Saturday, November 03, 2007

Criss Angel ups the ante on Phenomenon

"Mellow My Mind"

Baby mellow my mind,
Make me feel like a
schoolboy on good time,
Jugglin' nickels and dimes,
Satisfied with the
fish on the line.

I've been down the road
and I've come back
Lonesome whistle
on the railroad track
Ain't got nothing on those
feelings that I had.

Something so hard to find,
A situation that can
casualize your mind.

I've been down the road
and I've come back
Lonesome whistle
on the railroad track
Ain't got nothing on those
feelings that I had.

Baby mellow my mind,
Make me feel like a
schoolboy on good time,
Jugglin' nickels and dimes,
Satisfied with the
fish on the line.

By Neil Young

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ursula Martinez • A Classic!

My old pal Homer Liwag


From the Sept. issue of Genii Magazine


My life is bad ass. I answer to no one. I do whatever I want, whenever I want. I’m madly in love. I have the best life. Polly and I ROCK!!

I talked to Hope and Liam on Halloween. I loved hearing the excitement in their voices a they told me what they were going to dress up as. I had a lot of questions like what would they be collecting the candy in? They both said pillow cases, adding, “Just like Buster used to”.

It sure would be nice to see them and spend some time with them. But I don’t have unrealistic expectations. I am here for my kids all day everyday. If only. . . yeah well we know where that’s at.

You can get lost in the pain of the past or frustrate yourself with the uncertainty of the future. I find that by living in the “NOW” and embracing things that are in front of you. I try and be the best person I can be everyday. My mission is simple, to make the world a better place, one smile at a time.

This week has been horrible money wise, but it’s all ebb and flow man. If I don’t get it today, I’ll get’em tomorrow. On the other hand I’ve had a great time maximizing some extra time with Polly.

Yesterday we spent the morning assembling a new day bed she ordered. Our patio paradise is really coming along. Plants look and smell great. Polly takes a lot of pride in making it all so nice. Nude sunbathing hour is going to take on a complete new meaning with the new day bed.

Tonight's The Night!!

I'm so fucking excited!! I'm going to see Neil Young perform live tonight at the brand new 7000 seat Nokia: Live Theater. His new album "Chrome Dreams II" rocks and I've been listening to it often as well as his other 49 albums. Strangely, I seem to have them all loaded into a device smaller than a deck of cards.

Polly will be working, so I'll be flying solo. Think I'll catch the subway in North Hollywood and take it downtown, no traffic, no parking, just a good time waiting for me. I could listen to Neil all day. . . and sometimes I do. . . . loudly. My neighbors love me. . . I rock out to some killer grunge. Let's not forget the Album he did with Pearl Jam, "Mirror Ball". They were called Crazier Horse.

Shawn & I must have listened to Live Rust a million times on vinyl in his burned out basement. Sedan Delivery, Sugar Mountain, Love is a Rose. Here is the set list we can expect w/ Rick Rosas, Ben Keith & Ralph Molina"

From Hank To Hendrix
Ambulance Blues
Sad Movies
A Man Needs A Maid
No One Seems To Know
After The Gold Rush
Mellow My Mind
Love Art Blues
Love Is A Rose
Old Man
The Loner
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Dirty Old Man
Spirit Road
Bad Fog Of Loneliness
Oh, Lonesome Me
The Believer
No Hidden Path
Cinnamon Girl
Tonight's The Night

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Busker du Jour • Neil Young!?

About This Video

Neil Young went busking at Glasgow Central Railway Station, Scotland. Here he performs The Old Laughing Lady on banjo.

It was part of a film made in 1976 some of which used in a 1999 movie about the history of Young's band Crazy Horse called 'Year of the Horse'. The movie includes a scene of them causing a fire in a Glasgow hotel.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

In my "In Box" • Mark Jensen

I've been keeping up with your blog lately and just a couple thoughts
from it. First, the artwork has been fabulous! I like that even if
you haven't the time to open yourself to a lengthy post, at least you
express something through the art that you post. Some of it has been
quite exceptional lately.

Let's see, oh yeah, Death of a Cardman. That kid seemed really
uncomfortable with his 'interrogation.' I got to feeling kind of
sorry for him, to tell you the truth. I think when all is said and
done though, even if there is such a proliferation of magic on the
'net and amongst our youth, there will still only be that very small
portion of the population that really becomes students of card magic.
One cannot become a student by only watching videos and reading books
published in the last couple decades anymore than one can be a student
of history by reading only newspapers since his/her birth. I know
though that there are still some young guys who study Erdnase and are
fluent in 'cardguy.' I still have hope '8)

Finally, the article about Neil Young was wonderful, and I am always
up for Tom Waits. I don't know if he is an acquired taste, because
his music spoke to me from the first word I ever heard him sing. Keep
on keepin' on, keep your battery terminals clean with a wire brush
once a week or once every other week.

