I thought I posted this awhile ago, but I guess it got lost in the shuffle. Last year, I attended a Christmas party at Midwest Magic in Franklin Park, IL. I had a great time and got to see Marshall Brodien, David Parr, Tim Felix, Tom Dobrowolski, and more. I also met Glenn Morphew for the first time. What a guy! He’s got the chops and the positive energy that reminds me why I fell in love with magic. He performs two moves in particular that you have to see to believe. Luckily, he routined both moves into his Homing Card routine that I filmed that day.
For the past year, I have been organizing a magic convention that finally took place last week. It was a TON of work, and there were plenty of headaches along the way. But if you asked me if it was worth it, I would have to quote one of my favorite professional wrestlers, Stone Cold Steve Austin, as I replied “OH HELL YEAH!”
First, a quick back story on how this all came about. In 2009, I attended the TFD in OKC convention. It was the MOST fun I’ve EVER had at a convention. The atmosphere was so friendly and everyone wanted to session. The feeling was electric. It was also where I first had the opportunity to meet some amazing magicians who I had previously only known through my conversations with them on The Second Deal and The Magic Pebble forums. A couple years passed by and I continued to wish that for an announcement for another convention. Finally, I thought to myself that instead of waiting around, I should get up off my butt and start looking into getting another one started myself. I checked around and I found that I wasn’t the only one itching for another get-together.
So, a few of us teamed up and worked out the details. We all agreed that NONE of us would make a dime from the event. The registration fees went to help us pay for travel expenses for the talent and for the printing of the booklets. The only thing we were getting out of the deal was a chance to session with our friends and to see some great magic. All of the profits would go to charity. This meant that were were taking all of the financial risk without any chance of a financial reward. Luckily, we had enough people register to cover our expenses, so no one lost out on any money.
The booklet I wrote added to my workload, but it came out looking beautiful. Rich Aviles did a great job with the layout, Brian Rasmussen took the photos, and Tyler Wilson was a brilliant editor. There were 18 contributions in all from a who’s who list of card magicians (Allan Ackerman, John Carey, Tyler Wilson, Rich Aviles, Jack Carpenter, Mike Powers, John Guastaferro, Ben Train, and more.) The quality of the tricks is top notch. Every attendee received the booklet for free. Even though it was an extremely limited release, I’m very proud of the work we did.
I may be a bit biased, but TFD 2012 ranks right up there as one of the best conventions I’ve ever attended. It certainly captured the spirit and feel of TSD and the Magic Pebble which was our goal from the start. I could list highlights all day long, but here are just a few of the standout moments for me.
Scott Robinson fried me with a super direct mind reading routine. I expected a lot of fishing and then BAM, he nailed the card I was thinking of. I was so fooled that I originally assumed that he just remembered the card I usually name (8 of Hearts, by the way) from some trick he’d maybe done to me at a previous convention. Later he tipped the work, and I was WAY off base. It’s a fooler.
Jean Thomas Sexton showed me his version of the Searchers plot. Not only is it the BEST version of the plot I’ve ever seen, I can’t imagine it looking any better.
Tony Chang seriously mind-f~~~ed me with a simple but powerful idea that convinced me he had produced my named card… when he really didn’t. It’s very Ascanio/DaOrtiz-ish. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was also being distracted by the incredibly visual sleight-of-hand he was performing. His appearing card trick looks like real magic. I’ll never be able to do it, but if I could make a wish and instantly be able to add something to my repertoire, this would be it.
It was a pleasure to finally meet Allan Ackerman. He sat me down and performed his version of my iDeck routine from High Spots. I thought I was going to need a copy of the book to put on my lap. Let’s just say it’s exciting to see one of your heroes performing something that you’ve created.
I’ll never forget Allan’s excited outburst during his lecture after showing off a Brother John Hamman cull. “And just like that, I’ve got all four nines on top… Now isn’t that F~~~ING GREAT!!!!” It’s a cool thing to see someone with so much knowledge and experience still fired up about card magic in the same way you might expect from someone who’s brand new to magic.
Ben Train and Chris Mayhew put on a great show/lecture with a ton of funny gags. The best one, of course, was the unexpected bit where Chris slapped Ben’s stacked (and recently switched-in) deck out of his hands, causing them to explode onto the floor.
As many of you guessed, David Williamson was the surprise guest. I wouldn’t even categorize what he presented as a lecture… it was much more than that. He was a master holding court while some of the best magicians in the world are hung on his every word. Talk about information overload. David Williamson is from a different planet than us mere mortals. He’s known for his comedy (and he was RIDICULOUSLY funny), but he’d still be a master magician if he played everything straight. God, he’s good.
