Posts Tagged ‘magicians’


For the second time in the history of this blog I have a guest poster.  My friend Penney from Vancouver read my handcuff blog and offered this handcuff story that involves her husband Tony.  The following is actually a response to my handcuff story.  Thanks Penney.

Way back, before 9/11 when air travelers were all considered fairly harmless and Tony’s entire magic collection could fit into a standard briefcase. We were flying to AB, and because he didn’t trust the airline with his precious collection he planned to bring the briefcase as a carry-on. Gotta really hand it to the security lady. She never cracked a smile (though her eyes were laughing hysterically) as she had asked this strange long-haired dude (Tony) to open the case. So he does, explaining to her how the case was filled with odd stuff because he was a magician, and really, she couldn’t possibly understand the workings of what he had in that case of mystery. And when she went straight for the corner of the case and pulled out his handcuffs, he didn’t miss a beat. He said, “That is for my escapism act.” They made him give it to the steward, who I think gave it to the pilot.

For some strange reason, none of the three steward(ess) on that flight could make it through the safety procedures, because they were all doubled over laughing by the time they boarded the plane.

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Some bits of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way.

1) One of the first times behind the ‘Perfect Magic’ counter at a magic convention I was performing an effect for a customer when two very prominent figures in magic walked up to watch, (Sid Loraine and Frank Garcia).  Suddenly I became a jumble of nerves.  Later Mr. Garcia found me sitting in the lobby and he said to me that I should never be nervous when performing in front of another magician.  “A true magician,” he said,” will always be there to help you. We are after all, a brotherhood.”  I try to remember this bit of wisdom when dealing with people in general.  I’ve got to tell you, I’m not always successful.

2) While I believe it is true that when you fall off a horse you have to get right back on, I am also old enough to realize that some horses are just not meant to be ridden.

3) Yes poop rolls downhill.  But really if you keep your eyes open you can usually step out of its way. Of course there is an equally good chance you are going to get poop in your eye.

4) Stay away from people who say they don’t like ‘drama’ in their lives as they are usually the ones with the most, and create the most drama, and can’t seem to function without it.

5) I’m more of a finesse type person.  I like to approach things slowly and delicately.  However I have learned that there is something to be said about the bull in the china shop approach.

6) I don’t like confrontation.  But you really cannot make a good omelet without breaking those eggs. 

7) The more I look for things to write about, the fewer things I find to write about.

8) Most of the time it is not about blame and it is not always about you.  So when something happens stop trying to come up with excuses as to why it is not your fault.  instead why not try to find resolution for the situation.  

9) There is an incredible amount of value in knowing when to shut your mouth and open your ears.

10) Even though Ghandi said it first, my wife, more that anyone has taught me through her actions, that you really do have to be the change you want to see in the world.

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While still dating my first wife we found ourselves in the car sitting in front of my house, (I was still living at home) when J (for lack of her real name) says to me:

J: “You must be embarrassed by me!” She said this with quite a bit of tone.

Me: “What are you talking about?”

J: “We have been going out for quite some time and you never invite me up to see your parents”

Me: “Well we are here now, let’s go up.”

I think she was expecting an argument because as I got out of the car she just sat there.  So I walked around the car and opened the door for her, she didn’t want to get out of the car.

Me: “So? What is the problem?  You sit there and out of the blue accuse me of being embarrassed of you because you have never met my folks.  You are right, you never met them but not because I am ashamed of you or them or anything. I just never thought about it. 

J: “Perhaps we shouldn’t do this tonight.”

Me: “Nope, you brought it up, now it is sounding like you just wanted to start a fight. I’m going up the stairs, you can follow or not.  Either way this conversation is not happening again.”

What I had forgotten was that it was a Friday night.  At that time we had a Friday night tradition.  Some friends of my parents would come over for a rousing night of Trivial Pursuit.  This particular night there was more than the one other couple.  I had to feel a little bad for J first she wasn’t expecting to meet my parents, she was just looking for a fight, that backfired and now she was meeting her boyfriends folks for the first time and to make it even worse she had to meet them in front of a room full of strangers.  And just to add fuel to the fire it was a room full of magicians.  I know many of you can’t fully understand the significance of a room full of magicians so you will just have to trust me when I tell you that magicians are not like ‘normal’ people. Despite ourselves a good time was had by all.  Even J had to admit it was a fun, different and interesting evening.

In retrospect J had it easy. 

