Magic Live 2019 – Lupe’s Convention Review

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Friday, August 2, 2019

Magic Live starts early for us.

Set-up for Nielsen Magic is earlier than that for most dealers. You see, in order to bring attention to our little booth and make it more attractive, every year we hang spectacular posters from the ballroom’s ceiling.

On Friday, August 2, 2019, my friend Denny (who would help me with the Convention) and I showed up at the Orleans to hang the posters to be displayed.

It is a yearly ceremony: Stan Allen is walking around overseeing the staff along with his daughter, Katie Sokulski, who with Steve Branham, are in charge of the dealer’s room. The employees are still the same at the Orleans. We met the Genii lift operator, Joey, and Marlen, who came in later that week.

This year’s display had some remarkable posters: A Carter 8-sheet “Gallows”, an Elizabeth and Susie Wandas image, a Rosini “Cauldron” (I think there are only two in the world of this image), and a Harry Houdini “Circus Busch Policemen”. I did know that the rare Houdini would raise eyebrows amongst the serious magic collectors in the group.

After the posters were hung, all was in order to return on Sunday morning for the usual setup.


Sunday, August 4, 2019

Booth Set-up

We arrived at the hotel at 9:30 am, and promptly had our booth set up by 12:00 noon. Denny has been helping me with the booth for three years now, and we both do this like clockwork. I am always grateful for good and efficient help.

Nielsen Magic Booth for 2019! Notice the rare Rosini and Houdini posters!

The room had fifty dealers this year. It was probably one of the most varied and eclectic rooms one could see at a magic convention. There were a few general magic dealers like Daytona Magic, Trick Supply, Tannen Magic and Stevens’ Magic Emporium. There were other booths with specialized items: Pro-Mystic (electronic equipment for discerning mentalists), Jamie Schoolcraft (coin gaffs and gimmicks), Andy Greguet (books), Potter and Potter (collectible and vintage magic), Martin Lewis (with his exclusive line of magic), and many, many more. There were a few new dealers in attendance. It was a delight to meet Dave Bonsall from Propdog in England, and I enjoyed looking at the artistry of Jeff Scanlan who sold “Impossible Bottles” at his booth.

Dealers’ Room about an hour before opening. The “calm before the storm”.
Tom Yurasits’ booth.
ProMystic booth. Their props are amazing. They let me try them, and they were impressive.
Tannens had a cool booth! it was good to see Adam and the boys.

We at Nielsen Magic specialize in our exclusive line of about 20 magic effects we produce, plus the buying, selling and trading of vintage magic posters and reproductions. I had no high expectations at this convention for us. Due to current circumstances in my life, we do not have anything “new” to offer. I was here mostly for the PR, to hang out and see people and friends I had not seen in a long time, and to have fun.

Unlike other dealers, both Denny and I purchased full registrations, which would give us access to every single event at the convention.

Official Opening Party – 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Like every year, there was the obligatory Sunday dealer meeting in which they discuss the rules for the raffle, and give tickets to the dealers. For every $20 a customer purchases at the dealers’ room, they get a raffle ticket good for the opportunity to win over a dozen high end prizes throughout the night.

Dealers’ meeting.

The theme for the evening’s opening convention party was “Halloween” and it was titled “Trick or Treats”. The ballroom next door to the dealer’s area was titled “Treats”. They had a cash bar, and it was cleverly decorated with Halloween themed balloon displays. The tables in the ballroom had centerpieces and lots of candy to go around, along with pizza throughout the night. It was an excellent way for the attendees to mingle. Everyone was also encouraged to dress in a costume. A lot of people dressed up in very clever outfits. Halloween came early this year.

This is the ballroom next door labeled “Treats”.
Another view of the party ballroom.
Cool Halloween displays.
Centerpiece and candy on the tables.

To further encourage mingling, they distributed some cards for exchange. Each person received a set made out of the same card. The idea was to exchange some of these cards with others until one had a complete set with various cards that could be used for a magic trick.

The ballroom next door to “Treats” was the Dealer’s Room labeled as “Tricks”. Everyone started spilling into the dealers’ area that night, and because of the raffle, people were more apt to do their shopping early.

The Dealers’ Room was the “Tricks” section of the event. We are still setting up and you can see the garbage bin in the middle of the room.
A very clever costume for the night. Behold: “Stance Burton”! Lol!

The room was packed all night. Denny and I were “parked” at our booth, interacting with people, making good sales, and having a good time altogether. As dealers, we can never complain about Magic Live’s opening night. It is busy, active, and people were quite happy to be at the event.


