Category Archives: Magie Montreal

A Tip on Performing from Michael Ammar – Superstar!

Michael Ammar and Johnny Carson - Then

Michael Ammar and Johnny Carson - Then

Michael Ammar Superstar - 1995

Phil Matlin, owner of Perfect Magic Shop, first met Michael Ammar when they were both relatively new in magic. It was in Evansville Indiana at an I.B.M. Convention. Michael was still sowing his wild oats. We got to know Michael well over the years. He stayed at our home when he came to Montreal. When we first met his wife Hannah, Michael introduced us as Phil and Evy from Perfect Magic in Montreal, who know me from way back when…. He said we knew that things about him that very few people knew. And she said to us, “I know everything about Michael, don’t worry!” We had a great laugh.

Card Thru Hank - Magie Montreal Lecture

Michael’s magic was always impeccable. When he came out with Easy to Master Card Miracles 1,2 and 3 in VHS  magic dealers

Michael lecturing at Magie Montreal

rejoiced! They were hot and still are but now in DVD form! His teaching methods are clear and exceptional. It’s rare that I  push a product, as I am well aware of the fact that everyone has their own taste and what I like someone else might not, but when someone tells me they like cards I still direct them towards Michael Ammar.

Many of the younger generation never heard of him and they thank me after for introducing them to his DVDs. Of course many more followed, Easy to Master Card Miracles, 4,5,6,7,8 and 9. His book and DVD’s on Cups and Balls are for anyone who really wants to learn them. Then there was Easy to Master Thread Miracles 1,2,3, book The Magic of Michael Ammar and the list goes on. Just click on his link for the complete deal. When we sell his stuff we are confident that the customer will be satisfied, regardless of what it is!

I wrote him the other day to tell him I was writing a blog on him and asked  what hooked him into magic and what advice he would give to an aspiring magician. This was his answer.

Hello Evy,
How nice to hear from you and to hear all’s well with you and Phil….

The first effect that really resonated with me was the one where you seem to rub a coin or small piece of paper into your arm.  Showing it has vanished, you then produce it from your ear or elbow.  The method, as I’m sure you know, is that you accidentally drop the coin and in picking it up, you simply fake putting into your other hand so it can seem to vanish.

I knew several typical card tricks up to that point, but I could tell something different was taking place here.  Not only did this involve acting, but it also involved true sleight-of-hand.

This meant I had to practice a bit to get it right, but I felt so empowered knowing the reaction I was getting was because of something I did; not because they just didn’t know how I had stacked the deck, or whatever.

Having to practice a little to learn that effect made me realize you can get an amazing reaction based purely on your own efforts.  I decided to see what would happen if I put even more effort into something.  Then I began to notice: the more effort I put into learning something, the better and more satisfying the response was.

Up until then I thought you had to be born a magician.  This experience made me realize it was up to me; I could be as good as I decided I’d be; success wasn’t a matter of divine intervention, luck, or whatever.  It was an epiphany; It’s up to me, if it is to be…

If I were to give just one tip to someone regarding magic, it would be to perform as often as possible, then reflect back on the performance to see how much data you can mine from the experience.  I think you learn more from 1 live performance than you can from weeks of just thinking about it.  So perform as often as possible.  There’s an old saying, “Everybody needs someplace to be bad.”  Find someplace that’ll tolerate your evolution, then start to build intelligent experience.

Hope this helps!

Best wishes always,
Michael

 

A typical sellout crowd at a Michael Ammar lecture.

So there you have it. I thought it was wonderful advice and hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

 

Thank you Michael.
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Filed under Evelyn Matlin, Magic Conventions, Magie Montreal, Perfect Magic

The Russians Are Coming! Who doesn’t remember that?

By 1994 Magie Montreal was well established. It was our 15th Annual Magic Convention. We had a great line up for our shows and lectures. Our stars included Mike Close, Kovari, Mark Trimble, Simon Lovell, Juliana Chen , Nathan Burton, Carl Cloutier Jose de La Torre and there was additional excitement because the Russians were coming! Rafael and Elena. They were sensational! Their magic was only surpassed by their personalities. What fun! Shortly after they vanished.  We haven’t heard from or about them since. Have you? Here are some shots of their show.

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Give’em What They Want By Gosh!

Albert Goshman - Publicity photo

In my last blog I wrote about  images  that the word magician conjures up in our mind’s eye. But magicians come in all shapes and sizes.

When Perfect Magic opened in 1977 I heard a lot of talk about Albert Goshman.  He was a baker in Brooklyn, making bagels. I’m sure they weren’t Montreal bagels but that’s another story.

