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 11th, 2013
A November auction in Cologne Germany featured an eclectic mix, including a Twiggy Mac prototype, a French mechanical calculator from 1835 and an Enigma Machine (the famous WWII era German code device). The Auction Team Breker sale also included an automaton of a Chinese style magician and assistant called The Mysterious Illusion, shown above, which sold for just shy of $50,000. The pre-WWII piece was used as a window display by retailers in the midwestern United States. Learn more at the Antiques and the Arts Weekly coverage of the auction.
One Winnipeg family is literally stopping traffic with their DIY Christmas tree illusion (seen right in a picture from the Winnipeg Free Press). The Petney family divided a tree in thirds so that it appeared to sprout from the ground floor, through the second and break through the roof. According to Adam Petney the only hard part was figuring out how to attach the top section to the roof without causing any damage.
Dynamo has been in the news lately. It is partially due to his public works, such as taking a stand against youth service budget cuts in his hometown, and partially because of two upcoming specials. British website Metro has a new interview with the magician the includes opening up about being bullied as a kid.
Finally, it is being reported by Broadway World that Nothing To Hide, starring Helder Guimarães and Derek DelGaudio and directed by Neil Patrick Harris, has already recouped its start up costs of $400,000 and grossed over $1,000,000 in ticket sales.