Happy Birthday, Erik!

By Tom Interval

Erik Weisz (Houdini), 1877, age 3
Erik Weisz (Houdini), 1877, age 3

Today is Harry Houdini’s 147th birthday. Happy birthday, Harry! You don’t look a day older than three! At least in the accompanying video and photo.

Before Houdini was Houdini, he was Erik Weisz, born on March 24, 1874. After moving with his family from Budapest, Hungary, to the United States in 1878, his name was Americanized to Ehrich Weiss.

Ehrich would start calling himself Houdini in the early 1890s, borrowing the name from his then-hero, French conjurer Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, often referred to as “the father of modern magic.” Harry’s first name was derived from his boyhood nickname, “Ehri” or “Ehrie.”

Houdini, who, at various times in his life, called himself the “king of cards,” the “king of handcuffs,” the “master mystifier,” and “the greatest necromancer of the age,” among many other things, had much more than a penchant for hyperbole. He forged an unprecedented career as a death-defying escape artist, magician, actor, author, pilot, and debunker of Spiritualism.

But his most extraordinary feat? Molding himself into a legend whose name will live on for eternity. Happy birthday, Erik!

To learn more about Houdini, I highly recommend Ken Silverman’s biography, Houdini!!!: The Career of Ehrich Weiss. There are many others, but I think Silverman’s is the best to date. For younger readers, Harry Houdini: Death-Defying Showman, by Rita Thievon Mullin, Spellbinder: The Life of Harry Houdini, by Tom Lalicki, and Escape!: The Story of the Great Houdini, by Sid Fleischman, are good starting points. Young or old, there certainly is no shortage of Houdini biographies. And to thoroughly supplement your reading, be sure the check out John Cox’s outstanding Houdini blog, Wild About Harry.

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Smitten with Mittens

Houdini, Bess, and company, Welsh Bros. Circus, circa 1898.

#BernieSandersMittens

Image manipulation by Tom Interval

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Cardistry in 1899

By Tom Interval

Modern cardistry, the art of card flourishing and manipulation for the sole purpose of showing off, dates back to about the early 2000s with its pioneers Brian Tudor and Dan and Dave Buck.

Although its origin is linked to the Sybil cut, first published in 1992 in Chris Kenner’s Totally Out of Control, the term “cardistry” appeared as early as December 19, 1899, page 3, of The Portsmouth Herald, which reported a performance of Boston “magician and cardist” Bennett Springer at the Warwick Club in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The short article spoke of Springer’s “tricks in cardistry, sleights and flourishes with cards” and described them as “his manipulation of the wonderful” that “won him rounds of applause.”

I just added that historical bit to the History of cardistry Wikipedia page, but I wanted to include the actual article here in case anyone wanted to see it for themselves. I don’t know precisely which card flourishes “Prof. Springer” performed, but I’m pretty sure it was nothing like what some of the kids are calling XCM (extreme card manipulation), otherwise known as flourishing or cardistry.

It’s worth noting that Springer is referred to in at least one or two other early news pieces as a “cartist” (with a “t”) as he was in the Hollis Times of March 4, 1921, p. 8. “His card work was more than ordinarily good,” writes the paper. In those days, maybe the manipulations he did were, relatively speaking, pretty extreme. Whatever the case, I think it’s pretty interesting how far back the term “cardistry” goes.

The Portsmouth Herald, December 19, 1899, p. 3

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In Memory of Houdini

By Tom Interval

Harry Houdini (1874–1926), the world’s most famous pioneering escapologist, showman, and magician, died 94 years ago today. In memory of the man who inspired several generations of aspiring mystery men, including me. Happy Halloween, Harry.

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Houdini Jack-o’-Lantern 2020

By Tom Interval

Here’s the latest installment of my annual Houdini jack-o’-lantern. I’ve been carving these since about 2009 or 2010. See below for a few pictures outlining the basic steps.

Step 1: I chose this photo.
Step 2: I converted it to a greatly simplified, high-contrast image.
Step 3: I created a template in Word, printed it, outlined it, and traced it onto the pumpkin with a pin.
Step 4: I removed the template before carving along the pin holes.
And voila! The finished jack-o’-lantern.