Your friend,


P.S. I'm still working hard on my jazz chops, and studying with a
great guitarist here. I'm actally going across the bridge again, but
instead of turning toward Alki, I go over to the left toward what is
(I guess) West Seattle. I think of you each time.

Halloween Striptease

Quote du Jour

Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll buy a funny hat. Talk to a hungry man about fish, and you're a consultant.

- Scott Adams, Dogbert; Dilbert cartoons

In my "In Box"

Hi Tom,

Hope you are well. We last crossed paths at the World Magic Seminar a year and a half ago, when incidentally you were obviously robbed at the close-up competition. A whole block of us voted for you (for whatever that was worth). Anyway it was a treat to see you in action there.

The purpose of my email is to inquire whether you sell the ironwood wand separately from the phoenix cups. I have the set. I am looking for a replacement wand, and I love this one.

Thank you very much for your consideration.


PS. I was recently in Seattle and I held out hope that I might see you at the Market, but alas... it appears you have moved on.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Street magician does trick that goes BADLY wrong

Busker du Jour • Billy Kidd

Her Cute But Crooked Game, originally uploaded by Jocko B..

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Death of the Card Man pt. 1

I shot this footage a couple of weeks ago at a Wednesday afternoon session at Dean Dill’s Barber Shoppe. I was continuing a discussion I started with Billy Goodwin about the “Death of the Card Man”. New friends and new insight. Enjoy. Leave a comment if you have any feeling about this.

I still love my life

So, I’m driving to work tonight, cigar lit, sun roof open. Cruising at 80 miles per hour in the high speed lane when all of a sudden I feel a complete loss of power. I took a second to evaluate my situation, I could pull over to the left shoulder, no. . . didn’t want to trap myself on that side of the freeway. As I loose speed, I get all the way over to the right and finally stop as close to the right side embankment. I check my gages and try and turn over the engine. It wasn’t having any of that. I pop the hood and get out on the passenger side as cars are speeding by at 80 mph. I notice that the battery cables are all corroded at the contacts so I mess with them a little hoping that the strong intentions I was sending, were reaching the soul of my vehicle.

I thought If I gave my car a chance to think about its options, it would make the right decision. My mind wandered as the cigar smoke escaped through the sunroof. I could feel my car move as each car sped by, only several feet away. I thought about the great weekend I had with my girl, how special and loved she makes me feel. I smiled remembering how we watched “The Hustler” and “The Color of Money” back to back as a double feature in bed on sunday. That wasn’t the only double feature. I smiled again.

I thought about the weekend at work. It was fun and good. I also thought about the intimate performance I did for a dinner party of 6. The show went great and everyone enjoyed themselves.

After the party I cruised over to Chris Korn’s Halloween party to make an appearance. Good time at his killer pad in Venice Beach. We talked about his upcoming shoot for his TV show. They’ll be shooting in India, where they evidently have a huge fan base.

Enough time had passed, it was time for my nearly 20 year old Volvo to do it’s job, and get me somewhere. . . anywhere. The car fired up and I did my best not to get killed getting back on the freeway from a stand still in fast, heavy rush hour traffic. I blew off work and decided just to get home. I’ll try and have my car looked at tomorrow and have some routine maintenance performed. I’m sure it will be fine. . . and if it’s not. . . well, that will be another story.

Vintage Neil Young, Still Working for the Muse


NEIL Young was thrilled about an old car. Over chile verde at a Mexican restaurant near the landmark Fox Theater here, where he was rehearsing for his tour, Mr. Young’s grizzled face lit up as he described his Linc-Volt.

The car is a 1959 Lincoln Continental Mark IV, a 19-foot, two-ton behemoth. It was a commercial flop in the year of the massive tail fin, and in its original configuration the car is an ecological disaster, guzzling gas and leaving giant black exhaust spots on the ground as it starts up. That’s the Linc part. Volt is because Mr. Young is converting the car to battery power, with a biodiesel engine for backup, and he plans to drive it to its birthplace in Detroit to demonstrate the viability of electric cars. He’s making a movie about the trip. The film, “is so different from everything that I’ve ever done,” he said. “It’s totally positive.”