Remember, this was before videos or DVDs. Either you saw the man in person at a lecture or convention or read about him in a magic magazine. His Salt Shaker Routine is legendary. I had  dealt with Albert personally over the phone many times when ordering his famous Sponge Balls, as well as other Magic By Gosh products which are known world over, but I had never met him. He was a living legend. A master of close-up magic.

Albert Goshman with Volunteers Anne Deslauriers (left) and Susan Trott (right)

Same gang

I don’t remember whose convention Phil and I were attending or where  it was held but we were walking though the dealers’ room and Phil said to me, “There’s Albert Goshman!” Not what I expected. I saw a chubby middle aged man asleep in a chair beside his booth, his chin against his chest. I must admit it was a disappointment. But of course when one is sleeping it’s hard to see the twinkle in the eyes,  the charm and sense of humour. And he did have a sense of humour, not to mention a sense of timing. Anyone who phoned him will remember his answering machine. His timing was so great he had you carrying on a conversation with it thinking you were talking to him. I don’t remember exactly but it went something like this,

“Hello.” (pause)

Hi, Albert?”

Hello? (pause)

Is that Albert?

Yeah, Who is this? (pause)

Evy Matlin

Oh, well. I can’t come to the phone right now….I’ll call you back. Leave a number.

It was longer than that but I can’t remember it all. He had you going until he actually said, I can’t come to the phone right now.

Albert was at our annual Magic Convention, Magie Montreal, twice I think.  His name appears on 2 programs but Phil only remembers once and he was at Perfect Magic for a lecture. That we know for sure because I was one of the volunteers for the Salt and Pepper Shaker routine and I, who rarely gets fooled was fooled badly. When he produced that final jumbo coin from under the salt shaker I was in a state of shock.

And then he did a funny thing.

Totally unrelated to his act, he pulled out a deck of cards and as his finale he did a rising card out of  a glass trick. That was the end of his show. Later on in the evening, at home, I asked him why he did that. With all his talent he ended with a store bought trick. Why?  His answer. “Because its such a wonderful effect. I’m usually performing for a lay audience. They’ve never seen anything like it and in years to come they’ll forget all about the Salt Shaker but they’ll never forget that the card they chose rose out of a deck of cards in a glass all by itself. You gotta give them something they’ll remember!”

We took him to the Brown Derby in the Van Horne Shopping center. It was a popular Deli which is no longer there. No one got service when he was there as all the waitresses and waiters were huddled around our table, and some of the customers as well. He was doing the sponge balls over and over and using different methods. They never caught him. Neither did I. When the meal was over the waitress asked him how the food was. “Well, there was a lot of it and some of it was good!”  Anyone who’s eaten there will vouch for that! We sure miss him and cherish the memories!

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Pavel

When someone says “Magician” we conjure up an image of sorts. You might think of one image. I would think Dante, Houdini, Blackstone …..and the like. A little goatee, a top hat…all the regular things associated with magicians. Pavel to me was such an ordinary guy, a good natured brotherly type with no airs about him. If you didn’t know him and someone asked you what they thought he did for a living, I’m sure magician would be last on the list. And yet….he was an extraordinary magician.

He had such a casual air about him and then he’d knock the socks off you. He came to Magie Montreal, the annual Magic Convention produced by Phil Matlin of Perfect Magic and Wim Vermeys of Mephisto Canada in 1991. He was a hit. We were excited to have him. It was the first time I saw him perform and his Walking Knot blew me away. I can’t believe it was 20 years ago. I see it in my mind’s eye as though it were yesterday. Sadly, he died a few weeks ago. We had just contacted him a few weeks before his death and purchased some Walking Knots. He seemed fine. It was a big loss. Going through the photos from Magie Montreal’s past, I came across these and thought you might enjoy them as much as I did.

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Father Cyprian

 

Father Cyprian

One of the rewards about being in the magic business is meeting people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet and going to places you wouldn’t ordinarily go to. How would a nice Jewish family in Montreal happen to have a Capuchin -Franciscan monk as a guest at one of their Passover Seders? The very same way that family attended this same Capuchin monk’s 25th Anniversary of his ordination at his seminary in Connecticut. We were friends. We became friends through magic. We meet a lot of people in magic but we don’t always become good friends. We consider Father Cyprian Murray a good friend. We shared a lot of good times together,  a lot of good meals (I still remember that blue cheese salad dressing you recommended) and good wines. But he wasn’t there just for the good times. He helped us when we had personal problems as well. His advice to us was always wise.

