With the release of the second printing of The Magic of Johnny Thompson, Jamy Ian Swiss takes a close look at five of the master’s choicest classic routines in the latest Take Two.
BY JAMY IAN SWISS | Welcome to Take Two. Every Friday I'll be posting a pair of magic performance videos, accompanied by commentary—in essence a projection of curation—with a goal to pen 52 posts. I encourage non-magicians to enjoy these clips along with the magic community, as I intend to avoid outright discussion of methods. All this is subject to some adjustment over time and experience, but these are the goals at the start.
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.
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.
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...
When Bill Larsen wrote about him in a cover feature of Genii magazine in 1975, he began with this: “If my readers were asked to name the top ten close-up magicians in the world today, it is quite possible the at the name Jimmy Grippo would not be included. However, this same Jimmy Grippo probably comes close to heading the list (or possibly heads the list) but because he keeps a low profile, many magicians around the country do not know of him.”