Thoughts from Florida

Dennis Deliberations …

January 2018

 “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” – Steve Martin

Remember: Steve Martin never said, “Be so original they can’t ignore you.” We know the source of the trick this guy does, and it’s done by a lot of magicians. The Beatles did everyone else’s hits when they started out (their first album is full of them) — and still they climbed out of obscurity to become great and later “original” (with the help of George Martin)

One tiny bump in the road: You’ll notice when the guy accidentally left one card on the table, he had to fan through the cards and cut to the right place to put the tabled card back. A good sleight of hand worker has more courage than a naked guy swimming through a tank full of hungry piranhas….

Don’t you think that any reasonably intelligent KNOWS it is done with a stacked deck?

Yes, this is a clever variation and done well.

I did a close-up gig years ago after Bill Malone had popularized “Sam the Bellhop” and at the gig one of the other magicians was doing “Sam the Bellhop”… He did it well. The ONLY comments I heard was about how “cute” the story was and how “The guy is great at setting up the cards”… They did not know how or anything about false cuts but they intuitively knew it had to be done with a stacked deck.

Years ago, when I was using a stacked deck in a trick for lay men at conventions, , I would just ask the people at the table, “Have you see a guy named Sy Stebbins at this convention?” They would say, “No” and I would say, “I want to give him back this deck that I borrowed from him. This is a borrowed deck.”  Once I did have a magician come up and tell me that he about fell over laughing when I pulled that line.”


 I rarely get into the topic of Hypnotism, but here goes:

First watch this video:


I over the years I have been  friends with several guys who have done stage Hypno acts. Paul Royter has been a friend for 45 years and his mentor was Peter Reveen.


And yes, up until the 1980s, I did a Hypno act, as another of  my Variety offerings.  I cut way back and eventually ended because of Liability Insurance costs and limited venues. It has been increasingly difficult since the mid 80s to get booked… And now, it is almost impossible. Why?


Much of America has drifted into an irrational superstitious and anti-science mindset , especially in the rural areas, and the Fair markets ( mostly in rural areas) dried up and that was about all there was in terms of venues. High School Proms used to be big and a lot of fun but School Boards stopped that due to parental complaints and lawsuits.


Hypnotism is basically “crowd and individual manipulation” The individual participant wants to please the crowd and the performer.  The  technique seems identical to a modern religious Faith-healer. I don’t want to set anyone off here on a fight over religion. Certainly the mysteries in life and our experiences and convictions, both individually and communally should be respected.  My purpose in writing is only for analysis and comment and not a comment or criticism of religion or anyone’s belief of causality or authenticity. I am a man of faith and active in my church.


I grew up watching Faith-healers so I thoroughly know their manipulative techniques and the amusement value.

The whole performance begins with “Expectations”… The Faith Healer says, “Expect a Miracle!”.   The hypnotist says:  “Expect to see people prance like chickens and talk to their shoes like they are kitty-cats and act like their pants are on fire! ….


The hypnotist need banners, posters and a line of pre-event hype about how great he is. Loads of publicity pictures of people slumped over in a lines of chairs.  Remember “Expectations!”


The show event begins with 20 minutes of loud pop rock music… with frequent announcements calling for volunteers to help. “It will be fun! We need some of you to come up who wants to have fun. The experience of a lifetime!” In the case of Faith-healers, it is religious music from lively to somber and a call for the congregations to be in prayer and expectation.


You bring up 12 to 18 people to sit in the chairs and you begin the “induction” , which is simply finding out who is going to play along, listen to directions and be your most active and energetic volunteers. In a Faith healing service, they line up in wheel chairs and with walkers and canes hours before the service in desperation for a miracle.


As you do the induction exercises (I did between 8 to 10 demonstrations), you winnow down the people and send those unsuitable back to their seats.  On the TED talk video,  the girl that failed, next to the guy on the end would be sent back by me , unless , as in this case, the guy was her boyfriend and he left her up on stage to egg him on.  I did that occasionally but I did not like anyone on stage who I was not controlling.


