Monthly Archives: April 2011

Magic Wands Gone Wild

The subject of wands has been buzzing around my head since I read an article this month’s issue  of MUM magazine. (MAGIC- UNITY- MIGHT) which is the monthly magazine sent to members of The Society of American Magicians, which also includes Canadians.

So why, when and where did the idea of white tips on magicians wands come into play? Y.R. Layerton, in his column MAGIC Looking Backwards writes a fascinating article on the subject. The bare facts are that it was in Sydney, Australia in 1899 in a Vaudeville Theatre when someone suggested the magician should use bright tips on the end of his stick so that it could be seen when he held it in front of his black tuxedo.

That was probably the first variation of a magic wand – but not the last!

Pick a wand, any wand!

If you click on the blue “wand” above you’ll get a list of about 50 different wands on the Perfect Magic Site. And that list does not exhaust the variety that exists. They come in all colours and sizes from 3 inches to 8 feet. They appear, they vanish, they change colour,  break apart, multiply, stretch, bend, rise,  unravel to reveal an x-xray of the magician’s stomach with the selected card inside, they light up, make music,  make different shapes, they produce flowers, silks, coins, confetti, fire, and bangs! They change the colour of water and hold long needles. They come in plastic, wood, metal, lucite, even paper and of course you are no longer limited to white tips but you can choose from silver, gold, or brass, glitter, and lets not forget the one with the pop-off tips… You can imagine the price varies as well from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. Wands are used for 3 reasons – to attract, distract or entertain.

What would a magician do with out his wand?

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Magicians Peforming For Magicians

Many years ago we went to a restaurant in Toronto. We were with other people but it was so long ago I can’t remember if it was our children or our friends, not that the two are mutually exclusive, but I know there were other people at the table. It was a restaurant on Adelaide St. and they had a show called “A Little Nite Magic”. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong.

They had an MC who knew who we were, owner’s of Perfect Magic and the people who put on Magie Montreal every year, (at that time). When he saw us sitting in the audience he visibly gasped but he pulled himself together. The performer who did walk around magic was someone who came to the convention every year. We waited patiently for him to come to our table to do some magic but he never did, although I’m sure he went to every other table. When we finished dinner, Phil went over to him and said ” How come you didn’t do any magic for us?”  His answer. Well, you’re Phil Matlin, aren’t you?”

Another time George Schindler was in town for a show and Phil suggested that they go for brunch at the Sheraton Center downtown, where Magic Tom Auburn did walk around magic every Sunday morning. We knew Tom very well and but this was the first time Tom and George met. Tom knew very well who George Schindler was. He came straight to our table and after the introduction and greetings Tom asked if we would like to see a little magic. I guess this was morning magic as opposed to “nite” magic. We said yes and entertain us he did. He was, as always, very charming and if he was nervous, there was no sign of it. We all thoroughly enjoyed his performance. Of course he didn’t fool us, he didn’t even try, but he sure did entertain us and we greatly appreciated it.

Which brings me to my son Brian, and something he wrote in his blog  this week which I will share with you.

“One of the first times behind the ‘Perfect Magic’ counter at a magic convention I was performing an effect for a customer when two very prominent figures in magic walked up to watch, (Sid Loraine and Frank Garcia).  Suddenly I became a jumble of nerves.  Later Mr. Garcia found me sitting in the lobby and he said to me that I should never be nervous when performing in front of another magician.  “A true magician,” he said,” will always be there to help you. We are after all, a brotherhood.”  I try to remember this bit of wisdom when dealing with people in general.  I’ve got to tell you, I’m not always successful.”

Would you care to share your experiences performing for other magicians? Were you nervous? What was your reaction? When I was a student at McGill, I did a paper on Doctors treating Doctors and Doctors as Patients. I made some fascinating discoveries from those who were willing to share. Maybe we can learn something from this too.

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So What Makes Magic Magic?

In all the posts I’ve written so far, I’ve been writing about people. Magicians. The people who do the magic. What about the magic itself?

So many people have come into our shop and asked. “What is your best trick?” I have to laugh. There is no best trick. There is only a best magician. It’s not what you’ve got. It’s what you do with what you’ve got. With a piece of rope, a set a sponge balls, a few coins, the unmentionable T.T, a tongue and a smile and you’re in business!

