Magic Megs is Magic Circle Officer and Female!

Megan Knowles-BaconMegan Knowles-Bacon is 22-years-old and a female and, according to the UK Telegraph, is the only “female magician to be elected to the upper echelons of The Magic Circle.”

The Magic Circle just began accepting female members 23 years ago and has less than 100 total (compared with 1400 total membership).  But the 109-year-old magic organization has made huge strides towards gender parity by electing Ms. Knowles-Bacon to Secretary.  She is used to the gender ratio being so skewed.  She was elected on November 7th.

“When I was first into magic I didn’t realise girls didn’t do it. It was normal for me. It was only when I joined the Young Magician’s Club aged 10 and there were about 70 boys, it was this sudden realisation of: ‘Where are all the girls?'”

Ironically, we had exactly the same “realization” when we joined magic clubs in junior high school.  We wondered where all the girls were and if we had chosen the right hobby to pursue.  We spelled “realization” differently than Ms. Knowles-Bacon though.

Ms. Knowles-Bacon sounds like our kind of enthusiast:

“I can talk about it for hours and hours,” she cries. “I just love entertaining people and giving them happiness. It’s watching their faces light up in shock, or wonder. Magic shows you can create the impossible.”

Her pals call her “Magic Megs” and she adopted the name for her web presence: magicmegs.com.

“There’s quite a few tricks that I wouldn’t be able to do,” explains Knowles-Bacon. “Like the ‘card on tie’ or wallet tricks, because they’re designed for men. If there were more women in magic, maybe they’d make more women’s parts.

“But it makes you more creative. Women can bring a different character. I demonstrate that with my ballet. I used to do tricks with make-up as well. I really played on being a girl and it went down well. You get some real comedy out of it, like asking a man [in the audience] to unscrew an eye shadow lid.”

Read the rest of the profile at The Telegraph.   We were very impressed and wish her the best of luck!

Irene Larsen, Co-Founder of the Academy of Magical Arts & the Magic Castle, Dies at 79

Irene Larsen & Neil Patrick Harris at AMA 50th Anniversary Event (1-2-2013)Irene Larsen, Co-Founder of the Academy of Magical Arts & the Magic Castle, Dies at 79

Irene Larsen, 79, unexpectedly passed away Feb. 25 at her home in Los Angeles. Irene co-founded the Academy of Magical Arts (AMA) and its private clubhouse, the Magic Castle – one of Hollywood’s most iconic landmarks and one of the world’s most renowned nightclubs – along with her husband, the late William “Bill” Larsen, Jr., and his brother, Milton “Milt” Larsen. It was Irene’s graciousness and her dedication to the role of ambassador of magic that helped elevate the AMA to an internationally renowned and respected organization within the art’s community.

Irene was also an ardent and outspoken animal rights activist, who policed the wellbeing of animals in the acts of magicians and banned anyone who mistreated them from performing at the Magic Castle.

Members of the Larsen family have been performing magic continuously since the mid ’20s, with the fourth generation now on stage.

Born Irene Stolz in Stühlingen, Germany, on Sept. 25, 1936, to Ludwig and Meta Stolz, her career in magic began by chance when she attended a magic show in 1955 and was asked on stage by

American magician John Daniel, who became her husband two years later.

Joining her new husband in America, the couple owned a magic retail store in Pasadena and toured two “spook shows” – Dr. Doom’s Dungeon of Death and Daniel’s Magic Circus – late-night magic shows of a supernatural or eerie nature that preceded the showing of a horror film. The Daniels also purchased and ran Owen Magic Supreme, a renowned manufacturer of magic products. Irene was the first woman to perform the famed “Thin Model Sawing” illusion, which they developed and performed on a school show circuit across the country. They divorced amicably in the early ’60s.

Irene soon began dating Bill, Jr., a member of one of magic’s most famed family dynasties. Bill’s parents, William Larsen, Sr. (1904-1953), and Geraldine “Geri” Larsen (1906-1998), are revered as pioneers in the field of magic. Bill, Sr., gave up a successful Pasadena law practice as a criminal attorney to pursue his love of magic and to be an entertainer and Geri was one of the rare female magicians of the day, when women were magician’s assistants being sawed in half, not magicians themselves.

