There are a couple things, three actually, that stand out in my mind for igniting my interest in magic. Way back in 19… well, let’s just say a while ago, my parents took me to the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds. I don’t remember if it was the actual fair, or if it was just a large event at the fairgrounds. I think I was eight or nine years old. There was a crowd. The crowd was surrounding a magician. I remember him swallowing a handful of razor blades and bringing them all up tied to a thread. That was cool! Since that day, I’ve been thinking about that trick and trying to figure out just how it was done. Today, I do know how it’s done, and no I haven’t tried it (I am working on Wayne Houchin’s Single Needle).
Shortly after that, or perhaps even about the same time, my dad and a couple of his co-workers did some clown work. They’d put all of their make up on and perform at parties, parades, and other events. Part of their performance included some small magic tricks. I specifically remember playing with a ball and vase in dad’s clown case. I can still remember the smell of the grease paint. I got a magic kit and a deck of TV Magic Cards from Hooks Drug store. I showed my family and friends some tricks. I picked up some books from the local library. I even got a small paperback book on what would now be called bar tricks, and did a lot of those for my school friends in high school.
But it was all just tricks. I wish I still had that book. All I can remember is two of the tricks in it. One was a cork switch from one hand to another without letting go—only I used C-cell batteries. The other was how to make a pouse-café (not really a handy skill for a teenager).
I grew up in Southern Indiana, and to my knowledge, there was no brick and mortar magic shop in the area. I didn’t have a place to go shop and be mentored. So life went a different direction.
Fast forward to 1996, and Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants was on HBO. Wow! I had to have a set of cups! It took a while to actually find a catalog in those very early internet days, and I ordered a set of Massey’s Combo Chop Cups so I could learn how to do Ricky Jay’s version.
Again, I was in Southern Indiana and to my knowledge, there was still no brick and mortar magic shop in the area. I didn’t have a place to go and have someone show me tips and tricks apart from the 2-page written instructions that came with the cups. Once again, life went a different direction.
Skip ahead to modern day. In 2009, I’m now in Fort Wayne with magic still in the back of my mind, I picked up a copy of Wayne Houchin’s Distortion. I found Stoner’s Fun Store. I started reading more books from the library, and then started collecting my own library, obtaining copies of Tarbell, Erdnase, Hugard, and all the classic books of magic. I learned of new artists like Dai Vernon, Michael Ammar, Wayne Houchin, Danny Garcia, Diamond Jim Tyler, Shoot Ogawa, Jay Scott Berry, David Stone, and many many more. I joined the IBM ring, and eventually became involved. Being in the IBM forced me to consider what I was doing with my magic. When I started, I was simply collecting and learning as many tricks and effects as I could.
Now I have a little more focus. I’m learning that magic has little to do with the trick. That magic isn’t supposed to be about fooling your audience. That magic is about telling a story, and making your audience feel “wonder.” It’s ultimately about what the audience FEELS. So today I’m back IN magic. IBM is giving me ideas and I’m getting feedback from the club. It’s a Brotherhood of Magicians that I didn’t have growing up.
Today, I can put 9-10 tricks together, combine a few of them here and there; make them my own with a plot twist or a tweak; create a character that is unique to me, and I’ve got a show. It’ll be a little while before I can go out on the road and make it a living. But with local events and small theaters, there are more and more opportunities for magicians.
In September, the History Channel is premiering a mini-series on Houdini starring Adrien Brody, and the anniversary of Houdini’s death is Halloween. NOW is the time for those of us who have the time, to develop a Houdini set for this fall.
So grab you needles, handcuffs, shackles sub trunks and straight jackets, and let’s put on a show!