Vintage Magic Trick: Emerson and West Presents Gene Anthony’s Pentra-Bill

A while ago Matthew Johnson’s trick Melt got the modern card thru dollar trend going. It feels like since Melt came out or so there have been a lot of version of the trick. The plot is much older and here’s Gene Anthony’s Pentra-Bill trick from 1983!

The plot is very simple, a card is pushed thru a bill. No strange folds, it’s a very clean effect. Here’s what it looks like:

@louiefoxx Vintage Magic Trick: Penta-Bill by Gene Anthony #magictrick #magic #moneymagic #cardmagic #louiefoxx #emersonandwest #closeupmagic #vintagemagictrick #antiquemagictrick ♬ original sound – Louie Foxx

The cool thing about the trick is that the card can be examined before and after and the bill can be borrowed. There is a gimmick you’ll add to the card, and the instructions hint at how to do it with the card examined before the trick, but don’t go into details on it. It should be pretty obvious you simply stick the gimmick onto the card after it’s been examined and you’re folding the card in half.

I like the opening the flap of the dollar to show the card in the dollar before the penetration. It very much feels like Timothy Wenk’s Misled trick from the 1990’s. Here’s David Copperfield doing Misled:

Pentra-Bill is a great way to do Card Thru Bill and I think in many ways it’s superior to the modern ones. Also it’s fun to see an Emerson and West product that’s not a packet trick!

-Louie

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!

-Louie

Magician Promo Pics…

The amount of magician’s promo pics that are cheezy, hack, or just plain bad is staggering. The goal of a promo pic is to get your personality out. I think a lot old school logic is that they need to know you’re a magician. You wouldn’t know that from David Copperfield’s pic on his billboard.

I know what you’re thinking…it’s David Copperfield, he doesn’t need that. You’re right, the billboard has some context, like his name.

Guess what? Your promo will also have some context, like your name and what you do.

You don’t have to be holding a fan of cards in your pic, they goal it to get a little bit of your personality out. Look at the headshots of the headliner’s on any comedy club’s website, you’ll see a lot of personality coming out in those pics.

Recently I had some pics taken and I was goofing around and this pic came out of the photo sesssion:

Is it the best pic to promote a magic show? Probably not.
Does it show much more personality than a me holding a fan of cards or having an ace in my sleeve? YES!

Try to show off yourself in your pics!

-Louie

Read Nick’s Blog…

If you’re not reading Nick Lewin’s Blog, you are missing out. He just put out a post called “new rules for magicians 2021“, which are 8 rules for magicians. Each of them is solid advice. I want to comment on his first one, which is:

New Rule #1  Realize that not everyone is fascinated by Houdini.

This is 100% true. It’s just a name, not someone that YOU are personally acquainted with. Using Houdini in most instances is a lazy way to find a hook. Usually it’s used in an escape and someone says that they will escape faster than Houdini did. Let’s make an analogy, if I went to see an show and the signer said they were going to sing 9 to 5 better than Dolly Parton, that doesn’t draw me in at all. Just sing the song.

One rule I’ve had in my show for a long time is that I don’t mention any other magician in my show. There’s a reason for that, most people don’t have a connection to that. Not too long ago a local magician had a huge bit where he described a trick that Criss Angel did, but then he related that to a just ok coin trick. Watching this, my impression was that he told me about a TV show he watched where a magician did a way better trick than what the local magician is about to show me. Mentioning the magician took away from the trick.

I think the one exception to mentioning another magician is if you have a relevant personal reason to do it. If you were on Fool Us, then mentioning you did the trick for Penn and Teller makes sense. If you invented a trick for David Copperfield, then mention it. Name dropping those has meaning, just mentioning another magician because you were too lazy to write something better is just that, lazy.

-Louie

Give Me Five…

The picture below is from back in 2017, I had an idea to use a foam hand for a trick.

foam hand magic trick

The idea was inspired by a math based trick in a Jim Steinmeyer book. The problem I faced in the trick was giving clear instructions. I tabled the trick shortly after I started doing it in 2017. Then shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020, I reread in Gary Oulette‘s book of his columns in Genii magazine called Fulminations about the challenges David Copperfield had to get through when giving instructions for his “touch the TV screen” tricks. The instructions had to be clear, even for the biggest idiot.

Then the pandemic hit and I started playing with some tricks that used counting on a hand, and went out and remade my foam hand. I never used the foam hand in a show, because in a virtual show my hand plays big.

Right now I’m cleaning up and downsizing the props I have, and I came across the giant foam hand. It’s sort of gimmicked, or at least altered so that I can bend the fingers down and they stay down. In a couple of days I head to Arizona for a month long gig and I think I’m going to take the hand with me and try to figure out the routine.

One thing I think it lacked was an ending. It needs a good way to reveal that they are all touching the same finger. When I made the last foam hand, I also bought a foam hand that just has the pointer finger up. The challenge was how to reveal this. I was playing with it and essentially found a pull the giant hand off my hand to reveal my hand is holding a giant foam hand with just the index finger up!

Now I have a moment to punctuate the reveal of everyone on the same finger.

It’s still got a challenge. Am I going to do the trick looking at the audience or not? Traditionally in this type of trick you don’t look at the audience, however I’m not sure I want to do that. You lose a lot of control by not looking AND you can’t keep an eye on people doing the procedure.

I think I can solve this by having my instructions fixed. By “fixed” I mean something that I can’t change. It could be a recording, like in the Banana Bandana style of trick. I really don’t like performing to a recorded track, it takes away a lot of what makes a live show fun. I think I may make a flap card, that has a five on one side. You turn it over and it has a three on the back side. Then when you turn it over again, the five has changed to a one. That gives the audience something interesting during the boring counting procedure. I also think going from five to three to one, makes the counting easier as it’s getting simpler each time.

