Click to enlarge
Magic Magazine August 2008
Cover: Footnotes From The Overground
Writing a profile of Daniel Garcia is a daunting task. How can an author capture, in one article, the creative history and thinking of a magician who has become so well regarded in his field? Ricky Smith opted for a simple approach, in which less is more. In fact, the entire story is only eight words. Of course, there two quite extensive footnotes!
Daniel Garcia1 is a master of the overground2.
America’s Got Schadenfreude
America’s Got Talent, currently in the middle of its third season on NBC, has become one of the few places where variety acts can be seen on television. With the taped preliminary rounds being aired in June, and the finals to be broadcast live later in the summer, audiences have been given glimpses of magicians, singers, dancers, oddities, eccentrics, and all manner of other folk who brave the stage. But is this always a good thing?
As in most “reality” series, the TV producers can mold audience opinion of the acts by how they present them to the viewing public. On the second episode of the current season, several magic acts were grouped together for what the producers felt was maximum entertainment value; this particular magic segment can be seen on the NBC website, where it appears under the heading “Magicians that are so bad you won’t believe your eyes.” Yes, reality TV proves that viewers really do love schadenfreude — taking pleasure in viewing the troubles of someone else.
Performers included in the magic segment were Dan Stapleton (dove act), Dorian (cards from mouth), Dennis Keith (levitation gag), Becky Blaney (comedy Linking Rings), and Bizzaro (setting fire to clothing and shooting out flames). The Pendragons followed, presenting their Sub Trunk — finally, a magic act the judges found worthy of passing through to the next round.
But were the acts that preceded The Pendragons really all that bad? Or had “reality” gone askew? We asked three of the participants — Dan Stapleton, Becky Blaney, and Bizaaro — to comment on their AGT experience…
In His Words: Brett Daniels
By Stan Allen
Growing up in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Brett Daniels started doing magic at age fourteen. He began hanging around the local magic shop and studying sleight of hand from the books of Vernon and Slydini. Seeing Shimada on television drove him to focus on stage magic with cards and birds; further TV viewings of Henning and Siegfried & Roy pushed Brett toward large illusions. Over the years, his act evolved through work in amusement parks, cruise ships, and casino revues. With his card manipulations, parrot productions, Zombie routine, and the midair appearance of a levitating woman, Brett won the World Challenge Stage Competition at the Desert Magic Seminar in 1994.
Having performed on all but one of the World’s Greatest Magic television specials, at the end of 1997 Brett premiered his show Magic & Beyond at the Gold Strike Hotel & Casino in Mississippi. Subsequent shows — Magique and Journey Into the Unknown — kept Daniels at the casino for the next three years, after which he made two tours of China and played two seasons in Branson, Missouri.
Brett next turned his energies to Wohscigam, a theatrical stage show that weaves a murder-mystery plot around the magic, with a focus on Brett’s sleight-of-hand skills. The production debuted in Wisconsin in April 2007. One full year later, Brett opened the show at the Sahara in Las Vegas. It was an ill-fated engagement, the show failing to find an audience in its afternoon slot and encountering insurmountable production problems. Wohscigam closed after just five weeks, a devastating, potentially career-ending disaster.
On June 20 of this year, Stan sat down with Brett in Las Vegas to learn just what can happen in Vegas, what doesn’t stay in Vegas, and how it can all have a happy ending….
Angela Funovits – Twenty Year-Old Phenomenon
By Mark Paskell
Pardon the pun, but there is a performer on the mentalist scene whose rise to prominence has been nothing short of phenomenal. From being chosen as the only woman contestant (and youngest, to boot) on the NBC television show Phenomenon, through clinching the First Runner-Up prize, to follow-up shows around the globe, Angela Funovits has gradually been gaining attention in the magic world — not only as a rarely-seen female performer, but also an original mind-bending mentalist. And through it all she has kept her sense of reality in check, letting herself be guided by a balance of strong common sense and her passion and burning curiosity for the magical arts….
The Man Who Made Ice Famous
By David Ben
Frank Van Hoven (1886–1929) is considered the prototype of the modern comedy magician. He was perhaps the first magician to adopt this billing, advertising himself at one time as “The Great Van Hoven, Comedy Magician.” There is little information in the published record, however, about exactly what he did or why he was considered to be so funny.
