Posts in category magician Cris Johnson

New Book and REVIEW: Confessions of a Needle Swallower

Hi All,

First, some GREAT news – my buddy Paul Romhany told me today that his two new books are on their way to me! The first is his Headline Prediction book, of which I am a co-author. I’m super excited to see what Paul has done with this classic plot of mentalism.

The second book is volume two of Performing Mentalism for Young Minds book. Volume one was sensational! While I contributed to volume one with a couple of killer routines, I was nonetheless blown away by the quality of material in volume one. I’ve contributed to part two as well, but by the sounds of things, I’m going to be blown away again.

Also, I am looking for people to review my NEW book…but it’s not a magic book. This book is actually a book geared toward parents. The book is filled with tips and techniques to better improve communication with their kids. It’s highly influenced by my studies in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) which for lay purposes is the study of language patterns for communication.

If you want a FREE PDF copy of the book sent to you in a week or so (my projected finish) email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. The only “fee” for the book is you must agree to email me some quotes I can use when I market the book.

Also, I have a TON of new goodies coming to me. Here’s just some of what I’ll be reviewing over the coming weeks…(some is new stuff, some not so new):

Jitters by Peter Loughran
Butchers Blade by Tim Wisseman
The Black Box by John Kennedy
Comedy Ker-Plunk Wand by Tommy James
The Big Reaction by Andy Nyman
Slomotion

…and a few others on the way.

Now, because I’ve got “creepy” stuff on the mind (I’m putting together a seance), I’m going to review an oldie but a goodie: Confessions of a Needle Swallower by Steve Spill. It’s available for $49.95 from Hocus Pocus.

Here’s the Ad Copy:

Routines of this caliber only come along once in a very long time.

We are proud to offer Steve Spill’s incredible routine for the classic Needle Swallowing effect “Confessions of a Needle Swallower”. Over the years there have been a multitude of methods for performing this classic effect.

Many famous performers have and do feature this effect in their shows from Houdini to Penn & Teller. The reason is simple: this effect has it all, mystery, danger, intrigue and in Steve’s version COMEDY. Ask any agent in show business what’s the most important aspect of any variety performance and they’ll tell you it MUST be funny.

This is most important in a routine of this type. Audience’s come to a show to be entertained. Tricks in the “Geek” category must be handled correctly to get the most entertainment value from the performance.

“Confessions of a Needle Swallower” is the definitive routine. It’s all here. Steve’s method is totally practical and very safe. His presentation has natural comedy that any performer can score the big laughs with every show.

Pros are always looking for routines that pack flat and play big. “Confessions of a Needle Swallower” is it. The gimmick and needles weight about 2 GRAMS. Add in the spool of thread and the flashlight and your total weight is maybe an ounce or two!

But such small props just how big of an audience can you perform the routine for effectively. The answer really comes down to lighting. With a spotlight the needles shimmer and reflect the light. In fact I believe they show up better than razor blades. Razor blades on edge are basically invisible. Teller KILLS with his version of the Needles at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas before over 800 people!

Of course you can perform “Confessions of a Needle Swallower” in almost any situation from close-up, to parlor and stage.

So what’s the effect? The barebones are the performer places a single needle on his tongue and swallows it. A second needle is swallowed all under test conditions. The performers mouth is shown completely empty, under the tongue, under the top and bottom lips, the sides of the mouth. No doubt the needles have actually been swallowed. Twenty needles in all go down the gullet. Next a length of white cotton thread is swallowed. Now the impossible happens. You bring everything back up and all of the needles are now on the thread. It’s stunning!

Two things raise “Confessions of a Needle Swallower” apart from all of the other versions First; Steve’s method is brilliant and easy to do. Second, Steve’s presentation is hilarious. All you need to do is follow his script and you’re done, the big laughs are yours.

Included in the product are the training DVD and the special gimmick. “Confessions of a Needle Swallower” is sold without the needles, thread, threader and flashlight for two reasons. The first is to keep your costs down. You can buy the props for the same price we do. No sense for you to pay for marked up costs for shipping, handling and distribution. Second, you will need to replace the needles and thread periodically. Needles will eventually rust and the thread wears out. The needles and thread are readily available. “Confessions of a Needle Swallower” is a routine that once mastered can be built even if the airlines loose your act!

The training DVD was shot and produced at the HD studios of Bob Kohler Magic. The DVD contains 3 shows for you to see. The first is a TV show from 1988; the second is a comedy club performance in 1998 and last is a show we shot this fall at Magicopolis, Steve’s incredible theater in Santa Monica, CA. Make sure you stop in to see Steve’s show if you’re in the area.

The explanations are in-depth and contain all of the work, tips and methods you’ll need to perform “Confessions of a Needle Swallower”.

If you follow Steve’s instructions the routine is very safe and easy. It’s also easy to learn as Steve starts you off on the learning curve using toothpicks!

One important note! Swallowing needles is dangerous. “Confessions of a Needle Swallower” is a TRICK. You don’t actually swallow needles or thread. But you do put real needles into your mouth. Without proper training, thoughtful practice and care putting anything in your mouth can be dangerous.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: An extremely well produced DVD and a small gimmick…actually it’s a holder of sorts for the needles and keeps everything organized before and during your show.

QUALITY OF GIMMICK: The holder is a simple little thing that you can replicate for yourself if you’ve got multiple performances in one day. With care, the little holder will last quite a while. Mine has lasted a few years, but in the interest of complete disclosure I only perform this 12 or less times per year. To replace or duplicate, the holder will only cost you a few cents. When you see it, you’ll understand.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: Bob Kohler puts out the best videos in magic. They are well-lit, broadcast quality with an emphasis on detail – you’ll have no questions after watching the DVD.

I also really like how Steve Spill gives you three different performances, in front of different audiences, so you really get a sense of how this will play.

Finally, Steve gives users new methods to reduce tangling. After having done this around 50 times, I can say that Steve’s anti-tangle set-up does work most of the time. I think I’ve had issues 2 or 3 times and with that low rate of trouble, I’m fully prepared to say I probably did something wrong!

DIFFICULTY: While this does use real needles, Spill does give you some cool tips to minimize risks. The routine itself is extremely easy from a technical point of view, allowing the professional to concentrate on performance.

Despite the ease of performing, be prepared to put in some work to make all of the ‘moves’ naturalistic and smooth.

ANGLES: While I would not recommend this for closeup, mostly because you could not repeat this easily unless you have several ‘set-ups’ ready to go. With that in mind, I have done this surrounded for an outdoor BBQ and for a small group in a living room. I feel it plays best on stage and with proper lighting, you can do this for several hundred people. I’ve done it for 500 teens in an auditorium before and with the stage lights properly set up, people can see the light twinkling off of the needles as they come out of your mouth.

MARKET: This is the one area where this effect sinks…if you do this effect for a family show, you’re an idiot. Sorry. Even times I’ve done it for adults, some people are very uncomfortable with this effect.

I’ve done it mostly for teens and even this jaded group is often grossed out by the effect.

