Monthly Archives: May 2011

When is the best age for starting magic?

It seems to me that infants are fascinated and laugh when you play peek-a-boo with them. Now you see me, now you don’t. Sounds a lot like a the name of a magic book. When my grand daughter, 3 years old, was over a while back I did a basic sponge ball routine, placing one ball in my hand and one ball in hers and of course when I opened my hand my ball was gone and when she opened her hand she had the two of them. The squeals of delight still ring in my ears. “Do it again! Do it again!”  Then SHE wanted to do it and tried every which way. Then of course the ball came out of her ears and nose  and it kept her fascinated for a long time. My grandson is 5 and is familiar with many magic tricks, like the Appearing Flower, which he performed with bravado at age 2 accompanied by  a big Tah-dah when the flower appeared. He does Magical Block, Coin Slide, Cigarette Vanishing Case, (using things other than cigarettes of course) and the  other day I showed him the Penetration Frame, whereby a pencil passes through a solid sheet of plastic. I let him play with it and was astounded when he come over to me and said, “I figured it out.” I’ve demonstrated this trick hundreds of times and always let the spectator examine the apparatus before and after and never has anyone, adults included, figured it out. Now I know I sound like a typical grandmother bragging about her grandchildren, which is true, because they are the cutest and brightest, BUT I also want to make a point.

I believe that when children are introduced to magic at an early age and learn to do magic tricks, they also learn to think a little differently than children who are not introduced to magic tricks. You see, I really can’t fool them anymore. The are still impressed and delighted with each new thing I show them, but those little brains are working. I can see them trying to figure out the possibilities. They know there’s a trick to it. I think this helps them in school as well. They can think outside the box. A while back I wrote a blog on Dr. Joe Schwarcz, who brought his granddaughter, age  5 then, to our magic shop (Perfect Magic in Montreal). She’s an old pro at it, and figured out every trick I showed her, but said she still liked them. So its not just my grandchildren. I believe all children would benefit. And some magician’s with children don’t even think to teach their children magic. One very well known magician saw the video of our 2 year old performing the appearing flower and was amazed. He said, “Gee, my daughter is older than that. Maybe I should get a couple of things for her. I never even thought about it.” Get your kids and grandkids started on the right foot with magic! And I didn’t even talk about what it does for their self-esteem and self-confidence!

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Its a Small World Now!

The theme of the Perfect Magic blog is Perfect Magic Then and Now. When we first went into business over 35 years ago we used to mail, not email, but mail a newsletter to our customers, who were mostly from Montreal, which is where our place of business is. We’d write about upcoming events and new stuff  that came out on the market, pretty much what we do now on our home page and on face book the main difference being that then we paid 25 cents for postage and now we pay a gizillion dollars to an internet server, which is beside the point.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about wands. Then I would have written about it pretty much the same way but instead of clicking on the link there would have been a photo or illustration beside the particular item. All those who I sent a letter to would know about them if they read the letter.

Now I write and anyone in the whole world can and does read my mail. Here I thought maybe nobody reads it. I know my son does, because he usually comments. I also know from my site stats that since I started writing six months ago, close to 4,000 people have read my post.  I’m impressed. What sort of threw me for a loop, however, was that I got an email from someone in India that makes wands. I thought I had wands pretty well covered. Oh, I know I forgot a few, like the Slush Wand, etc, but in India you can have your own individual personal wand carved out of wood. They look good, too.

The point is, I don’t think it was a coincident that a wand maker sent me info on his company a week after I wrote a blog about wands. So back in 1977, I would not have known about this wand maker in India. I thought I would share these beautiful wands with you. Enjoy!

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The Magic Trick and The Performance of Magic

So you want to do magic. You saw a magician on the street, on TV, on the internet, or at a party, and it sparked an interest. If  you’re in Montreal and come up to the  Perfect Magic Shop and you’re 11 or 12 or older there are 3 three or four tricks I will show you which I know you will buy. And one book, which I’ve spoken about before, the Mark Wilson Complete Course in Magic. If you’re 4 or older I will show you other things.

You may come in and say something like, I saw a guy float a ring in the air and it landed on someone’s finger. I want that. That would be a nice sale for me but, I don’t really want to make a sale, I want to make a customer and if that’s his first trick he won’t do it. He’ll buy it, he’ll find out how its done, but it’s not for a rank beginner. He’ll probably decide that magic isn’t for him.