We call him Cyp. No disrespect. At an SAM national convention in Tampa we started a movement  to get Father Cyprian to be pope. Twelve CYP for POPE buttons were made and distributed to a select few. These buttons are now collectible if you can get one of us to part with it.

At the above mentioned 25th anniversary celebration Cyp requested that George Schindler be the Master of Ceremonies at the dinner party after the Church service. It seemed to me there were a few hundred people there, monks dressed in their brown robes, family and friends. It was in an auditorium and there was a stage and the floor of the stage was full of presents for Cyp. George got up there and said, Gee, this is just like a Bar Mitzvah. You have a service, you have a meal and you get presents, lots of presents . We only have to wait till we’re 13. You have to wait a little longer. George was at his best and the monks around us were hysterical with laughter.

When Cyp got up to thank George for the tremendous job he did, he also mentioned the fact that he was running for Pope and one of his colleauges at the seminary had asked him why he got George as a manager. Cyp said, “Because I want to be Pope”! so his colleague said, “Yes, but he’s Jewish?” and Cyp said, “But I really want to be Pope”. The monks roared! It was a wonderful celebration and I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was over 25 years ago. We had the good fortune to meet up with Cyp not so long ago at George and Nina Schindler’s 50th Wedding Anniversary and we had a lot of catching up to do.

Fr. Cyprian and Dean George Schindler at Magie Montreal 1990

The Award Presentation. From left - Wim Vermeys, Phil, Richard Sanders, Fr. Cyprian, Mario Choinier, and David Acer

Phil, Fr. Cyprian, and Wim Vermeys

Fr. Cyprian is recognized around the world as an authority on card and close-up magic and often had some explaining to do as he travelled around the world with his collar on, and then having to open his briefcase full of decks of cards for the customs inspectors.  He was the guest of honor at the 11th Annual Convention of Magie Montreal in 1990 produced by Phil Matlin of Perfect Magic and Wim Vermeys. One of the

Front cover of the Magie Montreal 1990 convention.

attendees asked if would would hold a mass  that Sunday morning and he did.

Cyp! Zie gesunt! or as we say Keep Well. Hope it brought back a few wonderful memories.

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The Man with the Million Dollar Hands: Frank Garcia

The first time Frank Garcia came to Montreal, he stayed at the Windsor Hotel, where he was to give a lecture the next day sponsored by Morrissey Magic. That first night there was a fire in the hotel and everyone was forced out onto the street in the middle of the night in their pajamas in the middle of winter. That was in the early 60’s.

In 1984 Phil Matlin and Wim Vermeys had the honour of dedicating Magie Montreal, our 5th Magic Convention, to Frank Garcia. He was the turning point for Magie Montreal. Up to that point we were hardly making it. When the magicians heard that Frank Garcia was going to  be there, they descending upon us en masse.  There was no VHS  or DVD’s at that time so if you wanted to see a legend perform you had to do it in person. If I remember correctly we had to turn people away.

I know that many younger magicians don’t know who Frank was. When they come into our shop (Perfect Magic) and we mention something about him, they say ” I never heard of him. Is he any good? Is he on You Tube? Did he put out any DVD’s lately?” We have to laugh.

Frank was a magician and a gambler. He wrote many books on both subjects. They are collectors’ items now and hard to come by.

Besides being a legend he was warm and friendly and just nice to be with. He and his girl friend Lillian, came to Montreal before the convention and spent time visiting us in our home. Romaine and Joan were with us as well. We didn’t talk about magic.

He brought us a gift when he visited us. It was a round brass trivet with carved Chinese writing on it. He said it meant Good Luck. He, if anyone, would know the importance of that, being a gambler and all.

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1985 Great year for Magic! Ivano honoured at Magie Montreal!

Sometimes you do something, and quite accidentally it turns into something else altogether. Two weeks ago I wrote about Women in Magic. One of the women was Shelley Carroll. I had several photos of her, but she looked the prettiest to me hanging on the the arm of Ivano, so I used that photo.

The blog wasn’t about Ivano, but if any of you read the comments, there was a touching one from his grandson, who said his grandfather had died when he was 9, but he has wonderful memories of him. The thing that is weird about this is that I already started a blog on the year 1985 which was the year that we dedicated the convention to Ivano, who was our guest of honour that year and who performed at the convention. I was going to mention that in the blog, and continue on with other dealers, as I had started with them in an earlier blog. But the dealers will have to wait. I’m sure Ivano’s grandson will enjoy reading about his grandfather and seeing some photos.

