Jon Armstrong: Taking Charge in Life and On Set
By Chris Philpott
More than just the man behind the Tiny Plunger, Jon Armstrong has long been a successful magician. Yet he found a new outlook for his performing work when he seriously started directing other magicians’ acts and made some changes in his offstage life as well. Plus, here Jon teaches his Strong Arm Tactics effect.
By Alan Howard
Based in the UK, Breathe Magic is an organization that is taking the tools of conjuring and clinical research and applying them to patients in need of physical therapy, with great success.
The Legendary Richiardi Jr.
Following reluctantly in the footsteps of his father, Aldo Izquierdo Colosi turned from his beloved singing and dancing to become arguably the finest illusionist in the world. While the Peruvian magician died in 1985, Richiardi’s legend endures, with many of his props now rescued and preserved in David Copperfield’s International Museum & Library of the Conjuring Arts.
Mural, Mural on the Wall
By Rory Johnston
Four artists spread their magic in a big way, spray-painting scenes of magic across the sides of buildings. These New York-area graffiti artists are “the magic crew” who, with permission, brighten neighborhoods with scenes of rabbits in hats, Houdini, and other iconic images.
Plus Updates on…
- Christian Farla’s Night of Illusions.
- Murphy’s Magic donations to Military Heroes.
- A glance at some upcoming conventions.
Bonus Content for the February Issue…
- Video tutorial of Jon Armstrong’s Strong Arm Tactics.
- Audio file of Jon Armstrong discussing directing walk-around magic with Chris Philpott.
- Time lapse video of Richiardi’s Buzz Saw being assembled.
- Video instruction for Casshan Wallace’s True Link.
- Template for Martin Lewis’ Instant Coffee prop.
- All 21 of the products reviewed in the February issue, plus 546 reviews from previous issues, are all now available at the fully searchable “Marketplace” section of M360.
Twenty-one products are reviewed this month by Michael Claxton, Peter Duffie, Gabe Fajuri, Jared Kopf, Francis Menotti, Peter Pitchford, John Wilson:
Wordsmyth by Francis Menott
The Count by Alex Pandrea
BH Sandwich by Byeong Hun Yu
Over this World by Alex Pandrea
Signor Arvi: The Forgotten Illusionist by Trevor Dawson
The Fairground Soo: A Brief Biography of Alfred John Peters by Dean Arnold
Compress by SansMinds Creative Lab
Runaway Joker by Peter Nardi
Pieces by Christian Engblom
The Rough & Smooth Project by Big Blind Media
Pantera Wallet V2 by Outlaw Effects and Alakazam
Marvelous Multiplying Boxes by Matthew Wright
The Dancing Selfie Stick by Doug Bennett
Apollo Ascending by Apollo Riego
AmazeBox by Mark Shortland
The Magician’s Road to Fame by Laurence Glen
Impromptu by Martin Gardner
The Souvenir by Henri White
Unbound by Darryl Davis
Street Thief by Andrew Gerard
Rise by Sean Scott
First Look: Camera Tricks
Casshan Wallace is a twenty-year-old magician and creator of magic. He is known for his YouTube project in which he created, recorded, and uploaded a new effect every hour for a day – a full 24 effects in 24 hours – after which he jumped at the chance to showcase some of his creativity on national television on an episode of Wizard Wars. His latest project, Camera Tricks, features a set of unique magic effects that look like camera tricks – even in person. One such trick is this Linking Paperclips effect.
First Look: Magic by Miller
Conjuror, inventor, craftsman, and mechanic of magic Clarence S. Miller first began building magic effects for himself in the 1940s, crafting beautifully handmade wooden props that have intricate inlays. Constructing magic with wood comes naturally to him, and he had no formal training or did any apprenticeship. Now 86 years old, Clarence has been manufacturing and selling magic effects since 1985. Avid magic collector Donald Croucher met Clarence in the early 1980s. After many years of friendship – and collecting Clarence’s magic – Donald envisioned a complete reference book of all the effects that Clarence had made. Magic by Miller details the life of Clarence and his close to 100 handmade effects. His most popular effect was The Impossible Penetration, which gained worldwide recognition, and is explained in this excerpt.
First Look: Kahnjuring
Scott Kahn, M.D., is a family medicine physician currently living and practicing in Clayton, North Carolina. He is also a close-up magician whose card magic is designed with one goal: imparting the “moment of astonishment” to his audience. Excerpted from Kahnjuring: Deceptive Practices With Playing Cards, Stale Moldy Bread is a unique, easy-to-perform version of Larry Jennings’ Visitor plot in which a card is chosen from a red-backed deck of playing cards and signed. The selection is then sandwiched between two blue-backed Aces of Spades and Clubs. In an instant, the selection cleanly vanishes and reappears between the previously isolated blue-backed Aces of Hearts and Diamonds.
Making Magic: Instant Coffee
A few coffee beans tossed into a paper cup turn into real hot coffee. This effect can be used either as an interlude or as a stand-alone effect. It is suited for platform or stage but not close-up or surrounded; you really need everyone seated in front of you. The effect uses the substitution principle and is based on the work of Okito. My presentation uses the effect as an opener. The advantage of this is that the coffee is still quite hot when it gets to the spectator.
