Ring Report October 2011

Ring #320

Of the International Brotherhood of Magicians

President – Eddie Tobey   Vice President – Brian Bence  

Secretary – Dennis Phillips   Treasurer – David Clauss

Sergeant at Arms – Jim Champion


 November 2011

The November meeting at Swannonoa Mansion is postponed due to lack of heating.

The December meeting is the annual banquet

Hopefully the January meeting will be the Peter Monticup lecture.


October , 2011 meeting

The October Ring meeting was entirely filled with our annual “swap table” flea market session.  After one of the shortest business meetings in history all twenty of us headed for the tables.

Mark Fuller from the Roanoke area had a nice display. Brian Bence, Mark Trimpe and Wes Iseli had a table.  George Buckley was also in the selling mood as was Eddie Tobini.  Steve Pittella went through a lot of effort to bring his Mini Girl to Gorilla illusion and got it half working. One of his light dimmers was faulty. He promises to have it fixed and bring it to a future meeting.

I noticed that this year there were just a few large props. Perhaps the day of the brightly painted boxes and tubes is over. Wes had a Chair Suspension and some fire wallets for sale.  Mark “Zephyr” Trimpe had several Siberian Chain escapes which he kept pitching and demonstrating. Eddie had made up several coin pulls. George Buckley had a great collection of videos and Mark Fuller had some collectable and valuable books such as an almost compete Karroll Fox collection.

 As the evening passed we got an excellent demonstration of “The Visible Sawing a Woman in Half”.  It is amazing how it is possible to grab video on a camera phone of a demonstration and instantly send it around the world and particularly to a friend who could not be there.

 Flea markets and swap meets can be fun. One legendary trader I knew a long time ago went to a swap meet with a box of mouth coils and a dented Zombie Ball and kept trading and swapping until he managed to end up with a Thayer’s Blue Phantom and a set of original Rice’s Silks.  I was never that talented of a trader!

 After the swap meet, a few members carried on the fun session and magic talk at McDonalds in Waynesboro. ]

Dennis Phillips




 Dennis’ Deliberations……………    Comment and Editorial

I got an E-mail and later a phone call from a magic friend, who said,

 “Dennis, here is an amazing jumbo card routine that sells for $199 being sold by the Hocus Pocus magic company. I just ordered it!” :


The effect is called, The Alchemist by Jansenson.  In checking the You Tube site, I see that Jensenson is a very talented and powerful performer. He has many fine effects posted.  The routine is puzzling but in any other hands than Jansenson, I do not see it as compelling.

 First of all, it moves way too slow for American audiences.  The whole effect can be boiled down to the fact that he always appears to know where every card is located. That is the only continuous effect in the whole routine. Audiences don’t care or find that terribly mysterious as the only effect.   They assume he has a stacked or marked deck or is doing phony shuffles. For $199, he could even have an RFI chip in every card and a ring reader to prompt him.  This basic effect is not that strong.

 Take the same effect , every card is in its place, and add a story like, “Sam the Bellhop” and you have real entertainment. Try Kerry Pollack’s “Kate and Edith” for socko entertainment.

 For a real mysterious crowd pleaser, Billy McComb’s McComical Deck is far better entertainment with a jumbo deck.

 This is just my opinion. I have been around magic long enough to know that magicians get thrilled over a clever method and forget the entertainment value. Sure, I could come up with a clever way of doing, “The Color Changing Plate of Spaghetti”.   It would go from bright red to bright blue and the Mozzarella cheese can appear and disappear.   I could use clever chemical reactions and color changing LEDs in the plate and fiber optics.   In the end, I want to say, “so what?”    We have to keep focused on the main thing, entertainment. (By the way if you go ahead with the color changing plate of spaghetti, it was my idea and I demand a cut of whatever you make from any magic sucker who buys it)


I think a lesson to all performers in the twilight of their careers is to always keep working, even if it is for almost nothing.

 Dai Vernon, Blackstone Sr. extended their lives long after their careers were over by working for probably peanuts at the Magic Castle.   Calvert at 100 lives on the energy of his stage work.  

 In old age, survival depends on community friends, purpose and something to keep you going.  It also depends on an internal sense of who you are and being at peace with yourself.

 The “artistic” personality can be self destructive.  Ernest Hemingway shot himself. Bill Neff and many other magicians drank themselves to death.

 It is important to never get yourself and your identity totally wrapped up in your stage work. If you can write, lecture, or create, you can keep your life forces flowing.  When you get too old to do the physical stuff, or your act is dated, a person most often mentally falls apart, without other things to keep them going.

