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Open Sesame: Magic Castle Performance Review

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The Old World Siberian Chain Escape by Aaron Smith.

The release of my Old World Siberian Chain Escape met with tremendous success. I am very thankful for the support I get from the magic community—humbled by the response. But it is a double-edged sword. I make each Escape by hand with painful—literally!—attention to detail. After a solid week of burning-hot chains melting my skin and the blistering sparks of welding debris bouncing off my arms, I decided to take a break…

And off to The Magic Castle I went!

My good friend Gerald Kirchner, CEO of Magic City, offered to drive (that’s a big deal in L.A. traffic). He charged up his new all-electric Nissan Leaf, and we made our way to The Castle for a night of magic.

Gerald weaved masterfully through the streets of Hollywood, and despite a wrong turn suggested by yours truly, we pulled up in front of the legendary mansion in record time. A valet greeted us and Funny Eddie Medrano walked us into the lobby. With an “open sesame,” the bookshelf moved to reveal the private club.

Bruce Gold is an Emcee Centerpiece

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Bruce Gold’s performance of The Floating Table was extraordinary. He takes it to a whole new level.

The first show of the evening was in the Palace of Mystery, emceed by Bruce Gold. I have followed Bruce on Facebook for a while and was eager to see his magic. Bruce introduced the acts, Chris Randall and David & Dania, but in a lucky twist, David & Dania’s show required extra setup time, so we were treated to extra Gold.

Bruce Gold could read the instruction manual to an Ikea kitchen table and the audience would hang onto every word. He is a superb speaker, an excellent showman, and a skilled magician. All three understatements in my opinion.

Bruce has a celebrity-like presence he uses to enhance even the most basic movements. His performance of The Floating Table is the best I have ever seen. In fact, I overheard a layman remark later about how the table came out over the audience. Only someone with Bruce’s reach—both physically and magically—could create such an illusion.

You can learn more about the smooth and charismatic Bruce Gold on his website and on his Facebook page.

John George Fills the Room

John and I are about the same height, which isn’t saying much. But John’s skills—both with an audience and with his props—are enormous.

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John George is a likable guy, but don’t let that fool you. He packs remarkable talent behind that innocent persona.

I first met John at an IBM convention in Dallas a few years ago, where he solved a Rubik’s Cube in about thirty seconds. I asked John if he had any tips for the cube, and he said it is virtually impossible for a normal person to solve a Rubik’s Cube without help; going online, watching a video, or having someone teach you a method. When I returned home from the convention, I accepted the challenge and manically worked with the cube, learning to solve it without any assistance. When Gerald and I told John about my endeavor, he said, “See? I was right. You’re not a normal person, Aaron.”

A compliment and a rub, cubed! Well played, Mr. George.

Rarely do you find a full-time, working magician with John George’s technical proficiency. Without naming names, I have personally heard some of the most decorated members of our craft discussing John’s act behind his back, bestowing on him compliments of the highest order.

But it isn’t just John George’s dexterity that makes him a good magician. His persona on stage is also impressive. He combines both disciplines seamlessly into one entertaining performer. The Closeup Gallery came alive within seconds of John George entering the room, and he engaged the whole audience while executing flawless magic.

You can see his early work on the Closeup Magic of John George DVD, and even learn some material for your own show. However, if you ever get to see him live, you will walk away having witnessed one of the best closeup magicians alive today. Visit John George’s website for more information.

Will Fern is Crazy Entertaining

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Will Fern’s show was the most exciting I have seen in years. He is incredibly funny and has amazing range.

I spoke to Will Fern twice. Once before his show, next to the bar (don’t ask me which one, they all taste the same to me), and then after his show. I remember having two very distinct impressions of the guy during both meetings. In the first conversation, I found him calm and courteous. If I had to guess, an executive maybe. Or perhaps a well-dressed high school principle who pastored on the weekend.

After his show, standing next to his dressing room, I was in awe of a genius. Well, of a genius and of the blow-up doll dressed in a mermaid outfit Will uses for one of his mentalism routines. What had I just witnessed? The calm guy I met earlier was replaced with a Gangnam-style version of himself. It was the same guy, just 1000 times funnier with an explosion of stored energy.

Will Fern is a master at layering one effect on top of the next. He overlapped a series of tricks, calling each one back and incorporating it into following routines. For instance, he performed a book test, [believably] gets it wrong, apologizes and moves on to a Kozar type prediction effect. Later in the show, the before mentioned mermaid assists him in revealing the numbers and the word from the book test.

His show is quite complex… not cluttered, just “full.” And it takes a master of layout to properly routine such an act properly. I can’t wait to see Will Fern’s show again, but if he picked me to help him on stage, I would be a little nervous!

You can read more about Will Fern on his website.

Walking the Halls of The Magic Castle

milt_larsenBack at the bar—a different one this time—Gerald introduced me to his friends Dale Hindman and Milt Larsen. Walking through the hallway, I heard a loud Joe Monti-like sound that turned out to be Joe Monti. He was “performing” something with his shoes that will definitely stand out in my mind as one of the strangest things I have ever seen at The Magic Castle. Actually, I laughed so hard I cried a little.

It was getting late, so we made our way to the front room. I shook hands with Franz Harary and he graciously introduced me to the group at the bar. We chatted for a bit and then Chris Randall performed a cellphone in balloon routine. A unique pleasure, as I happen to know a thing or two about putting cellphones in interesting places.

And with that, Gerald and I hopped into his Nissan Leaf and drove back through L.A., all the way to Long Beach.  Thanks to that wrong turn I suggested at the beginning of our adventure, we had used more charge than originally planned. Thus, we conserved energy by traveling the freeway at 41 miles per hour—40 being the minimum speed of course. Gerald squeezed a 90 mile journey out of an 80% charge.

Now, with a nod of the head, my welding helmet falls into place. Back to The Old World Siberian Chain Escape!

Please, share your Castle stories in the comments

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About Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith, owner of The Magic Depot, is a writer, illustrator, and magic creator. Follow Best Kept Secrets and The Magic Depot @magicdepot on Twitter.

  • Bob

    As a young magician I was in awe of Mark Wilson and his Magic Circus shows from the late 60’s-early 70’s; THAT’S the kind of magic I wanted to do! ( Never got that far!) Flash forward 45 years or so to last Dec. I was attending a local Ring meeting at the Castle and tried to go to the late show but it was cancelled due to lack of people. This turned out to be a good thing because as I was wandering the halls debating whether to go home or not, an older (than me) woman who walked in through a back door came up to me and calmly introduced herself as NANI DARNELL!! After nearly fainting, I of course started blubbering about what a huge fan I was and am, etc; SHE says, (looking over my right shoulder) I’m sure he’d like to hear that himself! I look to my right, and the legend that is Mark Wilson is standing next to me! He says “Hi, I’m Mark Wilson”. I’m like, no kidding! You know, the man’s in his eighties, he just finished a 2 hour lecture and is tired, but he stands there with me for several minutes graciously spending time asking ME about MY magic, and thanking me for my interest in his shows, etc.! What an amazing chance encounter I’ll always remember!

    • http://www.mrgadfly.com/ MRGADFLY

      Thanks for sharing, Bob! That’s a great story. They say you should never meet your heros, but “they” weren’t magicians :o)