In a Puff of Smoke…

If you read this blog, you’ve noticed I reference Gary Oulette every now and then. His Fulminations column in Genii Magazine when I was a teenager had many things that stuck with me, like always producing the card a second time from your wallet.

in a puff of smoke by gary oulette

He put out a manuscript called In a Puff of Smoke which had his system for creating smoke from the hands. This was supposedly used by David Copperfield in the 1990’s in this torn and restored baseball card.

I finally came across the one of the manuscripts at a reasonable price. It’s not a trick I’ll ever do, especially in the over 30 years since he put it out the technology for making smoke has greatly improved.

What I do find interesting is his thought process for putting the gimmick together and making it work. Especially using 1991 (or earlier) technology. I sometimes wonder what crazy stuff Gary Oulette would be putting out now if he was still alive? He was definitely someone who figured out how to make an idea happen!


Show Them How…

In mentalism one of the things you can do for the presentation is show them the process. What I mean by that is you show them what you are doing to know what they are thinking. That’s why things like NLP are popular presentation angles in mentalism.

I was at Disneyland a couple of days ago and I’m pretty sure they are using this idea with the lines at the theme parks. You will have someone who works there waving people through a line, then they will suddenly start asking how many people in a group. From my watching, it was usually after asking three groups they would hold the line at that point. I honestly don’t think that person was counting people, because usually the next place the people were moving to didn’t have any capacity issues. There’s a psychological reason they hold and move people and they justify that by showing some sort of process. By asking how many people there are in a group, they are implying that there’s a capacity issue ahead. If they simply said, “Hold here for 5 minutes” that would annoy people, but by showing the people process, we accept it.

Seeing this done in a non magic context really reinforces it’s effectiveness to me. If you do mentalism and aren’t showing process, you are missing out on a great presentation.

Old School Vanishing Cage

One thing that you’ll know about me if you’ve read this blog at all is that I’m a Vanishing Birdcage nerd. Last night I was watching a clip of Harry Blackstone Jr. doing the Vanishing Birdcage on the Magic Palace TV show.

Here’s the clip:

There are two things I noticed about just the vanishing birdcage segment. First is this gag where he asks the girl to put her hand on his had and reacts and says, “Isn’t that nice

That gag was probably acceptable at the time that this was recorded, but by modern standards it’s creepy. I hope that if Harry Blackstone Jr. was alive now, he’d be aware enough to drop the bit.

The next thing that I noticed is right after the cage vanishes…listen for it…

Did you hear it?

A kid says, “ouch“. I’m guessing the kid has his fingers between a couple of the bars and got pinched when the cage vanished. I also hope that if he was still alive, he’d change how he did this part of the trick so that there was no way a kid could get hurt. I’m thinking that when this was recorded, an occasional pinched finger was okay.

Look at your magic, what are you doing that may have aged out. Usually the performer is the last person to realize when something in their show has hit its expiration date.

Playing With Others…

Working on the road at fairs allows me two work with all sorts of acts. Last week I worked with Scotty and Rich and Orion. They are all variety acts and with very different styles!

One of the great things is chatting ideas with these different acts. Everyone comes at it with a different background and preferences as to how a show should be done. Talking to other acts and getting feedback often will show you things in your show you didn’t see or thing of.

If you work with other acts, talk to them and use them to help you grow!

Magic Shops on the Road..

One of the things that I try to do when I travel is visit magic shops and support them. Last week when I was flying into to San Francisco and driving a couple hours north, I stopped by Misdirections Magic Shop!

misdirections magic shop in san francisco

While I was there I picked up Shrapnel by Kim Anderson.

shrapnel by kim anderson

This is a linking pin type routine that has a lot of phases that use a finger ring. I’ve been doing some stuff for a few years with a finger ring and an Andrus Key Pin, so this was similar something I was already doing.

I really like the smaller pins for the trick. That was the part I was unsure about, I didn’t think I would like using the smaller pins. Kim’s routine is great and the instructions are pretty clear and I had fun learning it. I haven’t tried it out yet, but heading back out on the road in a few days and will give it a whirl!

