Archive for April, 2013

Artist Interview: Magic experience, treatment of women inspired movie

Monday, April 29th, 2013

When Joe Gold set out to make a movie about magicians, it was crucial to seamlessly weave the story and the magic together. But the issue of how women are treated in magic spoke out to him — so much so that he made it a central plot point in his latest movie.

“When you go to a play, and there’s five people in a play… everybody gets a bow at the end, everybody is in the program, everybody is treated as a performer, as an actor in that play. That’s not usually the case with a magic show. You go to see a big illusion show, and there may be a lot of assistants running around. If you are an onstage performer, you deserve a bow, you deserve to be treated like you’re part of the show.”

“Desperate Acts of Magic,” directed and produced by Gold and Tammy Caplan, was inspired by Gold’s experience as a professional magician. He performed more than 500 kids’ birthday parties and entered a slew of magic contests. The movie features Jason, a magician competing in an international magic contest, preparing to compete head-to-head with Stacy, a woman and street magician he fell in love with.

The movie took almost two years of filming to produce, and dealt with challenges from finding the time to shoot scenes to finding a replacement for a wrecked car. Gold talked to us about the movie, including some of the magicians who served as stars and consultants, how Valerie Dillman tackled the message and magic of playing Stacy and why it’s really hard to get work done when hanging out with Jonathan Levit.


The movie opens up this weekend in New York City, next week in North Hollywood and can be requested for your area at

FOUR POINTS: Great books about actual magicians, not sorcerers

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

It happens to all of us: We go to the bookstore, or shop on the Internet, and look for books about magicians. Our search results disappoint us, though: We get “Harry Potter.” “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman. “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell,” by Susanna Clarke. “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern.

Those are all great stories, but those are the wrong kind of magicians. We don’t want wizards, sorcerers and the kind of magic that some spell “magick.” We want our kind of magicians, the guys who practice their tails off, who perform for audiences and design miraculous illusions. THESE are our people, the ones who live lives knowing how to size up situations instantly, who go to great lengths in order to study arcane secrets.

The good news: There are many outstanding stories of the magicians you and I know. Some are even written by magicians. Here’s four worth hunting down:

“Carter Beats the Devil,” Glen David Gold

You’ve seen the Carter the Great posters in magic stores, but Glen David Gold brings the great one to life. Centered around the mysterious death of President Warren Harding, Carter is implicated and investigated by the FBI. What follows is a grand historical fiction featuring a number of well-known names, from Francis Marion “Borax” Smith to TV inventor Philo Farnsworth. Houdini and Howard Thurston also make appearances. And Gold’s writing is golden: The escapes he spins for Carter grow more and more impossible with each chapter.

“Magic,” by William Goldman

Known for “The Princess Bride” and “Marathon Man,” Goldman is no stranger to writing Hollywood-worthy stories, and “Magic” is no different (it was made into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins). After learning sleight of hand while bed-ridden in a hospital, Charles “Corky” Withers sought training by a top pro, but still lacked the courage to jump on stage. After finally summoning the courage to perform at an amateur night, the resulting response triggers a breakdown. That’s when the mannequin starts talking to him, and things spiral from there. Though reviewers don’t think of it as highly as his other works, “Magic” is a dizzying horror story that chills as much as it thrills.

“The Magician’s Assistant,” by Ann Patchett

How about some love for the assistants? Ann Patchett tells the story of Sabine, assistant to the magician Parsifal. The relationship is complicated, however — though her love for him is unrequited, he still marries her shortly before his death. In his death, Sabine discovers a world that he kept hidden from her. Though not as action packed as others on this list, Patchett gets a nod for weaving an interesting tale where an assistant is able to watch her magician grow young.

“Re-Deal,” by Richard Turner

Trust an expert card mechanic to figure out how to get his main character to play poker with Doc Holliday and S.W. Erdnase, and not seem the least bit weird. Turner is well known for his excellent sleight of hand and his specifically-details Bicycle decks. But his fiction story about Matt McCain and his encounter with the angel Miss Guided shows he’s just as creative with a story as he is with a deck of cards.

