Archive for April, 2008

You’re Invited: Magic Castle Close-Up April 25-26

castle to use

For any readers who happen to live in California, I’ll be performing in the Close-Up Room of the Magic Castle for two nights only this weekend. I’d love to have you come and see the show.

I have some space on my guest list Saturday Night. If you’d like to attend, drop me a comment and I’ll put you on the list. If you choose to come Saturday, I may well be able to waive the cover charge for a number of   readers. If you’re thinking of attending, be sure to follow the dress code – the club won’t let you in if you don’t!

If you live out of the area, I completely understand!

Hope to see you there,



Performance Terror Revisited: Shine a Light!


If you get a chance to go see the new Rolling Stones movie directed by Martin Scorcese, get out and do it. If you have any interest in performing magic before a live paying audience, you’ll find this film quite illuminating.

Besides seeing the band in a way never possible before, you’ll get to watch Mick, Keith, Ronnie, Charlie and Martin preparing for a long evening’s work.

Pay close attention to the sound check and presidential meet and greet. Mick is so uncomfortable about the number of cameras onstage and in the crowd, he can’t help mentioning it to Bill Clinton. Jagger worries that so many cameras will ruin the energy of the crowd. Bill isn’t worried about the cameras. Bill doesn’t have to rock. He’s only the MC.


The Hollywood Bowl: As you can see, it’s really too intimate for the Stones


Why is Mick worried?

The Beacon theatre is TINY by Rolling Stones standards – 2800 seats. I’ve seen the Stones play big rooms, like RFK Stadium in D.C., and relatively intimate rooms like the Hollywood Bowl, with only 20 something thousand seats.  For the Rolling Stones, playing the Beacon Theatre is like Copperfield playing the close-up room at the Magic Castle.

Mick Jagger really doesn’t need to worry about whether he’ll get a strong reaction in a 3,000 seat venue. But like any entertainer who cares about his work, he frets about any little thing that can spoil the crowd – even a little crowd.

And that’s just one of the things you can learn from watching this intimate film about one of the least intimate bands of all time.

Try and see the film in IMAX if you can. Much will be lost on a little screen.  And as Scorsese suggests at the beginning of his first great rock and roll film The Last Waltz, make sure you watch this  movie LOUD!

Your Turn

What did YOU get out of Shine the Light?  Go see it, then let me know!

Strike Change: This will Help you Palm Cards

FISM 2003As many of you know, the One-on-One section of site offers inexpensive downloads from myself, Lee Asher and other talented magicians. I recently released my Strike Change, which originally appeared in my FISM 2003 booklet. There are many visual pieces of magic in that volume. If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you take a look. If you like the Strike Change, the magic in the FISM notes will make you VERY happy. End Plug.

Even if you don’t have the Strike Change download, you will find this post helpful. Click the Strike Change link, and then find Strike Change on the One on One menu. Watch it to see what we’re talking about, then join the conversation!

On Palming Cards: Do you have ‘windows’ ?

I received an email today from someone working on the Strike Change. He’s experiencing a common problem – when he holds his fingers together, small gaps remains between them. Here’s what I wrote to him.

Regarding the spaces between your fingers, it sounds like you have ‘windows’. The good news is this is a common problem. It can almost always be solved. It just takes time – and a little effort.

The question is this:

Can you hold your fingers together in a way that shuts the windows?

You may find that you CAN get rid of the windows, but it causes tension, or pain, to do so. That’s great news – it means you’ll ultimately be able to palm cards beautifully and invisibly.

You indicated in your email that the windows only appear when you relax your grip. That means you CAN hold your fingers together – just not in a way you’re comfortable with. That means you just need practice. Just stick with it. Eventually, you’ll be able to hold your your fingers together without strain.


Serious tip: Consider getting a hand exercise squeeze toy.When your hands are stronger, you won’t need to relax your grip to eliminate tension. Get something like this.

What if I STILL can’t close the windows?

You may be in the small group of card men that truly can’t shut their windows. Have no fear. You’ll still be able to palm cards deceptively. The audience will never STARE at your hands, ideally, when cards are palmed. They won’t be thinking about windows. Neither should you.

Back in the days of magic stores, magicians often discovered the concept of ‘psychological invisibility’ in much the same way. The young magician buys a thumb tip. He goes home, practices for a few minutes, and sees that it his new trick will NEVER be successful. He goes back to the store and complains. The wise demo man behind the counter offers to show the young magician another trick. He makes a silk disappear. He shows his hands unmistakably empty. The kid freaks out. He begs to know the secret. The demo man slowly moves to his hand, which has never left view, and removes his thumb tip. The youngster sees the light.

Sometimes we need invisible means. But many times, we use methods that are psychologically invisible. One of the great card men of the last century, Max Malini, was known to have hands so small he could only conceal half a card. But his reputation for palming was unmatched in all the world.

