My friend Channing.

•September 3, 2020 • Leave a Comment

One very unusual friendship I have enjoyed was with the great magician Channing Pollack. Channing was one of the most influential magicians that America has ever added to the magic community. Channing was the man who pretty much invented the “dove act” as we know it. Dressed in a perfect tail suit, Pollack performed immaculate card manipulations punctuated by the gasp out loud production of beautiful white doves. As a finale he made an entire cage of doves disappear in thin air. However,  it wasn’t just what Channing did but the style with which he did it that made him so special.

David Copperfield described Pollack as “The James Bond of Magic,’ and that gets to the heart of the matter. He was extremely good looking (frequently described by the press as the best looking man in America) and had a serious and intense manner when he performed, only after the finale of his act did Channing flash a 50 megabit smile at the very close of his show when that cage of doves disappeared. It was great entertainment and even greater theater.

At the very height of his professional success, Channing made the easy jump into being a movie star and made a series of films designed to show off his matinee idol looks. Before too long he disappeared from the big screen and began a highly successful career at just being Channing. He spent his time in Beverly Hills, Half Moon Bay, and finally Las Vegas, he became an inspiration, friend, teacher, and mentor to generations of magicians. As show business stories go, this was an almost perfect one.

In the late 1970s, I met Channing for the first time at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. We hit it off immediately and spent the next few hours talking metaphysics in a smokey van.  We were both very involved in A Course In Miracles and were delighted to have a chance to discuss it in detail. On this, and all future occasions, we were both much to busy talking about spiritual matters to discuss magic!

Over the next few decades periodically I would bump into Channing and I would always greet him with, “What’s happening for you with the Course?” We would then pick up our conversation almost exactly where we left off the last time we met. It was rather a ritual. The last time I saw Channing was at one of Mac King’s annual Kentucky Derby parties in Las Vegas. When I asked him how the “Course” was going, his face clouded over a little and he said, “I have hit a block…” I responded immediately, “You might want to check out the work of Nisargadatta Maharaj.”  “Where should I look?” He replied. We chatted briefly, and when he parted Channing said, “I will phone you tomorrow to write down the name of those two books.”

I was slightly surprised the next day when Pollack phoned me, I had previously realized that he didn’t have my phone number! We chatted a while and I told him that Sri Nisargadatta’s magnum opus was I Am That. I added that I was particularly fond of the short book containing his final teaching called Consciousness and the Absolute. This second book was transcribed from Maharaj’s talks in the last six months of his life after he had been diagnosed with throat cancer. The diamond-like clarity, directness, and depth of his words are quite extraordinary. Channing thanked me and said goodbye. It was the last time we spoke, six months later Channing died from complications of cancer. I felt a little strange about my last communications with him were to recommend a book by someone in the exact life position that he was in.

When I attended The Tribute to Mr. Pollack after his death I was surprised when several of Channing’s friends came up to me and greeted me warmly as if they knew me. As I discovered my final interaction with Channing had been very appropriate and he had immediately ordered the two books I had recommended, and they had meant a great deal to him. In fact, he had sent copies of the books to many of his friends. When he died the three books beside his bed were A Course in Miracles, I Am That, and Consciousness and the Absolute. It was certainly a strange feeling to discover this. I am astounded looking back over the years, how few times Channing and I met. However the intensity of our mutual interests was very profound, and the friendship we had was a very rare and special one. There are other magicians, and then there was Channing Pollack.

 

 

 

Lance Burton on The Entertainment Files.

•August 29, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Lance Burton was one of our favorite guests on The Entertainment Files! He stopped by our studio for the interview and even performed a really cool close up trick. Lance really deserved the Master Magician title, his various shows were all incredibly enjoyable. While his show at the Monte Carlo Hotel was the biggest and most elaborate I have very fond memories of his show at the Hacienda!

 

 

Rhonda Shear and Bobby Kelton on The Entertainment Files.

•August 21, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Rhonda Shear was the gorgeous star of the USA Network’s highly successful Up All Night. We were delighted when Rhonda and comedian Bobby Kelton dropped by the Entertainment File’s studio to talk about movies and comedy.

