Family Friendly Shows (Magic and Related Arts)

evy1There aren’t many shows you can take your kids to without it costing you a fortune. A few months ago one of my customers came to the shop and told me he was putting on 4 shows, one a month, at the Decarie Square Dollar Theatre in Montreal and would we be interested in supporting him in some way. Of course we would. I offered to donate door prizes and Perfect Magic Gift Cards.

This was the first time he did anything like this. I had no idea what the show would be like. I did not expect a David Copperfield or Shim Lim type of show, nor did I get one.

We brought our 2 young grandchildren age 11 and 9  with us. I missed quite a bit of the show as I was having so much pleasure just watching my grandchildren who were literally rolling out of their seats with laughter. (Any grandparent would understand this.) My granddaughter, age 9, volunteered when Marc Trudel was performing. He asked her to come up.  Marc was terrific and funny and she had a ball. When we brought her home, her she went dashing up the stairs to tell her parents she was on stage.

The comedian was hilarious, having trouble keeping blue material out of the show, and making comments about how difficult is was, and that was in itself funny. My kids were laughing away as were we.

The juggler was funny as well. It was more comedy than juggling, although he was a great juggler but it was more for laughs than to show off his skills.

The show opened with two big illusions that my grandson questioned us about intensely as there was “absolutely no place for that girl to be with all those swords and boxes in place.”

We were truly entertained. The kids loved it. All the kids in the audience begged to be volunteers when asked. If the second show is as good as the first we are in for a treat again.

I urge you to go to the show and support them. You’ll enjoy it and so will your family and it won’t break the bank. This could grow into something really big. If you have a special skill like magic, juggling, etc., you should see the show to get an idea of what its about. They are looking for performers as they get different talent each time. Get in on the ground floor as they say. Hope to see you there.

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Getting Audiences for Magic Shows

So you have a magic show coming up. Chances are you were hired by someone either for a company, a birthday party, a school show, a dinner party, a walk around at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah. You probably worked hard to get it. Maybe you have an agent or did the work yourself, but one way or another you managed to get the show. One thing is sure with all of the above, you have a captive audience. You know there will be people there.

There are some brave souls who may be great magicians and have a terrific show and want to rent a hall or theatre and sell tickets and want people to come. That is a whole different ball game. The competition is stiff. Big time. No, not there are another dozen people doing the same thing. You’re competing with cell phones and computers. People are reluctant to leave the comfort of home to see an unknown magician do some tricks. Then the weather may be bad and there may be plays and other things going on in the city. So how do you get an audience? That is the question. I assure you, it takes more work to get the audience than to learn the magic. I don’t care how many years it took you.Audience

Ted Outerbridge and his wife Marion after years of struggling, managed to finally make it. You have to want it really bad and you have to work hard. Ted came to Perfect Magic, like anyone else interested in the art. Now he has a travelling road show, like the performers of years gone by.  He wrote  about it in his his lecture notes. You have to have a strategy. Once you make it, of course it becomes easier. You are known and instead of renting a theatre and taking a chance, you’re hired by the theatre and at least you get paid, whether an audience comes or not.

Phil usually has the captive audiences for his piano gigs. Last week his did his first of four shows at the Cote St. Luc Library. I must tell you that I was worried about attendance. Although the library had flyers and posters but up, I couldn’t help but think, “Who wants to drag themselves out on a cold winter day?” My family and friends were tied up with other things so no one we knew personally was there, although they would normally be there to fill up a few seats, so I did worry. When people started coming in I must say I was relieved.

The theatre was 3/4 filled. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and hopefully will be back with friends. As they say “There’s no business like show business.”

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The Magic Bug

No, it’t not the name of a new trick, although there are tricks in the genre if you’re reading the post because that’s what you were looking for. For you, I’ll name a few as I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed. There’s my favorite, My Pet Boris Magic Spider, which also includes cockroaches in case spiders are not scarey enough for you. It originated with  Jim Pace’s, The Web, which was modernized to be in sync with smart phone users, like there is anyone who isn’t these days. Even I, who hasn’t learned to use a land phone properly (ask Phil) have one. And then there’s the Lady Bug, which is cute rather than scarey and has a lot of appeal. Then there’s the Butterfly Blizzard, if you consider a butterfly a bug, and Woody Aragon’s Bumble Bees to name a few. (How’s that for sneaking in a bit of advertising?)

