“The Invisible Piano”

There really is no business like show business. In most businesses you have a service or product to offer. The customer takes it or not. Of course there are problems involved, but nothing like showbiz.

So I’d like to share this experience with you. My husband, Phil, as many of you know, is a ragtime piano player. I’m his agent. So I get him shows. You know what that’s like, being a performer.  My first question always is, “Do you have a piano?” If the answer is “yes” I continue. So a few weeks ago we had a show at a lovely senior residence. We actually played there before, but it has been awhile. I should have seen that the signs were auspicious when we couldn’t find his music vest, which he always wears. It was my fault, of course, as I had the audacity to hang it in the closet. Silly me.

“Where’s my vest?”

“In your closet.”

” No, it’s not. Why did you touch it?”

“Because it was lying around.”

“Well, it’s not in my closet.”

I looked, and couldn’t find it either. Maybe I hung it in another closet. We checked all closets. The thought had crossed my mind that maybe he couldn’t play without his music vest, so I went through his closet again and, lo and behold, there is was. It was hidden as there are no sleeves on a vest. Go figure! But all this took time and so we left later than we normally would have. Was there traffic on the Decarie Expressway? Yes there was. So things were a little tense, but at 10 to the hour, we were there and ready.

When we came in someone was sitting and waiting for us. He said he was the emcee and to follow him. We did and went down a hall with large windows on the side which enabled us to see the large crowd seated and awaiting Phil. We go into a large auditorium and a see a large empty space where I know a piano should have been. Phil and I look at each other, puzzled. The emcee introduces Phil and Phil says, “Where’s the piano?”

The emcee looks at Phil and says, “Piano? It’s in the Church.” So I’m thinking, we’re going to take all these people to the Church.

And Phil says, “It’s really hard to play without a piano.”

So the emcee says “We have an electric piano in there,” pointing to a door. He goes to the door but it’s locked. Now he has to find someone who has a key and its Sunday and the regular staff isn’t there.

Finally, they find someone with the key and the emcee and the key person drag out a canvas duffle bag  which they undo and start setting up the piano, when some gentleman cries out.

“The concert is supposed to start at 3:00 o’clock. It’s 5 past 3.

Phil says to him. It’s only 5 minutes late. I think that’s pretty good considering. By this time the piano is standing on the stand. The emcee says, “There you go.” and starts to walk away.

Phil says, “This is an electric piano. It has to be plugged in. Where are the wires and where’s the peddle and bench?”

Oh, and yes, they said they had a sound system, but they did not have a microphone stand. But Phil always brings his own sound system just in case so he had to set that up. The man who complained about the time was not happy.

At last, everything was set plugged in and set to go. Phil played and they sang and a good time was had by all, except maybe the man who complained.  Only in show biz!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hooked on Magic and a Phone

So if you had to give up your iphone or magic what would it be? This does not come out of the blue. A young man maybe 17 or 18 came into the shop talking on his phone. He asked if he could look around. I said “Of course.” and he kept on talking, only interrupting the conversation to ask if I had a certain trick. I said yes. He kept on talking on his phone. He asked it I could demo it. I said yes. I got the trick, opened the box, took out the cards and he is still talking on the phone.

“Put down your phone!” I said, not in a sweet way.

“I’m putting you on hold.” he said to whoever, and he put down the phone.

I showed him the trick and blew him away. He got back on the phone. When he was ready to make his purchase he got off the phone.

I said, ” I don’t know how we survived. Believe it or not, until I was 7, and we were a family of 6 people, we didn’t have a phone, not even a wall phone. When there was an emergency we would ring our neigbour’s bell and ask is we could use her phone, which was a wall phone. When we moved to N.D.G. we got a phone, but it had a party line, so we couldn’t use it whenever we wanted. And you, young man, can’t take a breath without it.”

“I know. I love my phone.”

 

 

 

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Celebrities and People

As many of you know, Dr. Joe Schwarcz, head of Chemistry and Society at McGill University, my Alma Mater, has a 2 evening Conference sponsored by Lorne Trottier, every year in Montreal. It’s open to the public and its free. Phil and I have been going since it started. Its entertaining as well as educational. The topics are fascinating. This year Dr. Amir Raz from the department of Psychiatry at McGill and Dr. Marla Shapiro, physician, who many of you must have seen on CTV, were his guest speakers.

Dr. Joe, a customer and a friend, always invited us to the meet and greet before the show, where wine and hors d’ouvres were served. It was full of professors, scientists, scholars, and important people. Of course we’re all important, but these were celebrities. It was here several years ago that we had the pleasure of meeting Julie Payette who is now Her Excellency, the Right Honorable Julie Payette, Governor General and Commander in Chief of Canada.

