Magician Matt Vizio Performs this Week

Magicians Matt Vizio and Tom Frank are performing in the Peller Theatre this week at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California.

One of the questions we are almost never asked is, “Is there really such a person as Matt Vizio?”

We are reluctant to answer questions about true legends for fear that we will leave out a detail or embellish unfairly.  (For an example of this tendency and the reason for our trepidation see our horribly reviewed book Wyatt Earp: The World’s Best Short-Order Cook in the West (1978 Simon and Schuster) – although it was made into a very successful movie franchise (or so we and our lawyers currently claim in a soon to be filed lawsuit) called Guardians of the Galaxy.

We have known Mr. Vizio for going on a long time and have even had the honor of performing with him in a stand-up setting.  He is what we hope to become one day: young, handsome, funny and talented.  Actually, we don’t care about the talented as much as the first three qualities. The ladies love him, the men want to be like him, the dogs sniff him and wonder where he has been.

Mr. Vizio used to perform one or two tricks in his set downstairs in the amateur room wherein performers of our ilk are allowed to work.  But he graduated to upstairs at the Castle – ironically, the “Upstairs at the Castle” was the name of our least successful BBC melodrama Series not featuring human actors.  He has been seen in the Close-Up Gallery and this week will be in the Peller.  His act has expanded dramatically and he performs effects the way they should be performed.  For instance, his Cups and Balls is one of the best we have seen in years.  It is in keeping with Dai Vernon’s school of making all actions appear normal, relaxed and fair.

Matt is not just a great magician in all of the classical realms of Close-Up, Parlor and Stage; but he is also a talented stand-up comedian with the adlib instincts of a veteran.

He was responsible for introducing us to performing stand-up comedy and audiences across the San Fernando Valley damn him daily for this.  Interestingly, “Damn Him Daily” was the name of our 1960s daily puppet show that we pitched to PBS – they went with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood because of some reason we don’t recall because we were in tears explaining it to the puppets and formed a mental block surrounding that time.

If you have a chance, check out Mr. Vizio this evening through the weekend at the Peller Theatre at the Magic Castle.  He will be performing with Tom Frank.  We have not seen Tom Frank perform before but we know that if he is performing with Mr. Vizio, you will be entertained, amazed and leave laughing.

Mr. Vizio and Mr. Frank will have shows at 8:00, 10:00 and 11:30 Wednesday through Sunday.

Check out Mr. Vizio’s website, Honest Deception here.

The Problem with Magic is Our Perception

Inside Magic Image of Favorite Melvin the MagicianUntil recently, we thought there was a problem with being a magician.

In our youth, we participated (but never won or even came close to winning) talent contests.  Singers and modern interpretive dancers usually got the first, second and third prizes.  We stood on stage at the end singing the then-popular talent show song “Up with People” and tried to match our dance steps with those around us – in the back row of the talent for the evening.

As we aged – like a fine ball of wine or a bottle of cheese – we thought often about the differences between the variety acts.  If a singer is not a good singer, she or he can still sing.  The audience will wait the three minutes for the song to end and applaud politely.

If a dancer is a bad dancer, the audience will do the same.  But if a magician is a really bad magician, he or she is not performing magic at all.  He or she is just doing things on stage that have no amazing effect on the audience.  If a magician exposes a trick, there is no magic.  It is not like the situation of a bad singer or horrible dancer.  They are still singing and dancing.  The magician is just opening and closing boxes, sticking things into or pulling them out of tubes or holding his or her hand awkwardly whilst pointing at the other paw.

The worst-case scenario for the magician is an audience that will not play along.  A card magician faced with an audience member who will not take a card; or who will take a card and then promptly forgets it.  Singers do not face this problem.  There may be audience members who want to sing with the performer from their position in the audience, and that is usually welcomed.  They even have a term for it – a sing-along.

Additionally, we doubt there are relatively few singers or dancers accused of being in league with Satan.  We don’t get that accusation as much as we used to; perhaps because we perform in the amateur rooms at the Magic Castle and folks coming to the Magic Castle either do not believe all magicians are in league with Satan or they do believe it and it does not occur to them to mention it.

Singers and dancers are accused of satanic links only when their lyrics or dance steps directly reference satanic sources.  Actually, we can’t think of a recent dance act accused of being inspired by Satan since the late 1950’s when the Blink Twins were thought to be “Stewardesses to Hell” because of their dance routine where they allegedly “invited the audience to take a flight to the ‘Hottest Place on Earth.’”