This takes me back many years ago. Someone came into the shop and asked how much a really good magician would cost? He wanted someone for a Bar Mitzvah.  We gave him a name and a price but he had never heard of him.  The fellow wasn’t a magician and wasn’t familiar with any of he local magicians. He wanted a big name. It just so happened at that particular time there was a very popular movie playing about a magician.   I asked if he saw it.  He said yes.  Perhaps that’s why he wanted a magician.

Would you like that magician?

You could get him?

Yes.

How much?

We called the magician.

“I  don’t do Bar Mitzvahs” he replied. Name your price. He named it and got it.

When he got to Montreal from New York on the week-end of the event, he came to the shop and it just so happened that the guy who hired him came into the shop at the same time. We introduced them. The guy says, “For what I’m paying you I want boxes! He didn’t have boxes. We said we would lend him some boxes. Phil and the magician drove down to the place where the Bar Mitzvah was being held. This was no place to set up boxes. It was not conducive to a stage show.  The performer called the guy over and explained the situation to him. “Let me do some walk around magic instead. If your guests aren’t satisfied, I’ll do boxes.” He then  walked around  armed with a set of sponge balls in his pocket and mingled with the guests. He blew them away and made sure that every guest saw him.

After he asked the guy if he  still wanted boxes. “Oh, no. Everyone  is so thrilled. Thank you so much…”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you not to buy magic. There are two sides to this coin. I also always say, ” When you do magic, you need either new friends or new tricks.” Usually its easier to get new tricks. My point of course is to make the most out of those tricks that you get. Get a trick, read the instructions. Try it the way its supposed to be done and then, think about it. How can you make that trick your own? There are books  and DVD’s on the subject to help you. George  Schindler has lecture notes and a DVD Both are entitled “Entertainment First.” As my son Brian used to say when he managed our Vancouver shop, a sponge ball is only a sponge ball. It does nothing but lie on the counter. YOU make the magic!

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A Superb Tip from David Acer. Comedian, Magician, TV Star, Author….

David Acer sort of feels like a third son to us. All our kids (4) worked at Perfect Magic Shop when they were growing up and so did David when he was 14 years old. That would be in the 80’s.

Last week,  some 30 years later, and many times since, he came to pick up a few things. We reminisced about Al Goshman. David remarked upon the fact that this chubby older man was not the person one would look at walking down the street and say, ” There goes a magician.” And yet he was amazed that when Albert performed, he was transformed and his fingers danced in a way one wouldn’t believe unless you saw him.

And why am I telling you this? Because while David was here I asked if he could write something for our readers as to what got him into magic as a career and what word of advice would he give to aspiring magicians. Last week Michael Ammar wrote something and I thought my readers would be happy to hear what other people who were successful in magic had to say.  He immediately agreed. That sent me on a hunt for photographs of David. By sheer coincidence the first photo I came aross of David was one of Albert sitting behind his booth at a Magie Montreal 1988 Convention.

In any case here is what David had to say:  While you’re at it, Check out David’s best selling book “GOTCHA! 18 Amazing Ways to Freak Out Your Friends” http://www.davidacer.com/david-acer-magic-catalogue-Gotcha.html .

Q: What was the first trick that made you think this is what you want to do?

A: Well, I’m still not sure this is what I want to do, but assuming  it isn’t just a decades-long phase I’m going through, I’d say the trick  that pulled me in was the old broken-and-restored toothpick in a  handkerchief. I remember fooling my mother and step-father with that – I  mean really fooling them – when I was nine or ten, and that started me  on the path to deeper mysteries.

Q: What advice would you give aspiring magicians?

A: Never iron flash paper. Also, try to be yourself when you’re doing  tricks. That usually means presenting them in a way that makes you care about them. Talk about your job, your family, your life, good, bad or weird. If you care, other people will care. But if you have to invent a reason to care, maybe it isn’t the right trick for you.

Thanks, David, for the tips. I hope the readers enjoy it as much as I did!

Enjoy the photos

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Filed under Albert Goshman, Evelyn Matlin, Magic, Magic Conventions, Magie Montreal, Perfect Magic, Phil Matlin