Pop Haydn is a Guilty Pleasure

Pop Haydn - Photo by Billy BaqueWatching Pop Haydn is a guilty pleasure for us.

Unlike eating an entire pint of ice cream whilst binge watching previously unseen How It’s Made episodes, we are not left feeling too guilty or dotted with chocolate stains when we watch the master perform.

Recently we attended a private party at The Magic Castle and saw the incredible Pop Haydn own the crowds gathered in the Peller Theatre for four performances.  We legitimately attended the first show of the evening and then snuck in again for a later show.  It was wonderful.

Pop f/k/a Whit Haydn works a room better than anyone we have ever seen.  He interacts with the audience effortlessly and handles volunteers so well that each outing was like a lesson in advanced magic techniques.

He performed his iconic The Six Card Trick, Color Changing Silk, Mongolian Pop Knot and finished with his world-famous Four Ring Routine.

Magicians know that Pop has been performing these effects for many years but he brought each alive for his enthusiastic lay crowds last night as if it was the first time.  He has a tremendous ability to take what the audience gives him and work it to the further betterment of his routine.  He never drops his character or varies from the spirit of his persona.

We checked with our friends who attended the shows last night and to a one, each thought Pop was absolutely incredible, the highlight of the evening.  That is saying a lot considering they had the entire Magic Castle filled with performers with whom to compare.

If we could have, we would have watched all four of his performances.  Some would say that is obsessive and they would usually be correct but not in this case.  Unlike fattening ice cream, excessive watching of Pop Haydn cannot clog one’s arteries, stain clothing or rot teeth.  It can lead to bewilderment and disorientation but we are willing to take those risks for the benefits received.

Inside Magic Review: Five Out of Five – Our Highest!

Photo Credit: Billy Baque

Korean Magician Seol-Ha Park Has Mad Skills

Seol-Ha ParkKorean magician Seol-Ha Park is the real deal.

He has, as they say in the NBA, skills.  He has moves so amazing that you don’t even see them or know that they have happened.  Like neutrinos, his moves are evident only by the change they cause to other visible things.

We watched him perform in the Parlor of Prestidigitation last night at The Magic Castle and reacted like a cartoon character as we rub our eyes and mouthed the word “what?!”  His act is a tightly structured presentation of incredible things happening in the general vicinity of his hands.  His hands do not seem to take on any unnatural positioning as balls vanish, reappear, change color and transform into impossible things.  His hands and fingers move as they would if such things were happening by magic alone, unaided by any secret manipulation.

His approach to the magic happening is a joy to watch.

We love magic and we really love great magic that we cannot begin to figure out.  We do not want to know how it is done and Mr. Park accommodates our desires wonderfully.

Alex Ramon is No David Copperfield – And That’s a Good Thing

Alex RamonAlex Ramon is no David Copperfield.

And that is a good thing.

We love David Copperfield but loathe magicians – young and old – who do their version of Mr. Copperfield’s act.

Some just borrow his music, patter or effects and put some of their own spin into the mix.  Others steal the music, patter and effects and add nothing.

We have seen Origami and Twister performed across the country – often to the identical music used by Mr. Copperfield.  No matter how good the imitators are, they are still not the real thing.  Sometimes they are interesting to watch and other times they are annoying or sad.

We saw Alex Ramon and his lovely assistant Megan Doyle take the Palace of Mystery stage at The Magic Castle Monday night and were surprised and delighted.  We assumed the worst, though.

Here is a young illusionist with a good reputation within the magic community.  We knew of him but had never seen him.  We hoped he would not be a David Copperfield Knock-Off guy.  Or, if he was going to knock off Mr. Copperfield, he would do so in a unique way.

Our fears were unfounded.  Mr. Ramon and Ms. Doyle are their own people and they have put out a show that is thoroughly their own.

They are a wonderful team and work so well together.  Ms. Doyle is not merely a prop but appears to be a full partner in the act.  Mr. Ramon’s energy and enthusiasm is evident from the opening levitation, through his card manipulation routine, audience participation bit and big finale.  The audience – a good mix of lay and magic folks – loved it.

For the magicians in the audience, Mr. Ramon offered a set of illusions that were certainly not the common Copperfield Knock-Off fare.  His opening levitation was tight and powerful and featured several mini-crescendos along the way to the big pay-off.  His sawing a woman in half was done without boxes (thin or otherwise) under seemingly impossible conditions.  Ms. Doyle was curled within a small metal cage assembled around her tiny frame before a sinister blade was brought down through her.  Amazing stuff.

Mr. Ramon stepped way out of the realm of typical with his presentation of a vanishing light bulb.  The routine was perfectly scripted and wonderfully done.  Magicians and magic history students should see Mr. Ramon perform if only for this one effect.  Great principle performed perfectly.

There are times when David Copperfield imitators will end their routine with the question, “Would you like to see one more?” and we think – but do not say out loud because that would be rude and weird and we assume the question is rhetorical – “no, thank you.”

Mr. Ramon asked the question before his sub-trunk finale and we wanted to respond verbally, “heck yes, thank you, please!”  But we didn’t because that would still be weird – although not rude.