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Online Children’s Magic Classes Scheduled

By Tom Interval

Do you know any little wizards or wizardesses? In other words, children who are crazy about magic? If so, I highly recommend enrolling them in one of my online magic classes for students ages 9 through 18 (see list below).

Yes, I’m a little bias, but I believe the kids in your life will love these classes. And so will you. Why? Because the price of each class is the lowest I’ve offered in my 35 years of teaching magic.

I don’t want to sound like an infomercial, but my regular base rate for remote video classes and private lessons is $50 per hour, still not a bad deal considering every lesson is followed up by a video tutorial and a lifetime of email or phone support. (Of course, I’m talking about my lifetime.)

The one-time classes below are taught through Outschool and The Paradox Lab, and they start at only $15 for an hour and top out at $35 for a 90-minute session. All classes are taught through Zoom. To learn more, please follow the Learn More links.

Creative Card Tricks Using One Secret Every Young Magician Must Know (Ages 9–13)
Thursday May 7 or Friday May 8 2020, 11:00–12:00 p.m. or 2:00–3:00 p.m. (PST)
A professional magician teaches one of the greatest secrets of card magic that students can use to tap their creativity and invent their own mind-blowing card tricks.
Learn More

Magic: An Introduction (Ages 14–18)
Monday May 11 through Friday May 22, 2020 (follow link to see all 18 time slots)
In this beginner-level magic class, students will learn the most important principles of magic performance and misdirection and apply them to an easy, yet mind-boggling, card trick, setting the foundation for future magic lessons.
Learn More

Magic and the Mind: Make a Card Vanish in Your Hand (Ages 8–10)
Wednesday May 13 OR Wednesday May 20, 2020, 4:00–5:00 p.m. (PST)
This is a one-time lesson in which students learn how to perform a vanishing card trick and how the brain’s attentional resources allow us to be fooled by such magic tricks. This is a fun way to learn about critical thinking and the workings of attention in the brain!
Learn More

Magic and the Mind: Make a Card Vanish in Your Hand (Ages 11–14)
Friday May 15 OR Friday May 22, 2020, 4:00–5:00 p.m. (PST)
This is a one-time lesson in which students learn how to perform a vanishing card trick, and learn how the brain’s attentional resources allow us to be fooled by such magic tricks. This is a fun way to learn about critical thinking and the workings of attention in the brain!
Learn More

 

 

 

#magicclasses #magiclessons #sandiego #classes #lessons #children #kids #youth

Magic classes, San Diego, magician

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5-Week Magic Classes for Adults and Children Start March 29

By Tom Interval

Adult Magic Classes San DiegoNew to magic or need a refresher? Learn mind-bogglingly fun magic that will leave your friends and family amazed and entertained. Register now for one of two separate five-week magic classes for adults or children, to occur on Sundays from March 29 to April 26, 2020.

The magic:

  • Make something disappear
  • Perform astonishing card tricks
  • Destroy something and magically restore it
  • Read someone’s mind and predict the future
  • Cause three small balls to penetrate three cups

The philosophy:

Although you’ll learn a small repertoire of awesome tricks, no matter how simple or complex a trick is, the true secret is you. Your personality. Your sense of humor. They must like you before they like the tricks.

The classes:

Children's Magic Classes San DiegoThere are two separate five-week classes: one for adults (ages 18+) and one for children (ages 9–17). Each individual lesson lasts one and a half hours. No other magic class in San Diego is as comprehensive. Class size is limited, so please register early.

The location:

Classes will take place in my residence on Georgia Street in North Park, about one mile from the San Diego Zoo (all students under the age of 18 must be accompanied by one parent or guardian). Map

The cost:

The cost is $295 for 7.5 hours of instruction, a 51% savings compared to my hourly rate for one-on-one instruction. Includes all supplies, follow-up video tutorials, and support via phone or email. Pay with cash, check, or credit card (via secure PayPal checkout on the registration page for either adult or children’s classes). Payment must be received by March 29.