In 1936, the elder Larsens launched Genii magazine, now the longest, continually running magic magazine in the world (and the circulation of which later became the AMA/Magic Castle’s initial membership). Beginning during the Depression in the late ’30s (the Vaudeville era), the family – now including Bill, Jr., and Milt – began touring as the “Larsen Family of Magicians,” playing upscale, resort hotels in San Diego, Carmel and Palm Springs.

Irene assisted Bill, Jr., in his various magic acts and worked tirelessly to help launch the Magic Castle, which opened its doors in January 1963—marrying him in the fall of that year. In addition to appearing alongside her husband at their club, she also appeared on such popular series as the Dean Martin Show, assisting megastars like Orson Welles (a long-time magic fan and an early member of the AMA). From 1963-1999, Irene served as the editor or co-editor of Genii magazine

Although Bill, Jr., passed away in 1993, Irene lived the remainder of her life at the Brookledge estate in Hancock Park, which was purchased by her husband’s parents in 1942. The historic estate was built in 1933 by Floyd Thayer, a master woodworker who founded the Thayer Magic Company (which the senior Larsens also purchased), renowned for high-quality magic apparatus.

Virtually every famous name in magic visited the estate – often referred to as the “forerunner to the Magic Castle” – frequently performing on a small stage there. Retired from life on the road and managing the Thayer Magic Company, Bill, Sr. dreamed of opening an elegant, private clubhouse for magicians in Los Angeles, but died at just 48.

Six years ago, Irene’s daughter, Erika Larsen, who currently serves as president of the board of directors of the AMA, revived The Brookledge Follies, a “contemporary Vaudeville” variety-and-magic show performed once a month (April-November) in the small theater behind the home, which holds just 60 people.

Attendance is by invitation only, but the free show has become one of the hottest tickets in town – the wait list can be long – and is frequently attended by a who’s who of Hollywood like Moby, Sophia Vergara, Joe Manganiello, Ryan Gosling, Jason Alexander, Christina Hendricks, Matthew Gubler, Randy Newman, Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) and director John Landis, to name a few.

Regarding her childhood, Erika recalls that famous magicians like Siegfried Fischbacher & Roy Horn, Doug Henning, Dai Vernon, Channing Pollock, Charlie Miller, The Shimadas, The Great Tomsoni & Co. and others were familiar faces around the Larsen home. “We did see the best of the best in magic, but I grew up in a bubble,” she says. “My siblings and I just thought that’s what people did—Make things disappear and carry a deck of cards everywhere.”

A frequent figure around the Magic Castle, Irene – affectionately known by magicians around the world as “Princess Irene,” a stage name she was given by her first husband – will remain best known as a beloved, ever-gracious hostess of the magic community, a role she actively continued until the time of her death.

In addition to Erika, who also lives on the Brookledge estate, Irene is survived by daughter Heidi Larsen, Los Angeles; her son with her first husband, Dante Larsen and his wife, Blaire, Los Angeles; and her stepdaughter Wendy Larsen-Olsen, Oregon (Bill, Jr.’s child from his first marriage). She is also survived by four grandchildren, Liberty, Lily and Liam Larsen and Jessica Hopkins.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Tippi Hedren’s Shambala Preserve or another animal welfare organization.

Magician Ariann Black Profiled

Inside Magic Image of Ariann BlackMagician Ariann Black received a great write-up and interview in today’s Westword in advance of her upcoming shows this weekend at Theatre of Dreams in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Ms. Black is well-known to Vegas audiences and is now taking the craft she began at the age of four to Colorado.  She took inspiration from Doug Henning and his non-traditional appearance.

