The Magic Classic – Chinese Linking Rings

What magician doesn’t have a set of linking rings in his or her arsenal of tricks. They come in all sizes, all price ranges, all qualities. The standard set consists of 8 rings that link and unlink. It can be performed silently, to music or talking. It can be serious or funny. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, if done properly, even if you know how its done, its amazing.  Properly is the operative word here.

I know I’ve told this story before and I’m going to tell it again, just to prove my point. Many years ago Jeff McBride was booked at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal for 6 months. Of course all the Montreal magicians went to see his show, which was great, by the way. Then they’d come to the shop and want to buy a set of rings like Jeff McBride had. So we pointed to the set on the wall, and they would say, “No, no. Not those. He had special ones.” And I’d say. “Yes, yes, those are the ones.”, and they’d say, “No, it’s impossible to do the things he did with those ordinary linking rings.”

Then one Saturday morning (we were opened Saturdays all day back then and all the magicians would hang out at the shop) who walked in? Jeff McBride. There was a whole lot of excitement. I took down the rings and handed them to Jeff and asked if he would be so kind as to perform what he does in the show for the magicians. He took the rings and performed his ring act, as the magicians watched with dropped jaws!

There are all kinds of rings and performers. ShootOne that made my jaw drop when I saw it was Shoot Ogawa. In this routine he uses 4 small rings and performed closed up. All I can say is UNBELIEVABLE! I don’t use the term lightly. When they first came out they sold for $45.75 Canadian and they went like hotcakes. Now Shin Lim is all the rage, then it was Shoot Ogawa, and for good reason. It just so happens the Shoot Ogawa Rings are on our “Specials” so if you don’t have them, it’s a great buy! If you do have them, dust them off and use them. Practice first!

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Magic Comeraderie

Who has a better time than seasoned magicians when they get together. I say seasoned rather than old, because its a nicer word and I don’t consider the 4 magicians who spent 3 hours here this morning old. One Phil had met before…Steve Beam, from Cary, North Carolina. The others were Devin Lushbaugh from Raleigh, North Carolina; Bob Macey from Lakeland, Florida; and Gary Morton form Leavittsburg, Ohio. They had come to Montreal for the Magic Collectors Week-End which took place this past week-end in downtown Montreal at the Delta Hotel in conjunction with the McCord Museum of McGill University.

Unfortunately  STeve Beam 2Phil and I couldn’t make it to the week-end, but the guys came up to visit us at the shop. It was a blast. Sorry Julie, but they said their visit here was the highlight of the week-end.

What makes it so much fun is that when you’ve been around as long as we have you know a lot of people and they know the same people. It’s the stories that are told that kept us talking and laughing and they even found stuff to buy. My book shelf has considerably less stock. Everyone was happy!

Hans Zahn from Newfoundland was here Saturday afternoon. He lectured at the convention. Does anyone remember him? We went out for diner with him and his lovely girlfriend and he got his fix of Montreal smoked meat at Lester’s. (not to mention Phil’s fix). A good time was had by all!

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What do Magic Bottles Do?

What’s in a Magic Bottle? It’s not a Genie, as you may have thought. So what do magic bottles do?  They Multiply. Anyone who has a set of Multiplying bottles will tell you what a great effect it is.10 Mult. bottles

When Phil used to have a magic show, he used Multiplying Bottles as his closer. He always got a great response.

Two tubes, (his were cardboard, he thinks they were Mephisto Magic’s), lift up one tube, there’s a bottle of Champagne, put the tube back over the bottle and lift the other tube, there’s a shot glass. Repeat that action, and somehow the bottle and glass changed places, Colored Martini bottlesrepeat it again, and now there are two bottles, cover the bottles with the tubes, takes one of the bottles and put it on the table, but the bottles keep on mulitplying until your table is covered with bottles. You pick up the two tubes. You are left with a bottle and a shot glass. You pour a drink from the bottle into the glass, take a drink and whew! It’s over. Always gets a good reaction.

Phil produced 8 bottles. Then they came up with nine and ten bottles. And now they came out with different coloured bottles, and also Multiplying Bottles Multi (with the Ketchup Bottle. Of course they range in price from from around $150.00 to $900.00 Canadian dollars.

9 bottles Mult bottles w ketchupMartini BottlesOf course there are books and videos  and downloads if you want them. They are easy to do. Packs small, plays big. What more could you want?

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Make ‘Em Laugh

Everybody loves to laugh. I don’t know about you, but I can watch a comedy show, enjoy it thoroughly and not laugh. But sometimes something is said or done and I can’t help myself and burst out laughing hysterically. I love that feeling. I love whatever happened and I smile or laugh again just thinking about it.

Now  a magic show is not a comedy show, but it can be funny. When people go to a magic show, they want to see magic. Will they be impressed when they see how well you handle a deck of cards, the amazing way you can cut them, shuffle them spring them? Yes, they will be. Will it make them feel wonderful and happy? Maybe not so much, maybe envious, maybe awed, surely impressed but not laughing unless you find a way to insert something funny into all those marvellous moves. Then the envy and awe goes away and they walk away saying, ” He or she was terrific!” It made them feel good. They laughed.

