Space is tight this month, so here's just a few words about a whole bunch of items.
Dingle's Deceptions: The Video By Derek Dingle
In the 1970's, Derek Dingle was the man. His knuckle-busting creations (which often climaxed with an unexpected left-field "kicker") defined close-up magic for a generation of magicians. Derek delighted in fooling other magicians, and many of his routines were designed specifically for that purpose. By 1980, Derek had faded from the magic scene, turning his attention to the world of corporate magic. Recently, he has resurfaced, once again appearing at magic conventions. In Dingle's Deceptions: The Video, Derek revisits the material from his first book, Dingle's Deceptions (written by Harry Lorayne). This is the first video from Kaufman and Company, and unfortunately, it fails to completely satisfy.
All six routines from Dingle's Deception are included on the video, and there is a bonus routine, Derek's very commercial version of "The Card in the Balloon." These are the original handlings, and not the updated handlings described in Derek Dingle's Complete Works (Kaufman, 1982). These are not routines for the faint of heart (or chops). They are all technically demanding, and will require considerable practice.
In "Four Coins in the Counting," four quarters assemble under the cover of two playing cards. This routine marked the first appearance of the now standard Pick Up Move (independently developed by Al Schneider). A highlight of this routine is the steal and load of the jumbo coin. The other coin routine demonstrated is "International Coins Through the Table," in which four completely different coins penetrate the tabletop and land in a glass held under the table.
The remaining five items are card routines. "Open Sez Me" was one of the first of the "produce four aces in four different flourishy ways" routines which have now become commonplace in the literature. Explained in this routine is the Dingle Bluff Shift, a remarkably useful utility move which seems to have been overlooked by present day card workers. "Through and Through" is a variation of Vernon's "Queen's Soiree," which does use a sheet of newspaper. The Two, Three, and Four of Spades penetrate a jumbo card to join the Ace of Spades. You must be seated to perform this routine. The "Double Color-Changing Aces" is just that; four aces are lost in the deck, they are produced one at a time, their backs change from red to blue, and then their backs instantly change back to red.
The final two card routines I believe will be of most real world use to the average magician. In "Color Triumphant" a card is peeked at by a spectator. The deck is cut into three piles and is shuffled face up and face down. The deck is spread face up and it is seen that all the cards have righted themselves with the exception of the selected card. The deck is then spread face down. All the cards have changed to blue backs. "Color Triumphant" is a very practical routine, and is not too technically demanding. You will need a surface to perform it on, but a close-up mat is not necessary. I used to perform it all the time, and it is especially effective if you change the deck into a rainbow deck.
"Card in Balloon" is based on ideas from Norman Jenson and Warren Stephens. It is described in Derek Dingle's Complete Works, but omitted from that write up is an enormously funny (and extremely off-color) gag. This would play great in a comedy club or a bar, and if the gag is inappropriate it could easily be left out. Again, this routine is not too technically demanding.
As Derek explained in an interview in MAGIC (May 1997), he has had to go back and reacquaint himself with these early routines because they are no longer in his current performing repertoire. And herein lies one of the problems with this video. These are hard routines, jam packed with moves from beginning to end. Refamiliarization does not equal fluidity, and there are many times when (to my eyes) the flow of the routine is impeded as Derek thinks about what is coming next. When these routines were first created, Derek was doing them all the time, and consequently there was a smoothness which only repeated performance can achieve. If you are considering purchasing this video in order to see why everybody was raving about Derek in the 1970's, you may be disappointed. (And believe me, this is not a criticism of Derek's performing abilities. I know all too well how quickly you can lose the "edge" from a routine which is not performed regularly.)
Another question I have about this video is this: Exactly who is this video for? With the exception of the two routines mentioned above, the material is far beyond the abilities of the average magician. Derek himself found that other material was more effective for lay audiences. Many of the routines were subsequently revised and simplified. Since the tape does not succeed as a historical document (it would have if it had been shot in 1971), who will find value in it? I'm not sure.
From a production standpoint, Kaufman and Company are definitely on the right track. Derek's explanations are clear, and the added camera angles make it very easy to understand what is going on. In both "Four Coins in the Counting" and "Through and Through" the entire routine is demonstrated using clear plastic cards. Should you desire to learn any of these routines you will be able to do so. And there's not much more I can tell you.
Jon LeClair published the original "LeClair Animator" in 1986. You have probably seen the "teaser" ads which have been running for the past few months. And you've probably asked yourself, "Just what the heck is this?" Allow me to enlighten you.