The converted Linc-Volt will still barrel along a highway, but silently. It should get up to 100 miles per gallon of fuel, since it runs most of the time on electricity. “The car is really heavy,” Mr. Young said. “It’s got a lot of inertia. So that gives it more power.”

The Linc-Volt makes an irresistible metaphor for Mr. Young’s career: a memorable profile, the inertia of four decades and the latest new start, an old-fashioned exterior that’s been rejiggered within. His new album, “Chrome Dreams II” (Reprise), takes a slice through Mr. Young’s present and past, time-warping through his career. He is also reconfiguring his past with the small-theater tour that will bring him to the United Palace in New York for six shows, Dec. 12 to 19.

Mr. Young, 61, is no fashion plate. The Fox Theater, which he has often used for rehearsals in recent years, was built in 1929 as a vaudeville house and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. But Mr. Young could almost be mistaken for a stagehand. Over two days of rehearsal he wore T-shirts, jeans and an old sport jacket, as well as a paint-spattered railroad cap that may turn up onstage during the tour. He speaks the way he writes lyrics: in terse, unadorned cadences full of plain one-syllable words. As far as career goes, he says, “I work for the Muse.”

He operates by whim and intuition, veering every which way: from the homegrown rock opera “Greendale” in 2003, which was staged as Mr. Young’s most elaborate arena production; to the pensive, made-in-Nashville “Prairie Wind” (and a Jonathan Demme film of it, called “Neil Young: Heart of Gold”) in 2005; to the quickly recorded protest-song broadside “Living With War” in 2006. When making albums, “it’s not like you have a real idea what’s going on,” he said. “You just start, and sometimes it happens easier than other times.” For the new album, “the songs came pretty fast, and they weren’t there in the first place, and they were there when I was done.”

But Mr. Young has also regularly combed through his archives. Lately — after years of nearly releasing old recordings, only to decide that they needed to be remastered once more for newer, higher-fidelity technology — he has put out albums of galvanizing live shows from 1970 and 1971. He plans to release a 1976 concert from the Fox Theater in Atlanta, where, for some reason, he imagined himself talking to the ghost of Judy Garland.

“Chrome Dreams II” also glances back to the 1970s. It is named after “Chrome Dreams,” a 1977 album Mr. Young never released. That album, widely bootlegged, would have introduced some of his best songs, among them “Like a Hurricane,” “Too Far Gone” and “Powderfinger.” The cover had been designed, and the album had been mastered, but it never appeared.

Why not? “Sometimes there isn’t a good reason,” he said. “It just passed me by. I did it, I got to a certain place, and then something would happen and distract me, and I would get into something else and forget what I was doing before. That’s happened a lot.”

The anchor of “Chrome Dreams II” is “Ordinary People,” an 18-minute song he recorded in 1988. Those people include drug dealers, factory workers, boxers, gun runners, vigilantes and models. “The people were real to me,” he said. “They’re all in there. I don’t know where they came from. I can’t make them go away. I didn’t invite them.”

Mr. Young recorded “Ordinary People” with his R&B-flavored Bluenotes band, in one take. “There is no Take 2,” he said. He considered the song too hefty to include on an album until now. (Ever the contrarian, Mr. Young is also releasing the full 18-minute song as a single. On vinyl.) Yet the main giveaway of the song’s age is a lyric mentioning Lee Iacocca, the Chrysler executive. “Ordinary People” sits easily alongside the rest of “Chrome Dreams II”; it uses three of the album’s core musicians and the same engineer in the same truck. When Mr. Young finds collaborators, he keeps them on call.

The band on the album, which is also his touring band, brings together musicians he has worked with in separate projects. Ralph Molina, from Crazy Horse, is on drums. Ben Keith, who has been in Mr. Young’s country-flavored bands since “Harvest,” is on guitar and pedal steel guitar. And Rick Rosas, who has backed Mr. Young in projects from the Bluenotes to “Living With War,” is on bass. Mr. Young’s wife, Pegi, is the opening act; she and her keyboardist, Anthony Crawford, sometimes join Mr. Young’s band during the set.

“Chrome Dreams II” is a miscellany, as “Chrome Dreams” was. It has distorted-guitar Crazy Horse-style stompers like the 14-minute “No Hidden Path”; it has wistful country-folk songs like “Beautiful Bluebird” (an old song finally getting a studio recording) and “Ever After”; it even has a 1950s-tinged ballad, “Shining Light.”