No, The Magic Bug, is something like the flu. Some people get it and some don’t. And some people get it real bad. It can happen at any age. It depends when you’re exposed to it. I have youngsters who phone me from their cell phones at lunch time, to see if I have the latest effect from Shin Lim. These kids are up to the minute. They know everything. Almost.  Frank Garcia? Jeff McBride? Michael Ammar? These kids  don’t know them but I introduce them because they should know about them and they thank us for it after they’ve bought one of their DVDs. I met many of these kids with the magic bug when I was at Sorcerer’s Safari  Magic Camp in Ontario with Phil a few years ago. I know those kids must be heartbroken to hear that the camp is no more. From 8 to 18 boys and girls, whenever you saw them they had a deck of cards in their hands.  I think it was Lee Asher who said, “A deck of card to these kids are like a pack of cigarettes to prisoners.” They had the bug, the magic bug! These kids were fortunate to have been kids when the camp was there. The magic and the experience did wonders for them. The owners, Jan and Mike Segal, were fantastic and the counsellor’s, many who started off as campers themselves were also bitten by the bug. So if you have to catch a bug, Magic is the one to get but be warned. It stays with you for life!

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Magic Fingers, Magic Hands

We all know what magic fingers can do. They can make a coin vanish or appear into or out of thin air. They can make that coin roll across their fingers effortlessly and then make another one appear. They can make a signed card vanish and miraculously appear stuck on the ceiling. I watched Shim Lim change the colour of a card from blue to red and then change the whole deck to red and then vanish the whole deck. Magic to be sure.

Last night I saw magic fingers and magic hands. Phil had a show, a ragtime show at a senior residence.  He had played there before. It was so packed that the girl in charge had to put chairs in the stage area, behind him. I sat in one of those chairs, directly behind him a few feet away. Usually I sit at the back so I can let him know if the sound is working, etc. This time there wasn’t even standing room. I think it was his best concert ever. The people went wild. Everybody sang and Phil’s hands were flying fast and furious. All I saw was that bass hand going back and forth and he’s not even looking. The man beside me said, look at him go. How does he hit those notes like that? My very own thought, and I hear him play every night at home but I never saw that action before.

Phil is a stickler for time. An hour show is an hour show. Not 55 minutes or 65 minutes. He has it timed perfectly. However he spoke more than usual last night. And it was past the time and he had another two songs to play. When he turned to talk about the next song I caught his eye and pointed to my watch. He was shocked and the people gave me an argument. “We don’t want him to leave. Keep playing!”  And one of the men in the audience called out, “Phil, the last time we had someone that played as well as you, it was you.” Everyone applauded. So he played his last two songs. Of course everyone came over to thank him after. But if you want to talk about magic hands and fingers, it was Phil Matlin last night!

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A Magic Gift

Traditionally, physical gifts come wrapped up in packages. They are placed in a box and wrapped in paper and tied with a bow. Now there are beautiful shopping bags and tissue paper and that is great for people like me who are not adept at wrapping like some people I know.

When people come to the magic shop to buy gifts for their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, etc. I ask them if they are giving the gift personally to these children or are they sending it to them. If they are sending it to them, that’s all there is to it. If they are giving it to them personally, it’s another story.

I tell them to open the trick, even if they have to tear the cardboard and see-through plastic window, if that’s how it is packaged from the manufacturer. I tell them to learn the trick themselves, even if they are not magicians, before giving it to them and perform it for them. Don’t tell them it’s a gift. Just do it and watch their face. Ask them if they would like to be able to do that.  You’d be surprised at the bond you create when you share this special secret with them. Then you give it to them and explain that although they know the trick, they can enjoy the wonder of the people they perform it for.

