Mandrake the Magician

Magicians of a “Certain Age” and Dry Hands

Inside Magic Image of Magic ShowAs we type, Los Angeles is going through a humid spell. Some accounts have it as high as 70 percent or as low as 50 percent – but either of those extremes is extreme for the region.

Yes, it will mess with our fancy hair-do but it will also let us deal seconds without the need for moistening agents.

When we were very young, we found it amusing that the older magicians in our local IBM Ring had to lick their fingers before every difficult card move. Some had to lick their fingers before even dealing cards. We thought – basking in our youthful ignorance – “we’ll never be like that. We will always have moist fingers and palms. And even if we do eventually have dry hands, we’ll hire someone to lick our fingers.”

We had some issues back then – but lack of hand moisture was not one of them.

Once we hit mid-life, our ability to deal seconds fell off horribly. We could still do the mechanical part but we couldn’t control the number of cards in play.

We thought there should be some product available to magicians of “a certain age” to allow them to again perform as they did in their youth. Something so they would be “ready” when the “moment was right.”

We used those terms in our Google search but it resulted in products that had little to do with card manipulation or magic in its strictest sense.

We asked our magic friends – in strictest confidence, because of our shame – and hoped they would either have a solution or sympathy for our frustration. But we found no support amongst our peers. We suspect they were too embarrassed to admit their problem to us.

At an IBM convention, we met up with Mr. Second Deal, Simon Lovell. He wrote the book on the sleight — Second to None. We asked him how we could keep our fingers moist enough to do second deals – either double push-off or strike second deal. He felt our pain. He suggested we keep an iced drink nearby and touch it as needed. We thanked him and went forward to find a different solution.

We spoke with our physician and he expressed surprise. “Why, no one has ever asked me how to make their hands more sweaty.” As we recall the exchange, he sounded like the Wizard of Oz in the final scene when he provides a heart for The Tin Woodsman.

He probably sounded like a normal doctor – it was just our shame tainting the memory.

He had no solutions. He did tell us about a surgery that can be done to decrease palm sweating and we thanked him for this advice in case we should ever need it – which we won’t and that was the problem.

We went to various health food stores asking for products to rub on our skin to bring back the moisture we once had. We bought pounds of products and none of them worked any better than licking our digits. (Ironically, this was the name of our first full-length vinyl album back on the Monarch record label.  We sold more than 157 copies and many to people unrelated to us.  But we digress).

When we were in New Orleans and Florida – the humidity was just right. Both locations were like Los Angeles is today but more so. New Orleans and Florida (yes, we know one is a city and the other is an entire state) have the right kind of constant humidity necessary to keep our sweaty little palms sweaty. The closer we got to the Gulf of Mexico, the better our hands became. That meant we could deal almost perfect seconds as long as we were within 50 miles of the Gulf. Beyond that, we were back to suffering with the problem that affects folks of our “certain age.”

We tried the following with no beneficial results:

  1. Hand Lotions – made our hands smoother and helped a little but quickly wore off. Sadness returned.
  2. Chamberlain Golden Touch Lotion – from a company in Iowa and hard to find. It worked well and lasted longer than saliva but has a pronounced, 1950’s odor. It makes our hands smell like our uncle when he got out of the service and was interviewing for jobs in his 1964 Plymouth.
  3. Preparation H Wipes – actually worked the best but was embarrassing to buy in quantities (had to go to a drug store outside our town) and very embarrassing to have in one’s pocket when one is getting ready to perform a magic trick.  Although its multi-purpose nature made it a good thing to take along even if we did not expect to perform magic.
  4. Sortkwik – used by cashiers everywhere to get their fingers ready to count big stacks of cash. We liked it and used it but found it a little too sticky when used to excess – like most things in life.
  5. Hair Gel – we don’t use hair “product” so it took a lot of experimentation to realize we were barking up the wrong tree – just because something is goopy, doesn’t mean it will be the right kind of sticky. That’s a good life lesson too.
  6. Glycerin / Glycerin & Rose Water – this had great promise. We read something on the internet about it being the best treatment. We tried every possible titrate but none achieved the results we needed. We were sad but our hands smelled so nice it was a joy to hold our face in them whilst we sobbed.

Then we hit upon the solution.

Papercreme is the solution. Yes, Papercreme. Never heard of it? Nor had we but now we swear by it. Challenge us. Walk up to us when we are in any performing venue and grab our pockets and feel away. You will prove to yourself that we have serious issues still and that we always carry a small container of Papercreme.

The substance works like Sortkwik but for some reason works better. It is the perfect consistency, easy to apply and lasts as long as a 20-minute routine. Cards don’t stick together when they shouldn’t and deal as they would if they were being handled by some know-it-all youngster in a magic club 40 years ago. We buy ours from Amazon and have not seen it in stores – and we always look. It is inexpensive and effective.

But today is a special day in West Hollywood. Due to the humidity we can deal seconds with abandon and feel young again. We don’t need to dip into our Papercreme store today. Today we can deal seconds and immediately touch people on their face without leaving any sort of greasy mark and that is a reason to celebrate.

Mirror Online Asks Readers to Choose Best TV Magician

Inside Magic Image of Tommy CooperThe Mirror Online (UK), looking to build excitement for the launch of the fourth series of Dynamo: Mission Impossible, is asking readers to vote for their favorite TV magician.

You should head over to the site and make your choice from:
Darcy Oake
David Blaine
Derren Brown
David Copperfield
Dynamo
Paul Daniels
Penn & Teller
Tommy Cooper
Troy

There is no space for a write-in vote but they do have clips from the nominees – including our inspiration, Tommy Cooper. (Unfortunately, the sound goes out near the end of the clip but it is still a joy to watch).

