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Topic: Who is "Mel" who designed the Z-B deck?
Message: Posted by: Anatole (Nov 15, 2014 02:04PM)
In the September 1945 issue of _Sphinx_ there is an Abbott Magic Company ad on page 254 for the "Abbott's Z-B Fan Deck." The ad copy says:
Designs are by Dr. Zina Bennett and Abbott. Bouquets are in order to Mel for his magnificent art work.

I'm wondering who "Mel" was. This deck mentioned in the ad is not, by the way, the Zinab Deck designed by Dr. Bennett that can be fanned blank on both sides. I believe this is a double-sided fanning deck with a top hat in a circle in the middle of one side of the backs, one side of which I posted on the IBM Ring 103 Facebook page here:
The other "back" had "ZBB" in a circle in the middle.

Also, I'm curious as to whether a "History of Fanning Decks" has ever been written either as an article in one of the magic magazines or in a book on card flourishes. I know in the beginning fanning decks were "ordinary" decks of cards that just happened to have colorful, borderless back designs--like the Cardini Peau Doux deck and the decks that were used in Goodlette Dodson's _Exhibition Card Fans_ and in the original edition of Ganson's _Expert Manipulation of Playing Cards." But at some point in the history of magic some dealer must have had the brilliant idea to manufacture a fanning deck from scratch especially for magicians.

----- Amado "Sonny" Narvaez
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Nov 15, 2014 04:18PM)
As with everything demand drives fabrication of new products. I don't believe there was ever a great demand, simply because magicians are just to cheap to pay more for a deck of cards that they could buy at the Five and Dime Store, aka sixty years later The Dollar Store.

The largest manufacturer of Fanning Decks in the World is most likely Piatnik out of Austria, around 1980 they commissioned Silvan to design and put his name on their fanning cards. There were so many variation, I could only buy 8 different decks, there were more, but I ran out of money at the time when I stopped into Hollywood Magic in LA.

Before that was Harry Stanley Unique Studio in London with only one design. Then Supreme Magic has a run of 4 index Unique Studio Fanning Decks made. It is a very good design and Mike Gordon Miller altered Ganson/Stanley's design to create the latest Abbott's Zinab Fanning Deck.

A good fanning deck should be printed on a linen finish so the powder is caught in the impressions of the linen.

Levent has shown and stated he is a Fanning Deck Collector, so he may have the largest collection of different fanning decks.

I believe all the stock for the Joe Cossari decks are depleted now as Haines no longer lists them. They were a little pail in color brightness or hue.

I have done considerable searching in stores, when stores were more plentiful, and could never find a deck I thought would make a good fanning deck on the ordinary consumer market.
Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (Nov 15, 2014 04:28PM)
Howard MELSON was "Mel". He was an artist, All of the "box" props that Percy put out in the 30s and 40a were "decorated" by Mel! They are "art deco" IMHO.

I THINK that he was also the original editor of "TOPS" Magazine. I have the "old TOPS" (hard bound). --I'll go out and double check a little more on Mel. It may take a few days, Sonny, as winter has arrived here in the U.P. of Michigan.

Zina Bennett married Suzy Wandas in later years. Suzy came to the Get Togethers for years. She had been one of the Wandas "Sisters". They did a manipulation act in vaudeville. She was a GRACIOUS LADY! She and ANNE GWYNNE (Jack Gwynne's widow) sat together "down front". When the MC introduced them on the first night of the GTG, they always rose from their chairs, turned and acknowledged the applause with a most gracious "style".

Zina Bennett is also known for his "NIFTY KNOT". The ends of the rope were crossed in one hand, and the bight at the center of the rope was picked up and dropped over one of the ends. Result: an overhand knot! But, the performer could controll whether a knot formed or not. It might be in the "ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ROPE TRICKS".
Message: Posted by: Anatole (Nov 16, 2014 01:41PM)
Thanks for the info on Howard Melson, Dick. I'll have to look him up on askAlexander.

I posted a picture of Dr. Zina B. Bennett from the cover of the March 1943(!)issue of _Linking Ring_ that shows him doing a double fan with JUMBO CARDS! You can see the cover of that issue on the
IBM Ring 103 Norfolk
facebook page here:

Also on that jpeg you will see yours truly performing his card manipulation act with the Zinab deck. The screen shots are from my instructional DVD "The Art of Card Manipulation" which predates Jeff McBride's instructional video of the same name by a couple of years and was a best-seller at a couple of magic shops in Maryland until Jeff's series came out, whereupon I withdrew my video from the market. One twist I have on my double fan routine is shown in the jpeg I referenced: when weaving the two halves together, turn the upper half of the deck 180-degrees from the bottom half of the deck. I feel that provides some contrast in the visual impact of the fan.

The huge plus of the Zinab deck is that it has a strong _magical_ effect beyond being just a flourish. Cards blank on both sides become a basically normal bridge deck.

I also used the Zinab deck in my award-winning close-up act. After fanning the cards to show them blank on both sides, I take out an artist's palette that has red, blue, green and orange "globs" of paint on it and use a magic wand to take the colors from the palette and magically paint the Zinab back design so I can fan the backs to show the patterns. Of course, the deck still has blank faces, so I turn my palette over to show a bunch of mini-cards on that side and I use the wand to make the faces appear on the Zinab deck.

There was a European deck of cards that had the same effect as the Zinab Deck--a deck shown blank on both sides became a fanning deck. But like many European cards of the 60's and 70's, the stock was heavily plastic coated and made them a little thicker than a standard U.S. deck of cards and thus a little unwieldy to handle.

The Miracle Factory sells a DVD featuring Suzy Wandas called "Suzy Wandas: The Lady with the Fairy Fingers" that includes clips of Zina Bennett as well. I haven't viewed the video lately but as archival historical footage I think it's important.

----- Sonny
Message: Posted by: Anatole (Nov 16, 2014 02:34PM)
Here's a facebook link that shows the "other" fanning deck that Dr. Zina Bennett designed, perhaps again in conjunction with Howard Melson. Maybe Dick can comment on the double-sided deck.

Although a double-sided fanning deck is an interesting collectible for magicians, I think the lay public appreciates a standard one-sided fanning deck just as much.

----- Sonny
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Nov 16, 2014 05:36PM)
There is a place for Double Sided Back Designed Fanning Decks in a purely Fanning Cards act, like Dobson, Cossari, and Osborne. I purchased a few on my visit to Hollywood Magic. They are still available from Piatnik Card Company in Austria.