The Magic Castle Looks Back on Johnny Carson’s Magic

The Magic CastleThe Magic Castle had a great presentation last night tracing the late Johnny Carson’s life-long appreciation of magic.

Dick Carson is an Emmy Award winning television director and the younger brother of the performer known as The Great Carsoni and proved be a great historian on the topic.

Dean Dill, Brian Gillis and the incomparable Mark Wilson came on after Dick Carson’s segment to share their experiences as performers on the iconic late night mainstay.  Mr. Gillis and Mr. Dill were also called  to provide the star personal tutorials in his Malibu home.

It was a great night to again enjoy the very unique talent Mr. Carson shared with the nation for so many decades.

Although Mr. Carson was very modest about his magic abilities, his talents were anything but modest.  He performed difficult sleights with polish and skill.  So many great magicians got their big break on Mr. Carson’s show and his support of the local (Los Angeles) magic community in general (and The Magic Castle specifically) was constant through the years.

One of the commentators observed he has never been replaced.  We agree.

Houdini Teaches Us How to Be More Manly

Inside Magic Image of Harry HoudiniSomeone smart once wrote, “Pride goeth before the Fall.”  We think that has something to do about not wearing white shoes after Labor Day but haven’t had the time to run a Google search on it yet.

We have been too  busy learning how to be far more manly that we have been heretofore.  We try to be manly every chance we get (not that often) but even when we try our rather effeminate laugh gets in the way.

Imagine our joy, then, when we found the website The Art of Manliness.  Imagine our double joy, even more, when we found their article Lessons in Manliness from Harry Houdini.

Houdini was (and is) a role model for our development.  He was into the exercise craze before it was even a craze or socially acceptable.  He didn’t drink, smoke, use drugs and worked hard at everything he tried.  Perhaps that is why he remains such an important figure in the public consciousness almost 100 years after his untimely death.

The advice derived from his robust approach to life is applicable to non-magicians and even non-males.  Maybe the article should have been titled “Lessons in Personliness from Harry Houdini” or maybe not.  Probably not.

Check out the full article and be inspired in your pursuit of goals important to you.

Penn Jillette’s Tribute to Lou Reed

Inside Magic Image of Penn & TellerLou Reed was not a magician but his friend and Inside Magic Favorite Penn Jillette’s moving tribute to the musician and innovator deserves mention on these august, virtual pages.

We are regular listeners to the Penn’s Sunday School weekly podcast and relish the time we spend with the taller of the magic duo Penn & Teller and his sidekick, and former juggler with Master Magician Lance Burton, Michael Goudeau.  The show is rarely structured and that is just fine with us.

One of the great joys of our youth was listening to the great magicians who visited our favorite magic shops.  Whether we were working or just loitering, we lived on their stories (even those repeated and embellished over time) and looked forward to learning from them.  We were not anxious to demonstrate our skills or try to compete with the professionals who stopped by Paul Diamond’s Magic & Fun Wagon (later just The Magic & Fun Wagon) in the newly built Palm Beach Mall, or A & B Magic owned by our mentors Ari DiArmona and Barry Gibbs.  We were content to listen and ask for more information or background.

It must be difficult for younger magicians to learn from their more seasoned elders without brick-and-mortar stores in which they can linger or act as a clerk/demonstrator/gofer.  Perhaps podcasts like Penn’s Sunday School can help meet this need.

Penn’s stories about the formation of Penn & Teller (we learned this week it was originally “Penn Jillette and/or Teller”) are fascinating, riveting.  On those rare occasions when Teller joins the podcast, his stories keep us spellbound.  Teller, for instance, shared a story of why he practices every trick thoroughly, to the point of a full dress rehearsal.  His description of his production of a previously live animal was hysterical and wonderful.

Folks who have seen Penn either on stage at The Rio, on television or in one of their many shows across the country, realize he is not restrained by conventions of good taste or polite discourse.  He is honest and, at times, not appropriate for children or the easily offended.  It must say something about us that we have no problem with his style, message or language.

Penn is also a profoundly sentimental person.  His recent books have recounted his emotional reaction to the loss of his father, mother and sister.  He comes across as sincere and for all of his bravado and bluster, he is also very human.

His tribute to Lou Reed is still available as a download from PennsSundaySchool.com and worth your time.  We were never really into Lou Reed but have found a new appreciation for his music and his work thanks to the heartfelt sharing of Penn Jillette.

Ask Alexander Magic Questions for Free!

Inside Magic Image of Ask Alexander LogoGreat News from the folks at The Conjuring Arts Research Center.   Ask Alexander, their incredible search engine / database is now free to use.

Their newest iteration is the Alex 3.0 and allows users to search and browse for free.

Visit the Ask Alexander page, type in your question or terms, and presto, Alexander delivers the images of the journals or sources containing your terms.

It is fast and very helpful.  You will need to login if you want to see the responsive pages — assuming the sources are available at your subscription level.

The Ask Alexander team inform Inside Magic that users can “test drive” the system for free.  ”Though this subscription level is smaller than our Bronze, Silver, and Gold subscriptions (Gold now has over 1,000,000 pages!), it still contains a lot of great material. This free account even supports all of Alex’s features like collection building, instant translation and adding notes, just to name a few.”

Inside Magic intends to release its long-anticipated Ask Paw Lawton page in the coming weeks.  It has been in beta testing since 1997 but is almost ready for launch.  Unlike Ask Alexander, the Ask Paw Lawton service provides the instant recollections of our sainted father, Li’l Tom Hardy’s Road Chief on almost any topic you can name.  The answers are not nearly as accurate or complete as Ask Alexander and currently many of the responses are not truly safe for work or polite audiences (we’re working on that) but it should be a major step forward.

Until Ask Paw Lawton launches, though, we suggest you take advantage of Ask Alexander.  As Paw Lawton once said, “You can’t beat free, but you can beat cheap.”

Our Award Winning List of Magic Loves and Loathes

Inside Magic Image of Ed Mishell DrawingThere are things in magic we love and hate.

If there is one thing we cannot stand, it is trite or cliché opening sentences to rambling essays about personal likes or dislikes by someone hiding behind an artificially inflated pronoun choice.

But that is just us.

Other things that bother us include the following:

  1. Older magicians telling younger magicians that they have no future in the business.
  2. Younger magicians refusing to listen to older magicians when they are telling them how it is.
  3. The meaningless objectification of women as mere props for male mutilation fantasies poorly set forth as some sort of “illusion set.”
  4. Magicians explicitly or implicitly demeaning their assistants or any audience member.
  5. All one-trick DVDs – even if the DVD is free.  Write it down, make a photocopy of what you wrote and wrap it around the trick, bundled with a DVD if you must.  We won’t watch the DVD unless it is absolutely necessary to do so – perhaps because we are reviewing the trick as sold.  If you cannot write the trick, chances are you cannot teach it on a DVD or at least teach it in a cogent, organized way.
  6. Theft of another magician’s bit, trick, flourish or act.  Sure, if we could do all the moves and flourishes necessary to duplicate Lance Burton or Dai Vernon’s best routines, we wouldn’t.
  7. Mentalists who claim they have real supernatural powers.
  8. Jugglers who claim they do not, that it all comes from practice and skill.
  9. Magicians who perform whilst attending another magician’s show.  If you’re not on the bill, keep you tricks in your pockets.
  10. Balloon sculptors who use pre-inflated balloons.
  11. Anyone who still uses the line “This silk is imported, I got it from a broad.”  It is the modern era – we can call them by their proper name, handkerchiefs or pocket squares
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