Monday, August 5, 2019

Dealers’ Room opened from 11:00 – 6:00 pm today. But we are also fully paid registrants. I made the executive decision to enjoy most of the event, and watching the morning General Sessions. This would delay the opening of our booth to 12:30 pm. It was a good decision, because the sessions did not disappoint this year.

General Session – 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

The Session started with the high energy of Jeff McBride, who performed with fan and featured his manipulation act. He expertly produced cards from thin air, scaled them to the audience and even bounced them off the stage. It was an excellent way to wake people up in the morning!

Jeff McBride opens the first General Session, with his fans and manipulation routine.
Max Maven is the host.

The Master of Ceremonies, Max Maven, was introduced. He would be our host for the event. Something I like about “Uncle Max” (which is my nickname for him), is his mastery of the English language, and his ability to weave a good story. Two of the stories he told this morning were those of Okito and Fu Manchu, and how Long Tack Sam was appalled that they shared the same poster without knowing that both Okito and Fu were father and son! Another amusing story was that of Johnny Paul and Clark Crandall working at a mafia restaurant in Cicero, Illinois. Lol!

Mark Randall lectures on the sets he has designed to boost creativity.

Mark Randall – Mark used to work for Adobe and his job was to stimulate the creativity of their team. At Adobe, he designed what he called a Kickbox for creativity. It was kind of a magic set that would generate random concepts that the team would use to come up with new ideas. You see, most of the time our mind thinks linearly. The Kickbox set contains coins, cards, and dice. Each side of each coin and dice had concept written on them. For magic applications, you would have adjectives like big / small or fast / slow on opposite sides of coins, and who, what, when, why, etc. on the sides of a die. For the cards, each card would represent effects (vanish, productions, transformations), methods (forces, stooges, pulls), styles, domains, etc.

Each magic set comes with these items.

The whole idea consists in tossing a coin, rolling a die, and picking a few cards. This would create randomness into your approach, which would stimulate the brain to break out of its linear pattern and create new ideas. These magic sets have been made for other Fortune 500 companies to enhance creativity. It was interesting to learn about this approach.

Assigning variables produces randomness.
Here are the dice with variables written on their sides.
Dr. Kokichi Sugihara talking about optical illusions.

Kokichi Sugihara – “Ambiguous Objects as a Potential Source of Magic”. This was probably in my top three of favorite presentations at the event. Dr. Sugihara taught applied mathematics for engineers at Tokyo University, Nagoya and Meiji Universities. This is the guy that enters a room, and everyone knows that he is a genius. He lectured on 3D optical illusions and on how the way he maps an object affects the way it is perceived depending on the angle in which you observe it. He showed us optical illusions that were amazing. For instance, objects had a circular shape as you were looking at them, but their mirror reflection was a square! This shows us that you can never trust what you see with your eyes.

It is all in the way you look at things.
Impressive!
Interview with Alexis Spraic and Erika Larsen regarding the upcoming documentary titled “M” for Magic.

Alexis Spraic and Erika Larsen came next and spoke about Alexis’ project of the upcoming feature documentary titled “M for Magic”. This is a documentary about the Larsen family and the creation of the Magic Castle. What struck me about this lady was her passion for the project and her open mind regarding the world of magic and magicians. Erika Larsen was an excellent guide into the magic world and into the Magic Castle for her. The Larsens are truly a special family. When everyone thought that the Castle project would fail, they persevered, and have created one of the most distinctive landmarks in the City of Los Angeles. The Castle is proof that dreams can indeed become a reality.

Marco Tempest and his drone demonstration.

Marco Tempest closed the sessions by doing a little presentation titled “Inventing the Impossible”. He currently works for NASA, and presented a demonstration on how current technological advancements can be used to create magic effects. To show us what he meant, he had a grouping of a handful of mini drones on stage with LED lights. The drones seemingly came to life and obeyed his every command. They flew around him, made patterns, and interacted with him in a magical way. It was quite impressive to see.

The morning ended with the “In Memoriam” video of all our friends who have passed away in the last year. I am finally getting to be “old enough” to stop taking life for granted. Each day is a gift and part of me dies with the friends that we lose. A few names included were: Don Wayne, Sonny Fontana, Steve Dushek, John Cornelius, Ricky Jay, Gary Darwin, Johnny Thompson, and many others. It is tough to come to a Magic Live and not see Johnny around. He was Norm’s best friend and a good mentor to me as well.

Focus Sessions – 2:15 pm – 4:30 pm

After the morning session, we went up to our perch at the Dealers’ Room and stayed there from 12:30 pm – 6:00 pm. Because of the schedule, I did not get to attend the Focus Lecture Sessions in the afternoon. Each afternoon they offered three different lectures, and people have the opportunity to attend two of them at a time.

