Posts Tagged ‘magic’

Just a picture I took as we were leaving Mustang Sally’s

Denyce and I were sitting at an outside table at the world famous Mustang Sally’s in Deadwood South Dakota waiting for our food. The place was packed and we were at a table which could easily seat six. Denyce kept her eye on the street looking for people who had a dog and might be looking for a table. We were more than willing to share and we know people with dogs have no choice but to eat outside and it was quite busy.

There was an older couple sitting at the table next to us. I was a little surprised when the gentleman got up turned and walked towards us. He looked at Denyce and asked her if she believed in Magic and Illusion. Denyce said yes while trying not to laugh but just smile while not looking at me. Meanwhile I looked at him very carefully. Did I know him? Did he know me? Maybe we were being set up by another magician I did know. I know from Facebook we have sort of been following Trevor and Lorena Watters, (magicians from BC) around this end of the country, however no one was recognizable in the crowd. I certainly didn’t know the gentleman standing before us all prepped to perform the ole’ magical classic, ‘torn and restored napkin’ which he did very well.

After proper introductions and magic heritage explored Ron, aka ‘The Wizard of Wonder’ and his wife Martha joined us for lunch and a wonderful time was had. Ron is quite the comedian. What prompted Ron’s performance is he wanted to add “Performed at the famous Mustang Sally’s to his ‘resume’ Ron also performed for four former Presidents. Yes, he performed an illusion at Mt. Rushmore.

Naturally when I got home I looked up Mr. Ron on the internet and he certainly does not need to add much to his ‘resume’. Not only is he a professional magician, he is a Pastor, an educator, served in the military and has two Masters Degrees. In 1965 (the year I was born) he became a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, ‘IBM’ and he is the founder of an ‘IBM ring’ in his home town. Adding to this he is a member of the Society of American Magicians and a member of the very prestigious Magic Circle of London England.

Well done Ron and it was a pleasure meeting and sharing a meal with you at Mustang Sally’s in Deadwood SD.

Gunfight in Deadwood South Dakota

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After my last post, ‘Then and now…and a fart machine’ I received some requests to tell the story of how Tony Eng fooled me with dog poop.

Writing this sort of story is difficult because more often than not ‘magic’ happens in the moment of surprise. Without that surprise the magic is anti-climatic and now, dear reader you already know the surprise.

It ends with dog poop.

Thirty years ago I walked into Tony Eng’s Trick and Joke shop on Vancouver Island. There were a few people milling about and after a few moments Tony tells me he will demonstrate one more effect and then we will go to lunch.

Tony brought out a ceramic bowl and a ball and started performing. The ball would vanish from under the bowl only to reappear moments later. Sometimes it would change color, sometimes size. Everything he was doing was standard magicians flair. He performed in mesmerizing style which was always a pleasure to watch, his performances were flawless, brilliant and most importantly entertaining.

“Brian” he says, “I’m going to lift the bowl on the count of three, when I do you reach in as fast as you can and grab the ball.” He would count, I would tense up, “One…two…(I’m ready to pounce) and hey nice weather we are having.” The tension breaks and he says “seriously this time, at the count of three…One…to those of you watching….hahaha”. By the time he made it to three I was a tightly wound spring ready to be let loose. This is how a Master crafts his routine. Nothing was going to stop me from grabbing the ball once the bowl was clear. “One…two….three!” The bowl is lifted and I sprang into action. I saw my hands forming to make an upside down cup so I could trap the ball onto the table. I also saw it was not a ball! My brain and hands were already working in unison, fully committed, I heard the laugher and gritted my teeth as my hands taking on a mind of their own, wrapped around the pile of dog poop, now fully exposed.

One….Two….Three…. and my right of passage into the British Columbia magic circle was complete. BTW, I never said if the dog poop was real or fake. You decide.

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Perfect Magic has always been a store for magicians. We did not carry gum that tasted like garlic, cigarettes which exploded or the ever popular fake dog poop. Although I have seen dog poop used with great success in magic effects. The late great Tony Eng really fooled the crap out of me (pun intended)with a dog poop effect, but this is a story for another day.

So it was quite shocking when my father decided that carrying a remote control fart machine in the shop would be a good idea.

Turned out to be the best idea ever.