By the way, for those of you who care, the first word of every line of my initial announcement about David’s guest appearance spelled out his name. I can tell some of you figured it out by the posts that followed…LOL. In later posts, each of the bold words, when combined, formed an anagram of his name.
Speaking of masters, Jack Carpenter was on fire. I knew he was technically skilled and had a creative eye for good material, but I had no idea how great he was as a performer. He’s the kind of guy I wish all of my friends and family would get a chance to watch someday so they would realize why I do this whole magic thing. Out-freaking-standing!
I almost died on the way to an amazing hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant on the first day. Allan was in the back seat telling great stories, Jack was in the front seat trying to show me a card trick, Van was on the phone trying to give me directions, and I was trying not to run into anything. They say texting and driving is bad!
Tyler Wilson was a treat as always. You’ve got to see his trick in the TFD booklet (which wouldn’t have been possible without his help, by the way). None of you will go to the trouble to do it, but it’s really neat. Paul Harris, eat your heart out.
Rich Aviles is a jerk. 36 hours after I passed out the booklet (which we’ve been working on for months), he shows me a variation on the trick I submitted… and I like it better. Thanks for that, Rich…. Thanks for that.
Noel Stanko was there to wow the crowd in the bar. His chops have to be seen to be believed. When you’ve got Jack Carpenter eating out of the palm of your hand, you know you’ve got to be good.
Steve Reynolds did a bang-up job hosting the traditional Move Monkey session. I’ve known Steve for awhile now and it’s so cool to see how much he’s progressed with his performances. His dry wit had us all in stitches. You can tell he’s a “worker” now.
There were so many guys who I wish I could have spent more time with: Zach Lambert, Mark Aspiazu, Justin Wheatley, Van McGee, Mike Powers, and the list goes on and on. I could have spent a month hanging out with this group and still not have had my fill. The earliest I went to bed was 5:30am and I wasn’t even close to being the last man standing. Whew!
Perhaps I should be happiest for the fact that we didn’t end up losing any money. It’s always a risk when you try to set something like this up. We actually came out just a little ahead, so anything left over will be given to charity.
Thank you so much to everyone who attended. The attendee list looked like a headliner list for any other convention.
Double thanks to Trini Montes, Aaron Delong, and Ben Train for their help in organizing the event.
Triple thanks to Tyler Wilson and Rich Aviles for helping to create an AWESOME TFD convention booklet.
Quadruple thanks go out to Allan Ackerman, Ben Train, Chris Mayhew, Jack Carpenter, Mike Powers, and David Williamson for providing us with some excellent lectures.
It was a lot of work putting on an event like this, but it was all worth it to get a chance to jam all night with you guys. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget. Let’s do it again sometime.
I’ve attended the Carolina Close-up Convention (a.k.a. Tri-C) for the last three years. I usually attend 3 to 5 conventions a year, but this one is always my favorite. There’s just something about the atmosphere and the close knit unit of guys who attend. It’s also one of the only conventions where the attendees are as talented as the scheduled performers. In fact, many of the featured performers return year after year, even when they aren’t booked…that’s really saying something.
Honestly, as much fun as it usually is, I really think this year topped previous installments of the get together. Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights from this weekend.
Robert Moreland’s Lecture- Unfortunately, my four hour plane delay prevented me from seeing all of Robbie’s lecture. However, what I saw was pretty cool. Later, Robbie was kind enough to sit down with me individually and show me some of the stuff that I missed. His work with Masuda’s WOW Gimmick is the best use of the prop that I’ve seen. The gimmick has been sitting in my drawer since I purchased it a couple of years ago. Robbie’s routine makes me want to dust it off and add it to my performing repertoire immediately.
Rich Aviles’s color change- I’ve mentioned his work before, but Rich Aviles is one of the most creative people I know. He was blowing everyone away with his new “Bus Driver Change.” In fact, Rich was awarded the “Beam Baton” this year (a magic wand given to the person who performs the “trick of the convention”). I don’t know if he plans on publishing it or not, but it looks amazing.
Steve Reynolds performing the Zarrow Shuffle- From what I’ve seen, Steve’s work on this famous false shuffle is the absolute best. In fact, to start the lecture, he repeatedly shuffled the deck saying, “This is a real shuffle. This is a false shuffle.” It looked absolutely legitimate. After a few of these, he spread the deck face up on the table. It turns out that they were ALL false. Steve has broken down the teaching of the Zarrow shuffle into small manageable steps that make learning it much easier to understand. I hear that he has a project in the works where he’s going to tip all of his work on the topic. I’m definitely keeping my eyes peeled for it. What a powerful weapon for any cardman.