Alas! All I could do was sneak out of my perch for 5 – 10 minutes at a time and take in a few minutes of each event. In addition to that, I asked the attendees what their opinion was of the presentations.

For completeness, I am posting what they were along with a brief description and the impression I had after watching 5 minutes of each.

The afternoon Focus Sessions included:

Jan Forster. I didn’t see the lecture but people told me it was awesome.

Jan Forster – “Fool Them”- A lecture on mentalism where he teaches three mind reading effects from his professional repertoire. From what I heard from people that came to the booth, this was a very good and effective lecture.

 

Mahdi Gilbert – “Rounders” – Mahdi did a lecture demonstration with cards, and “rounders” refers to his preferred method of control, which is the corner short card. What was fascinating for me about this lecture, was that the lecturer had a birth handicap: He had no hands and no feet. What was inspiring was that in spite of his limitations, he performed card routines that would be challenging for people with hands. The feedback from people that attended, was that although he was a skillful performer, the lecture lacked focus, and at time he just got sidetracked in his explanation of things.

Mahdi Gilbert demonstrates card magic. Look ma! No hands! That guy is amazing.
Dick Koornwinder on Fred Kaps.

Dick Koornwinder – “Fred Kaps: Seeing is Believing” – Dick is one of the authorities of Fred Kaps, who could be considered Holland’s greatest magician. Fred Kaps inspired a Renaissance of magic in Holland, to the point where that little country produced some of the best magic performers in the world. As I entered the lecture, Dick was describing Fred’s early years as a magician in the middle of the 20th century.

Close-up Experience – 7:30 pm

Dealer’s Room promptly closed at 6:00 pm, and we later headed to the close-up event.

Henry Evans performs at the Close-up Experience.

The Close-Up Experience at one of the ballrooms, sat over 125 people in a raked seating configuration. Seating was such that there was not a bad seat in the house. Everyone could see the table top, and the room was appointed with a good sound equipment as well as lighting. It was an intimate venue ideal for that genre.

 

Four performers were featured at this show:

Henry Evans – Argentina
Richard Sanders – Canada
Pipo Villanueva – Spain
Danny de Ortiz – Spain

I am writing this review several days after seeing the show, which is good, as it makes me ponder about the strength of the material, its relevance and the likability of the performers. Regarding the material, both Henry and Danny are consummate card experts and they are masters at controlling and really fooling the onlookers with a deck of cards. They both did impossible locations, and were several steps ahead of the spectators making it difficult to reconstruct anything they did.

I love Richard Sanders, he is likable and is a master at sleight of hand, particularly with coins. This is the first time that I saw Pipo Villanueva perform. He did perform a little card magic, but probably the effect that impressed me the most was his dice stacking routine, in which stacks of dice of different colors kept appearing under the dice cup. I have no idea where the dice came from and I was delighted to be completely fooled by a non-card trick.

Richard Sanders performs a Three Fly Routine.
Pipo Villanueva from Spain performs close-up.

All the performers were top-notch professionals and extremely likable. They were all excellent magicians that have mastered their craft to a high level. Their timing was perfect, and I had the sensation of being completely befuddled and fooled by their material.

This is probably one of the best close up magic shows at a convention that I have experienced in a while.

However, for what it is worth, I do have a small critique about the material… Although the magic was amazing, most of the presentations were procedural – i.e. “Let me borrow a deck, shuffle it, cut it many times, pick a card, and in the most amazing way I will reveal it to you, and not only that… I can find all the mates to that card, etc.”. Because most of the presentations were procedural – vs. providing a compelling story, or giving me a reason for watching – I have forgotten what the specific effects were! This is partly my fault as I refrained from taking notes throughout the presentation. All I remember is the feeling I had while watching the show. It is frustrating to know that after a few days I cannot reconstruct the sequence of effects. Perhaps it is me – middle aged and a faulty memory at times… Something to think about…

The Very Strange Monday Night Show – 10:15 pm

This show starred Simon Coronel and Shoot Ogawa. Additional performers were Read Chang, Mr. Ham and Track IX.

Simon Coronel and Shoot Ogawa at the Very Strange Monday Night Show.

It is great to see magicians taking risks at a stage show. The show was almost set up like a play. The opening scene begins with Shoot and Simon being “backstage” before “the show starts”. There is friendly banter backstage, and both men are getting ready for the show that is about to start on the other side of the curtain (portrayed by the black backdrop upstage). Shoot and Simon discuss material that they are working on and could use in the act, and perform it for each other, as we in the audience take a glimpse of what is happening through the fourth wall. Shoot does a flip-stick routine, for instance, and Simon reacts to it.

