The Moment

I need to take a moment to talk about The Moment. The most famous comment concerning The Moment comes from S. W. Erdnase. In his discussion of the Shift, Erdnase writes, "The shift has yet to be invented that can be executed by a movement appearing as coincident card table routine; or that can be executed with the hands held stationary and not show that some maneuver has taken place, however cleverly it may be performed. Nevertheless upon occasion it must be employed, and the resourceful professional failing to improve the method changes the moment; and by this expedient overcomes the principal obstacle in the way of accomplishing the action unobserved." [My italics.]

Careful study of Erdnase's words reveals several important points. First, the "resourceful professional" must understand that The Moment exists; many routines have a critical point in time when a crucial sleight must be performed. The danger occurs if The Moment coincides with heightened spectator attention. Obviously, if the spectators see the sleight happen, deception is destroyed. But just as fatal is the situation where the spectators do not actually see the sleight, but suspect that something underhanded has happened. This suspicion alone is enough to destroy magic. For a card cheat, it may be necessary to use a Shift to nullify a cut. But the point in time when this sleight must be performed (immediately after the cut is replaced) is also the time when there is the most "heat" on the deck.

The second aspect of Erdnase's comment is this: if we are aware The Moment exists, and if we are sensitive to the fact that it may occur at time of heightened spectator awareness, then we may be able to structure our routine so that the sleight is delayed. In other words, we change The Moment. The classic comment concerning changing The Moment comes from Max Malini (who we will discuss further later in this column). Malini had very small hands, and an attentive spectator could probably discern many of his sleights. Someone asked Malini how he managed to deceive using these sleights. He replied, "You do it when they're not looking." But what if they don't look away? "Then you wait," was his response. How long do you wait? "You wait a week!"

Most of us don't have the luxury of such a leisurely performance pace, consequently we have to understand when the heat will come, and when we must execute our sleight so we arouse not the slightest suspicion.

Interestingly, once you understand the importance of The Moment and you begin to structure your routines accordingly, you develop the magical equivalent of perfect pitch. If I watch someone who mishandles The Moment, I experience a discord that reminds me of a musician playing a passage out of tune.

I wanted to bring you up to speed on The Moment, because it plays a critical factor in my review of three new videos by Israeli mentalist Guy Bavli. Titled Bending Minds, Bending Metal, the tapes feature a variety of mental and psychic effects. The production values of the videos are good, and Mr. Bavli does an excellent job of explaining the effects (especially impressive since English is not his first language). However, I am not enthusiastic about Mr. Bavli's methods, since I think that many of them incorrectly exploit The Moment.

The effects on the three videos fall into four categories: metal bending effects, psychic phenomena (such as stopping watches and animating spoons), standard mentalism effects, and effects which use special props which must be purchased in order to perform the effects. Let's look at each category in detail.

I found the metal bending effects, especially the spoon bending effects to be the most "out of tune" as far as The Moment is concerned. Let's face it, if you're going to bend a spoon, then at some point in time you're going to have to actually bend the spoon. The question is when do you do it? Mr. Bavli offers several spoon bending effects on Volume One. The first, "Bending a Spoon in a Spectator's Hand," involves a technique original to Mr. Bavli. Unfortunately, in order to accomplish the bending, the magician's hand must assume a very unnatural shape, and in my opinion, an astute spectator could discern this. Also, the spoon is bent as it goes out of sight. The last person to touch the spoon in its unbent state is the magician. This, I believe, produces a violation of The Moment. In "Bag Bend," Mr. Bavli hands out several small paper bags to members of the audience. He drops a spoon into each bag. The spoons bend. Again, the last person to the touch the spoons is Mr. Bavli. There is only one possible moment when the spoons could have been bent, and that is exactly when the secret action occurs. (This routine also contains a violation of natural action concerning how objects are placed into containers, a subject which Tommy Wonder has discussed in relationship to placing objects into pockets.)

There are several effects in which nails are bent, but I don't think that Mr. Bavli's handlings will convince anyone that you have genuine psychic power. At best, they will be taken as magic tricks. "Bending a Large Nail," utilizes an extra nail, a switch normally used with pocketknives, and an equivoque. To my way of thinking, the introduction of a second nail simply clutters the effect. "Bending a Small Nail" utilizes lapping, which may limit its usefulness. And again, Mr. Bavli executes the necessary sleight at a time when the most heat is on the nail.