You then rationalize away and dismiss those who don’t  cooperate…. They go back to their seat. You dismiss them by thanking them for being good sports.


If you are a faith-healer, those who do not “get their miracle” simply lack enough faith to claim it. The problem is their faith and not the basic premise. In my thinking that is emotionally devastating to the sick and dying person and reduces healing their sickness and sorrow to the level of a crass Carnival  Sideshow or Hypnotism Act.  It the worst case it delays or stops proper medical care.


After you get down to between 3 to 6 really good cooperative people, you go on with the silly and humorous  exercises and demonstrations.

All the words you use are identical to a Faith Healer… minus the theological part and demonstrable permanent cure.


Here is the bottom line: In my opinion , after dozens of shows… Stage Hypnotism is an emotional/ imaginative state of hyper-suggestionYou get them focused and simply command then to follow directions.


I am not attacking anyone’s religion. I actually believe that some people do find relief from pain and psychosomatic sickness and , in some cases, the emotional state can lead to bodily healing. I will leave pronouncements of a supernatural causality to others and their faith. Endorphins (contracted from “endogenous morphine”) are power natural substances. We do not fully understand the connections of influence between mind and body. Look at an printed paper insert that comes with medication and read the statistical double-blind test results. By Federal law the results of taking the drug must be better than a placebo but sometimes not by much! That is why some drugs are removed from the market. In a cost to benefits analysis, the drug’s helpfulness does not statistically outweigh its side-effects.


Hypnotism for smoking cessation, removing phobias, giving up illegal drugs and weight loss does work, for some. So does religious faith! Again, it is allowing the hypnotist to manipulate the patient toward positive thoughts and behavior. There is a close parallel between Hypnotism and faith healing and that may be why all faith-healers are against any form of hypnotism. Often, psychologically an addictive personality merely substitutes a less harmful addiction for another one. It like the old joke: “I finally gave up cigarettes! I joined smoker’s anonymous. Now every time I crave a cigarette, I call up a fellow member and they come over and have a drink with me!” .

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Wes Iseli’s Magic Montage Commercial

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Wes Iseli’s behind the scenes look at The Carbonaro Effect

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Natalie’s Drink in a Shoe Trick

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Ring Report February 18 Meeting

Ring 320 banner

March 2014

Ring #320     The Blue Ridge Magicians 

     President             Wes Iseli      

 Vice President      Eddie Tobey “Tobini”

Treasurer           David Clauss

Sgt. at Arms       Jim Champion

Secretary          Dennis Phillips

Breaking News

18th is our regular meeting night and the 25th is Duane Laflin Lecture night

We have TWO meetings this month… 

It was voted on last year if the lecturer fell on a night that was not a regular meeting night and it was on a different week we would have a lecturer and a meeting that month.

Ring Report

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February 18 ,2014  Meeting and Holiday Banquet

Winter storms did ease up and we were able to have a February Ring meeting. Prior to the meeting we did our “Teach In” . President Wes Iseli did a sleeving teach in. He revealed many of the secrets that Rocco taught him. Things just magically appear and disappear. Wes also showed the correct coat to wear and how to gimmick it. Rocco was the FISM award winning act and sleeving was brought to a high art by Rocco’s mentor, Tony Slydini.

Our business meeting had no old business other than our planning for doing a charity public ring show.   Wes went over maintaining and improving our on-line digital library.

It was show time and starting off was Ron Schneider who did a 10 card trick that everyone enjoyed so much he said he would make it a teach in next month or in April.

John Leeth did a really cool to do list prediction.  John showed a simple hand-written list of things that he had to do. He had a spectator pick a number between 1 and 10 and quickly look at the item at that number.  John then slowly revealed that he could read the spectator’s mind.

Dennis Phillips performed the classic UF Grant Temple Screen  and showed how he worked out a way to do the effect surrounded. Dennis then performed The Banner Nest of Boxes where  the center box with a dove in it vanishes and is then found back inside  the nest of boxes . Following the meeting, we hung around  and shared stories and more magic

Dennis Phillips

Comments welcome

Dennis Deliberations….      Editorial and Comment

By Dennis Phillips

March 2014 

Illusionists Perform the Same Dozen Illusions. This is a sad fact.