I snuck into the shop a little early, hid the fart machine near the cash register and took control of the remote. It was agonizing having to wait for the first customer and then the perfect moment. I hid in the office, eyes focused, thumb on the remote. I heard Gordon Lightfoot’s voice in my head, a line from The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald. “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn minutes to hours?”

Finally the planets lined up. The customer decided on his purchase, mom punched the sale in the register then she bent over to get a bag. And in that moment I pushed the button. For some reason the fart sounded even more realistic than in my test run. My mother stood for half a beat and then started laughing. Laughing so hard she couldn’t even get my name out, although not for lack of trying. We laughed until mom, myself and the customer had tears rolling down our faces.

It was a very good day!

And we sold our first of many fart machines.

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Close to 40 years ago my father was hosting a David Roth magic lecture. David was one of the biggest names in magic you have probably never heard about. In the magic world he was, legen…wait for itdary! Give the man four coins and a Mexican centavo and he would perform miracles right under your nose.

He was also the first big name performer I’ve ever seen lecture. (That I remember) I could not have been more than 10 or 12yrs old. Not only was I going to see David Roth but my father was hosting the lecture! I would get to meet and dine with the legend himself! This was a man who had been on Johnny Carson, David Letterman and a host of tv magic specials. The greats in magic called him their inspiration. I was expecting Hollywood style elite. He wrote the BIBLE of coin magic, ‘Expert Coin Magic’. David Roth did not disappoint. The lecture room at Ruby Foo’s Hotel was jam packed with magicians. Every eye focused at the banquet table in the front of the room where the master was at work.

After the lecture we dined at Montreals famous(also no longer in existence) THE Brown Derby. Now David was out of his element he was not performing and I was starting to see him for who he was. He was not a large man, he was rather meek. He blended into the world around him. He was so unassuming so…..normal. Dare I say it….even a little drab.

Years later, I was in New York City and my father took us to the famous FAO Schwartz. We walked up to the magic counter and my heart dropped into my chest. Standing there demonstrating some the most basic of magic tricks and novelty’s to the masses was none other than David Roth.

My superstar was just a regular Joe Schmo busting his hump selling toys in a toy store in order to pay the rent. My mothers words flashed through my mind like a bolt of lighting, “Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time”

But you know? David may not have cracked the main stream entertainment world yet he was still a superstar. He literally wrote THE book on coin magic. He inspired magicians around the world. When he passed away on January 14th, 2021 at the age of 68 the magic world mourned because we all knew a legend had passed, even if just one leg at a time.

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“In 1340 the black death arrived on the shores of Italy and quickly spread across Europe.  By the time the plague was done a third of the world population was dead. when somebody would show symptoms of having the dreaded disease they were ushered into a room in the house and locked in, nobody ever left those rooms alive. It is believed that the souls in those rooms attached their spirits to the keys that locked them in.  A great many of these keys still exist, obviously this is one”

At least that is what I told the ladies in the antique store as the skeleton key I was buying rolled over in the open palm of my outstretched hand.

haunted key photo (003)

My wife and I were wandering through an antique mall just before it was closing.  In the back of the store I found a bunch of skeleton keys less than five dollars each.  One of my favorite effects from my magic days is a little something called the, Haunted Key.  A skeleton key is laid across my palm and all on its own it slowly turns as if it is in a lock.  It is an incredibly haunting effect that always gets a great response. The effect does not work with any skeleton key so once you know the secret you just have to keep trying them until you find one that does.  I always buy the keys when I find them because I am always losing them.

When we walked up to the cash there was one other customer in the shop.  I handed the cashier my prize. My wife pipes up,  “Aren’t you going to show them why you are buying that key?”  The cashier fell right in and said, “Yes, why are you buying this key?”

“Because it is haunted” I said offhandedly. Both the cashier and the other woman froze.  “I’ll show you” I took the key laid it on my palm and we all watched as the key ever so slowly turned in my hand.  After the very loud momentarily silence that followed the cashier asked, “Do all keys do that?”

“No, only the haunted ones”

“I want to test my keys at home, can you show me how you held it?”

I repeated the effect and again both watched intently.  “Are you serious? Is it really haunted?”

