Jim Carrey on Starving for Magic Physique

Jim Carrey with Perfect Magician's Body from Burt Wonderstone Movie Publicity StillIt 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

The Whit Haydn Interview

He was chosen by Caesars Palace to be one of the acts to open the $60 million Magical Empire at the Las Vegas Resort. Whit performs regularly on the most prestigious cruise ships including the Queen Elizabeth II, the Norway and the Westerdam. He has opened for Jerry Seinfeld, Loretta Lynn and Gallagher. He consulted and contributed to the Discovery Channel’s documentary, “Houdini – They Came to See Him Die.”

Whit will also appear in a 30-part series on magic for the Canadian Discovery Channel called “Grand Illusions,” and in the PAX Television series “Masters of Illusion.” Speaking of television and film, he has consulted on David Copperfield’s television specials, was the chief magic consultant for the Norman Jewison film “Bogus,” starring Whoopie Goldberg, Gerard Depardieu and Haley Joel Osment.

You may also have enjoyed and learned from Whit’s lecture notes, videotapes and lectures. He is a featured performer and lecturer at conventions and seminars around the world. In his spare time, Whit teaches a popular ‘masters’ course known as the “School for Scoundrels” for magician members of the Magic Castle. This course concerns the famous street swindles the Shell Game, Three-Card Monte, and the Endless Chain—the subject of Whit’s forthcoming book, Unfair Advantage.

I first met Whit while my wife and I were vacationing on the last voyage of the Queen Odyssey. The ship had just been bought by Seaborn from Royal Cruise Lines and the cruise was the transition to the new company. Seaborn was trying to impress the loyal Royal Cruise Line passengers that the new owners could keep up the fine reputation the ship had earned. They hired Whit as the only non-musical act to appear in the main theater and obviously had great confidence in his abilities to impress the crowd they hoped to retain for future voyages. We attended his show and as luck would have it, my wife was invited to join him on stage to perform the Four Ring Routine.

I have seen Whit perform several times since that cruise and have always been impressed by his very natural approach to handling and sleights. When he holds a deck of cards, he holds it as if he is doing only that. He isn’t holding the deck to set up a bottom palm or a second deal. When he displays a knife in his fantastic “The Intricate Web of Distraction,” and explains the history of the term “pen knife,” he looks and acts as if he is doing only that – not setting up a vanish or a change.

Q: How did you get introduced to magic?

My first real experience with magic was watching a Methodist minister perform at a summer camp when I was very young, maybe seven or eight years old. He did standard magic like the rings, cut and restored rope, etc. At one point, he pushed a silk into a pink cone (Abbott’s Bang-Gone) with a wand. When the cone was popped open, the silk was gone.

The kids yelled that the silk was in the wand. After playing with the hecklers for a few moments, he snapped the wand in half and threw the broken dowel pieces to the audience. I was stunned. I would have given my eyeteeth, which were practically new, to own a magic wand, and he broke it just to show the kids were wrong.

I stayed up all night thinking about magic. I wondered what it would mean if you could do real magic, and also, knowing there was no such thing, tried to figure out how he did the tricks. It was probably the first time in my life that I had such a concentrated session of creative thinking. The next morning I awoke in love with all things magic.


Continue reading The Whit Haydn Interview

Buy Dai Vernon’s Ashes at Auction

We learned from Alan Watson’s weekly newsletter, Magic New Zealand, of a once in a lifetime auction featuring the collections of Dai Vernon and Bruce Cervon scheduled for January 30, 2010.

(If you do not already receive Mr. Watson’s newsletter, you should.  It is must reading for any magician or lover of magical things.  Visit his site and sign-up today by going here).

In addition to the items from the Professor and Mr. Cervon, Gabe Fajuri has included additional “rare books, apparatus and ephemera.”  You can check out the on-line catalog here.

The auction will be live and held in Chicago but accessible to participants around the world via the internets. Make sure you visit http://www.liveauctioneers.com/catalog/20344 to register and gain approval to participate well-before the auction day.

The catalog of items up for sale is better than any wish book we can recall.  Amazing things, interesting magic, incredible collections of props and manuscripts are all up for bid.

Bruce Cervon was not only the essential author of all things Dai Vernon, he was also an accomplished magician, performer, actor, and lecturer.  After his passing in 2007, his wife published the now famous Castle Notebooks, called by some the “Holy Grail” of magic texts.

Of particular interest to the Inside Magic Editorial Board is a small glass bottle identified as Dai Vernon’s “Ashes.” We know from reading Karl Johnson’s extraordinary biography, The Magician and the Cardsharp: The Search for America’s Greatest Sleight-of-Hand Artist,  The Professor was cremated and his ashes were brought to The Magic Castle.