Spend one hour on YouTube and view videos and you will find this to be true: Same illusions, same choreography, same movements and same presentations

Here are 12 illusions that are too commonly seen in programs of illusionists worldwide:




Packing Crate Sub Trunk

Fire Spiker

Suspended Animation

Fire Cage

Modern Art

Wakeling Sawing

Mini Kub Zag

Chair or Broom Suspension

Snowstorm/ Snow Animator

Floating Table

The last two are not illusions but they are larger stage effects and almost everyone performs them.

So what drives this uniformity?

1) Convenience. It is easier to buy a stock illusion prop rather than to create, prototype and fabricate an original illusion.

2) Illusionists want no risk. They would rather invest in illusions that are proven. Seeing another illusionists success with an illusion makes it easy to feel assured of the same reactions from the audience.

3) Illusionists feel confident with the illusions. Their judgment is compromised because they believe they will succeed with that illusion.

4) More than a handful of illusionists do not care that they are performing the same (and pirated) illusions because they feel their audience reacts well to those illusions

5) Technology has made the world flat and the Internet & YouTube allow media to be shared worldwide at the click of a mouse. Illusions are also more accessible to illusionists from different parts of the world because of the Internet.

Illusionists say: “it is not what you do, but how you do it!” That is true, but only if you do something different. Just because you use a different piece of music or smile instead of act dramatic or add a costume change at the illusion does not warrant enough of a difference. The people who do matter, educated clients, agents, show bookers , the media know the difference.  If you want to make it to the top, you need to not be the “best” but be “the only” and that means a lot of originality.


My wife keeps telling me about “Chicken Soup for the Soul” articles. Reader’s Digest Warm and Fuzzies, I call them.

I think she subscribes to online “Chicken Soup for the Soul” articles.

I always considered them, as good as they may be, stories that appeal mostly to women. In fact, I’d hazard the guess that if there were only men in the world (hah!) that the multi-million-dollar “Chicken Soup” industry would have been dead in the water from the get-go. Yes, we men are sentimental, but not THAT sentimental!  — Not enough to build an “emotional empire” on it, anyway.  Oprah was built on female appeal.  Nothing wrong with that. I am just taking a realistic look at marketing and audience demographics.

Here is a limited market but it would probably be a loyal one:

“CHICKEN SOUP for the STARVING MAGICIAN”     Byline: For the magician who is having trouble putting FOOD on the table — they’ll always have CHICKEN SOUP!”

Note the byline: So I looked for “Chicken Soup for the MAN’S Soul” — it doesn’t exist!

And just how BIG is this industry? It’s astounding:

I had an old friend years ago who had been a music director on Broadway. At one point, Liberace flew him out to Vegas to interview for being Liberace’s Music Director.   My friend said, Liberace told him, “My secret is that I PLAY TO THE WOMEN! They are where the money is!”

All marketers know this… Copperfield’s biggest demographic was late 20s women with a kid or two. There has never been a successful general public magician or illusionist whose main appeal was not to women.  Consider that in your career planning.

Dennis Phillips


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Aldo Columbini passes 2/12/2014

The world of magic lost one of its greatest contributors this Wednesday when Aldo Columbini passed away from the complications of a stroke he suffered last Sunday.
A lot will be said about Aldo from people who were fortunate to call him a close friend.

Even with him working almost everywhere all the time it was always great to see him work as he always had something new and fresh prepared for the audience. He was a great entertainer and at the same time was capable of executing the most difficult sleights seemingly without effort. He was a great scholar in many aspects of magic and his body of published work will be hard to match by anyone.

Equally important, he was a nice man and you wanted to be around him .
His status in our magic community was very much on top but he never let his fame come between him and the audience. He was approachable and made you feel important.

Aldo’s love for life is well documented. Aldo will be remembered as the consumate entertainer and live on thru his body of published work.

Our prayers and thoughts are with his wife Rachel and the family.
Aldo, thanks for making us laugh.

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How I spend my Sunday Mornings

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