Monthly Archives: June 2015

Magic Doesn’t Just Happen

Sometimes you hear someone say, “It happened so fast or so suddenly, it was like magic!” Magicians know, better than anyone, that magic doesn’t happen suddenly. To the spectator it may seem that way, but those in the know, realize the preparation, the talking, the misdirection, and all that jazz that make it seem like it happened suddenly!

Speaking of jazz, an event took place in our city of Côte Saint Luc on Monday, June 29, at the park, Rembrandt Park, across the street from our condo. A Piano in the Park was inaugurated by non other than Oliver Jones, the legendary Oliver Jones. There was much excitement afoot. The press was there, including Global TV and CTV, the Gazette, the Suburban; the Mayor of our city, Anthony Housefather; and our City Councillor, Mike Cohen as well as other city councillors from Côte Saint Luc; the Lady who donated the piano, Louise Silverman; and the person who got the ball rolling in the first place, our own Phil Matlin!

Phil emailed Mike Cohen maybe a month or two ago and presented the idea to him. There were no pianos in the park or on the streets of Côte Saint Luc prior to this. It was approved by council and poof, it happened. So many things had to have happened for this to take place. Phil’s mother, may she rest in peace, made him take piano lessons from the age of five, even though he was not in the least bit interested in it. He’d rather be out playing with his friends. He NEVER practiced. His mother didn’t care. He was taking lessons anyhow. He played for years from lesson to lesson. He learned something over the years, and then when he was about 13 he was invited to a “social”, (remember “socials”?) a party with boys and girls at someone’s house. The hostess happened to have a piano and Phil sat down and tickled the keys and all the girls surrounded him. It changed his life. When the teacher came the following week for his lesson, she was shocked. “YOU PRACTICED!”

Within a year or two his teacher said he was ready for his McGill Music Exams but McGill wouldn’t allow him to take them because he wasn’t 16 yet. He was playing classical until then. From there he went to popular music, Broadway show music and ragtime. Mostly Broadway show stuff.

After going into the magic business  in 1977 he and his friend, magician Wim Vermeys, decided to have a magic convention, the first in Montreal. This was in 1979 and was held at the Quebec Pavilion from Expo 67. It was in October and there was a big crowd and it went well, except for the fact that it was October and freezing and the heating wasn’t functioning. Montreal magician Romaine, was the M.C. for the stage show, and his opening line was “Bienvenue au plus grand frigidaire du Québec.” That broke the ice, so to speak! Also the caterers who were supposed to bring food for the attendees had an accident on the bridge and couldn’t get the food to us, so I drove to the Brown Derby (remember the Brown Derby?) and picked up several platters of food for the hoard of hungry magicians.

We had conventions for 19 years bringing in the best magicians from around the world. One of them was Dick Zimmerman who also happened to be a Ragtime piano player and he and Phil became friends. They shared a passion for magic and music. Dick was asked to play at the Montreal Jazz Festival in the 90’s and we invited him and his girlfriend to stay with us while he was here, which they did. He was the spark that renewed Phil’s love of ragtime. Dick kept on telling Phil to phone Mimi Blais, a fabulous ragtime pianist and entertainer but Phil was too shy. What would he say to her. Then one day we were at the Jazz Festival, maybe a year or two later, and who is up on stage performing? Mimi. When her performance was over, I dragged Phil over and told her we had a common friend, Dick Zimmerman. “Oh, you must be the magician that Dick keeps telling me to phone.” And so a fiendship started. Phil asked her if she would give him lessons, and she said she didn’t give lessons. If he wanted, he could come to her house and play for her, and if he was good enough, she would coach him.

So he went to her house, knowing full well she was from another planet as no one on this planet could play like her, and sat down to play and he was so nervous he couldn’t see the keys. He hit all the wrong notes. Mimi said, “I’m going to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.” She understood. Alone with the piano he started to play. She said okay, you can play and I will coach you.

Phil could never have dreamt, even in his wildest dreams, that Oliver Jones would one day say to him, I enjoyed listening to your piano playing. But on Monday evening June 29, 2015 at Rembrandt Park, when Phil finished playing a few tunes, he did.

It was magic. Everything had to be in place for it to happen, many that I didn’t mention. It would take a book. And I didn’t tell Oliver Jones’ side of the story, but he lives just a few blocks from us and how did that come to be? You’ll have to ask Mr. Jones.

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Selling Magic

Perfect Magic has been in business close to 40 years. There are some things I knew when we started and some things I’ve learnt along the way.

We cannot control what people order over the internet. They want what they want. You order, we send it to you. Sometimes people phone before they order and we discuss the prop they are interested in. It doesn’t happen often as most people who order on line often think there is no one to talk to on the other end. so they don’t even try. We’ll talk to you.