Could this be a bottle containing the real remains of Dai Vernon?

No.  No, it’s not.  Close, though.

The auction catalog describes the item as:

Dai Vernon’s “Ashes.” Small bottle with cork stopper and color label bearing a silhouette of Dai Vernon and half-full of what the label describes as, “Guaranteed to have possibly come from the cigars of Dai Vernon, lovingly known as “The Professor.”/Collected from the upholstery of the love seats outside the Close Up Gallery of The Magic Castle between 1968 – 1987.” A decided novelty. Good condition.

It is a very good thing Dai Vernon smoked cigars rather than chewed tobacco.  As witnessed by our collection of spittoon drainings from the Thurston and Carter touring shows, evaporation is the constant foe of a diligent body fluid curator.

Check out the auction, get registered and approved.  This looks to be a great opportunity for collectors, scholars, and working magicians alike.

Letters to the Editor and Corrections

It is the policy of Inside Magic to correct errors or omissions within a reasonable time following the alleged error or omission.

Additionally, Inside Magic welcomes correspondence from all readers on subjects related to articles in this journal or other magic-related subjects.

Please note: if you submitted an article for publication between April 25, 1998 and June 14, 2001, you may be entitled to compensation from a settlement currently under consideration by the Honorable Kimba Woods for the Southern District of New York in the class action Leticia Accensia v. Inside Magic, Ltd (A Company Organized Under the Laws of Belize), SDCiv 2003CA1992AA.

While Judge Woods has not yet certified the alleged class for purposes of trial, there has been a Consolidated Discovery Order entered and settlement discussions in lieu of potential class certification are contemplated.

In the August 12, 2002 edition of Inside Magic, Oakland magician Jerry Hirschorn was profiled for his ability to perform a “Six-Card Repeat effect in a close-up environment.” The article noted Mr. Hirschorn could perform the card trick on a table during his work at a local restaurant and “instantly reset.”

Mr. Hirschorn’s “reset” was not instant but because the effect goes on for hours, he simply continues the routine as he moves from table to table. We regret the error. We also morn the passing of Mr. Hirschorn and his brothers in a recent accident but celebrate the recent birth of triplets by his mother, Mrs. Gail White.

Dear Inside Magic:

When I am buying a thumb tip, can I get it sized to my thumb? Also, how can I find one that looks like my skin color?

Adrian Owen, Lexington, KY

Hi Adrian:

We take it you are new to the world of magic from the substance of your question. Like the existence of gravity or the inevitability of a wrong order when using a McDonald’s drive-through window, the use of a thumb tip is an exercise in faith.

You have no doubt heard from more senior magicians that you could wear a thumb tip painted bright red but if you used it correctly, your audience would never notice it. That is true. Too much emphasis is placed on matching the skin color of the tip for fear of detection.

Harry Blackstone, Sr. once tried an experiment where he performed a complete show with a bright red thumb tip in place. He mentioned to magicians later that no one noticed. While historians tend to discount this story’s significance, it has meaning for us today.

(Jim Steinmeyer surveyed the literature concerning Mr. Blackstone’s claim in his critically acclaimed monograph, What’s That On Your Thumb? No, The Other Thumb! An Examination of Thumb Tip Use throughout the History of Magic, (New York: Scribner’s 1987). He noted the following criticisms:

1) Blackstone did not perform any effect during his show in which the thumb tip could be used;

2) Blackstone did not solicit observations from his audience regarding his use or non-use of the utility device;

3) this show was the same show for which Mr. Blackstone received well-deserved praise for safely escorting the entire audience from the theater to safety after he was informed the backstage area was engulfed in flames;

4) Blackstone was wearing, as was his custom, white kid skin gloves over the thumb tip;

5) this particular show was a benefit for the local school for the blind; and

6) the thumb tip in question matched exactly the nail polish he used on every other finger (and, say some scholars, toenails)).

We have found the use of the thumb tip to be an unnerving experience. We are so sure we will be caught either hiding items in, or slipping items from the device that we no longer use it except during our magic shows.

We note the space allotted by the gimmick is rarely sufficient to shoplift anything of value or to secret any contraband across an international border.

Dai Vernon once commented that just as a magician should not be considered professional until he had performed 25 times on stage, You should not use a thumb tip until your liver failure has advanced sufficiently to make your skin yellow, like the tip.

The Vernon Chronicles, Vol. 2, Bruce Cervon (Los Angeles: Magic Press 1968) pp 114-113.


Continue reading Letters to the Editor and Corrections