Magician Julie Eng on CBC

Magician Julie EngCanadian Magician and Inside Magic Favorite Julie Eng teaches a magic trick that we cannot see.

While there is no evidence this is a result of the recent trade war with Canada, it is nonetheless frustrating as all get out.  According to Twitter, Ms. Eng, a treasure of North America and life-long performer, is part of a new program (or programme for our Canadian readers), called The Science Of Magic on CBC’s “The Nature of Things” show.  In fact, if you visit her well-executed website at www.magicienne.com you can see a link and a tease of the show.  We presume that if one (or more) lives in Canada, that one or ones can see Ms. Eng teach what is described as a simple coin magic trick with which one can mystify one’s friends and family.

Except we can’t because we don’t live in Canada and our antenna won’t pick up the CBC in our part of the high desert.  Our antenna is one of the now defunct Radio Shack’s best –  we’ve got that baby high in the air thanks to a cheap tower we picked up at the annual Burning Man trash and treasure after-fest sell-athon.  So, even with all four wings pointed north and standing 32.5 feet above the sandy desert floor, we can’t get CBC and see the trick or Ms. Eng.

We do get stations from Salt Lake City and Boise but they have very little in the way of magic programming.  In our native Michigan, we could watch the CBC on channel 99 so we could see Hockey Night in Canada and The Big Comfy Couch but not anymore.

Ms. Eng knows magic from her years of training and heritage as a member of a magic family.  (Her father had a magic shop in Victoria, British Columbia (Canada)).  She performs for thousands of private functions, festivals, conventions and special events around the globe – but none apparently in Mystic Hollow, California.  We checked our TV Guide (it came by mail on Thursday) and there was no mention of the CBC listings.  We put a bookmark for the Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune entries for each night of the coming week and sighed.

But Ms. Eng is more than a magician available to millions through the considerable broadcasting power of the CBC.  She is one of the founding organizers of two unique community outreach programs, My Magic Hands and Senior Sorcery.  She took part in Magicana’s productions, a theatrical show, Piff Paff Poof which was designed specifically to introduce the experience of the theatre to young families.

Incidentally, Piff, Paff Poof was our favorite trick featuring diaper pins throughout our career.  We were known world- over for our expert handling of the technically undemanding four-second effect.  We milked it for a full 15-minute bit by having everyone in the audience inspect the pins before and after the trick.  As our career went on, the audience numbers decreased; making the inspection part of the illusion much shorter.

Ms. Eng is frequently seen in the U.S. and beloved by audiences for her energy and innovation.  We’ve seen her perform live and named her an Inside Magic Favorite based on her live performance.  Under new FTC rules, a magic website cannot proclaim a person a “Favorite” or “Our Favorite” based on video, radio description, telegraph communication, shadow puppets or any non-live performance.  We suppose this is in reaction to YouTube’s popularity but we abide by the rules under which we are honored to publish.

So, the bottom line at the end of the day, when it comes down to brass tacks and the real root of things, we like Julie Eng very much and are very frustrated that we cannot see her new episode just because we don’t live in Canada.

[Update]  A reader from Luxemburg – a country that is not in Canada – has written to tell us that one can configure one’s computer to make it appear that one is in Canada and thereby watch programs to be broadcast only in Canada.

While we appreciate the tip, we cannot countenance breaking the FCC laws to see a show – even Ms. Eng’s show.  We become very paranoid when it comes to FCC regulations.  They have vans that drive all around cities looking for people breaking the law.

Our Uncle Taffy (also a magician at one time until his huffing of roughing fluid (he called it “aromatherapy”) rendered him less effective) who used to broadcast golf tournaments with his walkie-talkie, and later a HAM radio set.  The FCC nailed him and almost took away his walkie-talkie and HAM set until they determined neither was powered and he was just talking to himself about an imaginary golf game featuring cartoon characters from the pre-talkie era of Hollywood.  He would have long commentary about Betty Boop going head-to-head with Inky the Clown at Augusta’s famed Amen Corner.  The family thought it was a good habit and kept him off the public buses but the FCC had another view.

Uncle Taffy managed to kick his “aromatherapy” habit and now performs Three Card Monte for friends at his halfway house in Iowa.

We take no chances.

If you are fortunate enough to live in Canada, be sure to watch Ms. Eng tonight on the CBC.  You can tell us about it but don’t send us videotapes (VHS or Betamax) because that seems illegal too and our videotape machine (also from Radio Shack) won’t play tapes anymore because the heads need to be demagnetized and the store no longer sells the demagnetizer cassette.