Joshua Jay Lecture- Josh is the total package: great chops, super creative, a polished performer, and a great teacher. I’ve seen him lecture a number of times now, and I always walk away satisfied. I’ve always thought his work on the torn corner bill to impossible location effect is underutilized by magicians. Seeing it in action once again just reminds me of how good it really is. It’s the most revolutionary work I’ve seen with this kind of plot in a very long time.
I also got to see a few effects that I had never seen before including an extremely powerful effect with a signed card. The spectator writes his name on a piece of a napkin which is burned in a glass. Two small diamonds emerge from the flame. The card was, of course, the Two of Diamonds. When the deck is spread, one card is blackened with burn marks and is missing two diamond pips. It is the spectator’s signed card. What a commercial routine.
Paul Vigil Lecture and Performance- Paul has a performing persona unlike any other I’ve ever seen. He’s at same time charming and intimidating. He absolutely grabs you from his opening line and doesn’t let you go until he walks off stage. He is definitely one of my favorite performers. He takes his magic seriously and makes sure that his audiences do the same. While some of the routines are things that I’ve seen other magicians do, Paul elevates them to new levels.
I’ve seen mentalists who I’ve thought could really make an audience believe that it was all real, but I haven’t seen really any magicians who can pull that off. Paul may be the only one on that list. He isn’t doing “tricks,” he’s seriously messing with your mind. I can’t think of enough nice things to say about his act. If you ever get the chance to see him perform, you better take advantage of it. He’s awesome!
There were some other really great things about the convention, but these were my own personal highlights. The event was just what I needed to get my magic batteries recharged. The lectures, performances, and late night sessions were all top notch. I can’t wait for next year!
Baltimore was the final stop of the tour where I lectured at the Denny and Lee Magic Studio. The shop is stocked with hundreds of books, DVDs, and tricks. It even has a pet pig… I’m not kidding. Denny Haney is one of those old school kind of dealers who seems to really care about his customers. He’ll give you his honest opinion about a product even if it means losing a sale. He won’t let you buy something that he thinks in crap. Overall, the shop was awesome. I wish we had something like that in Indianapolis.
Howie Schwartzman attended the lecture which was a treat. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see him do anything, but he gave me some nice comments afterward. I also got to briefly meet a few “Pebbleheads” that I knew from an online forum I frequent.
Eric Jones came to hang out before and after the lecture. I’m sure you’re already familiar with his work (which is stellar, by the way). If not, you really need to see his stuff. He’s a master technician, a creative thinker, and one of the nicest guys in magic. During the break he was showing the guys some of his stuff. We were all amazed at his material. I even joked during the second half that if anyone bought any of my books, Eric would be happy to sign it afterward.
When the lecture wrapped up, Eric was kind enough to show me a new Two Card Transpo routine he had been working on. It looks great. The second change, in particular, is an eye popper. Check it out:
Just before we were about to leave, Denny mentioned that he wanted to show me one more trick. I sat down to witness the filthiest card trick I could ever imagine. You though the Aristocrats was bad… yeesh!
Thanks to everyone who made my time on the road such a great experience. Thanks especially to Ben Train for setting everything up and showing me a good time in each city. I had such an awesome time and can’t wait to do it again. I will leave you with one last video from the road: Ben Train performing one of his smallmiracles.
After some more GPS issues, we arrived in Philadelphia, PA for my lecture at Marc DeSouza’s place. We still had a little time to eat before it was scheduled to start, so Marc and Steve Friedberg took us out for authentic Philly Cheesesteaks. They were AWESOME by the way!
Marc actually lives in King of Prussia, PA (a suburb of Philly), but I like to call it Magic Heaven. His place is amazing; it’s like a magic museum. Posters and handwritten letters from famous magicians line his walls. He has so many, in fact, that he has to rotate this art. There are thousands of books, videos, DVDs, lecture notes, playing cards… you name it and he has it. Vintage props from famous conjurers are on display. It is a one of a kind sight.
But that’s just the beginning. Upon passing through his magic collection, you enter his personal 30-40 seat theater complete with tiered seating. There is a also a full video and music editing area at the back. It is fully wired for sound, theatrical lighting, and it even has a 10 foot drop down projection screen. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen!
The lecture went very well. I got to meet another group of really cool guys including Sergio Cedron, a Casino dealer and sleight of hand expert. Here are a couple of really cool things he showed us.
After the lecture, we all went out for a bite and I was treated to more great magic by Steve Friedberg, Chris Carr, and Jason McCully among others. Ben and I had swore we were going to go back to the hotel early that night to crash, but once the pasteboards were out, all bets were off. I have no regrets though. The guys in Philly were awesome.