Phil was star-struck when he saw her way back then. Normally shy, he took his courage in hand and went over to her and said, “I just had to meet you. I’m not a doctor or professor or scientist …” and she said, “Don’t tell me what you’re not, tell me what you are.” And Phil said, “I’m Joe Schwarcz’ magic dealer.” “Really? How exciting!” And from there they got into a conversation and we’ve been friends, always happy to see each other and catch up on what each other was doing etc. She was director at the science centre at the Old Port  in Montreal for a while and had magicians there so we had something in common. We usually sat together in reserved seating. Not this year.

We sat in reserved seating but Julie was nowhere in sight until everyone was seated and an announcement was made that Her Excellency, the Right Honorable Julie Payette, Governer General of Canada was entering and everyone stood up and applauded. It was moving. She had an official escort with her.

When she sat down Dr. Joe went on to the stage and started to introduce Dr. Marla when someone came up to him, whispered a few words and stepped away. He went back to speaking and said “It seems I didn’t have the correct protocol. I’m supposed to introduce the Her Excellency The Right Honorable Julie Payette and she is going to say a few words. He continued with  something like “I never thought about introducing her because she comes here every year and I never introduced her before. Just because she’s an astronaut, and plays in a symphony orchestra, and is a super athlete,” and he went on and on about her achievments, “why would I introduce her?” He got a good laugh. He introduced her and she came up and gave a heartwarming speech which I’m sure everyone enjoyed, and then the speakers were called upon and we had a wonderful evening. We did have a chance to speak to her after. As she says “I’m still Julie”!

Julie Payette 3

 

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Phil Matlin, Magic Dealer

When you come to Perfect Magic 99% of the time you will find owner, Phil Matlin at his computer. I will usually get up to welcome you to our home away from home, but most of the time Phil won’t even know you are there. Don’t be offended. He is engrossed in his computer and he isn’t playing games. He usually manages to greet you as well and sometimes even chew the fat as he did yesterday with a customer from Newfoundland. They had a lot to talk about and it was a good break for Phil.

You have no idea what goes into keeping a magic catalog up to date.  Where oh where are those olden days of paper catalogues when every year we would send you an up to date one? Now as soon as Phil is finally through with the new items he is working on, a new batch comes up. Everyday, thanks to the world wide web there are new tricks, new books, new DVDs. But all work and no play makes for Phil a dull day, so I thought I would show you another side of Phil.Zoe and Grandpa

Here he is with his beloved grand dog in the Laurentiens on Lac Noir. Zoe is watching the ducks that kept coming to visit. It was a lovely day, with no computers in mind.

P.S. One of my other grand dogs. One of Brian’s dogs. She’s much bigger than she looks in the photo. He has two Great Pyrenees dogs. Brian and his wife are involved with rescue dogs so if you’re looking for one, let me know.

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Perfect Mates, Magic and Halloween.

Are you ready for the monsters? We were chatting in the car. We had our grandchildren with us. I said how wonderful the weather was. My granddaughter, 9, said she loves the snow, especially the first snow fall. She wished it would snow now. My grandson, 11, said, ” What? You want snow for Halloween?” No, she did not. And here I thought they might be getting too old for Halloween, but it’s that bag of goodies I bet they’re thinking of.

As magicians you have the chance to make it more than just candies, or I might say you have the obligation to make it more. Here’s one. How about asking them if they have a nickel, then turn it into a dime (as in Coin Slide) before their eyes. It will only cost you a nickel. Of course you can also turn it into a quarter, depending on your budget. You can slip them a business card too. Doesn’t hurt. They will remember you long after the candy is gone. If you work with coins there are lots of things you can do. Any quick trick will leave an impression, if you do it right of course! The Sixth Little Finger is eerie enough for Halloween and so is the Creepy Hand and Voodoo  Doll.

For a Halloween party, it’s a whole other ball game. The Zombie Ball comes to mind, and seems to be making a comeback in general, but a Halloween its especially appropriate.

Whatever you do, have fun!

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What’s New, Pussycat? In Magic, Lots!

What’s new? Besides magic, it’s a New Year. We just celebrated the arrival of the year 5778. Jews don’t celebrate the arrival of the new year with whistles and bells (just a ram’s horn). Its a time of reflection and a time to ask forgiveness to anyone we have done wrong to, intentionally or not. Friday evening, September 29th this year, is the start of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a day of fasting and prayer, so of course, Perfect Magic, will be closed this Saturday.