 I recently got an insight into the demise of The Pendragons.  I got a chance to see the 4 Pendragon videos. They really are excellent resource material for any illusionist to have in their library. They were made shortly before they broke up. Jon really bared his soul about his mental issues.  Two events almost did him in. The tiger attack in Reno in 1992 cause him to lose half of his left bicep muscles and he was forced to re- choreograph all of his moves due to weakness on his left side.  Then the arrow through the heart caused heart damage and weakness. He seems to huff and puff a bit from the cardiac damage.

 In the video he and Charlotte were really showing their years.  On tape two they had excellent explanations and video of their famous sub trunk.  It was amazing to have them go through every move, the construction of the trunk and well as the evolution of the handling of the cloth from the first “hourglass” move to how the break away cloth is made.   They also showed the entire sequence from the back!  She tosses up the cloth and he literally stands up and swats apart the cloth (it is Velcro with strategic tabs).   

 I believe that their careers stalled and that led to a resurfacing of Jon’s old demons. He admits to having barely controllable OCD.  

 Also on the tapes, an excellent insight into his Sands of Egypt, a look at Charlotte broom harness, impaled and most of the classics such as the basket.


I am intensely fascinated by why people laugh and why and what sort of humor works. (So was Aristotle and that is why he wrote Poetics II! Sadly we only have a few bits of that work) 

What becomes politically incorrect humor?  No magician in their right mind today would do the Bra trick on a female.  On a male it will either get a big laugh or you will get slugged!  

 Here is a clip of Spike Jones on early TV! All this is funny stuff!


Notice how that dressing in drag in comedy sketches carried no stigma then! (Milton Berle, Red Skelton, etc)

Spike Jones’ humor is right out of vaudeville, which was the only format that early TV had.  Something shifted in the social psycho-sexual mindset in the 60s and 70s so that it no longer was funny.

Our humor also shifted.  Bob Orben lines mostly don’t work today. People have no appreciation of linguistic cleverness. Today’s humor is all “put down humor” with lots of profanity and anger.

In contract here is some old style humor: (Borrowed from Harry Allen)  “Before I was a magician I worked in a factory making alphabet soup. They fired me, I was making only 100 Gs a year…Then I worked as a taste tester in a prune factory. It was great job but a lousy schedule. One day on two days off.”  

These lines only work with a crowd over 55!  I have tried them a few times in a high school class and the kids just don’t grasp the language…More examples:

“You think this is a tough school? You should have been at the school I substituted at last week!  The yearbook had two pictures of each senior, front and side!”

No response…”Really, Mr. Phillips? What school was it?”  The routine continues:

“I took one of the students down to the Guidance Councilor and asked the councilor how long it was until the student graduated. The councilor said, “I donno know, maybe ten to twenty with good behavior”! It was a tough school. The Principal told me that I would have all honor students. He was right. All they knew was, “Yes, your Honor. Sorry, your Honor”! It was a tough school.

When the students were in elementary school they played Hop Scotch with real Scotch! I asked one of the students what he was taking in school. He said, “Anything that ain’t nailed down”!

I asked, “How do you like school?” He said, “CLOSED!” That school was so tough the Student Newspaper had an Obituary column!  The student news on the School TV channel used the slogan, “If you have the time, we have the crime!”

 No response…  “Wow that was really a bad place, Mr. Phillips. What school was it?”

 I repeated the same routine in the Faculty Lounge at lunch and the older teachers were rolling in the floor with laughter…

 I also have tested the theory outside of school.  I was in Lowes checking out and the cashier was a young woman working with an older woman showing her the cash register.  As I walked up they were talking about how the young woman met her husband.   “I met Bill at a party”.  The older woman said, “I have known Jack since high school”. I walked up with my plywood and said, “I will tell you how I met my wife. She was working at a Travel Agency and I was her last resort.” The older woman laughed, the younger woman looked puzzled.  

 I guess I am old school in everything.  Loved Blackstone, detest Criss Angel.   My tastes reflect generational change.


We got our first snow of the year before Halloween October 29th!  Four inches!  Few can remember that much snow so early.  The local wisdom is that you can tell how much snow that you are going to get for the winter by how high the hornets build their nests.   I found one just under the roof line near the peak where the chimney is!

 I will keep you posted!

 Dennis Phillips

Harrisonburg, Virginia





About blueridgemagiciansring320

Secretary of Ring 320 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians located in the Western Virginia.
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