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 Editor on September 26th, 2013
The gang of magicians behind Breaking Magic (aka The Science of Magic) will return for a 14 episode second season.
The series has been shooting throughout Europe over the past few months. Fans will notice one major change, James Galea of the first incarnation has been swapped out for Nate Staniforth in the new eps. Original Breakers Billy Kidd, Wayne Houchin and Ben Hanlin remain.
Congrats to the team and Objective productions (Derren Brown, Barry and Stuart, The Real Hustle) for another successful magic franchise.
The press release came from Discovery Networks International and touted a premiere across 224 countries in February 2014. It wasn’t clear on if us Americans will get a chance to see it on the mothership network, hopefully we can get clarification on that going forward.
Posted by Editor on July 18th, 2013
Wayne Houchin had one hell of a 2012, but it’s good to see him now fully healed during interviews for an Australian news magazine.
The creator/performer again demonstrated his straight jacket escape prowess alongside his wife Fran, this time for the Melbourne Magic Festival. But he could stand to brush up on his communication skills with the Mrs. when it comes to his other stunts.
Fran reveals before filming a stunt for Discovery’s Breaking Magic (which we hear is about to gear up for season two) wherein the California native bungee jumped with a cut cord, Wayne only gave his wife a heads up… via email. We assume he’s learned his lesson.
Posted by Editor on January 23rd, 2013
Ellusionist reports that they’ve raised $1,600 going directly to injured magician Wayne Houchin by putting rare items up for auction to their fans.
Thanks to your generous bids, we raised more than $1,600 to donate directly to Wayne (total reflects final amount after eBay fees). That money will go directly to him and his recovery.
Thank you so much for helping us help him. Houchin is an influential magician whose impact is still felt among our customers. His man-of-few-words approach is often imitated. He is one of magic’s most generous teachers and skilled performers, who had just recently hosted the Discovery Channel’s “Breaking Magic.”
Houchin was injured when a Dominican television host dumped a handful of flaming cologne on his head resulting in burns on the California magician’s hands and face. Although he is making what looks to be a full recovery, Houchin was forced to cancel dates through the holiday season and early 2013.
A Blue LTD prototype deck of cards went for the most amount of money, raising $420.
Posted by Editor on January 14th, 2013
Wayne Houchin will soon be back on the road.
The Chico Press-Enterprise reports that Wayne is not only healing well from his much-publicized injuries suffered in an attack from a rogue television host but he’s also set to get back to touring and performing by the end of January. Taking a quick look at his website, this might mean he would fulfill his dates in Europe which would were scheduled to begin at the end of this.
Although, things might have changed since then.
No matter where he is, I am sure magicians would love to turn out and support Wayne. Hopefully we can get some more information for you before the dates come around.
Posted by Editor on December 13th, 2012
Wayne Houchin is now safely back home in Chico, CA recuperating and spoke to his hometown newspaper The Daily Democrat about why he didn’t immediately leave the Dominican Republic after his injury.
He would have returned to Chico sooner, but Barazarte was not yet in custody, but was traveling in the United States.
“Our lawyers advised us to start putting out press releases to get international pressure,” for Barazarte’s return. Barazarte is from Venezuela, Houchin said.
Barazarte’s attorney was in contact with the judge in the Dominican Republic, and Houchin was able to give his statement to the judge, and thus return to Chico.
The strategy of creating an international controversy hopefully sped up the process in brining Barazarte to justice. It’s very weird to think what would have happened if this had remained a story local to the caribbean.