Wednesday, January 3, 2007


A t one time or another, everyone has been awed by the clever performance of a magician. For a few very talented and lucky people, a career in magic has led to fame and fortune. For example, do you know who this is describing? 1. Birth name: David Seth Kotkin. 2. Birth date: September 16, 1956. 3. He gave his first magic show at the age of ten. 4. He was the youngest-ever member of the Society of American Magicians at age twelve. 5. Before leaving high school, he taught a few classes of magic to drama students at New York University. 6. He was cast as the lead in The Magic Man, the longest- running musical in Chicago history. 7. He is a world-renowned multimillionaire. If you guessed David Copperfield, you’re right! Of course, not everyone will be as successful as this famous performer, but many are content to enjoy a measure of success as professional magicians. Zeroing in on What a Magician Does Magicians don’t really makes things disappear, but they make it seem that way. Performing carefully designed tricks of illusion and sleight of hand, they use their creative powers and a variety of props to entertain and mystify audiences. Magicians are masters of illusion. They do one thing, while an audience sees another. Through a combination of complicated techniques and persuasive comments, a magician can appear to pull a rabbit out of a hat, make a handkerchief disappear, or per- form other "amazing" tricks. A magician may include a participant from the audience and secretly remove the person’s wallet while a delighted audience looks on. Or a magician may use a wooden box or other prop to appear to saw a trained assistant in half. Magicians generally depend on props such as illusion boxes, cards, or coins. Although many magicians perform similar tricks, each magician brings a unique style to his or her performance. It takes a high degree of skill to perform the different illusions. The more skilled and experienced the magician, the more complicated the illusions. Can You Do This? Here are some of the tricks performed by magicians: • Sleight of hand (making the hand appear faster than the eye). Examples include card tricks, disappearing balls, or handkerchief tricks. • Illusions (visual deceptions that may involve large objects and/or the use of special equipment). Some examples include sawing a woman in half or making an animal disappear. • Mentalist tricks (appearing to read people’s minds or predict the future). Examples include "guessing" people’s birthdays or revealing secrets of audience members. • Great escapes (escapes from seemingly impossible situations). Examples include shucking handcuffs or escaping from a cage or locked crate. The Magician’s Job A typical performance for a magician takes place indoors in front of a live audience. There may be a crowd in a large theatre, or the audience might consist of just a few people at a birthday party. Magicians often work alone, but it is common for a magician to have one or two assistants to help during a performance.At times, a magician may have to move heavy props, such as tables or large boxes. Developing the Magic Touch Magicians are skilled entertainers. It can take years of practice and training to become an accomplished magician, yet it is often pos- sible to learn some of the more basic tricks in just a short time. Professional magicians rarely reveal in public how they per- formed their tricks. The reasons are obvious. If everyone knew how a trick were done, it would no longer be a trick. The element of surprise and wonder would be gone. For this reason, the most common form of training is for a budding magician to study under a professional magician. In this way, neophyte magicians learn how to perform the various illusions. Many beginning magicians start their careers working as assistants for more expe- rienced magicians. If possible, talk to several magicians who live in your area to find out how they feel about their work. It’s also worthwhile to read magazines and books that explain some of the basic magic tricks. Try performing them in front of your family and friends. Then prepare a performance for a school or other group and see how you feel about doing this on a regular basis. People generally do not take college or high school courses to learn magic tricks, although courses in acting or public speaking can help a magician become more effective. It is important for a magician to have good business skills, since magicians usually handle their own financial matters. It is also important for magicians to have strong sales skills, since they are always, in effect, selling themselves and their abilities to prospective clients. A good magician is an actor who is able to deceive people with- out making them feel silly or embarrassed. It is important for a magician to be comfortable performing in front of large groups of people. It’s also essential to be creative in developing original forms of presentation. Training Opportunities As noted, magic is not an academic subject traditionally taught in schools or colleges. Nevertheless, some training opportunities are available to those willing to seek them out. A number of magicians offer lessons or classes on a local basis; consult a phone directory of your local chamber of commerce to find them. If such opportunities are not available in your area, you can locate videos, DVDs or other training materials online. For example, MagicTricks.Com ( ), which bills itself as the largest online professional magic shop, offers more than thirty-five hundred pages of free information about the art of magic, as well as books, videos, and other items that may be purchased. In addition, it provides links to other sites of interest, including some offering lessons or training materials. In pursuing these or other links, keep in mind that just as in other areas, quality and