Click here to link to the poling site. We don’t know if it will allow you to vote more than once but perhaps that is a concern for us Chicago natives. The rest of the world likely never considers stuffing the ballot box.

Salon Author Decries Houdini Industrial Complex

Harry HoudiniOnline magazine Salon has posted an article marveling at Houdini’s current cache with the public.

We read it a couple of times because we were not sure what the author hoped to express.

Its hook is the recent Potter and Potter auction of Houdini memorabilia and the History Channel’s miniseries, Houdini.

The author interviewed magician, writer and president of Potter and Potter Gabe Fajuri, Houdini historian extraordinaire and author of Wild About Harry, the definitive Houdini blog, John Cox and Lisa Cousins, Houdini-lover and outstanding librarian The Magic Castle’s William J. Larson Memorial Library, among other super-Houdini fans. She seemed to have an agenda and was seeking quotes to support her thesis that magicians are male, hide their secrets for no good reason and that there exists a “Houdini Industrial Complex.”

She writes, “[b]ut there is one irritating thing about Houdiniana today that also dates back to his life: the code of secrecy mystifying his tricks.”

Irritating? Why Irritating? Irritating to whom?

“It’s time to end the reflex of keeping these tricks secret—perpetrated most forcefully among the small group of magicians and magic collectors that in my darker moments I call the Houdini Industrial Complex.”

She admits that she admires – or at least a part of her admires – the commitment to keep magic’s secrets secret. “But part of me believes that it misses the point entirely. In the twenty-first century, it’s not how Houdini did it that matters. It’s who he was.”

We agree that Houdini’s mystique and staying power is due to his personality and star quality.  But he was  also someone who kept secrets. Audiences came to see him perform escapes and magic not provide lectures on how to open a pair of handcuffs or the best way to make elephants vanish.

Presumably, if we agreed with the author and would just expose our secrets, people would like us more. We learned long ago this logic does not work.  “C’mon tell us how you did it.” None of the relationships we thought we could enhance by exposing our magic secrets actually grew stronger.

But, even if we did publish our secrets, the authors says we would still be outsiders.

“Besides outliers like David Blaine, magicians are no longer part of the mainstream cultural conversation. And unlike burlesque, a twentieth century pop culture fad that has reinvented itself by using the language of gender studies, magic, with its largely male population, doesn’t really appeal to women.”

This is the first time we have heard that magic does not appeal to women. Our recent, very unscientific poling of magic audiences has confirmed that those in attendance were just about equally divided between the two main genders.

Perhaps the author is noting there are few female magicians. That is a valid point but we do not believe it can be attributed to a so-called Houdini Industrial Complex, the tendency of magicians to keep secrets or even the eccentric manner in which one magic library catalogs its volumes.

“The library at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, archivist Lisa Cousins explains, uses its own ‘eccentric cataloging system—not Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress’—and is closed to non-magicians. (She rushed to say that it allowed researchers.)”

We did study the Dewey Decimal system in the 1970s and agree that it is unfit for effectively cataloging an entire library of magic books. All of the books would have the same number, 793.8. In fact, the author could go to just about any public library and use that secret number to find troves of books that told her secrets to many effects.

It was nice to see Ms. Cousins quoted in the article but wonder if the author bothered to ask her questions about women in magic – a field Ms. Cousins knows well.

Could a magician perform tricks that he or she has exposed before performing? Sure. Would anyone go to see that magician?

A ventriloquist could do his or her routine without a figure and not hide the fact that he or she was speaking in a different voice.  We probably wouldn’t pay to see it though.

Part of the essence of magic is mystery. Mystery separates what we do from what one might see on a cooking show or at a craft class.

We are not sure what the author hoped to accomplish by her article. We hope she finds satisfaction in its publication and future success with other articles. And maybe it is us – it probably is – but we did not get her point. We think magic is doing fine and do not see a reason to change what has been working for hundreds of years. Again, that’s just us.

Houdini Breaks Records for History Channel

Inside Magic Image of Harry HoudiniThe Wrap – an industry journal – reports the great news that the History Channel’s Houdini was the most-watched cable miniseries premier in 2014 with 3.7 million viewers.

That’s good news for the show but even better: 1.2 million of the viewers were between the ages of 18-49 years old – the “Money Demo.”

That’s probably even better news for future Houdini projects — it proves the Master Magician has legs.

 

A Regular Little Houdini Takes the Stage in South Wales

Inside Magic Image from A Regular Little HoudiniA Regular Little Houdini, written and performed by Daniel LLewelyn-Williams, will open at the south Wales theatre Stiwdio Stepni on Thursday, September 11.

We read of the show on Llanelli Star‘s on-line site and were fascinated by the story and the magic that will apparently performed in the show.

The one-man show surrounds a young man growing up in the south Wales town of Newport between 1905 and 1913. The great magician visits Wales twice and apparently has some conflict with law enforcement as he works to build notoriety for his appearances.

“The story however documents the years between his famous visits looking at the changes in Wales from the young boy’s perspective.

Audiences are shown periods of industrial growth in south Wales, including the building of the transporter bridge and The Newport dock disaster of 1909 which killed 39 people.”

The article notes the show will feature “a brand new magic trick created specifically for the production by a secret magician who works with David Copperfield.”

What is the trick? Please tell us.

Mr Llewelyn-Williams said the trick has been “incorporated into the show and [he is] sure audiences will enjoy it.”

We hope one of Inside Magic’s loyal readers in the south Wales realm will let us know more about the show and the special effect. We hate not knowing.

Read more here.