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Topic: Lester Lake Guillotine
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Aug 27, 2011 10:46AM)
Anyone perform the Lester Lake Guillotine? The reason I ask is because the illustration of the effect is always depicted with a girl assistant having one of her legs through the hole.

Naturally, I took from that illustration that it was a little different presentation of the chopper effect. Anyway, I note that many, if not all, presentations I have seen or heard about being performed used it as a head chopper.

So my question is, has anyone ever used it as the advertisement depicted, with a ladies leg through the hole? If so was the reaction as effective presenting it this in this manner? Did it still have the shock value the head chopper has, and was there a unique different routine presented?

Anyone know, if even Lester Lake originally presented the illusion in this fashion?

Looking forward to your expert and knowledgeable comments on this subject.
Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (Aug 27, 2011 11:59AM)
Ask John Calvert. If I recall, he told me that he was the first person ever in a Lester Lake chopper (they were friends as young men).
Message: Posted by: wizardpa (Aug 27, 2011 12:06PM)
The Lester Lake Guillotine is a head chopper. I'm not sure what advertisement you had seen, but the best way to perform it is as a head chopper. I'm pretty sure if you do a search on youtube you will see it performed, again, only as a head chopper illusion.

Now what I did to mine, was extend the legs so that my assistant, or a volunteer, would not have to kneel down to put their head in it. I also use mine sometimes as a more comical effect with a vent puppet, so of course I did not want to kneel down to do that. If you search wizardpa while into youtube you can see my performance of it that way, at a cub scout show. There are 2 holes on either side of the head hole and they are for carrots of cucumbers to be placed in those holes. The chopper blade will magically pass through the volunteers head but then it will cut the vegetables in half. Very in-genius.

I must say I love this illusion.
Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (Aug 27, 2011 12:09PM)
Message: Posted by: AllAboutMagic (Aug 27, 2011 12:21PM)
That picture is not doing them any favors when it comes to selling a prop....LOL
Message: Posted by: keithmagic (Aug 27, 2011 12:39PM)
The Lester Lake chopper was originally designed for a shapely woman's leg if I remember correctly. Someone like David Charvet may be able to expound a bit, but it was originally a pretty sexy presentation for night club work - a showgirl hiking her skirt up and the focus on the leg, or a guy with his head stuff in there...

Just because "everyone does it that way" doesn't mean it's the "best way". It just means it's the way that we as a community of performers have decided to copy and do it.

For those interested, the original Lester Lake chopper is on display at the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, MI.

I dunno... I wish more used a lady's nice leg! lol!

Message: Posted by: runawayjag (Feb 6, 2015 09:19PM)
You are correct. Lsster Lake originally designed the trick for and performed it with a girl's leg.
Message: Posted by: jimhlou (Feb 8, 2015 05:38PM)
I have a Lester Lake chopper. I've found it's a lot easier to get an ugly guys head in there than an attractive woman's leg.

Message: Posted by: Chezaday (Feb 9, 2015 07:18PM)
I remember seeing early photos of the effect performed with a woman's leg. I'm not really sure you could pull this off these days. It's bad enough with what's going on around the world. I get nervous about adding this to the show list. We did the See Thru Guillotine just a few weeks ago without any complaints.

Many times I have to plan theater gigs months ahead of time and this was on the set list. We have to change things up from year to year and this fit the bill.

Message: Posted by: johnmagic (Nov 8, 2019 03:35PM)
I always put the ladies leg in the guillotine. I think itís in bad taste to have a person get on their knees on stage and put their head in a prop specially a lady
Message: Posted by: FrankFindley (Nov 8, 2019 11:47PM)
Did a quick look through the literature. The idea of using a leg instead of a head was claimed by Goodliffe and published in his book [i]Simply Wizard[/i] in 1946. A whole chapter was devoted to it where he goes over his experiences and provides plans for his own version. The thinking is quite interesting.

"It was some months ago that I first had the idea of using a Guillotine for a girl's leg, and having a presentable leg available (not mine, of course, but my assistant's), I set about designing a suitable piece of apparatus. The numerous Guillotines on the market made use of a variety of different principles, and in addition to this there were a number of alternative presentations. For example : I considered having the girl seated and passing the blade through both legs simultaneously. Another idea was to have the girl kneel on one knee, and to use a small chopper, little larger than the wrist guillotine. Careful consideration of the possibilities eventually brought me to the conclusion that in order to give maximum audience visibility, and to make the effect look as showy as it deserved on the stage, it would be best to have the girl standing, and for greater artistry to have one leg only inserted in the apparatus.

Edward Maurice had the bright idea of providing a small platform as a support for the girl's leg, and the manufacturer of the original model, Tubby Allison, had the further bright idea of making the outfit in such a way that it could be used if desired as a neck chopper, in which case the platform provides a handy place for the top-hat or bucket popularly used in conjunction with this effect. The obvious decoration to surround the aperture through which the leg is placed was something which would give the impression of the assistant's undies. This was a little too much strain on the ingenuity of those already concerned in the construction, so I explained to my artist, Dennis, just what was required, and he sent me the drawing which is reproduced. As will be seen from the photograph of the finished article, we followed this faithfully, and the effect was all that could be desired."


So apparently people were doing the Lester Lake style guillotine in the traditional head manner for a decade and a half before the leg idea blossomed. I found no record of him doing it in the leg manner. It was head manner from 1931 on. Also, the early Owen material showed it as a head chopper too.
Message: Posted by: FrankFindley (Nov 9, 2019 12:24AM)
Photo of Goodliffe leg chopper in action:

Message: Posted by: ringmaster (Nov 19, 2020 06:48PM)
No adult took the thing serious. The act was the crosstalk between Lester and the girl. For the blowoff Lester fainted.
Message: Posted by: ringmaster (Apr 24, 2021 06:26PM)
Lake was a burlesque comic.....and it wasn't always a leg the strippers put in it!