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mumford
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Fresh from the Magicopolis Facebook page - John Lovick's review


How To Make Love the Steve Spill Way by Steve Spill

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my favorite magic books really capture their subject or conveys the quintessence of an author. Books in which the subject’s (or author’s) essence, philosophy, aesthetic, and personality somehow emerge from the pages. Steve Spill’s latest book is a perfect example of this.

If you’re not familiar with him, let me tell you—Steve Spill is the real deal. Whatever goals you have, or have had, regarding doing magic professionally, Spill has almost certainly done what you’ve dreamed of. He holds the record for being the youngest person to ever perform in the Close-up Gallery at the Magic Castle. This happened in 1967, when he was 12 years old, long before the AMA had a Junior Program or anything resembling Future Stars Week. As a teen he hung out with Dai Vernon, Charlie Miller, Michael Skinner, Slydini, Senator Crandall, Francis Carlyle, and Albert Goshman. As a young adult he spent years performing at the Jolly Jester, a bar in Aspen and the Brookfarm Inn of Magic in D.C. He spent about a decade doing corporate gigs and playing in casinos, comedy clubs, and auditoriums opening for rock stars, with many TV appearances sprinkled in. For the last twenty-plus years he has owned and operated Magicopolis in Santa Monica where he does more than 250 full-evening shows per year. He knows more about performing magic for real people in more contexts than I (or you) ever will.

He wrote a candid, outrageous memoir a couple years ago (I Lie for Money), and now he has poured his soul into another book that offers advice, wisdom, guidance, and material from his working repertoire. The book reflects him in every way. It’s funny, inspiring, profane, smart, wise (those are two different things), insightful, crude (as in vulgar, but also aesthetically questionable—the punctuation is a mess and the illustrations aren’t quite successful in fulfilling their gonzo aspirations), and occasionally baffling with flashes of genius. I laughed out loud several times. I also cringed a few times. But that’s the beauty of the book. Spill pulls no punches and doesn’t play it safe. He pushes buttons, boundaries, and the envelope.

How To Make Love the Steve Spill Way is divided into two sections, titled “Foreplay” and “Seduction”. “Foreplay” contains five essays wherein Spill shares a bit of his history and words of wisdom on various topics, all related to the focus of this text: How to make magic routines truly yours. Spill recommends the following three steps to accomplish this. Share who you are, integrate comedy into your magic, and develop your own original material. In the essays, he provides examples of all of the above through personal anecdotes and direct advice.

The essays are meandering, digressive, but if you just go with the flow, everything you need to know about being an original, creative performer is there. Sometimes it’s between the lines, but more often he’s very explicit (in more ways than one). Here is a random sample of some of the things I highlighted.

“The big trap magicians fall into is trying to get by only on the basis of their tricks.”

“The secret is to act like a human being. And too may magicians act like magicians.”

“Normal gets you nowhere.”

“Can you think of a phrase that might define your brand?”

“When you steal material, you’re not only robbing them, you’re also stealing from yourself, because you’re not pursuing your own creative process.”

“If a bit doesn’t work, do the exact opposite and it’ll sometimes work.”

And finally: “Don’t be a flat squirrel.”

The remainder of the book (“Seduction”) is a dozen tricks directly from Spill’s working repertoire (I saw his show at Magicopolis recently, and he did three of the tricks in this book). Each trick includes the story behind the routine’s creation, often with anecdotes involving celebrities he has worked with or performed for. Of the dozen tricks, very few are going to fit you. And that’s basically the point of the book, and the reason for the essays. The way to approach this (or any) magic book is to figure out a way to make the material work for you. Magic routines are not one-size-fits-all; they need to be customized before they’ll fit you like a glove. But when you see how he has taken routines and changed them to fit himself, you should be able to see how you can change them to fit yourself.

Of the twelve routines, I’m going to focus on three, because I think they are masterpieces—“Citric Acid,” “Sharp Pointy Things,” and “Go Himber Free.”