Even the most serious situation are enjoyed the most when laughter is involved. Serious and laughter don’t seem to go together but they do. When you call for a volunteer, and then wheel out your head or arm guillotine, that’s serious. But of course the whole thing is in the jokes that go with it, like putting on you blood stained doctor coat, and taking out the instruction book and asking if they have insurance, etc. Sheer luck

Even the serious business of mentalism can be funny. At a local family show 2 weeks ago, Jodi Mihaly did a mental routine. I believe it was Sean Farquar’s “Sheer Luck” and everyone in the audience knows how it’s done, but not the volunteer, and its funny, and in the end the audience is fooled too, so we had the fun and the moment of awe. So put some humour in your act! Keep ‘Em Laughing!

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What If David Copperfield Came to See Your Show!

What would you do if you are about to start your performance, the hall is dark, the audience is seated and suddenly out of the corner of your eye, you see David Copperfield take a seat.

Well, it wasn’t David Copperfield who walked into the theatre on Sunday, when Phil was about to perform, but then again, Phil wasn’t performing magic, he was about to give his Ragtime Show for the Cote St. Luc Library on Sunday, the last of 4  as he had been playing once a month since January, when Chris Barillaro and his mom came in. You may be wondering, who is Chris Barillaro. We know Chris since he was a kid, coming in for magic. He’s not a kid anymore, but he’s still into magic, but not professionally. Professionally, he’s in the theatre… actor, music director, pianist, arranger, singer, and he’s the best at whatever he does. ChrisIn the photo he is on the left in Forever Plaid. Click here to get an idea of what this guy is into. He is incredible. So when Phil saw him come in and sit down at the back of the theatre beside me it was the same as it you were performing and saw David Copperfield come in to see your show.

Phil was completely thrown off kilter. He was making mistakes in pieces he knew inside out and backwards. He was a complete wreck. I turned to Chris and said, “This is your fault, you know.” and he laughed and nodded. By the third song Phil had managed to calm himself and Chris and I smiled. You just never know what’s going to happen in a live performance. So how do you think you would act?


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The Magic Script

Many years ago, when we had Eugene Burger do a lecture here, he impressed upon me  and everyone else at that marvellous evening, the importance of a script. Everything has to be thought out, and everything has to have a reason.  It doesn’t have to sound contrived. It could sound spontaneous, it should sound spontaneous, but it shouldn’t be. You have to know what you’re going to say, why you’re saying it,  how to say it and when to say it. As we say  “Timing is everything.”

If you read my last post, you know my 11 year old grandson performed before the public for the first time. He fools around with magic, did a show for his class, but this show was for a paying public. I showed him the  Colour Changing Wreath Trick. He liked it and said he would do it. I didn’t give him any advice, but did go to visit his family and his mother asked him to do the trick for Phil and me.

I never told him about a story.  I had figured it was a trick that could stand by itself. He’s only 11, his first time on stage, just let him do the thing, bow and get off.  You had one nervous grandmother here. But things don’t always happen the way you imagine they would. It didn’t make sense to Jacob, my grandson, that a bag should have a hole in the middle of it. When the earlier version of the trick “Color Symphony” was around, it made sense that the envelope holding the 45 records had  whole in the middle because the records and envelope had holes in the middle, but those are a thing of the past. Kids don’t know what records are these days. Colour Changing Wreath

So Jacob was not comfortable with a hole in the bag so he thought about it and came up with a solution. Instead of calling white wreaths “wreaths” he called them his juggling rings, and even tossed one or two in the air and caught them to prove his point. And he put his rings in the bag and said a man came into his house one day and made a hole in his bag. Then he put a blue silk through the whole and took out one of his rings and it was blue and so on and so forth. He did the whole trick telling what the man did. I don’t know that anyone else would have thought it weird to have a hole in a bag, much less do anything about it, but he did and managed to get a plausible explanation for it. I think that’s part of what Eugene was talking about. By the way, he was asked to come back for the next show, June 11, which is on a Sunday afternoon at the Dollar Cinema at Decarie Square. ( May as well get a little advertising in!)

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First Time On Stage for the Public

How many of you remember going on stage for the first time? Were you a little nervous, a lot nervous? I bet you were. But that was nothing compared to how nervous your mother (and grandmother) were. My grandson, Jacob, age 11, performed for the Masters of Spectacular last night at the Decarie Square Dollar Cinema.

Dan Laxer, who you may know from CJAD, was the guest host and did an excellent job,  Jason Acoca, Ilusionist, made a lady appear, followed by comedian Geoffrey Applebaum who was hilarious and did amazing stuff with his voice, then Jacob Koffler performed Color Changing Wreaths, followed by Magician Jody Mihaly who was sharp, entertaining and had really great hair (you had to be there). He did mentalism and I can usually figure out a method but one effect stumped me completely.