Track IX, shows off her beatboxing talents.

Other performers join them onstage as they “come and go” to “other areas backstage” and stop for a moment to interact with them. The show officially starts, and they go from the back to the front of the stage and we become the audience of their official magic show. Again, once they “finish” their set, they announce the presence of an illusionist (who we never see), and they go backstage to wait between acts.

We see them backstage again, along with the interaction of the other characters in this “magic play”. Track IX is notable because she comes in as a character that wanted to audition for the show. She is a sound effects artist and she brought the house down with her beatbox skill and the various sounds and rhythms she made on the microphone. Read Chang also performed for us his FISM act, and two other characters were notable too. My favorite was Mr. Ham, who was a little shy Oriental guy who was belittled by all the members of the cast. He really won over the audience as he was the comic relief and the “introverted” guy in a funny kind of way. In the middle of the show, they told him: “Mr Ham, see if you can fill some time, do something for the audience while we prepare this”. Mr. Ham then goes onstage, with what becomes one of the cleverest juggling acts you can witness. As usual, the juggler brings down the house. Lol! The other memorable moment was the costume change artist that was : “working with a magician on stage”. However, we only see her from backstage. She is “out there” and when she comes backstage she gets behind a covering and changes costume in mere seconds; once she is changed, she goes out to do her act, and returns backstage where we witness another costume change and so on. The changes are made nonchalantly and as part of the plot. The rest of the characters are involved in conversation, as she just calmly walks “backstage” does this spectacular costume change and leaves to go briefly onstage.

It is difficult to describe the show. The ending consists of what is seeming a mentalism prediction effect that goes wrong on stage. As Simon and Shoot return backstage, they close the show with various revelations and predictions that were not a mistake after all, but accurate revelations regarding the entire show.

This backstage / onstage view of things is a common technique used in the theatre and this is the first time I have seen it applied to a magic show. It sort of worked, and if the script is tightened and the effects become more memorable, I think there is a huge room for improvement.

Overall, it was an entertaining event, and I commend Shoot, Simon and the rest of the cast for their effort in putting this show together.

Again, here is a brief critique… A few days after I saw the show, I don’t remember the magic tricks they did. 🙁 I still vividly remember Mr. Ham and his juggling antics, along with his ladder bit, the microphone gal, and the costume change artist. Not remembering the magic bothers me… Is it middle age… Beginnings of dementia… Or… I don’t care enough about the unmemorable magic… Or all of the above? Hmmm?


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

General Session – 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

Steve Beam is hilarious!

The first speaker of the eventing was Steve Beam. Steve started with his talk titled “Through the Trapdoor”, which was a lecture about a little self-published underground magic magazine that ran between 1983 until 1998. Its publication spanned 15 years and nearly 1600 pages of material. Some of the most influential minds in the world of magic contributed to that publication, which had an irreverent and cynical sense of humor. Through the lecture, Steve describes what it took to publish a magazine before computer desktop publishing was available. It was all done with manual cutting and pasting. It was a labor of love.

Steve Beam lectures on “The Trapdoor” which was a magic publication in the 1980s and 90s.

After his talk, Steve would also be an excellent host for the rest of the morning. His timing and sense of humor really kept the pacing for the entire experience. He is a very funny man, and I am grateful that he made me laugh.

Harris III talks about storytelling and magic.

Harris III spoke next and the title of his presentation was “The Story of Magic”. His talk can be summed using Maya Angelou’s quote: “People will forget what they see you do, they will forget what they hear you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” He spoke to us about the importance of becoming vulnerable as performers, and how important it is to become a storyteller in our performances. Our own story as human beings is the reason why people will care about what we have to say. That is the single reason why with regular material, the speaker has become a successful performer in his field. His talk was inspiring and reminds us of giving meaning and significance to our magic.

It was a very inspirational talk.
Guy Hollingsworth performs the Cups and Balls and teaches us a clever technique he uses to vanish items.

Guy Hollingworth – Performed his version of the Cups and Balls, and give us an explanation of a technique he uses for the effect, in which he uses the flap of his jacket or shirt as a temporary “holder” for a vanished item. I can’t get over how skillful he is with sleight of hand.

 

“Servais Leroy and Talma: Two Sides to a Story”. Laura London and Paul Kieve have become very good friends from their interest in these performers from the early 20th century. With their combination of research, and sheer serendipity, Laura managed to find the granddaughter of Leroy and Talma (who were never married, yet lived together for so many years), and Paul managed to meet the grandson of Leroy from a son that he had in a previous marriage and who was abandoned by the performer. This was a remarkable story, which adds depth and another layer of humanity to those who would be two of our magic heroes from the past.

