Saturday, February 11, 2012

It's Magic

Ed Sullivan used to have a guest on once in a while called The Great Ballantine. He was a comic magician who always cracked me up...kind of like a Henny Youngman who did corny tricks. Some dormant part of my brain kicked in this morning to remind me of how, as a kid growing up, I was fascinated with magic. Every comic book had ads in the back pages for sure fire magic tricks guaranteed to mystify your friends. Some Fifties kids (like Johnny Carson who rode this interest to a successful career) really got hooked on magic. For me it was enough to mystify my friends, who were easily mystified by the way. Here are a few favorites I remember.

Guess the Card - For novice magicians, this was a simple trick involving nothing more than a deck of cards. You would ask a friend to pick a card from the deck, look at it, and replace it face down back in the deck. Of course every magician worth his
abracadabra had a little snappy patter to distract the mark so that he would not realize you had cut the deck and looked at the card that would now be on top of his card. You then shuffled the deck and, sifting through it, told your incredulous friend that his card was the ace of spades. The trick was easy to do, and the gimmack not immediately apparent to gullible nine year-olds.

Disappearing Coin Box - This trick involved a wooden box with a pull-out tray containing a cut-out circle where a coin would fit. You would bet your mark that you could make his coin disappear and then reappear. He would put his coin into the slot and then, with a flourish, you would slide the tray back into its recess. After uttering a few magic words, you would slide the tray back out to reveal an empty space where the coin had been. Finally, to allay the look of panic on your friend's face as he saw his nickel disappear, you would slide the empty tray back in, say the magic words, and pull it out again with the precious nickel back in its place. The trick of course was that the box had two trays, but a good magician never gave away his secrets.

The Chinese Handcuffs - Of course everyone today knows the secret of this trick, but back then it was fun to watch a kid struggling to get his fingers out of what looked like an innocent little tube made of straw. The harder they pulled, the tighter the cuffs became. The beauty of this device was its brilliant assumption that when people's fingers are stuck in something, they tend to try to pull them apart to get free. Chinese handcuffs were specifically designed to get tighter the harder one tried to pull free. The trick to escape was to push the fingers together, at which point the cuffs would give and release the trapped fingers. This was an especially satisfying trick to pull on bigger, stronger kids whose solution to everything was brute force.

The Money Maker - An ingenious contraption that made it appear that the magician could spin straw into gold, or to put it more mundanely, turn blank pieces of paper into money. You would ask the mark if he could use some extra money; the answer was always yes. You would then taks a pre-cut piece of white paper, feed it through the rollers of the Money Maker, and voilà, out came crisp, dollar bills. A variation on this miracle was to feed one dollar bills into the rollers and have five dollar bills come out. The trick was to pre-load the miracle money into the Money Maker so that it was not visible until the crank was turned. The rollers carried the blank paper to an unseen compartment as it rolled out the pre-loaded currency. This trick was always a show stopper.

Magic has come a long way. I get e-mails today showing magic tricks that dazzle and baffle me, but then like my gullible friends of yesteryear, I'm pretty easy to baffle these days.


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1 comment:

jiyoshin242 said...

This is amazing news. so.. impressive
series of "I have already come."
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