With “Citric Acid,” Spill reveals—for the first time—the method and presentation of his seminal version of Bill in Lemon. And I use the word seminal very carefully. In the 1960s, Bill in Lemon was rarely performed. It wasn’t completely lost to history, but very few magicians did it. In 1969, Spill revived the trick when he devised this extremely popular method and staging for the trick. But wait. How can it be popular if this is the first time Spill has published it? Well, that story has already been told in his memoir (mentioned above) and I won’t repeat it here, but you can probably guess the gist of it. His presentation includes a great gag to facilitate borrowing money and some great advice about gauging the tenor of the crowd and adjusting your comedy/references accordingly. There is also invaluable advice about how to handle the vanish, the load, and the revelation of the bill in the lemon.

“Sharp Pointy Things” is his work on Needle Swallowing, another trick that was little performed when Spill started doing it over forty years ago. He writes that it gets the biggest reaction of anything he’s ever done. About a decade ago, he explained this on a DVD, and here in print he again reveals everything: all his patter, every tiny detail of the method, safety tips, and an interesting step-by-step approach designed for those who might be too timid or scared to put needles in their mouths. Spill’s approach is fairly comedic. He seems more interested in this effect being entertaining than mysterious or astonishing, but every performer will of course make adjustments according to their own style.

The final trick was the highlight of the book for me. “Go Himber Free” is his method for the Linking Finger Rings. As the title suggests, Spill’s method does not involve a Himber ring, and it is performed with three genuinely borrowed rings, no switches and no stooges. It is the cleanest handling you will ever see and it is brilliant. When I read this method I was stunned and excited, as were the people who loaned Spill their rings when I saw him perform it recently.

The remaining routines include a Bill to Impossible Location, a presentation for McComb’s “Half-dyed Color-Changing Hanky,” an updated presentation (and method) for “Soft Soap”, a You Do As I Do done with toe tags and death certificates, a presentation for the Die Box (the story of its creation includes a masterful lesson in how to walk into a sketchy situation with a tough crowd and pummel them into submission), and a new presentation for the Ultra Mental Deck with an extra magical moment.

Some of you will hate the book, and some will be offended. It might seem contradictory (or hypocritical) that I often berate authors for syntax and grammar errors (see my column last month), but am giving Spill a pass here. True, Spill’s punctuation is a mess, however different books have different goals. This book is a personal, comedic expression, and I’m using different standards here than for books that attempt to be scholarly, serious works. Finally, it might seem that this book has a steep asking price (only $25 dollars less than the DeLand book, after all), but when you properly assess what Spill is offering—a life’s worth of advice and material—it is a #&*@$!^% bargain.



How To Make Love the Steve Spill Way * Steve Spill * 6" x 9"; 270 pages, hardcover, illustrated with pen and ink drawings; published by Magic Concepts, Inc.; www.magicopolis.com; Dealers should contact the publisher; $125.
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HOW TO MAKE LOVE THE STEVE SPILL WAY
BLACK FRIDAY GIFT FOR YOU
$30 off – USA residents $95 instead of the normal $125 cost, INTERNATIONAL $120 instead of the normal $150 cost – to get the deal – paypal to info@magicopolis.com - with message Black Friday, this is a special price for those reading this that is not on our website. Details about the universally acclaimed book magicopolis.com / magicians only.
Magic-Daniel
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Are those prices with shipping?
steve spill
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Yes - including shipping
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TATTOO!
BLACK FRIDAY GIFT $50 OFF
FOR MAGICIANS & PSYCHIC ENTERTAINERS

An original new contemporary plot - 5 plus minutes of surprising astonishing wonder direct from the Steve Spill Show to your show. TATTOO! A most amazing funny routine.

The time is now. TATTOO! Watch the video.

This hardcover dust jacket book is personally illustrated, written, and gimmicked by me and produced on a small scale. NO FORCE, SPECTATOR HAS COMPLETELY FREE CHOICE OF ANY TATTOO IN THE BOOK.