reliability may vary widely if you go shop- ping online for magic courses or related items. Be sure to check out any provider’s track record before investing your time and money. The Financial Angle While world-famous magicians such as David Copperfield can earn many thousands of dollars for each performance, most magicians do not earn enough from their performances to sup- port themselves financially. The vast majority of magicians are those who perform at night or on weekends and have other full- or part-time jobs. A magician may earn anywhere from fifty dol- lars for performing at a birthday party to several thousand dollars for performing at a business meeting or magic show. Like other performance artists, magicians face an uncertain employment picture. Highly skilled magicians should find many job opportunities, while those just beginning may find it difficult to secure employment. There has been a trend for some businesses to hire magicians at trade shows and sales meetings to improve interest in a product. This should create some well-paying oppor- tunities for those with skill and a good reputation. Words from the Pros Introducing Carl Andrews Jr. Carl Andrews Jr. is a comedy sleight-of-hand expert who lives and works in Florida. He has performed on Japanese television and has appeared in Las Vegas,Atlantic City, and the prestigious Magic Castle in Hollywood. Playing the guitar in high school bands was his official intro- duction to show business, and he credits his success with magic to SOME FAMOUS MAGICIANS PAST AND PRESENT THEN: NOW: Harry Houdini David Blaine Harry Blackstone Lance Burton Howard Thurston David Copperfield Harry Kellar Siegfried & Roy
years and years of practicing and reading widely about his craft. He feels that his fascination with magic is something that every- one experiences at one time or another. Carl’s usual daily routine starts out with business, such as phone calls, e-mail, and mailings. Then he rehearses new routines and reads or studies videotapes. He performs in the evenings. "What I like most is working for myself and doing what I enjoy for a living," he says, "which is making people laugh. I love to entertain.The only downsides would be when business is slow and being self-employed means no paid vacations." Carl advises others who are interested in magic to study and read all they can about the field. "Develop your own unique per- forming character and style," he says. "Then practice, practice, practice!" Introducing Larry Moss Larry Moss runs an entertainment business in Rochester, New York, called Fooled Ya. He earned both a bachelor of arts degree in math and computer science and a master of science in elementary education from the University of Rochester, but he says he has no formal training in the three things he teaches and performs: magic, juggling, and balloon art. He also wrote a book on balloon sculpting that has been distributed all over the world, and he maintains a website that offers a collection of resources for bal- loon artists. Before becoming interested in magic, Larry focused on music. He started playing the violin at five years old and continued through high school. He had intended to continue pursuing music, but he got sidetracked when putting together a wizard cos- tume for Halloween one year. "Being a performer, I went a little overboard learning to play the part of a wizard," he recalls. "I discovered that magic was a wide-open field for creative expression that I enjoyed even more than playing the violin." Moss says that it was actually an accident that he ended up going into entertaining full-time. Making people laugh had always been important to him, but it wasn’t something he expected to do for a living. He paid his way through college by performing on street corners and at birthday parties. But when he took a "real job,"he decided it wasn’t right for him. So he went back to school, once again paying for his education by performing. It was only when he finished school the second time that he realized what he enjoyed most was entertaining. He also came to realize that if he could finance his education by performing, he could continue to be successful in this area. "I watch all the performers I can, all the time," he says. "I don’t care if they’re in my field or not. I’ve been influenced heavily by people doing things as diverse as clowning or ballet. "I don’t have a ‘typical’ day. I suppose the largest portion of my time is spent being a salesman. I sell myself and my art all day long, everywhere I go. It’s not an imposing sort of selling. Mostly, I’m just being myself. I’m always ‘on’ and always ready to talk about my business if the opportunity arises." Larry divides much of his time into writing about what he does, rehearsing for shows, creating new routines, and simply playing with balloons, which combines relaxing, practicing, and being creative. "The best part about this kind of work is that I rarely see peo- ple who aren’t happy,"he says."If they aren’t in a great mood when I arrive, they almost always are when I leave. I get paid to make people happy. What could be more fun than that?" On the downside, he tends to work different schedules than his friends. Another reality is that work, and therefore income, can be inconsistent. "An entertainer makes a career by being different from others," Moss says."Everyone looking to get into entertainment has to find their own differences and work on those above all else. Classical training can only go so far. If you only have the same skills as others around you, you can easily be replaced. But if you’re unique, you’ll always be needed by someone." Introducing Bill Palmer Bill Palmer earned a bachelor of arts degree in Germanics from Rice University in Houston and also studied music at the Univer- sity of Houston for three years, but he credits his success as a magician to