Fast forward many years…

I lived in Vancouver, Denyce my current wife was living here in Central Pa and my folks live in Montreal.  Denyce and I had been having a long distance relationship for quite some time.  We were waiting for the go ahead from INS to allow me to move to the USA.  I was moving here on a Fiancé visa which means once everything is clear and INS says jump you have to move and be married within a very short period of time.  We planned as much as we could in advance but without an actual date there was a lot left in the air.  Our saving grace was we were going to be married and have the reception in our back yard.  Finally after two years of planning, paperwork, checks being written, doctors appointments, background checks, more forms being filled out INS said jump.  With help from my parents we got the loose ends in BC tied up and I started my journey to a new life.

Denyce had never met my parents or any of my family.  They had talked on the phone but never met.  We set our wedding plans in motion, picked the date and sent the official invitations.  Poor Denyce not only did she have the stress of a wedding and being married she was going to get to meet my family for the first time on her wedding day.  Denyce, over the phone expressed to my youngest sister, (Mommy Said What?) how nervous she was about meeting her family-in-laws for the first time at her own wedding.  My sister replied; don’t be silly we will all meet the day before the wedding.

But it gets worse.  Denyce had decided to invite her father to the wedding.  He lives in California and they had been estranged for at least 10yrs.  While she wanted him to show up she really didn’t think he would.  Surprise! He was driving down for the occasion. Denyce was not only meeting her future in-laws she was also meeting her father all on the day before her wedding.

Can you say stress?

I am not just typing all this out for my health, there is a lesson here.  If you ever find yourself in a similar stressful situation I highly suggest having a keg or two of beer waiting for you at the end of the rainbow.  We did and it was wonderful.

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This post is basically geared towards the magicians in the crowd, but I think you normal people will enjoy it as well. 

Not long ago I was asked if there were any magicians or effects that manage to impress me.  I’m assuming I was asked because I am quite ‘jaded’ when it comes to magicians.  The answer however, is a big yes. 

I still like finding clips of Doug Henning and Paul Daniels.  Watching Eugene Burger, Jeff McBride and Ricky Jay is always a treat. There are guys like Shawn Farquhar who I’ve discussed in these pages before.  Donovan, Tony Chris, Matthew Johnson, Ray Wong and of course the late Tony Eng and Sid Lorraine are also on my favorites list, all for different reasons, all are extremely entertaining.    Ben Salinas, here in State College is just a hoot to watch, his smile and enthusiasm are infectious.

Montreal is a mecca for magicians.  While there are many reasons for this, I honestly believe the majority or reasons can be attributed to Tom Auburn (Magic Tom).  It always amazed me how many people I have come across that had been on his magic show.  In University so many of my classmates would come up to me with the same, similar story: “…your family is in the magic business?  Do you know Magic Tom?  I loved magic Tom, I was on his show when I was a kid, and I never missed watching that show.”  Nobody showed any shock that my father owned a magic shop.  In BC, I got odd looks when people found out what I did. After Magic Tom passed away people would come to me telling me about the time they were on the show, eventually I would be asked if I could make an introduction, at which time I would have to deliver the sad news.  I always had a hard time telling my friends and acquaintances that Magic Tom had passed away, every time they would get that look in their eyes as if I had just killed off part of their childhood. 

Perhaps my father, or other magi from Quebec will comment on this post giving possible explanations as to why magic is so popular in Quebec.  Because of this popularity Quebec has produced some excellent magicians. There are too many to name but a few examples are

David Acer:  Unfortunately I can only watch him for short periods of time as my stomach and sides quickly begin to hurt from laughing so hard.

Richard Saunders:  Crap man, I hate this guy.  I once sold him an effect.  I saw him perform it a few days later and I had no idea how he did it!

Roger Benoit:  Never failed to amaze and amuse me.  Roger may find it interesting that he is one of my favourite magicians.  

Gary Kurtz:  Gary would stand at the front door to the shop and call over to me.  ‘Brian Pick up that deck of cards you are using and spread them face up on the table and think of one card when you have the card in mind shuffle the deck”  That done he would then name the card I was thinking of.  Doesn’t sound like much but believe me it is nothing short of a miracle

I was in the Montreal shop practicing a small cups and balls routine, (Three balls penetrate three cups) a customer walks in and offers to give me some pointers.  I want to say it was Jean Boucher but can’t swear to it, anyway he has me set the effect up.  We go through the routine together very slowly.  I picked up the first ball made it vanish from my hand only to appear under a cup that is on the table.   The ordeal is repeated with the second ball.   I pick up the third ball and the customer says to me.  ‘We should change this up, pick up the cup first so we can see that there is nothing underneath”  I picked up the third cup and underneath it was my own wrist watch. Son of a Bitch!

Alain Choquette:  I’m not even going to discuss Alain’s magic.  He performed live on a popular french TV show and all the girls loved him.  He made me quite popular by association, Thanks Alain. 