The "LeClair Animator" is a method of hooking up a length of invisible thread so you can perform levitations, animations, and other effects. Jon's hook up is designed to minimize thread breakage, and allows you to get set at any time during your close-up routine. Jon details this method and a whole lot more in his new book, The Art of Invisible Thread. It is probably the most thorough and useful treatise on the subject that I have ever read.
The book begins with a valuable Prologue by Eugene Burger. Be sure to read this, because Eugene offers suggestions which will ease you into the learning process. If you take his advice and learn the three simple tricks he mentions you will be well on your way to mastering thread work. Jon then devotes 35 pages to the explanation of the "LeClair Animator" hook up, methods for assembling the animator, utility thread techniques, and lighting considerations. One advantage to Jon's hook up is that the performer is not tied to one spot. He can move to place himself in the most advantageous lighting position.
A wide variety of effects are explained, including "The Floating Bill" (Jon's preference is to do this with a cocktail napkin), Al Baker's "Erectile Bill" and "Moving Knife," "The Haunted Matchbox," Jamy Ian's Swiss' wonderful and evocative "Animated Ring," Gaetan Bloom's "Standing Card," and a remarkable handling for the "Haunted Deck." In each case the handling is designed so that the thread is undamaged at the end of the routine. The book concludes with an explanation of how to extract invisible thread from women's nylon tights.
Interspersed are essays on various aspects of thread technique. One aspect of thread that I wish had been addressed more thoroughly is the psychology of using thread. In other words, when floating something which is light enough to hang from a thread how do you direct the spectators' thought process away from the most obvious (and in this case, correct) solution. Jon touches on this, saying that he feels that animations are more effective than levitations, and when levitations are performed they should be kept very brief. I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment, but I yearn for a more complete examination of this subject.
Jon includes everything you need in order to get hooked up right away. He also can provide a replacement kit of extra thread and putty ($14.95). Jon's explanations are clear, and Tony Dunn's illustrations are wonderful.
Working effectively with thread is a lifelong commitment. You're not going to get good in a week or a month. You have to live with the thread until it becomes a part of you. If you've got a burning desire to be a thread-head, this book is a must buy. It is the finest exposition of this type of material that I have seen. Highly recommended.
The Mental Magick of Basil Horwitz Volume 4 By Basil Horwitz
This slender little book contains seven very strong and commercial mental routines from the professional repertoire of Basil Horwitz. Included are routines suitable for close-up and stand-up performance.
I was particularly intrigued by several of the routines in this book, especially with Mr. Horwitz' off beat use of the venerable "Out to Lunch" principle. Check out "Psychic Roulette" and "The Hot Chair." They are not only commercial routines, but they may inspire you to develop other applications.
Also take note of "Ultimate Challenge Thought and Clairvoyance" and "The Unlimited Principle." The first is the latest incarnation of a routine which has seen development in volumes one and two of the Mental Magick of Basil Horwitz series. This method allows you to do a very convincing message reading effect, and leads naturally into a cold reading scenario. "The Unlimited Principle" allows you to do a multiple prediction effect (ala the "Koran Medallion") but with simple, ordinary props. The method is not difficult, but I think would require a confident showman to pull it off successfully.
I was quite impressed with this material. If you seek professional caliber mental material it is definitely worth your consideration. Recommended.
Breslaw's Last Legacy From Stevens Publishing
Philip Breslaw was a German conjurer who immigrated to England in the early 1860's and performed there until his death in 1783. The earliest known edition of Breslaw's Last Legacy bears a publication date of 1784, so it is conjectured (probably correctly) that the book was written by someone wishing to capitalize on the Breslaw name. As Byron Walker writes in the introduction to this new reprint from Stevens Magic Emporium, "based on the number of editions published, Breslaw's Last Legacy is the third most popular of the antiquarian English language books devoted primarily to legerdemain." The various editions varied in the number of pages from as many as 144 to as few as 36. For this reprint the most enlarged version was used. The various editions also used different frontispieces. This reprint uses a charming picture showing a conjurer in a pulpit-like enclosure performing for an enthusiastic audience and one very bored dog.
This book is part of the continuing series of reprints published by Stevens Magic Emporium, and maintains the standard set by previous volumes. I found Breslaw's Last Legacy to be a fascinating read. Highly recommended to collectors and those interested in magic history.
