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Topic: Old Timers...what was it like?
Message: Posted by: mndude (Jan 18, 2015 08:18PM)
I am rather jealous of those who were in the magic industry 20 or more years ago. No YouTube, no Masked Magician, no lookups right after a performance. Sure, we can still marvel a room of people, but back then you had the satisfaction knowing that know-it-all geek would probably never figure out how you did some things.

You were such a select group of entertainers holding these secrets, almost never to be discovered. Tell us how it is was in those days!
Message: Posted by: Nestor D (Jan 23, 2015 04:13PM)
I am far from being that old but I found something interesting on that matter in the falkenstein's video : they speak of a time of secrecy when most magicians died with their secrets.

On that point, they say that maybe times are better : we are now sharing a lot more between us making sure that the art progress a little with everyone... :)
Message: Posted by: george1953 (Jan 24, 2015 08:27AM)
When I was starting out over 40 years ago, it was VERY difficult to get any information. There was the odd magic club here and there but you had to know where they were. There were the fabled magic shops which these days have largely given way to the internet. It was a time when you would take a trip to London with the sole purpose of going to Davenports, when it was by the British museum and looked like something out of Harry Potter, not like it is now, in a station concourse with thousands passing by every hour.
We would meet some of the greats there sometimes and if you were lucky they would give you some advice.
It was like an informal magic club, then there was Repro Magic, I knew Geoff when they had a tiny shop in emu road. They later moved to a place on the main road that was four storeys high with a nice demo area and even a (very) small stage on the ground floor. You could see anything demmed live if you were interested and once Geoff knew you you could ask about something and he would say "that's not your style" because he knew what you did. Yes it was all very different in those days, it was so difficult to get information only those who persisted and really wanted to learn would find what they were looking for. Unlike today when anyone with an internet connection can find anything they want.
No give me the old days when people could keep their secrets, I know some will disagree and say its good for magic that its accessible easily, that's ok but for me I preferred the old days.
Message: Posted by: Magic_son (Jan 24, 2015 09:36AM)
There were magicians that would sell their products at conventions and you would have to sign to a commitment of secrecy. Nowadays it seems like the majority of people's signature and word are worthless.
Message: Posted by: george1953 (Jan 24, 2015 12:20PM)
I think you are spot on.
Message: Posted by: LeoH (Jan 24, 2015 01:35PM)
I remember watching Jay Marshall and Cardini on the Sullivan show, and Mark Wilson on Saturday mornings as a kid, I started by checking out the 2 magic books in the library over and over again. One was a book teaching tricks, the other was the Melbourne Christopher "Illustrated History of Magic". I sat for hours with that book, spell-bound by looking at the posters of the magicians of yore. There was not very many local magicians, no magic club and no shops. As a teen, I discovered a Tannen's catalog and the journey began. Yes, the "old days" are always better, just ask the old people.
Message: Posted by: george1953 (Jan 24, 2015 06:40PM)
I started by finding a magic book in a library as ell. It was the Henry Hay book. I had originally got interested in magic because my girlfriend ( now wife) brought some things home from a magic shop near where she worked.
Message: Posted by: NYCTwister (Jan 24, 2015 09:29PM)
This is a frequent subject around here.

I may be wrong, but I feel the flow of information helps far more than it hurts.

While it's true that someone who wants to find out a secret has greater means to do so, how many of them really take the time?

I find that most people these days have the attention attention span of a demented flea.

Even if they want to find out they probably won't. They'll forget about it when the first distraction comes along.
If they follow through most are decent folk and will not go spreading it around.

Even the dam#ed Masked Magician had far had little or no effect long term. Magic is stronger than ever, and people continue to be amazed.

Has anyone here really suffered from someone doing research after a show? Or is it just annoyance, or perhaps outrage?
Message: Posted by: CJRichard (Feb 21, 2015 09:55AM)
I am amazed watching some people's linking rings or cups and ball routines. I wonder how those tricks work. :D
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Mar 7, 2015 04:33PM)
In my experience, it's not all that different now; it's just that technology has made it easier for lazy people to do what would have taken some effort back then. When I started in the 60's, there were good magicians, bad magicians, and everything in between. There were magic shops selling by mail order, there were public libraries with tons of books on magic, there were bookstores and second-hand book shops with loads of magic books (which was where I bought most of mine, including some of the classics), and there were cheap tricks ("No skill needed!") and crap available through magazines. You could buy a magic set at a toy store and "learn" the cups and balls among other effects.