We spoke with Sandra Blink in the late 1960’s and she said the controversy was “ridiculous but did bring additional bookings” in the Southeastern states.  They even had little devil tails added to their stewardess uniforms, she said.  The tails added nothing to the act and were soon dropped because of the pain they would occasionally cause when they did splits on the “runway” portion of the stage.  Ironically, Sandra was the older of the Blink Twins.  She was two years older than her sister, Samantha, who passed away in 1965.  Our point is that they weren’t really twins.

Additionally, we would note for the record that the “Hottest Place on Earth” could not be Hell because that is thought by most religions to be someplace other than on earth.

Rich magicians – and we know of one or two – have the added problem of flaunting their wealth.  A singer or dancer can wear rich looking clothes but then, again, so does the average magician.  Many wear tuxedos or fine dresses as part of their performance.  Even the most expensive deck of cards is within the price range of the poorest magician.  We’ve seen great magicians kill with a roll of toilet paper.  There is no easy way to demonstrate to the assembled crowd that you, the magician, are richer than them.

We were performing recently for a very nice crowd.  They had diamonds and fancy bags made by people in Europe and were wearing evening wear we could only dream of owning – the male evening wear especially.   All we had was a deck of cards and a used, worn deck at that.  Sure, we spent $3.75 for the deck and added accouterments that cost us an extra $1.25, but there wasn’t much else we could do to show that we deserved to be in the company of very rich people.  We tried to use big words and talked about performing around the world (not that we have but we are not above lying to impress a stranger) but at the end of the night, we felt we had failed in our mission to demonstrate that we deserved to be in the company of those people we wanted to entertain.

But the evening was saved by a drunk audience member who slurred/whispered something complimentary towards us.  And, surprisingly, that was enough.  We dropped at that moment our jealousy of the dancers, the singers, the rich purse owners, and fine dressers.  We had, with our gimmicked deck, impressed one person.  It did not matter that the speaker could not form consonants or conjugate – who were we to judge?  All that mattered was one person was impressed and apparently entertained.  We realized at that moment that having low standards for satisfaction in one’s work is a blessing and we have been so very blessed.

Magicians Laura London and Boris Wild Hurt Our Brain But in a Good Way

Laura LondonMagicians Laura London and Boris Wild are at The Magic Castle this week and are not to be missed.  They both play the Close-Up Gallery (although not at the same time which is easier to understand because they both have beautiful accents, the subtlety and pure lilt of which would be missed if they were shouting over each other).  Some of us old folks recall the close-up rooms of yesteryear’s’ conventions where there would be four or five close-up performers circulating among crowds to perform.  The quiet performers were overwhelmed by the naturally loud and the naturally loud were even more unnaturally louder for fear they would be difficult to hear in the hallow expanse of the local gymnasium library.

Yet, digress we do.

Let us start with Laura London.

She is a daring woman who takes risks in front of crowds not seen since the days of Harry Houdini or any bullet catcher. We are not saying “darling” woman – although we are quite confident she is.  We are saying “daring” woman.

Like the Honey Badger, she don’t care.  By the way, there is allegedly a video on the YouTube showing a honey badger dealing thirds and middles from a volunteer’s deck.  It don’t care.  We haven’t seen it but can imagine it.

We had the distinct pleasure of sitting in the front of the newly refurbished and filled to the rafters Close-Up Gallery.  Because of our vantage point, we could see some of the backstage work that goes into Ms. London’s act and it betrayed no secrets.  We were so close to the action that we thought for sure we could see her work but because her performance is based on turn of the 20th century (the 1900s) card cheats, it made sense that even being close enough to worry about the expiration of our counterfeit breath strips, we saw nothing.  Because of our almost passing understanding of how magic works – especially card magic and especially card magic with a Bee deck, we thought we would be able to pick up something.  Pero, nada, siempre nada.

Ms. London is from England and has appeared on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us.  She is calm, educational and mystifying.  She reads wonderful excerpts from a diary of a female card sharp as she performs.  Understand, she his performing very difficult card magic with both left and right hands; whilst reading a diary.  We can do one of those things at once and it is only the diary part.  Her Ace Location is something to see and puzzle over for days – we know.

Her effects were beautiful to watch for magicians and non-magicians alike.  We cannot wait to see her perform again.  We were hoping the show would last longer but, alas, like all good things, it needed to end so others could see how great a truly imaginative card performance could be.

We began our review with Ms. London under the theory that “Ladies First.”  But also because she performs the first part of the evening and then comes Boris Wild.

The Incredible Boris WildWe need to come clean about Mr. Wild.  We have read his books, bought his tricks, performed with his decks on a regular basis and yet, truthfully, have almost no idea how he performed his magic.  It is not as if we had an inkling.  It is not like we would guess the Kentucky Derby has something to do with horses and betting.  We know there were cards involved in some way but we don’t know nothing more than that.  He used cards in ways we have not seen done as effectively.

