Magical secrets

Posted on July 25, 2011


Len Cooper. My magic mentor and founder of The Browser's Den of Magic. No, not Groucho. Len. Really. Len. Just shut up.

I used to be a magician.

An amateur magician, to be sure, but I had a few gigs here and there — including a stint as “The Official Magician” for the 1990 Toronto Beauty and the Beast Tunnel.

That’s what they called conventions for the Beauty and the Beast TV show: “Tunnels.”

They were very sad affairs, in which extraordinarily tacky fan art was sold from extraordinarily tacky tables. This particular Tunnel was sadder than most. Not only had the show been cancelled, but in a recent interview, Linda Hamilton (“Beauty”) had done a William Shatner and told her fans to move on.

Still, I did get to meet David Greenlee, who played “Mouse” — not that I had a clue who he was.

I wasn’t a particularly good magician, but I had an apprentice — a guy from the mail room where I worked. Within a month he’d surpassed me in every area of magic. Naturally, I had to have him killed.

Oh, don’t be like that — he knew the risk when he signed on.

(And no, you’ll never find the body. Magician — remember?)

I belonged to the Hat and Rabbit Club, the Toronto branch of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. It was the same branch that Sid Lorraine belonged to. Sid is one of the most famous and well respected magicians in the world. He’s so good, in fact, that he even has a blog, despite the fact that he died in 1989.

A good magician's assistant should be distracting.

When he died, we held a big memorial dinner to honour him, and I brought my wife. That proved somewhat disruptive, however; at least a dozen magicians in attendance suddenly decided they really, really needed an assistant.

During my years as a magician, my day job was systems analyst for J. Walter Thompson. This often involved attending computer conferences, and I always wore my International Brotherhood of Magicians lapel pin. People would ask where I got the IBM pin from. That allowed me to explain what it actually stood for, and then do card tricks until they paid me to let them go away.

You pick up extra cash where you can.

During this time I invented a few tricks.

The first was the “Magic Cigarette Selection” trick.

I was doing dinner magic, and the party at the very first table included a heckler. On the spur of the moment I took out a pack of cigarettes, turned my head, and told him to take out one cigarette, examine it, then put it back. After he’d complied, I put the pack behind my back, pulled out a cigarette at random, and with a flourish said, “And is this your cigarette?”

For some reason it went over really big and the guy sat back to enjoy the rest of the performance.

My best trick, however, was a “sucker trick” that I called, “What the Hell?

You hand over a deck of cards and ask for it to be shuffled. It can be shuffled as many times and in as many ways as desired. You then take it back, show the top card to the spectators without looking at it, and place it face down on the table.

You then explain that since you’re only using one deck, it’s obviously not possible to pull out the chosen card, so what you’re going to do is use two cards: one to represent the value of the chosen card, the other to represent the suit. It is imperative, however, that nobody speak during this process.

So we’ll say that the card selected and placed face down on the table is the ace of spades. You dig through the deck for a bit, then pull out and show a five, and place it face up on the table. “This is the value of your card,” you say. Of course, the spectators know you’re wrong, but they’ve been sworn to silence and so can’t say anything. You then dig through the deck again, and pull out a club. “And this is the suit,” you say. “Your card is the five of clubs.”

At this point, the spectators take great delight in telling you you’re wrong, and turn over the card on the table, which, to their surprise, turns out to be the five of clubs.

But it doesn’t end there.

The next phase is similar to the first, except this time the chosen card is placed face up on the table. The two incorrect cards you take out of the deck are placed face down. At the reveal, they’re turned over and are seen to be correct after all. (Find the secret to the trick here.)

But that’s not what I was going to talk about.

What I was going to talk about was a bracelet I saw being demonstrated in Dufferin Mall the other day which, coincidentally, was recently reviewed on Midget, Man of Steel’s blog, Mental Poo (“I-Renew Review, and it kind of rhymes a little“).

So pop on over and watch the video, read the review, and in my next post I’ll get back to what I was originally going to talk about.