Many of the album’s songs revolve around a “spiritual quest,” Mr. Young said. “There’s a lot of thinking going on in the record, pondering and kind of searching for the experience that enlightens you in some way.” In “Ever After” he sings, with characteristic simplicity, “The world is full of questions/Some are answered, some are not/The only faith you’re keepin’/Is the faith that you still got.”

The album ends with “The Way,” a waltz featuring a children’s choir. “So many lost highways that used to lead home/But now they seem used up and gone,” he sings by himself; then the children promise, “We know the way.” He said that he told them: “You have to pretend that you’re singing to your parents and you know how to have world peace. They don’t. You have to tell them while they’re sleeping, so they know when they wake up, but you can’t tell them too loud or they’ll wake up.”

For Mr. Young, faith doesn’t involve organized religion. It’s about walking among the trees on his Northern California ranch, “trying to figure things out,” he said. “How did I get to where I am? I mean, what happened? Where’s the guy who wrote the other songs? Where’s the guy who wrote a lot of the early songs? There are some songs I can’t even sing. I don’t even know who wrote them. But I know I did. When I listen to myself, I go, ’O.K., but I can’t do that now.’“

On tour Mr. Young will be playing a solo set followed by a set with the band. “I want every song to be coming from me, not coming from who I was or who I’m trying to be or who people think I am or who they want me to be,” he said. “All those things are out. It’s just got to be: ‘Is this going to flow like water through me? Can I swim in this sound?’”

The solo set is something like the solo tour he did in 1992 for “Harvest Moon.” He brought back that tour’s lighting designers and has his old Univox electric organ, with angel wings, that can be lowered to the stage from overhead. The set lists are built from “Chrome Dreams II,” a few of Mr. Young’s best-known songs and many rarities. Among them are “Bad Fog of Loneliness,” a song cut from “Harvest,” and a mid-1970s song, “No One Seems to Know,” that says “time is better spent searching than in finding.”

“Some of them went right under the radar,” he said. “Some of them never came out. I’ll be doing a lot of songs that are only on collectors’ albums that are not my albums, that are bootlegs.” He continued, “It’s like if you were in a gallery and all the paintings were upside down or piled in a corner, and the ones that you knew, that you’d seen in the magazines, were all really. ...” He paused. “I want to know what’s in the corner. Put them on the wall for a while.”

For a man whose hair usually looks windblown and whose shirt is perpetually untucked, Mr. Young is surprisingly persnickety. He chose every theater on this tour. “I want to control the environment,” he said. “They have to be auditoriums. The audio part is very important. I prefer that they be old. I prefer that they be in cities. I prefer that the outside elements are totally blocked out. There’s no sunshine coming in through a window; I don’t want any of that. I don’t want to have anything to do with the real world while you’re in there. It’s not where we’re going.”

He had further stipulations. The stage lighting will be incandescent — no arc lights or halogens — and not automated or computerized. A spotlight will be operated by hand; changing the color of a light will involve replacing a gel. The equipment is vintage, like Mr. Young’s guitars — he has one he calls Hank, which once belonged to Hank Williams — or it has been made in the same way for decades.

Under the Art Deco Revival ceiling of the Fox, under those incandescent lights, the band sounded vintage. Mr. Young was still auditioning songs for the tour. There were keepers like “Cortez the Killer” and “The Loner”; there were possibilities like “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.” After a run-through of “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” Mr. Young decided it had no life left. “Something else in that neighborhood would be good,” he said.

Through the years Mr. Young’s music has usually sounded rough-hewn, but it has never been haphazard. Backstage Mr. Molina — the drummer in Crazy Horse since 1969 — said that he still gets nervous every time he plays, trying to live up to Mr. Young’s standards. The band socked out the new “Spirit Road,” a chunky two-chord rocker, and it had the old Crazy Horse thrust: the slow, steady trudge of someone walking directly into a perpetual high wind. From the seats it sounded good.

When it was over, Mr. Young looked disgusted. “We’re going to do this again,” he said. “We’re going to fix this now.” He demanded better backup vocals, a different monitor mix, more attentiveness from the whole band and crew. And on the next run-through the song was twice as strong. “We’ll get it,” Mr. Young said. But he still didn’t look satisfied.

The New York Times Company

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ricky Jay Broadside Show

Collector of Illusions
Ricky Jay is a master of cards and a historian of chicanery. His exhibition of ancient ‘broadsides’ is a window into the deceptions of another time


Photo by Steve Appleford
~ In search of anomalies: Ricky Jay ~

“Paul Cinquevalli was unquestionably the most famous juggler of his day. And on the first Royal Command Variety Show in 1912, he appeared before King George and Queen Mary on a bill with the most famous vaudeville artists in the world.