Magician Mac King: Consistently Outstanding

Inside Magic Image of Mac KingMagician and Comedian Mac King puts on a fantastic show at Harrah’s Casino every afternoon.  We hadn’t had the opportunity to see him in his theater in many years.  His environs have changed dramatically.  He now performs in a beautiful showroom with plenty of seats, drink service, a wonderful stage and adoring fans.  A far cry from his considerably smaller stage and audience area back when we saw him last.  It is nice to see talent rewarded – especially in a town that eats its stars to clear space for the next act hoping to hold a room against the considerable economic forces that must drive the rapacious need to purge and procure talent.

Mr. King was on his A-game when we saw him from our perfectly adequate general admission seats.  It doesn’t seem there could be a bad seat in the house.  The sightlines all looked great and sound and light work was perfect.  He moves effortlessly with what the crowd gives him.  Sure, at this point in his career, he has likely seen just about every audience response and has pat responses for the interaction – but it didn’t seem to be rehashed from prior shows but spontaneous and genuine.

For example, he invited a woman to participate in a card effect and asked her to take a card from the deck and sign it so it could be identified later.  She did exactly as instructed but wrote her name on the back of the card not the face.  Whether he has confronted this type of audience confusion before, he worked the comic opportunity to its fullest extent.  She ultimately selected a card and signed it on its face.  He performed his miracle and she returned to her seat.  She wasn’t embarrassed or shamed – he allowed her to be part of the fun.  He even pointed out that the situation was likely his fault as he did not tell her to sign the face of the card.  He then did two or three call backs to the situation throughout the remainder of his act.

We were with our family – and it is a perfect family show with nothing to embarrass fans of any age – and they were impressed by the magic performed as much as we were.  Magicians watching other magicians can be a cynical lot.  We have seen or maybe even performed most of the tricks before.  We watch for the twist or the performance decisions magicians make whilst performing standards.

Yet, with Mr. King we were impressed by his originality and the degree of difficulty of the tricks performed.  He could have made his job much easier with readily available gimmicks or short-cuts but for some reason – some very good reason for which we are indebted to him – he chose to do rather difficult sleights in do-or-die moments.  We have great pride in our Classic Force, but if it was absolutely essential to hit it perfectly with an audience volunteer, we would choose some alternative.   Even a two-way deck would be too risky for us in such a situation.

Mr. King performed without a net and the audience would never realize how difficult he was making it for himself.  From the opening Cut and Restored Rope through the very last effect, he showed his mastery of the knuckle-busting sleights that we would not dare to perform even for loved ones who would forgive our failures.  Likely, that is why he is the oft-voted best afternoon show of Las Vegas and receives such thunderous applause twice an afternoon in his wonderfully upgraded digs.

If you happen to be in Las Vegas and want to see one magic show, do not foolishly choose to miss Mac King’s afternoon performance in favor of the glitzy here-today-gone-tomorrow acts.  Mr. King’s dedication to magic and entertaining audiences has been rewarded by longevity and repeat fans of families of many generations.  As we said, it is nice to see talent rewarded and it is just nice to see real talent exhibited.

Inside Magic Review: Five out Five – Our Highest Recommendation.

Ben Young is Up and Coming

Ben YoungMagician Ben Young has a fancy website, a long list of appearances and likely does a fair amount of advertising for his services but for our money, nothing beats the kind of press he received from a friend in the recent edition of The Tullahoma News.

Yes, he has been on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us and befriended by some of the top performers in our craft.  But for some reason we are more moved by accolades bestowed by a former classmate.

Erin McCullough’s column in the Tennessee news source inspires us to track Mr. Young on our upcoming visit to Las Vegas. That beats a Yelp or Trip Advisor review in our estimation.

Ms. McCullough knew Mr. Young from their time together in school and expresses surprise and delight in learning of her friend’s success since leaving the area.

“Now, I had known Ben was talented, but I had no idea of the depth of his craft until I saw it in person. If you’ve never been able to see a magic show, please do yourself a favor and go seek one out, because they are incredible!”

Apparently they studied Italian together in college and, sure, he would perform a few effects for fellow students but Ms. McCullough never saw him in full stage magician mode. Now, Mr. Young is beginning (or part way into) a tour of Air Force bases and cannot be confused with the talented hobbiest. He is a full-blown magician.

We’ll be in Las Vegas when Hollywood shuts down for the holiday break and will seek out Mr. Young — assuming he isn’t on tour — solely because of the apparently unsolicited but heartfelt endorsement of Ms. McCullough.

