Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Castle Notes

Mind a buzz still reveling in last nights activities. I've been wanting to report a tad more on my life in magic and more specifically my frequent trips toThe Magic Castle®

While still at work last night, I was pleasantly surprised to see Gary Plantsand his lovely wife Deborah in my audience. They were in for the Los Angeles Conference on Magic History over the previous few days. I've known Gary for 33 years. We met a The Columbus Magi-Fest Magic Conventionwhen I was but a young, teenage trouble maker. I've always been very impressed with Gary's card work. Even back in the day he was one of the most hard core in any session. His dealing work, exceptional and his trick "The Bottom Collectors" always one of my favorites. It was nice to have "Plant's" in my audience! Afterwards I asked him how my card work looked technically, (I asked him to, be blunt and honest). He said it all looked good. Made me happy.

Had a decent night at the Universal CityWalk Hollywood, for an off season Monday night. It was Veterans Day, and there was a good crowd. The Magic Castle does something unique for Veterans Day. Every performer in all the rooms are Veterans from the Armed Forces. A touching tribute to the magicians that served.

Sometimes I go to the Castle and try and see a lot of shows, other times it more about hanging with the gang and chatting the night away. Last night was more like that. I got a call from James Patton in the afternoon, saying he was going to be there in the evening. Always a treat to hang with him. We met at the Castle back in 1986. It was the first time I had worked there. I was 21 years old. Those sure were great days at the Castle. Hanging with the likes of Dai Vernon, Charlie Miller, and Larry Jennings. I was part of a small crew that consisted of Me, Daniel Sylvester (who was my roommate for 2 years back then) and Paul Nathan. Jim Patton used to call us the "Young Turks". We were young, crazy and always wore hats. Seems like a different lifetime.

I got to the Castle around 10PM and ventured down to the Library to hook up with Jim. Saw Billy Goodwin, Alfonso and Lituo down there, as well as Jim and a fellow he introduced me to, Ron Wohl. We chatted down there till Billy closed up the Library for the evening. We decided to go see Jason England in the Close-Up Gallery. Out through the Inner Circle and a quick stop to the newly revamped smoking area. Jim lit his pipe, I lit my cigar and Ron Wohl joined us for some more discussions about The Man That was Erdnase.

Jason England does beautiful work. I've known him for a while, but had never seen him perform in a formal setting. I was not disappointed. He opened with Triumph which led into a Cutting the Aces Routine followed by a Two Card Selection with a nice kicker ending. To end his performance he launched into an expansive gambling demonstration that featured all the false deals: Seconds, Bottoms, Centers & Greek Bottoms. The finale was a poker demonstration that got me hook line and sinker. Didn't see it coming.

During the show I sat next to, new member, Robb Weinstock. After the show we discussed what we saw. We retreated to the new Vernon Corner whereHoward Hamburg was holding court as usual. We continued to discuss some of the technical aspects of Jason's show. I excused myself from the table to get a cocktail and was drawn to the end seats of there bar where Tony Picasso and Michael Rangel were chatting and fiddling with cards. Tony is an interesting character. Unique in both his approach to magic as well as his outlook in general. Up until last night I didn't think he talked. While I've known him since moving back to LA, 7 years ago; he's remained a mystery to me. Michael, I've only got to know a little more recently. We had a swell talk about about these sorts of posts on Facebook. We talked about the challenge of not sugar coating opinions about the magic we see, yet, try and be honest about technical aspects of the act. Lately when I am curious about why a performer made certain choices, I've just asked. I did this last night with Jason England. Asked him why he did something the way he did. While watching the performance (not trying to be overly critical) I saw something that was curious and sort of rubbed me the wrong way. I don't like feeling critical, but we feel the way we do. It was great to just flat out ask him why he did it that way. His answer was perfect and had me not fooled me with his closer, I might have answered my own question.

Back to the Vernon corner, where Jason joined us. Howard and Jason went over some shuffle work that was over my head. Jason fried me badly and was kind enough to tip the work. Jason England does beautiful work and is one hell of a nice guy. His act was polished, professional and a credit to the art. Well done sir!