We parted company with the other guys and headed to our hotel to check in. At this point it was about 3:00AM, and we had been on the road for 9 days or so. We also had spent most of those nights crashing on other people’s couches. I was totally looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep in a full sized bed……… but then we entered the Twilight Zone.
I dropped Ben off at the front door of the hotel to check us in. He came back out like 15 minutes later and told me that the lady working behind the counter was really messed up on something. She had been slurring her words and talking to herself while Ben was waiting patiently. I laughed it off and we carried our luggage up to the second floor, room 246. We inserted the key and…. nothing. We tried the other key card. Nothing again. Ben was smiling. Now it was my turn to meet the crazy woman downstairs.
I made my way down to the front desk but nobody was there. I banged on doors and yelled to get someone’s attention. I had no luck. I picked up a business card from the counter and dialed the number on my cell phone. I let the hotel phone ring and ring and ring… and ring… and ring…. and ring. After about 10 minutes a woman emerged from the door behind me. “Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t hear you.”
She pulled out her keys and attempted to open the door to get behind the counter. She was obviously having trouble. On the third key, she finally managed to open the door. She rounded the corner and SMACK! She stumbled right into a wall. I usually would try not to laugh at a thing like this, but Ben had me all psyched out. I held back my chuckles as best I could and handed her our room keys.
“You gave us keys to room 246, but they wouldn’t work.” She swiped the first card. “Oh, I can see how I did that. I should have told you room 264.” She paused. “I’m glad those didn’t work,” she slurred. “There’s people in that room, ha ha.”
She swiped the second card. “Ha, ha, ha. I don’t know what I was thinking with this one. It says room 268.” I tried not to laugh. “No problem,” I said. “We just need a key that works.” She re-swiped the cards for our new room, 264.
When I made it back up to Ben, I was smiling from ear to ear. We moved to our new room and tried the new key. We were in luck; the door opened. When we stepped inside, however, we noticed that the beds weren’t made, towels were still on the floor, and someone’s stuff was still in the room. At this point we both burst into laughter. A security guard came in right behind us. “You guys have to go back downstairs. There’s already people in this room.”
We went back down to the front desk and proceeded to have the most absurd interaction that I have ever had with another human being in my life. We were both laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes. Even this didn’t seem to phase her. “What are we on Candid Camera or something,” she asked innocently. This didn’t do anything to stop my laughing.
“What are your names again?” she asked. “My name is Ben Train and this is Caleb Wiles. We should have a room with two beds that was paid for in advance,” Ben replied. He was the only one of us capable of getting a full sentence out at this point. I was too busy folded over laughing with tears in my eyes. “So, you’re not Joe Smith?” she said. “Oh wait, he’s in room 154.” My side was hurting. “And you’re not Brian Jones? Oh no, he’s in 157.”
Was this lady kidding us? I swore Ashton Kutcher was going to come through the door at any minute. We wrote down our names on the back of a business card hoping that visually seeing our names would help her remember.
“Who’s credit card did you give me?” she asked. Ben’s simple reply: “One that I regret.” I thought I was going to explode. She finally came to the conclusion that she had already checked us in even though we had just arrived. She had to send the security guard up to a third room to make sure that no people were there before we finally got a chance to crash. Keep in mind that it was 3:30 in the morning at this point.
It was such a ridiculous experience, but was totally worth it for the road story.
One of the highlights from our visit to New York was the tour of the Conjuring Arts Research Center given to us by Ricky Smith. (It was super cool to see a copy of High Spotssitting on the shelf there.) Ricky is a one of a kind individual with a killer sense of humor. He’s also a find card man. He invited Ben and I to perform for a few people around the office. Here’s Ben’s performance:
After leaving Conjuring Arts we made our way to the Museum of Modern Art. Unfortunately it was closed, but we did spend about an hour in the gift shop. Go figure.
The lecture was later that night for SAM Parent Assembly #1. A great group of guys showed up to take part in the fun. My favorite part was during my explanation of Holy BLANK when I started to explain Ken Krenzel’s Monte Plus Move… with Ken Krenzel sitting in the front row.
Asi Wind attended as well and stuck around for dinner afterward. Asi is one of my new favorite magicians. I had the opportunity to interact with him briefly a few weeks ago at the Magifest Convention. He gave an extremely good lecture. I bought everything he had for sale. I highly recommend his Switcher gimmick.