In late 2007, I acquired from Rene Johnson 65 boxes of notes, tapes, correspondence, and ephemera that belonged to her late husband, Sid Lorraine. Born in 1905, Sid was a gifted visual artist, photographer, writer, historian, humorist, and performer. He was also a confidant of most major performers and creators of magic in the twentieth century.
In the fall of 1985, Peter Isaacs, a young and talented Toronto-based performer and show-business historian, began a series of interviews with Sid. Sid was a walking encyclopedia of magic and showbiz lore, and Peter’s goal was to write Sid’s memoirs. Sadly, Peter Isaacs passed away suddenly, at the age of 35, in May of 1986. Although the memoir project was left incomplete, Isaacs had recorded and transcribed dozens of hours of his interviews with Sid. Fortunately, thanks to Rene Johnson, these audiotapes and transcripts have now resurfaced, 22 years later.
On March 13, 1986, Sid and Peter spoke about Frank Van Hoven. What follows is an edited excerpt from that session, through which we receive a rare glimpse of this pioneering comedic conjurer….
The Olympic Rings
By Patrick Martin
Patrick Martin has entertained athletes in the Olympic Villages, as well as at key events for the International Olympic Committee, since first being invited to perform at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. To celebrate the world magically joining in the spirit of peace during the games this summer in Beijing, Patrick shares the climactic Olympic Rings pattern featured in his Linking Rings routine.
A young woman, who goes as Scarlett the Deceiver, has landed her own seventy-minute show in Las Vegas, while Peter Gossamer, teaming up with Carol Maccri, plays the Silver Dollar City Opera House in Branson. The SAM Hall of Fame & Museum has been shut down since December 2004, due to chemical contamination, and now an LA judge has ruled against the Hall in its attempt to get retribution to fund the enormous clean-up job. Meanwhile, Cirque/Criss Angel in Las Vegas has pushed previews back at the Luxor to September 12.
Seventeen products are covered this month by Gabe Fajuri, Michael Claxton, Peter Duffie, Jason England, Brad Henderson, and David Kaye.
• Postmentalism by Alvo Stockman
• Touch Tricks Volume 1 from TouchTricks
• Trilogy by Brian Caswell
• The Ultimate Work by Tony Giorgio
• Fast Company by Damian Nieman
• Wizard Boy, Fairy Tale Rabbit House, Man in the Moon,
Magical Cats Family from UMSI
• My Precious by Haim Goldberg
• Approaching Magic by David Regal
• VDP by John van der Put
• Poor Man’s Card Through Window by Geoff Weber
• Casino Cut Card DVD by Thom Peterson
• The Keeper Card Book by Paul Gordon and Tom Craven
• The Cardiste by Rusduck
• The Sheets Stack from School for Scoundrels
Talk About Tricks
Daniel Garcia One Man Issue
Daniel Garcia’s approach to magic is refreshingly different; he has a distinctive style both in how he performs and in the effects he creates. There’s also much to admire about Daniel’s technical abilities; he has an elegant touch that is smooth but not flashy. This month, he is featured on the cover of our magazine, and I’m pleased to present a few of his newest favorite effects.
Daniel was, for a time, the poster boy for Ellusionist, and this gave him wide exposure to legions of young magicians with street magic almost exclusively on the brain. But in my estimation, Daniel remains underexposed to many working close-up magicians, and he has much to offer….
Turn It Around
Here’s a quiz. What makes Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd such a great album?
a) the music and lyrics are timeless
b) the cover art looks great on my dorm room door
c) if you play the album and watch The Wizard of Oz at the same time, it will blow your mind
d) all of the above
The answer, of course, is d) all of the above.
But there is another quality of Dark Side of the Moon that interests me at the moment: All of the songs blend into one another. One song flows smoothly into the next. This is meaningful because that’s how some magicians design their acts, so each effect blends seamlessly into the next. My favorite example of this is Vito Lupo. He performs a quick succession of transformations that come so fast you can’t even catch your breath. He starts this sequence by blowing a soap bubble filled with smoke. He bounces the swirling white bubble on his gloved hand. Suddenly, the white soap bubble changes into a white bouncing ball. He bounces the ball on the floor. Then he slaps the ball against his lapel and flattens it into a white circle. This white circle is peeled off his lapel and then stretched. The stretched circle is inflated, and we realize that the circle has changed into a white balloon. After inflating the balloon, he allows it to deflate. As the balloon empties of air, it turns into a 36-inch white silk handkerchief.