Laura London and Paul Kieve on Servais Leroy and Talma.
They travelled far and wide to find out information about these performers.
A modern record album cover is based on a Servais Leroy photograph.
Leroy’s “lost son” from a previous marriage.
Jason England interviews Issy Simpson.

“This is Magic” – Jason England interviews Issy Simpson, who is one of the most famous online magicians of all time. She is currently ten years old, and acquired her fame on the show Britain’s Got Talent. She has over 200 millions views online and fans worldwide. She has done Ted Talks, appeared on Prime Time television, and on various television interview shows.

Focus Sessions – 2:15 pm – 4:30 pm

Again, due to our commitment at the Dealers’ Room, I was not able to sit at any of the three focus sessions for the afternoon. I did see them for about five minutes each and took a picture of the presenters.

Larry Hass has received the mantle from Eugene Burger. From Beyond will come out in November 2019.

Larry Hass – “Eugene Burger: From Beyond” – Larry was one of Eugene Burger’s best friends and students, and the torch has been passed to him and the new Dean of the Mystery School. It is a shame I could not stay for this lecture, but from what I saw, it was a lecture about Eugene Burger’s thinking and the upcoming book “From Beyond” that will come out in November of 2019.

“Making Magic More You” by Jay Sankey. Jay lectures on how to make your material more meaningful and how important it is for the audience to remember you as a performer.

Jay Sankey lectures about making magic more YOU.

“You Are All Terrible” by Harrison Greenbaum. This was a lecture about magic and comedy and how everyone is a cookie cutter performer. He offers his formula on how to improve your performance and refine the material you do.

Harrison Greenbaum telling people the truth about magic.

Exhibit: Ambiguous Objects – 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm

This was one of the top events for me at this convention. Here is where people had the opportunity to take a closer look at the Dr. Kokichi Sugihara’s optical illusions. It was really a cool experience and it teaches us not to be deceived by our eyes.

BTW, I posted a little video of one of the optical illusions in my Instagram feed:
https://www.instagram.com/nnmagic.lupe/

Check out these optical illusions by Kokichi Sugihara.
Amazing!
Can never believe what the eye sees. The item looks different when seen on a mirror.
This boggles our mind.
Are these butterflies or fish?

The Little Big Show – 7:45 pm

This was the parlor show for the convention. The performers were:

Guy Hollingsworth is probably one of the most skillful sleight of hand magicians in the world.

Guy Hollingworth – He was our host and performed exquisite sleight of hand magic. Including some of the best handling of billiard balls one could see, and a beautifully executed torn and restored newspaper. He is truly a virtuoso in magic, it was a joy to watch him perform.

Mario the Maker Magician – His scripting was geared to a children’s audience. The highlights included a drone that located a selected card, along with a smart monkey figure that sat on his table. His specialty was mixing magic with technology.

Mario the Maker Magician.
Mario controls a little flying drone to find a card.

Topas – Performed a card routine in which the cards were used as the percussion for the music. Closed with a piece titled “The Hawaiian Wonder” which is the transposition of the juice inside a selected orange to an empty glass from one side of the stage to the other.

Topas rocks the house.

Jade – Performed her version of the Thumb Tie to a great audience reaction.

Jade performs the classic Thumb Tie.

So there you have it! It was truly an outstanding Parlor Show. Can you believe it? After several days I can still remember the performers and the effects that they did without taking notes! Whew… It seems that my memory is not as bad as I thought! Lol!

Guess that Gimmick – 9:00 pm

The panel of experts are on stage trying to figure out what the gimmicks are.

The presenter for this event was Jeff McBride who brought several gimmicks from his private collection of hundreds.

Dana Daniels, Daniel Garcia and Bruce Gold were panelists who offered “explanations” of how the gimmicks worked, and the audience was supposed to decide which explanation was the correct one.

It was truly a fun event, and we were able to see a few of the gadgets magicians have made through the years to achieve weird and impossible effects.

Weird gimmick, isn’t it?

The most controversial one was the gimmick which a held a thread doused in kerosene. The thread is put on fire, and the resulting effect was that of fire balls floating in mid air. It was weird, creepy, and very dangerous to say the least! Thank you to Tetro for the video demonstration!

Guess That Gimmick event.
Check out the contraptions they brought out for us to see!
The things magicians invent to achieve an effect. Lol!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

General Session – 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

The last session of the convention included:

Can you believe it? Dan Harlan has performed and taught every single trick from Tarbell. Epic!