THE VERDICT: I’ll give this a 9 out of 10, only taking off one point and that’s only because this is NOT a ‘for all occasions’ type of effect. If you are a performer who can use this effect, such as a college performer, I highly recommend this economical and reliable solution to a classic plot.

Until next time…

The Year’s Best Coming, Murder By Magic Custom Trick Available and REVIEW: Okito Voodoo Doll

Howdy All!

Some quick notes before I get to this week’s review…

- In a week or two, I will devote this blog to covering my favorite new effects for 2011. Like last year, I will try to restrict myself to effects released in 2011…otherwise Bobby Motta’s Lethal would win hands down as MY favorite new purchase of the year, but considering it was released years ago, I’m taking it off the table for this list.

- The ezine for December’s issue of “Cause & Effects” will go out in a day or two. I’ve (delightfully) been quite busy with hypnosis, so I’m a little behind.

- For those of you who have purchased Murder By Magic, I was recently able to get a custom version of one of the effects I use in the show. It’s a Tim Wisseman effect that I refer to and happily, the custom version is around HALF the price of the regular version. I bought a custom version that does not look “bizarre” like many of the great props puts out. I wanted a simple version of the prop that looked more modern and thus mundane and fits in better with the Murder By Magic show, as it’s a modernistic show for corporate audiences. If you own Murder By Magic, email me the show set list that I personally use and I’ll share details of this custom prop with you. Tim says he enjoyed building it, so I’m guessing he’ll be comfortable making more.

- Just as a reminder, Murder By Magic will be PULLED after this month ends, so time is running out!

This week’s review: The Okita Voodoo Doll. It’s $10.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=59

One reason why I’m tackling this little prop is because I’ve had some readers express a desire for me to review more close-up effects, so here we are!

AD COPY: Performer shows a small straw VooDoo doll, and lays it on the palm of his hand. Upon his command, the doll slowly begins to rise until it is in a full upright position. Magician then gestures and slowly the doll lays back down in his hand. The doll may be handed out. Can be performed in any type situation. No threads, wires, or wax. So simple to do.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive the little doll that is self-contained along with simple written instructions.

QUALITY: If treated with care, the doll will last years. I’ve had mine for 10 years and can’t even imagine how many hundreds of times I’ve been performing this. This is a rock solid investment, and for the price an unbelievable value.

DIFFICULTY: The ad copy is correct – from a technical standpoint this is extremely easy to do. There’s a touch of ‘get ready’ that you’ll need to occupy the audience’s attention as you do this. With any effect, audience management is key.

ANGLES: Since the doll goes in your hand for the effect, it’s easy enough to mask the ‘work’ from virtually any angle, as long as your audience is at least a foot away. Once you understand the method, it’s easy enough to do literally anywhere.

MARKET: Technically this effect would work for just about anyone over the age of five which includes kids, teens and adults. It’s a close-up levitation effect so it appeals to all age groups and plays beautifully. I will admit that since I use it in a voodoo type of storyline, I play this effect for teens and corporate groups…but again, right storyline, you could do this for youngsters as well.

MY THOUGHTS: I’ve been doing this as a close-up corporate routine for over a decade (in conjunction with another effect) and can honestly say that in a corporate close-up performance or a strolling set, this is one of my closers. With the right routine, this is strong as hell. (I tip my own routine in one of my “Cause & Effects” books available here at Hocus Pocus).

The effect is enchanting, easy to do and as a close-up levitation that does not use thread, it’s worth its weight in gold. (Okay, I know since it involves the doll standing up in your hand does not mean it’s truly a levitation, but that’s how I sell it to my audiences!!).

RATING: An easy 10 out of 10. I know this prop is old as dirt compared to the latest greatest whatever that’s released but I really encourage magicians to comb through the good stuff that’s been out a while.

Questions? Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net

Best,

Cris

A Bittersweet Standing Ovation and REVIEW: The Impossible Box

Hi all,

Whew, a rough week of performing…three days in Canada, one in Gettysburg, PA (one of the most picturesque towns I’ve ever visited) and parts near home in addition to my slowly growing clinical hypnosis client base.

A standing ovation is something I normally cherish, but last night’s was bittersweet. I called up the WRONG volunteer during a corporate event but did not realize it til I was well into my handcuff escape….I was doing Anthony Lindan’s routine with the red curtain and one of the volunteers kept lowering the curtain, saying inappropriate things and just being an ASS. I somehow got through it without blowing my stack.

The rest of the show went fantastic and at the end of the show, I received a standing ovation. The FIRST person in line (there were many) to shake my hand was the ASS I mentioned. “You were f—ing fantastic!” was his comment. I wanted to punch the guy, but simply accepted the compliment.

The show was my Murder By Magic show, available here at Hocus Pocus. Just to remind everyone, the product will be pulled after December 31st. The way the show is designed, it has a built-in emotional hook that will get the audience on your side and keep them there!

A quick shout-out to my buddy Paul Romhany as he’s relocating the family back home. Safe travels, my friend.

Keep your eyes out for new Cris Johnson products after the first of the year! I’ve got several projects in the works. The first will be the long-awaited “Cause & Effects: Volume 3″ a third book of real-world routines…coming soon!!

This week’s review is The Impossible Box by Ray Roch. It’s available for $25.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=19358

AD COPY: The PERFECT walk-about and close-up effect.

Never throw away your old playing cards again. Use them for this amazing routine by Ray Roch.

Effect: The performer brings out six cards and quickly makes a box. The box can then animate in the spectators hand or on a table, the lid then taken off and an object, such as a lemon produced.

This 60 minute DVD goes in to detail with step by step instructions of how to do different loads including large die, a lemon, signed card to box, a small bottle of whiskey, and golf balls. He also shares two methods he uses to make the box animate and float, then produce a ball from the box that floats up in to his hand. This DVD is filled with gems from years of performing and perfecting Ray’s signature routine.

The perfect routine for the magician who wants to leave his audience with a gift. Not only can they keep the contents but they also get to keep the box itself.

Ideal for trade shows, walk about, restaurant magicians and promotions.

Now you don’t have to throw away your old playing cards – use them to perform The IMPOSSIBLE Box.

You will learn:
How to construct a box and how to put one together quickly
Various loading techniques that happen right under the spectator’s nose
Signed Card to Box – a card is signed lost in the deck and later found sealed inside the card box.
Various loads from the box – learn how to produce as many as three different items from the box including golf balls, dice, a lemon, a bottle and more.
Two different methods on floating the box – Ray shares two methods, both of which are easy and can be set up at all times ready to go.
Tips and stories – Secrets that make this effect easy to perform and a few stories from Ray that have happened while performing this over the year.
Ray also shares his complete award winning five minute box routine. This includes all four routines taught on the DVD and put together to form a single five minute close-up show. One box with A LOT of magic. This is perfect for

those who perform in restaurants or are looking for something special and very different to present.

WHAT YOU GET: A very well produced DVD. This is released by Paul Romhany and like everything he puts out, it’s TOP notch.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: I found Ray’s verbal instruction to be a tad too quickly paced for me. He kinda breezes through some of the explanations. I was a little concerned about this, but Paul provides viewers with slo-mo clips from the magician’s viewpoint of various things, particularly the construction of the box and some of the loading procedures. Happily, this makes the learning experience very easy.

