On July 2nd, 2018, magic lost one of its favorite sons. The professional magician, Brian Gillis, passed away from complications due to open heart surgery, the result of a major heart attack suffered two weeks prior. He was 71 years old.
Silvan’s performing record as a “general practitioner” reflects a tremendously accomplished career, including as the author of a dozen books for both magicians and the public, not to mention the sale of more than a million magic kits for beginners.
What accounts for the longevity of this classic? A recent survey has been touted that suggests that the public supposedly dislikes the classics of magic. The results of this survey mean—well, absolutely nothing to me, because the survey simply measures participants’ preconceived notions about magic. I, for one, have no interest in creating art based on random surveys or focus groups; I’ll leave that to lousy summer blockbuster movies.
Dai Vernon described Charlie Miller as one of the best card handlers he had ever encountered. Although the two were a generation apart in age, they began a friendship that would last through their lifetimes. Miller would become a remarkable magical maestro in his own right.
The nature of the variety arts is such that there have always been, and shall always be, unsung heroes. I can tick off a list of performers who had significant impact on me in the course of my life in magic, whose names would mostly be recognized by locals who shared the same geography.
He builds illusions his own particular way, generally with full-scale constructions rather than computer simulations or miniature models. He emphasizes that real-world performance is vastly different than theory on paper or screen, and thus his old world skill set delivers the most modern of solutions for every conceivable variety of need and application. I literally cannot imagine the skills it requires to restore or recreate the automata that fuel Gaughan’s passion, but I am truly wondrous every time I see one of his performances with them.
On the first weekend of January, my partner, Ann Coleman, and I took my twin stepsons, Dexter and Grayson, now 14 years old, to Los Angeles for a three-day adventure, in the concluding days of their winter break before returning to ninth grade. This was the “J-Pa Knows A Guy” road trip (a sort of running family joke about me), that included magic, music, meals and more.
While Vernon’s focus was on sleight-of-hand magic with playing cards and other small objects, his vision was such that it would eventually impact the entirety of performance magic, from its largest stage illusions down the smallest feat performed with a single coin.
Magicana has added a new archive of films of magicians, shot between 1976 and 1981 by Canadian collector Larry Thornton. In this Take Two, I have selected nine newly discovered vintage films, featuring six previous Take Two subjects, with links to the original essays to guide you along the way.
Canasta’s approach was startlingly original and so ahead of its time as to render him the subject of widespread criticism within the magic world by those who didn’t get it—and it would take another half century before they would. This didn’t have much of an impact on Canasta’s success...