I also had the chance to meet Doug McKenzie who is David Blaine’s head consultant. He is famous for stealing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s watch in front of his security detail. The watch was later auctioned back to Mayor Giuliani to raise money for charity. At dinner, Doug show us some amazing and sophisticated memorized deck material… he also ate a lit cigarette. What a cool guy.
I really enjoyed spending time with all of the guys in New York including Alex Pandrea, Joshua Jay, and a whole host of others. By the way, Josh is busy working on his new one man show at the moment. He is such a creative thinker and a really hard worker. So much thought has gone into this new production. It’s going to be amazing. Alex is busy working on a brand new magic website called The Blue Crown. Check it out when you get a chance.
Tomorrow, I’ll post videos from our travels to Philadelphia, PA.
New York City was one of the coolest stops on the tour. Tony Chang was a great host. We got a chance to crash at his place and see some really cool magic. He also took us to some amazing restaurants around the city. I only knew Tony from our interactions on the internet magic forums and the videos he posts to his blog. It was nice to finally meet him in person. He’s a funny guy with some amazing chops.
What’s great about Tony is that even though he focuses on some pretty difficult sleight of hand, he always has his audience at the top of his mind. As much as I liked hanging out with him myself, the best moment was seeing him perform for a group of laymen late at night at the bar. Before we left for Philadelphia, Tony was kind enough to let me film him doing one of my favorite tricks of his to share with all of you. Take a look:
We visited Tannen’s Magic Shop as well as Fantasma Magic where David freakin’ Roth was demonstrating at the counter. At Fantasma I also had the chance to meet Doug Edwards. He was a fun guy to hang around and he showed me this really cool move that could be used at the card table just as easily as it could be used in a magic trick. Basically, it’s just an add-on of the Aces. But it looks completely natural and invisible. Here’s the real work as they say:
Eric Hu was another cool guy we spent a lot of time with in New York. He showed me his version of John Guastaferro’s “Tailspin” and I just had to have it for the blog. I really like his “mystery cards” presentation. It changes the effect from a normal “twisting” routine to more of a transposition. It also motivates one of the phases perfectly. Ok, enough talk, let’s check out the performance.
I’ve got more videos from New York. I’ll try to post them tomorrow.
In the cities leading up to our trip to Montreal, I heard two things from most people I talked to:
1. Montreal is very “European”
2. Try the poutine
After some GPS issues, Ben and I arrived to meet up with Derrick Chung for a late lunch in Chinatown. Derrick had asked me before we arrived what kind of places I would like to eat at. I told him that I didn’t care but I wanted to be adventurous. The next thing I know we’re entering an authentic Vietnamese restaurant (another first for me) and ordering snail soup. I was excited to give it a try even though I was really only doing it for the experience. When it arrived, however, I thought it was awesome! This city was off to a great start.
We met up later with Grant McSorley who I only knew through a magic forum we both frequent. Even though he had never met me, he was cool enough to let me crash at his place for a couple of days. Is it just me, or are magicians way too trusting? We watched a few magic DVDs, laughed at his cat (Jerome McGreggor), and sessioned until early into the next morning. Grant had a bunch of cool things to show. I’m constantly amazed that I can spend SO much time studying card magic and still see things that are new to me. It was a lot of fun.
We did the lecture the next day for a great group of magicians. I got the chance to meet Yves Tourigny, Ekaterina, and many others. And yes, I did get a chance to try the poutine. For those not familiar with it, poutine is a dish consisting of French fries topped with fresh cheese curds and covered with brown gravy. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? Let’s just say that I would much prefer the snail soup.
I’ll be back tomorrow with tales (and videos) from my time spent in New York City.
After leaving Toronto, Ben and I headed to Ottawa to hang out with Eric Leclerc. He’s an amazing magician and a really cool guy. I was first introduced to Eric’s magic when he was featured on Jay Sankey’s Underground Jam DVD. For my money, Eric was the standout performer for sure. I immediately added his “Final Cap in Bottle” to my repertoire.
Then, in 2011, Eric began a project 365 video blog on youtube where he posts a new magic trick every single day. I’ve already talked about Calen Morelli’s 365 project, but Eric’s goals are completely different. While Calen’s videos are geared towards magicians, Eric’s efforts are aimed at laymen. He does a great job of keeping each episode entertaining and his personality really comes across. Make sure to SUBSCRIBE to Eric’s youtube page to watch each episode.
While we were jamming after the lecture, Eric asked me if I would be interested in filming something for his project. I chose to perform one of my favorite effects, Holy BLANK. Check out my performance below and you’ll also be treated to a few chords played by the one and only Ben Train.
If you want to learn more about Holy BLANK, please visit my PRODUCT PAGE.