Magic, Mystery and Mentalism – a Moral Lesson

Inside MagicImage of Concerned WomanMentalism, Magic and Mystery are three very different things – at least in our tattered book.  We have never gotten into trouble with Magic and Mystery but on a couple of occasions have experienced harsh but understandable reactions from Mentalism.

First of all, we are out of the Mentalism biz.  It used to be the cool thing around the time of people bending things and using specially patterned cards to read minds.  There was a time in our business when everyone claimed they could read minds.  Why they did that was always a mystery (little “m” mystery) to us.  It gained them some notoriety but it would seem to invite constant challenges.

Slowly the world of Mentalism evolved to not claiming to be capable of reading minds.  There were some who continued to make the claims but they were now considered psychics and not Mentalists.  We were always in the Mentalism camp – back during our Mentalism days.  We would, contrary to psychics, affirmatively tell audiences we cannot read minds.  We could influence choices and perhaps pick up tells given by volunteers but never, ever could we read minds.

Except one time.

The following story is an amalgam of two events to protect the innocent and make our point.

We performed what Magicians would call a one-in-a-million shot.  Our hole card is the Four of Hearts.  We don’t know why but it seems like a good even number and has pretty hearts that can be read from the back of the audience.  We were performing for some Boy Scouts and held an over-sized card before us and asked a woman in the far back to name a card.  Our intention was to fail to have predicted the card and then go about our act explaining why we do not claim Mentalism power.

She called out in a loud and clear voice, “The Four of Hearts!”

We were far less mature then.

We should have joked it off, not shown the card, and said that was why we did not claim to have special powers.  But we couldn’t resist.  We milked the moment and when we finally turned the card to face the audience, there was true amazement.  Unfortunately, there was also deep concern in the heart of the woman – the mother of one of a young scout.

She asked us almost immediately after finishing our routine, how we could possibly know the card.  She had told no one and didn’t even know she was going to be a volunteer.  Again, we were immature and in need of validation; even at the cost of someone else’s emotional toil.

“I don’t know for sure, we have a talent to read minds sometimes,” we said proudly.

It wasn’t true and still isn’t.  We can’t read minds.  We can’t even read fortune cookies without bifocals.  We do have a very special talent in reading The Racing Form but our mounting losses over the years have proven that talent does not lead to accurate predictions of horse races.

The scout mom became upset.  She asked if we could read her mind at that very moment.  We paused as if trying to gather psychic messages and had to admit that we could not.  But now she did not believe us.  We were lying and reading minds.  A very bad combination at a scout meeting.

“The Bible is against false prophets,” she told us as she took her boy behind her back and walked away from us.

We felt terrible.  Horrible.  We had offended – unnecessarily but for our own self-aggrandizement – a seemingly innocent, concerned mother and likely her son.

That is where the Mystery comes into the equation.  Magic, to us, is clean.  Things vanish, appear, and change shape or quality.  Birds come from places you would least expect and disappear into places far too small for them.  Magic is the kind of thing you would do (or we would do) for children, teens, adults and even people our age.  Mentalism requires some advanced thinking on the part of the audience and if introduced as a real power can cause real concern.

We don’t want to concern anyone with our act.  We do our double-lifts, false shuffles, second deals and what passes for a bottom deal and no one is emotionally concerned.  We do a short card divination but never describe it as Mentalism.  It is merely a demonstration of influence and picking up “tells.”

There are performers with more experience and ability than us.  They would handle the troop mother incident in a far better manner.  Perhaps they could even devise a method of proclaiming psychic powers that would cause no concern.  We lack those abilities.  But we can drink whole milk without having stomach or intestinal upset so we are all blessed in different ways.  (We are not saying and would never say all self-proclaimed psychics are lactose intolerant; only that most are and we are not).

The Mystery is why we would do such a thing?  Why would we concern a troop mom by persisting in the “gag” and asserting an ability we do not have and have never possessed?  We learned our lesson years ago but pass it along for those starting out in our wonderful Art.  There are very real consequences to what we do and how we choose to entertain.

Illusionist Adam Trent is So Much More!

Image of Adam TrentMagician Adam Trent, known to audiences as “The Futurist” is moving from touring with and Broadway smash THE ILLUSIONISTS to his own tour with his show THE MAGIC OF Adam Trent.  The show is a great mixture of magic, comedy and magic with a family focus.  He brings his show to the beautiful Balboa Theatre in equally lovely San Diego, California this Saturday, March 24th.

He caught the magic bug as a young ‘un and was inspired by David Copperfield.  Unlike many, his magic love turned to obsession and fascination and he moved on to shows for birthday parties and nursing homes.  Mr. Trent’s nickname, The Futurist, comes from his desire to bring the latest tech into his magic performances.

Mr. Trent believes he is more than just a magician – not that being a magician isn’t sufficient – but he strives to be an entertainer; hence the comedy and music in his show.

Says Mr. Trent, “I want them to say it was completely different than they expected a magic show to be. I want them to say they laughed harder than they ever have in a theatre, and I want them to have been emotionally moved by the end.”

Reporters forewarn audiences that one of this personal faves in the show is borrowing an audience member’s cell phone to serve as blender-fodder. “I borrow an audience members phone and put it in a blender onstage. I always enjoy seeing how different people react to that.”

Our guess, the reactions probably have a rather small spectrum from surprise, to concern, to more surprise and concern.

“My goal is to make people forget about the tricks. Will they be fooled? Yes. But I want them to not care about being fooled because they are too busy laughing.”

Why do folks like magic?  “It’s the closest thing to being a real life superhero. Magicians are people who make the impossible seemingly possible. It’s like being James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, and Superman all in one. I certainly want to be that guy.”