If you make some portion of your living doing magic, you know the benefits of incorporating your business card into a magic trick. The spectators get a memorable souvenir, which, not coincidentally, has your name and phone number on it. Jon Jensen has compiled thirteen routines from people such as Dan Harlan, Gary Darwin, Paul McVee, and Frank Zak. None are particularly difficult, and all produce the desired result of leaving your card with the spectators at the end of the trick.
There is a mixed bag of material here, and I found that many of the tricks use the "substitute one rectangular cardboard object for another rectangular cardboard object" method of creativity. That is, they are card tricks for which business cards have been substituted for playing cards. These I did not find to be particularly interesting. However, there are a couple of cute ideas, and I would draw your attention to Paul McVee's "In the Money" (a business card is produced from between two bills), Gary Darwin's "A Bright Idea," (a light bulb drawn on the back of a business card mysteriously glows), and Dan Harlan's "Birthday Surprise" (a routine which originally appeared in Minotaur).
If you have no business card tricks in your repertoire, this book is inexpensive and is certainly worth a look.
Mr. Lowig is a colleague of Jarle Leirpoll (whose Pocket Power book and video have been reviewed in this column). Stand Up Coin Power is his first book, and contains (in his words) "13 new tricks and routines for the dedicated coin man." The material is designed to be performed standing, and does not require the use of sleeving or a topit. In addition, while Mr. Lowig uses the phrase "the dedicated coin man," the material is not extraordinarily difficult.
The book gets off to a shaky start with "Stuck," which is nothing more than the old "nail soldered to a coin" gag. I reread this several times wondering if there was some subtlety in the handling that I was missing, but there isn't. Other than a thoughtful admonition to hand out the "nailed coin" with the same hand which holds the palmed coin, there is nothing new here, and I'm unsure why this effect was included.
However, things get better from this point on, and there are many useful routines, including an offbeat 2 coin routine, a method for vanishing a fistful of money, a three coin production and vanish inspired by the work of Chris Kenner, and a nice coins across routine. The book concludes with a discussion of "The Pentium Change," an offbeat method for vanishing or changing a coin.
The book is clear and understandable (no small feat considering that English is not Mr. Lowig's first language) and there are many illustrations (be aware that two of the illustrations in "The Elbow Vanish" are reversed). There has not been much coin magic offered recently, and there is certainly information of value here.
Climbing the Ladder to Successful Close-up Magic By Phil Jay
Tales from the Road By Tom Lilly
Drugs, Strangers, and Other Dangers By Ron Conley
I'm grouping these three manuscripts together because they each focus on a specialized area of magic, and they will be of most use to those who intend to become full or part time professional magicians.
Phil Jay is a restaurant and corporate close-up magic in England. His book offers a very interesting approach to successful restaurant magic, using an analogy to the children's game "Snakes and Ladders" (more commonly referred to in the United States as "Chutes and Ladders"). Mr. Jay's premise is that during the course of your performance you should imagine yourself climbing a ladder of esteem and respect. Each effect and every bit of interaction with your spectators should raise you up another rung on that ladder, so by the end of the performance the spectators place you "at the top of the ladder as an entertainer and a magician - 'top dog' - 'numero uno.'" Mr. Jay then offers various suggestions to achieve this end. At the same time, the performer has to be wary of "snakes," events which will lower the audience's respect for the performer. These snakes can be produced by ill-advised comments, or by unruly spectators who try to sabotage your performance. Mr. Jay offers ways to deal with these situations. The book concludes with several routines which Mr. Jay has found useful in his work.
Climbing the Ladder to Successful Close-up Magic is very worthwhile reading for anyone who wants to perform for real people in the real world. Mr. Jay's advice is sound and well worth your consideration. (His suggestions for how to do magic for someone dining alone are excellent, and I don't believe I've seen this discussed anywhere else.) Recommended.
Tom Lilly is a full time pro from Maryland. His book Tales from the Road is a nuts and bolts handbook of the stuff you need to know if you're going to make a living doing magic. Mr. Lilly focus is as a children's entertainer, but his suggestions can be adapted to any field. He offers advice on promotional material (one of his brochures is bound into the book), contracts, organizing props, and crowd control. In addition, he details several of his children show routines. Tales from the Road is another worthwhile book, and I recommend it.
