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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » Was Vernon 'Really' anything special (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Elliott Hodges
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Hi gang,

been wondering this for a while.

In my opinion, Vernon was not a good magician. It's pretty obvious that he did not know how to communicate with people.

From what I can see, his tricks weren't really that good for lay people either. The difference is kind of obvious I think.
Slydini loved performing for lay people. Dai Vernon was a performer just for other magicians primarily.
Now-what do you think is more entertaining for a lay audience?
Triumph, or paper balls over the head?

Paper balls wins obviously. I can tell you that by having performed both to lay people several times. To be honest-if you have worked for lay people at all, then you can work that out I think.

I imagine that I'll get a roasting for asking this question but I'm interested to know.

Thanks
Father Photius
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No, I don't think you deserve a roasting, you just seem to be very misinformed about Dai Vernon. I knew both Dai and Tony, studied with both. Each had his own personality and style which were definitely different. Both were exceptional magicians.

Dai did perform for lay people, he was also in huge demand by magicians, as was Tony.

The two tricks you ask to compare are apples and oranges. Tony did a lot of very entertaining routines, as did Dai.

Dai could communicate with people fine. True his style was different. If you were learning from him, he communicated very clearly (and my hands still sting decades after he slapped them so many times, but it got the message across). Tony's teaching style was different, you would stay up for endless hours repeating and repeating and repeating as Tony drank coffee, smoked, and watched.

I can honestly say that both methods worked fine and communicated what the teacher wanted to communicate.

If Dai's routines were so poor for the public, I wonder why so many magicians still perform his routines (esp. cups and balls and symphony of rings) for the public.

I don't know that Dai set out for a reputation or career of fooling magicians, it sort of just happened after Bess Houdini admitted that Dai had fooled Houdini, who boasted that if he could watch any card trick twice, he could tell you how it was done. Dai was billed for a long time as "the man who fooled Houdini"

I don't know what history or histories of Dai you have been reading, but clearly they are highly limited in the information they have given.
"Now here's the man with the 25 cent hands, that two bit magician..."
Elliott Hodges
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Thanks Father Photius.
That was really well written and helpful.
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2008-10-13 11:25, Elliott Hodges wrote:
...in my opinion, Vernon was NOT a good magician. it's pretty obvious that he did not know how to communicate with people...


Are you asking if something like an Asperger's diagnosis is in order... it's probably not going to be forthcoming.

As to his technical abilities and taste in good ideas, themes and routines to explore it's pretty safe to say he was both a prodigy and genius.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2008-10-13 11:25, Elliott Hodges wrote:
Hi gang,

been wondering this for a while.

in my opinion, Vernon was NOT a good magician. it's pretty obvious that he did not know how to communicate with people.

from what I can see his tricks weren't really that good for lay people either. the difference is kinda obvious I think.
Slydini loved performing for lay people. Dai Vernon was a performer just for other magicians primarily.
now-what do you think is more entertaining for a lay audience?
triumph, or paper balls over the head?

Paper balls wins obviously. I can tell you that by having performed both to lay people several times. to be honest-if you have worked for lay people at all then you can work that out I think.

I imagine that I'll get a roasting for asking this question but I'm interested to know.

thanks


Since Father Photius was kind, I will be, too, although I'm inclined not to be.

Vernon knew how to entertain laypeople. He was, in fact, very good at it. You must remember that almost everything magicians know about him comes from things that were written and published by magicians for magicians.

Comparing the paper balls over the head to Triumph is not really a good comparison, although if you were watching the reaction of people who were hard core card players and not magicians, Triumph would win over the paper balls almost every time.

The last couple of decades of Vernon's life were spent performing at the Magic Castle, but he didn't just perform for magicians there. He performed for a LOT of laymen. You have to realize that the Castle was one of those "in" places that "you had to know somebody" to get into.

I can't tell you how many times I worked a party in Houston where some layman would come up to me and ask if I knew any of the fellows that worked at the Castle. Just for research purposes, I would ask them who they had seen. Usually they referred to "that old fellow they call The Professor." He made a very positive impression on the layman until he got into the last couple of years of his life.

Don't let the negative material you have read about him lead you to believe that he couldn't communicate with an audience. He could do it very well.
"The Swatter"

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mtpascoe
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It’s trendy now to find fault with Dai Vernon. For awhile it was Houdini. Let me say upfront, I’m not one of those Vernon loyalists that won’t let any kind of bad comments be uttered about the man. I am in between. However, I acknowledge the contributions he has made to our art. As a young magician, I remember seeing him on television a lot. Being a beginner, I was as near to being a layman as you can, but still having basic knowledge.

I found him to be very entertaining. I never considered him to be anything but a seasoned professional. He did close up style magic, but from the stage. He had the camera up close which was his appeal. I also saw him do his linking rings which also showed me that he could handle platform magic too.

By the time I started to hang out at the Castle, he was old and frail, so I never saw him perform in person. He just sat in front presiding over the future of his craft.
Bill Palmer
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I was lucky. I met him first in 1972, when he was still "in there." I saw him on many other occasions as well.