Picture of Sound…

Sometimes when performing at a fair the stage doesn’t really have a sound person. If they’re using professional variety acts, it’s normally not really necessary to have a sound guy there the all day, every day. On the stage I was on there were only two acts, me and a juggling act.

One of the things that I always do is take a picture of the soundboard:

The uppermost three cords are mine. Once the sound tech gets me where they want me, it’s easy to simply reference this picture whenever I show up and plug in. I don’t have to walk all over the fairgrounds to track down the sound guy to set my audio.

Do Not Disturb…

For several years I’ve been working on a Silk Thru Coat Hanger trick.

You can read posts about it here

It’s three phases, the silk goes thru the hanger, then two hangers are put on the silk and one that’s selected goes thru the silk, and finally the silk goes from the triangle of the hanger to the hook.

I’m not the biggest fan of the second phase, but the trick really didn’t work as a two phase routine. It hit me while sitting in my hotel room, the Do Not Disturb sign would make a great prop for this routine and fits in with my presentation. The reason I never realized this before was most of the signs have a slit in them to fit over the door handle. The slit makes it useless for the trick, but I’m staying at a hotel that has Do Not Disturb signs that don’t have slits! I took one of the signs to the fair and gave it a try and it works!

I’ll need to play a bit with trying to figure out how to get it smooth. I think the problem is the sign at my hotel is that it’s got a really small hole. A quick search on Amazon and I found some with larger holes. I ordered them and they’ll be waiting for me when I get home.

I’m hoping this is the solution to the second phase of the routine!

Show Me a Trick…

One thing that has always bugged me are magicians that won’t do magic for people they run into who ask them to “show a trick“. There thinking is that no one else in any profession gets asked to work. That’s simply not true. Lawyers get asked legal questions, doctors get asked for medical advice, it’s not unique to magicians. It’s unique to professions that have “secret knowledge“. What I mean by that is they have knowledge or understand things that the average person doesn’t.

Looking back in time, all of the great magicians a hundred years ago made reputations doing impromptu magic. Max Malini biting the buttons off of coats or Hermann who pulled the coins out of rolls or eggs at the market. I think most magicians hesitancy is they lack the technical skills and knowledge of tricks to “do a trick” at a moments notice. I’m a huge fan of always having a trick on you. You don’t have to do it, but sometimes it makes a huge difference having something always ready.

The other night someone at the bar where I was having dinner recognized me from my show earlier in the day. They told the bartender that I was a magician and he asked if I could show him a trick. I asked if the bar had a deck of cards, and they didn’t. He handed me a pen and asked if I could do a trick with that, so I swallowed the pen by lapping it. Then I did my Splitting Image (mismade bill) trick, which was a solid end to my “impromptu” performance.

Not relying on what you can find around you, but having something on you that you are guaranteed to kill with is a huge advantage. Planning ahead and keeping a few tricks in your wallet makes a huge difference!

Milk Cap Three Fly

Awhile ago I had picked up some Milk Caps and rigged one up like a split coin so that I could do a Three Fly style routine. Here’s the routine with some patter:

These milk caps are as unusual of an object as something like a silver dollar to anyone under 30 years old. People get hung up on what’s an ordinary object, and a large size silver dollar isn’t an ordinary object. The USA stopped using the large size dollar coins in the late 1970’s or over 40 years ago! The audience has to make a leap in time for either prop. I’d argue that the milk cap is easier to justify because it’s something they haven’t seen before. Where a large size dollar coin is similar to something that exists, but not the same. You can justify the milk caps through presentation, however most magicians don’t justify why they have old coins.


Safety Pin Trix

One of the things I’m trying to do is be better with my time while I’m on the road. When travelling and performing in cities away from home, there’s a lot of free time. I usually go out and see the local sights, and hang out with the other acts, however there’s still a lot of down time.

One trick that I do in my close up is the Linking Pins and I use Jerry Andrus’s gimmicked pins, but I’ve never really gone through Jerry’s book. This morning before I headed out to the airport I grabbed my copy of Safety Pin Trix and some regular and gimmicked pins.

I’m planning on going through the book in my hotel room. I’m hoping there will be some things in it that I can add to my current routine!