Bonus point: “The Prestige,” by Christopher Priest

Ever wonder why Christopher Nolan’s movie was so good? He had great source material. The mysteries and double crosses reveal themselves slowly in “The Prestige.” Written as diary entries, the battle between Angier and Borden stays intense and solid, long after it is explored by the magicians’ offspring.

Those are our four — five, actually — picks. What did we miss? What’s your favorite story featuring a magician?

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to

NOW AVAILABLE: Distinctive design makes Tundra a sharp-dressed deck

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Our Artifice line of playing cards has always been the sharp-dressed deck in our catalog.

The Artifice Tundra wears the tux.

As dignified yet dazzling as formal wear, the Artifice Tundra deck features a distinctive color scheme similar to the Ghost deck — almost all the color has been removed, except for the dark scarlet pips of the hearts and diamonds.

Details were selectively and carefully removed for an elegant, classy look that has fast become one of our favorite decks in-house. The Ace of Spades and Joker cards cleaned up, and the backs feature a blurred back that creates the look of a thin border, similar to Madison Rounders.

With just the right amount of metallic inks, our Performance Coating and superior stock, this deck handles as dream-like as it looks.

Check your Sunday finest: Make sure your suit is pressed, your cufflinks and shoes are shined and your tie is knotted in a double Windsor. The Artifice Tundra is a deck of distinction, and is ready to perform as elegantly as you.

Packing for hitchhiking trip inspired Mario the Magician’s show, style

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Mario Marchese had no idea that a hitchhiking trip would lead to a career in magic. He had all the essentials for himself and his dog packed in a guitar case — the ability to pack that way became an art form. On that trip, he went to all the places that were supposed to inspire creativity.

But nothing inspired him like his home, New York City. And nothing inspired his magic like that trip.

Now, Mario the Magician is performing a unique colorful show that fits inside a suitcase. A whiz with electronics, Mario has handcrafted all his props, including a suitcase that turns his act into a Buster Keaton-like flurry of activity.

And for the first time in seven years, he finally feels like he has some comfort with his creations.

Mario will perform live in the Metropolitan Room over the next few Saturdays. Before his first Saturday show, he talked with us about exactly how rigged his coat is, his unique path to magic (spoiler: he didn’t get a magic kit as a kid) and what some of the experts taught him about the basics.


McBride: Best way to fight theft is to support ethical ones; keep practicing

Friday, April 5th, 2013

“The internet has a lot to do with piracy. And prevention.”

Yesterday BBC released a report about theft in the magic industry. Featuring legend Jeff McBride, the story covered how he handled a copycat performer of his well-known mask routine in Thailand, and also covered the theft suffered by creators such as Kevin James and Losander. (Full disclosure: has also seen its products and training videos pirated, copies and sold by other unauthorized dealers.)

But for those who argue that the Internet has ruined magic, McBride said it has also strengthened it. In a quick break in his schedule, the founder of Magic and Mystery School told us that the Internet and social networks have become a form of magic police.

“Our fans blow the whistle, and our fans are global. All of a sudden we get emails and Facebook messages, and situations get handled pretty quickly.”

McBride said he reached a quick resolution with the Thai performer, who turned out to be a fan. Rudy Coby discovered, a day after getting cut on “America’s Got Talent,” that a Russian performer lifted his act for a similar TV show.

But those are problems that the pros deal with. Those who are learning, or those who are working performance gigs in their communities, what can they do to help?

McBride said it’s a combination of supporting the ethical companies and ignoring or boycotting the copycats. Additionally, they should continue to polish their performances.

“I spend as much time with masters such as Eugene Berger, Johnny Thompson, Juan Tamariz. I travel around the globe to study with them. The best thing is to get a really good guide. And because of the Internet, students Skype with me from all over the world. They can spend time getting expert instruction by masters.

Also, spend more time practicing, polishing, taping and reviewing than you spend with podcast or in magic chat rooms. They maybe are making you more informed, but they are not making you a better magician. In ‘Outliers,’ Malcolm Gladwell invokes the Anders Ericsson study on virtuostic performance and the 10,000 hours rule. How are you spending those 10,000 hours?”

We’ll post more of our interview with McBride in the coming days.