Still multiplying bottles, after all these years.
It must have been about 1967 when I bought my first set of Multiplying Bottles, and I have performed them on and off ever since. My first set of bottles, were purchased from Ken Brooke and he personally taught me his routine in a series of half-hour lessons in the following months. In many ways it was the first and biggest step I made in becoming a professional magician in those early days. When I bought them Ken told me I would always have a strong closer for my magic show—he was right.
There are very few tricks that create the visual excitement of a nicely performed Multiplying Bottles routine. The fact that they can all be packed away in a small bag and carried without risk of throwing your back out is also a nice selling point. I closed on this trick for many years before putting them into a second to closing spot before my Slow Motion Newspaper Tear. As a trick they have never let me down.
Ken’s routine for the bottles is a work of art. The handling and pacing of the effect, combined with the visibility he created with the placement of the bottles was brilliant. It is just a shame that Ken passed away before he could have had the opportunity to capture his routine on video and all his subtleties would have been captured. However well written a manuscript makes it hard to capture the same level of detail as a video. Maybe I will one day release a video on this trick that contains all the information I have laboriously acquired over the years.
My first half hour lesson from Ken consisted entirely of learning how to pick up a regular glass from the table, toss it in the air with a spin, catch it and then place it back on the table. I spent half an hour practicing this in Ken’s studio until he professed satisfaction at my ability to achieve this seemingly simple act. “Now, you can always let people know that you are working with a real glass,” he said. He was so right—it grounded the handling in a palpable reality.
Later on I shared a half hour lesson with another of Ken’s students who was learning the same portion of the routine. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my fellow student was none other than the great Tommy Cooper! It was a very exciting day indeed and one that I will never forget.
I recently did something I very rarely do I Googled myself and then followed a link to a magic forum that contained a fairly lengthy debate over whose bottle routine was better mine or that of Denny Haney. I had to laugh because with very minor changes and slightly different facial expressions we are both performing Ken’s routine! When you have the best you don’t need to mess with it much.
I personally (on a slightly drunken evening) taught the same routine to Ron Wilson when he developed his “kilt act.” Ron stamped that routine his own by concluding with the production of one of the glasses filled with whisky as the finale of the routine. This incidentally is an idea that Ken would have hated given his reluctance to add loose liquids to his prop table!
I have explored and purchased many sets of bottles over the last 4 decades—different sizes, different designs, different colors. I tried them all but always came back to Ken’s original set. They were beautifully constructed from heavy weight metal and could take a licking and carry on without sticking. They also featured a special series of rims on the interior of the various bottles that made high-speed performance a breeze. The one thing that this trick needs to sell it is rapid-fire presentation—nothing kills the effect more thoroughly than pacing it too slowly.
I have used that same set of bottles I purchased from Ken for well over 40 years and they are still going strong— if a little bruised, chipped and battered. After my show “Comedy Magic” closed in Las Vegas I decided to “retire” the routine for a while. I had performed it twice a day, six days a week, 48 weeks a year for nearly five years. Enough is enough!
Recently I decided to re-introduce the Bottles into my show again and re-began the eternal search for the perfect set of bottles. I believe I have found them and I want to share my discovery with our readers. The Bottles I now use are those hand-crafted by Reg Donnelly from Vancouver, Canada. There are more expensive sets available that are great and there are cheaper sets available than Reg’s bottles but I like his set best. It is a personal thing of course, but after all these years of performing the trick I feel very qualified to weigh in on the subject.
First and foremost they really look like wine bottles, the size and shape is perfect, the color and texture is right, and they are a wonderful combination of being sturdy and yet not to heavy. Best of all the bottles have the correct inner lips on the rims of the bottles. Someone who understands the inner workings of this effect manufactures this set of bottles, and it shows.
They sell for a very reasonable $495 per set (nine bottles) or $595 for all different colored bottles. If you are looking to explore this routine for the first time or replace a set of bottles, I strongly recommend you check out this set.The Reg Donnelly Multiplying Bottles can be purchased at www.hocus-pocus.com or directly from Reg Donnelly whose email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
~ by Nick Lewin on July 17, 2015.