Michael Lauck is a columnist for iTricks. His work appears on Mondays.
2013 is drawing to a close and it is time to look back at the year in magic.
Magic has hit the big screen, the small screen and even lost a few old friends. All in all, though, it seems that magic was undergoing a bit of a revival in 2013.
Magic is a strange thing that employs cutting edge materials and technologies while also embracing age-old methodologies and traditions. The history of magic is important to magicians in a way you do not really see in other fields. As the year draws to a close, it seems appropriate to look back over 2013 to celebrate a few milestones and mourn a few losses. Although the magic community is, in many ways, driven by the new products that come out each year, we will avoid that side of things and instead concentrate on the people and events.
Why should we look back over the year? That really is a valid question. Even with magic’s strong interest in its history, it is easy to think that the last 12 months should be fresh in our collective minds. I honestly almost skipped past the idea of a year in review but I decided to grab the first couple 2013 issues of Magic, Genii and The Linking Ring just to see if I was surprised by anything. The tragic attack on Wayne Houchin was what settled the issue. It was a major event that I would have said happened in early 2013 but it did not. The magazine coverage was in early 2013, but the attack itself was in November of 2012. This alone made me realize it was worth going back over the year.
How should we look back over the year? That is a valid question, too. It certainly makes sense to group certain things together and look at the year in magic television or in film. The problem is that you can not help but make it look as though some categories are more important than others. Why choose to discuss Subject A over Subject B? So it only seems fair to look at the year as it happened from January to December.
January was a bright new beginning for 2013. Genii began its amazing 76th volume after ending 2012 with a gigantic 75th anniversary issue. Magic Magazine started its celebration of the Magic Castle, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2013, with a year long series of articles by Castle founder Milt Larsen. In England, Dynamo: Magician Impossible received a Broadcast Award as the Best Entertainment Programme. In perhaps the best news of the month, Wayne Houchin returned to performing after being set on fire during a television broadcast in the Dominican Republic by the show’s host.
Sadly, January also saw many members of the magic fraternity pass away. Bob Steiner, a past National President of SAM, well known ventriloquist Clinton Detweiller and Benny Chavez’s last student, David Gaiser all passed. Also lost to the world was Bill Chaudet, the man originally named to be Harry Blackstone’s successor. He gave up the title, though, when Blackstone Jr. decided to become a performer in the 1960′s.
Famed German magician Alexander Adrion, Maurine Christopher, journalist, author and wife of Milbourne, and magic store owner Peter Anthony all died in February. However, there was better news too. The 61st Annual Blackpool Convention was held, which is always a highlight of any year. In Las Vegas, Penn and Teller were celebrating the 20th anniversary of their first Vegas performances. At this time Teller was also involved in an ongoing legal battle with a European magician named Gerard Dogge over the intellectual property rights to Teller’s Shadows. New came in February that Dogge had filed a defamation suit against Teller. The legal cases probably helped to make “intellectual property rights” a buzzword in the magic world in early 2013.
March also saw the deaths of several well known magicians. De Yip Loo, who toured with Blackstone and Dante, world record holder and two time FISM champion Hans Moretti, and David Ball, the Director of Public Events of the Magic Circle, all passed away. The Real Magic Roadshow began its tour in Detroit. Not a convention, the Roadshow was a retail expo that brought dealers such as Elmwood Magic, Losander, Magicsmith and Mark Mason to magicians across America.
On March 15th The Incredible Burt Wonderstone opened in theaters across the US. The story of a pair of old school Vegas magicians, played by Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi, taking on new school “Brain Rapist” Steve Gray, played by Jim Carrey. The cast was rounded out by Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin and James Gandolfini. Burt Wonderstone grossed $27 million dollars worldwide, which was less than its $30 million budget, and saw middle of the road reviews from critics. A week earlier saw the general release of Oz The Great And Powerful, the prequel to The Wizard Of Oz. James Franco portrayed “Oz” Diggs, the traveling magician who was swept away to the land of Oz. It was more successful than Wonderstone earning about $493 million worldwide with a budget of $215 million, although it also received mixed reviews. One thing that the films had in common is that the magician protagonists spend most of the films in a less than favorable light.
The next month brought the magical world an auction of Cardini’s personal property from Potter and Potter. The April 6th auction earned over $500,000, much higher than estimates, and saw Cardini’s tuxedo sell for $60,000. In California, Penn and Teller were inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame while in England, Ben Earl’s television show Trick Artist premiered on Channel 4. The Academy of Magical Arts held their 45th annual awards show with Harry Anderson, Derek DelGuadio, Helder Guimarães, Rob Zabrecky, Stephen Minch and Penn and Teller among those receiving awards. April also saw the magic community lose famous mentalist Peter Reveen, collector Ed Hill, Swedish magician Johnny Lonn and Dennis Loomis, of Loomis Magic Shop.