I didn’t even get a chance to reply as the other customer did that for me.  She said, “I think he is very serious” at which point I couldn’t help myself.  I had to bring home the effect and opened my mouth,

“In 1340 the black death landed on the shores….”

Both women bought the story hook line and sinker.   On the drive home I said to my wife, “I probably should have told them I am a magician and it was a trick”

“No” my wife instantly responded, “It is not your job, they can believe what they wish” and we laughed all the way home.

In 1974 my father opened up Perfect Magic.  42 years later that shop still exits both brick and mortar and on the web with my parents at the helm.  Why not pay them a visit at PerfectMagic.com and if you want the Haunted Key which they still carry, tell them Brian sent you.

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Philipsburg, including Philipsburg North, South and a little place called Chester Hill boasts a combined population of 4,800 people. If we don’t want to make the run into State College for groceries our only practical option is Philipsburg. This was one of those Sundays, we even splurged and went to McDonalds for breakfast.

We ordered our scrumptious meal, my wife grabbed the drinks and found a seat while I waited for the rest of the food. It was a busy morning at McDonalds, the pimply kid asking if we want fries with that seemed overwhelmed and who could blame him? There had to be at least four other people in line. I got the food and headed over to the table my wife had found. There was a gentleman seated at the table next to us that I had never met before but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was a magician. No he wasn’t holding a bunny or wearing a top hat. He wasn’t practicing a magic trick. To the untrained eye there were absolutely no outward signs that he was a magician. I just knew. Four thousand eight hundred people, the odds of one being a magician are little to none. Is there nowhere I can hide? My wife, of course, unknowing his magic habit had already struck up a conversation with him. My wife talks to all the strays.

As I took my seat my wife says, “Brian look at the cool case he has for his ipad, isn’t that neat?” To which I add, “Not only that, he is a magician!” The look he gave me was nothing short of comical, for a moment I thought he was going to choke on his meal.

In about two minutes the conversation turned to a magic pissing match. He started telling me about all the magicians he knows. About all the tricks he does and how he made improvements. These types of conversations never fail to amuse me. And I usually don’t engage. I nod, I smile, add a few words here and there. Why must it always be a competition? When plumbers meet do they compare tools? Brag about how fast they can remove a valve?

But I’m not writing to tell you about Philipsburg or magic pissing contests. No I’m here to tell you what happened when the Military showed up.

There we sat eating our McBreakfast happily discussing the merits of magnets vs invisible thread in the world of magic when all of the sudden from behind the counter we hear the staff yelling at each other, “We got a bus! We got a bus! Start prepping the food. Do we have enough hashbrowns!” I looked up and sure enough across the way a bus had pulled up the door opened and out stepped a soldier complete with clipboard and camo-fatigues followed by a whole lot of other people who looked exactly like him, and yes, they were heading our way. The shouts from behind the counter still ring in my ears, “Oh My God they are military, do we give them anything free? Do we have enough food?”

The restaurant quickly filled up I could no longer see the counter all I could see was a wall of men and all I could think about was that the camo-gear was a huge fail as I could see them all quite clearly. I heard one soldier at the end of line line quietly say, ‘guys, hold up a minute’ and with that they all took a step back in order to let two old ladies dressed in their Sunday finest to move to the front of the line. And that is what I’m writing about. Good manners, common decency and class.

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Not a post so to speak, Just Sequoia and I having a little fun.

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I’m not much of a practical joker. Truth is I really don’t like them at all but every now and again when the mood is just right I just can’t seem to help myself as is evident in a previous blog about a co-worker and a fish.

The local magic shop, when there was one, was located directly behind the bank where I used to work. Can you believe it? I’ve spent most of my life in the magic business. I left the West Coast, changed countries and in the process stepped out of the world of magic, (for the most part) and I end up working directly across the street from a magic shop. Talk about fate.

Beside the magic shop was a little boutique that sold handmade soap. The soap boutique had an automatic soap bubble maker/blower mounted on the wall between the two stores. On nice days the bubbles would blow onto the sidewalk.