We had not seen Mr. Ramon perform before but will return to The Magic Castle at least two more times this week to enjoy the show again.  It was that good.

Inside Magic Review: Five out of Five – Our Highest!

Magic Apple’s Day of Lectures Review

Paul VigilYesterday, we attended the 7th Annual Magic Apple Day of Lectures at the beautiful Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City, California.  This is our second year and came away – as we did last year – magically enriched and tired but a good kind of tired.

Mike Caveney took the first spot and presented his lecture on how he develops new effects.  He took the 50 magicians in attendance through the development of his Gypsy Thread using toilet paper.  We do not know if this is the proper name for the effect but you get the point.  Like the Gypsy Thread, the magician separates a length of toilet paper into convenient squares, hands them to members of the audience to prove they are both truly separate and ordinary.  They are gathered and then in a straightforward manner, Mr. Caveney restores the length to their former glorious ribbon of two-ply unity.

He took us from the moment inspiration hit – more than 30 years ago and not in a restroom – through the five versions he developed to perform this wonderful piece of theater.  It was a great chance to view the working of a magic genius.

Mr. Caveney showed his incredible impromptu linking coat hangers effect and explained the thinking behind his presentation and its development from years or demonstrating it for magicians at conventions around the world.  We loved the simplicity of the solution.

We could watch Mr. Caveney all day.   But it was time for lunch – part of the Day of Lectures package – and a fine lunch it was.  We dined on fresh turkey sandwiches, fresh fruit and a fresh Diet Coke overlooking the sun-drenched pool just outside the lecture hall.  We remembered to remove the decorative toothpick before eating the sandwich this year – demonstrating that pain can be an excellent teacher.

Next up was a magician we had never seen perform.  That does not make him bad – we haven’t seen many magicians but sometimes, especially after we have eaten and relaxed poolside in a glamorous Los Angeles area, we want comfort.  We want to see familiar things.  In that way, we are very much like Winnie the Pooh.  Different isn’t always bad but when we are dopey from good food and the sun, it can be annoying.

Paul Vigil caught us off guard.  His presentation is so direct and so unique that we got suckered into believing him.  We do that too often for our own taste.  It turns out he lacks any real magical power, cannot predict the future, read minds or rob innocent victims of their ability to exercise free will.  It turned out, we learned, he was performing tricks.  Using subterfuges and, perhaps ordinary fuges, he was making his miracles look like real magic.

We have not been this fooled since we saw Derek Hughes perform at the Peller Theater at The Magic Castle.  Our mind was reeling as we wrote feverishly on the convenient note pad using the free Sportsman’s Lodge pen.  We felt our forehead to see if we had a real fever and then we felt the foreheads of those around us – not to compare our body temperature but just to affirm their personhood through prayerful touching (or something like that).

As we looked up from our slobbering, stooped-over position halfway through Mr. Vigil’s lecture, whom did we notice was sitting right in front of us?

Yes, Mr. Hughes.

It was like a David Lynch version of our life.  We began to think the mayonnaise we used on our turkey sandwich (graciously provided by the Magic Apple) had turned and was now causing us to lose touch with reality.  However, it turned out the mayonnaise was fine, reality remained intact and we were just on the verge of learning effects we had never before considered.  Change, usually bad, was actually becoming good – which was a change in itself.

Mr. Vigil’s Sympathetic Cards was outstanding and even though he explained it with patience and professionalism, we did not believe him.

He told us things that could not be true.  How could someone mix up the order of a deck of cards and have them spontaneously return to a preset order?   We were relieved to see that even Mr. Hughes appeared to disbelieve the claims.

We tried the effect during a later break and it turns out Mr. Vigil was not lying.  Even though it looks impossible, the effect can be done using his method.  Amazing.  Absolutely Amazing.  The impact on our little cranium was as dramatic as when we first learned Paul Curry’s Out of this World, The Hofzinser’s Cull or that (spoiler alert!) Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus are the same person.

We will bring a lobster bib the next time we watch Mr. Vigil perform or lecture.  Because we were chewing blueberry gum, our slobber ruined one of our favorite dress shirts and there is likely no chance we will again happen upon the exclusive men’s store/fireworks stand from whom we purchased it, some Slim Jims and a pack of Black Cat M-80s.

Last up was Helder Guimaraes‘ lecture.  It was not a lecture about tricks per se but more about the theory of magic and presentation.  Along the way, Mr. Guimaraes demonstrated a couple of killer effects but only to explain his approach to our art.  He has incredible skills and is an accomplished performer – including a FISM win – and yet a very approachable and effective teacher.

Unlike virtually every lecture we have attended ever since we started magic in the late 1920s, there were very few things offered for sale.  No over-priced lecture notes, gimmicked cards, one-trick DVDs, CD-ROMs of PDFs of magazine articles or gaffed coins.  Only Mr. Caveney had anything to sell after his lecture and that was hardly a collection of typical lecture fare.  He had his outstanding  Wonders book set and other volumes featuring some of the best magic writing available today.

It was disorienting to not have the last 20 minutes of each lecture consist of a recap of what can be bought and at what discount.  Perhaps that was why we walked away feeling magically enriched and wonderfully tired.

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.