Magic Video Tutorials

By Tom Interval

I’m working on some semi-informal video tutorials by request. This one is 9 minutes and covers how to fan a deck of cards using a basic, very old method called the thumb fan:

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Nielsen Poster Auction Tomorrow Morning

By Tom Interval

The Nielsen Collection Part I catalog cover

The Nielsen Collection Part I catalog cover

Talk about a labor of love.

For the last quarter of a century, celebrated magician Norm Nielsen and his wife, Lupe, have amassed one of the most significant magic-poster collections in the world.

And not reproductions you can buy at a magic shop but original lithographs and other prints representing what magicians call the “golden age” of magic, from around the late 1800s to the 1930s.

With the advent of his own golden age and a genuine desire to have others own a piece of magic history, Norm decided to sell the collection, half of which will be auctioned off by Potter & Potter tomorrow morning at 10:00. The second half of The Nielsen Collection will be auctioned early next year.

The Nielsen collection exhibition room at Potter & Potter (Photo: Simone Marron)

The Nielsen collection exhibition room at Potter & Potter (Photo: Simone Marron)

Tomorrow’s offerings—324 listings—feature the posters of some of the world’s most renowned magicians, including Harry Houdini, Harry Kellar, Howard Thurston, Harry Blackstone, Leon Herrmann, and many others. The auction also will include posters of contemporary performers, such as Doug Henning, David Copperfield, James Randi, and Ricky Jay.

“Norm and I retain a loving attachment to the collection,” wrote Lupe in the introduction of the auction catalog, “so much so that in letting it go we feel we are selling pieces of our lives and souls.”

If you’re interested in bidding on any of the posters, you can do so in person (in Chicago), on the phone, or online. You might be required to fill out an absentee bidding form; for details, visit the Buying page of the Potter & Potter website.

Related Links:

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A Royal Pain

By Tom Interval

A young heckler

A young heckler

Paul Daniels, the brilliant UK magician who sadly died a few months ago, once got a call from a prominent woman asking him to perform for a children’s party. Although Paul normally didn’t perform for children, he made an exception.

There was a young boy in the audience making noise, blurting out what he thought was the secret to the classic Chinese linking rings trick, and basically disrupting the show at every turn. Paul had had enough.

He told the child to approach the performing area, grabbed him by the lapels, picked him straight up, and said, “Now look, son, one day you will be King of England, and then you can have my head chopped off. But in the mean time, you will sit down, you will shut up, and you will be good because this isn’t your party and you mustn’t spoil it.”

From the audience, the prominent woman gave Paul the double thumbs-up as she whispered, “Yes, yes, yes!” No one had spoken to the child like that before. Why? Because the boy was a young Prince William, a guest of the prominent woman—Princess Michael.

Today William celebrates his 34th birthday.

William, second in line to the British throne, is a helicopter pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) in the UK. As far as I know, magic is not one of his hobbies. But it’s no surprise he heckled Paul during the linking-rings routine. William’s father, Prince Charles, is an amateur magician and member of The Magic Circle in London. During his childhood, William must have seen Charles perform many magic tricks, including the linking rings.

To hear Paul tell this story in his own words, watch his video on YouTube. He also mentions it in his autobiography, Under No Illusion.


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In Memory of Dante the Magician

By Tom Interval

Dante (Harry August Jansen)

Dante (Harry August Jansen)

Harry August Jansen—the renowned magician known as Dante—died 61 years ago today.

Born in Denmark on October 3, 1883, Dante was one of the last of the great performers of the Golden Age of magic. Others before him included Alexander Herrmann (1844–1896), Harry Kellar (1849–1922), and Howard Thurston (1869–1936).

Dante emigrated to the United States when he was a child and went on to become one of the most famous magicians of his era, performing such illusions as Sawing A Woman In Half, Backstage, and Cords of Phantasia.

He died of a heart attack at his ranch in Northridge (Los Angeles), California, and is buried at the San Francisco Columbarium.

Further Reading:

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Harry Blackstone Jr. Died 19 Years Ago Today

By Tom Interval

Harry Blackstone, Jr. and 14-year-old San Diego magician Tom Interval

Harry Blackstone Jr. and 14-year-old San Diego magician Tom Interval, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1981

In memory of Harry Blackstone Jr., who died on this day 19 years ago, I’m posting this photo again.  I met him in Pittsburgh on June 4, 1981, when my father, Jerry Interval, a professional photographer, was hired to take stills of Harry filming a car commercial. I wrote about the experience on my blog a few years ago on the day of his birthday: Harry Blackstone Jr. Born 79 Years Ago Today. Here’s to your immortality, Harry.

Harry Blackstone Jr.
(June 30, 1934 – May 14, 1997)



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Bill Bixby’s Floating Ball

By Tom Interval

From 1973–1974, Bill Bixby starred in The Magician, a prime-time television series about a wealthy magician who uses his unique skills to outwit bad guys trying to victimize those who ask for the conjurer’s help. In this popular promotional photo, Bixby is levitating a steel ball, a classic trick known in the magic circle as the Zombie Ball. The image was begging to be animated, so I obliged. Hope you enjoy. Keep your eyes open for more posts about Bixby and The Magician in the near future. (Animation copyright 2016 Tom Interval)

Bill Bixby as The Magician. Animation Copyright 2016 Tom Interval.

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Happy 81st, Harry!

By Tom Interval

Harry Blackstone Jr., Pittsburgh, 1981 (Photo: Jerry Interval)

Harry Blackstone Jr., Pittsburgh, 1981 (Photo: Jerry Interval)

Harry Blackstone Jr., the last great Golden Age-caliber magician, would have celebrated his 81st birthday today. Born on June 30, 1934, Harry was a superb entertainer whose classic style was, and is, unmatched in the world of magic. His commanding, honey-smooth speaking voice, flawless comic timing, original magic illusions, affable demeanor, and keen business sense, made him one of the most sought-after performers of his time. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting him in 1981. I could go on and on about that experience, but I’ll save you time by linking to my June 30, 2013, blog entry instead. Wordy tale concise, I got to meet him and speak with him at length during a television commercial shoot, where my father was hired to take still photos. If you have time, please read that blog entry; it’s one of my fondest childhood memories. Anyway, Happy birthday, Harry!

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