Inside Magic Favorite Magician Ricky Jay is so good, his magic can make people cry.
That’s how The Jerusalem Journal begins its very positive review of Deceptive Practices: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay.
We are told of a British journalist who dined with Mr. Jay in a café on a hot, sticky day. (The article doesn’t say “sticky” but we believe it was implied and will stand by our interpretation).
He related a story about Max Malini, “who once borrowed a woman’s hat, placed a silver dollar underneath it, then lifted the hat to reveal that the coin had transformed into an enormous chunk of ice. And at that moment, the journalist recounts, Jay lifted his menu with a flourish to reveal his own 1-foot-square block of ice, which materialized as if out of thin air. The journalist was so astounded by ‘this supreme piece of artistry,’ she says, that she ‘burst into tears.’”
Deceptive Practices lovingly created by filmmakers Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein will open this Friday, May 17th in Los Angeles. You can check out the official movie site for listings in other areas and states here.
The Journal says Mr. Jay keeps his secrets – particularly when it comes to magic effects or personal matters – but does perform some pretty amazing things for the camera and the audience beyond. It “unfolds like a magical mystery tour of Jay’s professional art and artifice. On camera, he transforms a paper moth into a real insect, flings a card at 90 miles per hour to pierce the skin of a watermelon and dazzles audiences with his specialty — astonishing card tricks — with maneuvers so virtuosic they defy the imagination.”
Continue reading Magician Ricky Jay Can Make You Cry, He’s So Good
We received the May edition of Genii today and were delighted to read Jim Steinmeyer’s incredible recollection of the logistics, politics and creative process that went to bring Doug Henning’s second Broadway show to life.
Mr. Steinmeyer’s “The Merlin Crusade” (subtitled, “Doug Henning’s Infamous Magical Musical Appeared 30 Years Ago. Onstage It Was a Magic Show. Offstage It Was a Holy War”) is a compelling read. We could not stop reading once we began.
Yes, we had to apologize to those waiting to use the restroom, but to be fair, providing just two lavatories for a full coach section of a cross-country flight is hardly our fault.
We have two great loves: magic and logistics. You give us an article about the logistical challenges of creating great illusions for a Broadway show and we give you our undivided attention. It is an incredibly detailed account of a 24-year-old Mr. Steinmeyer as both participant and observer. You should subscribe to Genii as a matter of principle but if you have not, get to your local magic shop or the Genii website to get the May edition.
Mr. Steinmeyer was part of the “magic department” brought to Broadway to seamlessly integrate Mr. Henning’s magic into a complex and challenging musical.
Because the magic was integrated with everything in the show, there wasn’t a repair, a change, or a piece of scenery that didn’t have something to do with a trick. Each of our changes on the work list was worded, “fix,” or “add,” or “align.” Because no other department cared to understand the magic, it was the magic department that had to work with everyone else, watching what the painters were doing, seeing if the new pieces of scenery would foul on our illusions. Each one of these jobs involved standing in front of the prop, scratching your head, experimenting, figuring out how the dancers were doing the routine, and then devising some solution.
You can read about the endless tuning of the show’s story, style and magic right up to its official opening. The depiction of Mr. Henning is true to our memory of the great magician and truly gentle man.
Continue reading How Broadway Works: Magic Author Steinmeyer Recalls “The Merlin Crusade”
Houdini has been gone (some say) for a long time.
We have had two comings of Halley’s Comet since he shuffled from this mortal coil. (See what we did there, “shuffled”?) Yet stories about the magician continue to grab the attention of readers and, apparently, assignment editors. Some of the stories clearly strain to make Houdini relevant but that is okay with us. We just like reading about Houdini no matter how tangential to current events.
Today’s article in Connecticut’s The Southington Patch gives a nice biographical essay combined with two local ties. According to the story, Houdini owned a retreat in the Nutmeg State — a seven-room home in Stamford. (Interestingly, “the Nutmeg State” is also the third level of consciousness in a therapeutic hypnosis session properly administered).
The Patch says “despite all of Houdini’s notoriety, there is no known photo of his Connecticut home; furthermore, no one seems to be able to locate the actual address of his home there.”
Strange, no? One wonders how one knows Houdini actually owned such a home if there is no known address other than “Webbs Hill Road.”
We did a check of Webbs Hill Road in Stamford and searched for seven bedroom homes. We found none. But, we did find two six bedroom versions and both were pricey (close to a million dollars) and neither were for sale.
Perhaps the person or persons who purchased Houdini’s retreat converted one of the bedrooms into a library, a den, a knick-knack room, an extra kitchen, a billiard parlor, a theater or theatre, an indoor pool with either an in-ground pool or an above ground pool stuffed into a former bedroom, a yoga and/or Pilates center, a very small ice rink, a home planetarium (to chart the comings and goings of a certain comet), a not-so-free-range poultry farm, a sublet apartment complex for down-on-their-luck magicians (it could easily accommodate seven in one room if properly constructed and fire codes were ignored), a holy shrine to a saint or a deity or several deities, a handball or squash court (assuming European rules dictated the size and not the unwieldy Asian dimensions), a séance room, or even a laundry.
We did a quick check of the construction permits pulled for each home on Webbs Hill Road in Stamford from 1926 forward to identify renovation or construction on any of the residences that would explain the apparent loss of at least one bedroom.
Continue reading Houdini Mystery House Still Not Found
Magician, writer, historian and keeper of rare magic secrets Bill Kalush are featured on the Wall Street Journal’s Page One website.
The video piece features Mr. Kalush explaining the mission of the Conjuring Arts Research Center.
He provides an excellent summary of the role of secrecy in magic’s history and its vitality.
Check out the video here.
Visit the Conjuring Arts Research Center here.
It is a familiar story to magicians, the incessant physical training and weight maintenance to achieve the perfect body for magic. For actor Jim Carrey, however, the rigors of our art were daunting.
He told People (the magazine, not just a collection of individuals standing near him) his strict diet gave him a great body but “it’s not a happy place to be.”
“It’s not a natural place to live in that kind of shape,” he said. “It looks great. It’s fantastic and gets a lot of attention, but you have to eat, like, antimatter to stay in that kind of shape.”
Indeed, many magicians have found the diet and exercise required to maintain the perfect “magician’s body” just too demanding and have left the profession. Michael Jordan once commented that he had hoped to be a magician but found the constant physical conditioning “just impossible.” “It was like trying to hit a curve ball in triple-A; I just couldn’t do it.”
Magic historians credit Harry Houdini with setting the standard for the “magician’s body.”
“Before Houdini,” said one magic scholar, “magicians looked like the average audience member. Some were in great shape, some were in terrible shape and some looked like they were in great shape but were really in terrible shape. There were none who looked like they were in great shape but were really in terrible shape.”
Houdini’s emphasis on physical conditioning forced him to run several miles a day and perform calisthenics. He ate right and did not smoke. In his youth, he was a competitive runner and circus performer. Those two avocations sculpted his body to near Adonis perfection and set his own personal standard for a lifetime of physically demanding discipline.
It was not commonly known that Harry Kellar could bench press in excess of 200 lbs or that Adelaide Herrmann could perform one-handed push-ups with either arm.
“In those days, most magicians kept their superb bodies under wraps, so to speak. Audiences were not attracted to performers because of their physiques,” one commentator noted. “Only freak show performers removed enough clothing to show anything.”
Today, most magic conventions look like a gathering of Olympic competitors. “Compared with the other performing arts, amateur and professional magicians have far and away the best bodies and physical conditioning.”
Continue reading Jim Carrey on Starving for Magic Physique