On the other hand, going to an IBM ring meeting was something to look forward to: you could perform, learn, get feedback, and feel like you were special. We did a lot of exchange shows with other magic groups, and it was a lot of fun.

I don't know if there are "more magicians" now than "in the old days," but I remember a story about Houdini. He was introduced by somebody in Europe as a magician, and he (supposedly) said something like "I'm an escape artist, not a magician. In my country you can shake any tree and a dozen magicians will fall out." Houdini died in 1926.

I like to think "the old days" were different too, but every time I think about it, I come up with the same conclusion: it's the same, only different. :)
Message: Posted by: B. Edwards (Mar 7, 2015 10:15PM)
[quote]On Jan 24, 2015, george1953 wrote:
It was a time when you would take a trip to London with the sole purpose of going to Davenports, when it was by the British museum and looked like something out of Harry Potter, not like it is now, in a station concourse with thousands passing by every hour...

I remember going to this magic shop with my mum after a trip to the museum as a kid, back around the mid 70's. I was looking for fake blood and black-faced soap at the time.

The guy in the shop demonstrated a "talking toilet", which I found hysterically funny. But I couldn't figure out why they had a whole rack of plastic thumbs. :lol:

Thanks for putting a store name to my memory. :)

Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Mar 8, 2015 11:23AM)
I remember Davenport's, right down the street from the museum. It was almost a religious experience, stopping by the shop on the way to see the mummies. :)
Message: Posted by: StevieDee (Mar 14, 2015 09:37PM)
As a teenager in the early-to-mid 60s, I would ride the stinky D.C. Transit bus for a half hour to get to Al's Magic Shop in Washington, DC. His shop always had a kind of incense-like smell, which I still vividly remember. I would slobber over the shiny tube and dragon-decaled boxes. IN my memory everything seemed to be made pretty well; there was very little garbage import stuff at the time. AL brought some things in from Supreme in England, but I think that was about it. Today to get well-made stuff you have to go directly to the manufacturer. For most good props today there is no room for a wholesale discount. And stuff back then was just as costly as it is today--in today's dollars. In the mid-60s I bought a 18" Rice 20th Century and a P&L Vanishing Wand. They were $12.50 each. Volume One of Tarbell was $7.50, Rice volumes I think were $10 each. Just to give you an idea, when I started working out of high school in 1967, minimum wage was $1.40 an hour.

Later on when I started performing birthday parties more regularly in California in the mid-70's, I charged $35 for a 45-minute show. It seemed like the kids' attention span was much longer back then as well.

I apologize if I sound like Grandpa Simpson, but that's the way it was.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Mar 21, 2015 12:00AM)
[quote]On Feb 21, 2015, CJRichard wrote:
I am amazed watching some people's linking rings or cups and ball routines. I wonder how those tricks work. :D [/quote]

They work with artistry and presentation, that is the secret to the Linking Rings. That is why most hate the rings and cannot perform them, it takes practice to perform them smoothly, and assembling a routine takes knowledge and investment in obtaining many different routines to make your routine stand out.

Most, as noted by the number of magicians that perform the rings, will not or do not want to make that much investment in a quality piece of magic. That is also shown by the number of magicians who say they one a set, and "want to learn a routine" even though they have had the rings setting in a room for years.

So the make up excuses, like "everyone knows how they are done", or "they are exposed on YouTube", or any number of the I don't have time excuses.

But that is okay, as the ones that do follow the Linking Rings path to success, will be applauded by all those who have not taken the challenge. They will stand above those in the audience applauding like crazy at the wondrous talent of someone who found the time to perfect this classic of magic.

Then they will find more excuses, like I can't find a set rings that don't have a weld seam, or they don't look well made or shine enough. I need the best rings in the world before I even start to learn the rings. Why does anyone make a perfect set of rings. Then when they are told, yes the perfect set of rings cost $2000, oh that is to much, I can't afford that, but he lives in a house he cannot afford, and drives a car he cannot afford. Or the wife would kill me. I have children to feed. On and on goes the excuses. The wife will not put up with the noise of those clanging pieces of metal.