Complete with routine, multiple scripts, downloadable tutorial, worldwide performance rights - including postage and handling – BLACK FRIDAY DISCOUNT NOT AVAILABLE ON THE MAGICOPOLIS.COM / Magicians Only WEBSITE – Normally you pay $199, BLACK FRIDAY DEAL $149 paypal to info@magicopolis.com with message BLACK TATTOO, foreign orders instead of normal $224, paypal $174 with message BLACK TATTOO info@magicopolis.com CHECK IT OUT:
http://www.penguinmagic.com/p/9143
markmiller
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How to Make Love the Steve Spill Was universally praised, yet I haven't seen anyone list this on the Best Of 2018 list, I'm going ti do this now because I love LOVE..
msmaster
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Rumor has it another Steve Spill book is in the works - anyone know anything. STEVE???
noble1
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I just added Things of Unique Beauty from this book to my repertoire - IT KILLS!!!
markmiller
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NEW Magic Circle review www.TheMagicCircle.co.uk
MAY 2019 THE MAGIC CIRCULAR 155

HOW TO MAKE LOVE THE STEVE SPILL WAY by Steve Spill Hardback, 6" x 9", 270 pages, line illustrations. $125 (£96) from your favourite dealer. Dealers contact Murphy's Magic supplies, www.MurphysMagic.com. Reviewed by Bob Gill
We're constantly being reminded by the Fourth Estate, reassuringly vigilant on our behalf, that sex education in this country is woefully inadequate to prepare the nation's youth for the rollercoaster they are about to experience in adult life. One is tempted to point to the parallels with how we educate young, budding teen magicians as they battle with acne, social introspection and living up to the demands of Dan n' Dave; it's all wham, bam, thank you ma'am, and reading about it is a poor substitute for sweaty, real-life performance in the flesh.
In this magic book (ignore the racy title: it's a spoof, and as such gives an early clue as to what you can expect from this wise-cracking, rollicking writer and performer; fans of the double-entendre will be in Carry On heaven) the would-be stand-up comic magic performer will receive an unparalleled preparation for The Real Thing. There are precious few magic performers who possess the ability to share so much wisdom to such depth so engagingly. I'll make this quick: this is the book of this decade, if not of several preceding it. And that's some accolade given the emergence of The Magic Of Johnny Thompson last year: 2018, the year of
the killer book - who knew?
One trait it shares with its only real contender for the Magic Book Of Last Year Award is how well written it is. But whilst Jamy lan Swiss's articulate style is built upon an academic, reflective approach, Spill's wisdom is expressed through his bouncy, discursive style: his personality shines through every page, and it's a joy to read. It's also very funny, mirroring his performance style; we are firmly in the territory of the stand-up comic magician: imagine a younger contemporary McComb sporting a piebald ponytail and holding a spliff. It's a sad reflection on today's magic that a) stand-up comedy magic is an increasingly rare breed of performance style and b) extensively the purview of magicians living next door to Canada.
This is very much a book of two halves. The first 87 pages are theory - a cold word indeed for the warmth, energy and wisdom threaded throughout every page. This reads like a one-to-one with Spill, as he explores the core issues of the comic magic performer: Character, You, Comedy Magic (as opposed to magic with one-liners crowbarred in), Creativity and Success (and its counterpoint, Failure). If I had paid the asking price for this section alone, I'd have been a happy camper indeed. I've returned to this section over half a dozen times already and find shards of insight and wisdom afresh each time.
And it comes from a wisdom accumulated over 40 years of continual performing: following his magical education at the feet of Dai Vernon, Charlie Miller and other Magic Castle stars, he began a lifetime of performing, firstly as a bar magician with the likes of Bob Sheets, but then as a stand-up performer on the comedy circuit,
at rock concerts where he opened for name bands, to casino revue in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Reno, culminating in the creation of his own magic theatre in Santa Monica, Magicopolis, where he performs daily in his stage show. That's an awful lot of performing shoe leather
So we should feel gratitude when in the ensuing 180 pages he describes 12 of his routines. When I say 'describes' I mean it: you got every nuance, the scripting, the honing of each item into a practical working routine that you sense flows and hits hard.