DIFFICULTY: Since the crux of the effect is putting together the box in front of your spectators and then doing cool things with the box, you’ll need to practice putting it together quickly and smoothly. It’s not a difficult procedure, but fumbling and struggling with the box construction certainly won’t be fun for the audience to watch so put in the practice to get it into your muscle memory.

The loads and animation are all relatively easy, too. On a scale from one to ten I don’t think anything would be harder than a 3.

ANGLES: Some of the loads are easier than others and since this is intended for a walk around performance, all of the angles are something you should be able to work with. The animation/floating part of the routine can be done surrounded, providing your lighting is right, if you get my meaning.:)

VARIETY: Ray teaches viewers how to do several different handlings in terms of producing items from the box and in particular several different themes. In particular he has a routine themed with golf, a routine themed with gambling with different sized dice, etc.

There’s also a handling involving making the box animate, floating, and then causing a ball to levitate out of the box. All of the handlings involve building the box in front of the audience and eventually producing things from the box.

It should also be noted that in each handling, you are clean at the end and can really give the box away at the end of the routine…though if you’re doing a strolling gig where you visit 20 tables or groups of people in one night (as many restaurant/corporate magicians do) you obviously would be hard pressed to give the box away at every table.

THOUGHTS: There’s a LOT I LOVE about this release and only a couple of things I did not care for. First, the positives.

There are a couple of productions that are truly magical – that slo-mo shot in the promo video of the lemon coming out of the box is soooo cool looking and with mutiple handling options, within reach of anyone. There’s simply something satisfying about putting the box together and then pulling something out of it.

The box itself, being made of bright white cards with splashes of black and red, is very attractive to the eye. Additionally, I’m certain this would play just wonderfully in a parlor situation. I myself plan on using it in school shows. I wear dark colors, so the white box against the background of my dark clothes will look great. Plus, the animation of the box will look great and very visible, too.

I also love the animation of the box itself, as it looks very magical turning up on it’s edges. The idea of the ball floating out of the box is also wonderful.

Ray also provides a signed card to box effect which is nice, too. His handling is attainable and the effect looks great too, but as the signed card to impossible location plot doesn’t particularly excite me with any handling, I wasn’t too taken for this, but if you like card work, this is another great idea.

Finally, the entire idea of the impossible box is open to so many different presentational possibilities that it’s staggering. For instance, just to shoot an idea out there – instead of playing cards, I may use alphabet cards and build the box as I talk to school children about the possibilities opened up by reading skills and producing something thematically relevant out of the box.

The BIGGEST thing I love about this entire release is that it’s PRACTICAL. This isn’t a pipe dream with severe angle problems like some of the torn & restored card releases I’ve seen over the years. The Impossible Box is intended for the real world.

Now, just a couple of things I did not care for…

1. I did not care for some of the productions. Like I said, MANY of the handlings look wonderful and the spectators can see the production come out of the box. With some of the other productions, I thought, “Hey, it looks like the item is coming from _____.” Turns out I was right.

I don;t consider this a huge problem, though, as the psychology of magic and spectator attention is wayyy different to playing for the camera. Nevertheless, I like the earlier referenced productions better.

2. I did not care for the actual floating of the box. The animation/movement of the box looks great and I’ll use it, but as far as actually making the box float, I will quote Eugene Burger – “Less is more.”

FINAL RATING: I’m going to give this a 9 out of 10. I did not care for a couple of things, but this release is so incredibly open-ended with possibilities and so practical that this release is going on my “best of” list at the end of the year.

This is advertised as a close-up product (and it rocks) but if you work parlor gigs, I really think this will shine for you, too.

Best,

Cris

New Car, Murder By Magic Countdown, and REVIEW: Five Minutes With a Pocket Handerchief

Howdy!

Whew, after having over 220,000 miles on my car over the last 6 years, I finally buckled and bought a new car this week. My wife & I were both nervous about the car stranding me on the road with so many miles…especially they were all MY miles!! (I bought it new in 2006).

So this week, I rolled out in my nice new 2012 Hyundai Tucson, the steroid-injected version of my old car!! The sucker is incredible…I can talk to it and tell it who to call, tell it verbally where I want to go, etc. Unreal.

Plus, it’s sleek and black, but looks bad-ass, kinda like the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movies Tumbler vehicle. (OK, I’m a nerd!!)

I wanted to also mention that time is running out to buy my Murder By Magic: The Ultimate Corporate Magic Show program. At the end of the year, I will have the team at Hocus Pocus pull the product. I don’t want a zillion people doing it. I’ve sold a dozen or so to multiple countries around the world, which means you’re not going to have a ton of competition. In fact, in years past, I booked a ton of corporate Stage Hypnosis gigs, but despite hypnosis being a “bigger deal” than magic to most HR directors, I actually book Murder By Magic more easily because it’s so unique and that’s what HR directors and corporate booking agents are looking for: something unique!

So, the clock is ticking!!!

On to this week’s review….I decided to review an older product: 5 Minutes With a Pocket Handerchief by Quentin Reynolds. It’s available for $29.95 from Hocus Pocus.

Here’s the link…http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=4867

AD COPY: An entire act that fits in your pocket. Featuring the hilarious Magic Mouse.

Quentin Reynolds is a professional magician whose specialty is children’s shows. The routine taught on this DVD/Video is the highlight of his show — a polished five-minute act which is accomplished with nothing more than an ordinary pocket-handkerchief.

You are treated to a live performance in front of a classroom of children where Quentin brings the kids to a frenzy using this handkerchief routine and the many gags and touches which make it a masterpiece. Following the performance you are taught everything you need to know to perform the act.

The routine is a brisk and upbeat sequence of effects that begins with a stretching handkerchief, a series of knots and culminates with the animation of the Magic Mouse. It is adaptable for most performing situations such as stage, parlor, close-up, walk-around, kids, adults, yet it still fits in your pocket and is very easy to do.

Effects and sequences taught:
The Stretching Hank: A handkerchief is stretched to twice its original size.
The Jumping Hank: A handkerchief repeatedly jumps out of your hands and into the audience.
Karrell Fox’s Knifty-Knot: No matter how hard you try to tie a knot in the handkerchief it keeps disintegrating.
Karrell Fox’s No Not: You finally make a knot but it magically unties when a spectator blows on it.
Stand-Up Hank: The handkerchief is made to stand on end and fall on command.
The Magic Mouse: The handkerchief is folded into a hat, an iron, an earring, a moustache, and finally into a mouse. The mouse is wound up and begins to wiggle its tail. The mouse seems to come to life as it runs up and down your arm, around your neck, and then leaps into the audience — making them scream with fright. The mouse’s tail is pulled and it turns back into a handkerchief. The handkerchief is folded and put back in your pocket. The act is now completely reset for your next show.
In addition to the above you are also taught: Frank Garcia’s Iron Gag, Stewart Judah’s Watchwinder Gag, tips from George Sands, Harry Blackstone, Sr., Dan Garrett, Martin Gardner, and tons of jokes, gags, by-play, tidbits, and advice which can only be learned from years of continuous performance. Includes a discussion on making the routine even stronger and much more.

