Ring Report September 2012

September 2012 

Ring #320     The Blue Ridge Magicians


President            Eddie Tobey “Tobini”

Vice President      George Buckley

Treasurer           David Clauss

Sgt. at Arms       Jim Champion

Secretary          Dennis Phillips


Breaking News

Mark it down:

Waynesboro Magic Cavalcade

Friday September 28th

Saturday September 29th


The October Meeting is the annual SWAP MEET!

Make a note!  Bring your dusty treasures! Get a bargain!

Mark Fuller, dealer from Roanoke will be there.



Danville, VA-

World Champion Illusionist Wayne Alan, the new owner of The Historic North Theatre, announced that the Gala Grand opening will take place on August 25th. The theater will feature Mr. Alan’s own show-Magic of the Masters-the World’s Most Famous Illusions-a modern look at Magic’s Golden Oldies.

Contact: Wayne Alan-410-956-8132

Ring Report  

August  2012  Meeting 

Summer is winding down and the autumn performing season is approaching. President Tobey gaveled the meeting to order and we had 12 present. We scheduled upcoming restaurant club performances and our annual October Ring Magic Swap meet was announced. The Peter Monticup dealer show will be scheduled for an upcoming meeting. Following the meetings, our Show-and-Tell began.   Steve Pitella recalled Dennis Phillips’ nostalgia for the old Soft Soap Trick and Steve found the original Dr. Kayton props in his collection and brought them to show.  George Buckley showed a DVD and a collection of effects that involved rubbing a deck of cards across a close-up mat and magically “painting” a portrait by having the bottom cards stick to the mat in a mosaic pattern. A Mona Lisa and other paintings could be accomplished.  Wes Iseli showed his version with a slightly different method and painted of a photo of his deceased and beloved family member who encouraged him to do magic. George then demonstrated a great Ring and String routine and promised to teach it to the ring at the next meeting.


President Eddie Tobey showed the classic David Ginn Blooming Flowers trick that is great for children. He followed it with Dan Harlan’s Hover Card where a selected playing card floats away from the card deck. He then used an aged 1800s deck of cards and a set of 3 D glasses to find a selected card. Finally he presented the classic Invisible Deck where a named card is found to be the only card turned over in the deck.


Dennis Phillips brought some props that he had made in his workshop.  The first was a Checker-X with real large wooden Chinese money coins. When tied onto a circle of rope, they mysteriously can be removed from the rope without untying the knot. He then did an effect where 3 glasses are shown on a board. The end glasses have a different color handkerchief and supposedly he makes them change places by putting them behind his back. The children are wise to what is happening. But when held in front of the magician, both handkerchiefs jump to the middle glass.  Phillips then showed an impression pad made from a children’s toy. Finally, Dennis showed his stage size Nest of Boxes. Most of the magicians from the first Golden Age of Magic did a Nest of Boxes. Phillips has updated the routine by borrowing a cell phone and “fixing it” only to have it vanish and appear in the innermost box.


Last up was John Coleman who showed a great routine where a selected card was found by the spectator after freely dealing out the deck in random piles.


Dennis Phillips


Dennis Deliberations….      Editorial and Comment 


By Dennis Phillips 

“The magic business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway

where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

-Hunter S. Thompson-  

 Rudy Coby is an interesting character.  After a couple of interesting (Dick Clark Produced) TV Specials and a real new and fresh set of magic ideas he vanished.   I have heard all kinds of reasons why.  Some said that he was just a “flash in the pan” and arrogant. Others said that his shtick was shallow and thin.    He is noted in magic circles for his argument and fight with Robert Gallup. A video exists of the confrontation. The video may have been a put-on. If it was, both he and Gallup are great actors.


The feeling, at the time of his specials, was that he was unique as a personality, sort of like Sylvester the Jester, a living cartoon.  But durability and longevity and super-star status in show business demands a deep emotional connection. Coby seemed to lack that and after his early TV specials he vanished off the face of magic.


And then…..Coby was back on August 14th on “America’s Got Talent”.  It appears that the performance was another shovel on the grave of his magic career.


I saw this recent show. If you missed it, you can see it on You-Tube…. His “Puppet-Boy” routine was identical to what he did on his first special, years ago. It was probably not a good choice for a 90 second first spot. It is a personality and contextual effect.  Obviously he should have done his famous and award-winning chopping legs routine BUT then he has nowhere to go from there in future weeks.  Kevin James did his best act on the first show… That got him to the second show and he bombed. AGT is not a show for magic acts.  David and Dania won because their quick change can be seen over and over and the “skill” is marveled at and not the actual mystery.


I would never be on that show. Dan Stapleton was…he gave us the inside information, in print in “Magic Magazine”, on just what “America’s Got Talent” is all about.


It was sad to see Rudy Coby get totally destroyed by the very cruel remarks of the judges, especially the viscous, uncalled-for comments of Shock-jock Howard Stern: “That’s why you got kicked out of Vegas” and “Why the hell would you be the roommate of Marilyn Manson, a millionaire rock star.”  And Sharon Osborne telling him he had no timing skills at all was like a kick to the lower extremities.  They dumped on Coby so bad that it was deeply embarrassing, not just for him, but for magic in general. The cringe factor among magicians everywhere must have been very high.  Then we had insult added to injury when some other magician comes on after Coby and does a serviceable but somewhat *underwhelming* version of the Dancing Handkerchief, and he gets some pathetic commentary from the judges to the effect that he kind of just squeaked through, and only because (Stern talking) the acts all evening were rather lame, and this guy was JUST good enough that they’d like to see what else he can do. –And we in magic know that he’d better do something quick and very SPECTACULAR next time, or he’s dead meat.


