Magicians

Nothin’ Up My Sleeve! Presto!

My posts have been rather heavy over the last year. So let me tell you a story about Dr. Wu’s Rock n Soul Revue.

Wu had just played a show at Union Station in St Louis. I was screwing around and missed the shuttle to the hotel down the street.

downloadSo here I am huffing my fat ass in the middle of the night through St. Louis carrying my guitar case and my heavy old Vintage 50 amplifier down to the Marriott. When I got there the festivities were all ready going strong. The smell of beer, cigarette smoke, a tinge of marijuana and sweat from playing a three hour concert filled the air.

The party was always in Bugsy’s room, either by chance or design. The hotel staff were calling for us to keep it down plus looking for a luggage cart that Kent ‘Sweet’ Aberle had commandeered to load his drums on. He just never returned it.

The Lobby Luge was in full swing. A murder of hickerbilly twenty- something year old R&B musicians pushing each other at dangerous speeds down the hallways of the Marriott cussing, laughing and riding elevators up and down then repeating the process on several floors.

Luge :  noun. [lüzh] a small sled that is ridden in a supine position and used especially in competition; also : the competition itself

forbes-industriesfrb-2425brass-birdcage-luggage-cart-43-x-24-x-78-3304-085The sport of the Lobby Luge consists of placing one guy on the luggage cart sitting down while another guy would push you as fast as he could down the hallway then let you loose and watch as the laws of physics and motion took effect. I don’t know how you keep score but it was funny as hell watching Sweet flying past your room.

We were in the Lou playing as the backup band for the Shirelles and Snake and Dogwood’s Tribute to the Blues Brothers.

Our unofficial member Jon Clarkson from Poprocks/X Krush fame, rode along. Doug Evans convinced Jon to sit in a wheelchair he had found in a closet somewhere in Union Station. Jon, oblivious to the mischievous side of Doug, was pushed with a running start into the center of a large hall full of people awaiting the show. Jon alone and not nearly crippled enough to need a wheelchair did the only thing he could do…

Like a preacher at gospel revival… Jon stood up! A miracle. A tough lesson for Jon who probably will never fully trust Doug again. A good laugh from the other guys who knew never to trust Doug in any position where he could make you look silly, or a situation that could be dangerous. Neither of these would ever stop Doug, though he was quick to apologize before you got too mad.

I was sitting in a chair a few beers in and taking my turn at the jazz cabbage being passed around. Later in life I would become a connoisseur of marijuana. Not much of a surprise to most people who know me. I wasn’t driving so I indulged.

imagesSnake was the ‘Jake’ of the Blues Brother’s Tribute. He had seen it all and we were young and listened to tales of hooker’s being tied up in hotel rooms, horn players hanging off the balcony, and a tale of his partner Dogwood walking nude through a bar wear nothing but a white athletic sock on his dick n balls while the crowd chanted “Sock cock! Sock cock!” This was pre Red Hot Chili Peppers. He was ahead of his time.

During the middle of Snake and my conversation, Snake pulled out a cigarette, told me to watch closely. He held it in his hand and counted 1…2…3… and BAM he opened his hand and the cigarette disappeared right before my eyes. Hand was wide open, he hadn’t thrown it, it was just gone! He then reached back and produced the cigarette from behind his ear. It was the first time I had ever seen a close up magic trick in my life. Upon threats of bodily harm I demanded he show me how it was done.


I’ve always loved magic shows. I used to watch Doug ‘It’s an illusion’ Henning’s hippie magic specials on TV. He would float a a bedazzled woman in the air, cut her in half and make her reappear whole. David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear or would make an elephant appear out of thin air, just by dropping a curtain and prancing dramatically with spirit fingers.

Sometimes we’d have a magician come to grade school and put on a show. He would link rings, cut ropes making them whole again, make doves appear and his assistant disappear from big boxes. These shows were pretty lame even to a 3rd grade kid.

Doug-HenningOne night I was watching ‘The Worlds Greatest Magic” on ABC and David Copperfield did a simple little trick. No boxes or dancing ladies, just him sitting on a set of stairs with two rubber bands. As he spoke he pulled one rubber band through the other. Right before my eyes. You could see him do it. No curtains, no spirit fingers, just two regular rubber bands.