You can see Mr. Trent’s show and reading article www.broadwaysd.com for tickets and showtime information.

Check out young Mr. Trent on his tour on Twitter and Facebook @AdamTrent Magic.

We can’t wait for him to sojourn to the Los Angeles area where we will see him and give a full review.  In the meantime, we will watch him on his excellent website here: https://www.adamtrent.com/

Mark Panner Fills In for Us

Inside Magic Image of Frustrated MagicianWe have been very busy at our daytime job.

That has kept us from the spacious office suite here on Santa Monica Boulevard where this humble magic news outlet makes its home in West Hollywood, California.

It is good to be busy but bad to be neglecting of the tens of people who read Inside Magic religiously – and by “religiously” we mean by candlelight, copious amounts of incense and chanting.

We have asked one of the least qualified but most available magic writers (so it averages out) to take over for the next few days or until readership drops below the web equivalent of anemic.

Readers of Inside Magic may remember Mr. Panner for his contributions in the past to this and other magic websites. You can read his horrible review of Inside Magic Favorite magician Bob Sheets here.

He is related to us through a complicated story of inter-marriage and bad life-choices but we offer him space here only as a matter of convenience for us, not because it is in the interest of marital bliss.

Mr. Panner has published several books on magic, all self-published and, as we understand it, still unread. He has claimed to have invented several of the greatest effects in our art including:

The Balls and Cups (his take on the classic “The Cups and Balls”), Card to Walet (intentionally misspelled in an effort to avoid litigation and scorn by the creators of “Card to Wallet”), Torn Newspaper (the review in Magic Magazine noted that it was a fine effect but lacked the ending audiences have come to expect from similar routines like “The Torn and Restored Newspaper”), and the now disregarded Paint Ball Catching Trick.

The Paint Ball Catching Trick was marketed as a safe alternative to the deadly Bullet Catch. In the litigation that followed the meager sales of the effect, we learned that while the trick did not risk being shot in the face with a real bullet, the content of the particular brand of paint balls sold with the trick contained enough lead to shave years off the life of even a casual performer and “condemned his or her progeny to a dramatically higher risk of mental disability.”

Mr. Panner decided re-market the effect with instructions discouraging the “chewing of the paintball or rolling it around in the mouth for an extended period of time.”

You can still find the original version with the now discredited instructions on eBay.

Mr. Panner complained to the magic community that he was being undersold by “cheap, Chinese imports.” The magic community apparently did not care.

Mr. Panner has performed shows for hundreds of paying customers and clients throughout the Midwest – but never for the same client twice. He says this practice is due to his “constant, driving forced (sic) to keep things fresh.” He also points out that the Better Business Bureau rating is “probably wrong because people only complaint (sic) and never say good things to the BBB.”

For the record, he denies ripping off Criss Angel’s Believe with his own, limited tour of “Bee Leave.” Also for the record, Criss Angel denies caring at all about Mr. Panner’s two hour illusion show featuring the magician dressed in a costume described by a reporter for the Urbana, Illinois daily as “cross between Criss Angel and a effeminate bumble bee.”

Mr. Panner’s contributions will begin later today (or possibly tomorrow) and, as is our practice, will be unedited. Mr. Panner describes the process as “keeping it real, raw.” We describe it as “being lazy, real lazy.”

We should be back in the office with renewed energy and new stories in the next week or so.

It is entirely likely we will be back sooner if Mr. Panner performs as predicted.

Magician Michael Carbonaro Visits Akron One Night

Michael Carbonaro Magician - TV StarAs a dedicated Michigander, it is hard to admit there is any likeable or noteworthy aspect to Ohio.  Sure, Josha Jay, William Howard Taft, the Wright Brothers, Jamie Farr (the cross-dressing actor from M*A*S*H!), Thomas Edison, the Amish and the Mennonites, Vulcanized Rubber, the Classic Joke “What’s Round on both Ends and High in the Middle,” Most of the Early Astronauts, Paul Newman, the First Pop-Top Can, Teflon, Beautiful Streams, and the modern version of what we know call the Hot Dog.

It’s just that gosh-derned Woody Hayes Ohio State University and their rivalry with those kind boys who play football in Ann Arbor in a state the true-blue Ohio folks refer to not as Michigan but “that state up north.”

Beyond all that, we have a new reason to think highly of our owl-shaped state perched just below the base of our mitten.  The Akron Civic Theatre of Akron Ohio is featuring The Carbonaro Effect,  Michael Carbonaro, from truTV.

His show unloads his national tour of his stage show this Friday will have the same feel of the TV show, Mr. Carbonaro says, “where improbable magic tricks fool unsuspecting victims.’

Tickets range from $39.50 to $150 for the 7:30 p.m. performance this Friday at the beautiful Akron Civic.  You can choose your seats here at akroncivic.com.

“Magic brought me to my discovery of becoming an entertainer,” he said.

He drew inspiration from another true showman and performer at the time, David Copperfield.

“He was so on point, so precise,” Carbonaro said.

So he spent his teen years performing for family, friends and whatever gigs he could find.

He landed a gig with Jay Leno, where he used a hidden camera in “Magic Clerk” segments on The Tonight Show. He used his old magic tricks and knowledge to fool customers in a convenience store.  He moved to nicer stores and  multiple years worth of series with The Carbonaro Effect.

We have seen this very young and talented man perform live for cynical, hardened and oft-smelling magicians in prestigious theaters and been delighted by the new waves of illusion his presence brings.  He has little reason to be as humble as he appears but he is a joy to watch.  Do not miss your chance.

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.