The best of the metal bending effects is "Miracle with a Fork," which is based on a Steve Shaw idea. This is a novel and impressive demonstration, and Mr. Bavli's additions to the Shaw effect are good. Also worthwhile is "Spoons from Card Case," a clever and practical way to produce some spoons and forks.

The other psychic effects include "Stopping a Watch/Time of the Future" which combines a watch stopping effect with Steve Shaw's "Psychokinetic Time." Unfortunately, I'm not convinced of the wisdom of doing these two effects together, since the method used for stopping the watch is the same action that a spectator would use preparatory to setting the time on the watch. "Haunted Spoon" is an effect in which a spoon is wrapped in handkerchief and animates. Mr. Bavli's method uses a familiar gaff, but allows you to hand out the handkerchief at the end of the routine. You will need to be seated in order to perform this.

The mental effects are generally good, with the exception of "The Perfect Prediction." This is a book test. The method involves the equivoque of a book, adding a playing card to a previously shuffled deck, forcing that card on a spectator, having random numbers written on the card, and switching out that card for another card which has prearranged numbers. These numbers are added to obtain a page and line number in the forced book. This type of approach to a book test was hackneyed in Annemann's time, and age has not improved it. If you really had the ability to read minds would you go through all this rigmarole to have the spectator think of a word? I don't think so.

Finally, Mr. Bavli demonstrates several effects that use special props that he sells. "Perfect Key Bending" uses a device which allows you to bend keys. Again, to my eyes the required move happens at exactly the wrong time. "The Perfect Clipboard" is a design duplication effect. "The Lottery Prediction" uses Mr. Bavli's "Net Change Bag." This is a clever prop, unfortunately Mr. Bavli makes a serious mistake (which you should not make) when he performs the routine. He shows a large tumbler that contains small plastic disks. Each of these has a number on it. He dumps these disks into the change bag, and offers the bag to the spectators to choose numbers. Well, to my mind, the glass would have made a perfectly acceptable container for the selection process. Why dump the chips into the bag? It makes no sense.

(You should also know that there is an error of labeling on Volumes Two and Three. "The Lottery Prediction," using the change bag is on Volume 2. "The Perfect Clipboard" is on Volume 3.)

Mr. Bavli could certainly argue that the video camera is unforgiving, and that in the real world his methods are perfectly acceptable. In fact, depending on your experience with The Moment, you may find them perfectly acceptable. But at best, I feel that these are mental magic tricks. No astute laymen will think that he is seeing anything other than a magic trick. However, I know that better methods exist. Two of my friends perform metal bending routines, and their routines are seamless. There is no way to discern (on video or otherwise) when the performer does the work. Consequently, I'm afraid I cannot recommend Bending Minds, Bending Metal to you. If you invest in them I think you'll find yourself spending a lot time trying to rework The Moment.

Malini and His Magic By Dai Vernon

Now, Max Malini was a guy who understood The Moment. Consider, for instance, one of Malini's greatest effects, the production of a block of ice from under a hat. In Malini and His Magic, Dai Vernon admits that Malini fooled him completely with this trick. The question was - when did Malini obtain the ice? Vernon writes, "I must admit that to this day, I do not know exactly how he got it or where it came from." Vernon was fooled because Malini changed the moment. The ice was obtained early, and Malini waited for the psychologically proper moment to perform the trick. Magician Tommy Martin recounts one episode when Malini stood at a bar for half an hour with the block of ice under his coat. Is this dedication to The Moment worthwhile? I'll let Vernon answer that question. He writes, "The effect created a profound impression on everybody who was there, and was something to remember all their lives."

Max Malini was one of the great characters in the history of magic. His real name was Max Katz Breit, and he was born in 1873 in Ostrov, a town on the border of Poland and Austria. His family immigrated to the United States when Max was a young boy. He specialized in performing for the movers and shakers of his era, and his clients included the Astors, the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, several United States Presidents, and the royalty of many European countries. He was brash, bold, arrogant, and outrageous, and everyone who saw him considered him the finest magician they had ever encountered.

Malini and His Magic was originally published by Supreme Magic, and it has long been out of print. I'm happy that L&L Publishing has again made this book available. Included are discussions of Malini's classic tricks, including the "Cigar Levitation," the "Blindfold Card Stab," the "Button Trick," the "Egg Bag," the "Coin Game," the "Card Vanish," the Color Change," and "The Production of a Block of Ice." While Vernon is credited as the author, Lewis Ganson wrote the words, working from audio tapes prepared by Vernon and Faucett Ross. Faucett Ross also recorded a chapter detailing Malini's promotional techniques. There is also a chapter of reminisces from Edwin Dearn, who spent time with Malini in Shanghai and Australia.