on-the-job training and "plenty of seminars." He comes from a family of entertainers; his father was a music educator and concert artist, so he got started when he was just a child. He saw Harry Blackstone Sr. perform his vanishing- birdcage trick in a live show and said to himself, "That’s what I want to do when I grow up!"Besides performing his magic shows, he has also played in several bands. Bill works from his home. Since his work is seasonal, during the off-season he finds alternate ways to occupy his time, such as writ- ing and building magic props and banjos. "I like the accolades I receive when I do a good show," he says. "I’m an applause junkie. But I dislike the grunt work—packing and setting up. The upside of being a magician is that there are people I have entertained for three generations now. But the downside is the same—there are people I have entertained for three generations now!" To anyone wanting to follow in his footsteps, Bill advises focus- ing on the basics."Don’t take up entertaining unless you are will- ing to learn your craft from the ground up," he says. "Learn the fundamentals, then expand on them. Study with the best. Take drama courses. Learn to read and speak well. Be yourself.And take vitamins!" Here is your next birth name challenge:Terry Jean Bollette. For More Information Magic Organizations The International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM), founded in 1922, is the world’s largest organization for magicians. The orga- nization boasts a membership of more than fifteen thousand members worldwide. It sponsors over three hundred regional organizations called Rings around the world. The International Brotherhood of Magicians is a respected organization for amateur as well as professional magicians. For more information, contact: International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) 11155 South Towne Square, Suite C St. Louis, MO 63123 The Society of American Magicians (SAM) was formed in 1902 and is the oldest active organization for magic anywhere. It has more than 250 chapters around the world, and more than three hundred thousand individuals have held membership in the Soci- ety. The organization’s magazine is called M-U-M after its motto, Magic-Unity-Might. SAM actively promotes magic as an enter- tainment and art form and has the world’s largest youth program for magic, called the Society of Young Magicians (SYM). Young people between the ages of seven and fifteen may join SYM. For more information, contact: Society of American Magicians (SAM) PO Box 510260 St. Louis, MO 63151 Society of Young Magicians (SYM) 329 West 1750 North Orem, UT 84057 Another organization that focuses on young magicians is Mag- ical Youth International. You can obtain more information from: Magical Youth International 159 Ralston Avenue Kenmore, NY 14217 A more narrow focus is taken by the Fellowship of Christian Magicians, a religious organization dedicated to the use of visual illustrations to illustrate religious presentations. Members use techniques such as sleight of hand, optical illusion, ventriloquism, puppets, balloons, clowning, juggling, and storytelling in per- forming for church groups or other audiences. The group pub- lishes The Christian Conjurer magazine, holds conferences and workshops, and provides networking opportunities. More details are available by contacting the organization as follows: Fellowship of Christian Magicians FCM Mail Center 7739 Everest Court North Maple Grove, MN 55311 Magazines A great way to keep up with modern magic is to consult one of the magazines specializing in magic-related information. Genii, which describes itself as the conjuror’s magazine, offers a wealth of information in every issue. You can find historical articles on great magicians and their techniques, tips on how to perform spe- cific magic tricks, updates on happenings in the world of magic, and more. Its online version also includes a forum where those interested in magic can participate in online discussions. For information, contact: Genii: The Conjuror’s Magazine 4200 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 106–384 Washington, DC 20016 Another publication, Magic: The Magazine for Magicians, also provides readers with a wide variety of magic-related informa- tion. This monthly magazine offers profiles of working magicians, historical stories, predictions for the future, and reports on all types of magic shows. Readers can also check the "great new tricks" section each month, which offers advice from some of the world’s most successful magicians. You can also find listings of current magic performances in nightclubs, amusement parks, resorts, cruise ships, and elsewhere, as well as news, editorials, and product reviews. For more information, contact: Magic: The Magazine for Magicians 6220 Stevenson Way Las Vegas, NV 89120 Books Allen, Jon. Simple Magic Tricks: Easy-to-Learn Magic Tricks with Everyday Objects. Hamlyn, 2004. Eldin, Peter, and Eve Devereux. Card & Magic Tricks. Gramercy, 2004. Garenne, Henri. The Art of Modern Conjuring: For Wizards of All Ages. Gramercy, 2004. Hugard, Jean, and Frederick Braue. The Royal Road to Card Magic (Cards, Coins, and Other Magic). Dover Publications, 1999. King, Mac, and Mark Levy. Tricks with Your Head: Hilarious Magic Tricks and Stunts to Disgust and Delight. Three Rivers Press, 2002. McEvoy, Harry K. Knife Throwing: A Practical Guide. Tuttle Publishing, 2004. Scarne, John. Scarne’s Magic Tricks (Cards, Coins, and Other Magic). Dover Publications, 2003. Silverman, Kenneth. Houdini!!!: The Career of Ehrich Weiss. Perennial, 1997. Tyson, Donald. The Magician’s Workbook: Practicing the Rituals of the Western Tradition. Llewellyn Publications, 2001. Wilson, Mark. Mark Wilson’s Cyclopedia of Magic: A Complete Course. Running Press, 1995.

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