Special DVD Features:
An additional 17 minutes of footage discussing presentational ideas, routine development, how to create your own act, a production finale and more.
Instant access to performances and explanations
DVD trailers
Dolby Digital sound
Encoded for worldwide viewing

WHAT YOU GET: A nicely produced video. My copy was a VHS tape because I bought it years ago. I’m considering upgrading to the DVD for the added material. You’ll need to provide your own hanky and watch-winding gimmick.

QUALITY OF DVD: The DVD includes a live performance of Quentin performing the act in a school in front of around 40 children. Their reactions are amazing! The rest pf the DVD is Quentin explaining the routine in painstaking detail. The lighting is good, the explanations crystal clear.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: As I mentioned, Quentin leaves no stone unturned. He really goes into incredible detail for such a simple routine from a technical standpoint. The detail he gives without a doubt shows that he has performed this thousands upon thousands of times. He has this routine ingrained into his DNA and has mastered it.

Quick sidebar…I love the fact that he has mastered this routine in the real world. I hate it when I buy a book or DVD and the creator reveals that a particular routine or effect was developed specifically for their lecture tour! I couldn’t care less what magicians think of a routine, only paying audiences.

DIFFICULTY: There are some simple folding procedures you’ll have to master as well as some simple vanishing knots. You’ll also need to rehearse the movement of the mouse. None of this is particularly difficult, but to master these simple demands while maintaining a performing pace will take time. It’s not hard, but put some work into a killer 5 minute act and you’ll be rewarded in spades!

ANGLES: No problems at all – do it surrounded!!

AGE LEVELS: Quentin says, in addition to parlor/stage kid shows that he sometimes uses this in strolling performances for families. Personally, I feel it shines best in front of kids in a parlor setting. I have used it for audiences up to 100 kids, providing they are close to me and it just kills. In terms of ages, I find it works best for younger children, ages 4-7, so for me I use it most often in child care/daycare shows where it’s been the backbone of my act for 8 years.

MY THOUGHTS: This routine is absolutely priceless. If Quentin ever puts out an extensive kids’ show course, I’d buy it in an instant. This man KNOWS kids. The routine is funny, with plenty of kid humor and visual gags and when the “mouse comes to life,” it generates huge belly laughs and screams that it’s an amazing thing to see and experience as a performer.

Quentin understands that kids like to laugh and that ‘amazing’ magic is really secondary for younger children. The lessons to be learned in this video are legon for the budding kids show performer.

This is an amazing value and receives my highest recommendation. I should also mention that I chose to review this particular product as a way to remind all magicians to explore older products…not just the new stuff.

I still can’t believe the reactions this gets…all from a simple hanky.

I should also mention that while I LOVE the watch winding gag and gimmick Quentin uses, when I originally bought the tape I could not find such a gimmick anywhere so I changed the routine and use a squeaker gimmick (usually I just steal one from one of my dog’s well-worn doggie toys) and use a squeaker sound instead of the watch winder. If you can find the watch winder gimmick, by all means, use it – the gasps of amazement from the kids is priceless.

OVERALL RATING: This is or should be considered a kids show classic and I can’t praise it enough. A perfect 10 out of 10. It simply does not get any better than this.

NEXT WEEK: The latest review of the stellar Paul Romhany booklet series!

Best,

Cris Johnson

My Little Dogs, The Impossible Box and REVIEW: Mes(s)merize

Hi All,

Crazy busy this week. Isn’t that how I start all my blog entries??

I do have to say, however, that most of November involves me working fairly close to home, which is great for my relationship with my family: namely my wife and our two little dogs, Frodo & Sophie. Frodo is a 17-lb “cock-a-poo” and Sophie is an 8=lb Bichon, but my friend Rodney said she looks like a cross between a hamster and a poodle, so my wife & I call Sophie our “hoodle!” They’ve missed me and it’s great to spend time with them – the hoodle is stepping on my keyboard.:)

My buddy Paul Romhany sent me a couple of video clips of his new Impossible Box release that his associate has been performing for a looooooong time. This baby looks like one of the best new releases of 2011 in my eyes. Check out Paul’s blog to check out the video. (And this looks like a real-world worker as I’m guessing those arm chair magicians from “that forum” will whine and cry, but I think the presentational possibilities are endless!)

On to the review….Mes(s)merize!

Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=18288

It’s available for $30 from Hocus Pocus.

AD COPY: An impossible prediction effect

A clear wine glass is seen on a table center stage, containing a black envelope with a prediction. The spectators are asked to concentrate on a single thought, write it down on a card and seal it in an opaque envelope. At your command, they all throw their envelopes onto the stage. A random spectator selects any one of the envelopes (again: NO force!). Let’s assume the thought inside reads “ICECREAM”. She removes the prediction from the glass and opens it. She reads the prediction out loud: it matches the freely selected thought!

Now for the FINAL kicker: The lady is asked to open up the crumpled paper ball that was used to randomly selected her as a volunteer. It reads: “Tonight, a beautiful lady called Annie will thing of ICECREAM!”

*The spectator is randomly selected
*No switch of the paper ball
*No stooges
*No secret Assistants
*No pre-show
*No fumbling
*No sleeving
*No electronics
*They can really write down any thought
*The other envelopes all contain different words
*Spectator opens and reads the prediction herself
*Prediction and envelope, both are completely unprepared

“Brilliant and clever indeed… this gentleman has forged a total masterpiece.”
- Larry Becker

“I think it’s terrific prediction, and I love the final punch-finish. Clever and very practical.”
- Peter Duffie

“It’s perfect. The method is wonderfully simple and direct and I image it plays extremely well. I give it my highest recommendation.”
- Sean Waters

“Brilliant, yet, simple, the only way to do it.”
- Marc Salem

Pages: 42 – Saddle Stitched

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: a 42-page, saddle stitched booklet.

QUALITY: Very good, here. There are plenty of photos to assist the learner and the instructions are clearly written. You’ll have no problem understanding the mechanics of the effect.

ANGLES: Quite good. You can do this in living rooms, on stage or parlor situations.

DIFFICULTY: This effect primarily relies on a very simple move that is properly motivated by good blocking. Stefan has thought this through.

MY THOUGHTS: I like this but I don’t love this. When thinking about the impossibility of the ad copy, the fact that the spectators really do write down any thought, the fact that there’s no pre-show. etc, and most of that is true, the fact is that the “prediction” envelope being claimed as not being prepared is not entirely true. To be sure, the preparation is not hard and only takes a few moments, and therefore can almost be done at a moment’s notice.

All of this is juicy for a good effect and the visual of the audience flinging their envelopes at the performer is very appealing to me in terms of theatricality.

This is all good stuff for the main prediction effect, now let’s move for a moment to the kicker part of the effect, the bit where the ball of paper describes the revelation as well as the name of the randomly selected volunteer.