Face it, stop lying to yourself, you are just to lazy to do the work it takes, as a set of good ring costs only from $40 to $100, and that is all that is needed to put the show on the road.
Message: Posted by: george1953 (Mar 21, 2015 07:01AM)
:applause: :applause: :applause: :applause:
Message: Posted by: Jerry (Jun 17, 2015 03:27PM)
You can still keep secrets today.
Just don't sell your hard earn routine/effect.
Message: Posted by: magiccollector69 (Jul 25, 2015 05:33PM)
I started in the 1970's, and was lucky that Magic (on TV, etc.) was undergoing a huge renaissance at the time. And I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there were a number of established magic stores, plus performers.

That said, I think the skill level has greatly increased given what I see performed by amateurs today. And I think that the availability of video both to teach, and to evaluate ones' own performances, has been a boon. In the 70's a VCR was well over a thousand dollars and few were owned by the average person. TVs still used vacuum tubes. We all thought we knew what we looked like when we performed, but I'm sure we were wrong.
Message: Posted by: T.G. Jones (Aug 2, 2015 06:04AM)
[quote]On Jan 24, 2015, Magic_son wrote:
There were magicians that would sell their products at conventions and you would have to sign to a commitment of secrecy. Nowadays it seems like the majority of people's signature and word are worthless. [/quote]
Oh the glory days of magic. Now secrets are sold like sweets.
Message: Posted by: Rook (Aug 22, 2015 11:24AM)
When you lived out in the boonies as I did 20 years ago (actually, longer, since I had internet in 1995) and had relatively few resources, it was quite difficult. Where I lived 30 years ago, it was a 90 minute drive to the nearest magic shop and I had to beg my mother for the annual trip. In order to acquire a new piece, therefore, you were at the mercy of deceptive ads in catalogs and did not have the benefit of checking out the many reviews that are now online before laying down most of your disposable income for what may turn out to be an expensive disappointment.

Thus, for those of us who were isolated pre-internet from the nearest SAM Assembly or IBM Ring, and had precious little access to magic shops or other source of information and mentoring, the internet would have been a godsend.

I will concede, however, that it came with a price. Exposure is indeed rampant. However, it is quite rare that I do a performance for someone and I hear someone say "Saw that on YouTube!" True, it kind of burns when that happens, but it's rare enough (for me, at least) that I may treasure the myriad benefits that modern technology brings to magic moreso than revile its (slightly) fewer drawbacks.
Message: Posted by: Tom Jorgenson (Jan 10, 2016 10:51PM)
Back in my day the two main accesses to magic were the giant Abbott catalog and the hardbound Tannens's book. They were issued every year or so and the field was basically set: Those were the tricks you could learn, there weren't any others. The field was finite and changed slowly, depending on the publishing schedules of a few dealers. Magic Inc had about 8 catalogs and was more flexible, able to change faster with the times.

The books were an education in themselves, and you would soon find yourself comparing various iterations of the same effect and comparing the various methods. "No strings" in one ad meant the other one used strings. No wires or strings meant magnets. No strings or magnets meant wires. Etc., Ad Infinitim for hundreds of pages.

Dalers sold you tricks and effects dependent on the level you were at and the next level you were getting ready for...they took responsibility in guiding you to what you needed, unless Daddy was buying your way into fame...then all the shelves were available to you. In Chicago, There was the front counter where the newbies and tourists hung out, and the back area where the real stuff was discussed.

Every item had a purpose and if you blew $2 on a thang that was weird, you learned how to use it until you were good at it. Whether the trick that got your eye was a color changing hank thing getting you a small metal tube, or a thing on an elastic, you automatically assumed it was the strange secret to fantastic magic....and it was, cause you saw it being used in front of you.. But you had to work with it. You learned it.

You learned a lot slower back then, but you learned solid. Step by step. It was the time where you ordered "13 Steps" one step at a time, starting with pamphlet number 1. Same with Ormand McGill stuff and many others.