May saw the loss of former IBM International President Bob Escher. It also saw more magical films hit the big screen. Desperate Acts Of Magic opened to limited release and generally positive reviews. The indie film told the story of a computer programmer with dreams of winning a magic competition which are complicated by girl troubles but what made it special was that all magic shown was actually performed! Overshadowing Desperate Acts was the release of Now You See Me by Lionsgate. Boasting stars such as Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo and Morgan Freeman, the magic caper film was a modest US success but wildly successful overseas. At a cost of about $75 million, it grossed about $117 million in the US and over $350 million total guaranteeing itself a sequel. The sleeper hit caused quite a bit of stir in film circles, proving that overseas box office was more important than ever and that magic films could be successful!
June saw more movie magic with a limited run for Magic Camp, a documentary about Tannen’s annual summer youth camp, before its video on demand release in July. June also brought the eighth incarnation of America’s Got Talent on the small screen. This season saw several magicians in the competition, including illusionists Leon Ettiene and Romy Low, Special Head, escape artist Alexandria the Great, Arian Black and eventual fifth place finisher Collins Key. The month also brought the passing of Amos Levkovitch. By far the strangest thing to happen in the June was the tempest in a teapot created when the USDA sent a letter to magician Marty Hahne. The 13 page letter demanded that he provide an approved disaster plan for his livestock (a three pound rabbit) or face fines. This led to national exposure for Hahne, who was eventually able to provide the plan thanks to the assistance of a professional, who routinely received hundreds of dollars to design such plans, who had heard of his case.
That brings us to mid-year and a convenient place to stop. Join us next week as we look at the rest of the year and, eventually, on to 2014!
Posted by Michael on December 5th, 2013
Johnathan and Trisha Hawley (aka Hawley Magic, above) are among the four final acts in the running for Princess Cruise Lines’ Entertainer of the Year competition. All of the acts in consideration will be featured during a special cruise in March and the passengers will decide which act earns the title. You may remember The pair from their 2012 America’s Got Talent run.
If you have ever coveted a pair of Paul Daniels’ socks, iTricks has good news for you. According to EDP24.co.uk, the magician is among several celebrities auctioning off socks to benefit Sheringham Woodfield School on December 17. The socks have been converted into puppets and bids can be placed on Sellebrity.org.uk. Other celebs donating footwear include Hannah Spearitt (of Primevil and S Club 7) and Terry Molloy (the actor who played Davros, creator of the dreaded Daleks).
If nothing else, the release of Tim’s Vermeer has made Arts and Entertainment editors across the country realize that Teller is not actually mute. The Village Voice is the latest to interview the usually silent magician about his documentary which is driving art historians across the world crazy.
Posted by Michael on November 22nd, 2013
America’s Got Talent alum Drew Thomas is returning to Atlanta for his second turn working on The Nutcracker. The video above is from last year’s production, but this year’s production will also run at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre from December 6 – 29. Learn more at the Fox Theatre website.
Speaking of America’s Got Talent, all four of the past season’s judges (Heidi Klum, Mel B., Howie Mandel and Howard Stern) will return for the summer 2014 season as will host Nick Cannon. iTricks has been thinking that an enterprising magician should co-found a dance troupe designed specifically to win the show that uses traditional stage illusions (instead of shadowgraphy or black light and electronics) as a hook!
Robin Leach is reporting that Penn Jillette will be competing alongside Florence Henderson, Judy Gold and some guy from The Bachelor as a part of Rachel Ray’s team on the new season of Celebrity Cook Off. Penn was actually a guest on Florence Henderson’s cooking show as well as a judge on the US version of Iron Chef. Facing them will be a team led by Guy Fieri which includes late ’80s pop star Tiffany and early ’90s pop star Vanilla Ice. Penn’s appearance will be on behalf of Opportunity Village, the same charity that benefited from his Celebrity Apprentice appearances.
Posted by Michael on November 15th, 2013
The most recent magic act to win a Got Talent show was Christian Gog, the mentalist who finished first in the 2012 series of Romania’s Got Talent. Unfortunately, being a mentalist means that language is very important to his act. This video, which was not from the talent competition, was about the most visual piece we could find from Gog. It is a Russian roulette piece, so if gun related acts offend you BE WARNED. It is also just over 15 minutes long, although the performance ends at about 11:30 and you can skip ahead to about the 4:30 mark without missing anything. Even without being able to understand the dialogue, it is a compelling video.
This should go without saying but DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TRY THIS ACT. GUNS ARE NOT TOYS AND THEY ARE NOT PROPS!
Posted by Michael on November 14th, 2013
According to our research, the second magic act to win a Got Talent show was Vitaliy Luzkar who won the Ukraine version in 2011. It is a silent act (so you don’t have to worry about your skills in conversational Ukrainian) featuring doves and grand illusion. You get a pretty good look at Luzkar in this video as the act is just under 6 minutes long. Some may argue that his frilly shirt and candelabra stage dressings are a bit dated, but we at iTricks can see why he won the competition.