Johnny Carson Does Some Card Magic!

•June 5, 2018 • 4 Comments

Yup, Johnny Carson really was a magician. He started out at 11 and was a magic fan all his life. He worked his way through college doing a comedy magic act. This is some recently released footage of Carson doing the classic Cards to Pocket on the Jerry Lewis telethon. It is really fun!

About 33 years ago I had an interesting experience once when I was performing at the big NBC Affiliates meeting in LA. I was part of the big production event in the meeting and then all the NBC stars (from Johnny to Steven Spielberg) were trotted out to say hi to the various NBC station owners from around the country. None of the stars looked too happy about it but they all knew where their paychecks came from.

I was performing a series of illusions, including a rather unusual flaw production of my female assistant, from a very unusual prop that I had just purchased in Germany. While all the celebrities were waiting backstage to make their appearance, Johnny noticed the illusion and made a beeline over to check it out. We spent a delightful ten minutes as I showed him the prop and how it worked. He was very charming and TOTALLY interested in all the magician stuff involved. He was a true blue magic hobbyist for those ten minutes. It was the only time I ever spent with Mr. Carson. I relish the memory.

Nick Lewin and Little Jewford’s “Tricks andTunes” Live in Austin.

•May 31, 2018 • 2 Comments

“Tricks & Tunes.” June 5th at The Backstage in Austin.

An Awesome Evening of Magic, Music and Comedy.

I am delighted to announce the next gig from Nick Lewin and Little Jewford will be on June5th at The Backstage in Austin. We will be working with the wonderful Durawa Band. This video gives a taste of our live show…

You can get more details from our website just  CLICK HERE

 

 

Some more thoughts on my Non-Tossed Deck routine.

•May 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Detailed insights into my Non-Tossed Deck

To purchase this routine  CLICK HERE 

The AMA Award Show Downtown, and Shimada at the Magic Castle.

•May 4, 2018 • Leave a Comment

One of the delightful “extras’ to attending the Academy of Magic Arts recent Awards Ceremony on April 22nd was the opportunity to have dinner at the Magic Castle on Monday the 23th. Susan and I were in town to cheer on our dear friend Ray Anderson who was being awarded a Performing Fellowship at the Awards Night. We formed our core little Texan group for the Castle dinner with Ray and his husband Steven Michael Miller and Mark and Sue Holstein. The Sunday night festivities had included a fun pre and after award show party at the Magic Castle in addition to the the highly enjoyable awards show at the delightful Orpheum Theatre in Downtown LA.

Like all award shows this one ran a little too long. I must say that this one ran the shortest amount too long of almost any I have seen! Erika Larsen did a great job producing the show and her daughter Liberty kinda’ stole the show with her two vocal contributions.It was great to catch up with old friends from my Castle years. Having been a member since 1974 a lot of my early friends are now no longer with us, but the occasion gave one the opportunity to remember friends like Bruce Cervon, Billy McComb, Ron Wilson, Jules Lenier, Das Vernon, Charlie Miller and many others. There was also a fine assortment of old and new friends in attendance too catch up with and it was great to catch up with friends like, Johnny & Pam Thompson, John Carney, Paul Green, Marvin Roy, Mark & Nani Wilson and many others.

Following a great dinner at the Castle on Monday evening, we caught the first of six special performances in the Palace of Mysteries by the legendary Shimada. What a joy to watch this master of his craft performing again at the Castle. The very first time I saw him perform, with his partner Deanna, was in the very intimate Magic Cabaret at the Castle. They were a real eye opener to a young Brit magician. We went on to perform several times together, most memorably in Las Vegas and Hawaii and I will have to write a blog post about those two quite remarkable dates at some future point. But all those memories came rushing back sitting in the Palace of Mysteries watching the Grand Master perform. Did it seem the same watching Shimada without Deanna? No not really, they were truly one of the greatest equal partnership teams in magic. Sadly, Deanna is no longer with us and has joined my other dear friends who are now happy, vivid memories of when the Castle was younger, less well organized and even more fun. It was great to see the family legacy continue with the presence of Shimada and Deanna’s daughter Luna. She has the uncanny ability to remind me of both her parents at one and the same time, and that is one heck of a lot of charisma!