Ted V. Mikels on The Entertainment Files.

•August 20, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Ted V. Mikels was a “one of a kind” low budget, indie filmmaker. He had a lot of personal style and charisma. We were delighted to invite him to appear on The Entertainment Files to discuss his movies. 

Mike Weatherford on The Entertainment Files

•August 17, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Mike Weatherford was one of the two Mikes (along with Mike Paskevich) who were the key reviewers for the Las Vegas Review-Journal back in the ’90s. They were both very supportive of my show at the Maxim and were a great help in making it such a success. Thank you, guys! Mike Weatherford dropped by the studio for this Entertainment Files interview. Mike wrote a great book Cult Las Vegas which is well worth finding and reading!

Farewell To The Great Marvyn Roy

•August 17, 2020 • 2 Comments

On July 1, 2020, we lost one of the great magicians of our time with the passing of Marvyn “Mr. Electric” Roy, at the age of 95. Marvyn Roy was a star of magic for most of his life, and his passing has closed the curtain on an entire era of magic. Marvyn’s distinguished career included performing in just about every TV show and live venue that mattered. Marvyn Roy played the kind of gigs that most magicians merely dream about. Even more importantly, Roy has been a source of inspiration to many generations of magicians.

In the magic community, Roy was as famous for his generosity of spirit, as he was for his classic “Artistry of Light” magic act. Spending time with Marvyn was to be uplifted by his excitement and pure love of magic. He had an almost limitless knowledge and understanding of every aspect of the magical arts and shared it freely with his fellow magicians.  It was impossible to spend any time around “Mr. Electric” without becoming a better and more passionate magician.

Born in Los Angeles on April 1, 1925, Roy was the king of the themed magic show. In his teens, Marvyn developed an award-winning act of silk magic called “Marvyn the Silk Merchant.” In 1950 with help from Alan Wakeling and Ray Muse, he introduced the prototype of his Mr. Electric show.  Later in his career, Marvyn launched two more themed shows billed as Mr. Puzzle and The Magic Jeweler. However, it is as Mr. Electric that Marvyn Roy is remembered the most fondly.

During World War Two, Roy was among the second wave of soldiers that landed on Normandy in 1944. After being wounded and receiving the Purple Heart, he was attached to Special Services and performed in a variety show entertaining the troops. Upon returning to civilian life, Marvyn studied theater at UCLA to more fully develop the act. However, there was one more thing needed to propel his life and career to the next level. 

In the early fifties, Marvyn learned to ice skate to perform his act in ice shows. It was a fortuitous decision.  At The Conrad hotel in Chicago, he met Carol Williams, an ice skater and rope spinner. The young couple fell in love and were married in 1956. In Carol, Marvyn now had the perfect professional partner and life mate. For 50 years, they shared the stage and traveled the world, dazzling audiences with their iconic teamwork. Both onstage and off, “Mr. Electric & Carol,” were a perfect dyadic, and had a dynamic relationship that delighted both audiences and their eclectic collection of friends.

A brief recap of Marvyn and Carol’s career would have to mention their regular appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, and numerous other domestic and international television shows. The couple also played The London Palladium, The Lido de Paris, and Radio City Music Hall as well as the best Las Vegas venues. The couple toured Russia with Ed Sullivan and opened for Liberace for over five years. Along the line, Marvyn picked up every major award that magic has to give. An excellent first-hand reminiscence of Roy’s career is available in his 2005 book “Mr. Electric Unplugged,” it is a great read and highly recommended.

I am just one of many magicians whose life was quietly and profoundly changed by a meeting with Mr. Electric. I had watched Marvyn & Carol on various British television shows and was deeply in awe of their showmanship and high energy magic show. I particularly enjoyed the dramatic moment in their act when Marvyn donned goggles and illuminated a 10,000-watt lighthouse bulb in his bare hands. It was the powerful heart of a spectacular show. The duo seemed like inhabitants of a different universe to this teenage Brit magician. Watching them on our tiny TV set performing live from the London Palladium, I could never have dared to guess that they would become dear friends one day.