I was sitting in the banks lunchroom, the large windows faced the magic shop. John, the owner of the magic shop was sitting on the stoop directly outside his door. I was eating my lunch watching the world, watching John, watching the old lady slowly meandering down the street, watching the pretty bubbles. Suddenly the old lady stops and turns toward John and starts pointing at him. I couldn’t hear anything and the windows didn’t open. One thing was clear the Lady was not happy. John kept pointing at the bubble maker and the soap boutique. I watched in fascination, clearly the lady was upset and yelling. A few people crossed the street to keep out of the situation. John kept shrugging and pointing at the store next to his, but the old woman was having none of John’s explanations. The only thing that made sense to me was that a bubble landed on the old woman and she thought it was John’s bubble maker and was telling him what she thought. After about five minutes or so the lady stormed off leaving John standing in front of his store scratching his head.

I finished my lunch and went back to work. But I could not shake the scene from my head. While serving a customer a plan began to form. I didn’t think it would work but I had to try. I spent the next few hours cementing the plan in my head. Finally my afternoon break came and I bolted for the lunch room and grabbed the phone and called the magic shop. I did not disguise my voice, either it would work or it wouldn’t.

The phone rings

John: “Hello, Abracadabra Magic”

Me: “Hello, may I please speak to the owner?”

John: “I am the owner, how may I help you?”

Me: “Mr. Oglivy?” (not John’s real last name)

John: “Yes?”

“My name is Officer Dale from the State College borough police, we have received a complaint about the bubble machine you have outside your store.”

“Officer you want the store next to mine, I tried to explain to the lady who yelled at me for 10 minutes that it is not my machine. It belongs to the people who own the store next to mine.”

“Mr. Oglivy I did go ahead and check the regulations about any such devices. I found that they have to be at least 15 feet back from the sidewalk or a permit is required. I checked the maps and on your street there is simply not enough clearance from the front of the building to the sidewalk to operate such a machine without a proper permit.”

John sounding frustrated: “Officer, as I explained to the lady, it is not my bubble…”

“You do have a permit to operate that bubble machine, don’t you Mr. Oglivy?”

“Officer I already expl…”

“Mr. Oglivy does your landlord know about the bubble…”

“Officer I…”

Me starting to sound agitated: “Mr. Oglivy please do not interrupt me again. I am going to come down with a city inspector to inspect the bubble machine and take some measurements and check your permits.”

“Officer, I tried explaining to the lady, and I’m trying to tell you, it is not my bubble machine it belongs to the store next door, clearly there has been a mistake.”

“Mr. Oglivy let me explain it this way. You are the owner of Abracadabra Magic and a complaint has been made against you and I have to follow up on this complaint. I explained the city ordinance and I will be out there later today to complete my report. If you don’t meet the requirements to operate such a device you will be given a citation at which point you can explain it all to a judge.”

“Officer, the bubble machine is not…Brian is that you?”


“You son of a bitch, are you at the bank?”

“Yup, saw the whole thing but could not hear a word”

“Bastard you really had me going. That lady was so mad and I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t mine but she just kept on yelling.”

Me laughing: “So I really had you going?”

“She was so mad, her calling the police wouldn’t surprise me, and you had all the details so yes you bastard you had me going the whole time.”

It is odd that the only two practical jokes I remember being involved in happened while I was at the bank. I guess that place just brought out the worst in me.

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Sometimes it just takes a little magic.

The bank I worked at had something called a call night.  These happened twice every quarter.   What is a call night?  Glad you asked.  Employee’s who are customer facing were required to profile customers.  We would look into an account and see if a customer had a lot of money sitting in a checking account that they are not using.  Or they may be paying on a loan with too high an interest rate. We would call these people and see if we could get them into the bank to talk with an advisor.  Despite the scary word ‘profiling’ this is an excellent program and greatly helps customers.  Most people don’t realize how many products banks offer. Believe it or not, to stay in business banks need you to succeed.  One would think convincing people to talk to an advisor to further their own needs would be easy. But it is not.   Peoples fear and distrust makes making these calls very daunting.

My first week at the bank there was a call night from which I was excused seeing as I had not been there long enough to profile anyone, nor did I have a clue as to what I was talking about.  Being the trooper that I am I opted to stay and join the fun.  The manager handed me a list of papers and told me to call everyone on the list.

I looked at the first name on the list checked their account and they had something like 25 grand sitting in a no interest checking account.  I looked at the history and they had that much sitting there for at least a year.  Clearly, at the very least this could go into an interest bearing savings account.  The call went something like this.

