Friday, February 22, 2008

Quote du Jour

"I used to want to change the world. . . . now I just want to be able to leave the room with a little dignity"

- From the Movie Short Bus

old playing cards, originally uploaded by everyfinn.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

In my "In Box"

I'm enjoying your stuff, especially the Houdini stuff...

I'm from Houdini's hometown, Appleton, Wisconsin. Houdini's greatest escape was getting out of Appleton...

When I was a kid, grandma would just point out the Zuelske Insurance building and say "That's where Houdini lived when he was a kid" and that's all we knew. Sometime in the 80s I guess Sidney Radner, a very aged assistant to Houdini, loaned for years a whole lot of Houdini's stuff to the Outagamie County Historical Society (later, some controversy over was it a gift or on loan for a long term???)... The Houdini Historical Center was created. Also, there are bronze plaques throughout the downtown area, and a map to help people find them all, sort of like doing the Stations of the Cross I thougt! -- which greatly enhanced the experience as someone who grew up there. We all knew that the world's first commercially practical hydroelectric station was down by the river (a copy of it can be seen at the site) but did not know that Houdini nearly drowned near there when he was playing as a kid, and supposedly that is some kind of psychological thing about his escapes, especially the getting-tossed-in-water-in-a-packing-case stuff... There really is a lot of terrific stuff in Appleton, I'll try to restrain myself...

In recent years, Temple Zion, which was long out of business as a synagogue and was being used to store stuff by the Historical Society, now has a bronze plaque that tells about Houdini's dad being the rabbi there, Appleton's first rabbi. The story always was that Houdini's dad got fired because the congregation wanted a younger man, but the plaque says the congregation was trying to raise funds to build the synagogue and the whole community contributed and got involved, and they wanted to get a rabbi who could speak English to help with this project. Houdini's parents only spoke Yiddish and Hungarian, I guess, being immigrants.

I was back there when my Grandfather was dying in 1993. I got stranded there when my Canadian lawyer, who was supposed to be doing my divorce, abandoned me. I was left high and dry by my dysfunctional local relatives, too. I'd left my kid back in Canada with her father telling her this can't take forever and I'll come back after great grandpa dies, but then for reasons of poverty I was stuck. As it was sinking in on me the horrible situation I was in, one day that fall I was doing my daily meditation, and doing it kitty corner from the Houdini Historical Center -- I was in a flower garden on the beautiful campus of Lawrence University. As I walked among the flowers and sunshine, praying the rosary, suddenly I heard in my left ear (I'm left handed, so I figured that's positive for me) "Near you" -- clear as a bell... I had just been thinking about how Houdini could ESCAPE, and I wished I could escape and get back to my kid who was crying in school every day because I couldn't get back to her. Of course, such an experience is subjective and I can't prove it, but swear to God that happened while I was praying. Whether it was my angel, Houdini, my imagination, etc., it was very consoling and I started to cry, which made me feel better. I did get back to Canada over a year later. I don't know whether they still have the annual seances on Halloween for Houdini (I'm sure you know he died on Halloween)... of course, that was officially only to be done for ten years after his death, but in Appleton they still did it for fun on Halloween, and I think the seances were at Lawrence University! Well, I wonder... They never did "hear from" Houdini, and that's a GOOD thing, you know. Houdini would NOT have approved... But I wonder: DID I HEAR FROM Houdini?? Can't prove it and maybe I'm just plain nuts. The effect is the important thing, and the effect was calming and consoling, like I felt comforted and moved to tears. So that helped me. Besides, if I was praying the rosary at the time, I guess it's ok.

Enjoying your pics. I'd never seen the one of Houdini with the kids evidently in a hospital. A couple of my relatives were entertainers, too, but in Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, which was headquartered in Wisconsin. Lots of young Wisconsinites joined the circus way long ago....

One of the strangest movies I've ever seen

Polly and I saw this movie tonight. Way out there in an avant garde sort way. Crazy movie, crazy special features. . . the making of and so on. Fascinating really, that a movie like this gets made at all. Muff said. . . sorry I mean nuff said.

20080220 eclipse, originally uploaded by ballyhoo photography.

Last night at work was a waste of time. It had been chilly and overcast all day and looked like rain. Coming home early allowed me to see the lunar eclipse. As I was pulling in at home, the moon was almost fully eclipsed. I called Polly and told her to come outside and see it.