The kicker’s method actually has TWO methods. The first is a gutsy, ballsy classic “method” of mentalism that many pros will recognize and embrace. It’s also a method that magicians looking to add a mental flavor to their acts will likely reject as being, in Eugene Burger’s words, “Not very interesting.” It’s a reliable method that requires intestinal fortitude.

The second method is something that Stefan refers you to another source, which I always find a little annoying.

He also includes several bonus ideas and routine frames to get your creative juices flowing and this is nice.

FINAL THOUGHTS: There’s not a lot I can talk about in this review about the product without tipping the work. The method for the “main” revelation is rock-solid while the method for the kicker is something I’m guessing many will reject. the idea of referring the reader to another source may turn off some readers. Still, the routine has that great visual of all the envelopes being thrown on stage and the elegant simplicity of the glass with the prediction envelope will look great in terms of staging.

I think this is a good effect, worth consideration. I’ll give this a 7.5 out of 10.

Until next time…

Best,

Cris

October Marches On and REVIEW: Confab-SHOE-Lation

Hi everyone,

Finally, a day off! If you’re reading this and you’re in the school market, you know that October is typically one of the busiest months of the year for the full-time school magician. I’m sooooooooooooo grateful to be so busy, but also sooooooooo whooped!

Last week’s schedule was insane – last Sunday drove 8 hrs to Maryland. Performed there for two days. Drove 3 hrs to Virginia. Performed there one day. Drove 10 hrs back home. Next morning, flew out to Missouri for a one hour corporate gig. Flew back home the same day. Next day, drove 3 hrs for two corporate gigs. Saturday – a night corp gig 30 min from home. Sunday – back on the road to New Jersey….Whew!

But I’m thankful for the work!!! Next week, I begin work on the November issue of Cause & Effects, the free ezine. To sign up, email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. On to this week’s review…

Confab-SHOE-Lation by Richard Bellars. It’s available for $39.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=19048

AD COPY: Richard has taken the confabulation plot to new heights of impossibility with their shoe reveal!

Richard has been performing Confab-Shoe-Lation in his stand-up act for well over a year and then decided it would be the ideal effect to fool Penn & Teller on national TV.

Richard is a real creative thinker and a full time worker so you know his stuff is going to be practical to use in the real world!

Effect

Imagine your spectators can name any 3 items (no force) and you have predicted them correctly in a note that you have kept safe in your shoe from the beginning of the show.

On this DVD Richard Bellars and Tom Swift (who is the co-creator of the effect) take you step by step through every aspect of the effect, including how to create the gimmick with your own shoe.

*Please note construction is required and you will need to gimmick your shoe to perform Confab-Shoe-Lation

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive a well-produced (for the most part) DVD that offers different presentations and ways to accomplish the effect. Tom Swift (co-creator) and Peter Nardi also join Bellars to discuss different aspects of the effect.

DIFFICULTY: Like many versions of Confabulation, there is usually a minimum of sleight of hand involved so therefore, the technical work is minimal. Pulling off a good Confab- style routine is more about presentation, buildup and (in some handlings) audience management. Like so many other effects in mentalism, this is not technically difficult.

ANGLES: Well, it’s going to be tough to talk about angles on this without mentioning that there are different versions of the effect, some of which are two-man versions and a one-man version. The two-man version’s angles are good and flexible. Once you understand what’s going on here, you can adapt this two man method to many different venues and situations.

The one-man version was something I was a little less than thrilled with. To me, the angles are such that if you use this exactly as Bellars does, your audience can ONLY be in front of you, not on the sides at all. Also, if the front row of your audience stretches out to the right or left too far, you will be busted, unless you are really far back from the audience. You can ‘cheat’ this method off to one side, angling out, I suppose, but I feel it’s too angle sensitive to use as-is.

TWO-MAN / ONE-MAN VERSION? HUH? To just give a bit of background, in any Confab-type prediction (where three or more random things are called out or generated by spectators are shown to match precisely a prediction of some kind) there are two ways of achieving the effect…in a two-man version, your assistant helps you to help you look completely clean. In a one-man version, you must do all the work yourself. I’m not going to say anything more than that for obvious reasons.

In the version Bellars performed for Penn & Teller, it was indeed a two-man version. Like other viewers, I thought it looked fabulous and it fooled me completely.

The one man version involves one simple, quick movement to get things into play, that is, get that prediction into your shoe. The movement is quick, simple and easy. It’s not even a sleight at all. It’s also completely motivated by the gambling presentation Bellars uses.

It’s also the angle-sensitive thing I mentioned earlier and feel it should be reworked to be more angle-friendly for real-world performers. I only mention this because many of my corporate events are small events, 70-100 people, and the round tables are set up in front of me and off to the side, so Bellars’ method would not work for me in those situations. However, if I’m in an actual stage performance, like a high school auditorium, this would work just fine. Happily, this is where I may use this because I believe high school kids would like the off-beat nature of a prediction in a shoe.

TOO-PERFECT THEORY THOUGHTS: Some folks online have blasted Bellars for making his prediction with Penn & Teller as “too perfect,” because his prediction matched Penn’s written “housey” word. Personally, I don’t have a problem with something being too perfect. I bill myself as an entertainer, nothing more. If I really want to impress people with “real” things, they can come into my office for hypnosis.

I decided years ago, when confronted at a few early corp gigs, people asked me about ‘my powers,’ that I did not want that responsibility. So, I don’t try to convince people I’m a real psychic, so the Too Perfect Theory is something I tossed out the window. If that’s not your preference, you can certainly alter the prediction to be ‘off a bit’ to seem ‘more real.’

THE GIMMICKED SHOE: As the ad copy states, you have to gimmick a shoe. Bellars shows his original prototype and comments on what a pain in the ass it is. You can do it yourself, but as Bellars points out, you’ll probably be much better off taking it to a shoe cobbler.

The way the shoe works is very simple and is something most people (ie magicians) would not suspect, so I like it in that realm.

So, gimmicking the shoe, while elegant in its simplicity in terms of working a gig, is a pain to do. You’ve been warned.

WHY A SHOE? Others have complained about the lack of logic in having a prediction in your shoe. Peter Nardi, on the DVD, tries mightily to justify it with some scripting and tying everything into the gambling theme. It’s a god try but I don’t feel it’s completely successful. They also try gamely to ‘sell’ the viewer that the one-man version is even stronger than the two-man. I don’t feel it’s a failure, but I really feel the two-man version is the stronger of the two because of how clean it is.

As far as the idea of the prediction being in a shoe, like I said, I like the offbeat nature of it. I think some audiences would be amused by it. I think too often we as magicians dismiss an idea because we have strong traditional ideas of what “should” be done.

OVERALL THOUGHTS AND RATING: I like this, but I don’t love this. I think it’s got potential. I definitely will NOT be replacing my own Confabulation handling with this (detailed in my book, “Cause & Effects: Volume 2″ available at Hocus Pocus) but if I’m doing a show for a repeat client, I can see Confab-SHOE-Lation being a nice followup for those repeat clients.