Everyone went home as the place was closing. Everyone that is, except me and Jim Patton. Brian Elerding was very polite as he gently nudged us out the door. Jim and I spent another hour hanging in the parking lot, swapping stories of the old days and card moves.

Well done Jack Goldfinger! Booking a solid week of Veteran Performers!

Till next time. . . . .

Jim Patton & Ron Wohl

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Friday, November 01, 2013

Quote du jour

"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
  And waste its sweetness on the desert air."

- Thomas Gray

Neil Young • Cellar Door

These archive series recordings are just great! Really crisp early Niel.

Haloween 2013

Criss Angel

Been trying to watch some Criss Angel on TV. It's easy to take pot shots at something you don't like. It's more interesting to look at some other factors like what makes this guy so popular. He obviously has a large following and works his ass off to perpetuate his brand. So what is it? Do his fans actually accept that what they are seeing is real? Or is it with a wink and a grin and hey it's a TV show? I'm a big fan of Success. Criss Angel is a successful working magician in a tough and often heartless industry. He's climbed the ladder and now laughing his ass off to all of us who might call him a chump. He ain't no chump, he's a magician that works more than most of us combined. Good for him.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween at the Magic Castle

Went to the Magic Castle Monday night. Lucy Lawrence was all dolled up in Halloween attire and working the door. "Open says me" and the evening was underway. I arrived after 10PM and was eager to start the night. Cocktails and magic, been a favorite of mine for years.

Stopped down to the WC Fields Bar to see Jon Armstrong work. Although I know and like Jon, to be honest, I haven't seen him in action all that much. It was a pleasure to watch him work the bar. While I enjoyed his impeccable card magic (any card at any location, some sort of telephone # Triumph, and of course his now wildly popular "Little Plunger"), other factors seemed even more relevant. I must say that his calm demeanor, flawless execution and dry wit had me in stitches. A couple of other noteworthy observations were a running gag with the bartenders tip bucket, BRILLIANT and his audience management of filling seats when people had to leave. Easy to see why he is Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He knows Magic and the Castle. Also gets bonus points for tilting the performing surface towards the audience using a couple of rocks glasses.

Next, was another stiff drink and the Palace of Mystery show starring Rob Zabrecky & Conjure. Chatted briefly (before the show) with Brian Elerdingwho was sporting a great costume and some provocative byplay with a cane. The show started and Rob was introduced. Rob, simply put, is in a class by himself. I can't compare him to anyone. He opened with a bit of paper cutting, his version of Diminishing Cards (a trick I normally dislike), had me in stitches. He's quite the dancer! I've been lucky enough to see Rob perform quite a few times since moving back to LA in 2006. It's no wonder he gets the positive attention and reaction that he does. Very interesting guy with a unique vision. Conjure did a wonderful, high energy, new vaudeville style act. Comprised of Mike Huling and his beautiful wife Cole. Pleased to see illusions (2 weeks in a row on the Palace Stage), Nifty version of the Shadow Box to introduce her. Mike did a wonderful hat juggling routine to music as well as a rope tie routine. Overall a strong and balanced show! I wish I could provide more details but, as it was getting late and the libations were taking effect. Details seemed less important than having a great time. Very funny bit with Stephen Levine and his unwanted ring tone from his phone. Hey, it happens. . . but rarely does it turn into comedy gold! Well played Rob!

A final drink and caught one more act. Paul Vigil working in the Close-Up Gallery. Although I don't know him that well, I've seen him perform a couple of times and like where he is coming from. I would describe him as slow and deliberate. From his Ace Assembly to his Matrix, clarity is what I came away with. "He's not happy till we're happy. . . . could it be anymore fair?".

Another great Monday night at The Magic Castle! Been lucky, last two Monday nights. Was able to see 3 acts! Thinking about going back tonight for a Members Only night. Try and catch the acts I missed.