15 Shows a Week!

He might be the most famous magician working today. But David Copperfield doesn’t consider himself a magician.

“I try to be a dream maker more than a magician,” he says. “Making impossible things happen, going into a new world.”

This year, he’ll be making dreams exclusively in Las Vegas. Instead of touring like he normally does, he’s only doing shows at the MGM Grand. He says it’s one of the best places to see his magic.

“When I leave town here, I play huge theaters. Here, it’s a very intimate thing. So you see big illusions, spectacular things, very close.”

Even though he’s been doing this show for ten years, he says he’s constantly putting in new tricks. That’s partly why he’s staying in Vegas for a while.

“It’s a good place for me to develop new things. My museum is here, my warehouse is here. So I can keep working on stuff without having to go from city to city.”

Because he says each new illusion takes about two years to create and perfect. So why does he do it?

“I love it, I love the audience reaction,” he says. “You see people around you really get excited. For that moment, they forget about all the stuff going on in their lives. They forget about what they see on the news. They’re transported. Magic has the ability to do that like no other art form does.”

David Copperfield will be performing 15 shows a week at the MGM Grand, now through the end of April. Tickets can be purchased at the MGM Grand Box Office.


Happy Birthday Houdini


Happy Birthday Harry!!!

This great Google Banner celebrates the masters birthday.

Ehrich Weizs was born on March 24th, 1874 in Budapest BUT he would later claim is birthday as April 6th 1874. This second date represents his adoption of the USA as his home.

The Weiss family came to the United States on July 3, 1878, sailing on the SS Fresia. With his pregnant mother and his father there were  his four brothers. The family changed the Hungarian spelling of their German surname into Weiss (the German spelling) and the spelling of their son’s name into Ehrich. Friends called him “Ehrie” or “Harry

Harry’s show biz career wasn’t an immediate success and he worked in small side shows and carnival booths presenting himself as the King of Cards.

He is remembered for his highly publicized, dramatic and provocative escapes. This phase of his career started when he changed his billing from King of Cards, to King of Handcuffs.

His act evolved to include the ‘challenge escapes’ which for the most part were promotional stunts for his full evening shows.

The Myth of Houdini is, in reality, less interesting than Houdini the Man.

A master showman, entrepreneur, adventurer and self-publicist who captured the spirit of the time. His shaking off of chains a shackles could be seen a as a metaphor for the triumph of the individual over the bonds of the Great Depression.

His stance on aspects of the paranormal, his invitation to comment on aspects of mediumship to the scientific community and membership of the Society of American Magicians committee for the investigation of claims of the paranormal show not only his acute awareness of there being a ‘market’ for his evenings of fraudulent medium demonstrations but also his desire to take a skeptical approach to all claims of ‘real magic’.

But all of this is perhaps a topic for future posts…

For now it’s a Houdini Day and I’ll be talking about Houdini as an inspiration, as an entertainer and a skeptic on Penwith Radio later today (4pm -6pm GMT)

On a related note, Dorothy Young, the last surviving stage assistant of illusionist Harry Houdini and an accomplished dancer, has died. She was 103.

Young’s death was announced Wednesday by Drew University, where she was a prominent donor and patron of the arts. Spokesman Dave Muha said she died Sunday at her home in a Tinton Falls, N.J., retirement community.

Young joined Houdini’s company as a 17-year-old after attending an open casting call during a family trip to New York. She initially sat in the back because she was too shy to step forward, but Houdini and his manager soon noticed her and asked her to dance the Charleston. They signed her to a contract, and she eventually persuaded her parents to let her join the stage show.

During her year with Houdini in the mid-1920s, she gained recognition for playing the role of Radio Girl of 1950, emerging from a large mock-up of a radio and performing a dance routine. She also performed other roles during the tour, which proved to be Houdini’s last in the United States before he died in October 1926, two months after she had left the show .

Young then formed a dance act with Gilbert Kiamie, a New York businessman and the son of a wealthy silk lingerie magnate, and they gained international prominence for a Latin dance they created known as the rumbalero. They later married and remained together until Kiamie died in 1992.

Young went on to perform in several movies and also published a novel inspired by her career. She later became a benefactor of Drew University, endowing it with a $13 million arts center that bears her name. Several of her paintings hang in buildings on its campus in Madison.

She also attended numerous events at the school over the years. One of her last appearances there was in October 2008 for a commemoration of the 82nd anniversary of Houdini’s death that featured an inner circle of Houdini enthusiasts and historians.

Young had a son with her first husband, Robert Perkins, who died after 13 years of marriage.


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The Real Hustle a Hustle ???

Magicians are some of the most honest professionals on the planet!

They tell you they are going to lie to you and then they do!