I’ll have some playing to do, but luckily I’ll have a monthlong venue to try them out!

Show I Don’t Want To Support…

Now that my state is opening up for live entertainment, it looks like Andy Gross will be performing in my area. If you don’t remember who he is, a couple of years ago he was performing at a college and was accused of sexually harassing a student on stage. At the time it made huge national news.

You can read about it here:

https://www.newsweek.com/what-did-andy-gross-do-hundreds-purdue-students-walk-out-comedian-show-1080203

Or you can watch it here:

He crossed the line in my opinion when he said, “…I got a free feel out of it“. Well, he crossed the line before that with the routine he did. He basically stole the routine David Copperfield who did it in the 1990’s with the Cardiographic trick on one of his TV specials. Also if you look at his promo pic in the ad for the show, it’s not the only trick he’s swiped from David Copperfield.

Why was it OK for Copperfield to do it and not Andy Gross? The main thing is where the world is/was when it was done. Copperfield did it in the mid 1990’s about 25 years ago. The world was a very different place back then. That doesn’t make it right, but it does make it socially acceptable. Just like 25 years ago you could smoke in a park on a bench while your kids are playing at the playground. It wasn’t right 25 years ago, but it was socially acceptable. I remember when I was in high school in the mid 1990’s there were schools with their proms being cancelled because an interracial couple or a gay couple was going to attend and rather than let them go, they simply cancelled the whole thing…and the community supported them. It wasn’t right then, however it was socially acceptable. This is also part of the plot of the Netflix Movie The Prom.

Things change.

You have to be able to change with the times. Unfortunately most performers don’t reassess their shows to look for things that have hit their expiration date…which Andy Gross clearly hadn’t done.

Here’s my conundrum. I’m curious what he does in his show…but I also don’t want to support him. I don’t want to support people who swipe material.

Not sure what I’ll do…



Using Projection…

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about using projection in my stage show. I’ve been looking at how other magicians and performers are using it. It’s something that can make a lot of difference in how visible something is. For magicians, David Copperfield was the first that I was aware of to use in it … Continue reading “Using Projection…”

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about using projection in my stage show. I’ve been looking at how other magicians and performers are using it. It’s something that can make a lot of difference in how visible something is. For magicians, David Copperfield was the first that I was aware of to use in it his four ace routine. Currently using video is pretty common.


The best use of video that I’ve seen so far is Darren Brown in his Broadway show Secrets. Most people when it’s used, it feels like you are either watching the screen or watching the performer. When Darren did it, it felt like your attention wasn’t torn between two places. You were watching him perform and the video enhanced it.


That’s what I’m going for, using video to enhance what’s happening. Projection would be used for showing the signature of a card, but not the whole card trick. I think when the action happens on the table and the only way you can watch it is through the screen, then it stops enhancing the live show and becomes the audience watching TV.

Three Step Process…

In the last 10 days I’ve been at two booking conferences and I’ve seen a ton of acts! Some I’ve seen more than once, but for the most part I got to see a huge variety of what’s out there. One thing I’ve noticed with newer performers is that they don’t know how to sell … Continue reading “Three Step Process…”

In the last 10 days I’ve been at two booking conferences and I’ve seen a ton of acts! Some I’ve seen more than once, but for the most part I got to see a huge variety of what’s out there. One thing I’ve noticed with newer performers is that they don’t know how to sell a trick or stunt.


It’s a simple three step process. First you tell them what you are going to do. Next you do what you just told them you were going to do. Finally you tell them what you just did.


I know one of the classic rules of magic is that you aren’t supposed to tell people what you are going to do before you do it, so that they can’t “catch you”. This is totally BS, it’s good advice is the trick is bad, but not for doing the trick.

A great example is when David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear.

When he did this, we all knew what was going to happen. That allowed the trick to have much greater impact than if he just raised the curtain without context and dropped it and the statue was gone.


Just remember the three step formula and you’re good to go!

The Last Laugh…

One of the things that drives me nuts on facebook groups of magicians is when they get upset about common jokes that audience member have. Things like, “make my wife disappear“, “can you make me lose weight” or whatever. I’m not sure why it drives magicians so crazy to hear this. Sure they hear it … Continue reading “The Last Laugh…”

One of the things that drives me nuts on facebook groups of magicians is when they get upset about common jokes that audience member have. Things like, “make my wife disappear“, “can you make me lose weight” or whatever.


I’m not sure why it drives magicians so crazy to hear this. Sure they hear it all the time, but these are the same magicians that use stock line, which is essentially the same thing these people are doing, but they actually had an original thought (to them). My guess is that the magicians are very insecure and that if someone gets a bigger laugh than them it diminishes their act/show.


A while ago I was having dinner with a pretty successful comedy magician and we were talking about giving away big laughs to audience members. I’m for it, he’s against it. His thinking was that the audience will remember the person onstage getting the laugh, and not consider it your laugh. My thinking is that the show is getting the laugh, and it’s part of the whole show.


The beauty of a live show is anything can happen, and by setting up people from the audience to get big laughs, it feels unplanned. How you respond then counts as well. If you are setting them up for the laugh, then you also know what your response will be. Sometimes your response isn’t a joke, it’s a reaction to their joke, letting the “win”.


David Copperfield used to do a great bit where someone asked him how a trick worked. David told the person, “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you” and the person form the audience said, “tell my wife!” That’s was a huge laugh, that he’s setting up and giving away. My point is that you should try to not be a selfish performer and let the person get the laugh.