Magicians and Tattoos

logobunnyWe’re not judging, just saying.  And remember that we are very shallow.  You could break your fool neck diving into our soul.

As we were growing up in the backlots of circuses and traveling shows throughout this great land, the only folks we saw with tattoos were people with stories.  Their art – usually crudely executed with India ink and a sewing needle hopefully sanitized with a few seconds a top a Zippo lighter – evidenced a special event or devotion to a cause or person.

Consequently, we associated tattoos with folks that had been in a non-mainstream environment; maybe the military (“when I crossed the equator for the first time”), prison (“when I crossed the warden for the first time”) or all-consuming love (“when our paths crossed for the first time”).  We also are old enough to remember seeing the tattoos on survivors of the Holocaust.

Tattoos, for folks of our late age, represented a branding imposed either on or by someone in a life-altering event.   We rarely saw tattoos for tattoos sake.

Then the world changed.  Tattoos are fashionable and hip and expensive.  The technology and sanitization have moved far from India Ink and mom’s sharpest needle to computer-aided design and well-trained crafts persons with shops and Twitter followers and huge revenue streams.

We want to be accepting and embracing of the art embodied in the body of the human canvas and we’re getting better.  We can actually eat a meal served by someone with visible tattoos now.  True, we usually look away as we chew but we do that anyway because of our tendency to drool and collect scraps of food in our facial hair – we don’t have a mustache, goatee or beard but have very bushy eyebrows.

We have a hard time with magicians – our own people – with visible tattoos.  And if we are being honest – and why start now? – we probably would have a hard time with people performing magic if we knew they had a tattoo somewhere on their person.  We are not sure how we would feel about conjoined twins with the performing sibling having no tattoos but the silent twin having visible tattooing.  So far that is a hypothetical thought exercise we like to ponder when we have had too much caffeine or there is a commercial we have seen before or there are no shiny objects moving in our field of vision.  Plus, why is “conjoined twins” not hyphenated?

We know perfectly good people with outstanding magic skills who have had their hands inked as if they had a boxing match with a freshly printed newspaper.  Okay, that analogy did not work but we spent about five minutes trying to think of something clever to make that point and the alternatives were: “as if their hands were made of silly putty and they had just finished reading a comic book,” “as if their hands were made of paper mache from the funny pages,” or “as if they had been sautéed in a light oil and Easter-egg dyes.”  Analogies are hard.  They are harder than something that is usually considered hard by most people.

We have seen magicians perform fantastic feats of magic despite their tattooed state.  They feel no need to explain away the obvious – perhaps because it is not an issue for them or their audience.  That’s when we start to wonder if we are alone in our apparently irrational reaction to something no one else sees?

We wrote a while ago about getting a manicure in keeping with the old adage we just made up, “Dirty Nails, Trick Fails.”  We had good response from fellow magicians online and in person.  Even magicians with hand tattoos agreed that a performer’s hands should be clean and neat.  So maybe it is just us.

We have tried to get over our clear prejudice by seeking out people with tattoos and staring at them intensely; sometimes we will pull food from our pocket and eat whilst staring to test our progress.  We are fortunate to live in West Hollywood where one can find many a tattooed person willing to accept our staring and eating without objection or concern.

We will break down this prejudice somehow.  Just like we overcame our disgust at people who unknowingly use “myself” instead of “me” in sentences or begin each sentence with the word “so.”  We have come to accept folks who smoke e-cigarettes.  In fact the other night we saw a gentleman smoking what looked like an e-cigar.  It was much larger than a cigarette.  When we got closer, though, we saw he was just sucking on a flashlight.  But we were accepting and embraced his healthy alternative to smoking tobacco.

Piff the Magic Dragon Returns to Roots

Inside Magic Image of Piff the Magic Dragon doing a One-Handed Card SpringStar of television, stage and the Penn & Teller magic contest, Piff the Magic Dragon sent us a nice note this morning.  He is returning to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a special, limited run of shows based on his Breakfast at Piffany’s production.  The show will benefit a worthy charity.

We first read about Piff when he performed at the Fringe Festival several years ago.  He and his magic dog, Mr. Piffles have risen to great heights within the magic world and his return to the Fringe will likely sell out almost immediately.  If you are looking to see great magic performed with profound creativity, you need to see Piff the Magic Dragon.

Piff wrote:

I’m coming back to the Fringe this year. But only for two weeks. Here’s some fancy words about it.

“Direct from Las Vegas, Piff returns to the Fringe with an hour of new tricks, old snacks and sweet, sweet prizes. And yes, he’s bringing the dog too.

Part magic show, part game show, part cry for help, Breakfast at Piffany’s sees Piff split the audience into teams to fight for points and prizes, and along the way witness incredible magic tricks, delicious snacks, surprise special guests and epic thumb wars.

A smash hit on the Las Vegas Strip, Piff has dished up desserts to Shania Twain, sold Hollywood star Brad Garrett a croissant for $1000, and dazzled David Copperfield himself with sleight of paw dragony miracles. Piff and Mr Piffles (the World’s First Magic Performing Chihuahua) fly into Edinburgh for sixteen nights only to give UK audiences a taste of what they’ve been missing.

The evening culminates in the Auction of the Croissant, to benefit Edinburgh charity The Sick Kids Friends Foundation (but don’t tell Piff, he’s planning to buy a fancy new castle). In Las Vegas Piff raised over $15,000 in three months by selling stale pastry treats to minor celebrities. It’s unlikely he’ll repeat that feat in a town where punters balk at a £4 beer, but he’ll give it his best shot.

Strolling Magic Lessons Learned

Inside Magic Image of Innovative BunnyWe performed strolling magic at a wonderful event this weekend.  It was quite the scene – the event, not our performance.  In one of LA’s museums, it was brimming with attractive and important people dressed well with great food and even a red carpet.