Max Malini is an important figure in the history of close-up magic. His routines are still effective today (one need only see Bob Sheets' handling of the "Blindfold Card Stab" to realize this), and his bravado and schmoozing abilities are inspirational. But most important was his commitment to The Moment. Unwilling to settle for performing "tricks," Malini did miracles that were based on his ability to manipulate The Moment. His magic is legendary. If you study his life and his methods, you may be able to do the same. Malini and His Magic should be in your library.

House of Cards By Chuck Romano

One of the heartbreaking aspects of jazz history is number of great performers whose lives were cut short by substance abuse. Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, the list goes on and on. Those of us who mourn the incredible loss of their premature passing find ourselves asking, "Why?" Why does someone with so much talent, with (apparently) so much going for them, destroy themselves with drugs or alcohol? Perhaps we ask why in the futile wish that we could somehow go back and change the past - save our heroes from their own self-destruction. Of course, we can never know why. No one can really understand the demons a person carries within himself. The contemporaries of our jazz heroes may have understood their colleagues' addictive compulsions, but if they did, they were helpless to stop the process.

Paul Rosini was one of the most successful magicians during the golden age of hotel and nightclub entertainment. He worked the top spots, he commanded an impressive fee, he was a hit with audiences of laymen and magicians, and he drank himself to death at age 45. Most contemporary magicians are unfamiliar with Paul Rosini. In Greater Magic, John Northern Hilliard sited Rosini as one of America's "Ten Living Card Stars." He contributed a few tricks to the magic magazines of the day, and after his death W. F. (Rufus) Steele published Paul Rosini's Magical Gems. In House of Cards: The Life & Magic of Paul Rosini, Chuck Romano fills in some of the blanks in the history of this most charismatic and enigmatic performer. The book is in three parts: Part One is Rosini's biography; Part Two is a detailed account of five different acts performed by Rosini; Part 3 is an appendix which contains a reprint of Paul Rosini's Magical Gems.

Mr. Romano has done a great deal of research in the preparation of this book, and he has clarified several pertinent facts. Rosini was born Paul Vucic (not Vucci as has appeared in most conjuring books and magazines) on September 29, 1902 in Trieste, Italy. Trieste is now a part of Italy, but at the time of Paul's birth it was under Austrian rule. In 1912 the Vucic family immigrated to the United States, settling in Chicago. Paul developed an interest in magic at a young age, and often frequented August Roterberg's magic shop. The family moved to New York City in 1916, and shortly thereafter, Paul became Julius Zancig's partner in a two-person mind reading act. Paul left the act in 1917 and was replaced by David Bamberg.

For a short period of time (around 1918), Paul assisted Carl Rosini. When Carl Rosini left the United States for an extended tour of South America, many felt that he would never return to the United States. Paul, who had returned to the Midwest, had decided that Vucic was an unsuitable name for a conjuror, and (perhaps feeling that he would not be in competition with Carl Rosini) took the stage name Rosini. He began to work hotels and nightclubs. When Carl Rosini returned to the United States and learned that his former assistant had appropriated his last name, he was incensed. Carl Rosini decided that pursuing legal action against Paul was impossible (although he did prevent Paul from using the name Rosini when performing in New York), but his anger and bitterness toward Paul never faded. In fact, after Paul's death Carl said, "Now he is gone, and I am still here."

Paul's career soared, and so did his alcohol consumption. In fact, there is a classic Rosini story (which I do not believe is in Mr. Romano's book) that when Rosini checked into a hotel he ordered a case of playing cards and a case of Scotch, and when he finished his run both would be used up. Paul Rosini died in Chicago on September 19, 1948.

Part Two of House of Cards is particularly fascinating. It details the effects that comprised five separate acts that Rosini performed. Much of this information came from a manuscript written by Charles Maly, a professional magician and mentalist. In 1936, Mr. Maly had the opportunity to watch Rosini perform at the Park Plaza Hotel in St.

Louis, Missouri. He also had the chance to discuss the effects with Rosini, and he made copious and detailed notes. The Maly manuscript was in the collection of Max Hapner, who passed it along to MAGIC's Associate Editor John Moehring. John made the manuscript available to Mr. Romano.