We see this seamless blending of effects mostly in silent manipulation acts. Stage acts, close-up acts, and kid shows usually have tricks that begin and end with applause. The effects are self-contained units. Wheel the boxes on, wheel the boxes off. Put away the cards, take out the coins. But maybe we can design our kid shows so that the effects do blend together seamlessly.
How can we link two effects together so there is no beginning or end? I have six ways to do this….
Seeing The Dark by Robert Neale
The fifth and last shadow has a forbidding label: metaphysical. Seeing the dark metaphysically means exposing the ambiguity of reality. It raises doubt and uncertainty about the reliability of our understanding. For example, there is a simple question: Am I awake or am I dreaming? Have you ever had a nightmare, awakened from it, only to have it linger on in image and mood? It is scary. To dream while awake and be totally caught by it is to become psychotic. What is real? Can I trust my experience? Has the world gone mad or have I? The horror writer in this category maintains the pretense of everyday reality only to annihilate it, leaving us with a suspicion of another world in which we are imprisoned. Such metaphysical doubt gives rise to awe and wonder. For me the tales of Kafka and Borges, and some of the parables of Jesus too, serve this function. We all construct our worlds and do not care to have them destroyed, or even to have them questioned or, even worse, to be reminded of the fact that we made them up ourselves. “Does it all make sense?” we cry into the darkness. And the darkness echoes back, “Maybe not.” Radical doubt is nearly impossible in daily life, somewhat feasible in the intellectual life of philosophy, but more sustainable for moments in the fantasy presented by magic.
Here is a weird tale that I tell exactly as it was written by Deniil Kharms….
Thinx – Max Maven
“Our lives are filled with choices, which in turn fall into many categories. This evening, we shall explore five different types.
“For this, we’ll use this pack of cards. But, they’re not playing cards. Rather, as you can see, on the face of each card is a graphic image. Some are simple designs or geometric shapes; others are pictorial. Each is different.
“The first type of decision we’ll employ is the Random Choice. We’ll shuffle the pack, and now set it face down in front of you, sir. I’ll turn away, and you give the deck a complete cut. You may cut anywhere — high, low, or dead center. As the cards are mixed, wherever you cut will yield a random location.
“Done? Fine. Remove the top three cards from the deck, and set them aside. Place the remainder of the pack back inside the card box.
“Now, pick up the three random cards you set aside, and hold them so that only you can see their faces. Examine the designs carefully, because you are going to make an Emotional Choice. Decide which of the images most appeals to you, for whatever reason, and place that card inside your pocket.
“Done? Okay, hand the remaining pair of cards to someone else. Has someone got them? Okay, young lady; yours will be an Intellectual Choice. Hold those two cards so that only you can see the faces. Study the images, and decide which one is more complicated. Place that card in your pocket.
“This leaves a single card, and I’d like you to hand that card to any other member of the group. Does someone have it? Thank you, sir. You can look at the image on your card. You have made a Passive Choice — you didn’t actually choose anything, but you ended up with this image due to the detritus of deliberate choices made by others. Place that card in your pocket.
“I shall now turn around. The materials are all out of sight; there’s a card in your pocket, one in yours, and one in yours. The rest of the pack is put away inside its case. This brings me to the fifth type of choice, the Moral Choice: Should I continue to inflict this routine on the audience, or should I simply stop now...? I choose to continue!”
And with that, the performer is able to name the design in each participant’s pocket….
The Show Doctor - Jeff McBride
Dear Show Doctor: “I have a very bad sweating problem when I perform. I have also seen you perform, and it seems as if sometimes you have the same thing happen to you. At times it’s so bad I can’t even hold onto the props I need for my performance. Do you have any tips that may help?”
This is a very sticky situation. Many performers, like you, suffer from leaky skin. Not to worry. A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to be the opening act for one of my favorite comedians, George Carlin. I found a bit of humor and some hidden wisdom in one of his famous lines….
The Theory And Art Of Magic – Lawrence Hass
Welcome back to the last day of “magic class”! It seems as though we just got started, and here it is, “summer vacation” already.