You can check out Ms. McCullough’s article here: http://www.tullahomanews.com/around-the-water-cooler-81/

Visit Mr. Young’s website here: http://www.benyounglive.com/

Inside Magic Letters to the Editor

Topo GigioLetters to the editor are published on an infrequent basis due to the infrequent receipt of correspondence we receive requiring a response.  We think the issues regarding our weight, loss of hair, inability to speak without a noticeable slur after five in the afternoon have been well-debated and do not warrant further exploration in this semi-public forum.  The tens of readers of Inside Magic have spoken and we have listened.  They want letters to the editor that are about substantive issues of the day in the world of magic.  And so, we turn now to those letters received in the very recent past.

Dear Tim:

You were in West Hollywood, before that in Mystic Hollow, Michigan and now you say you are in a town called Mystic Hollow, California.  Is it possible that you are making this all up or are you in some kind of witness protection program for magicians?  Also, is Mac King’s name short for something?

— A concerned reader

Dear Concerned:

Thank you for your close attention to our peripatetic nature and concern for our alleged involvement in bringing down one of the biggest cartels in fanning powder and roughing liquid black market history.  We do not consider ourselves to be heroes; although that title has been bandied about where things are normally bandied.  Despite the offer of witness protection from the federal and state authorities, we elected to remain in the public eye.  Now that those who perpetrated the horrible acts that resulted from poorly constituted fanning powder or inconsistently mixed roughing fluid have been locked up, we can again emerge to accept the accolades normally accorded folks of our ilk.  Of course, that was about ten years ago and we’re still waiting.  In fact, we’re starting to think the accolades are not going to come other than some random bandying in the bandy parlors that still exist (virtual and otherwise).

To be honest, we are beginning to doubt the praise for our heroism will ever arrive at the front door of our double-wide here in Mystic Hollow, California.  We have more information we are willing to share about Magician’s Wax being illegally imported from farms that abuse the poor magicians from whom the cultivated ear wax is extracted.  Tales of generic Q-Tips and over-farming will leave juries in abject horror but will remain in our vaults until we can be assured that the nation’s law enforcement officials will be ready to take on this anathema.

As for Mac King’s name, we think that’s his name.  Maybe Mac is short for something or a nickname.  Like how people call Santa Claus, “Santa” but it was “St. Nicholas.”

 

Dear Timmy:

How much does it cost to get into magic?

—  Earnest Questioner

 

Dear Ernie:

The best thing about Magic is that it costs nothing to start.  You can do magic with cards, coins, toilet paper tubes, paper towel tubes, other peoples’ cards, coins or tubes.  We heard a story of a magician who started with literally nothing and ended up with a full evening show by learning the magic he could do with borrowed items and doing them well.  He was tipped for his work, saved his money and bought props; eventually hired an assistant (and later married her) and found an agent to book him into shows around the Midwest. True, his agent ended up marrying his assistant and left him destitute but he still had his skills.  We heard from him last week.  He worked his way back up and will be doing shows again.

So Magic costs nothing but time and perhaps your livelihood and personal happiness (but that is a worse case scenario) and it is something you will always have with you.  In many ways it is like riding a bike.  You never forget the skills you learned.  The ability to perform sleights of hand or how to engage and entertain an audience remain forever.  And unlike riding a bike, you don’t need a bike.  People will lend you a bike to watch you do tricks with their bike and pay you money for the pleasure of watching you do things with their property.  Harry Houdini once said – in quote we are now making up – “Magic is the one art that rewards the artist’s practice and preparation by making his work invisible.”

 

Dear Tim:

What is your favorite Magic-film to watch?

—  D. Dugger

Dear Addy:

We love the movie Houdini starring Tony Curtis.  It was the film that really got us hooked on the Houdini myth and later Houdini history.  We weren’t disillusioned to learn that the film took liberties with the true story but more intrigued about the man that lived a life so large that films would be made about him.

It is interesting that you qualified your question by asking our favorite film “to watch.”  We have several favorite magic films that we do not like to watch.  We like to look at the posters, read about them on IMDB and dream about what they could have been.  Most of the recent magician-oriented films fit that bill.  The posters and promotion looked so wonderful that we just knew a great movie could be made.  It was a pity in almost every case that the producers, writers and directors did not agree with us and decided to make movies that seemed to stray from the magic theme that made them enticing.

We also like movies based on the life of Topo Gigio; focusing on his time after his success on the Ed Sullivan show.  He went on to open two nightclubs in Miami (one is still standing) and had an infamous running feud with former boxing great Jake LaMotta – although they were very good friends in real life.  Many people still don’t know that he was a great inventor and developed a way of making more predictable kidney dialysis protocols.  He received a patent in 1974 for his work on the modern milling of whole grain.  He was a prolific writer and many credit him for the Harry Potter story idea first penned for a literary quarterly published by the University of Mississippi.

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.