I’m a bit remiss in the fact that, in addition to not posting much, lately, I’ve also shared only one Tommy Wonder video until now. This video, and the other I have posted, are taken from the video collection “Visions of Wonder,” which is a great demonstration of the skill and presentation Tommy brought to the craft. His book set, “The Books of Wonder,” should be a staple in any magicians library for the theory he presents as much as the tricks and routines he documents. This routine is one of his takes on the classic plot of Coins Across. Tommy’s contributions to the magic community are numerous, and the legacy he left is something that is almost more miraculous when you see what goes on behind each routine as much as when you’ve no idea how he did it.
When Nathan Kranzo came through and lectured for S.A.M. Assembly 8 earlier this year, I was a bit annoyed because of getting held up with day-job work stuff, so when I found he was doing a workshop, I was quite happy and immediately signed up as soon as I heard. That was definitely a good decision on my part.
Now, Nathan did admit there was a little cross-over between his lecture and his workshop but he minimized that and only went through a couple of things that were in the initial lecture. As part of the package, there were two DVDs (one covering a gaff Nathan has developed from an older gaff concept) and a good number of downloadable files including pdf lecture notes and a video of a routine and explanation.
The main thing I found really cool about what Nathan was presenting in this workshop was how he developed a number of routines using gaffs that have been around for quite some time. His opener routine that he gave us was a coin routine that used and milked a gaff that probably most magicians who do coin work have picked up and used along the way. What he focused on was using manipulations in addition to the gaff to build a routine around a number of tricks that flowed from the start of production to finishing clean. Yeah, I know I’m keeping it vague on what he presented, but I’d rather not name any of the gaffs discussed just in the event that laypeople actually read this blog.
What the first routine (and really, the subsequent routines, as well) reminded me of was of watching Boris Wild about probably his biggest contribution so far to magic tools. In both cases, we have serious manipulation skills combined with a creative knowledge of using the gaffs employed. When Boris discussed his gaff, he referred to it as jazz, taking the gaff and playing with it and finding new ways to use it. In both the case of Boris and Nathan, in addition to classic routines and premises, we had additional new and off-beat premises shown to where the gaffs involved. Coming back around to Nathan, if anybody during the discussion asked where he got a trick from, unless he was naming a specific move, he would list off a number of magicians whose ideas had been implemented. In some cases, it was material developed for a different tool completely but had enough shared DNA with what Nathan was using that in was adapted.
Now, I’m sure that for an awful lot of magicians, this isn’t anything new, but I also know enough magi who, once they get a gaff or gimmick, play it only really the way it is presented in the instructions that came with it. For me personally, it timed perfectly. I had just recently started playing with a gaff that I had picked up well over a year ago and, pretty much after seeing only minor variations of Don Alan’s routine with the gaff performed, I pretty much put it down figuring it was probably locked into that one presentation, and I’d rather put my own spin on it. Nathan’s workshop inspired me to look at other gaffs that had enough matching DNA that I started jamming with the gimmick running a few manipulations that were more for the other gimmick. I’m now seeing the potential.
It’s not a case, really, of when you discover how to use a hammer everything is a nail, but rather, learning that in addition to pounding a nail into a board, a hammer can pull or straighten a bent nail (and though I’m a big horror movie fan, I won’t drag this analogy further into “Toolbox Murders” territory). I personally generally dislike gimmicks that can only be used for one trick and that’s it. I’m always looking for at least three phases to each routine, if not more. Hell, even though in general there’s only really one move to a good operation of the Three Shell Game, a great presentation gets creative in the implementation.
Now, I must say, for the routines and tricks Nathan performed, I will say that if I was to adapt one routine for my own, it would have been his finisher. In this case, there was no gaff used. It was a series of coin though silk manipulations that, for being close-up magic, plays big. Yeah, we all find our favorites, and for what he presented us, this was definitely mine. For busking, it is perfect, but all in all, like anything else, once I start working with it, it will be a path of discovery until the routine has DNA in Nathan’s routine (in addition to so many others) but its final presentation is mine.
All in all, my final take-away from Nathan’s workshop, for all the technical information he dropped on us, it was a tent-revival for my creative side.
Noted magician and barber, Dean Dill (www.deandill.com), was a frequent visitor to Johnny Carson’s house to work on coin and card tricks with Johnny for years before Johnny convinced him to go on the show, and that probably wouldn’t have happened had Johnny not announced his retirement. I just recently watched an interview with Dean at Reel Magic Magazine (www.reelmagicmagazine.com – subscription required) and just generally liked his easy-going and casual manner. I love watching Matrix routines, and Dean’s is a killer in this clip.
I’ve been working on my close-up magic, lately, and one of the set of DVDs I’ve been using, in addition to a number of books, is Jeff McBride’s (www.mcbridemagic.com)”World Class Manipulation,” which covers coins, balls, and thimbles. Now, when it comes to the plot-line of The Miser’s Dream, my personal favorite is Al Flosso’s, which I posted a while back (Daily Dose of Magic – Al Flosso). Jeff’s take is fun, and what I like about this is the interplay in this silent routine between Jeff and at first the audience, then the boy.
I’ve been remiss by not posting anything by Jimmy Talksalot (jimmytalksalot.blogspot.com), and the reason why he has been important and influential to me and my performance is his blog (located at the above address) was what inspired me to try my hand at street performance in the first place. Because of what Jimmy has posted online, I’ve seen and read quite a bit about performing magic on the streets. Once again, not the David Blaine “Do you want to see a trick,” but getting a crowd, keeping them, and (the hardest part) hatting the crowd after giving them a show. Even my final trick that I had performed for my show last years was inspired from Jimmy after seeing how Jimmy gets a good reaction (although my Ropes Through the Neck is not quite his bit). Jimmy turned me on to Jim Cellini, who is the godfather of contemporary street magicians, held in the same esteem as other magicians hold Dai Vernon. I hope to cross paths with Jimmy someday and give him my thanks personally.
Going through J.B. Bobo’s “Modern Coin Magic,” there are a number of variants to the Coins Across plot line, not to mention the variants that other magicians have developed and made there own. Tommy Wonder does his variant with a “Magician in Trouble” spin, and with his usual suave delivery, pulls the audience right along with him. This was from his Tahoe sessions that are presented in his video series “Visions of Wonder.”
At the IBM Ring 1 Holiday Party, we had a White Elephant gift exchange. In this exchange, I ended up with a box of a gross of used casino decks of cards, which at first glance really felt like the booby prize. Considering the card folds I want to learn, in addition to a particular trick by Roy Walton, I realized what I really ended up with was (after giving 60 decks away) 4536 chances to get these right. I wanted to post a video of bar magician Scotty “The Silver Fox” York’s (1937-2012) handling of this trick, but was unable to find it posted online (and didn’t want to be in copyright violation myself by posting it). I did find his handling of the Silver/Copper Transposition, though, which is another great demonstration of how well he could work a crowd. I do love a trick that is posed as a bar bet.
The Coney Island Fakir himself, Al Flosso (1895 – 1976). He has been mentioned by many magicians as one of their inspirations. This is the best footage I have been able to find of him, and most prominent in this routine is his performance of “The Miser’s Dream.” I have another take on this routine on deck for a later Dose, but the way he keeps the routine rolling and pretty much works over the boy from the crowd is stellar. It’s the beauty of seeing an old vaudevillian at work. Flosso was one of the greats.