 

 

Shimada performed his immaculate manipulative and dove magic in the Palace that night. As fine and wonderful as his magic is, it has always been his unique presence and awareness of his uniqueness that have placed him in a different league to almost any other performer of his type. It isn’t the incredible and flawless appearance of the dove that makes his act so special, it is the way he acknowledges the audience’s reaction to its arrival that stamps Shimada as being one of the truly groundbreaking and one of a kind sensation. There is an indefinable class and attitude to his work and style that have left generations of lesser performers grasping for invisible straws if they try to duplicate it. It was great to see the 77 year old master at work, drawing gasps and applause as if they were a birthright. Maybe they are.

 

 

Well, it was a wonderful couple of days in LA and hat’s off to everyone involved with the Award Show (Thanks for the shout out in the script David Regal—a ’70s picture of my with a tightly curled “Afro” hairstyle earned me a nod from host Larry Willmore as an early inspiration to other African American magicians!) and the entire Magic Castle team who proved that you really can improve on every aspect of a classic nightspot without improving it totally out of recognition! I also must thank Ray Anderson, because I certainly wouldn’t have made the journey from Austin, Texas to Hollywood except to watch him accept an award that he so richly deserves. For quite a few years now I have been firmly of the opinion that Ray is the finest illusionist/magicians on the contemporary scene. If you have never caught his peerless work then I suggest you book a ticket to Austin and catch him in his 30 year performing home “Esther’s Follies” on 6th Street.  Just like Shimada, it does a performer a power of good to be able to settle back in their seat and watch a true master take our beloved art form and send it soaring through the stars.

Set up, Strike and Video Taping! Some final points.

•April 15, 2018 • Leave a Comment

How about the set up and strike?

Setting up for your show is a two-part process, part of it is done at home and part at the venue. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from Roy Johnson, he said that he was happy to spend an extra hour setting up his props at home if it saved him ten minutes of time setting up props prior to the show at the venue. These are words I have lived by ever since. The more fully prepared for performance you are when you arrive at the venue the smoother things will go. I choose to work from a small case rather than using a table onstage. There is no question of needing to set that table onstage prior to show time and no chance of it being knocked over backstage. The goal is to be as self contained as possible, the less you have to worry about your props the more you can concentrate on your show.

Striking your show should be done as soon after the show as possible. You don’t want anyone “exploring” your props or over enthusiastic cleaning staff throwing away that crumpled empty paper bag that actually contains an expensive rubber bottle! Make sure you collect any equipment from the AV team such as receivers or other sound equipment as soon as possible to avoid them getting accidentally packed and removed.

Can I video my show?

 Now that high quality cameras such as Go Pros are available and easily affordable a great many performers carry one with them and want to record their shows. This might be done to study their shows at a later junction and other times it is to acquire footage for a future show reel. Sometimes it is acceptable and sometimes it is not. You are not being paid to rehearse or shoot a demo and you should leave the camera at home and just avoid adding another level of complication to an event. Many buyers are really not happy with a home movie being shot at their event. Certainly I have seen occasions when setting up a camera on a tripod was no problem but I have also seen many other times when it just looked pushy or amateurish.

If you are lucky enough to be working an event that includes iMag video incorporated into the performance you can certainly feel free to ask the client if they would be kind enough to allow you to have a copy of the footage that is shot. In this manner you will acquire high quality footage that can really be an effective tool. If this is the case don’t forget to offer the pay any costs involved and if they say, as is usually the case, that this is not necessary then you should slip the AV guy a little cash for his extra efforts.

An amplified word or two about microphones.

•April 10, 2018 • Leave a Comment

What about microphones?

 Here is an important topic that is often very misunderstood by beginners—and quite a few more experienced performers. The real role of a microphone is not just to make your voice louder but more importantly to allow you to speak more naturally, with greater dynamics, while of course amplifying your dialogue.  In this day and age a good wireless microphone system is integral to a quality performer. You can’t just turn up and hope the audio system works. A good microphone is a performer’s number one prop.