I’ll give this a 7 – it’s a nice, off-beat idea. If you’re new to Confabulation, I recommend my friend Paul Romhany’s “Dream Prediction Lite” over this as being more practical or even my own work in the afore-mentioned book. But if you’re familiar with Confabulation and looking for a unique twist on an effect for repeat audiences, this may suit you.

NEXT WEEK: I review Alakazam’s new “Look Sharp,” a surprisingly delightful strolling effect.

Best,

Cris

That Magic Forum, a NEW Blog and REVIEW: Fish In A Bottle

Hi-yo,

Before I get to this week’s review, I want to quickly echo my friend Paul Romhany’s words last week regarding the negativity in magic. There’s a certain magic forum out there which is a cancer to the art form. Avoid it if you really want to grow as a magical artist and performer.

As a sidebar on this topic, I got “thumped” by a few people regarding the perfect 10 scores I give out. With that in mind, here’s a quick review of how I score tricks, books etc….

1. I judge it on the quality. Will it fall apart? Is it well-made?

2. Instructions – is the product explained well? Is it easy to understand how to perform it?

3. Does it do what it claims in the ad?

4. Is it workable in the real world? I’m a real world pro and an effect for “special occasions” does not hold much interest to me.

5. Angles – an effect that has nasty angles will often get a lower score as it relates to #4.

Let’s take Paul Romhany’s Briefcase Illusion last week. I gave it a 10 because it’s practical for the real world. Also, it fooled the hell out of me when I watched the video. The instructions to construct the prop are crystal clear. The book is well-produced so the quality is extremely high. I’ve seen it in action, so I know the ad copy is accurate.

Does this mean it’s the perfect effect? No, as ‘the perfect effect’ will differ from performer to performer. What rocks my world may not rock yours…for instance, as a stage guy, I could not care less if something is “examinable” in most cases. Why? A stage guy usually does not have time to allow things to be examined as it slows the pace of the show.

In the example of the Briefcase Illusion, for a stage illusion, the angles are perfect (depending on how you use it) and since Paul teaches you how to construct it so it packs flat, it’s extremely practical for the real world.

With that being said, it’s a big effect so a birthday performer will not have use for it.

Still, for the realm in which it was created, the Briefcase Illusion IS a 10 out of 10 based on my parameters.

I’m also very fussy what I buy, so since I’ve researched something before I perform it, chances are I know it will fit my needs.

The other thing I want to announce is my NEW blog, www.ProfessionalMagicTips.com! This blog is a FREE blog that covers magic, mentalism, performing philosophy and much more. It’s an off-shoot of my Cause & Effects newsletter but this blog will be updated at LEAST once a week, usually more than that. Be sure to check it out for marketing tips, guest articles, road stories, sound system tips, equipment tips, travel tips and much more!

With that out of the way, here’s this week’s review: Fish In A Bottle by Dick Barry. It’s available for $75.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the ad link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=15927

AD: Fish in a Bottle by Dick Barry, its another Hocus Pocus exclusive!

A plastic water bottle is shown to contain only clear water. The cap on the bottle is secured tightly so nothing can enter the bottle.

You state the bottle contains an “INVISIBLE FISH”. The bottle is handed to a spectator to hold. The spectator is asked to confirm that he/she can only see clear water in the bottle.
You drape a black silk over the bottle, STILL HELD by the SPECTATOR. Tell the spectator if they say, “I believe in magic” the fish will APPEAR. Once that is said, you slowly pull the silk from the bottle. What was once a bottle containing only water now has a BEAUTIFUL LIVE GOLDFISH swimming around inside the bottle. (What makes this such a wonderful effect is that the magic happens close-up in the spectator’s hand.)

NO MAGNETS OR MIRROR TYPE GIMMICKS ARE USED.

The bottle can be seen up-close BEFORE and EVEN EXAMINED after the performance.

No sleight-of-hand involved.

No harm to the fish!

Learn in minutes!

Comes with the bottle, black silk, special gimmicks and completed instruction, including color photographs.

Furnish your own fish. A truly memorable magic effect your audience will always remember.

WHAT YOU GET: Full-color illustrated instructions, the bottle, extra gimmicks, a black silk.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: The instruction is rock-solid and there are even care instructions for the fish, in particular the Siamese Fighting Fish, which Barry claims would be a good choice for the effect. Having owned several of these fish in my lifetime, I can attest to the fact that they are very beautiful and quite hardy as well.

The effect is simple to perform and looks EXACTLY as the demo video claims. There is no deception so that’s nice.

ANGLES: This is the rare effect that can be done surrounded, as long as the spectators are a couple of feet away from you. An extemely observant spectator might spot “something” in the handling, but only if they literally had their head resting on your shoulder! Realistically, you’ve gotten nothing to worry about here.

MARKETS: It’s the production of a live fish, so I’m going to go out on a limb and claim this could be done for ANY age group. I myself used to produce a fish using a different method years ago and I can tell you that causing a live fish to appear magically is very arresting for any audience.

QUALITY OF PROPS: This prop is supplied in a protective cardboard mailing tube, similar to how I transport my Clearview Airborne. Good decision, as any plastic water bottle needs protecting if it will last. The rest of the supplied props are good quality. No complaints here.

MY THOUGHTS: This almost a perfect effect as the use of the bottle and the workings of the effect allow you to use a larger fish than traditional methods of producing the fish. Since the fish can be bigger, the effect can play to a bigger audience. This is happy news.:)

I say this is “almost” a perfect effect but the fact is, before the fish makes his appearance, the little guy is OUT of water til the magic moment. Barry assures users that the fish will be fine for a few minutes and while he’s technically correct, it does mean the fish is NOT happy. Since I’m a big proponent of protecting the living critters we use in a show and seeing to their comfort, I must take a little off of the score.

This feature also limits the effect to an opening effect only. I love the effect, the video looks great, and it can be performed surrounded….but the fish being out of water til the big moment does in fact make me hesitate in giving this effect a perfect score. 8 out of 10….so close!

Until next week, be sure to bookmark www.ProfessionalMagicTips.com and visit it early and often!

Bobby Motta Show and REVIEW: Lethal by Bobby Motta

Yes, it’s true, this is the “all Bobby Motta” blog this week, LOL

Bobby performed a show open to the public last month in Toronto, ON. My wife and I went to see it, and as the show started, as the curtains opened, I pointed at specific props on the stage and said, “Oh! I own that, and that and that!” Cracked my wife up, but the REAL point is that the stuff Bobby sells is stuff he actually uses in the real world.

The show was superb and other than the props I own, Bobby fried me with everything. There was one effect in particular which was so mind-blowing I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m not going to detail it here other than mention the $100 bill…so Bobby, if you read this, if you choose to ever put that effect out, I want the first one.:)

More important than fooling me was the fact that Bobby was a pro and he treated his audience volunteers with a tremendous amount of respect. After the show, I was able to meet with Bobby and his lovely wife Alana and it’s so refreshing to meet people in the business who “get it.”