Acton-Vale is a small town in the Eastern Townships in Quebec, Canada, the home of IVANO who wrote a book in 1983 celebrating 50 years as a magician, artist, and photographer.  He became a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) in 1933.

I remember the drive  to the picturesque little town of Acton-Vale to meet him. Jean Prendergast was with us. He was a friend of IVANO’s and made the introductions. Phil asked IVANO to be the guest of honor and to perform at our next Magie Montreal convention. He was delighted by the invitation and we by his acceptance. Phil remembers him showing us his studio and especially some rag paintings. It was an enjoyable afternoon. He gave us a copy of his book which he autographed and drew a little picture of a rabbit. Sweet memories!

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Women In Magic

How many full time magicians in the world would you think  are women? According to Dennis Regling’s  article on Bella on line, the answer is about 50. I’m not sure when that article was written but it is a very small percentage.

The tricky word is full time. I know that some  male professional magicians sometimes have a day job as well. So I will define the female magicians as professional magicians as I don’t know if they have other occupations or not. We had a few women magicians at Magie Montreal, the Montreal Magic Convention run by Phil Matlin and Wim Vermeys for 19 years, and they were awesome. (the women as well as the conventions)! I am referring only to women that had their own act, close-up show or lecture.  Not that I am taking anything away from magicians’ assistants or magic teams, most of whom are excellent in their own right, but that will be in another blog. The dates below are approximate.

1981 Frances Marshall, then owner of Magic Inc.  lectured.

Shelley Carroll perform at Magic Montreal twice, in 1985 and  in 1991. Shelley Carroll and Derek Dingle were partners for 25 years. He performed close up and she had a stage act. Unfortunately Derek passed away in 2004. In the 70’s they founded The Magic Agency which is now being run by Shelley.

In 1986 Lucy Smalley performed on our stage. She was a professional manipulator taught by Neil Foster and was the first woman to win Abbott’s Magic Contest. I don’t think she is performing any more.

In 1988 June Horowitz, President of S.A.M.  (Society of American Magicians) who was being honored at Magic Montreal performed close-up.

In 1994 we had 2 women, Juliana Chen and Karla Baumgardner. Karla perfomed another year as well . Both are still performing as far as I know. Karla came into the Magic Shop not long ago. I am embarassed to say I cannot find the photos of Juliana Chen but click on the link. I had many and I can see them in my mind as she did her fabulous card production and card manipulation act and when I find them I will post them. They must be with the photo of Randi and Dr. Joe Schwarcz which is also missing.

In 1997 Lupe from Las Vegas performed close up.

There are others, however, who I know do this full time. They come into the shop, and have been coming in for years. Some of these ladies combine it with clowning and do face-painting. They are very professional and are busy. There are more young girls interested in magic as well, so guys, watch out. Times, they are a changing!

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Filed under Bill Zavis, Juliana Chen, Magic, Magie Montreal, Phil Matlin, Wim Vermeys

Observations from my Son

The following blog was written by our son Brian, who has his own blog which is usually hilarious, called Panning For Gold. This particular blog  is his take on the parties we used to have after the Magie Montreal conventions and his accidental meeting with Bob Little many years later in Pennsylvania. Enjoy!

The Olden Days, The Golden Days

Back in the day (1979 – 1998) my father hosted an annual magic convention with Wim Vermeys.  One of the features that we always looked forward to was the after party. This party was always at our house and it was a time when the dealers, performers and lecturers could sit back and enjoy each other’s company without the magic monkey looming over our shoulders

The only rule was there was absolutely no magic at these parties.  I remember one time when my father and Dick Zimmerman of magic and Ragtime fame sat at the piano while a few of the magicians and their wives sang along.  The parties always amazed me, so many egos, so many personalities all crammed into such a small place and everyone had a great time.  To me, these parties seemed to be reminiscent of scenes played out in movies based around the 1920’s. Our house was the speakeasy only with no gangsters, flappers, illegal liquor, cigarettes, prostitution, the only contraband was magic.  Okay not exactly a party like the roaring 20’s but you gets the idea.

There was one magician, Bob Little from Hat borough Pa who attended all 19 conventions in the Magie Montreal series.  Bob was a magic dealer, a lecturer, and a performer.

Jump ahead many years.

When I first arrived in Pennsylvania I got together with a few of the local magicians and started a magic club.  As the club took root my wife and I decided to throw a party and invite the magicians along with some other more civilized guests.