Sorry there are just too many to name such as Romain, Carl Cloutier, Patrick Reymond, Blair Marshall, Ted Outerbridge, Lawrence Larouche and sorry to all those that I have forgotten to name here.

My point being is yes I am jaded when it comes to magic.  Yes sometimes I tend to run the other way when I see a group of magicians, yes I may break out in a rash when I see somebody with a deck of cards.  But in the end I can honestly say that magicians, despite their reputations as being complete nerds are some of the most incredible people around.

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Life Savers

As I said on a previous post the magic shop in Vancouver was located on the second floor in a strip mall, on the other end of the mall was a large drug store.

One sunny afternoon Shawn Farquhar walks into the shop.  For those of you not into the magic scene, Shawn is a huge player in the magic field in fact in 2009 he was named the Grand Prix World Champion Of Magic, The International Brotherhood of Magicians named him the Stage Magician and Close up magician of the year, making him a two time champion in the same year.  He has also worked on the X-files, Highlander, The Fly II, he as performed on the Ellen DeGeneres show.   More importantly he is a friend and a really nice guy.  

Shawn comes into the shop one day and as usual we spent a good deal of time shooting the breeze and talking some business, we were making plans to bring in a lecturer (Daryl) to give a lecture for the local magic club.  Just before he leaves Shawn mentions that he is going to stop in the drugstore and probably perform the effect ‘lifesavers’ when he goes to pay.  I didn’t think anything of it at the time because Shawn is always performing.

‘Lifesavers’ is an effect that was designed to be totally impromptu. The magician walks into a store getting ready to pay for his purchase, checks his pockets only to find that he can’t find his wallet.  Magician looks around and spots the lifesavers, picks out one package and opens it in front of the cashier, after the first few are pulled out something can be seen protruding from the center, a few more lifesavers are removed and it becomes clear that the object in the lifesavers is a five dollar bill.  Which the magician uses to pay for his purchase” For you magicians I believe the effect can be found in Michael Weber’s ‘Life Saver’ book.

Approximately twenty minutes later a few of the employees from the drug store come into the shop carrying 4 boxes of lifesavers.  They explain to me that this guy walked into the store bought a few things but couldn’t pay.  They go on to explain, that this guy then looks at a few rolls of lifesavers picks one opens it and there is five dollar bill inside.  This ‘guy’ proceeds to explain to them that Lifesavers is having a secret promotion and they put a five dollar bill in certain rolls of lifesavers.  Not only that, this ‘guy’ told them that the rolls are marked and the guy in the magic store knows what the mark look like.

The employees, hesitant to ask me about it opened about a dozen rolls before they summed up the courage to come to me with lifesavers in hand and ask me which ones contained the five dollar bills!

 Thanks Shawn!

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Doug Henning believed that it was his job to create a sense of wonder for his audience.   

I remember the first time I saw an effect that created that sense of wonder.  I don’t remember how old I was, I don’t even remember a lot of detail. I just remember an overwhelming sense of ‘holy shit’ for lack of better words.

The magician in question went by the name of Israel.  If you asked him he would tell you his mother is the earth, and his father is the moon.  He was just that kind of guy.  He came into the magic shop, (our basement at the time) took off his sandals, sat cross legged on a bamboo mat he had set up and proceeded to perform ‘coins across’ where magically, four coins travel one at a time invisibly from one hand to the other.  This is a standard effect that most magicians perform, and to this day it is one of my favorites. Perhaps it was my age, where I was in my life, his presentation or a combination of many things at once.  But for me that performance created a sense of wonder.  I think (possibly blame) that moment for my inability to escape magic.  

Another such moment happened years later, only this time I saw it from the other side.

Once again I was in the magic shop in Montreal.  A good friend and brilliant magician Romain was helping us out behind the counter as he often did.

For you magi out there who don’t know who Romain is, well suffice it to say he was a student of Slydini, He was a demonstrator at Tannen’s magic shop, one (if not, the) oldest magic shops in the USA, He has an effect written up in ‘Million Dollar Secrets’ by non-other than Frank Garcia. Romain is the Monarch of Manipulation.  He is known around the world and he is a magic icon in Canada…And, for those in the know, he is one of Canada’s top ballroom dancers.

A young girl wanders into the magic shop.  She actually belonged to the owner of another retail shop a few doors down.  Romain is sitting behind the counter and decides to show her a magic trick.  The response from the little girl is indescribable But it was easy to see what was going through her mind.  She was just old enough to know that magicians show tricks, that things just don’t vanish or appear intellectually she knew it could not happen, yet it just did!  And she was young enough that she only recently left that wonderful childhood place where everything is possible and most things are magical.  Romain let that girl know that despite what she had learned, there is still magic in the world. I will never forget the look of wonder on that girls face.  After she left Romain turned to me and said, “Brian that is what this is all about” It was one of many valuable lessons Romain has taught me over the years. 