Over the years I’ve taken my wife to a few magic shows and more often than not, she comes away disappointed. Not so with Bobby’s show.

Now, onto the review…Bobby Motta’s Lethal. It’s available from Hocus Pocus for $1195.00. Here’s the ad link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=9936

EFFECT: A card is selected, signed, shuffled, and lost. The spectator can even shuffle the cards. A knife is introduced and comedy ensues. Also, a target board is brought into play and placed around the spectator’s neck, covering their torso. The deck of cards is then sprung into the air. The knife is thrown towards the target board, and in MID AIR, the knife pins ONE card to the board. Yeah, you got it; the signed selection!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: The special high tech target board you hang around the spectator’s neck, the knife, instructional DVD and a few other goodies.

QUALITY OF PROPS: Unbelievable! I had a fair idea of the workings of this before I bought it, but I was blown away by the quality. After the show, Bobby, my wife Libby and I waited by the curb of the road while builder Gerry ran to his car to get my prop. Bobby opened up the prop for me to see and said, “Isn’t that sexy?” Sure is! With care, this will last forever. However, because the inner workings of the board are complex, I recommend getting a case for this prop.

In fact, I asked Bobby if they could build me a version of Lethal a little smaller than the typical unit, so mine was customized small enough to fit into one of those silver cases you can pick up at the Home Depot. (If you have seen Sean Bogunia’s Animation Sensation, that’s the kind of case I’m talking about). After building mine, the two are now considering making that size THE size due to other requests to have the prop fit in those silver cases.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: The DVD is terrific. It includes two different live performances. Interestingly, each of the performances is different in terms of handling. There are three different ways to perform Lethal and you get to see two of them performed live, which I REALLY like.

Bobby’s instruction is great, too. Multiple camera angles, close-ups, etc. This DVD was professionally produced and it shows.

He covers timing of key moves, different ways to handle the knife, blocking tips and much more. Honestly, whenever I invest this much in a prop, I usually have questions, but after watching the DVD, I didn’t have a single thing that was not clear.

MARKETS: This is not one for the little kids’ birthday parties!! In fact, I personally would save this for teen, college and adult shows. When we are onstage, it is easy to influence others, after all.

ANGLES: Angles are quite good on this. If you do two of the handlings, one in which the card is signed and one in which the card is not signed, you’ll need to restrict your audiences to directly in front of you and the sides. Surrounded would be tough, although you may pull it off. The third presentation could be done surrounded, but again, in a stage setting, surrounded shows SUCK so I choose not to do them.:)

MY THOUGHTS: I know that there may be some people out there who question my objectivity since I bought so many other things from Bobby and have seen his show, etc etc. Well, the reason why I keep buying Bobby’s stuff is because it rocks, plain and simple. Believe me, if after I bought the first Bobby Motta prop and I didn’t like it, there’s no way I’d keep going back. Plus, Bobby uses this stuff in his own shows, so that right there shows it was developed with real working conditions in mind.

There is so much to like about this – it’s visual, amazing, comedic, theatrically “dangerous” and so much more.

About the only ‘concern’ is the weight of the board. My wife put it on and said a thin woman might find it a tad heavy. I’d say the board is around 4lbs, if I had to guess, so I didn’t notice that at all, but it brings me to a good point – I would personally only use males for this effect. I think it’s a psychological thing that most audiences will not want to see a woman “in danger” even if everyone knows it’s “just a trick.”

RATING: I’m sure no one will be surprised by my perfect 10 out of 10 rating. This is superb!

Until next time…

Best,

Cris

Hypno-Success With My Doctor & REVIEW: Imagine by G.

Hey, everyone!

I’m in New Jersey getting ready for a couple of school assemblies tomorrow as well as one of my highly profitable night time fundraiser shows! (Shoot me an email if you want the INSIDE SCOOP on profitable night time school fundraisers!)

On another, delighted, note…I had the opportunity to have my chiropractor as a recent client for my budding hypnosis clinic. This wonderful lady had a fear of heights or more specifically, roller coasters and water slides. It was something she felt compelled to conquer because her children really want her to join in the ‘fun’ at amusement parks.

Well, this past Saturday, I spent about 30 minutes with her and ran her through a few simple techniques. A few days later, she excitedly told my wife (also one of her chiropractic clients) that she felt NO fear going on those rides. She mentioned writing me a testimonial letter (which I will definitely need as my website will be going up soon.) and wants to see me again.

This is thrilling news for me, because while I like her a great deal, by her own admission she was skeptical of the whole process. This is just the shot in the arm I needed as I embark on this new venture!

On the magic front, I just received a link to a private video of a new product that is coming out very soon by none other than Puck & Scott Alexander. I’m really excited about this and can’t wait to add it to my family shows. I’m being secretive, but as soon as I can I will spill the beans.:)

The latest issue of “Cause & Effects” (my free Ezine) will go out tomorrow, as I will be writing the issue tonight after I finish this blog entry. Sign ups are free by emailing me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Also, a big THANK YOU to those of you who sent in your favorite routine/tricks for the middle school audiences. You can STILL receive a free digital copy of either Cause & Effects books (both sell for $24.95 each) by emailing me your favorite tricks for ages 11-14, or middle school grades 6-8 or so. (I’m building a second middle school show for repeat audiences).

On to this week’s review…it’s Imagine by G. It’s available for $24.95 at Hocus Pocus. Sorry, no link this week as my Internet service totally SUCKS at this hotel and I can’t do much in terms of “searches.”

THE EFFECT: A blank on both sides white card (it really is blank on both sides) is displayed, folded and signed by a spectator. They then hold onto the folded white card. The spectator is then allowed to choose a card from a deck of cards. They are asked to visualize that card…and when they unfold the card they are holding, the blank card is seen to have changed into the card they were merely thinking of! The card back and front is now the same as the thought-of card….and the signature is still there!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A nicely produced DVD which explains the workings completely. You’ll need to provide the white blank cards and a deck of cards along with a Sharpie.

INSTRUCTION: This is well-thought out and the instruction is spot-on. What I like the most about the instruction is that you are given several possible sleight of hand options for accomplishing the work for this effect. I’m not the kind of person to invent new handlings of tricks, but I do like to tinker with things to make it fit me. This routine will make my own work much easier because I’ve found different ways to accomplish this.

Another thing I like about this is the fact that the camera moves – we the viewers are given different views, slo-mo shots and much more to make learning this much easier. This particular DVD is the perfect illustration of the fact that those close-minded twits who insist the ONLY way to TRULY learn magic is by reading books are completely wrong. I have no problem learning by reading, but to insist it’s the ONLY way is dead wrong, as we are each individuals and there is scientific proof that people learn better differently depending on the needs of the individual…but I digress.:)

DIFFICULTY: Surprisingly, this is within my reach, which, when I first heard of the effect, was convinced I would forever envy the skill to pull this off. Happily, I see myself doing this in the near future. I’m not your typical card guy, but when the right effect comes along, I lap it up like a starving dog.

I’d say the difficulty of this is maybe a 3 or 4 out of 10. That being said, there are other variations on the DVD that are much more difficult from a sleight of hand view….maybe a 7 out of 10 (from my perspective).