Our third installment of “Your Magic” has some diverse items from even more diverse contributors. This month, we feature two card items and a prediction. The first is from a gentleman who has contributed across the entertainment field; as big as Steve Valentine’s accomplishments are, he has here shared a small but significant handling of the classic pocket concealment. Second, from China via the Netherlands and Vienna, Jiang Zhenghua and Bill Cheung contribute a prediction using the uniqueness of ambigrams to accomplish a very strong prediction for both close-up and stand-up performances. Lastly, we have a simple but powerful presentation that reframes a classic card trick and turns into an impressive feat of card cheating skills.
Loving Mentalism: Esoteric
This month’s item is a small miracle you can carry with you everywhere, always ready to perform. It’s a simple prediction item involving cards bearing words such as Esoteric, Strange, and Occult. A spectator freely chooses one, and you show that you were able to predict her choice with pinpoint accuracy. What’s nice about the trick is that you can dress it up any way you like. The cards can have words on them, or pictures, symbols, logos, or anything else you might want to build a routine around. It’s self-contained and always ready to go, so you know you can prove your ability to predict the future whenever you like!
Bent on Deception: You’re Nobody Till Sponge Bunnies Love You
I worked at two different family restaurants starting when I was sixteen years old. I stayed with them, two nights a week for fourteen years, until I got burned out and wanted to do other things. In that time, I learned and forgot hundreds of tricks. Each restaurant had a lot of regulars and I had to have something new every week. Now, when I get to do a close-up gig, I adopt David Devant’s philosophy: I do about a dozen tricks, and I do them well. Over the years, the experience I gained by working in restaurants has served me well. If I needed to learn a move or a sleight, I learned it. But I also learned that the moves were not nearly as important as my interaction with people. That skill was learned on a need-to-learn basis as well. Sleights may have been forgotten since those days, but my communication skills have survived. There are so many others who can offer better advice on working restaurants than I can, but I can offer some advice on the subject of performing close-up for kids.
The Monk’s Way: Sharper-er’s Image
It’s easy to get sidetracked by an intriguing method – a blinding flash in our discerning eyes. Often, this intriguing method is a secret element that our audiences are unaware of and it therefore becomes ineffective in performance. A subtle display, for example, in the wake of a strong effect and an even stronger reaction becomes washed out. Editing becomes paramount. Here again, we are placing our audiences in a more important role: assistant editor. It’s a much more important question to ask,Is this clever method taking more away from my audience than it is giving me intellectual pleasure? Yes, you should enjoy your magic and methods, but not at the expense of your audience. This month, we present a clever method that may be just as blinding – and the add-on makes me warm and fuzzy – but it’s structured to maximize audience involvement.
Classic Correspondence: Maurice Bliss to Greystoke
The author of this letter, Maurice Bliss, is a marginal character in the magic world; his most amazing attribute may be that he managed to remain on the sidelines while living in magic’s very epicenter during the teens and ’20s. In 1917, Bliss started selling secondhand magic apparatus. His company tag line was surely more baffling than anything he advertised for sale: “My prices may not be the lowest, but send for a list today and be convinced.” In 1919, Wreford Stough Price received a list of used magic from the Blicrojen Company and ordered a set of Floral Rice Bowls. When the apparatus didn’t arrive in a timely manner, Ray sent a follow-up letter inquiring about the delay. This undelivered letter was returned with a foreboding “fictitious address” stamped on the envelope. Undeterred, Ray wrote again, this time questioning whether the Blicrojen Company even existed. And this time he received an answer typed on a plain sheet of white paper.
For What It’s Worth: The Mother of Invention
The day before Christmas Eve, I received an email from a casino in Lake Tahoe. It read, “URGENT: MAGICIAN NEEDED.” How odd. Usually, they don’t even return my phone calls. Our subsequent conversation included the booker mentioning, “We have thousands of dollars in our budget.” It was time to finally put together my suitcase act. I spent the rest of the day rummaging through the suitcases and boxes in the “magic room.” I pulled out lots of old routines that were, if nothing else, size appropriate. I was operating under the assumption that performing magic is like riding a bike – when you need to remember something, you will. I was thrilled to finally be doing a full one-hour suitcase act with no sound cues, no assistants, no dogs.
Walkabout Soup: The Secret in the Basement on Halloween
During Halloween week at The Magic Castle, I had the chance to try out an idea that had been nagging at me for years. It struck me that The Magic Castle represented a unique chance for an audience experience beyond the individual shows themselves. There are five different shows happening there every night of the week. What if they could be connected in some way? For my idea to work, all the core performers would need to tightly cooperate. Hence why Halloween week felt like such an opportunity. Not only did I know everyone – Francis Menotti, Misty Lee, David Gabbay, Rob Zabrecky – but they were all smart people with a sense of adventure. After an intense period of brainstorming, devising, building, and testing, here is what ended up happening.
Your Stories: Opportunity Lost
I was in the box office of the Capitol Theatre in Williamsport when I received a call from a talent agent pitching her latest client. Her client had done several television specials for CBS. She told me that I could get in on the ground floor of this upcoming superstar. The best part, according to her, was that the guarantee to the act was only $15,000 a night. This meant that after all the expenses were paid, the act had to be paid that amount. If any money was left over, I would make a few bucks. To sweeten the deal, she said that the act would do two shows for that price. How could we miss? She continued to sing the praises of this nice young man, and did she mention that on one of the TV specials, he had made the Statue of Liberty disappear? But at that point, my ego took over.