Regular viewers of The Real Hustle enjoy watching others being conned in ‘real life’ stings. It has been suggested, however, that all may not be as it seems…. so is there a hustle in the hustle?

This was reported in The Guardian last month and I’ve only just come across it…

“A BBC  investigation has been launched into allegations that paid extras were hired to pose as fleeced members of the public in the Real Hustle.

The BBC Three programme shows how members of the public can fall victim to scams.

The Sunday Mirror and the Mail on Sunday reported that actors had appeared in episodes from 2006 and 2008.

One extra, Lucas Yashere, alleged he was paid £20 to use a bogus cashpoint in a programme aired in March 2006.

Alexander Hathaway said he earned £30 after pretending to work at a secondhand car firm and allowing a conman to steal a car after only paying a deposit.

The makers of the Real Hustle, Objective Productions, said that the company “categorically” denied the allegations. “All the people on the show have been hustled for real,” the company said. However, Objective went on to say it did direct those appearing on the occasions where it had proved necessary to reshoot material because of production problems “to ensure that the footage matches” with what the independently-owned company already had on film.

BBC insiders said the corporation would be in touch with Objective to examine the allegations, as would Ofcom, the broadcast regulator.

At the time of broadcast, the BBC asked Objective to certify that the programme had been filmed appropriately.

Objective had indicated it had occasionally given direction to those appearing when it had to reshoot material, which the BBC regarded as legitimate.

A BBC spokesman said: “We will examine any alleged breaches of our editorial standards relating to this programme as a matter of urgency and will take appropriate action if required.”

reference: The Guardian

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Hitler and the Magicians?

Found this snippet on the web..

“HBO is developing a drama series about a group of con men and magicians who battle Hitler and the Nazis during WWII. They use their powers of deception to outwit the Third Reich, you see.

Titled Hogoblin, the project is from Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys) and Ayelet Waidman (Bad Mother) and is described as in early development.”

Any of my USA readers know more?



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Thurston – The Last Greatest Magician?

From the Washington Post – Sunday 6th March 2011



Roll over, Houdini, and tell Orson Welles the news: Howard Thurston was the best magician of them all. Or so suggests Jim Steinmeyer, who has had a career of his own in magic, inventing illusions for David Copperfield, Seigfried anf Roy, and Welles, a longtime dabbler in magic.

Thurston (1869-1936) slogged away as a potato-peeler salesman and sideshow barker before making it as a magician of both skill and charm. He could deliver his slogan, “I wouldn’t deceive you for the world,” with such conviction that the audience was inclined to believe him. He wasn’t the first magician to saw a woman in half, but he polished someone else’s crude version of the trick to perfection. On the strength of his good looks, glib tongue, tireless practicing and an innate sense of how to shape and pace a trick, he built up a towering reputation – not as easy as it should have been, because he had to overcome the odor given off by his sponging younger brother, Harry, who worked the seamy side of showbiz as an impresario of hoochy-kooch shows.

Steinmeyer takes pains to explain how hard it was even for someone as light-fingered and ingratiating as young Howard to become and remain a headliner. Magic was a competitive and evolving business, and keeping an act fresh meant getting hold of gizmos and materials that could be hard to build, buy or even find. At one point, we see Thurston going from farm to farm near the burg in which he is to perform that night, desperately seeking a rabbit. It took him years to become financially secure, and even then his urge to outspend his rivals on new tricks could plunge him back into debt.

One of the best stories in the book comes from these early years; it shows how legerdemain can come to a magician’s aid offstage. Thurston was trying to skip out on his bills, but a policeman was on to him. The cop followed Thurston and his entourage from town to town on the assurance that money would be awaiting them at the next stop. In Colorado Springs, Thurston claimed there’d been a mix-up – the money had been sent to Lamar, Colo., which they’d just left. Would the policeman mind going back to fetch it while the Thurstons got ready to perform in Colorado Springs? The cop made a wise counter-suggestion: “Maybe we ought to wire Lamar to make sure the money’s there.” Thurston readily agreed. Soon he had his answer, which he handed over to the cop. “Yes, $200 received via wire for you. Operator Lamar.” Satisfied, the cop went off to collect, leaving Thurston and his wife to abscond. Mrs. Thurston, who knew that nobody in his right mind would wire them money, asked how the hoax had been played. Thurston opened his hand to reveal the telegram’s torn-off top, which showed that it had originated a few towns back, in Cripple Creek. “Thornton,” Steinmeyer explains, “had sent the message to himself, from Cripple Creek to Colorado Springs,” where he surreptitiously lopped off the telltale portion before handing it over to the policeman.