Reviews:

Such a great experience! I knew nothing about magic before I met Tom. He’s just the right combination of performer, technician, and enthusiast. His passion comes through in his teaching. You not only learn the techniques, but the spirit behind the trick, the nuances, and the patter and presentation that make them so good. After my first couple lessons I was able to perform a handful of tricks for my friends and they were blown away. As you learn, you get to see his ability first hand as a performer. Tom Interval is the real deal.
–Eric E., Scottsdale, AZ

My son has always loved magic and recently asked if he could take lessons. Tom’s name appeared on a Google search and he has many high reviews. Tom is an amazing detailed-oriented teacher. He is so passionate about teaching, his lessons often go over the hour he is paid. He is kind and patient and makes sure you understand and can perform the magic trick correctly. My son looks forward to his lesson every week. Highly recommend.
–Kirsten A., San Diego, CA

Read more

Register:

The Teacher:

My name is Tom Interval, a professional magician based in San Diego. Having taught magic to adults and children for more than 30 years, I consider teaching one of my all-time favorite pursuits. Read more

REGISTER NOW

 

Magic, magic classes, magic lessons, magic instruction, San Diego

 

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5-Week Magic Classes for Adults and Children Start Dec. 15

By Tom Interval

New to magic or need a refresher? Learn mind-bogglingly fun magic that will leave your friends and family amazed and entertained. Register now for one of two separate five-week magic classes for adults or children, to occur on Sundays from December 15, 2019 to January 12, 2020.

The magic:

  • Make something disappear
  • Perform astonishing card tricks
  • Destroy something and magically restore it
  • Read someone’s mind and predict the future
  • Cause three small balls to penetrate three cups

The philosophy:

Although you’ll learn a small repertoire of awesome tricks, no matter how simple or complex a trick is, the true secret is you. Your personality. Your sense of humor. They must like you before they like the tricks.

The classes:

There are two separate five-week classes: one for adults (ages 18+) and one for children (ages 9–17). Each individual lesson lasts one and a half hours. No other magic class in San Diego is as comprehensive. Class size is limited, so please register early.

The location:

Classes will take place in my residence on Georgia Street in North Park, about one mile from the San Diego Zoo (all students under the age of 18 must be accompanied by one parent or guardian). Map

The cost:

The cost is $295 for 7.5 hours of instruction, a 51% savings compared to my hourly rate for one-on-one instruction. Includes all supplies, follow-up video tutorials, and support via phone or email. Pay with cash, check, or credit card (via secure PayPal checkout on the registration page for either adult or children’s classes). Payment must be received by December 15.

Reviews:

Such a great experience! I knew nothing about magic before I met Tom. He’s just the right combination of performer, technician, and enthusiast. His passion comes through in his teaching. You not only learn the techniques, but the spirit behind the trick, the nuances, and the patter and presentation that make them so good. After my first couple lessons I was able to perform a handful of tricks for my friends and they were blown away. As you learn, you get to see his ability first hand as a performer. Tom Interval is the real deal.
–Eric E., Scottsdale, AZ

My son has always loved magic and recently asked if he could take lessons. Tom’s name appeared on a Google search and he has many high reviews. Tom is an amazing detailed-oriented teacher. He is so passionate about teaching, his lessons often go over the hour he is paid. He is kind and patient and makes sure you understand and can perform the magic trick correctly. My son looks forward to his lesson every week. Highly recommend.
–Kirsten A., San Diego, CA

Read more

Register:

The Teacher:

My name is Tom Interval, a professional magician based in San Diego. Having taught magic to adults and children for more than 30 years, I consider teaching one of my all-time favorite pursuits. Read more

REGISTER NOW

 

Magic, magic classes, magic lessons, magic instruction, San Diego

 

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Houdini Jack-o’-Lantern 2019

By Tom Interval

Another Halloween, another Houdini jack-o’-lantern. I got a late start on this one and didn’t carve it until today—Halloween—the 93rd anniversary of Houdini’s death. Here’s a 10-second video for your entertainment pleasure. Scroll down to see a few pics of the pumpkin before the carving. Happy Halloween!

