Lag Time

May was a busy travel month. I was home for a total of 8 days, and I spent the other three weeks doing lectures in Canada, followed by back-to-back conventions in Ohio, the Netherlands, and Washington, D.C. Highlights of the trip were spending time with David Ben (who will have a one-man show this summer at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake), the recently reincarnated Bob Farmer, Tommy Wonder, and the members of the Collector's Workshop Almost All Magician Dixieland Band. By the time you read this column Editor Stan and I will have attended both the IBM and the SAM conventions, and I hope that if you were at either of these affairs we had a chance to chat. I'm fairly easy to recognize at conventions: I'm the one who's always standing by himself.

Because of the non-stop travel I managed to pile jet lag on top of jet lag, so if this column is more disjointed than normal that is the reason. I enjoy flying because it gives me a chance to read whatever new books have arrived. Unfortunately, the flight from Detroit to Amsterdam was unusually turbulent, so reading was difficult. During an extremely bumpy period the lady next to me had whipped out her Rosary Beads and was working them furiously. I mentioned to her that all the flight attendants had brought out theirs as well. Since this comment did not produce the calming effect that I had envisioned, I regretfully slipped the Funken ring back into my pocket, even though I had planned a great joke with it. Some people just don't have a sense of humor.

What I could really use on an airplane is a VCR. Since the airlines don't equip them (at least in the cattle car section of the plane) I spent four and half hours of my time at home watching the first three volumes of L&L Publishing's new Encyclopedia of Card Sleights, featuring Daryl as the performer and teacher.

This video project was originally planned using a different performer and magic consultant. But it was brought to Louis Falanga's attention that Daryl had already completed the necessary research and had in fact shot a great deal of video for a similar series of tapes. The other participants graciously bowed out, and Daryl signed on, and it is a fortuitous choice, for there are few performers who have the technical ability and the personal charisma to pull off a teaching series of this scope. The series will eventually encompass six or seven tapes, and the first three are available now.

Volume One begins very simply by defining some the terms used with playing cards. This is followed by an explanation of the One Way principle (applied to faces and backs) and an examination of several gimmicked cards. Daryl then defines and demonstrates a large number of technical terms including various cuts, shuffles, and techniques such as the Step, the Jog, the Crimp, the Force, the Multiple Lift, and the Color Change. No attempt is made to teach these techniques, what Daryl is doing is establishing a vocabulary, so that the student will be exposed to the many concepts which will be taught later on. The remainder of the first volume is devoted to techniques which involve minimal manual dexterity: the Glide, the Break, the Step, and the Jog. Multiple methods are taught for each of these categories, and included are techniques from people like Cardini, Dingle, Steranko, and Andrus.

Volume Two continues the discussion of the Jog, adding 8 more methods. This is followed by discussions of the Crimp (8 methods), the Overhand Shuffle (including top and bottom stock control, and the Ireland, Greek, Charlier, Optical, and G.W. Hunter shuffles), the Hindu Shuffle, the Strip Shuffle, and False Cuts (6 methods.) The technical requirements go up a notch on this tape, and with the techniques taught, a student would be able to do some pretty decent card magic.

Volume Three finishes off the discussion of False Cuts (seven more methods), followed by information on the Riffle Shuffle (including the Vernon "Triumph" shuffle), the Glimpse, and the Key Card. Daryl's enthusiasm for his subject really comes out on this tape, especially during his discussion of riffle shuffle work. The man obviously enjoys this stuff, and is having a good time performing and explaining it.

Having given you a brief rundown of what's on the tapes, let me give you some general impressions, and perhaps answer some questions concerning them. "Is the information on the first tape so basic that I probably already know it?" Possibly, but in a course which is structured to build on previously learned information you are probably better off starting at the beginning. And after the introduction of the technical terms things start to move pretty fast. Speaking of moving fast, you are definitely going to need to use your rewind button on these tapes. There is a lot of information discussed, and if you are a beginner you will probably need to watch Daryl's demonstrations several times. There are the usual slow motion Super Practice sessions, but keep that remote handy.