I arrived in America in 1974 at the age of 22 and began to unravel a career for myself doing what I loved best—performing magic. My first real gig was an 80 dollar “club date” at the Long Beach Elks Club. When I arrived at the venue, I was astonished to discover I was working with Marvyn and Carol Roy. There had been a hitch in the booking procedure resulting in a bill that featured two magicians and two jugglers. Even more alarmingly, the entertainment committee had decided to put both the magicians in the first half of the show, with the two jugglers comprising the second half. No-one has ever accused many Elks Club entertainment committees of having a lot of showbiz acumen! Marvyn explained the situation to me, and much to my surprise told me that he would be opening the bill, and I would follow him and close out the first half of the show. For a while, I was pretty darn excited that Mr. Electric was going to be my opening act. How little we know in those early performing days! As a gnarled old veteran, I am now firmly aware that unless it affects your fee, go on as early as you can in any bill. I learned this lesson very clearly that night in Long Beach. Almost everything I performed in my show that night had just been presented far better by Marvyn within his themed format.

My show featured a floating ball, Marvyn had floated a light bulb, I cut and restored a piece of rope while he cut and restored a microphone cord. Even my killer effect, featuring an electric chair routine, was eclipsed by being proceeded by Marvyn & Carol presenting their spectacular version 25 minutes earlier. The audience was pretty darn kind to me, which I appreciated. Still, I felt somewhat foolish, and crestfallen as my wife Susan and I were packing up my props after the show.

At the very end of the evening, I was getting ready to slink back home with my magical tail between my legs, Marvyn materialized next to me. “Would you both like to come out and join us getting some breakfast at “Denny’s?” He said. Amazed and delighted, I replied, “Of course!” I couldn’t have been more excited at this rare opportunity to act like a genuine magic professional. We followed Marvyn and Carol to the nearby coffee shop, and the four of us quickly settled into a corner booth.

After ordering our breakfast, I was to experience that signature enthusiasm and generosity that made Marvyn Roy such a prince among men. Marvyn told me how much he had enjoyed my show, especially my Chinese Linking Ring routine. This effect had undoubtedly been one of my better-received pieces, if only because Marvyn hadn’t performed it! Marvyn then spent the rest of our breakfast, educating me on the importance of having a themed act with a name that people would remember. Before we finished our pancakes, he had devised an entire act that involved me linking different items together. “What you can do,” he enthused, “is change your name to Link Lewin!” By the time we left the restaurant, I was halfway ready to do it.

One of Marvyn’s many suggestions was that I immediately purchase a Himber Linking Finger Ring to develop my linking prowess further. The next day still on a rush from being treated, totally unrealistically, as an equal by such an esteemed performer, I drove to Joe Berg’s Magic Shop in Hollywood and placed a deposit on a Himber Ring. While I never developed an entire show linking objects, I certainly got my money’s worth from that finger ring. It became a signature effect that opened many doors for me. It was the trick that I performed on my first TV appearance in 1979 on The Merv Griffin Show filmed in the enormous Caesars Palace showroom in Las Vegas.

Over the years, I worked with Marvyn and Carol many times, and we became good friends. We often recalled that first show, and I was able to thank him for his kindness to a young and nervous rookie performer. The last time I saw Mr. Roy was in October of 2019 when I was performing at the opening night of Marvyn’s namesake magic theater in La Quinta. I got to tell this little story onstage during my show and enjoyed seeing Marvyn’s laughter as he sat in the audience. After the show concluded, we did what all performers do on these occasions—we went out with a group of magicians to have breakfast. Some traditions never change.

Marvyn is already sorely missed in our community. He was the best of the best, both onstage and off. I am proud to have known him.

 

 


 

 

Ayala on The Entertainment Files.

•August 13, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Ayala was starring in Dick Foster’s Spellbound in Las Vegas when I first met him. He is considered by many to be Mexico’s top magician. We were delighted when Joaquin stopped by the Entertainment Files studio for this interview.