As I think over the past year,  4 events concerning magic stand out for me. My 11 year old grandson performed his first magic show for the public (Masters of Spectacular at Decarie Square). When Ozzie (the organizer of the event) asked me if he would perform, I said, “You’ll have to ask him.” He did, and much to our surprise my grandson accepted the challenge. He’s not the outgoing attention seeking type but he wanted to do it. He put a lot of thought into it and one of the pros in the audience said it was the best routined act in the show, and came to the shop to buy one of the effects that he did.

The second event was the trip to the McCord Museum, having been invited by Joe Culpepper, who gave a children’s magic course at the museum amongst other things. We went to see the final show and toured the Museum. I wrote a blog on that called Magic, Music, and Dance! It was a fabulous day.

Another outstanding day was when Caiden Finch (age 11, I think) performed at the last Masters of  Spectacular at Decarie Square. He had come into the shop about a week before and asked for some tips. He likes cards. We told him no cards. He actually listened. Both Phil and I were absolutely amazed at how professional he was, and how he tied his routines together. Of course we are not taking the credit for it. He went to Sorcerer’s Safari Magic Camp in Ontario. It was a fabulous camp with wonderful instructors. We were there as guests for a week-end once so we know first hand. I even stayed up for a midnight lecture by Steve Valentine, who was unbelievable!

The fourth thing, that really left an impression was a customer who came in to buy effects for a show. We didn’t know him. He told us his name and he was from the West Island but he didn’t fill out the form with his email and phone number, etc. He bought $81.00 worth of stuff. Phil handled the invoice and he paid by credit card. Phil punched in 81 cents instead of $81.00. We only discovered this at the end of the day. Phil looked him up and found his phone number. I said I would call him. Phil said, “No, don’t. He seems like an honest man. I’m sure he will phone us when he sees it.” A month passed. We forgot about it. Then we get a call from him. “My wife was reconciling our charge cards and said, “What’s this all about? You charged something for 81 cents?” And he made it right. Phil told him we knew about it but we also knew he would call us when he found out. It sort of restores one faith in humanity in this crazy world.

I wish you all a healthy, happy, prosperous, and sweet New Year and if you are Jewish, have an easy fast.

 

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Remember Your First Big Show?

Do you remember the first time you performed magic for a big audience you didn’t know?  Of course big is relative. I’ve been doing magic for over 40 years (I must have been 10 at the time.) Just kidding! But I started learning and doing magic in the magic shop demonstrating different tricks when Perfect Magic was born. There was no internet or even VHS videos back then. If the customer wanted to see a demo of John Bannon’s lastest trick, you learnt it and did a demo. None of this running to a computer business.

So there’s a day camp in our building and a really nice guy runs it and we were talking and I offered to do a few tricks as camp would soon be closing. He has up to 60 kids. On one to one I’m okay as I’m used to showing the customers this and that but I never performed for a big bunch of kids, until today. Ages were from 4 to 12.

I had 4 effects with me,  a Magic Coloring Book, An Appearing Flower, Growing Ball Outdone, and a Color Changing Wand.  growing ball outdoneSome of the kids were colouring when I came in and he told them to stop to see the magic show. I took my cue from there and said that I have a colouring book too.  When I first took out the book, before I performed it, one of the kids put his hand up. I was sure he was going to say he saw it before. I asked the kids to put up their hands if they’d been to a magic show. All hands went up. I figured I was in trouble with my colouring book. I told them there are rules about magic they should all know.

1. If you’re at a magic show and know the trick, you never say, “I know how you did it, or I saw it before.”

2. If you buy a magic trick, you don’t tell your friends how it’s done.

3. If your friend is also in magic you can discuss it with that friend as magic is sort of a club.”

Having said that the I proceeded with the Coloring Book. I assure you Houdini would have been thrilled to get the reaction I got. I knew they were in the park earlier, so I asked if they saw any beautiful flowers. Of course they did and I said that I loved flowers too and took out my little empty flower pot. I asked if they thought the flower was beautiful. They sat quietly thinking I was crazy.

“Don’t you see it?”

“No”

“You know why?”

“Because its not there.”

“No, because its invisible. If you want to see it I’ll have touch the flower pot with my magic wand,” and 50 jaws dropped in complete astonishment when the flower appeared and then they all applauded. I started to understand why people perform. It was a good feeling.

I then did the colour changing wand from black to green which also got a great reaction, but the pièce de résistance was the Growing Ball Outdone. I knew it would be, but they were so amazed they jumped up lfrom their seats and ran over to the table to see the little black balls. “How could that happen?” I said they could touch them and they did and passed them to each other and examined them as though it was the most amazing thing they ever saw. Of course I told them they could visit the magic shop and I had visitors not long after.

A good time was had by all, especially me!