"Are these tapes all that I would ever need to learn about card sleights?" Absolutely not. There is a lot of information here, but not everything is here. The best way to use these tapes would be as an adjunct to Roberto Giobbi's Card College books. As an example, if you were only to use Daryl's tapes as your learning source you would not have all the work on the G.W. Hunter shuffle. Read and study the books, and use the videos to help clarify.

In conclusion, I can only say that these are really fine tapes, and I wish that I would have had a resource like this available to me when I was a kid. The videos were digitally recorded and edited and they look great. We are at a point in the history of magic where there is absolutely no excuse for a performer not to have good technique. If you want to be a card guy pick up Card College 1 and 2 and these videos and get to work.

Two from K and G

Left unread in my knapsack during the bumpy ride to Amsterdam were the two new books from Kaufman and Greenberg: the collected reprint of the magazine Seance, and Lou Gallo: The Underground Man. However, I did get around to reading them. Here's the scoop.

One criticism which is often leveled at magic performances is that they lack emotion; they are merely puzzles which tickle the intellect. This is definitely not the case in the specialized field of Spirit Theater or "Spook Shows," where emotion is the name of the game. Very little has been written on this subject, and Eugene Burger's Spirit Theater (published in 1986) helped to rekindle interest in performances which center on the world of spirits and ghosts.

In 1988 Scott Moore-Davis began a quarterly magazine called Seance devoted to spirit magic. The subscriber base was very small (about 250) and the magazine ran for twelve issues before ceasing publication in 1991. Kaufman and Greenberg have published a bound edition of the complete run of Seance, and it is chock-full of useful and fascinating information.

Each issue of Seance is about 16 pages long, and the list of contributors contains some of the best thinkers in this field: Jim Magus, Bob Blau, Tony Andruzzi, Lee Earle, Richard Webster, T.A. Waters and Punx to name a few. There are multiple issue interviews with E. Raymond Carlyle and Leo Kostka who describe their work as mediums at the Magic Castle, Eugene Burger has a regular question and answer column, and there is a fascinating column by someone called "Dr. Dees" which contains some very interesting work.

If you have any interest in this subject you should get a copy of this book. But you'd better hurry. This is a limited printing, and as of this writing Richard Kaufman has no more copies for sale. Seance sells for $50. Check with your favorite dealer to try to get a copy.

Lou Gallo is best known among card and coin guys as the inventor of the "Gallo Pitch," a very powerful utilitarian coin move. Lou was a close friend of Eddie Fechter, and for many years was a fixture at the Four F's convention. Lou also creates diabolical coin and card tricks and produces clever and talented sons. A few of Lou's tricks have appeared in print over the years, but Lou Gallo: The Underground Man is the first collection of his work.

The book is divided into three main parts: Masterpieces of Coin Magic, Singular Creations in Card Magic, and Unbridled Astonishment. The card portion is further broken down into four chapters: With Aces, With Aid, With Two Cards, and With Ingenuity. (Curiously, although the Table of Contents lists these sections and subsections, they do not appear within the body of the book. Also curious is that a page containing Lou's Dedication and Introduction was not bound into the book.)

The coin section begins with a complete description of the Gallo Pitch. If you have had problems learning this move this detailed explanation should put you on the right track. Eleven routines follow, most of which make use of the Pitch. The skill level ranges from some which will require only average technical ability to some real knuckle-busters. Highlights for me were "Incredible Cards and Coins" and "The Coins of the World." You should be aware that some of the routines require lapping, and thus must be performed seated.

The card material presented is uniformly excellent. Lou's preference is for direct, easy-to-follow effects which will entertain laymen, but which have enough smoke to puzzle other magicians. You will find Triumph-style effects, poker deals, ace-cutting effects, and extremely sneaky card locations. All are worth your attention.

The last section of the book contains three non-card/coin items. "The Shock" is a brief series of cigarette manipulations which culminates with the barehanded production of a beer bottle. "Fechter's Sponge Balls" is just that - the exact routine as performed by Eddie at the Fork's Hotel. And "Rubik's Revenge" is a handling variation of my original method for "Rubik's Dollar Bill" from Workers #2.

Lou Gallo: The Underground Man is a top-notch collection of material for card and coin guys. I recommend it.

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