Magic for him was a passion. It was his life. Those of us who were directly influenced by him -- and there were many -- were surrogates for the children that he (according to his own children) never really knew or understood.

Yes. He had character flaws. He was human. We all do. And I'm not saying that we should cut him slack because he was human. All I'm saying is that we need to evaluate his contributions to magic on their own merits and not use some other yardstick.
"The Swatter"

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Pete Biro
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Vernon performed big time for NY society at big money. You don't work that field if you are no good. I worked shows with him and he always got great reactions from his audiences.

Most saw or met him in his later years at the Magic Castle and by then he stopped working for lay audiences.
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
Bill Palmer
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My wife HATES the linking rings. HATES THEM.

So, in 1972, we were at the TAOM convention in Abilene, TX, and one of the headliners was Vernon. He was up on the stage doing the linking rings, and my wife was completely enraptured by what she saw. She turned to me and said, "That's really wonderful!"

Joe Berg was sitting in front of us. He turned around and told my wife, "You should have seen him when he was GOOD!"
"The Swatter"

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chrusa
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I have never seen Vernon live but only on video. He is amazing. and they say you measure a mans worth by the legacy he leaves and look at the legacy and how many people he has touched and influenced.

Special Yes


Mr Palmer, Mr Biro, Fr. Photius you gentlemen are all so very lucky. many times a post like this comes here on the Café and you will give your answer and many times you seem to know everybody! It seems these days that just doesn't happen as much. (Based on stories that I have seen)

Were magicians back then just much more approachable? Has television and stardom created a separation ? Has the internet caused a big role I this because everyone is online now? Is it because magic is more main stream?


I always get a little something new from these posts and love them

For example yesterday while practicing

I though about the story fro Mr. Palmer one time about think of a number, 458, any significance? , the 3 hardest to write with a... , thanks for the magic lesson Mr. Vernon!

Always be ready. kept going through my mind
Thanks,
<BR>
<BR>Chris Hrusa
Bill Palmer
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Chris:

Most magicians are fairly well approachable if you don't drool on them too much. I've never been afraid to approach any entertainer. Sometimes all it takes is a cordial word.

If you approach any entertainer with a chip on your shoulder, you will get the same in return. The good ones are usually approachable, though.

Although my performing in the "magic capitals of the US" has been rather limited, I go to at least one convention every summer. I worked at Magic Island in Houston when it first opened, and became acquainted with Earl Nelson, Chuck Fayne, Lou Lancaster and a lot of other magicians who were well-connected. Also got to meet and work with Harry Blackstone, Jr.

If you approach any of these guys with the idea that you like their work, they will be pleased. I don't know how much of Walter Gibson's material you have read, but he was one of the best writers who ever touched a typewriter. He was at a TAOM convention once. I went up to him and told him how much I appreciated his skill as a writer. He was as pleased as anyone could be.

It's just a matter of knowing how to approach people. Conventions are really the key, though. You see lots of magicians at conventions. Imagine a convention where you could see Billy McComb, Tommy Wonder, Mark Raffles, Jeff McBride, Topas, Steve Cohen, Terry Seabrooke, Paul Daniels, Tomsoni. That was the Magic Circle Centenary in 2005.

I watched Jeff McBride spend time with a kid who was about 14 years old. The boy wanted to learn. I introduced him to Jeff and let Jeff take over. He encouraged the boy to study and gave him some pointers.

There are a lot of guys like this in the business.

P.S.
Fred Kaps was like this, too. I never got to meet him, but a friend of mine saw him at one of his last performances. It was at a convention in St. Louis, I think. My friend went backstage after the show was over and approached Fred respectfully. My friend was a quiet fellow, but a very good manipulator. He said, "Mr. Kaps, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your show tonight. I've seen you on television a few times, and I always like the way you work. It's really wonderful."

Fred looked at him and smiled, and asked, "Was there anything you liked better than the others?"

"Well, I have to say that I really enjoyed watching you smoke your thumb. That always amazes me!"

Fred thanked him, and then he asked, "Would you like to see the gimmick?" That was like asking an alcoholic if he would like another beer.

My friend was flabbergasted, but he said, "I would be pleased and honored if you would show it to me." So Fred showed him the gimmick. Then he said, "Here, keep this. You can have it. It's yours."

What a nice man.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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Jimeh
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I've met McBride, had drinks with him and seen how he interacts with kids/adults and I can echo what Bill has said about him. Top notch guy. I recently had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Jonathan Pendragon and he's the same.

One of the many reasons I visit the Café is for the stories,
like the ones that were just told above.

A heartfelt thank you Bill, you're a lucky man...
mtpascoe
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Jonathan is very approachable. I remember once running in to him at the Sporting House here in Vegas. He talked my ear off, but I loved it. He told me a similar story Bill told about Walter Gibson. Jonathan told Gibson that he enjoyed the Shadow. The great author was thrilled to meet someone from the 1980's who have read it.

Most of the top pros are approachable. Like Bill said, just be yourself and don't be rude.
Bill Palmer
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Elliott wrote:
Quote:
from what I can see his tricks weren't really that good for lay people either. the difference is kinda obvious I think.
Slydini loved performing for lay people. Dai Vernon was a performer just for other magicians primarily.
now-what do you think is more entertaining for a lay audience?
triumph, or paper balls over the head?