I had to learn how to do this. In the early days of the internet it wasn’t as easy to find information and there was no video to show you how.

I finally discovered the secret, practiced, and could do it for you. Jaws would drop and “Show me that again” were usually the reactions I would get.

Bugsy and I were in Champaign IL hitting the used record shops looking for old David Bromberg albums for me and forgotten gems of vinyl for Bugs. While we were there he said we needed to stop by Dallas and Company. It’s a huge novelty and costume shop. The owner Andy Dallas is also a world class magician and escape artist. His claim to fame was doing a straight jacket escape hanging from a helicopter over the St Louis Arch. Dallas and Company had a magic shop in the back. You had to ask to go there and either Andy or another magician would take you back. Kinda like a whore house but with decks of cards instead of working girls. To this day Dallas and Co has the best magic shop I have ever seen.

A magic shop will usually show you about three tricks and then try to sell you one. Of course you buy it. You want to do cool tricks too. So like all magicians starting out I bought books, videos, gaffed cards, coin boxes, tricks with silver dollars and English pennies. I had magicians wax, invisible thread, and the list goes on and on.

When you buy a magic trick you don’t just pay for the object which might be a blank card or a cup. You pay for the idea. So I had a case with all sorts of junk cheap gimmicks.

There is a theory behind magic believe it or not. It’s just a guy who knows a few cool things. One of the things that master magicians point out is quality over quantity. Get really good at a few things and it will take you farther than knowing fifty tricks.

So I finally took it to heart. I decided a couple of things.  Don’t do pointless magic. Don’t do complex magic. A good trick should be able to be described in a sentence. “The magician changed my red card into a blue card.”

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Notice the pick-pocket behind the spectator.

Sponge balls… You who carries around sponge balls? Magicians. There is no reason a person would have a sponge ball on them. That is pointless magic and I’m a damn good sponge ball magician. But wouldn’t a trick be cooler if it was done with something off your desk? Or maybe items found in any bar? Give me a bar jigger and an olive and I’ll show you a great version of the oldest magic trick ever, the cups and balls.

There are people I despise performing for. The one that wants to trip you up instead of enjoying a moment of wonder. “Pick a card and put it back on top of the deck.” “No I want to put it in the middle somewhere” … dude it’s not that kinda trick. But if you insist, I’ll pull out a marker have them sign their name and phone number and where they work, then I put the card in my pocket and start the trick all over again. If you want to fight the magician we have ways of  getting around that. You are ruining it for anyone else who would like to see it, you are ruining it for yourself, and you are ruining it for me. Sit back and enjoy. It’s not real magic and I’m not a real magician so I can only do so much.

Then you have the guy who thinks you have just tried to out smart him. They don’t smile, they just start tossing ideas out there on how you did it. My answer is always “Yep. That’s how I did it.”

This one is on me. Showing a trick to the indifferent. They don’t care. They didn’t want to see it and they have no moment of joy.

What I do like when performing is people ready to have fun, to enjoy it, and maybe make a little impression of mystery and a smile on their face.

So give me a pack of cigarettes, a couple of rubber bands, and a deck of cards and I’ll knock your socks off for about 20 minutes.


Prologue

When you do a few tricks people will often reference Chris Angel or David Blaine. They are fine magicians and they realize that the real trick is in the performance and the reaction. But they are TV magicians. They set up their revelations before hand. David Copperfield couldn’t make an elephant appear if it wasn’t on TV and the audience wasn’t in on it.

The true masters are the guys who create those effects. Guys you never heard of. Jay Sankey, Jeff McBride (probably the best card manipulator in the world) Michael Ammar, Bill Malone, and the list goes on and on. They are the brains behind much of this. It’s their ideas that they turn into little miracles. You rarely see them. If you ever get the chance though, do not miss them. Chris Angel sure as hell knows who they are. Please enjoy….

This is the craziest trick I have ever seen. I won’t be doing this for you EVER. The man’s name is Tom Mullica and he also did a tribute to Red Skelton and has appeared all over the world, including Effingham Performance Center. He has passed on but he left us with this. RIP Tom. I loved it.

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