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Eugene, You’ll Be With Us Always

Eugene Burger was special, as a magician and as a person. The first and most important memory I have of him was when he came to Montreal to lecture for Magie Montréal. It was many years ago and I was not that into magic at the time, but I went to the lecture to help Phil and Vim Vermeys with registration, etc.  and stayed of course for the lecture.

Anyone at that lecture learned valuable lessons. I don’t rememberphil-eugene-and-tom one trick that he did. It wasn’t about the tricks, it was about performing. Every word was well thought out and had a reason for being there. His jokes were not to get a laugh, which they got, but as he explained, when you laugh you close your eyes for a second and that’s all the time he needed to do what he had to do in front of your eyes.

We got to talking after and I mentioned that I was going to Chicago for a Document Examiners Convention ( in case you didn’t know, I’m a Certified Document Examiner and The World Association of Document Examiners held their Annual Seminars at the Drake Hotel in Chicago.) He asked if Phil was going with me, I said yes and he asked what Phil does while I’m attending the seminars. I said he would find what to do in Chicago.

Guess who was waiting in the lobby of the Drake Hotel when we got there. Yes, Eugene Burger. He invited Phil to lunch, to eat at the restaurant where he did restaurant magic. David Solomon and Phil Wilmarth were also there having lunch with Phil. Phil thinks the name of the restaurant was Biggs but he’s not sure. Eugene said he watched for the Convention in the papers. We had no idea he would be there. Phil had a marvellous time.

Whenever someone asks me about performing I tell them to get Eugene’s book or his DVD and I told him that the last time I saw him, at The Magic Bash on April 1, 2017. He looked wonderful, which is why it came as such a shock to us when we heard the sad news.

Rest in peace.

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Magic, Music and Dance. What Could Be Better?

If you haven’t been to the McCord Museum this summer it’s worth going to. Not your usual museum exhibition. It’s called ILLUSIONS – The Art of Magic and Luc Langevin is the ambassador of the exhibit. It’s the Allan Slaight collection, which was acquired by the McCord with the help of the Emmanuelle Gattuso Foundation.  A tip of the Top Hat to the people who designed it.. Phil and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We were invited by magician Dr. Joe Culpepper, magician, scholar, consultant and friend and customer of Perfect Magic. Before the guided tour, we were treated to a magic show, in a lovely little theatre there, given by the young students, who attended the McCord Museum Camp, Abracadabra, who were guided and taught by Joe and the counsellors. The kids did a great job and they all knew how to take a bow when the applause came.

So what’s the link between magic and music? After the show, and after the exhibit we were headed to the Metro but when we stepped out the side door of the museum, which Joe said was closer to the Metro, lo and behold, there was a beautiful red street piano on a beautifully decorated street.

Joe and his lovely fiancée, Jessamine, and I as well as some passerbys were treated to a spontaneous concert by Phil. Phil plays the kind of music that makes you want to dance and that’s just what Joe and  Jessamine did. We had a delightful afternoon of magic, music and dance! Here’s a sampling.

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The Kid and The Magician

I was really going to title this blog “How Soon We Forget”. People are funny. Especially magicians. Why? I’ve been around a long time (T.G.) so many people that visit the shop came here when they were kids. They used to hang around here all the time. Now with the internet I don’t see them as much. Many have their acts and all the equipment they need for it so they have no reason to come here, unless they want to for old times sake, to chew the proverbial rag, or they broke or lost an item or need a refill for something. It’s always good to see you guys or gals when you come in. That reminds me of that sign I saw in an antique store, “Everyone who passes though our door makes me smile, some on the way in and some on the way out!” But I digress.

Yesterday someone came in who I hadn’t seen for maybe 20 or 25 years but I knew him right away. He used to come here as a kid all the time. He bought something he had lost which he bought way back then. He still lives in Montreal. I said, “We haven’t seen you in so long.” He said, I was a kid then, now I’m married and have 3 children.” I asked how old his children were. He said, 11, 9 and 7 or thereabouts. I asked him how old he was when he came  first came here. He said 11. I asked if he enjoyed coming here. He didn’t have to speak. He looked up, shook  his  head from side to side and closed his eyes, and and he spread his arms out. I asked if his kids had been to a magic shop. He said no. I said if you enjoyed it so much, don’t you think they would? The thought had never even entered his head. “Of course they would and I will bring them here.”

If you’ve been to our shop, you know its not a big fancy place, but every inch is filled with magic. I’ve heard many a kid say, “This is the best store in the whole world.” and I have to laugh. So if you’re a magician and have kids, I know you show them tricks, but give them the thrill of going to a magic shop as they won’t be around forever.

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