You didn't need to spend all that much loot...for $7.50 you got a huge book "Greater Magic" and you went thru ittrick by trick, page by page. Mark Wilson's hadn't been published yet, he was still culling the field. And DIY was king. How many oatmeal tubes ended up in small birthday shows all painted and spangled up, gaffed to the hilt?

A deck of cards was an infinite entertainment with an infinite amount of things to learn, practice to do, and small one dollar booklets to buy and try? Every new sleight gave you powers beyond the ken of men.

Now there are a million variations of the old stuff, plus uncountable new variations, principles, directions, plots, sleights, tricks effects nad miracles....dozens a week scream at you to buy and try. Usually, I find the latest Wowzer to actually be a ho-mummer getting great reviews by people who could make it work once and get any kind of reaction out of it. When you read of a new trick, ask yourself if you can substitute any other effect you know and if that would be stronger in the set. Usually, you already have stronger in your repetoire.

And the thing that hasn't changed is that you still have to hunt and/or fight to get performing time and experience.
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Apr 27, 2016 12:26PM)
I got into magic and did my first shows over 50 years ago in 1964. There was Tannen's, where I bought my stuff. There was Robert Nelson's wonderful catalog. Occasionally there was a 'convention'. It was NY City but I lived on Staten Island away from the hubbub...so I was on my own which added to having to come up with a lot of original ideas. I got $50 for kid's parties and did the occasional Showcase in the 'city', Charity shows for the elderly etc. By 1965 I had a flock of Doves. In the later 60's I met the great Mario Manzini at Ringling's and he taught me a few Escape gags...which I turned into a Night Club Escape act in '67 which most likely sucked but was fun to do. Being somewhat of a loner, I didn't hang out with Magicians or absorb 'the scene'. That was the Beginning...there was more...:-)
What was it like? Wonderful!
Message: Posted by: malaki (Aug 27, 2018 03:27PM)
Before the Internet, it was certainly a time that required more effort to learn magic, or research it, for that matter. That is why it took me 10 years to compile and publish my first book, "A Timeline of Magic".

I learned magic more than 40 years ago, and was fortunate enough to be taught by a mentor, who's dominate hand was the opposite of mine. Watching him was like looking into a mirror, with the same results when I was practicing at home!

In the 1970s, in Oklahoma City, there were few magic books in the library, and even fewer magic stores. Hecklers was the first magic/joke/costume shop that I ever visited. Tucked away in the back corner was the magic counter, usually with a magician standing behind it, with all of the pretty apparatus that I could not afford. Many times I would buy a cheap version of an effect, then go home and build a proper one that fit my style. I also met many a wonderful magician on my visits, including my good friend, Steve Crawford. It was also through Hecklers that I learned where and when the local IBM club met.

It was due to the rarity of magical books that I started building my magical library, for books were, and are the best value for your money. Basically, I would make the rounds of the book stores, pouncing on any magic book that had made it to the shelves, that another magician had not yet snagged. This is how I found Dunninger's publications, the hard bindings of which I nearly wore out from thumbing through, trying to find the items I had seen before (Morticia: "Is there an index or table of contents?" Lurch, shaking his head: "MMMMM..." The Adams Family). I spent nearly all of my "disposable income" on books (and some not-so-disposable income), building the collection that now takes up one entire 6" long, 8' tall book case for just the conjuring and theatrical books (another of the same size for the books on natural magic and history). I have never been known for having an eidetic memory, but I can usually picture the page of what I am looking for, just not well enough to "read" it from memory.

When I first got a computer (Windows 95), I was astounded at the abilities of the search engines online.

The development of You Tube is both a godsend and a curse to the magical community. It was a very valuable resource for seeing the performances of some of magic's greats when researching to build a new C&B act. Google lent a helpful hand when searching for period terminology for my Medieval style. Like anything else, the Internet is a double edged sword. In many aspects, it is the "Yellow Perils" of our age.

