I saw a tweet on Canada Magic’s site how someone was flipping coins and lost a double headed quarter. It brought me back to a time we first started out in the magic business. We were selling magic from our basement which had a separate entrance. It was set up like a shop, with counters and a cash register. This cash register had more compartments that were necessary and I noticed that one of the compartments had an American quarter in it. It was there for a long time. Nothing else. Just that one American quarter. I had no argument with it.
One day a kid came in and bought some magic, including a coin trick. Phil wasn’t there at the time. The kid said to me. “Now I have to get an American quarter to go with the trick.” I said, “Don’t worry about it. I have one here. It’s been in the cash register for months doing nothing.” and I gave it to him. He thanked me and left.
A few weeks later a man interested in coin tricks came in. This time Phil was there and at that time he was demonstrating. Now not so much. Phil went over to the cash register and said,”Evy, where is the American quarter that was here?” I told him I gave it to a kid.” His face went pale. “You what?” “A kid needed a US quarter so I gave it to him. It seems it was part of an expensive Johnson coin trick and had special features. The trick was useless without that coin. Of course he never bothered to tell me that little fact.
But the story has a happy ending. I knew who the kid was and I phoned him and asked him if he still had the coin I gave him, which he did, and I told him the situation. He promptly came to return it and I replaced it with another that I happened to have.
Over the years I have heard many magicians complain about spending their magic coins by mistake. It can be a costly mistake. The above mentioned coin trick was about $69.00 and that was over 30 years ago. So now we do not keep special coins in the cash register. For a magician coin purses are a good investment!
Being in the magic business for over 35 years I know there are excellent magicians here in Montreal, some are full time magicians and they make a good living at it. I would bet if I mentioned their names most of you would not know who they are, and furthermore, they probably don’t care. They are not out to make a name, they are out to make a living and may actually enjoy the anonymity and live ordinary lives and do the magic they love to do.
Yet some achieve fame. I was reading the Montreal Gazette on Saturday, and read Josh Freed’s column, whose humour I always enjoy, and his topic was the linguist divide amongst the strikers, here in Quebec between the English and French. For those of you who in far away lands a strike started 100 days ago by univeristy students who objected to a rise in tuition fees. The strike is still going on and has been violent at times. Now there are other issues but I’m not going there.
Coincidently, just after my last blog,” Two Solitudes” Josh Freed used the same term in his article …”Why the two solitudes of strikers?”
By this time you must be wondering, “What has all this got to do with magic?”
Josh goes on to name the various English institutions that have disappeared from Montreal and he names Steinberg’s, Eaton’s, Ben’s, Morgan’s, Dominion’s and Magic Tom. Magic Tom! Magic Tom passed away in 1990 and he is still making the newspaper! Anyone who knows what all the above institutions are, whether they were interested in magic or not still know who Magic Tom is. Magic Tom Auburn achieved fame here in Quebec. He entertained children and then he entertained those children’s children and grandchildren. I remember once he came into the shop and a grandmother was buying some magic for her grandchild and she saw him and said, “I remember you from television. I used to watch you all the time when I was little.” She was thrilled to meet him in person. When she left Tom said, “I get that a lot. It keeps reminding me how old I am.” Everyone knew Magic Tom.
When I consider Magic household names here in Quebec, I would have to include Alain Choquette and Luc Langevin. Television gave these three magicians exposure so that had much to do with it. But they had to have the talent and love of their audience to stay on TV to achieve that fame.
In 1945 a book by Hugh MacLennan called Two Solitudes came out. I read it about 30 years ago and it left an impression on me. It was about the English and French in Quebec and how they could live in the same society together and yet not know anything of what was going on in the other culture. I don’t think much has changed. Yes, I have French friends but they speak to me in English. Perhaps its because I put them through torture when I speak French. I admit I don’t know any of the popular French singers or rock bands, I also don’t know any of the English singers or rock bands in Quebec, so there we are even. I don’t watch French television, but I was a great fan of the Plouffe Family. I do watch sometimes when I feel I should improve my French, but if the talk is too fast or dubbed, forget it. My French speaking customers in the magic shop say I speak very well. They are kind. I did take a French literature course while at McGill, and my professor spoke two languages, French and German. We studied the classics, Madame Bovary, Le Rouge et le Noir, Huis Clos, etc. I do know something.
So the other night, maybe a few weeks ago or longer, while I was channel flipping I came across Luc Langevin, who I have known since he was a kid. After all he bought his first tricks here. I’m usually pretty good at figuring out how something is done. Even if I don’t figure out how it was actually done, I can figure a way it could have been done. I saw him do two effects. One was torn and restored card, and the other was a very complicated and long effect which involved 4 or 5 spectators. I understood every word, just about, but I could not figure out how he did either effect. He did a mentalist effect which involved a sub-trunk -like effect without a sub-trunk. He went back in time to when he was a 13 year old child. Then he came back to his present self. The point is, I was so absorbed in what he was doing, I didn’t realize I was listening to French. That was magic!