Hollowed-out pumpkin

Here’s the pumpkin after I hollowed it out.

Pumpkin with Houdini-face artwork attached

And here’s the pumpkin with the artwork ready to go.

Artwork with pinpricks

Here’s the artwork with pinpricks after I transferred the design to the pumpkin.

Finished Houdini jack-o'-lantern

And the finished Houdini jack-o’-lantern! Please also see the video above.

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The Greenhouse Effect: David Kotkin’s Early Magic Exposure and Performances

By Tom Interval

With temperatures a bit below average for a February evening in Metuchen, New Jersey, frigid weather was probably the last thing on nine-year-old David Kotkin’s mind.

David, a member of Metuchen Cub Scout Pack 70, received an award that night at the pack’s annual Blue and Gold dinner, held at the Presbyterian Social Center on Monday, February 21, 1966. But there was more in store for David than just the award.

David Kotkin, aspiring ventriloquist, circa 1966

David Kotkin, aspiring ventriloquist, circa 1966

At the time, David was practicing ventriloquism, inspired by his television-ventriloquist hero, Paul Winchell. However, sometime within the next year, he developed a serious interest in magic.

The stories of his magical origin vary depending on who you ask, but the one his mother, Rebecca, told was that she and David’s father, Hyman (known as Hy), brought him to Louis Tannen’s magic shop at 120 West 42nd Street in New York City to buy him a new ventriloquist puppet. During that first visit of many, David succumbed to magic’s enchantment and, within a few short years, would perform magic routines, such as the Dancing Cane, better than many professional entertainers, ultimately becoming a household name and the most commercially successful magician to date.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about David Copperfield, whose real surname is Kotkin.

Jack (left) and Ken Greenhouse. Clipping from The Sunday Home News, May 8, 1966.

Jack (left) and Ken Greenhouse. Clipping from The Sunday Home News, May 8, 1966.

Despite Rebecca’s claim, David’s earliest live exposure to magic might have been at that 1966 Cub Scout dinner, most likely before his visit to Tannen’s. The evening’s entertainers were two 13-year-old boys from nearby Perth Amboy, New Jersey: magician Jack Greenhouse, aka “The Great Jaquini,” and his twin brother, Ken, a ventriloquist who called his act “Ken and Clark” (Clark, of course, being the puppet).

I found no written account of which magic routines Jack performed that particular evening, but it’s fascinating to visualize young David—a future magic superstar—in the audience watching the magician instead of being the magician. The Central New Jersey Home News, dated Thursday, February 24, 1966, reported the dinner a few days later, mentioning not only the Greenhouse boys but also David.

It’s not clear what effect the Greenhouses’ performance had on David or if he was friends with them, but it wouldn’t be too long before he, himself, would entertain publicly as a magician. According to John MacIver, a Clementon, New Jersey, resident who grew up in Metuchen the same time David did, Hy’s friend, Mr. Webb, drove David to his first show at the Kiwanis club when David was around 11 or 12.

Although John doesn’t remember more precisely when that show occurred, on February 22, 1969, 12-year-old David performed as “Davino the boy magician” at Watchung Hills Regional High School for a program called “Magic and Movies,” sponsored by the American Field Service (AFS). Here’s an announcement in The Courier-News of February 17, 1969:

While David must have done several more gigs throughout 1969 and 1970, the next record of Davino performing appears in the same newspaper almost two years later, announcing a show he would give on December 5, 1970, at Metuchen’s Franklin School, now the site of a residential development:

Seven months after his show at Franklin School, “the Great Davino,” now 14 years old, performed at Port Reading School #9 in nearby Woodbridge Township, as recorded in this Courier-News clipping from July 19, 1971:

Four months later, on November 21, 1971, “Davino and his Magic Doves” performed pro bono at the Rutgers College Student Center for a charity hosted by a local Kiwanis club. The Sunday Home News announced it two weeks earlier:

I assume the paper copped the phrase from the business card David used around that time: “The entertaining magic of Davino and his Magic Doves.” Here’s an image of the card, courtesy of MacIver, who recently sold it:

The following year, David, a 15-year-old junior member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM), attended Ring 200 meetings between at least January and June at a church located at 1212 Livingston Ave. in North Brunswick, New Jersey. (For the uninitiated, a “ring,” derived from the classic magic trick, the linking rings, is the IBM’s term for a local branch or chapter of its organization.)