We kissed under the dark side of the moon.

Norm Nielsen

Psycho Circus, originally uploaded by dadadreams.

In my "In Box"

Hey Tom,

This is Sebastian we saw each other again at Dean's today. After looking at your site I am now sure that I have seen your cups. Since you mentioned today that you are a cup collector I figured I would send you a picture of the cups I am looking for and if you have any leads or anybody that wants to get rid of them please let me know. I look forward to seeing you again some time I am in LA.


If anyone knows where he can get a set of these, please contact him and make him a happy camper.


My Response


Great seeing you again. I'll have to stay longer some Wednesday and hang until closing time to chum with you guys a bit longer. I do have a set of the cups you are looking for, but have no interest in selling them. After checking them out a bit I might comment that their pretty light and would most likely dent with regular use. (making them hard to get apart after time. . . unless you are always very nice to them. Here is a pic of a portion of my collection with the cups in question in it.

Again, nice seeing you again.


Tom Frank

Click Pic to Enlarge


Yeah I didn't leave until 9 last night. Yes those are the cups that I have been looking for. I am really nice and gentle with my props. I checked out the RNT website and I found a couple of sets that I liked but I want them in a chrome finish and if they are a real precision cup then the thickness of the plating makes it difficult to stack them. That is what I found out when I got the Riser Minis chrome plated. Keep in touch.


Wednesday Afternoon Session @ Dean Dill's Barber Shop

Spent a couple of hours at Dean Dill’s Barber Shop, Magic Session yesterday. Dean with a big welcoming smile on his face and some of the usual suspects. Pete Biro was there, a fellow from San Diego named Sebastian, who I met before. Another fellow from Columbus, Georgia named Steve Travis, who I had also met at a previous session. A lawyer / magi and a computer animation guy from Chicago.

Always an interesting group of guys. I love that Dean is cutting and styling hair while a magic session surrounds. I know I’ve said this before, I think it’s worth saying again; Dean Dill hosts the best weekly session in LA. It’s old school, a bunch of guys hanging out doing magic tricks. Anyone is welcome, regardless of skill level, and everybody seems to get something out of the session. I was asked to do my Mental Photography Pitch for the guys. They liked it. Next thing you know, Dean is doing his routine for me. His addition of a single blank both sides card was very clever. This small variation certainly sells the spectator on the fact that the deck is blank, as they examine a selected card from the blank deck. This launched into a discussion about various magicians who liked this classic trick deck as much as us. We talked briefly about Don Alan and Goshman and the routines they performed with the Mental Photo Deck. Trivia Question: What was the older name for the Mental Photography Deck?

Pete Biro scored two bonus points this session. He correctly identified an obscure back design (happened to be a Palmetto Back / Texan Deck). I was impressed that he identified them quickly without having to think too much. I don’t know why, but that’s definitely a bonus point.

The second was his performance of a new card trick called, “Trilogy” by Brian Caswell. I had never seen or heard about this trick. Very clever and streamlined in handling. It was interesting to hear how Dean, Pete and Steve Travis had been playing with the effect and trying to improve upon it and make it their own. Pete added the use of a prediction for the final card revelation. Good thinking. Another personal benefit to attending these sessions, I’m exposed to some new tricks on the market. Otherwise, I’m basically out of the loop.

Steve busted out a nice version of Flash Cash, where 5 one dollar bills instantly change to 5 hundred dollar bills. Very visual effect, with a nice emotional hook. Can’t go wrong with hundred dollar bills. . . ever. I am so impressed with with quality of advice that is given at these sessions. Simple variations that help strengthen the magic. What a great way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. I simply must do this more often, I always have a good time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The trickster, originally uploaded by All that remains.

Nat King Cole, Oscar Peterson Trio & Coleman Hawkins

Monday, February 18, 2008

Playing Card Press

Playing Card Press, originally uploaded by Dai Vernon.