“At four, you don’t realize that there is more than one magic trick out there. I was fascinated with the idea that there was more than one magic trick and you could do all sorts of things. When I was twelve, I saw Doug Henning on television, and prior to that I had been told that girls couldn’t be magicians. But when I saw Doug Henning and I saw him with his look — he didn’t look like that stereotypical magician — I thought, yeah, I can be a magician, too. He really inspired me.”

The road has not been easy and she points out that within our predominantly male ranks, “women are just an oddity.” She has a small group of female magicians with whom she attends conventions and share.  Ms. Black is “always on the lookout for female magicians, especially the younger ones, to make sure that they know that kind of behavior (toward them) is not okay, it’s not acceptable and that they need to stand up for who they are and be respected. It doesn’t just happen in magic — it happens everywhere.”

Be sure to check out the full interview for her thoughts on animal acts, David Copperfield, Criss Angel and why magic still works with today’s modern audiences.

Ariann Black performs this Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Theatre of Dreams in Castle Rock. For more information on the shows and to buy tickets, visit the Theatre of Dreams website. Check out Ms. Black’s website here.

New Magic Prison Drama Close to Reality

Inside Magic Image of CellmateWe are very excited to announce that we are close to wrapping a new deal with an online video service for our series about magicians stuck in a women’s prison.  Black is the New Black will follow the life behind bars of four, formally dressed magicians who are housed in a medium security prison for crimes they likely committed but did for good reasons.

Like Orange is the New Black, Black is the New Black will feature a varied cast of characters designed to touch on the many personalities one can expect to encounter in a women’s prison.  There will be humor, drama and great close-up card routines.

We say we are close to wrapping up the deal because we have a friend who does independent contracting work for one of the big on-line video businesses who said our idea has the interest of some of the people he knows from that company.  Yes, we still need to work out the contractual details but that is the lawyer’s problem.  We are busy working on the pilot episode of what we hope will be a 13 episode purchase.

We need to work out minor concept details such as why four tuxedo-wearing magicians would be imprisoned in a correctional facility that exclusively houses female prisoners who wear prison uniforms.  We also need to develop all of the characters but here is a sneak preview of what we have so far:

The Magicians:

Lord Magique – the putative leader of the four magicians.  Always proper and slightly British with a wry smile and mischievous eye.  He has a rejoinder for every comment and is a master of card tricks.  We see the pilot opening with him enduring the 21-Card Trick as performed by one of the female cellmates and then establishing his dominant role on the prison wing with a devastating Ace Assembly into an Omni Deck.  The Omni Deck will be a bar of soap because glass bricks are forbidden in prisons according to our extensive research.  We’re keeping it real.

Deedle – Lord Magique’s former assistant and now a performer in his own right.  He is subservient but wily.  On the outside, he worked as a street performer and gained internet cred by escaping from dry cleaning bags that were certified as being unsafe for children.  He is a small man with big dreams.

Tray Langston – a descendent of magic royalty.  The fifth in a long-line of great, globe-trotting magicians.  He performs as silent act and maintains his silence even in prison.  His work with doves brings joy, amazement and nourishment to his fellow cellmates.

Vingus the Dingus – on the outside he was a con-artist and on the inside he is no better.  He keeps the crew stocked in the essential supplies that are tough to get in prison; such as cigarettes, thimbles, dice, billiard balls, playing cards, balloons and Oxycontin.  He is the one to know but so tough to know well.

The Guards:

Teresa “The Hun” Hunsucker – tough enough to chew nails and spit the nails made smaller and sharper by her razor sharp teeth.  She is not bright but makes up for it in her no-nonsense spirit.  Her motto, “Take No Prisoners” is both ironic and prophetic.

Wilhelmina “Mena” Schultz – is petite but potent.  She knows what convicts think because she was one herself – for 20 years.  Through a quirk in her work-release, she now guards the women (and magic men) she once lived among.  Nothing gets past her.  She exemplifies Tough Love but without much love.

Flora Fontana – the new girl on the guard’s team.  Flora is fresh out of an ivy-league college with a heart full of hope and a head full of crazy notions.  She had to decide between working with her father’s Wall Street hedge fund or becoming a guard – she choose to follow her dreams.  She falls for some of the oldest tricks in the book – literally – but shows the kind of naïve innocence that is sadly lacking in most modern-day depictions of female prison guards.