Dan Harlan – “Outrageous Goals: Conquering Tarbell” – Dan Harlan describes how he had a huge goal: To perform every single trick from the Tarbell Course in Magic. I took him years, but by defining his goals, he videoed, and constructed all the props for every single effect described in the eight volume Tarbell course. He has documented in video format both the performance and explanation of each trick, making it one of the comprehensive video courses ever. Such a feat is currently offered through Penguin Magic. What was inspirational about this talk was on how through talent, but above all, perseverance, one can complete the most outrageous goals one can come up with. This is quite an accomplishment, and our congratulations go to Dan for such an effort.

Dan proceeded to host the rest of the event, smoothly, without missing a beat.

Pipo Villanueva lecturing on the Magic of Meaning.

“The Magic of Meaning” by Pipo Villanueva – This is one of those abstract subjects that is very difficult to lecture on. Because of the language barrier (Mr. Villanueva is from Spain) it was difficult to fully understand the message about such a difficult subject. The overall conclusion was that magicians should use material that matches who they are, and convey information to their audiences about them. Magicians should be honest with their audience and add layers of meaning to an effect to make them know you better.

Scott Shiller is responsible for a new magic venue in Pittsburgh called Liberty Magic.

“Liberty Magic” by Scott Schiller – Mr. Schiller is the Vice President of Artistic Planning of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Liberty Magic (founded earlier in 2019) is a new venue located at 811 Liberty, next door to dance, theatre and music venues. His goal: To elevate magic to the same level as the arts, and for audiences to see it as a valid and worthy form of artistic expression. So far, they have had a few resident magicians doing there one-man or one-woman shows for several weeks at a time, to great success.

Mark Setteducati lectures on using technology for self working magic.

“Self Working Magic and Technology” – by Mark Setteducati – Mark is a magic, puzzle and games designer. He has designed numerous patented creations and is one of the top magic set designers. He spoke about using technology to create magic sets and how some of the standard effects can become new and interesting with a different dressing or design.

By changing the design and styling, tricks look different.
Topas reveals the secret to his Hawaiian Wonder routine.

Topas – “The Hawaiian Wonder” – Topas, an award winning magician and creative genius, let it all out. He explained the effect he performed the night before from beginning to end. What amazed us was the lengths he went to create the apparatus for this effect. The sophistication of the method to achieve such a simple effect was jaw dropping. I won’t reveal the secret here, but he hired engineers from Festool in Germany to help him make this prop. It is truly a work of art.

Chris Smith explains what it takes to bring a magic trick to market.

“Favorites” – Three prop makers in our industry were showcased in this last segment. These guys have created probably some of the most successfully best-selling tricks in magic: Chris Smith – “Double Cross”; Yoga Messika – “Loops”; Dan Harlan: “Card-toon”. They all explained how they came up with the ideas and all the work it takes to make them and take their creations to market.

Yoga Messika on the success of “Loops”.

Dealers’ Room – 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

For the remaining few hours, Denny and I were at the Dealer’s Room, which closed at 2:00 pm. This was one of the busiest days for us at the convention, full of people coming to the booth and making their last minute purchases. Busy time…

Booth Striking Time!!!

Time for packing…

Dealer’s Room had to close at exactly 2:00 pm. The reason: The same ballroom was to be used for the evening’s Farewell Party. We had four hours to pack, after which the hotel crew would come in, take all the tables and curtains down, install a dance floor a stage, tables and food for the big party.

Denny and I packed in record time: Less than two hours. 🙂

Focus Sessions – 2:15 pm – 4:30 pm

Believe it or not, we both managed to check out a few of the sessions:

Mario “the Maker Magician”, talks about combining technology and magic.

The Magic of Making by Mario “the Maker Magician” Marchese. Mario specializes in the use of technology and magic. In this lecture he explained the use of an Arduino board. In conjunction with a servo motor, the possibilities are endless in controlling anything your imagination can create. This is the method he uses to control his little automaton monkey figure in his act.

100% Daortiz – Danny DaOrtiz is one of Spain’s virtuoso magician with a deck of cards. He lectures on card magic and his approach to achieving the impossible.

Danny Daortiz lectures on card magic.

Close-up Clinic: This is a favorite amongst attendees. Eight experts in various close-up effects sit down at tables and while the attendees go visit them to ask for tips and techniques about their magic. The experts were: Karl Hein (Rubik’s cube magic), Brad Henderson (General close-up), Curtis Kam (Coins), Jim Krenz (Cards), Eric Mead (Coins), Paul Nardini (Close-up Mentalism), Gary Plants (Bills), R. Paul Wilson (Ball and Vase).