We loved being fooled – almost all the time, or at least when watching magic shows at The Magic Castle.  Mr. Wild fooled us with tricks we own or know of.  Howsabout that, now?!

My great, great-grandfather (allegedly – it is tough to tell through Ouija communications) once said, “It is what you know that fools.”  So true.  We think.

His Kiss routine is a classic and we have seen it before and loved it.   We still love it.  It is emotional – and we are not afraid to say that – and it is beautiful.  His effect before the Kiss routine is one we cannot describe without ruining it.  So we won’t.  If you have a chance to see his act this week, take it.  Get in line every early so you can see Laura London – a rising star in our book (an Inner Circle Member to boot) who should have her own show in Vegas immediately.  We need more women in magicians as magicians.  We need more magicians who love card sharping and so she is the perfect combination.

Now after Laura’s last show of the evening, get in line for Boris Wild.  We leave with a smile on your face and a renewed faith in our wonderful craft.

God bless Ms. London and Mr. Wild.  This is a wonderful time to be alive.

People Point and Stare – It’s Magic

Inside Magic Image of Garanimals TagsAlthough not strictly about magic, we do listen to Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast every week.  His humor is not for everyone – like minors, people with normal emotional values, the sensitive among us – but he is funny to us.

This week’s episode features Lewis Black and a short discussion about David Copperfield and Doug Henning.

We were listening whilst walking to the busy editorial office of Inside Magic and getting strange looks from the folks we were passing in the street, along the sidewalks, through narrow crevices, around bends and over small mounds of what appeared to be clothing or people wearing clothing but not moving.  We are accustomed  to being stared at.  We chalk it up to our boyish good looks, effervescent charm, efficient use of tartar control toothpaste, naturally curly nose hair and willingness to take adventures in clothing choices.

For instance, today, we wore contrasting animals from the Garanimals collection.  We went with a Tiger “Top” and a Giraffe “Lower.”  That says “Wild Human” in any language.

We know, crazy, right?!

We thought people were staring because we were laughing so much.  We thought maybe they were sharing in our glee and not staring derisively but when one elderly woman was nearly struck by an auto as she tried to scurry across Santa Monica Boulevard to avoid our path, we figured out that the people of West Hollywood just have not seen unadulterated joy.  Chances are that if they haven’t seen it enough, they haven’t experienced it either.

So we offered to share our podcast listening experience with those we encountered.  We even cleaned the ear bud of the unsightly wax build-up (our own — we think) before trying to stick it into the ears of our fellow pedestrians.  We were not aggressive in our ear bud offering and were certainly not, as was written in an “incident” report “trying to stab victims in the head with an implement.”

Long story short, people were staring at us because we apparently accidentally sat in a chocolate cream pie at some point and our Giraffe pants needed dry cleaning stat.  We were pretty sure it was chocolate cream pie residue and that certainly explained why we left stains everywhere we sat in the last few days.

Tonight, we return to the Magic Castle with our new routine – freshly choreographed and scripted.  We will change our clothes before visiting the amateur rooms downstairs at the Magic Castle.  If you are in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello.  Just don’t stare and point.

Magic Castle to Open Second Location

Casa Del Sol - Montecito Events CenterLA Magazine reports today that The Magic Castle will soon open a second location in beautiful Santa Barbara, California.

According to the magazine’s website, the second location will be called the Magic Castle Cabaret and overlook a lake and nature preserve in Montecito.  The location was the former home of the Casa del Sol restaurant and events center.

“The structure is about a fifth the size of the Hollywood castle and will feature a 50-seat theater and a lounge.  Milt Larsen co-founded the original private membership club for magicians in 1963 and spent decades shaping the building into a labyrinth of dining rooms, theaters, and exhibition spaces, incorporating architectural castoffs from historic L.A. mansions. He now splits his time between Hollywood and Santa Barbara and wanted a club for his friends up north.”

Mr. Larsen told the LA Magazine reporter, “I’m gonna make it look like a castle with a lot of stained glass and woodwork,” Larsen said. “It will strictly be devoted to close-up magic and variety arts. We might have an evening with Richard Sherman or a comedian. It’s a gorgeous little place with a lakefront view.”

Mr. Larsen purchased site in June 2016.  At the time of the sale, the location at 30 Los Patos Way was listed for $2,350,000. It consists of just under 4,000 square-feet of restaurant space and sits on an almost 12,000 square-foot parcel of land adjacent to the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. The new location is within walking distance from Santa Barbara’s East Beach and Montecito’s Coast Village Road.

There is no word on the membership policies for the new club. We will keep you up-to-date as we learn more.