“This is an unusual broadside because of the distinctive type being placed on the diagonal instead of a more traditional format. It calls Paul Cinquevalli ‘The King of the Cannonball,’ and he did a number of stunts in which he caught cannonballs with his neck and balanced them in various poses.

“But perhaps he was more famous still for being called ‘The Human Billiard Table.’ In a tight-fitting costume, he had a number of pockets placed in specific pouches and he was able to roll balls across his neck and shoulders making them land in the pockets of his choice.

“He was so famous at this time that it was said that his name and fame as a juggler is a household world throughout the universe …”

Permitting himself a crooked smile, the barrel-chested, bearded gentleman standing on my right snaps his cell phone shut and, speaking in the same parched, professorial tone heard on the taped audio tour, says, “That’s pretty cool. That wasn’t working when I was here before.”

The two of us are standing in the Hammer Museum in Westwood, looking at the initial trio of more than 100 items that make up Extraordinary Exhibitions: Broadsides from the Collection of Ricky Jay, which runs through November 25.

Jarred from his momentary reverie, the gentleman extends a friendly paw. “Hi, I’m Ricky Jay.”

“Pleasure to meet you, sir,” I respond with a reciprocal hand. “I know you don’t do a lot of interviews, so thanks for taking the time to conduct a personal tour. It’s a great honor.”

His nose wrinkles slightly, eyes narrowing. “Aw, c’mon, man. It’s just a gig.”

“No! Well, yeah … But it’s always nice to combine business with pleasure.”

“Oh, well, I always try to do that myself.” He brightens. “So where do you want to start?”

How ’bout with some background? Born in Brooklyn in 1948, Ricky Jay is one of the world’s foremost sleight-of-hand artists, a child prodigy of sorts, who made his television debut at age five. He came to prominence in the ’70s, when he almost single-handedly revived the practice of card “scaling” (throwing ordinary playing cards at speeds of up to 90 mph over great distances, such as over the roof of Hollywood magicians’ club at the Magic Castle, or repeatedly firing them into the rind of a watermelon from 20 paces), which is when I first encountered him, performing the latter routine on some forgotten late-night talk show.

He divulged the “secret” methods behind this and other stunts in a “how-to” manual, entitled Cards As Weapons, first published by Darien Books in 1977. Long out-of-print, the book continues to be in such demand among aspiring prestidigitators that copies routinely sell on eBay for upwards of $225, which begs the question, how does he feel about this particular turn of events?

“I’m asked to reprint it fairly often, and I’ve turned it down.” Jay shrugs. “To me, it’s the work from another period. It’s the first book I wrote. It’s literally 30 years ago. I’m pleased that there’s so much interest in it. I’m actually going to see someone about it next week.”

Aside from his live performances – notably the 1996 OBIE Award-winning one-man show, Ricky Jay & His 52 Assistants, directed by his longtime friend and collaborator David Mamet – Jay has been a prolific writer, including defining the terms of the conjurer’s art for The Cambridge Guide to the American Theatre and the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The Hammer show reflects three of Jay’s more recent authorial efforts: Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women (Villard Books, 1986), a compendium of eccentric entertainers that stretches from stone eaters and armless dulcimer players to sapient animal acts and master wind-breaker Le Pétomane; Jay’s Journal of Anomalies (Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2001), a similar collection of essays on equally bizarre acts that was first published in 16 volumes of a fine-press journal between 1994 and 2000; and Extraordinary Exhibitions: The Wonderful Remains of an Enormous Head, the Whimsiphusicon & Death to the Savage Unitarians (Quantuck Lane Press, 2005). The last of which was published in conjunction with the initial exhibition of Jay’s broadsides at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts that same year.

“I started gathering vintage materials relating to not just magicians, but unusual entertainers of all types, when I was touring around America and Europe more than 30 years ago,” Jay explains. “Because when you’re on the road, working at night, there’s not a lot to do during the day. So I spent my time going to bookstores, antiquarian shops, printsellers, and libraries, researching these people and collecting these artifacts.”

For several years, Jay served as curator for the Mulholland Library of Conjuring and the Allied Arts, until the owner’s reversal of business fortunes resulted in the library being sold at auction for $2.2 million in 1990 to … David Copperfield, who deposited the contents behind his collection of lingerie in a Las Vegas warehouse.