Romain, if you are reading, thanks for the lessons you probably don’t even realize you taught me.  I’ve been watching So You Think You Can Dance, it is nice to see your influence has gone beyond magic.

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When I ran the magic shop in Vancouver, BC I used to think to myself, ‘self, you should write a book about the people who come into the magic shop” I even had a title, “Why Do All The Weirdo’s End Up On My Front Door”  I know what you are thinking. ”Why are you asking such a stupid question?  They ended up on your front door because you are in a magic store.  Just what did you expect?”

The point is, there were/are so many stories but I struggle to write them down.  Most I have forgotten, and the best ones I can’t tell because it would entail giving away some magic secrets, and that is just wrong.  However I do remember one from quite some time ago that does not require the exposure of a magic method.

For this to make sense you need a little background in the way a magic shop works:

When you walk into a magic shop we are not going to show you how an effect works.  We may demonstrate the effect so you can see what it does, but we don’t ever tell you how it is done.  Once the money is in the cash drawer and you have your receipt in hand we will tell you to go home, read the instructions and practice.  I have been in the rare magic shop where, if you buy the effect they will teach you how it is done on the spot.  This is a huge mistake for many reasons I can write a book on the subject, but to break it down to a very basic level…

  • If we tell you how it’s done, the magic is gone for you and you will not buy the effect.
  • You will see just how simplistic it is and refuse to believe that people will be fooled by it.  Despite the fact that it just fooled the heck out of you! 
  • Just because you know how the effect works, doesn’t mean you will be able to perform it, magic takes practice.
  • If you have to work for it, you will appreciate it more and be better at it.

That is not too say that if you really have a problem we won’t help you, but most of us have to see that you did put some work into it.  And we make it abundantly clear, once you have purchased the effect it is yours.  We do not give money back.  Magic is knowledge.  I don’t use most of the crap I learned in school, can I get my money back?  No because like your education, magic is a process, it is an accumulation of information, each item you buy, each book, each dvd is a lesson, how do you give the lesson back?  Obviously if the material is faulty we will replace it, and a good magic dealer will try their best to ensure what you are buying is within your ability to perform, and is practical for your situation. 

In the end, you are the addict, the magic is the drug, the magic shop is the dealer. You are the john, we are the prostitute and magic is the sex.  I know, scary right?  Well I’ll tell you something a little scarier, many magicians start performing to get the girls and in the end prefer the magic over the girls.  There is an old joke. 

Magician: “boy I wish my wife was still around.”

Magic dealer: ‘I’m sorry for your loss”

Magician: “Oh, it is okay, I traded her for a rabbit production box, but I should have held out for that colour changing handkerchief trick”

Or the magicians anonymous joke.

Magician: (standing in front of a group of recovering magicians) Hello my name is the great Randini I am a magic addict.

Group: Hocus Pocus Randini!

Randini: The other day I actually put down my deck of cards and went outside

Group: Yay, Randini, good for you! We are so proud of you.

Randini: I even met a girl, well okay she was a hooker.

Group: Yes, Yes Randini what remarkable progress so happy and proud of you.  Was the sex good?

Randini:  Well I got her up to the hotel room…

Group: (on the edge of their seats clearly happy for Randini)

Randini: and….I showed her a card trick.

Group: Awww, Randini!

You know, somewhere along the line this post took a really odd turn, but stick with me, I’m about to get back on track.  Thinking about it, this is a pretty long build up for a very little story, but what the heck.

So I was standing behind the counter in the shop in Montreal.  My father was in the office sitting at his desk working on the computer and by computer I mean a Mac IIe.  A customer walked in with a bag of magic stuff he purchased from us earlier in the week.  According to him everything he purchased was crap and did not work.  I remember what he bought.  Svengali Deck, Dynamic Coins, and a beginner set (plastic 4 dollar version) of Cups and Balls.   These are all really good effects and any magician would agree. 

I helped him out and explained things to him but he is not happy, I believed what he wanted was real magic and not a magic trick. I explained the sorry facts of life to him and offered to go over the effects once again.  He was not happy, he leaned over the counter and looked in the office:

Customer: “I want to speak to that man over there, the one sitting behind the computer!”

Me: “sure thing”

I went into the office and quietly explained the deal to my father and let him know that the customer wanted to see him. My father gets up and goes to the front, I head to our stock room and hear the following conversation:

Customer: “Are you the owner?”

Dad: (Who is the owner) “No, but if you hold on a second I’ll get him for you!”

Next thing I know my father is looking at me with a shit eating grin, “There is a customer out front to see you!”

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