In my "In Box"

hey tom.
hope this finds you well.
i had seen you preforming some street magic recently, l.a. just outside universal studios. you were quite entertaining.
i bought a deck off of you. the mental photography deck. i have been practicing it for a bit now, and have just started to do it for people.
and its been doing pretty well.
i wanted especially thank you for taking the time to walk me through how the trick worked too. cause later when i tried to read the directions. well lets just say i don't have them any more.
but ya i have been doing card trick for some time now. i only have maybe only 5 or 6 now. but i think it is fun. sometimes just the look on there face is just so priceless.
i start with your deck and tell how when i was on holidays and saw a magician doing street magic. he was really good. i bought this "magic" deck off of him. but man was i pissed off when i got to the hotel and opened them. they where all blank........... yada yada yada you know the trick.
i carry another normal deck of the same kind on me so i can do other trick afterwords. i have the most trouble switch the decks but im gonna keep working on it. nothing a lil practice cant fix.
but anyways thanx again.
keep doin what you're doin


Friday Lunch at the Castle


After Thursday’s poker game at Aye Jaye’s house, I called him to thank him for an enjoyable evening. As it turns out, he lives less than 10 minutes away from me in Sun Valley. He asked me what I was doing,“Meeting you at the Castle for lunch”, I replied. “See ya at 12:15 baby, I want to see the close up show at 12:30, he informs. I arrived on time and we went into see a fellow named Derek DelGaudio. A refreshing young man and a solid set of card magic in the close up room. After the show, we headed upstairs for lunch.

Aye Jaye and I sat at a round table in the back of the room and were joined by famed actor and leading Houdini authority Patrick Cullitan. Very interesting fellow. Next to him sat Lisa Cousins whom I had had the pleasure of briefly meeting a couple of times, once with Billy Goodwin and once with David Britland; strangely enough, both at the City Walk. There were a couple other fellows at the table whose names escape me. After lunch I spent an hour in the Library with Billy & Lisa. Topics ranged from the history of our art, to dissecting Derek DelGaudio’s act from an hour and a half hour earlier. We both agreed that he had a nice style with chops to match. Both Billy and Derek have an excellent sense of construction. Taking things in a logical direction and exploiting where they know their audiences are heading. Does that make any sense. I like people. I’m genuinely interested in their lives. I really enjoyed hanging out with a lovely couple.

I got back in my car and drove as fast as I could to go home and chill for a while before work. Was going to go back to the Castle later that night, but changed my mind after finishing my own disappointing night of work. Just wasn’t in the mood. Thanks anyway Billy, you’re a pal.

Poker, a new understanding

While in Las Vegas earlier this month partying with some high roller friends, I had questions about their behavior. I took my video camera with me hoping to answer some of these questions. I quickly learned that not one of them wanted to discuss this on camera. . . . or off, for that matter. It must be a very personal thing. Is it an obsession, a compulsion, an addiction or just plain fun. It’s hard to tell.

Wednesday night I went to Aye Jaye’s house and played poker for my first time. A bunch of magicians hanging out, a fellow named Alex with a huge mustache, Dave Cox, Craig, Andrew Goldenhersch, Bruce Gold and of course Aye Jaye. We all bought in for $20 chips that were passed out in quarter, fifty cent and dollar, white, red and black chips. I awkwardly confessed that I had never played poker before which immediately made me seem like I was trying to hustle the group. Crazy games, crazy names, crazy rules. . . shit sometimes it sounded like they were making it up as they went. Rat Fuck, Double Rat Fuck, Omaha, 7 Card Stud with the lowest hole card wild, and a rotating wild card based on the last card which you could pay to keep up or down as to not disrupt your first wild card. What the hell. 727, 5.5 and 27, HELP!! Craig was very helpful slowing down the explanation of the rules to the point that an 8 year could get it, unfortunately, there’s never an 8 year old when you need one. The hands were quick, the rules complicated, and the chatter entertaining.

The following evening Polly and I watched a Poker movie that came out last year starring among others, Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. An interesting look at high stakes poker and the people who play at that level. A lot of my initial questions were answered. Is money the most important thing about gambling? In the movie, a character explains, “that money just keeps the score, but the game, the battle. . . that’s what drives it”. It also answered a question from the game at Aye Jayes’, I wondered why they changed the game with each pass for the deal. It levels the playing field, so that if someone specializes in one specific game, you can force them out of their comfort zone. All very interesting to me. Convincingly bluffed my way out of a jam tonight during a performance and a hundred dollar wager.

Click poster to enlarge