Partially as a reaction to this loss – and presumably to feed his own collector’s habit – Jay now devotes a fair amount of his time to acting in, or serving as a technical consultant for, a variety of films and TV shows: Mamet’s House of Games, State and Main, Heist, Things Change, Homicide, and The Spanish Prisoner, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Magnolia, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, the James Bond flick Tomorrow Never Dies, and the first season of Deadwood, for openers. And it’s these character roles that’ve made his rather saturnine visage most recognizable to the general public.

Now, on with the show …

“One of the best things about doing a museum show such as this is that we’re able to expand on the book itself,” says Jay. “For example, let’s go over to the section on Mathew Buchinger. Here we have the broadside from 1726 that’s reproduced in the book, which calls him ‘the greatest living German’ and in the form of a poem details his act, which included magic, swordplay, doing trick shots in bowling, playing several musical instruments, and calligraphy. All the more remarkable when you consider, as you can see by the woodcut illustration, that he was born without legs or hands and was only 29 inches tall.

“And here we have a pair of his actual drawings. In the self-portrait on the right you’ll find seven psalms and the Lord’s Prayer inscribed within the curls of his hair, but you need a magnifying glass to read them.

“I’m a great admirer of ‘the Little Man of Nuremburg,’” Jay continues. “I know from another illustration that I have in my collection that he did the cups-and-balls routine. Now, when you do that, you generally use one hand for misdirection and the other to move the cups. But because Buchinger needed both of his appendages to move the cups, you have to wonder how he did it. So I studied it for three or four months, and I think I know. But we really can’t be sure ’cause there’s no photographic evidence …”

Measuring 10x13 inches, the lavishly illustrated Extraordinary Exhibitions book is devoted exclusively to broadsides printed between 1618 and 1898, which were created to promote specific performances – as opposed to posters, which touted the entertainers themselves – and were intended to be as disposable as the punk-rock flyers or Thai take-out menus of today. But there’s nothing like seeing the actual artifacts. Not just in terms of scale, but in the quality of the printing and their various states of preservation.

Plus, as Jay alluded earlier, the Hammer exhibition spotlights literally twice as much material as the book, adding everything from a children’s board game based upon a famous educated horse, to magician Alex Herrmann’s personal stationery (complete with a logo composed of cavorting red devils), to a doorway-sized lithograph heralding a celebrated female ceiling-walker that sports colors so rich you could eat them with a parfait spoon.

“It’s not just the art, it’s the language,” Jay enthuses. “Because most of these broadsides are almost exclusively text. I love the vocabulary they use. Like this warning not to approach the elephant with ‘papers of consequence’ as he has been known to destroy them. What are ‘papers of consequence’?

“And the hyperbole,” Jay continues. “As has been said, when it comes to show business publicity, there’s neither virtue nor advantage to be gained from being truthful.

“Here we have the name Miss Jenny Lund – one of the most famous singers of her time – in huge type, but underneath that in fine print we see ‘she will not appear but will be represented by Miss Woolford.’” Jay smirks.

“And then there are all these neologisms, such as ‘the Whimsiphusicon.’ What was that? Who knows? Probably just something the performer made up to convince people they’d be seeing something original.

“I suppose one of the benefits of being a professional versus an academic is that I’m more likely to be able to decipher from these fanciful descriptions just what that trick is and how original it was. Who stole and who didn’t and why they were able to get away with it. Of course, the skill is the selling. Like how people are invited to bring their own stones to the stone-eater. Not much different than me allowing people to bring their own deck of cards to my shows.”

So, metaphorically speaking, what’s more important in magic, the singer or the song?

“It’s both,” Jay retorts. “Absolutely. The material and the performance. I don’t think you get anybody who’s great, who divorces one from the other.”

One of Jay’s greatest strengths as an entertainer is how he brings the depth of his historical knowledge to the stage. Witnessing his performance of Ricky Jay & His 52 Assistants at the Geffen Playhouse last winter, I had no idea that the patter he used during his rendition of the classic four-aces trick – he did it as four queens – was quoted verbatim from The Expert at the Card Table, written by a professional card cheat under the pseudonym S.W. Erdnase in 1902 (and which has never gone out-of-print). To wit: “Ladies and gentlemen, I shall endeavor to illustrate, with the aid of this ordinary deck of cards, how futile are the efforts of plebeians to break into that select circle of society known as the Beau-monde, and especially how such entrée is prevented by the polite but frigid exclusiveness of its gentler members …”