Does this all make the magic world look like a piece of garbage in the eyes of the public? IT SURE DOES! Fifteen or twenty years ago, Rudy Coby looked great with his freaky hair, box-shouldered costume, and surrealistically wild persona. In conjunction with the jaw-dropping magic that he did, straight out of The Twilight Zone, he was a complete package.  But today, if you spoke to any magic critic (aren’t we all!) — considering that America’s Got Talent gives the acts only a tight 90 seconds to dazzle the audience and judges — they would likely agree with Stern, Osborne and Mandel that the “middle part” of his act languished, and the over-all performance just didn’t have the “pizzazz” they were looking for.


I try to tell the bitter honest truth, however crassly. And as you know, the truth isn’t always pretty. Magicians, by and large, live in a rather insular world, in particular the ninety percent or so who are hobbyists. With a day job supporting them, they can afford to be mediocre. Little Johnny’s birthday party doesn’t demand much more than that. Nor do their friends and relatives who are amused by their card tricks.


Magic is a beautiful art (think of the BEST!) and it pains us all to see second-rate magicians (not necessarily Coby) come on a prime time television show before millions of viewers with the mindless gall to believe they are a million-dollar act.  And those that ARE great acts, sometimes blow it by showing their best stuff on their first run-through — and have no way to “top it” after that.  

The wonder to me is how so many people can go on that show and genuinely believe they have a million-dollar talent.  And then when they’re insulted gravely but (often) justifiably, the lack of shock on their mugs shows the judge’s commentary blew right past them.  A case in point was that dough-brained female comedian on the same show edition with Coby. I was stunned that she would go on with such lame material, and not know it stunk.


Not only are there at least a million psychopaths walking the streets of North America, there are at least as many people who are convinced they have great talent, who are in dire need of therapy.  The show hit rock-bottom with that horribly masked moron playing the bells.  …I had to force myself to bother to watch anything past Coby. 


In 1960 FCC Commissioner Newton Minow called television “a vast wasteland”. That was the time when most of us had only had only 3 to 4 channels and all networks had enough revenue so they could program many quality programs!  There was much local programming giving all TV a “local flavor” with a local cooking, talking, Saturday Night live horror show, interview and kid’s show! Today we have 900 channels of wall to wall reruns and Jerry Springer. Minow’s term is now a cliché that hardy cuts it anymore. Today, it is so bad that we need a phrase that cuts way under that. 

On the matter of Rudy Coby on “America’s Got Talent”: He’s a novelty act, and so he can impress once, maybe twice, and then the judges become bored. The problem is that an act has to keep topping itself each time it comes on. The judges keep saying that very thing. In fact one of them is always complaining at some act that “performed at the same level as the week before.” It doesn’t matter if “the week before” the act had set itself on fire and performed a snappy three-minute River Dance while doing handstands on top of rolling barrel.   …So the trick for Coby, is to set his bar just high enough to win so he can has enough latitude to keep raising the bar each time.  And that’s one heck of a hard thing to figure out. That may have been where out local Drew Thomas fell down on the show.  He used my (home-constructed but great looking) “Costume Truck” Illusion for his final appearance, all arranged by Rex Todd Alexander.


I have put together a satirical piece with a fictional Houdini on “America’s Got talent” in another world…

It is an example a progressive act — in a parallel universe:   (With much thanks to Joseph Campbell’s well-known academic work about Religious Jungian themes in all of artistic expression)


The first show: 

Houdini comes on and amazes with the straight jacket. He suffers a dislocated shoulder.


Second show, he escapes from handcuffs and leg-irons while in the Water Torture Cell. Medics have to revive him.


Third show, he’s wrapped in 500 feet of linen cloth, dowsed with gasoline, and set ablaze.  He barely escapes to a madly-rapid Foggy Mountain Breakdown bluegrass tune with third-degree burns. 

Round four, he’s gagged and chained from head to foot, locked in a coffin, and buried in a large tank of quicksand. They give him up for dead, but he comes hobbling down the aisle at the end of the show, shouting that immortal Doug Henning refrain, “One Two Three — It’s ME!!”


“Wow,” shouts Howie Mandel jumping to his feet and clapping wildly, “Can you top THAT next week?” 


“Yes, I can,” he gasps. 


Round five, he’s brutally nailed to a cross in a simulated Passion Play scene, staged as it was in the most vicious era of the Dark Ages. After being savagely beaten in a scene worse than Mel Gibson’s movie, Houdini screams, “Lord! Lord! Why hath thou forsaken me!?” — At which point a booming voice (vocal tract by James Earl Jones) thunders, “I have not forsaken you, be gone!” — And the crucified Houdini vanishes in a puff of smoke.  Just as one red “X” is set-off by the compulsively trigger-fingered Howard Stern, the audience lets out an audible roar as they see a dramatic reappearance of the exhausted and blood-soaked escape artist, pushing a large heavy rock away from a mock cave at the back of the stage, while whistling cheerily, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!” (From Monty Python, Holy Grail)  The audience goes berserk with cheering, Stern and Mandel fall off their chairs in stunned disbelief, and Sharon Osborne passes out.


Still, the next week, in round six, Houdini gets out-voted by an amateur dog act with Chihuahuas being used as hockey pucks by Great Danes, a lame Polish mentalist with a wand fragment sticking out of his liver that waves “yes” or “no” to answer audience questions, and two dwarves in cowboy outfits who sang, “I’ll Never Smoke Weed with Willie Again.”  


…And that my friends, is what “America’s Got Talent” is all about.


Dennis Phillips


About blueridgemagiciansring320

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