Rosini's repertoire consisted of standard effects: the Cups and Balls with baby chicks as final loads, the "Thumb Tie," the "Vanishing Bird Cage," the "Sympathetic Silks," the "Card in Cigarette," the "Miser's Dream," the "Brainwave Deck," the "Egg Bag," the "Linking Rings," and the Malini "Card Stab." But even though the effects were standard, Rosini's presentation was not. The Maly manuscript provides much information on the structure of Rosini's routines, but unfortunately leaves many unanswered questions concerning Rosini's patter and bits of business. In an attempt to find some answers, I have spoken to several people who knew Rosini, and no one could give me any specific information. All I could discover was that he was charming, technically excellent, and extremely charismatic.

House of Cards concludes with a compilation of Rosini tricks from the published record, some unpublished information via Neal Elias, and a complete reprint of Paul Rosini's Magical Gems.

Paul Rosini has intrigued me ever since I read his tricks in Greater Magic. While his photographs (and the comments from his contemporaries) paint him as the ultimate in sophistication and technical competency, he was a man with flaws and demons. After all, this was a man who stole the last name of a working performer, based his repertoire on the routines of other established professionals (Charles Bertram and Nate Leipzig), and appropriated someone else's trademark line (Max Malini's "A little waltz, please."). But he elevated the material in way that other performers could not, and he left a lasting impression on those who saw him. I'm delighted that Chuck Romano has provided the magic community with such a thorough biography. Paul Rosini remains somewhat of an enigma, but I sense that he was an enigma to his contemporaries. I enjoyed House of Cards very much. I think you will, too.

(An excerpt from House of Cards appeared in the March 1999 issue of MAGIC.)

The Himber Wallet Book By Harry Lorayne

The Himber Wallet has achieved "classic" status. Many variations of the original wallet have appeared on the market, and it is a prop that is used by magicians around the world. When Richard Himber first introduced the wallet to the magic marketplace, he asked Harry Lorayne to write an accompanying instruction book. This was titled Best of Bill-fooled. In 1963, Himber came up with a variation on the wallet, which he called the "Trick-A-Rette Case." Again, Mr. Lorayne wrote an instruction book titled The Hundred Dollar Book. In The Himber Wallet Book, Mr. Lorayne has revised and corrected these original manuscripts and has added contemporary material to provide a wide variety of routines using this versatile prop. If you own a Himber Wallet, or if you're considering buying one, you'll find a lot of information here.

As with any collection of this type, the quality of the material ranges from the very, very good to the very, very dumb. On the "very good" side are routines like "Instant Money," "Five Star Miracle," and "Polaroid Money." These are not only three of the best effects possible with a Himber Wallet, they are three of the strongest effects in the close-up repertoire. On the "very dumb" side is "Cut and Restored Ribbon" in which a ribbon is threaded through the wallet, then cut, then restored. This trick falls under the category of "I've got this prop, what is every possible thing I can do with it, regardless of how illogical it is?" If you had the powers of a real magician, would you slip a ribbon into a wallet before you cut it? If you answered "yes," I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to step out of the gene pool.

In the "Last Word" section of this book, Mr. Lorayne mentions that there are five basic uses for a Himber Wallet: to switch items; to produce an item; to make something disappear; to predict a future occurrence; or to do a bit of mindreading. Considering that The Himber Wallet Book is to be used as a reference volume, it would have been useful if Mr. Lorayne had organized the material according to these five categories. If there is an underlying order to the book, I don't know what it is; effects of all categories are scattered throughout, so if you are looking for a particular type of effect you're going to have to read through the whole book. Perhaps this creates a book which is more interesting to read cover to cover, but it minimizes its effectiveness as a reference book.

This quibble aside, I think you'll find much of value in The Himber Wallet Book.

The Dice Stacking Book By Todd Strong

Todd Strong is a juggler who has taught at the De Etage performing arts school in Berlin and the National Circus School of France. A while back I reviewed his excellent dice stacking video. The Dice Stacking Book is a companion volume that provides the would-be dice stacker with a ton of information.

Todd discusses the necessary props, the basic stacking move, stacking variations, aerial moves, decapitating moves, and stacking items other than dice. He is thorough, and his explanations are clear. One very cool aspect of the book is that there are two "flip pictures" located on the bottom corners of each page. Flip the pages of the book in one direction and you see a mini-movie of Todd stacking four dice. Flip the pages the other way and you see him "decapitating" and stacking four dice. This is a clever idea, for it allows you to see the stacking motion in action.

Todd is a juggler, not a magician, so the emphasis is on stacking rather than magic effects (two magical ideas are included). Consequently, you'll need to seek out other sources if you're looking for a magic routine. (Todd includes a bibliography to help you track down more information.) If you've been looking for a book on dice stacking, look no further. The Dice Stacking Book is an excellent resource.