Whilst it's not essential to the enjoyment of this volume, it is well worth reading its predecessor: his 2015 autobiography aimed at the public, I Lie For Money: Candid, Outrageous Stories From A Magician's Misadventures. It will give you valuable background, particularly on Magicopolis, but also to the man himself, and thence the performer: proceed to Amazon, or to Spil's online shop at magicopolis.com.
If you don't know Steve Spill, go and search him out on YouTube: we'll wait. Back in the room, now you'll have watched his two signature routines: Swallowing Needles, and The Mindreading Goose. Whilst the latter is not included in these pages, you do get the Needles routine in full: all 25 pages of it. It is the perfect exemplar of his approach to his routines: quirky, creases firmly ironed out (his routine is switchless, for goodness' sake), and honed to push the impact and effect on the audience to the fore. Even if you don't wish to perform the Needles, you will learn hugely from studying how he has approached this classic.
The second of the three standouts is his Bill
In Lemon routine: no, come back, it's so good. The scripting alone is a lesson, indeed a joy: watch and imagine as he describes over two pages how he borrows the bill from the spectator: comedy gold. And this is real meat-and-potatoes stuff; the prep, the loading of the bill, the revelation, all have been honed to within an inch of their lives.
The final standout is his approach to the Linking Finger Rings. Across 50 pages (count 'em) he describes, step-by-tip-toeing-step, how he brings this modern stand-up classic alive. He prefers to use three borrowed rings: you heard me, no Himber Ring. Now the disappointing news is that here in the UK (well it's still united at the time of writing) you would be hard-pressed to find three spectators sporting the type of ring necessary for his handling. All is not lost though: if you are a devotee of the Koran approach to this classic, then you are still in business (albeit unlike Spill you will be left with a switch on your hands).
There are a couple of routines he developed precisely for specific shows; one for Richard Branson, which is a nifty bill in CD inside its sealed plastic case; the other was a reaction to a specific one-off that happened at a banquet show, and it demonstrates in spades how experience and quick thinking can exploit the room in such an effective way.
A couple of the routines are rather out-there, very quirky and reflecting Spill's persona. One takes the gentle unassuming Soft Soap and resurrects it into a dark place indeed; as to the other: Six Marijuana Leaf Repeat anyone? You'll never view 6 Card Repeat the same way again
Coping With Eddie is a cool framing of the Ultra Mental Deck applied to bring about a super-clean Triumph routine; he's not the only performer to use this combination (which he acknowledges; his citations are uniformly exemplary), but his presentation is a peach. And you'll love how he's taken a hack prop he detests (Sucker Die Box since you're asking) and
turned it into a joyful, rip-roaring, interactive performance piece.
There are woefully few books for the stand-up comedy magician: itself a dying breed as performing conditions increasingly favour the close-upper. This is at heart (and this book has a big heart) a love song for the parlour/stage comic performer, doubling as a lesson in scripting, routining and theatricality.
So as I say: a hot contender for Book of the Decade. Don't take my word for it (although: whatever happened to that deep level of trust we have worked so hard to build together over the years?). Noel Britten took it to read on the train home and messaged me a quarter of an hour later that he was only 5 pages into it and it was already shaping up to be the best magic book he'd read. And this from a man who walks the streets of his adopted city most nights, shouting loudly to himself, and along the way people hand him money; less of a performer, more a mendicant.
loserdlj
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Excellent
Christo
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I realy think that Bob Gill should receive a credit for that awesome Magic Circular review. After all, he wrote it! Smile
"Humpty was pushed!!"
msmaster
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Yay Bob! Good work!
trickynick
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Steve's new book is a gem! I just finished reading it, and am busy writing a full review for Vanish Magazine but just thought I would add a note about it here. Spoiler Alert Ahead--it continues his intoxicating blend of personal observations and autobiographical insight with magic routines that are fully formed and audience tested. I loved it!
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