Close-up Clinic session with various experts in the field.
Brad Henderson.
Paul Nardini.
Karl Hein.
Curtis Kam.
P. Paul Wilson.
Jim Krentz.
Gary Plants.
Eric Mead.

Jeff McBride Magic Gimmick Exhibit – Evening Exhibit – 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Guess That Gimmick exhibit and demonstration.

Jeff brought several trays of gimmicks from his collection to the event and displayed them in one of the ballrooms. This was quite a popular event, so much so, that it became so crowded and it was difficult for people to see Jeff’s demonstrations. I guess they underestimated the popularity of the exhibit and were ill prepared to show it off.

This could be a more regular exhibit in future conventions, but my feedback is that they should add a camera and couple of screens to allow people to see Jeff’s demonstrations of the apparatus.

More gimmicks.
Cool gimmicks.

Live Onstage – 6:30 pm

Joaquin Ayala rocks the stage.

The show opened spectacularly with the Magic of Ayala. For the first time in years, they finally dared to hire an illusionist that is not afraid to fill the stage with huge and extravagant props. Ayala did his signature illusion of escaping from a box before it was sawn by two industrial blades. He performed his Steel Plate Penetration in which he went through a plate of steel, and his version of the Sword Basket, in which he impaled a woman inside a box with flaming torches. At the end, she was unharmed, and as an additional ending another woman appeared in the box making it a double production.

Ayala’ Steel Plate Illusion.
David Deeble is the MC for the Final Show.

The Master of Ceremonies came in next. His name was David Deeble and I personally thought he was hilarious! I have read several comments on social media about how some people were offended by his humor. As opposed to them, I must confess (and this is probably generational) that I absolutely LOVE politically incorrect, and stereotypical humor. In fact, I truly miss it in this country. People have become so politically correct that comedy is not funny anymore for me. I can no longer sit through a “comedy” show or watch late night comedians. Everyone is walking on eggshells and is afraid of offending others. David Deeble was my hero tonight. His humor was crass and oh so incorrect! Thank God, there are still comedians like him around.

Cyril Takayama magically finding a selected card using chop sticks.

Next up: Cyril Takayama. Cyril is a wonderful performer. He did a routine where he called a lady from the audience and they both sat onstage on the floor, at a little table in Japanese style. He then proceeded to locate a chosen card by clipping it in a pair of chopsticks. He then repeated the effect.

My critique: Although Cyril is an incredibly skillful magician, he needed a video camera to show the trick to the audience. However, I must confess that I am biased… IMHO, if one is hired to perform on stage, I think that the material should suit the larger venue. If you need a camera to show your material to the audience, I don’t think the trick belongs on stage, he should have been booked for close-up. If I wanted to see a trick on a video screen, it is best that I stay home and watch YouTube in the comfort of my couch.

Cyril Takayama and Henry Evans. People are called on stage to randomly shuffle cards. Their selections match patterns and predictions.

After the effect Henry Evans joined him on stage. Both performers called approximately 24 members of the audience to assist them. Each member was given a bag with a deck of cards, and everyone was asked to shuffle them. After various random shuffles, the audience was asked to reveal the top card. Everyone’s top card on stage right had cards in numerical order and the cards from everyone on stage left matched a prediction.

This was the first show, and unfortunately, there was a fire alarm in the premises. The siren was loud and there were strobe lights around the theater. Both Henry and Cyril did not miss a beat and concluded the effect.

My critique: Although it was a complex card trick, the trick was too procedural for my taste with no emotional presentation to frame it. People were shuffling cards, and along with the fire alarm things were difficult to follow for the audience. There was a successful conclusion, though.

Paul Ponce performed next. What can I say, he was the juggler who got a standing ovation. He was skillful, and truly an amazing performer. The routine he did with the hats was brilliant. He even juggled the hats as he came down from the stage and juggled in the audience. Remarkable!

Paul Ponce is an amazing juggler.

Ted Kim: This is a cute charming “special lighting” effects act. I have seen this act several times, and although charming, it is technically constrained, as the performer has to stand in one spot far too upstage to become close and connect with audience. A connection with the audience does not occur until the very end of the act when Mr. Kim does a costume change and steps forward to greet everyone.

Ted Kim and his light projection act.
The Clairvoyants (Thommy Ten and Amelie van Tass) perform a psychokinetic touch routine.

The Clairvoyants – Thommy Ten and Amelie van Tass – They are a likable couple who started with a Psychokinetic Touch routine with a man and woman from the audience, and then went into a two-way mental act. They had a charming personality and very clever methods. Alas! I did find find the act to be long for my taste. (But, I could have been tired, and did not have too much patience at this point).

The Clairvoyants perform a two-way act.
Young-min Kim.