Many people still come into the shop. Each one, of course, has their own special needs and wants. When It’s a regular customer, we know what they would be interested in, but for a newcomer, it’s another story.

There are three things I have to find out before I can help them.

  1. Who are they performing for; how many, how old, close-up, stage, walk around, street, etc.
  2. What level of expertise do they have? Have they performed before? and so on.
  3. How much do they want to spend?

Once I have that info I can usually find something for them and my job is done.

Now its their job to do the seling. They have to be able to sell their magic. It’s when they realize that there is  more to it than just learning how to do the trick, that’s when they are on the way. They have to be able to sell it to the audience, not just to fool them, but to make them enjoy it as well. If it’s not sold properly the audience won’t buy it!  I may have mentioned it before, but Eugene Burger has a  wonderful lecture on presentation that I saw many years ago that helped me and I never forgot it.  Thanks Eugene! You were my inspiration!Eugene Burger

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Magician! You Got The Name, But Do You Got The Game?

Many people call themselves magicians. We all know that doing a few magic tricks does not make you a magician. Even creating magic tricks does not make you a magician. It’s all about being able to entertain an audience, of 1 or more.

Enter: David Ginn. I’m writing about him because I’ve known him for more years than I care to remember. He lectured for us and I clearly remember him sitting around our dining room table with Romaine and Joan and Phil and I playing Trivial Pursuit and he would deliciously announce in his southern accent, “It’s Pie (Pa) Time.” We had a lot of fun.

David Ginn is a well known name in the magic community, especially to performers who do children’s shows. Not only has he performed countless shows but has produced many effects, DVDs and written many books on the subject.  The only thing is, I never once saw him perform in front of an audience.

This morning I went to my face book and there was David, performing for a group of children. He used simple props,  a Color Changing Wand, a Top Hat, a cape for a kid and silks. Of course its no mystery to any magician what he did, but he had those kids screaming. They were all into it.  To be sure, much time and testing  went into this to see what works and what does not work. It’s a good idea to record or take notes as soon as possible while it is still fresh in your mind as to what to keep and what not to keep until your show is honed like a fine running machine. I’m sure David has gone through this process over the years. Its called experience.

After watching him in this informal show with so few props I would say David Ginn not only has the Name, he has the Game.

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Magic, Fame and Recognition

The other day I was at a shopping centre and a young lad ran over to me and said in french,”Aren’t you the lady from the magic shop?” I said yes and we had a whole conversation. Why wasn’t I at  the shop now. Who is at the shop. I said we’re closed on the week-ends and he said he goes to school during the week. I know we should be open on Saturday but life is too short, especially at my stage of the game. And yet… Maybe we should stay closed Monday and stay open Saturday. But that might confuse our customers. They are used to this. It’s a dilemma. In any case he was really excited to see me, as I was him.

Some of you may not know this, but besides being a magic dealer, I also am a Document Examiner. When writing or documents are in question I am called upon as an expert witness in court  for my opinion on the matter. One day I was at the Montreal Court House, Le Palais de Justice, and was looking for the computers, as I wanted to look up a file there. I found them but not being really sharp with computers, to put it mildly, I was having trouble. I walked away to find a clerk and as I was walking I heard someone call out in a really loud voice, “Hey, Mrs. Magic!” I turned around and there was one of my magic customers. He asked what I was doing there and he was suprised  and I was just as surprised to find out he was a detective.  He helped me do what I had to do and it was a good experience.

Years ago,  we were at the Houdini Museum in Niagra Falls, before it burned down and we were with our kids on a road trip. They were not thrilled with our stops at Magic shops along the way, but they understood we were going to the Houdini Museum once we were there. Phil said at the ticket counter, “I need tickets for two Adults and 3 children, please.” And the guy said, ” Oh no sir, you don’t pay. You and your family are our guests.” Rather shocked, Phil said, ” How come?” Well you are Phil Matlin, aren’t you?” Yes. ” Well then, you are our guest.” The kids looked at Phil with new eyes. It seems this guy had been coming to our Magic Conventions, Magic Monréal, for many years and recognized Phil. I must say we were all elated by the reception.

And then there’s the McGill Science and Society Symposium that we have been attending for years now, which is headed by Dr. Joe Schwarcz who invites us to the reception before it starts. Of course its composed of all the professors and scientists and guests brought in from all over the world and us. Everyone mingles and much of the talk is above our heads, and when they ask us what we do, we say we are Dr. Joe’s magic dealer. Really? Where’s your shop? Can anybody go? Do you have to be a magician? Can we buy stuff? Etc. etc. and the word spreads. They are full of questions and its fun to be there.

So yes, we do enjoy the magic, fame? and recognition!

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