As a comedy magician having my words clearly understood and heard is vital to me. Let me tell you that in my (and many other top pros) opinion the Countryman E6 is as good as sound gets.  There are cheaper microphones that can get the job done but it is like buying a car; a Mercedes and a Hyundai will both let you drive from point A to point B, however they are not the same vehicles by any means. The good news about buying a top of the line microphone is that you are not talking about the same price difference as you are with a car! Unquestionably a wireless headset achieves the most natural and best quality of sound in almost any circumstances. There was a time when a lavalier microphone worn on the lapel was state of the art, that time is gone.

One of the great benefits of the Countryman unit is that it has replaceable cables to attach it to transmitter unit in your back pocket. This is almost always the link in the system that gives out and instead of having to replace the entire microphone, or send it away for repair, you can carry a spare cable and replace the faulty cable in a matter of seconds. I carry all the leads and plugs needed to attach my microphone to a receiver/transmitter supplied by the venue if at all possible. I also carry a Shure wireless receiver and transmitter unit to augment my Countryman microphone if needed and this combo works very well.

You are going to have to arrive at the venue early to have a sound check before the room is filled with your audience, a bit of a pain but important. You must always request a hand held (wireless) microphone on a straight microphone stand as a back up. This microphone can also be used by whoever is introducing your show. You should also always carry a good “round the neck holder” to use if your wireless microphone gives out or there are any other problems.  I could, should, and probably will write an entire article on the subtleties that I have been unable to cover in this brief audio primer.


 

Drinking on the job, plus setting up and striking the show.

•April 8, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Can I have a drink?

Very often a client will invite you to have a drink either before or after your show and when this is the case there is sometimes a fine line between being rude and being professional. I think the general rule of thumb is that it is better not to drink around/with the client prior to show time: if something goes wrong it is wiser not to have been seen at the bar or to have alcohol on your breath. After the show it is another matter; if your client invites you to join them for a cocktail then, by all means, do so, just don’t get drunk or raise your alcohol level to a point where it would be illegal to drive home. If all this sounds like standard common sense realize that this is not always the way things work out in the real world. Your client may well be ecstatic about a successful event and knocking back tequila shots at the bar, but you are a paid guest at this event and joining him in the process does not make you one of the team or his new best friend.

Another common courtesy extended by clients is to invite you to join them for dinner prior to the show. I strongly advise against taking them up on this good-hearted gesture; you are there to work and not to eat. I thank the client profusely but decline the offer on the grounds that I prefer not to eat prior to performing. You really have nothing to gain by being around the audience prior to show time and it is much better to keep yourself well hidden from your audience during dinner. It is a much better impact when the audience’s first sight of you is when you arrive onstage. Personally, I don’t like having food sent backstage or kept on hold till after the show because it confuses the issue, and once again you are nota guest you are working. Throw some protein bars and trail mix into your working case if you are the kind of person who needs to eat immediately prior to your show.

How about the setup and strike?

 Setting up for your show is a two-part process, part of it is done at home and part at the venue. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from Roy Johnson; he said that he was happy to spend an extra hour setting up his props at home if it saved him ten minutes

of time setting up props prior to the show at the venue. These are words I have lived by ever since. The more fully prepared for performance you are when you arrive at the venue the smoother things will go. I choose to work from a small case rather than using a table onstage. There is no question of needing to set that table onstage prior to show time and no chance of it being knocked over backstage. The goal is to be as self-contained as possible, the less you have to worry about your props the more you can concentrate on your show.

Striking your show should be done as soon after the show as possible. You don’t want anyone “exploring” your props or over-enthusiastic cleaning staff throwing away that crumpled empty paper bag that actually contains an expensive rubber bottle! Make sure you collect any equipment from the AV team such as receivers or other sound equipment as soon as possible to avoid them getting accidentally packed and removed.


 

 
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