Our pockets were packed with three routines’ worth of props.  We had Invisible, Rising, Marked and regular decks in each of our coat pockets.  In our pants pockets we had dental floss for Gypsy Thread.  A Professor’s Nightmare rope set was wedged in our waistband.  A Pen through Bill was in our shirt pocket.  The four of hearts affixed to the back of our beautiful silk tie.  We had a Toppit in place and in it was our Thumb Tip and a black silk for vanishing.  Wedged into our front pocket were our Mogar Color Changing Knives. We were, in the parlance of zookeepers, loaded for bear.

But the contents of our pockets remained in place.  We performed for about 30 small groups and did essentially one effect – Sponge Balls.

We have not performed Sponge Balls in an actual public routine since 1974, during the Close-up Competition at the Florida State Magicians Association Convention in Winter Park, Florida.  We brought the set with us almost as an afterthought.  They do not take up much room, are visible and it can be performed in noisy surroundings.

We approached our first grouping of beautifully attired attendees and asked if they would like to see some magic.  They consented and we reached into our pocket to pull out a deck of cards to perform our standard 42-minute ambitious card routine but our fingers lingered on the Sponge Balls.

It was like we were back in 1974 at the Langford Hotel.  We were once again that young magician performing an endlessly rehearsed routine for judges.  Here and now, the judges were comely women and men with more disposable income than we have earned since 1974 but they were just as receptive.  We did our routine with very little talking and when the balls appeared in the startled volunteer’s beautifully manicured hand, she squealed with shock.

“Do me next,” her companion urged.

We performed the kicker ending for her friend and they reacted in a way we are used to seeing on every YouTube video of a street performer.

The reaction was better than we could have hoped to receive from any of the other items packed about our person.

As the evening rolled on, we performed Sponge Balls repeatedly.  Using the same patter we developed while still an acne-scarred youth, we worked the room.

In our younger days, we would have insisted on performing something different.  We do not know if it is a sign of maturity or laziness but we decided to stick with what was working.  The room was dark and loud so a Book Test would not have worked.  Our delightful patter that accompanies our 90-minute version of The Professor’s Nightmare rope trick would probably not have been heard above the din and may have been a tad too long given the event.

As we drove back to West Hollywood with our top down – plus we had the convertible top down – we thought about the lessons learned.

First, give the audience what it wants.

Second, don’t give the audience what you want unless it is also what they want.

Third, magician’s rope expands when exposed to sweat and can become uncomfortable when wedged in one’s waistband for long periods of time.

It was a magical night.

Suzanne Joins the Lance Burton Teen Seminar Staff

IBM Jacksonville Convention LogoThis just in from the International Brotherhood of Magicians!

Just Announced!   Suzanne will join Shawn Farquhar and Oscar Munoz as a Special Guest Instructor at the 11th Lance Burton Teen Seminar to be held at the I.B.M. 87th Annual Convention in Jacksonville, FL. The Lance Burton Teen Seminar is THE #1 magic seminar for young magicians. Join Eugene Burger, Larry Hass, Suzanne, Shawn Farquhar and Oscar Munoz for a life changing experience.

WAIT – That’s not all!  The I.B.M. Endowment and Development Fund has agreed to fund TWO registrations to Sorcerer’s Safari Magic Camp to be given away to one boy and one girl attending the Lance Burton Teen Seminar.  Sorcerer’s Safari is the premier magic camp in Canada.  Take a look at this video to see some of the fun at the 2014 camp.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCDwmelVN20

WAIT –There is still more!  The McBride Magic and Mystery School will be selecting ONE Teen Magician at the Lance Burton Teen Seminar to receive the McBride Magic and Mystery School Faculty Award.  Founded in 1991, the McBride Magic an Mystery School’s goal is to provide a safe, supportive, and inspiring place for magic enthusiasts (both amateur and professional) to work on their magic.  They work with students of all skill levels and interests. At the McBride Magic and Mystery School the unparalleled faculty members are there to answer your questions, help you become a better magician and, most importantly, have fun.  One lucky teen magician will receive the opportunity of a lifetime!

So join us at the 11th Lance Burton Teen Seminar.  If you are between the ages of 13-19 AND registered to attend the I.B.M. Convention in Jacksonville, you can attend the Lance Burton Teen Seminar ABSOLUTELY FREE.  Dates for the Seminar are July 13-15, 2015. To register go to http://www.magician.org/convention/upcoming-convention TODAY!  Jacksonville HERE WE COME!

Dean Gunnarson’s Newest Venture: Comics

Dean Gunnarson Comic ImageDean Gunnarson has been an Inside Magic Favorite for decades.  He is death-defying and fearless and, soon, a cartoon.

Mr. Gunnarson recently went to Kickstarter to announce plans to launch a comic book, The World’s Most Daring Escape Artist.  The book will be a 32-page anthology written by Lovern Kindzierski,  author of the acclaimed Shame trilogy.  Mr. Kindzierski has written for Marvel, Heavy Metal, Dark Horse and Penny Farthing Press.   Renowned British comic book artist, Simon Bisley, will create the artwork and award-winning British artist, Glenn Farby will illustrate the cover.

Mr. Gunnarson is currently starring on the OLN show tamely titled Escape or Die.  The show is a fascinating look into the hours of preparation that goes into the escapes staged around the world.

The comic book will include stories behind three of Mr. Gunnarson’s most famous escapes: The Russian Death Tank, The Shark Bait Escape and The Snake Temple.

The campaign is just starting out but looks like it is off to a great start.  We hope it gets fully funded and look forward to the book.