Young-min Kim – He was the winner in the General Category at the last 2015 FISM in Italy. His act is magnificent to watch on YouTube. With the close up video views is one of the most magical acts in the world. Unfortunately, it seems that tonight was the night with technical difficulties for this performer. From a distance, the act looked two small for the venue particularly because he starts sitting down on the floor center stage, surrounded by sand. From there he goes into transforming the sand to a magic wand that also melts back into sand at will. The flower effect is difficult to see, the final sequence was ruined during this show. 🙁 The ring that he was supposed to produce got stuck in mid-performance, and something went wrong with the sand at the end of the routine. He sort of finished the act, but it just did not work out this time.

I really felt bad for this young performer. It proves that no one is perfect, and problems can happen during performance. I did hear that he did well on the second show of the night, with everything working perfectly.

This last stage show, overall, was a fine performance by all those involved. It was certainly better than the shows during the last couple of Magic Lives. Talent was good, and everyone did their job. Yes, there were technical difficulties one of which was a fire alarm in the middle of the performance, but everyone showed their professionalism.

Final Party – 10:00 pm – ???

It’s party time! They had a great band playing in the ballroom.

As usual, Magic Live closes with a large party where everyone has the opportunity to say “good bye” to their friends and acquaintances. The party takes place at the hotel’s largest ballroom. This year it had a live band, a dancing floor, desserts were served for the occasion along with cash bars. This is where we all picked up our final programs for the convention.

Closing party.

Denny and I were so tired that we were there for 30 minutes and waited for Stan to do the final raffle and announcement for the next year’s convention, which will be on August 2 – 5, 2020.

And there you have it: My report / review of Magic Live 2019.

I guess that this year, Stan and his crew redeemed themselves. They booked very good talent, and they were conscious of the timing and flow for the event. All shows and activities started on time for the most part, and there were minimum technical glitches.

Highlights

  1. The single most positive comment from everyone was that the hospitality at the event was exceptional. Newcomers were made to feel special and welcome at the event.
  2. The hired talent was also skillful, and very knowledgeable. It seems that Stan and the crew scoured the world to find the very best they could book for this year’s convention. I am glad that he hired them due to their talent, and they didn’t fall prey to the politically correct and “diversity” crowd that clamored on social media for hiring according to gender and race quotas.
  3. Shows started on time.
  4. Dealer’s room ran smoothly.
  5. Technical issues and planning issues did not call attention to themselves and were practically “invisible” during the event.
  6. The topics covered were diverse and interesting – from technology, to sleight of hand effects, to some history, some reporting, pep-talk motivational lectures.
  7. This year Topas, Guy Hollingworth and Mr. Sugihara were the highlights for me.
  8. Dealer’s hours were just perfect. Not too long, not too short, allowing registrants like me the opportunity to enjoy most of the events.
  9. One booklet with the final notes at the end of the convention is a HUGE improvement to trickling out the notes daily as has been done throughout the history of this event.
  10. Details like the 24 hour lounge with a cash bar were appreciated. It was the perfect venue for people to session and meet throughout the event.
  11. Water service was spot on this year. Water was handy in every single meeting room throughout the event, and it was appreciated.

Complaints or suggestions

  1. Almost none from my part. I was a happy camper at the event.
  2. My only suggestion is that “day passes” should be made available for all the onlookers and people that did not register for the full event. Perhaps charge a confiscatory entrance admission for the privilege of going the Dealer’s Room upstairs. We might as well get their business.
  3. The Fire Marshall came to inspect the event, and asked all the dealer’s that were against a strobe lights to modify their display for the sake of safety. It was indeed a minor inconvenience for us at the Dealer Room. Hopefully we will all keep that issue in mind for next year.

So there you have it. The question is: Is is worthwhile attending yet another Magic Live? The answer is: “Hell, yeah!” For us, here in Las Vegas, Magic Live has become a tradition. Stan Allen, his crew and many of the attendees are like family for us. This is the magic party worth attending each and every year. Some years have been better than others. All in all, I do think everyone gets their time and money’s worth and we are all richer for the experience. They did put a great show this year.

I look forward to seeing many of you on August 2 – 5, 2020. Let’s do it all over again.

Visitors to the Nielsen Magic Booth

Just for fun, here were a few of the celebrities that stopped by the booth. I am honored that they came by to say hello. Magic Live is truly a Who’s Who of magicians.

Look who stopped at our booth!
Rocco Solano comes by to say hello!
Norm and Denny hang out.
Howdy, Mac King!
With Dale and Ryan Salwak.
Peter Samelson!!!
Norm with Dr. Gene Matsuura.