I've always had rotten luck — y'know the sort of bloke that buys a non-stick saucepan and can't peel off the label, keeps a praying mantis and discovers it's an atheist, loses all his money behind a show starring Astaire and Rogers — that's Ginger Astaire and Fred Rogers. So I guess it was no surprise to me when my company (that's the day job fellas) sent me to Chicago for a week, during the worst weather they've had in 40 years. Believe me, it was so cold monkeys were running around looking for welders. It was 28° below (don't ask me below what, I couldn't feel a thing) in fact, the last time I was as cold as this was on my visit to the windy city in 1977.
This time, however, I'd taken the precaution of forearming myself with a few names and addresses, and for the benefit of future visitors to Chicago, here are some names with a nine-point blue print on how to play on the generous nature and hospitality of these Chicagoans.
Phil Wilmarth, now this is the guy that wrote that terrific Schulien book, the Charlie Miller book — the Linking Ring Parades and much else. He does a great lecture, inspired by Joyce McKinney, called 30 minutes with a ring and some rope (talking of Joyce — and who isn't, I tried to get across to the Jewish Mormon town — Salt Beef City). I hope we get a chance to see Phil over in the UK, how about it Ron, or Bill, or Jack? Now Phil is a kindly, retiring anglophile who can't refuse to book you for a lecture or two even if you only drop the merest of hints. He's never been to the UK, so give him the baloney about English castles, muffins, pubs, Shakespeare etc and you're in.
Jay Marshall. S'no use trying to con Jay with the romantic England bit — he knows it for what it is, despite which he still spends half his time here. You can rely on Jay to pick you up at the airport, loan you hat, scarf, gloves, suitcase and up to §51,000 with no collateral.
He'll miss appointments to drive you round, and under the slightest pretext will take you to the Domino Lounge to see the funniest, filthiest comic/pianist in the USA. This is a must. Be prepared to answer questions such as "what are anchovies?" "What is white and black and has a dirty last name?" Jay has a vertical library — books filed in chronological order, (that is by date they were bought not published) in piles on the floor.
Jerry Schnepp — this bloke is a full time engineer and a hard working semi-pro. If he invites you to his home — go. Try to get him to sort a few obscure things out in his magic den, while you stay in the dining room and chat up his wife, Donna. Believe me lads, this Donna is something else — looks a million dollars and can she cook spaghetti bolognese! Beautiful (and so is the spaghetti bolognese) plus a large cold bottle of Souva, what a night! Jerry is the entertainments secretary, of the Master Magicians Club and he'll provide you with 40 odd souls to talk at.
The Master Magicians Club — this happy bunch will go out of their way to eenvince you that they understand your jokes and like your tricks. Some of them will even buy your lecture notes, so try to meet them.
Gene Anderson — a shy, quiet, introvert who, if he knows you are in Chicago will stay over for an extra day just to whisper "howdy". It's no use encouraging him to retire early, because he is one of the prime movers after the show in luring you to "The Barn".
"The Barn" is where you are exposed to Eddie Spence. An Irish magician with a funny line in chat, and some crazy tricks. He does card relevations that will knock your eyes out — and the haunted handkerchief with two randy fleas that will get you acquainted with the girl on the next bar stool (and roars from the crowd). Eddie is almost unknown — and is fond of telling you that he eventually wants to take lessons from a real magician. If he only knew! Believe me, he's the funniest, most polished close-up worker I have ever seen!
Ben Martin. Ben spent a few weeks in England and reckons he owes us something. S'pity his charming wife talks so much, boy does she go on! If there's anything you want — books, mags, information, Ben's your boy.
George Johnstone. Despite his links to one McComb, George is not a bad lad. He'll do anything for you providing you're armed with a bottle of Irish Mist or Baileys Irish Cream. He threatens to come to the UK in 1979 so he should be obligated to us if you go soon. Try and get an hour or two in his library, it's the most comprehensive collection of comedy books I've seen outside Hansard.
Dick Jarrow. Jarrow's the geezer that practically runs the Chicago Historical Society. For two (Andrus linking) pins he'll give you a conducted tour of the exhibits, including the buffalo skin playing cards and the Abe Lincoln bullet catch. If you're not careful he'll load you up with pamphlets, books on magic and on Chicago, take you to fine restaurants and entertain you at his lovely home. He's just completed a tour teaching magic in Alaska aided and abetted by his charming lady, Jeanne. If you can fix it, try to be there when his knockout daughter, Janie, is home with 5 of her college students — with a crowd like that you could get extasied to death.
So there you have it. All the above facilities have been tested and awarded a five-star rating.
When you're in Chicago, get mixed up with any, or all, of them, I'll guarantee that the warmth of their welcome will make you forget the snow drifts, the storms, and the 20° wind chill factor.
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