Thurston could make someone disappear or float in mid-air, he could saw a woman in half without bloodshed, but he was probably best at sleight-of-hand, above all at turning playing cards into projectiles. A card would appear between his fingers and then fly out into the audience, directly to the member who had summoned it out of the deck. After years of barnstorming, Thurston became a headliner in vaudeville, but he was more ambitious than that. Eventually, he and his retinue were a show unto themselves, held over in New York and London.

Steinmeyer breaks the magician’s code by explaining how Thurston accomplished some of his effects. But not only do these appear to be tricks that have dropped out of most magicians’ repertoires; the techniques are so complicated that what you really get from the descriptions is a good sense of how hard Thurston worked at his craft.

The book is too long, the author too intent on taking the reader through every loop-de-loop of Thurston’s convoluted career. Also, the rivalry with Houdini to which the subtitle alludes never quite comes off. Houdini became renowned as an escape artist, not a magician, and most of the time he and Thurston were on friendly terms. Overall, however, “The Last Greatest Magician in the World” does justice to the Golden Age of Magic and to a man who, in the author’s words, was “a distinctive mixture of ignoble confidence games, personal desperation, and a masterful talent to amaze and surprise.”

Dennis Drabelle is a contributing editor of Book World.


Howard Thurston Versus Houdini & the Battles of the American Wizards

By Jim Steinmeyer

Tarcher/Penguin. 377 pp. $26.95

It’s all too easy this Magic Stuff

Easy, Amazing, Magic, Mentalism & Hypnotism Tricks! 

Learn The Secrets To Effects & Illusions That Will Turn YOU

Into A Magician For Your Friends & Family, Almost



Unfortunately this is a depressingly typical advertisement and it’s not because the product can ‘almost’ turn me in to a wonder worker overnight!

In the UK, as perhaps elsewhere, magic is not seen in the same way it was even twenty years ago. Today I was talking to Professor Tickles , a professional childrens entertainer in Cornwall, and we were lamenting the passing of an age.

The Prof. asked a profound question, he wondered how many professional magicians were actually making a full time living out of their magic alone.

A valid question.

Were he to have asked that question a when we both started performing we would have been fairly sure of the answer. Magic as an entertainment art form was ‘acceptable’ and enjoyed by audiences. David Nixon and latterly Paul Daniels brought commercial and thus agent interest in booking professional acts.

The erosion of the art, and the fact that magicians today are seen as coming a poor second to comedians, jugglers and other variety acts, is due I believe to three major factors..

1) The magicians themselves not keeping ‘in step’ with the interests and needs of the audience. Audiences believe they are more ‘sophisticated’ in this day and age and that brings with it a degree of cynicism and dislike of being fooled. It’s really interesting to note that Derren Brown is one of the very few (and perhaps only) magical performer who can sell out major theatres on a national tour. If you look at his act it is intelligent, sophisticated and engaging.

2) Traditional magicians who work at mastering their art (the Michael Vincents, Guy Hollingsworths of the world) are respected and applauded by magicians and enjoed by audiences when they are booked BUT are being undersold by the explosion of David Blaine, Street-Magic-Clones, who buy into the adverts like the one above. The general quality of performance drops and hence the public perception of magic and magicians falters. If you try selling yourself as a magician you are competing with the image that the potential  booker has of one of their ‘uncles’ or a ‘YouTube Magic Hack’ performing meaningless feats of trickery.

3) The ecomonic climate is such that an evening out may not include being ‘fooled’ by some mountebank or trickster offering emotionally neutral demonstrations of one-upmanship. There have always been hobbyists and of course the hobbyst becomes the semi-professional  rather than the part-time professional. I make the distinction here as the semi-professional possibly sees their magic as providing ‘pin money’ at best, or merely an opportunity to  ‘do some magic for an audience’ at worst. The part-time professional on the other hand possibly understands that being a ‘professional’ means that you are trying to earn a living or establish a business for yourself. So whereas the former will approach bookers and offer services for ‘beer, a meal and a whip round’ (with no thought of  this being a business ‘loss leader’) the latter recognises the value of their skill, effort and work so seeks a ‘fair’ wage for their performances.

I like many professional performers am finding ways to bring my skills to other markets, I always have done this. In the past it was because I wanted to have a varied approach to earning my living but in this day and age it is a requirement for survival. I feel lucky that I have had a regular (twice a month) cabaret residency for my mentalism act for the last eighteen months. This with the one-off or short run bookings and the summer season residencies amounts to half of my professional income. Would that it were more. The other half of my income is from using my performing skills and magical interests to create and deliver motivational seminars, presentational workshops and personal development coaching.

I think this is the ‘norm’ for many professional magicians, but would love to hear from readers about their thoughts and experiences.