I do find it amusing, though, when I am talking with folks, and discover that they are googling the subject or a term of which I am speaking...
Message: Posted by: drmolarmagic (Nov 19, 2018 10:17AM)
20 years ago When I started busking I would spend every free minute hanging with a busker named Chappy Brazil (a watch steal expert and great street performer- we lost him too young) in Washington Square Park. I would hang out a Tannen's spend all my money on books as recommended by the people who worked there and then every Saturday go to Reuben's Deli to hang with the NYC magicians and sit there wide eyed learning by watching. As I got to know the attendees and got the nerve up to work in front of them I would get advice and critiques (to put it nicely) and I worked very hard to become proficient at my craft. Great times and met lots of magicians and a few of us who were the young kids hanging out in the corners trying to learn are still friends to this day and go to the magician hangouts after work and on days off.....all before the internet.....kind of miss that vibe
Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (Dec 20, 2018 06:54AM)
I booked my first (real) show at the local Jr. High School on October 24, 1945. I tell about it in detail in my book, "Dick Oslund--Road Scholar". It was a school assembly (45 minutes). I booked it on a percentage deal (50/50). Admission was ten cents! I made $24.00 in 45 minutes! Pretty good money for a 13 year old! A cup of coffee was a nickel, then!

All thru high school, my buddies were bagging groceries, or moving lawns (with a "push" mower) for 50 cents an hour. I was getting ten to twenty bucks for my little little show!

My parents took me and my sister to Milwaukee (about a six your drive) to see HARRY BLACKSTONE SENIOR at the old Davidson Theater, in November of '45. (I had "died and gone to heaven!!!) I got to meet Mr. B. backstage! It was the beginning of a "lifelong" friendship!

Now, retired, after a lifetime of performing coast to coast and, border to border, I'm busy, mentoring, and, enjoying the memories!
Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 21, 2018 11:36AM)
Dick wrote:
I made $24.00 in 45 minutes! Pretty good money for a 13 year old!

Actually that's not that bad today ($32.00/hour), especially considering minimum wage.

Have a great holiday, Dick.

Message: Posted by: Stephon Johnson (Jan 22, 2019 11:03AM)
I discovered magic in mid 70s when I met a couple friends at a new school.
I learned everything they would teach. I bought all books in the Novel rack at Ben Franklin store. I got Bill Severn’s “Big Book of Magic” and Henry Hay’s “Amateur Handbook of Magic” and everything else in the Library! The Magic Magazine was in Walmart’s magazine rack and ordered a catalog from Magic & Fun in NY. TV Specials from Copperfield and Henning, so I was always busy learning, performing and mowing lawns to make money to buy more things.

I was never overwhelmed with information like it is today. I think I would lose my mind to be a newbie in Magic and see all the flood of products, videos, and trick of the week!
I feel lucky to have a very limited flow of information in my early years. Because of that, I had to work and work on basics available from Classic experts! I got a great foundation that way.
In the early late 70s into 80s I found a group of magicians to meet including Bob Sanders who definitely befriended and mentored me. I also joined IBM Ring 75 and met Bill Pitts and other great magicians.
In 1982 I rode 2-1/2 hours to attend my first lecture with a fellow that I didn’t know, and he transformed my magic thinking...Eugene Burger! I had been focused on standup/Parlor type magic (Billiards, Rings, Silks, Card Fans) but Eugene changed me into a Closeup Magician for the rest of my life!
It was a great time to learning magic, and NO internet, NO videos, NO instant downloads! 😃
Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Jan 24, 2019 02:44PM)
Stephon wrote:
"I was never overwhelmed with information like it is today. I think I would lose my mind to be a newbie in Magic and see all the flood of products, videos, and trick of the week!"

Speaking as a perpetual newbie, I absolutely agree with you there. I see so many good tricks out there that it is hard to focus on a core of solid, fundamental ones. And choosing which sources of information to select is daunting as well. When is too much too much?

Maybe the problem is the new magician is more trick oriented than fundamentals oriented.

Stephon wrote:
"It was a great time to learning magic, and NO internet, NO videos, NO instant downloads!"

True enough, but at least they are something. But many of us live out in the magic "sticks," and finding a face-to-face mentor is harder than finding a needle in the woods. As a fellow Arkansan I am sure you would agree there.

Woo, Pig, Sooie back.

Message: Posted by: drmolarmagic (Feb 27, 2019 01:00PM)
Henry Hay’s “Amateur Handbook of Magic” was my first magic book when I got back into it in HS. But my interest predates that by a few years as I did find a photo in my parent's basement of me holding up a magic set I got one Chanukah, the same year I saw "THE MAGIC SHOW" on Broadway....