest collection of Houdini material held in a public institution,” Mr. Ben told reporters today.

The US Library of Congress houses the largest collection.

The materials will be made available for scholars and will be the subject of a 2017 exhibition at the museum.

The artifacts trace Houdini’s beginnings as a magician in eastern Canada, but also the rise of spiritualism – the belief that the dead can communicate with the living. It also “tracks the social history of advertising” through the use of lithography and its posters, Ben said.

The acquisition is the gift of the Emmanuelle Gattuso Foundation.  Ms. Gattuso is the wife Standard Broadcasting’s Allan Slaight.  Before becoming a major media mogul, Mr. Slaight was a professional magician and mind reader.

We will keep you advised on public opportunities to view the collection.  We cannot wait.

Read more in The Montreal Gazette.

Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz Bring The Grim Game to Light

Inside Magic Image of The Grim Game PosterWe wrote last week of Turner Classic Movies’ plans to present Houdini’s film The Grim Game.  It was a major find and we knew there had to be more to the story.  Fortunately, Inside Magic Favorite magicians Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz, from the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, wrote to fill us in.  By the way, we heard that Ms. Dietrich was just elected President of Assembly 160 of the Society of American Magicians for Scranton.  Congratulations to an outstanding performer and great person.

Houdini made the film in 1919 but it was considered lost until recently.  Mr. Brookz writes that the “only complete copy of the film was hidden in the collection of juggler Larry Weeks who got it from Houdini’s wife after Houdini died.  I have known Larry since I was in my early teens.  Larry trusted us and knew we would never do anything that was not in his best interest. He knew with us involved it would be done in a proper way to protect his legacy.  We even put together and host his web site””

Mr. Brookz said the juggler had a different perspective on his keeping the film out of circulation.  “Over the years Larry invited us to see the film on two occasions. He found it odd and incomprehensible when I told him that some magicians berated him for hoarding the movie that he preserved over the years at great personal cost.”

Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brookz brought in their well-connect friend, Rick Schmidlin, to work as a go-between with Mr. Weeks and TCM.  Mr. Weeks passed away on October 13, 2014.

The restored film will have an musical score composed by Brane Zivkovic an award winning film, television, and theatre composer. This was all done with financial help from Turner Classic Movies, who will premiere it at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival held Thursday, March 26 – Sunday, March 29, 2015, in Hollywood.

“We are so proud to have accomplished this,” said Ms. Dietrich.  “To know that essentially every magician in the world big and small, will get the thrill of viewing this wonderful Houdini movie because of us. This includes future magicians for all time, as well as millions of non-magicians. It was our goal to get this to someone who would release it to the public and not hoard in their cellar or a back room somewhere.”

We owe Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brookz for their work in bringing this classic back.  If you have not visited The Houdini Museum, you need to make plans to do so immediately.  It is a wonderful experience, expertly presented by Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brookz.  Visit their incredible site here: