Guest Essay: Rip-Off or Research?

Inside Magic Image of Favorite Melvin the MagicianEditor: Mark Panner is filling in for us whilst we work our day job during this busy season.  His essays are not edited or approved by Inside Magic.  In fact, we usually disagree with everything he says and does.

Some call it deliberate theft, others call it inspiration. I call it inspiration because I don’t like all of the negatives that come with the word “theft.”

But I also call it pure gold.

I am talking about using great ideas from other fields to make great hordes of cash in the magic field.

Let’s face it, magicians don’t get paid what they deserve. Some practice hours and hours to perform a trick that takes 30 seconds. If you get paid by the hour, that means all of the practice gets you some money but not much money. We won’t go into the complex math here (but we could if we had to) but say you get $15.00 an hour and you do a trick that takes 30 seconds to do. That means you are only getting a part of the $15.00; like a dollar or something. This is a magic blog not an accounting blog so you can figure it out for yourself later. Take my word for it, though: you are not getting the full $15.00 for all of the work that you put into learning the trick, buying the props or making them after watching how the trick is done thanks to YouTube.

So how do magicians make the money they deserve?

First, don’t buy tricks. As I said, you can learn just about any trick out there on YouTube. Thanks to people looking to make a name for themselves, there are plenty of videos where people expose really good trick and even show you how the props they bought work. It cost them something to buy the original trick but if they are stupid enough to show the world how to make it, that works out fine for the rest of us.

Everybody knows magic tricks cost a lot because of the secret, not the props. So, if you can learn the secret from some teenager on YouTube who is showing off how proud he is to have bought the latest miracle, you don’t need to pay a dime.

Wait Mark, isn’t that stealing?

No. Because I didn’t do the stealing. I just watched a video. The guy who did the video showing how a trick worked bought the trick (or learned it from someone who bought it) and so I am pretty far down the line from anything that even looks like stealing.

Wait Mark, isn’t that taking money from inventors of great tricks?

Again, I am not taking anything from anyone. I am just watching a video. It is a free country and I am allowed to watch videos. If someone wants to show me how to make a trick that would cost $45.00 on some over-priced magic web store, who am I to complain.

Wait Mark, won’t that keep magicians from inventing new tricks?

No and so what if they do? It will teach them to price their tricks right. Charging $45.00 for the latest miracle is too much no matter what the trick is – especially if I can make it with stuff I have around the mobile home or in my company’s supply cabinet.

Plus, most of the times once I learn the secret, I don’t want to do the trick any way so there really is no loss. I just saved $45.00 and avoided the hassle of paying and waiting for the delivery and then finding out it is a stupid method and not for me.

I have always said that magic reviews should tell you exactly how a trick is done so that you can determine for yourself whether you want to buy the trick. I bought a trick two years ago at a convention here in Michigan and the guy said it was easy to do and didn’t really require any sleights.

Well, he lied. To do the trick, you had to force a card and last time I checked, that’s a sleight. If I had known that the only way the trick would work was if I forced the card at the beginning, I could have saved $45.00 and bought something from someone more honest.

Don’t get me wrong, I can do a force. In fact, I can do maybe 15 different forces but why should I if I don’t need to? Just to look cool? The guy demonstrated the trick and the way he described it was like this: a person takes a card and the card ends up in some impossible place. Now I know why he was so vague. He was hiding the secret. If I knew the secret before I bought it, I could have saved my money and bought something useful like really cool decks of cards or food.

Wait Mark, shouldn’t we reward people who work hard to invent magic tricks?

We do. We get them press in the magic magazines and they get to travel around the world doing lectures and selling their “secrets” to magic club members. We had a lecturer at our Mystic Hollow Magic Club last month who said he had been in five states in three weeks and lectured five times before coming to Michigan. I know for a fact that the club paid him over $100.00 plus paid for his hotel room at the La Quinta by the airport and some members of the “executive committee” took him to dinner at Denny’s afterwards.

So the inventor gets to put on a show for about three hours, gets paid $100, free room, free dinner plus he gets to sell his special tricks at super-inflated prices. I watched pretty carefully and he sold about $50.00 worth of lecture notes and gimmicks. So, put that all together and he is taking in $150.00 for a three-hour show. Math is not my strong part but that is close to $50.00 an hour. Is he a brain surgeon or a lawyer? No, but he is charging those kinds of rates. So who is really “stealing” here?

He would keep touring and visiting magic clubs even if he didn’t sell anything because he is getting a free room and free food plus $100.00 a lecture. Sounds like a sweet gig if you ask me. I do table-hopping at the IHOP (I have a whole bunch of jokes about “hopping at the IHOP” – they are really funny) and have never cleared $100.00 from a weekend of work. It is hard for me to feel sorry for someone who gets to travel, stay in nice places, eats free (yes, I get free breakfast at IHOP but that is something I just do, they are not “officially” giving it to me).

I am writing a book (my fifth one this year!) about this secret to learning secrets and I will be selling it on Amazon and eBay. And before you get any ideas, don’t even think about trying to rip me off because I am going to get a copyright on it.

My dad used to say, “It’s a dog eat dog world, Mark. Make sure you’re the dog and not the other dog.”

Mark Panner Fills In for Us

Inside Magic Image of Frustrated MagicianWe have been very busy at our daytime job.

That has kept us from the spacious office suite here on Santa Monica Boulevard where this humble magic news outlet makes its home in West Hollywood, California.

It is good to be busy but bad to be neglecting of the tens of people who read Inside Magic religiously – and by “religiously” we mean by candlelight, copious amounts of incense and chanting.

We have asked one of the least qualified but most available magic writers (so it averages out) to take over for the next few days or until readership drops below the web equivalent of anemic.

Readers of Inside Magic may remember Mr. Panner for his contributions in the past to this and other magic websites. You can read his horrible review of Inside Magic Favorite magician Bob Sheets here.

He is related to us through a complicated story of inter-marriage and bad life-choices but we offer him space here only as a matter of convenience for us, not because it is in the interest of marital bliss.

Mr. Panner has published several books on magic, all self-published and, as we understand it, still unread. He has claimed to have invented several of the greatest effects in our art including:

The Balls and Cups (his take on the classic “The Cups and Balls”), Card to Walet (intentionally misspelled in an effort to avoid litigation and scorn by the creators of “Card to Wallet”), Torn Newspaper (the review in Magic Magazine noted that it was a fine effect but lacked the ending audiences have come to expect from similar routines like “The Torn and Restored Newspaper”), and the now disregarded Paint Ball Catching Trick.

The Paint Ball Catching Trick was marketed as a safe alternative to the deadly Bullet Catch. In the litigation that followed the meager sales of the effect, we learned that while the trick did not risk being shot in the face with a real bullet, the content of the particular brand of paint balls sold with the trick contained enough lead to shave years off the life of even a casual performer and “condemned his or her progeny to a dramatically higher risk of mental disability.”

Mr. Panner decided re-market the effect with instructions discouraging the “chewing of the paintball or rolling it around in the mouth for an extended period of time.”

You can still find the original version with the now discredited instructions on eBay.

Mr. Panner complained to the magic community that he was being undersold by “cheap, Chinese imports.” The magic community apparently did not care.

Mr. Panner has performed shows for hundreds of paying customers and clients throughout the Midwest – but never for the same client twice. He says this practice is due to his “constant, driving forced (sic) to keep things fresh.” He also points out that the Better Business Bureau rating is “probably wrong because people only complaint (sic) and never say good things to the BBB.”

For the record, he denies ripping off Criss Angel’s Believe with his own, limited tour of “Bee Leave.” Also for the record, Criss Angel denies caring at all about Mr. Panner’s two hour illusion show featuring the magician dressed in a costume described by a reporter for the Urbana, Illinois daily as “cross between Criss Angel and a effeminate bumble bee.”

Mr. Panner’s contributions will begin later today (or possibly tomorrow) and, as is our practice, will be unedited. Mr. Panner describes the process as “keeping it real, raw.” We describe it as “being lazy, real lazy.”

We should be back in the office with renewed energy and new stories in the next week or so.

It is entirely likely we will be back sooner if Mr. Panner performs as predicted.

Father and Son Native American Magicians bring Wow

[Hey!  If you have news about magic you are doing, have seen or about to see, let Inside Magic know by clicking the Submit Button at the top of the page.  We love to hear what’s going on in the real world of magic.  Today’s story came to us just that way from Bobby Neugin and his son Jeramy — Native American Illusionists.  Check out their website here.]

Lost City Magic Graphic

 

 

 

What’s Happening: Bobby Neugin & his son Jeramy Neugin are father-&-son Native American illusionists who perform as Lost City Magic!

It’s all in the line of duty, but:
Jeramy Neugin has been stung by wasps & bitten by snakes.
He has taken bites of razor blades.
His dad sets him ablaze.

“I put a box on Jeramy’s head,” his father, Bobby, said. “It’s got a little door in the front. You can open the door & see Jeramy’s face. I will stick a napkin over his face & I will shoot the top of that box full of lighter fluid & set it on fire. When I open that door, his face is burnt to a skull. Then the magic is I’ve got to bring his head back.”

Sometimes, Jeramy will slice his father’s arm & scorpions will crawl from the wound.

This is the family business.

Performing as Lost City Magic (named after the Cherokee County community they call home), Bobby & Jeramy are a Native American father-&-son magician team. They strive not just to entertain but to expose people to their heritage.

Their illusions are linked to Cherokee lore (including the “little people”), they perform tricks with wasps & snakes. That means they need live props.

“We can’t go to the pet shop & buy a scorpion or a black snake, but we can go out here in the woods & find them,” Jeramy said.

They can usually find a snake when they need one, according to Bobby. How? “Ask anybody around here that raises chickens,” Jeramy said. “We always make sure to release them back where we found them afterward too”

Bobby has been interested in magic for a long time, dabbling here & there. Magic didn’t become his profession until the past few years — it happened out of necessity.

“Whenever we first started this, we were doing construction work,” he said. “We were out in North Carolina building custom homes. That was paying really well, then that shut off & I realized how easy something like that can be over. When 9/11 happened, it shut down all the investors. It’s like turning the water off on a tap. It shut it off, there wasn’t work anywhere to be had.”

Bobby pitched this challenge to Jeramy: Find us something we can do that doesn’t involve construction.

“He was talking about his age, how he couldn’t do the hard, physical stuff anymore,” Jeramy said. “And while we were doing that we were doing coin tricks.”

So, he said, “Let’s do magic.”

He could have suggested 100 other things. Why magic? “Because the stripping didn’t pan out & we didn’t get a single call as a male escort,” Jeramy said, smiling.

Bobby loved the magic idea. Now they look back and they see “clues” that pushed them down this path. Bobby has made a living as a bootmaker, a creator of horse-drawn buggies & blacksmith. Now he feels like he & his son have found their calling — & their niche in the magic world.

Bobby and Jeramy have staged shows throughout the area. Here’s the problem if you are a couple of Lost City dudes who do magic in the Bible Belt: “Either you are not good enough,” Bobby said, “or, if you are too good, then you are in league with the devil.”

Said Bobby: “We did a school show one night for some high school kids, and Jeramy did a trick for one of the teachers. After the trick was over, it had scared her so bad she left.”

Bobby and Jeramy try to weigh which illusions are appropriate for their audiences.

Among their illusions: bringing live swarms of wasps to life from a handful of dirt, pulling live snakes from drawings and trapping demons in dreamcatchers

Here’s another obstacle: Business was great after they (and a few wasps) auditioned for “America’s Got Talent.” But they billed their act as a “full Indian show” and bookings died.

Jeramy adjusted promotional verbiage to reflect they were doing magic based on “old West” legends, instead of Native American legends. They started getting calls again.

“That’s just here,” he said. “The further we get from here (the more interested people seem to be in the Native American aspect). Just going across the border into Arkansas, they had people from all over come and see us. Over there we weren’t Indian enough. … They wanted the full buckskins and the whole thing.”

“Old Indian legends again, you don’t destroy what has been good to you,” Bobby said.

The Lost City magicians were encouraged by their “America’s Got Talent” audition (“I thought we did a lot better than the acts that were auditioning with us,” Bobby said), and they have ventured to magician-thick cities to see how they compare. They’ve seen the kind of money big-time magicians make, and they wouldn’t mind earning a slice.

“I have never studied so hard in my life,” Bobby said.

The homework is never-ending. They’re always diving into books and videos so they can come up with ways to top themselves. If Bobby sees a great magic trick on TV, he dares Jeramy to figure it out so they can add a variation to their act.

Instead of having a “wow” trick at the end of a show, their goal is to have an act full of “wow” moments — even if it means a father must set his son’s head on fire.

Got some magic news you know readers around the world would love to read, submit to Inside Magic today.

 

Jeff Busby Collection of Magician’s Insider Tips and Vintage Magic Due for Auction

Amazing Kellar PosterThe Jeff Busby Collection is coming up for auction on August 19th, via Potter & Potter Auctions Inc. Gathered throughout his career as a publisher of highly regarded magic related newsletters, props, and booklets, the collection is the stuff of underground legend, including personal memorabilia of acclaimed magicians to historic posters, ephemera and unique props. The late Jeff Busby (1954-2014) was hooked on magic since the age of seven, working both as a security consultant to numerous casinos in California and Nevada, teaching how to detect cheating methods, and running an international mail order business for professional magicians all over the world. An eccentric character who was seen by some as controversial, his insider knowledge of the magic community was unparalleled. The sale is hosted on eBay’s Live Auctions platform, making it a truly global event that reaches eBay’s 171 million active buyers in real time.

One of the auction’s highlights include “Csuri Notes”, the original typewritten transcriptions of Frank Csuri’s famous notebooks (circa 1960s) collecting the unpublished and published magic effects of Dai Vernon, Paul Fox, Charlie Miller, Faucett Ross, Bill Woodfield, and Dr. Jacob Daley. Spanning over 3,000 pages of text and hand-drawn illustrations, the notebooks  feature a handwritten inscription to Busby. After emigrating from Hungary as a child, Frank Csuri (1911-1994) was a successful nightclub magician as a young man before becoming an engineer, however his life’s work was deciphering and transcribing the methods – many of them unpublished – of magic’s legendary “inner circle” from the 50s-60s. The text includes Csuri’s transcription of “The Vernon Touch” columns from Genii Magazine as well as handwritten pages by Dai Vernon (1894–1992), correcting Csuri’s transcription. A separate lot contains Frank Csuri’s two volume set of original typescript The Magic of Dai Vernon including original pencil sketch portraits of Dai Vernon himself.

The available lots include a compilation of over 400 pages of carefully preserved original correspondence from the 50s-60s between slight of hand masters Ross Bertram (1912-1992) and Faucett Ross (1900-1987). The set contains detailed sketches and lengthy discussions about the methods for various techniques with dice, cards, crooked gambling, demonstrations of shell games, table props and impromptu tricks, referencing the work of contemporary magicians, including Charlie Miller, Frank Garcia, Gene Gordon, Loring Campbell, Eddie McLaughlin, Msgr. Foy, Roger Klause, Herb Zarrow, Bill Gusias, Jay Marshall, and others. It is accompanied by related ephemera such as hand-annotated instructions, original photographs, and promotional materials.

Original posters within the sale include a 1894 color lithograph from Cincinnati of the iconic Harry (Heinrich) Keller (1849–1922) as “Kellar the Great Magician”, introducing the whispering devils that would be copied endlessly afterward; a 1912 poster from Hamburg depicting Servais LeRoy (1865-1953) performing the famous Asrah levitation; a 1920’s poster of Edwin Brush (1873-1967) conjuring objects through the Hindu Basket trick; a 1933 Kansas City advertisement of the great mentalist Mel-Roy (Wilbert Wills Holly) (1888-1966); and an early (ca 1910) poster advertising the magic act of Belgian magician and manipulator Suzy Wandas (1896-1986), who worked with her family in European music halls before settling in Detroit. The later is inscribed and signed by Suzy Wandas herself.

Unique props within the sale include a wooden Mental Miracle Table (ca 1990) – one of fewer than ten manufactured – notable for its inlaid checkerboard top and concealed method for reading messages from the person seated across the table from the mentalist. Other props for sale include a set of 1945 Chick Cup Steel Toolin designed by inventor Paul Fox (1898-1976) and an Automated Sefalaljia or miniature spirit cabinet devised by Stewart James (1908- 1996) in which bells ring, knots untie themselves, balls roll as if pushed by invisible hands (fortunately for amateur magicians, an instruction booklet is included).

Houdini Signed SAM Membership CardIn addition to a 1926 Society of American Magicians (S.A.M.) Membership Card signed by then S.A.M. president Harry Houdini (1874-1926), the auction also includes rare conjuring books from 1950s, 60s, 70s, such as number 164 from a strictly limited edition of 500 of the Magic of Robert Harbin and volumes 1-6 of Edward Marlo’s seminal magazine (1976-88) – most of which are numbered, signed, and inscribed by Marlo. Edward Marlo (1913-1991) was a prestidigitator who specialized in card magic. Also included, number 55 from the restricted first edition of The Dai Vernon Book of Magic (1957). Bound in pebbled maroon leather with a gilt stamped spine, pictorial jacket, marbled endsheets and a tipped-in gilt leaf interior page, the book is numbered, inscribed, and signed by Vernon to Warner Brothers’ producer Felix Greenfield (1917-1974) on the flyleaf. Also featured, the 20’s-30s notebooks of Al Baker (1874-1951) and Eugene Bulson (1894-1954), including many of Baker’s best-known effects, such as The Pack that Cuts Itself, Vanishing Lead Pencil, The Bakerscope, Al Baker’s Master Addition Slate, tricks with a hook coin, the Telephone Book Test, and the Erectile Dollar Bill.

The scope and quality of works in the collection are truly exceptional – with something for historians of magic, professional practitioners, and amateurs alike. That the a collection of this caliber is available to a global audience via eBay Live Auctions is a bit of magic itself, so check out the lots before they all “vanish”.

To join the bidding or learn more about specific lots, visit: http://www.ebay.com/clt/collectibles-live-events/sleight-of-hand-the-jeff-busby-collection-610069

About the author – Juan Rosa writes about pop culture and comics. His dreams of being a magician culminated in mastering the Fisher Price Magic Show Toy® as a child, but he has never stopped wanting to understand the workings behind the curtain.

Submit Your News and We’re So Sorry

Inside Magic Image of IT StaffOh boy, is our face red.

We have a “Submit to Inside Magic” button at the top of every page.  It has been there since we first started Inside Magic in the late 1940s.  The country was getting back to work, the big wars were over, neighborhoods were building, cars had big fins and transistors were just a pipe dream.

When the button was first installed, we received a couple of submissions – some were even magic related.  But we haven’t heard much since.

We had our crack IT staff check things out and we learned tonight why they are called “crack” – but that is a different issue – and we learned why we haven’t seen any submissions.  The staff had the submissions routed to an old website we no longer use: PocketFishermanKnock-Offs.com.

We hadn’t checked that site since the cease and desist letters from Ron Popeil’s blood-thirsty lawyers.

We are so sorry.

The server was filled with news releases, story suggestions, fully written essays and interview suggestions.  Some of them were quite good but are now out of date.

If you have a story, a suggestion, a press release, essay or interview suggestion, please resubmit it for consideration by our previously under-worked editorial staff.

If you previously submitted your news and thought we ignored you, please accept our most sincere apologies.  As a small but earnest magic news daily, we cannot afford to alienate a single reader and it was never our intention to give that impression.

Here is to new beginnings!  Click the button above or this link.