Finally, if you would like to add an anti-drug show to your kid show resources, take a look at Ron Conley's Drugs, Strangers, and Other Dangers. Mr. Conley gives the full details of his "Magical Say No Show," which he has performed more than 1000 times throughout the southeast. He gives you all the work, including complete scripts for each of the tricks, booking and promotional suggestions, contract and pricing information, and tips on how to survive on the road. I can't imagine a pro giving away his bread and butter like this, but I think Mr. Conley is doing this in the hopes of getting this important message to more children throughout the country. If you're a kids show performer, this book is definitely worth your time. Recommended.
This is a clever and practical version of the shrinking deck effect. A poker-sized deck of cards is removed from the card case and is spread between the hands. (This spread is tight, and is done with the backs of the hands facing the audience. It is a cozy position, but does not look too unnatural.) The deck is squeezed between the hands and immediately becomes a miniature deck. The miniature deck is real and can be used for other effects (if you ditch the gaff which remains in the deck after the shrinking). The instructions offer no suggestions on how to proceed after doing the shrinking, but if you want to incorporate this type of effect into your close-up show, you'll find that this is a practical trick which can be done in the real world.
This is a very interesting book test, with an approach which is different from any others I've seen recently. (I don't think I'm going to deprive Mr. Fields of any sales by generally outlining the method. There's no way that you're going to make one of these for yourself, and besides, you wouldn't anyway, because MAGIC readers do the right thing.) Anyway, here's the gist of it. Open a book. Consider the left and right hand pages to comprise one bank of information. In Mr. Fields' book, each left/right bank contains nine pieces of information, including a long word on the first line of the left hand page, a man's name, a date, an occupation, a city, a country, and so forth. There are five different "banks" which repeat sequentially throughout the book. So if a spectator opens the book at any point, and if you can determine which "bank" they are looking at, then you can "mentally" discern all the other bits of information on the page. (There are several ways to gain the knowledge of which bank they are looking at.)
The book you get looks like a standard soft cover trade publication. It is 199 pages long and appears completely innocent. The nature of the method requires a different approach to the picking of words in the text, but this has a very jazzy, freeform feel to it, and although I have absolutely no experience doing book tests, I fell into it right away. And I'll tell you that everyone I've performed this for has been completely blown away by it.
The price of this item places it outside of the realm of all but working performers (or wealthy amateurs). But if you've been looking for a strong book test to add to your act, this is well worth your consideration. Highly recommended.
Dingle's Deceptions: The Video by Derek Dingle. $35 postpaid domestic and foreign surface postage. NTSC format. From Richard Kaufman, 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite 106-292, Washington, DC 20016
The Art of Invisible Thread by Jon LeClair. 5.5 x 8.5 hardcover with dustjacket. 160 pages. Includes supply of invisible thread and putty. $29.95 plus $3 p&h in US. (Canada postage $4, Europe $7, Asia $9). From Jon LeClair, 4060 Woodland Blvd., North Port, FL 34286
The Mental Magick of Basil Horwitz Volume 4 by Basil Horwitz. 6 x 9 hardcover. 74 pages. $28 plus $6 p&h. From Martin Breese International, Box 842, Sheffield, S2 5TB, England
Breslaw's Last Legacy. 4.5 x 6 hardcover. 144 pages. $35 postpaid. From Stevens Magic Emporium, 2520 E. Douglas, Wichita, KS 67214
Stand Up Coin Power by Eivind Lowig. 8.5 x 11, stapled softcover. 46 pages. $25 (add $5 for surface mail, $9 for airmail). From Eivind Lowig, H. Haarfagresgt. 10B, 0363 Oslo 3, Norway
Climbing the Ladder to Successful Close-up Magic by Phil Jay. 8.5 x 11 plastic comb bound. 62 single sided pages. $20 plus 2 p&h. From Show-Biz Services, 1735 E. 26th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11229
Tales from the Road by Tom Lilly. 8.5 x 11 plastic comb bound. 42 pages. $25 postpaid. From Thomas Lilly, 1407 Clarke Avenue, Lutherville, MD 21093
Drugs, Strangers, and Other Dangers by Ron Conley. 8.5 x 11 softcover. 96 pages. $25 plus $4 p&h. From Samuel Patrick Smith, P.O. Box 787, Eustis, FL 32727
"The Low Main Deck" by Chris Bacchus. $20 postpaid. From Bacchus Manufacturing Co., PO Box 241582, Montgomery, AL 36124
"Insight" by Keith Fields. $185 plus $14 airmail postage. From The Kaymar Magic Company, 189a St. Marys Lane, Upminster, Essex RM14 3BU, England
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