If they open it and learn it without seeing it performed first, they never really see the magic. They know how it works beforehand. The mystery is gone. They may still appreciate the cleverness of it but have been robbed of that moment of awe.

When buying a gift for a magician, unless they tell you what they want, it’s best, in my opinion, to give them a Gift Card. You don’t know what they already have or what area of magic they are interested in. They too, enjoy the wonder of it. They watch youtube and would love to have this or that but don’t indulge themselves. A Gift Card makes it easy for the giver and the recipient.

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The Small World of Magic

Sometimes I wonder what I will write about and a blog walks into the shop. That’s  exactly what happened yesterday.

A guy came into the shop with a friend. He was from out of town and seemed to know his way around magic. He had phoned in advance to see if we had certain items and we did so he got those items and others that caught his interest.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Phil was on his computer as usual. Not really as usual, as he bought a new computer and he was having a problem with it. It always happens with a new computer it seems. I was making invoices by hand like I did 40 years ago. These were invoices from 40 years ago with our old address on it and I had to hand write everything and figure out the taxes and it took time. So while I’m doing this Phil explains to the guy about his problems with the computer. He looks at Phil and says he looks familiar. Phil had no idea who he could be. Phil asked him where he lived and he said Toronto.james-cielen-mm However he was originally from Winnipeg.  He asked Phil if his second name is Matlin and of course it is.

He said, you lectured in Winnipeg in the 80’s. I was at your lecture and I remember it was really good. He showed Phil a move Phil had taught at that lecture and he says he still uses it today. That’s going back at least 25 years. Phil actually lectured there twice. He was so good the first time, they called him back again. Mel Stover had invited Phil to lecture. Then our visitor and Phil went through all the names of the people they knew in common from Winnipeg. Now Winnipeg is not just around the corner. In addition to Mel, there was Brian Glow, James Cielen, who performed at Magie Montreal in 1989 (see photo), Dr. Joe Koffert, Len Vintus, Bill Brace, Cary Tardi and others. It was amazing. As I said, magic is a small world.

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There’s Mentalism and Then There’s Mentalism

Mentalism leaves an impact when done properly. I always tell my grandkids I can read their minds and they used to believe me. I could always predict when they were going to have a fight. I could see it coming before they did. When I’d tell them I see a fight in the near future they would go out of their way to be nice to each other. Somehow I think they caught on to it.

This may not seem connected, however, being so close to Christmas and Chanukah we get a lot of calls for people buying presents for other people as gifts. They know nothing about magic but have magician friends or family and they know that this is what they would like best. I got a call from someone who wanted to get a gift for an adult relative, and we discussed various items. The other morning someone came in who I didn’t recognize but when he started to talk I thought it was that particular fellow. I said, “Oh, I know who you are.” and he said, “You do?” and I said “Yes” and he said “I can’t believe it. You have a wonderful memory.” which I don’t. At that moment he said he came  to buy something for his son. Not the person I thought it was. For some reason I said, “Your son is 12.” He said, “How could you possibly know that?” I had no idea. He said, “You have no idea how impressed I am that you remembered all that.” It was the first time he was in the shop so I had him fill out the form with his name, etc. I still had no idea who he was. But Phil recognized the name. It was someone we once met some time ago, not connected to magic. I just happened to say his son was 12. How did I know that?  Why did I say it? Maybe I am a mindreader after all.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah!

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The Tree, The Menorah and Tradition

Its that time of year again. We even got a big snow fall to remind us. Until that happens we know Christmas is coming but somehow the rush comes on when that snow falls. It happens this year that Christmas and Chanukah come out on the same day. Christmas is always on the 25th of December but since we Jews are on a Lunar calendar it comes out on different days. Seems we always have to complicate things.