Davino, boy magician, would later become David Copperfield, world-renowned illusionist.

Davino, boy magician, would later become David Copperfield, world-renowned illusionist. Circa 1972.

Between April and September, David’s name appeared in Ring 200’s ring reports, published in The Linking Ring, the IBM’s membership journal. His ring performances included such feats as “a flashy ‘rope to cane’ effect,” a murder-mystery routine by Tony Spina called “Room for Doubt,” a comedy routine called “W.C. Fields Does A Card Trick,” the “Gypsy Thread,” and Karrell Fox’s “The Magician’s Helping Hand.” David’s performances at the ring prompted Jim Angelo, Ring 200 secretary at the time, to write, “Very ingenious, these young [magicians]!” and “A very funny idea, presented well,” referring to the Fox effect.

So it’s easy to see that even from his earliest days as a teenage magician, David preferred doing magic routines with stories—a performance style he honed to perfection and ultimately parlayed into artistic and financial success. However, for the time being, he would continue as Davino, but not for very long. The final published announcement I could find of him performing under that name appears in The Courier News of December 10, 1973, a few weeks before his library “Christmas magic show” on December 28:

Only a few months after that holiday show, in the spring of 1974, 17-year-old David placed an ad in Variety as “Magician-Actor David Copperfield,” probably one of the first printed uses of his new stage name, borrowed from the Charles Dickens character. That ad would lead to his first big break.

Clipping from the Echoes Sentinel, September 5, 1974

Clipping from the Echoes Sentinel, September 5, 1974

A producer in Chicago needed a young magician to play the lead role in a new musical called “The Magic Man.” He saw the ad and auditioned David. Before graduating from high school in June, David negotiated the part. Later that year, after teaching “The Art of Magic,” a class for the Watchung Hills Adult School enrichment program, he moved to Chicago to begin rehearsals.

The musical, in which David sang and danced as he performed a variety of original illusions, opened on December 12 at the First Chicago Center. During this time, the show was well-received, and David even attracted the attention of producer Norman Lear, who expressed interest in having David play the part of a magician in a sitcom, which apparently never materialized. “The Magic Man” ran for eight months, and David returned to New York, where he “starved for a few years,” as he put it in one interview.

David Copperfield (Photo: ABC Television)

David Copperfield (Photo: ABC Television)

That was probably a slight exaggeration because less than a year after “The Magic Man” closed, he starred in his first prime-time television special, The Magic of ABC, appearing with celebrities as they promoted the ABC lineup for 1977. The rest of David’s career is, as the idiom goes, history. For those too young to know that history, David went on to make a total of 18 annual prime-time television specials from 1977 to 1995, star in his own nightly show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, assemble one of the largest magic collections in the world, purchase 11 resort islands in the Bahamas, earn 38 Emmy nominations with 21 wins, and become one of the highest-earning celebrities in the world.

David Copperfield (Photo: Homer Liwag)

David Copperfield (Photo: Homer Liwag)

Whether or not David’s first exposure to magic was Jack Greenhouse’s performance at the Cub Scout dinner on that cold February night so many years ago, one thing is clear: He spent unfathomable amounts of time during his early years honing his unique style and working harder and smarter than most magicians of his day. While he’s done everything from performing film-inspired vignettes to making the Statue of Liberty disappear, David’s greatest feat of magic was transforming himself from a shy, lanky, adolescent ventriloquist into arguably the world’s finest modern illusionist.

 

 

david copperfield, david kotkin magicians, illusionists, jack greenhouse, ken greenhouse, jaquini, metuchen

 

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