The party which was a BBQ at our house quickly snowballed out of control.  My wife and I learned that not only were the local magicians attending, so were the Penn State Performers which included magicians, jugglers and clowns.

I used to work at a bank downtown,  I happen to be sitting in the lunchroom of the bank looking down the street and much to my disbelief I saw Bob Little walking down the road.  I had not seen him since the last convention, a good 5 years earlier.  I ran out of the bank and caught up with Bob.

Me: “Bob, remember me?”

He looked at me for a moment and said;

“Phil’s son?”

“Yes, how are you doing?”

“Aren’t you in the music business in Montreal?”

“No, I’m the other son”

“Don’t you have a magic shop in British Columbia?”

“I did, but I don’t anymore. I live here now.”

“Here? As in Pennsylvania?”

“Yup, I met a woman who attended Penn State and works for the university.  We got married and now I live up in the mountains.”

Bob at this point looked very confused but we chatted for a bit.  I found out he was in State College because as an alumni of Penn State he was being given some sort of an award and was asked to make a speech.  Also there was some party the next night that the magicians were taking him too.

“Ahh, that would probably be my party” Again he looked a little confused.  I shrugged and went back to work.

Saturday afternoon guests began to arrive.  There were jugglers juggling, magicians showing each other tricks, people were talking eating and being very noisy.  At one point I slipped inside to take a breather, and there was Bob all alone sitting on the couch. He looked at me a little confused by my presence.  I knew he was still trying to process me being here and not in Canada.

Bob; “This is a really nice place”

“Thanks”

“No really it is so nice up here.  I went for a walk in the woods the path is covered in moss and is shaded by trees you should really check it out.  I was told the owners have 11 acres.  Do you know who the owners are? “

“Bob, remember yesterday when I said I lived in the mountains and that the party you were invited to was mine?  Well here we are my party, my house.”

We sat for a moment, looking through the window two of the jugglers were juggling torches, magicians were in little groups showing one another card tricks,  a fire was going in the fire pit, the grill was fired up and spewing hamburgers and hotdogs.

“You know” Bob said, “The last time I was at a party that was anything close to this was at your father’s convention I miss those days”

As I sit back during this holiday season and think about all the twists and turns my life has taken me I find myself wondering where it all went, when did I do all that stuff? Where has the time gone?  How can my friends have grown children? How can my little sister have two kids? Where did it go? When did it all happen?  I don’t understand the difference between a 3G and a 4G network!  Did an inner city Jewish Canadian really go get a live Christmas tree from a tree farm in Central PA?  Was it really 25 years ago that my best friend and I were riding our bikes through the town of Hampstead?  Do I seriously get out the blow torch to fix the copper pipes in my own home? Did my wife seriously buy me the greatest winter boots and gloves so I could be comfortable while I am out SNOWBLOWING my driveway?  Are there not other people who are supposed to do that sort of work?

Bob, I too miss those days.  But I love my days now.  I love my wife, my family, my life.  I hope in another 25yrs I’ll be sitting with my wife missing the ‘old’ days and still loving the current ones.

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The Dealers

There are dealers and there are  Magic Dealers, like Perfect Magic. A highlight at most magic conventions are the dealers. They come from all over the world. Some conventions have an older crowd. They come to see their old friends,  the shows, the lectures, and browse around in the dealer’s room, but alas, rarely buy. Their shows are set, they don’t want to start learning new tricks so unless something really special comes out, its tough.

Fortunately for us, when we had our conventions in Montreal, we had a young vibrant magic community. Thirty some years ago, Magie Montreal, put on by Phil Matlin and Wim Vermeys,was the first Magic Convention ever held in Montreal. It took place in the Quebec Pavillion on the Expo 67 Site. The dealers made a killing. Local magicians and some from Ottawa and Quebec City had never seen such a variety of magic.  Remember, no internet, no video tapes (What are video tapes?), just paper catalogs.  Here you had people with the props who knew how to demonstrate.

The word got out. After the first year the dealers would kill to get a booth at our convention. Some performers who also had products to sell, used to say we didn’t have to pay them. Just give us a booth.

Many are now retired, but perhaps you’ll enjoy a visit down memory lane. These are some dealers from Magie Montreal 1981. Hank Lee of Hank Lee’s Magic Factory, Arthur Emerson of Emerson amd West, Bruce Calver of Top Hat Magic, Bob Little of Guaranteed Magic, and Tricky Business and I don’t remember his name. Do You? There were probably others but that’s all I could find for that year.

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