We also had a special guest in the audience. None other than Spidey. We’ve know Spidey since he was a kid. He reminded me that he used to work for Perfect Magic. Now he’s a world renowned hypnotist. These magicians like Spidey and Jody have been around awhile so when Jacob started doing his Colour Changing Wreaths, they knew where he was going with it as it’s like that classic, Silk Serenade or Color Symphony, which is basically the same effect using records.  I know, some of you are thinking, “What are records?” but we old timers know. So Jacob blew them away with his ending, when he thew the 3 separate coloured wreaths into the air and they turned into one giant 3 coloured wreath.Jody Mihali, Jacob Koffler, Phil & Evelyn Matlin, Spidey

Oh, and by the way, Jody, a well seasoned magician, who does a lot of work for private parties and other venues, said that this was his first time performing for the public. He did a great job, even though he got my 9 year old grand daughter up on stage as a volunteer comedian and she gave him a hard time, that little monkey, but he handled it well. He did a fabulous job with 2 Rubiks Cubes and great comedy Book Test Routine. It was the first time I had seen it and would highly recommend it. It had a killer ending. Kudos to you Jody and Jacob!

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Going The Extra Mile For Magic

We live in an age of instant gratification. We don’t like to wait for anything. 3 seconds on for the computer to change programs is 3 seconds too much. Now. We want it now. Nor can we take the time to spell properly. You are is much faster if you write u r. And texting or emailing someone from my iphone is wonderful because it anticipates what I am going to say and give me a choice of 3 words so it practically writes it for me.

I think I once mentioned that someone who bought The Raven came back a few days later and told Phil he couldn’t figure it out. Phil asked him what his problem was and knew it was clearly explained on the DVD.

“Did you watch the DVD?” asked Phil.

“Are you kidding me? It’s an hour long!” was the reply.

Phil told him to go home and watch it. Why do I bring this up now? A new trick came in that Phil wanted to check out. It was a great trick. I watched the instructions too. My first thought was, “That’s a lot of trouble to go through to do a trick.” And then I realized I was one of these instant gratification people. My next thought, believe it or not, was Paul Gertner. Maybe you’re too young to have heard of him. I think he was on “Fool US” but that’s not why I thought of him. Many years ago he won the close-up prize at FISM, if my memory serves me right, for “Ring On Hour Glass”. I saw him lecture once and he showed how he did it. If anyone reading this was at his lecture you’ll know exactly what I mean when I talk about going the extra mile. It was an incredible feat of thinking to plot this out, let alone do it.

So if you buy something because the effect is so strong, and you get it and have to prepare something that’s more involved than you are prepared to take on, think of the end result and get back to it. It will be worth your effort.

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Small Hands? No Excuse for Magicians

I remember watching a famous magician doing card tricks and I commented to Phil how good he was. Phil said yes, but look at the size of his hands. He could  hide an elephant in his palm. So it made sense to me that if your hands were big you had an easier time of it.

That idea was tossed out the window yesterday. A new kid came into the shop with his parents. He walked in holding a deck of cards shuffling and fanning and cascading and doing all kinds of things with those cards while talking about different things. It was like second nature to him. Now when I say a kid, I don’t mean a 12 year old or even a 9 year old. This was a 7 year old kid, and small for his age. I thought he was about 5, which made it all the more unbelievable, small hands, delicate fingers. One of the other customers in the shop was a professional performer and he was blown away as well.

The kid picked up a deck of Phoenix cards and that was all he wanted. The other customer asked him why. He said he finds the quality to be better. He reminded me of a remark that I think Lee Asher made when we were at Sorcerers Safari Magic Camp a few years ago, “A pack of card to these kids is like a cigarette to a convict.”

The kid himself made a remark that he can’t do all the passes because his hands were still too small, so he is aware that his hands will grow and then, Magic World ….Beware!

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Magic Hands

I was in Toronto for the Magic Bash and my back, which has behaved so well for years decided it was time to remind me that I have a back. We were staying at my cousins home in Toronto and as fate would have it, she happens to be an occupational therapist who works with pain related issues and movement disorders related to neurological conditions. 

Her passion is working stroke patients. After a stroke patient has been to rehab in the public system and is told this is as good as its going to get, that’s when she steps in. Her forte is the arm and hand. She has done wonders for many patients, has contributed to books on the subject, had her own clinic and practice for many years and has taught courses to therapists and lectured all over the world. 

I’m happy I didn’t need her services in that area, but she did help my back considerably. She said I need a few treatments but was leaving for Montreal the next  morning so I couldn’t take full advantage of those magic hands, but she did offset a major crisis for me.

If you know someone that has suffered a stroke and wants to improve their mobility and are in the Toronto area, she’s your woman. Her name is Anna Greenblatt and she can be contacted at

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