Over the years (35) in this business, I know that it’s not enough to demonstrate a magic trick and fool someone, which believe it or not is the aim of some magicians. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. No one likes to be fooled, so to me the real secret in performing is while you are fooling them let them enjoy it.

So I suggest easy tricks for beginners, not because they are unable to learn the more difficult ones, but so they can focus on the audience. Without them there is no magic. Some things you might consider is Who is your audience? How old are they? What would interest that age group? Where are you performing? At a bar? At a senior residence? At a birthday party? A halloween party?  You could probably do the same “trick” or “tricks” at all these places but your “patter” would surely have to change drastically. Nor should it be done on the spur of the moment. It requires much thought.

I must have performed the Svengali Deck thousands of times over the years and it evolved into a set performance. Every move has a set line to get a laugh or reaction. We often have people come into the shop trying to sell us stuff, not magic, but eye glasses or socks or whatever else fell off the truck. I sometimes say,” No thank you, but let me show you something.” and I do the Svengali deck. More often than not they’ll buy it and come back for more. I credit that to the enjoyment and laughs they got as much as the amazement.

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Things that go wrong in the night!

Magicians are really dare devils. They take chances all the time. They work with liquids that can spill, live animals that might not co-operate, assistants that may get it wrong, equipment that can fail, and the list goes on.

Of course faux pas are not exclusive to magicians. As I mentioned before Phil Matlin, owner of Perfect Magic is a professional musician, who has directed musical plays in his younger days and now is a well known nostalgia and ragtime piano player. He does shows all the time. He entertains at parties, fundraisers, gala shows, senior citizens groups and the people all love him. About 10 or 15 years ago he was asked for the first time to play at the Ragtime-Jasstime Festival that takes place every year in Alexandra Bay in 1000 Islands, New York. He was all excited about it as it was an honor to be asked. There are 2 venues in the hotel. One is a formal setting with tables and chairs like a night club with a big stage. The other venue is more a saloon type setting. Both are going at the same time. The saloon is more fun and people love to sing along. Each entertainer gets to play 20 minute sets 6 times during the week-end.

The first time Phil sat down to play, it was in the saloon. Everything was going well and then for some reason he got completely lost. Piano players make mistakes now and then, but they glide right over it, as Phil usually does , but not this time. He was totally lost and after evident struggling he found his way back and finished the song, which he knows inside out and backwards by the way! When he finished he got a polite applause. You know the kind, everyone was feeling so bad for him, including me. He leaned over into the microphone and said, “In case you’re wondering, I learnt that song from a broken  record! He brought the house down and it was clear sailing after that! He broke the tension.

As I wrote the above paragraph it dawned on me that some of you younger people may not know what a  record is. It was a round flat disc made of vinyl on which most of the music was recorded in the 20th Century and if you scratched it, it would play the same line over and over again.

Many years ago we went to the Place des Arts to see Benny Goodman, the King of Swing!  At one point he started playing with his group and after a little while he made them stop in the middle of the piece and said, “Sorry, I didn’t like that. We’ll start over!” Nobody minded.

Romaine, Monarch of Manipulators, who has performed all over the world and is a pro in every sense of the word,  did a Halloween show last year and was doing a rope trick and he has a standard line, ” I cut the white and not the pink because the pink fingers.”  He uses very sharp scissors and has done this trick hundreds of times but this time, on Halloween, he did indeed start to bleed. He didn’t even know he cut himself and there was blood everywhere. The audience thought it was part of the show. It was Halloween after all.  He said, “Anyone got a band-aid? ” His wife Joan rushed over with paper towels and he did mostly vent after that as he couldn’t use his hand very well.

And then there was the time that Phil and Romaine were performing their Vaudeville show, Back In Time. Romaine was doing his manipulation act and Phil was playing the music for it on the piano. Romaine lit a piece of flash paper, unbeknownst to him that the smoke detector was right above him and the alarm went off, both on stage and at the fire station. They went on with the show. Phil continued to play piano although the alarm kept ringing. In a few minutes the fire men came marching in,  in full dress with their hoses at the ready. They turned off the alarm and left, but what excitement! We have a good laugh every time we talk about it.

Stuff happens! Care to share your experiences with us? Our readers would love to hear about it.

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