ANGLES: Also surprising is the angles. Even though you can’t do this surrounded, the angles are quite good and serviceable…which, again, means I can see doing this anywhere – close up or even parlor. It’s not intended, I don’t think, for parlor, but the visibility of the change from a totally blank white card to one that has a red or blue back and the black or red card face, well, I can see this playing for groups of 20 or so.

MARKET: I believe this is going to appeal to teens on up to adults. Kids under the teen age don’t care as much about what happens to cards, but I can see the street guys jumping all over this and I can equally see restaurant and/or corporate guys enjoying this too. The signed aspect of the effect is what makes this so strong.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: As with any effect, there are drawbacks. Imagine is no different and here’s one drawback…the reset on this will take a few seconds and the ‘thought of’ card is limited to 10 or so possibilities out of the deck, so if you’re a restaurant table kind of guy, you’re going to need to carry those particular cards with you. For someone like me who doesn’t do a lot of close-up, no big deal…and if I were to do this in a parlor setting, I’d only need to set up once, so for me, this drawback is not a drawback at all.

As far as the get-ready, it’s only a few seconds, but in a trade show or restaurant setting, even those few seconds of privacy might be a tad tricky depending where you are.

Nevertheless, even these minor drawbacks are not enough to make me drop this effect from my “to learn in 2011″ list. I’ll give it a solid 8 out 10. Solid stuff.

NEXT WEEK: Peter Loughran’s Touch of Glass

Best,

Cris Johnson

Lease to Hypnotize and REVIEW: Retro-Gravity by Devin Knight

Hey everyone,

I’m going to get right into things this week as I’ve been CRAZY busy with school shows and getting our building opened.

As I alluded to last week, my wife and I were working on getting a building for her salon and my hypnosis clinic…well, I’m delighted to report that we have signed a lease and are moving forward!

This is a truly exciting time for us. Most of this was prompted by the fact that I am simply on the road too much and need to scale back. The money’s great, but life on the road is very lonely. I have no desire to stop performing…far from it, as magic has always been very good to me, but with this new venture, I’ll have the freedom to choose the gigs I want to do…which, coincidentally, is the subject of next month’s “Cause & Effects” ezine.:) Sign up for free by emailing me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Anyway, I’ve started seeing clients for issues such as weight loss and smoking cessation and the biggest difference is realizing, programming myself to realize, that I’m not performing for them but working to help them.

The look in their eyes communicates that they trust me to help them. It’s an exciting journey, watching them progress through the session. I’ll keep you updated.:)

This week’s review is Retro-Gravity by Devin Knight. It’s available for $39.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=15075

EFFECTS: Retro-Gravity allows you to levitate 2 to 4 inches in the air. It is a special gimmick you attach to your shoe and once done is completely invisible. Any time you wear your shoes, you are ready to levitate. Anywhere, anytime under any conditions! This means you can walk around in a restaurant, party or out door festival and levitate over and over at will. No special pants, jackets or special clothing are required.

I mention “effects” with an “s” because there are different variations of the basic effect, but I’ll get to that later.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive a comb bound manuscript that goes into a great deal of detail with photographs, history, variations and much more.

MY THOUGHTS: I’m cutting to the chase with this review because this will be one of the effects I won’t be performing. It’s nothing against this effect, it’s just that it’s a close up effect and the only time I could see myself using this is when people ask, “Can you float like that guy on TV?” and if I say “yes,” people are not going to be as surprised and they’ll be looking for gimmicks. I just don’t do any close up.

Now, the basic effect itself is similar to a lot of other street/close-up self levitations on the market in terms of how it looks….in other words, you go up a couple of inches with your feet together and you back down.

The advantage here is there are no reels or gimmicks to ditch…there is a gimmick, but it’s hidden in plain sight. Literally, before you levitate, people can burn you all they want and they won’t find anything. That is a real strong point.

Once you ‘get into’ the levitation, it’s like many others in that the best angles are straight on, close up. The levitation, when in play, doesn’t seem to have angles much better than other methods. They’re not bad, just not a break through in terms of angles. I’d say the angles are similar to Peter Loughran’s “Elevator,” which has enjoyed tremendous popularity since its release.

The main issue with many of these self levs is the concern of balance. Having read the manuscript, my feeling, having not tried it out, is that the balance will be similar to the “Elevator,” but one huge advantage of Retro-Gravity is that you can build two gimmicks, one in each shoe, which would aid you tremendously.

Again, the biggest advantage here is the fact that the gimmicks are hidden in plain sight and the ‘get ready’ takes only a second or two and does not involve use of your hands at all.

The disadvantage is you’re only going up a couple of inches, depending on your gimmicks. I think what most magicians are looking for is a self lev with a foot or so rise, which is possible with close up self levs such as that Criss Angel one which has truly horrid angles.

To give Devin his true, his method is about the cleanest I’ve encountered in terms of get ready, reset and other considerations. Also, Devin does a superior job of explaining everything. His writing style is easy to read and informative – his words flow, and the addition of photographs makes me believe even I could build it…and I hate building my own props.:)

Oh, that’s another consideration – you’ll need to do a bit of arts and crafts stuff, but as I said, that part is exceedingly easy. I’ll give the basic method a solid 7 out of 10.

Now, onto a few misc things in the manuscript…

ROTATION: I’m sorry, but I have yet to see any of these self levs successfully pull off the rotation-in-mid-air effect. To me, it looks hokey. I will freely admit there may be people out there who get great reactions, but I think it looks horrible and if I myself don’t like an effect, no way can I ‘sell’ it to my audiences. If it works for you, that’s great. I sincerely applaud you.

THE NEWSPAPER: This the levitation where you float in the air over a sheet of newspaper and someone can pull the newspaper away, “proving” there’s nothing supporting you.

This is a cute idea, but I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but this is ONLY appropriate for photo ops and newspaper interviews, TV spots, etc. It’s a neat effect that utilizes an older-than-dirt-but-still-awesome principle. The limitation of this method is that you need absolute control over lighting, spectator positions, etc, etc, etc.

Again, for the right situation, it’s an absolutely terrific idea, but this is NOT something you can just walk up to someone and do.

There are other self levs described so the value of this booklet is good for anyone who wants to experiment with a few of the more off-beat methods presented.

My only quibble is something I mentioned at the start: the idea of someone asking you to float like the guy on TV. Once you say “yes” and get into the effect, people are going to be ‘burning’ you, so spectator management and more specifically, blocking, is going to be an issue. Again, you CAN levitate upon request, but know that like many self levs, you need to really restrict people’s movements, position, etc.

Recommended for experienced magicians. Once again, the overall score for me is a solid 7 out of 10. It’s a rock-solid value, but is not the “holy grail” we’re all searching for in terms of close up self levs. To be fair, Devin never claims it is, either.

NEXT WEEK: Redonkulus by Anthony Lindan. His “Incredible Suit Jacket Escape” was my personal favorite new effect I bought last year, so I’m really excited to get into this!

Best,

Cris Johnson