Me:  “Hi my name is Brian and I’m calling from your bank.  I’ve noticed you have a lot of money sitting in a checking account.  Did you know we can put you in another type of account and you could be making money on that money?

Them:  “Not interested”

Me—Stunned silence.

Me: “Really? Do you have that money earmarked for something, perhaps a home, or a car or sending a child to school? If you are we have many products designed just for those types of purposes that will be much more beneficial than a checking account.”

Them:  “No thanks,” CLICK!

Me:  Looking stupidly at my phone. 

At this point one of the other Tellers noticed me looking stupid and quietly told me that she just calls home and speaks to her answering machine.  That way it looks like she is making calls.  While I understood the concept, I thought that was a bigger waste.  With great trepidation I looked at the second person on my list.  His name was Bob (not really, but we will call him Bob) the first thing I noticed was that Bob had multiple accounts all with stupidly high balances.

 Me:  “Hi Mr. Bob, My name is Brian and I’m calling from your bank, I’d like to talk about all that money you have just sitting there doing nothing, in fact I’d like to transfer it into my account.  Okay I didn’t say that, what I really said was something to the effect of you really need to come in and talk to one of our people about making this money work for you.

Bob: “I don’t like big banks, they are very impersonal and you never know who you are talking too”

Me: “Well I can help you with that, I’m Brian I am calling from your branch in State College and I can be your banker”

Bob: “Well that is nice of you but I remember when it was a small town bank and I knew everyone who worked there, now I don’t know anybody and I’m not happy about it.”

Me: “I understand, progress isn’t always what it is cracked up to be, but I can help you out with your current accounts”

Bob: “Does Pat still work there?”

Me: “Pat?  Yes, she is my branch manager.”

Bob: “I remember her when she was a Teller and I’d show her magic tricks.  I’d show all the girls magic tricks and they always greeted me with smiles and were happy to see me, now there is no personal service.”

At this point I just leaned back in my chair, smiled inwardly and took a breath.  Here I was a week in the bank, my first call night I knew nothing about banking but I booked my first call night appointment.  I had a secret.  Bob was a magician, not only that, he was older which meant he was an old school magician, which meant he would have my back.

Me: “Really you are a magician?”

Bob: “Oh yes, I am a member of the magic circle in England, I’m a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, (IBM) and the Society of American Magicians, (SAM).  I’m not much of a performer on any formal level but I do show the occasional trick, and they used to love them at the bank.”

Me: “I was the regional Vice President of the SAM in Vancouver Canada”

Bob:  Silence

Bob: “Really?”

Me: “Yes really, my father opened a magic shop in Montreal in 1974 which is still going strong.  I just moved here from Vancouver where I operated the Vancouver branch for the last 10 years.”

Bob and I talked magic for about 15 minutes and then he said:

Bob:  “So if I make an appointment, what do you get out of it?”

Me:  “Not much except the fact that this is my first week at the job and I’ll have made my first appointment during a call night.”

Bob: “And what exactly is expected of me?”

Me:  “You just have to listen, you don’t have to commit to anything or do anything.  Just listen to your options and you never know something might just be right for you.”

Bob:  “Okay, for a fellow magician, okay, set up a date.”

After pinning down a time with Bob I went to my manager and told her that I made an appointment for her for the following day with Bob.  Pat looked at me with huge eyes and told me they have been trying to get Bob into the bank for years and he has always turned us down flat.  She asked me what I said that got him to agree.  I told her I just have a magical way about me.

Out of six tellers, three desk people the manager and two investment people making supposedly 10 calls apiece I was the only one to book an appointment that day. 

Sometimes all it takes is a little magic.

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Okay I admit it. Now that I found out how to post video’s on Youtube I’m constantly thinking of ways to use this tool in my posts. There is one video we took awhile back that I’m searching for, but in the meantime my camera person, (my wife) is learning to use the camera and I am learning how to add titles and credits to the video.  I know for a 12 year old this is probably standard stuff.  But for folks like me, well lets just say it is darn close to rocket science.

Anywhow, here is our latest attempt.  Hope you enjoy the world famous 3 card trick.

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