Scotland, yes, that's where I've just been. I've just spent a few days in God's Chosen Country. In those few days He chose to drop a few snowflakes on my home town with the result I was wandering around knee-deep in the white stuff, and before anyone tells me that my version of knee-deep doesn't necessarily mean that it was deep, my son beat you to it.
Several years ago the magic buffs in Edinburgh (which isn't my home town) got together and decided to have an unusual type of one day convention. Did I say unusual? Well, have you ever been to a convention where everything, shows, lectures, demonstrations etc were given over to Card Magic — or as some would have it 'card tricks'? That is exactly what they did in Edinburgh, they had a convention of card tricks. It sounds like it could have been one big bore, but it wasn't, it was very good. I liked it, and in case you think I have missed something out, I have, because they repeated the idea last weekend and I was there.
There were nine performers performing, five lecturers lecturing, and around 50 onlookers looking on. I have no intention of listing them all, but I thought all of the lectures or lecture demonstrations were very good. Vic Allen was entertaining, Roy Walton surprised a lot of people by demonstrating some almost self-working effects and fooling almost everyone present. Gordon Bruce did the same effect three times and if you can find another convention to book him he is going to do it three more times and get it right. (That was a joke folks, he did one of the most straightforward coin assemblies under playing cards I have seen. It was so good it couldn't possibly be his own). Joe Riding dealt with cabaret style card effects and yours truly was marked down to do what was listed as 'Card tricks on stage'. So what did I do? I did a couple of tricks and talked and talked. To the Edinburgh Magic Circle may I say thank you, it was fun.
After this I headed north to more familiar terrain and family faces, waded around in the snow for a few days and didn't think about the Edinburgh Cardarama (that's what they called it) again until I was on my way back to London
lying flat on my back in my sleeping compartment on the train. I recalled some of the people I had mentioned as having performed card tricks for large audiences; Billy O'Connor, Lionel King, David Nixon, and probably some others, and I suddenly realised there were quite a number of performers, not just the ones I have mentioned who used similar type material, but there is no way in which you can say they did the same tricks. The point I am trying to make is that all of the good pros have managed to personalise their effects.
They worked at them until the effects became part of their personality, the effects became right for THEM. They picked effects which LOOKED as if they were perfect for them but in fact they had probably worked long and hard to make them so appear.
This started me thinking about some of my favourite acts. A1 Flosso. How many times did A1 do the Miser's Dream before it reached perfection. Make no mistake, in his hands it really was perfection. How long did it take Jay Marshall to get his ring routine just right. Just when did he decide to undersell the real magic of the effect and concentrate on selling the character behind it?
There are others. Channing Pollock. The man who really had the classic image of the smooth sophisticated manipulator. He is on record as having said he started off with the intention of being the greatest card manipulator in the world, and although he may have achieved that goal we all know it was not his card manipulations that lifted him onto the international circuit. When I first saw David Nixon I thought he was the greatest soft sell single, stand up patter magic act I had ever seen. That was getting close to thirty years ago. When he passed away recently he was a TV star and had been for many years and was still doing magic tricks. And again, we all know it wasn't the tricks that made him a star.
Shall I go on? Shall 1 talk about Ali Bey, one of the best twenty minute illusion acts of my lifetime. How about some of the acts I didn't see? Cardini, Hymack. Or some of the non-magic acts: W.C. Fields, Danny Kaye, Jolson, Benny, Hope? or Sinatra, Garland or Crosby? No matter how big any of these names they all have one thing in common. Every single one of them was a 'one off'. When you saw Flosso you saw Flosso; when you heard Crosby you heard Crosby. Let me ask you one final question: Who are you trying to be?
A smashing new book from JERRY MENTZER
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