Warden P. Neal – to be played by a Paul Lynde type, Warden Neal will be a perfect example of why our prison system is broken.  Vain, egoistic and socially challenged, he will also serve as the perfect comic foil for inmate and wise-cracking guards alike.  Will probably have a really bad toupee too!

Inmates:

Darla Jean – former swimsuit model and now serving time for making illegal copies of Sports Illustrated to send to her extended family.  She is the girl next door if you lived next to the Playboy Mansion.  Not a stereotypical “dumb blonde” because, as she notes, “I am a brunette.”

Wilma Rubble – a former (?) gang member being held as much for her own protection as society’s.  She ratted out her gang’s leader and now she needs to hide among the general population while she does her time.  Each tattooed tear drop on her otherwise angelic face tells a story – some of them hilarious!

Vivian “The Viv” Vandersleet – a debutante with a weakness for formally dressed men and Oxycontin.  She has more in common with Flora than she cares to admit and envies her freedom.  She makes escape attempts each week that would put Houdini to shame.  Need to resolve costuming issues related to her preference for the “preppy perp” look.

Maggie O’Hara – salt of the earth girl with a smile for everyone she meets – likely because of her head injury in a botched prison escape attempt.  She is clumsy, awkward and could come into enormous money upon her release thanks to the life insurance policy she took out on her recently departed husband.

We will, of course, keep you up to date on the progress we make on this sure thing.  It is going to be big and we will be incredibly wealthy, powerful and bejeweled.  We cannot wait.

Computer App to Replace Magicians?

Inside Magic Library Cover Page for Happy Hollisters and the Perfect FarosJust above the ground-breaking news report, “18 Celebrities Who Clearly Have Fake Teeth,” The UK Daily Mail warns Dynamo that his job may be at risk.
“Watch out Dynamo! Computer uses artificial intelligence to create magic tricks – and now you can download its illusions as an app.”
We were tempted to get to the bottom of the celebrity fake teeth scandal but decided to read about artificial intelligence’s use in the service of magicians.  We don’t think it will replace human magicians like Dynamo, Criss Angel, David Blaine or Pengo the Magic Clown – at least not yet.

Really smart researchers from London’s Queen Mary University used a computer to design a classic puzzle/trick and devise a mentalism app for your Android or iPhone device.  Both still require a real, human (with or without its natural teeth) to perform and both are impressive.

Even more impressive, however, is the work behind the demonstrations.

The two brains behind the effects, Dr. Howard Williams and Professor Peter McOwan found a natural connection between computers and mathematical magic tricks.  They published their findings in Frontiers in Psychology (which we read only for the pictures) and later sold the effects through a magic shop.  You can pick up the phone version of their card trick in the Google Play Store.  It is called Phoney – even more connection to the celebrity fake teeth scandal.

What can a computer do that a well-trained magician cannot?  Dr. Williams notes, “Computer intelligence can process much larger amounts of information and run through all the possible outcomes in a way that is almost impossible for a person to do on their own. So while, a member of the audience might have seen a variation on this trick before, the AI can now use psychological and mathematical principles to create lots of different versions and keep audiences guessing.”

“AI” means “Artificial (or “Fake”) Intelligence.

We bought Phoney and have it on our Android device and are impressed by its method – not what one would think – and the way the creators have it hide on your phone.  To be fair, it is a trick a magician could do without the AI but it is much easier and just as impressive to use one’s phone.

Check out the Computer Science For Fun website for a great survey of neat magic and non-magic things computers can do: www.cs4fn.org/magic.  The site has links to other great sites where you can download free ebooks with neat science-based magic tricks.

By the way, we checked out the fake teeth scandal and were shocked to learn that some of the biggest stars in Hollywood have had dental work – some had whitening, others got caps and one female star apparently had braces to straighten her teeth.  Frankly, we feel faint and need to sit down for a little bit.