Monthly Archives: December 2017

A Magical Christmas Story

Ever since I was about seven years old and had fallen in love with magic, I told “Santa” that I no longer wanted any toys or games; just magic tricks (of which I always made out a long list). And every Christmas, the living room would be filled to overflowing with so many tricks that, even as a child I would think, “This is almost too much!” This would go on until I was 16 years old. That was when I wanted a particular magic book for Christmas.

Now, in those days magic books were not nearly as expensive as they are today. A expensive magic book back then might cost $10.00. But one day I saw an ad in a magic magazine for a new book on one of my favorite magicians, Okito Bamberg. It was to be a very limited, numbered edition. I immediately knew that I had to get it! That is, until I looked at the price. The price was to be the unheard of amount of $60.00!!

But I wanted it so much that, that year for Christmas, I told my parents that I didn’t want any other presents. I just wanted that book. They asked if I was really sure, and I said, yes I definitely was! So that Christmas, for the first time, the living room was not filled to overflowing, but with just a single present under the tree. Ever since then whenever I look at the book on my shelf, it reminds of that very special Christmas back in 1973.

Johnny (Jonah) Angel

Here’s a song I’m re-sharing that has meaning for me on several levels. First, I remember growing up and watching this on the Donna Reed Show. But more importantly it makes me think of my late friend, Jonah Emsig. We used to work together for the Big Apple Circus clowning for kids in hospitals. Now, I DON’T SING AT ALL. But Jonah would insist that we sing this song to the kids making them and the staff crack up. It was a lot of fun. We sang it so much that Jonah even gave me the CD of it one year for my birthday. This month it will be 11 years since loosing Jonah much too young to cancer. However, I know how much he would have loved my sharing “our song.”

Another great thing to watch in this video is Donna Reed’s wonderful acting – being able to show such a range of emotions such as surprise, confusion, and being proud of her on-screen daughter without saying a word.

Now, for the ironic part. Even though I can’t sing, and despite my protestations to Jonah, I sang this song to kids in hospitals. The producer of the Donna Reed show was very much insistent on Shelly Fabares singing this newly written song on the show. Ironically, in an interview Shelley Fabares later confessed that she also COULDN’T SING AT ALL! She said she was not being modest but really couldn’t sing a note. She told the producer and said that she really didn’t want to record the song. The producer calmly asked her if she liked acting on the show? (Yes) And did she want to come back the next season? (Yes) Ahem. Shelley got the message. She recorded the song as best she could and after they “fixed it in the studio” it became a mega hit.

The 20th Century Silks

One of my favorite magic tricks is called the “20th Century Silks.” This is where two handkerchiefs are tied together and placed in a glass. A third handkerchief is then made to disappear and is later found tied between the two knotted ones.

I can still vividly remember seeing it for the first time when I was eight years old during a performance by our local magician, Larry Shean, at my cub scout pack’s Blue & Gold dinner. Even realizing now what was not a particularly remarkable handling, it still impressed me more than anything else he did.

Soon afterwards I began learning magic myself and as soon as I was able, I added the “20th Century Silks” to my little act. Unfortunately the first time I tried it was in my Fifth Grade class and I muffed it up. But I kept at it and it became a staple of my act for many years. Eventually I improved my handling by adding a startling and visible vanish of the handkerchief from a glass. Eventually I found out that 50 years earlier the great magician, Nate Leipzig, had also performed it the exact same way.

Over the years magicians have made light of my doing what they thought was an old and hackneyed trick; that it was not “edgy” enough for today’s audiences. But my experience has been just the opposite. I recently re-introduced the trick back into my act after many years and it is going over better than ever.

Just tonight I was reading a review of Leipzig’s act by the magician, Ellis Stanyon from 1906. Stanyon subtly dismissed the trick saying that the techniques Leipzig employed were commonplace (even back in 1906) and readily available in books of the time. But the last line of his review indicated that Stanyon himself was surprised at how well the trick went over. He wrote, “This trick, which was well and smartly worked, secured for the performer unusual applause.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Here is a photo of the master, Nate Leipzig, around the time he would be performing it.