Paper balls wins obviously. I can tell you that by having performed both to lay people several times. to be honest-if you have worked for lay people at all then you can work that out I think.


Elliott:

I worked for lay people for more than 35 years. I've done everything from close-up to large scale illusions, all quite successfully. I've entertained some of the most difficult audiences you can find, almost as difficult as a man with a posh accent performing at a workingman's pub in Leeds.

NO TRICK IS ESSENTIALLY MORE ENTERTAINING THAN ANOTHER. It depends entirely upon the performer and the presentation. If you factor in the audience, it depends on how well the performer communicates what he does with the audience.

Certainly, the entertainment value of a mediocre performer doing the paper balls over the head is greater than that of a mediocre card worker doing Triumph, a good entertainer will make either one of these entertaining.

I seriously doubt that Vernon would have performed Triumph for an audience of 400 lay people in a large auditorium. But he would have performed the Symphony of the Rings or his Cups and Balls routine for them and would have done extremely well.

I know this, because I have seen it. I have also seen Slydini do the paper balls over the head. In his hands, it was wonderful. In the hands of some others, it can be a really devastating put-down.

Both of these men were giants. Most never actually got to see them perform.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
chrusa
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I want to start getting to more conventions. I am in Connecticut and there were not that many here and couldn't travel much due to my job but have a LOT more free time now. Then other thing is out here I am just kind of used to people with bad attitudes, kind of the region I am in over here.

I have read a lot of Walter Gibson very good reads.

Great stories thanks so much!
Thanks,
<BR>
<BR>Chris Hrusa
Bill Palmer
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There are plenty of great conventions near New England You should be able to find something nearby. It's kind of funny, though. I don't drive when I get up into the original 13 colonies. I usually fly when I go up that way, and I either take cabs or trains to wherever I'm going.

When I'm driving around Texas, that's a different story. What we think of as a relatively short distance is considered to be a long distance in New England. If I drive from Houston to Dallas, it's actually about 40 miles farther than from Hartford to Philadelphia.

And look at how many magic clubs there are between Hartford and Philadelphia! Between Houston and Dallas, there are actually only two major cities -- Houston and Dallas! The rest of them don't have any IBM rings or SAM assemblies.

If I head out toward Austin, there are clubs in Austin and San Antonio, but that's about it.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
Magicbarry
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I think the problem the original poster might be having is simply that there isn't much footage available showing Vernon performing for "lay people", and what there is is usually from later in his life. Without having much exposure to any performer's work, it's tough to get a good idea of what kind of performer they were.

If you go on YouTube and judge Vernon by what you find there, you'll probably be looking at his appearance on Merv Griffin -- where he makes mistakes, and sticks to his script even when Merv is trying to interact with him. It's not really a good piece to judge Vernon by. Or you might see him on Magic Circus, where again, he's later on in life, though gives a better performance.

Earlier footage show him as a more engaging figure -- on the biography done for History Television in Canada, there's footage of a younger Vernon performing the cups and balls, and he's definitely connecting with his audience.

I'm not sure how the original poster came to the conclusion that Vernon was not good with audiences, to be honest. The opinion seems to be bases solely on reading books and looking at what sort of effects and routines Vernon created. Without actually seeing Vernon's work with audiences, it's impossible to say whether or not he connected with those audiences. It's not the effects that connect with the audience -- it's the performer.
Lawrence O
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Vernon probably was to the XXth century what Robert Houdin or Hofzinser were to the XIXth century: his personality changed our art.
It's the chapel keepers who read their thinking verbatim like religious fanatics that do the greatest dammage to such geniuses.
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
chrusa
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It is nice there is a SAM in Stamford and I am joining as soon as I get a new car. There is a IBM in Norwalk but on their website it says "Meeting Schedule Unknown contact Walter Borughs" With no number! I google him and the number I get doesn't answer. I should have a long time ago but kind of faded away from magic due to my ex girlfriend wanting me to stop because she thought it was childish and I needed to grow up and adults don't do tricks (What a !@#$%) and anyways the magic bug just bit me.

As far as conventions there is Nem Con and Hank Lees Cape Cod Conclave

If anyone from the board is going please let me know I would be glad to meet some people.
Thanks,
<BR>
<BR>Chris Hrusa
Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2008-10-27 19:39, Lawrence O wrote:
Vernon probably was to the XXth century what Robert Houdin or Hofzinser were to the XIXth century: his personality changed our art.
It's the chapel keepers who read their thinking verbatim like religious fanatics that do the greatest dammage to such geniuses.


Absolutely right! These magicians were not only magicians, but they were people. I'm sure Hofzinser enjoyed a good cup of Kaffee mit Schlagobers like any Viennese. I've heart Smile that Vernon occasionally liked to have a drink.

Sometimes you can learn as much from one of these people by talking to them about everything besides magic.

One case regarding Robert-Houdin in which the chapel keepers may have missed the point is discussed here:
http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......um=171&0
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
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