Pete's ESP By Pete Best, Jr.

The effect of this trick may sound familiar to you. The magician places a white sticker on the back of a playing card. The sticker is identified by writing the current date on it. The card is replaced in the pack. Anyone in the audience names any playing card they wish. That card is removed from the face up deck, and the card is rested, face out against a beer bottle. To completely isolate the card, the bottle is lifted and placed onto the card. Now, a spectator searches through the deck for the card that had the sticker on it. This card cannot be found. The card under the bottle is removed. It has the sticker on its back.

If this effect sounds familiar, it's because it's David Harkey's trick. Mr. Harkey published three different versions: in the April 1987 issue of Linking Ring, in the October 1988 issue of Genii, and in Simply Harkey (page 163.) The method of "Pete's ESP" is almost identical to Harkey's "Spinner," including the ploy of "accidentally" writing the wrong date on the sticker, and the method for causing the card with the sticker to disappear from the deck. There is no mention of Mr. Harkey in the instructions of "Pete's ESP."

I see no reason why you and Mr. Harkey should both be ripped off. "Pete's ESP" sells for $15 and you get a deck of cards, some stickers, and the instructions. Track down either of the two magazines referenced above, or spend $30 more for Simply Harkey and get 59 extra tricks. Under no circumstances should you buy "Pete's ESP."

Mr. Mysto Poster From MystoTrix

When I was a kid I loved comic books, and I had a ton of them. (Oh, for a time machine to go back and seal those puppies in plastic bags and lock them in a safe deposit box.) I became less interested in comics as I grew older and they adopted the self-righteous name of "graphic novels." But I would occasionally visit a magazine shop and see if there was anything new or different.

In October or November of 1975, I was in a store in Indianapolis, and saw issue number one of Mr. Mysto Magazine. The cover art was great. There was Mr. Mysto, swinging from a light cord, a busty babe wrapped in his right arm, kicking the snot out of some bad guy. I leafed through the comic, but for some reason I never bought it. Later, when I went back for it, the copy was gone, and the store never stocked any more of them.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I received in the mail a poster depicting that comic book cover which I had not seen (or even thought about for that matter) for almost 25 years. The poster is 18 x 24 inches, and is printed in vibrant colors on high quality paper. It's a perfect addition to any guestroom where you don't want people overstaying their welcome.

I understand that the Magic Castle has acquired the original artwork (done by the talented Daniel Sylvester), so you may have seen this as you walked to the Palace of Mystery. It's fun and it's funny. What more can I say?

Details

Bending Minds, Bending Metal by Guy Bavli. Three Videos. $29.95 each. All three for $84.95 (postpaid in US and Canada). From A-1 MagicalMedia, 3337 Sunrise Blvd., #8, Rancho Cordova, CA 95742. Fax: 916-852-7785. Web site: www.A1MagicalMedia.com

Malini and His Magic by Dai Vernon. 6 x 9, hardcover with glossy dustjacket. 108 pages. $30 postpaid in US and Canada. From L&L Publishing, P.O. Box 100, Tahoma, CA 96142. Fax: 530-525-7008. Email: [email protected]. Website: www.allmagic.com/llpub.

House of Cards by Chuck Romano. 6 x 9 hardcover. 305 pages. $35 postpaid in US. Overseas orders $45 postpaid. From Chuck Romano, 900 W. Barbara Ave., South Elgin, IL, 60177. Email: [email protected].

The Himber Wallet Book by Harry Lorayne. 6 x 9 hardcover with glossy dustjacket. 227 pages. $35 postpaid in US and Canada. From L&L Publishing, P.O. Box 100, Tahoma, CA 96142. Fax: 530-525-7008. Email: [email protected]. Website: www.allmagic.com/llpub.

The Dice Stacking Book by Todd Strong. 6 x 9 softcover. 94 pages. $9.95 plus $3 p&h (international orders add $6 for p&h). From Perceptual Motion, P.O. Box 204, Point Roberts, WA 98281. Fax: 360-945-0786. Email: [email protected]. Web site: http://members.xoom .com/dicestacker

Pete's ESP by Pete Best, Jr. $15. From Discount Magic and Cool Stuff Warehouse, Box 285063, Boston, MA 02128-5063. Fax: 800-438-7236. Email: [email protected]

Mr. Mysto Poster. $20 postpaid (foreign orders add $5). From MystoTrix, 13134 Valleyheart Dr., #3, Studio City, CA 91604. Email: [email protected]

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