 

 

Pudgy on The Entertainment Files.

•August 10, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Pudgy was a wonderful “insult comedian” who had a Don Rickles, take no prisoners approach to comedy. She was the resident comedy performer in Crazy Girls at The Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. She was really nice when she visited us in the Entertainment Files studio though!

 

An Artist Is

•August 10, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I just received this blog post from an agent and really liked it. I thought it was well worth sharing. It was written by Bob Lefsetz. You can find his blog at http://www.lefsetz.com/lists/?p=subscribe&id=1 

An Artist…

Doesn’t follow trends.
Sets trends.
Doesn’t give the audience what it wants.
Gives the audience what it needs.
Has a sense of history. If there’s no context, there’s no art. Art is a reaction, a transmogrification…unless you know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going.
Knows that money is secondary to art.
Knows that money, if it comes, usually does so last…it takes that long for people to catch up with you, and once they do you don’t rest on your laurels but keep innovating, which challenges the audience to stay bonded.
Knows that execution is secondary to conception. All art is based on conception. The light bulb going off. The idea. Then it’s a race to get it down in a comprehensible form as soon as possible. The more you think about it, the greater the chance of compromise, and art is never about compromise.
Knows that some of their best ideas come when they’re not working.
Realizes they’ll never fit in, otherwise they wouldn’t be an artist.
Must change and grow. Which is why Picasso is a legendary superstar and Braque is a moment in time.
Listens to advice, listens to feedback, but is not bound by it. If you don’t read the reviews, if you don’t listen to what people say, then you’ve got no context. This does not mean you have to take blowback to heart, it just means you can’t create art that has impact unless you understand the populace that reacts. Today everybody reacts. How do you deal with that? Do you create art that makes people post, that offends them, that makes them jump for joy? You are in control of the journey but not the destination. But that does not mean you should not have a map.
Speaks truth to power.
Is not a member of the group, is not a member of the club.
Knows that awards are meaningless. Or at best meaningful for a day. Talk to any true star who’s won, the glow blows off very quickly.
Doesn’t have to tell people they’re great, their work speaks for itself. Unless telling people you’re great, braggadocio, is part of your art.
Doesn’t complain. The game is rigged, the odds are stacked against you, deal with it. Sure, you can be frustrated, but complaining about it just aligns you with the whiners who are not artists, and you don’t want to be dragged down into the hole they’re in.
Affects society, but is separate from it.
Knows that the power of their art supersedes the power of their pocketbook.
Doesn’t bitch about the value of their work. The value is established by the audience. Or, you have your own metric, but then you can’t bitch about the reaction or lack of acceptance.
Frequently creates alone, but oftentimes is inspired by interaction with others. And the closer they are to these others, the more contempt they have for them. You want to do it your way, they want to do it their way, and oftentimes this tension results in work that is better than either of you could do individually. Don’t confuse this with tracks built by twenty “songwriters.” There’s too much thinking involved in that, and art runs on instinct.
Let me repeat that, an artist runs on instinct, on their gut, on what feels right, and as soon as they go against that, they’re toast…their art is compromised.
An artist knows when they do great work. Which comes only occasionally. No one can ring the bell every time out. But when you’re channeling the gods, you know it. Actually, once you become aware that you’re walking on the tightrope, that you’re in the league of greatness, once you become self-conscious, you often fall. The key is to stay in the mood, the groove, for the duration of creation.
An artist is willing to fail. Not that they’re willing to share all their failures. But if you don’t play, you cannot win, you must be willing to fail in the eyes of the public.
Believes they’re God on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and a piece of crap the rest of the week.
Art is a Sisyphean task. Once you make it to the top, you roll right down to the bottom and have to start all over again.

Mac King on The Entertainment Files

•August 6, 2020 • Leave a Comment

In 1998, Mac King swung by the studio to record this Interview for the Entertainment Files. As always it was a pleasure to chat with “The King” of comedy magic. Mac has now got the longest-running comedy magic show in Las Vegas.

 
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