Anyhow, we both have our traditions. Christians have a tree with lights and we have a Menorah with lights. Both can be simple or elaborate. Its the feeling  and history that count. Christians have a traditions of giving gifts to each other. Perhaps that has to do with the 3 wise men bringing gifts. Its our tradition to give children Chanukah Gelt, (money) and I’m not sure where that came from. When my grandchildren were little I used to get them a little gift for each day of Chanukah as I didn’t think they would appreciate money as much as a present. Last year, the girl was 8 and the boy 10, and I went to visit them the first night of Chanukah. I said, “No more presents, you have enough stuff, I got you each a card.” and I gave them each a card.”That’s okay Bubbie. A card is fine.”  They tried to console me. The 8 year old opened hers first and started to read it and a $20.00 bill dropped to the floor. “”Hey, look what fell out of my card.”  The 10 year old opened his card and found the same thing. They were both thrilled. Tradition!

But if you’re into giving gifts, we’ll make your life easy. We have all sorts of stuff for adults and children as well as gift cards. Do come and visit, call or email us. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Chanukah.

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The Problem With Magic Instructions

The problem with magic instructions is that people , especially magicians, don’t read them. Especially if they are written in Chinese or Japanese and you don’t speak either language.  I stand guilty as well. When something comes in from Tenyo, instructions  used to be in English. Now they send an instruction sheet in English along with the item or give you the code for  instructions on line. The item  does come to you with instructions with Asian writing and are extremely well illustrated, so one may be tempted to try to figure it out without actually reading the English instructions. Mistake!

I got a call the other day from a customer who had purchased a Tenyo item from us. He was furious, as he paid a lofty price (some Tenyo items are expensive) and he said it didn’t work. One thing I know about Tenyo is that their magic works. Most of it is excellent. I couldn’t believe it didn’t work. It’s not like this person was a beginner. He’s a pro.

“Did you read the instructions?” I asked.

“Of course. And the first time I showed it to someone, he caught on right away.” was the reply.

He was really upset.

“Calm down. It’s only a magic trick. If it doesn’t work or is so obvious that it can be detected, send it back. But let me check it out  here.” I said.

Of course I gave that job to Phil. So Phil looked at the illustrations and tried to follow them and low and behold he saw that it didn’t work. Then he got the English instructions and read them carefully and followed them step by step. “Aha, now it works.”

I phoned my customer and asked if he was sure he read the instructions. It turns out he didn’t. He thought looking at the illustrations would be sufficient. He called back later, after reading the instructions and apologized. “It works perfectly.” he said.

Phil always said, “When you buy a trick, read the instructions first. See how the trick works and then forget about the instructions and make it your own!” I think that’s pretty good advice!

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That Magic Flame

Do you remember when you were a kid and saw a good magic trick? Something lit up inside of you. Wonder, curiosity, awe, and bewilderment. You saw it. It happened. But  how? Its impossible. Then one day you got a magic set, perhaps for Christmas or a birthday. Some of the secrets were revealed to you, and now you could create that feeling of wonder in others. How powerful is that?

Somewhere along the way you got busy with other things. School, music, whatever. Then you might have been surfing TV and saw Penn and Teller’s Fool Us or America’s Got Talent and that little spark that lit you up all those years ago rekindled. “Hey, I used to do stuff like that? How come I stopped?”

That’s the story of someone that came in the other day to buy magic. He had bought some on line and in Walmart and finally decided it was time to go to a real magic shop. He was delighted to find out that he came in during our 40th Anniversary Sale and would be getting a 20% discount, 10% automatically, another 5% because we had whatever he was buying in stock and another 5% because he came in person. He had started as a young kid and then felt compelled to go back to it. He handled a deck of cards well and felt the difference between a regular Bicycle Deck and the Gold Standard.

The magic flame may have dimmed over the years, smouldering just under the surface, waiting for the right time to come forth and when it does, watch out. The message here is don’t get rid of your magic even if you lose interest from time to time. You never know when that flame will flare up again. It  ofter happens to people who become uncles or grandparents. Has it happened to you?

Another message. Get a child you love a magic trick or kit and light the flame. He or she will never forget you.magic table.jpg

While on the subject we received a new kit with a table. Check it out.

magic-case

 

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