You have the advantage

If you have small hands or unusually thin fingers, or even rough or indelicate looking hands, they work in your favor. No one will ever suspect hands like that of concealing cards. Malini was a great palmer, but why do we consider him the best? Because his hands were so small. His spectators never suspected him.

With regard to color changes like the Strike Change or the side-steal, your windows will not stop you. If you palm the cards naturally and comfortable at your side, the spectator will only focus on the hand only as it comes over the deck to deposit it’s card on the face. The the audience, the card will seem to change before you spread your fingers. Why fight it? To the spectator, the windows make the change look better!

Your Turn

If you’re working on the Strike Change, or any of my other One on One downloads, I want you to succeed. If you have any questions, make them as specific as you can, and send them to me. I’ll answer them in a further blog post!

Secret Pictures from the Batcave: Make your Magic One of a Kind!

Recently I found myself in a top secret design facility. Actually, I was in the workshop of a serious prop builder in Van Nuys. This is the kind of guy that can, and does, build Klingon spaceships. Not fan model kits either. He builds the real props for the real shows. When he makes the Enterprise, he really makes the Enterprise.

While we were waiting for my new &#*@!? to come out of the oven, he showed me some priceless antiques on loan to him for the purposes of making collector’s replicas. Here they are!

This is a communicator from the original Star Trek series. I learned that the owner of this piece recently turned down 100,000 dollars for it. Got to love the millionaire Trekkers!

Notice the wild blinking lights and gizmos on this special tricorder prop from The Next Generation series (blechhhh!). Again, this one was actually used a bunch in the show.

My builder genius, who we’ll call Q, informed me that virtually all the weird props we see on screen are hollow plastic shells with no lights or insides, like the communicator in the first photo. The prop department makes just one fully rigged model for each type of prop, so they can use it for the occasional close-up. Movie folks call this fully tricked out model The Hero. Unlike the communicator, The Hero was heavy in my hands. I’m sure it was because off all the dilithium inside.

Your Turn

Think carefully – How happy are you with your store bought props? Let me know. I think we may find an area here where many of us have similar experiences. I’ll read all your comments pronto!

Secrets you can’t find on the Internet

There are some secrets you can still only learn in person.

The technological advancements of the last twenty years have made it easier than ever to connect with magicians from around around the globe. Thanks to Internet magic dealers, web communities and, you can begin an  effective apprenticeship in magic without ever stepping foot inside a genuine retail magic store.

And that’s a shame, because even in the information age, you still need access to a real magic store if you want to become a great magician.


denny and me

Denny Haney: Backstage with me last week at The Magic Castle

The first night I walked into the Denny & Lee Magic Studio, I didn’t leave until four am. In that store I met the real pros and heard their real stories about life in  magic. Thanks in large part to Denny and his shop, I found a career in magic. 


If you want to be a great magician – find a real magic shop

There are guys out there who can paint the oral history of magic for you like no book can. They can tell you the real stories behind the names and faces you find in the books on the shelves.

For the most part, the real old timers aren’t with us anymore. But luckily, most of them had students and friends – magicians who’ve heard the tales and love to share them.

Most of these guys don’t blog. And they don’t hang out on  the magic cafe. The only way to find these magicians is to go to the clubhouse – the magic shop. If you go in and hang out long enough, you’ll eventually bump into people who can show you the mysteries you seek.

Find your store! 

But first you have to find a magic store. And not just any magic store will do. To take advantage of the advice in this post, you’ll need a great magic store. And in the age of the Internet, real shops with good stock and a solid sense of community can be hard to find. In fact, most of you will have to travel some distance to find a shop you can count on.  

Below follows a list of my three favorite magic stores in the country. I’ve listed one on each coast and another in the center of the country

Pick any one of these stores and become a genuine, in store customer. In the process, you may find more than a shop – you just might find a community where you belong. 

Each on of these shops has a strong web presence. But remember, for optimum results, you’ll have to walk through the front door. 

Many readers submitted info on their favorite shops – you can read their comments here.

Three Great Shops

Denny & Lee Magic Studio

Midwest Magic

Grand Illusions

Wayne Houchin at The Magic Castle

New Image

Hanging with Houchin in the real world Monday night at the Magic Castle

My friend Wayne Houchin performed for the first time last week at the Magic Castle.  He spent the week proving that as good as magic can look on the Internet, it’s no substitute for the live experience.

Wayne grew up going to Grand Illusions, a great shop run by Steve Johnson in Sacramento, California. In fact, almost every great magician I know spent some time in a real magic shop along the way.

I need a good magic shop. Can you help?

Real magic stores are a rare thing in this day and age. Have you ever seen one? If so, tell us about it. What is YOUR favorite magic store. Tell us where it is and what experiences you’ve had there that make it special.  I’m working on my own list – in the mean time, tell us what YOU think.