Alan Alan

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby El Mystico » 11/23/11 06:34 AM

I'm reading Michael Palin's diaries. It brought back a fond memory.
"Monday December 31st 1984
I stopped at Alan Alan's Magic Shop in Southampton Row, where I was served by a small, neat, be-suited gentleman with an arrow through his head. Quickly and efficiently he demonstrated an extraordinary variey of bangs, squirts, farts and electric shocks as if he were selling nothing more exciting than a coal scuttle. Little children watched in awe as their fathers idly toyed with a pack of sexy playing cards only to recieve a sharp electric shock from the pack."
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/23/11 11:41 AM

I loved going into Alan's shop. He had no mercy.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 11/23/11 12:31 PM

The first time I went in, I swear, I thought he was sitting down. Then he moved to the other end of the counter at the same height...
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/23/11 01:25 PM

:)
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Postby Pete Biro » 11/23/11 02:12 PM

Alan taught me one routine I still use all the time.
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Postby El Mystico » 11/23/11 03:10 PM

Pete; did it involve a sexy pack of cards?
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Postby Mike Remington » 12/13/11 11:04 AM

I have attached links to a couple of pictures that can give an idea of what the Magic Spot was like.
[IMG]http://i1229.photobucket.com/albums/ee475/mikerem1/AlanAlan.jpg
[IMG]http://i1229.photobucket.com/albums/ee475/mikerem1/MikeAlanReikoNobuo.jpg

Instead of the arrow through head, he was fashionably dressed in the safety pin through head and bolts in neck.

In between all of these rubber chickens, chest wigs, and things that go bang was some great magic. Alan always had interesting stories and excellent advice One of my all time favorite magic shops.

In one picture, I see he is selling me a Harry Lorayne book. The young people (20 plus years ago) in the other picture are me and Reiko & Nobuo Uematsu. Nobuo is a composer of video game soundtracks including those for most of the Final Fantasy series (I have never understood why something Final could have so many sequels).
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Postby mrgoat » 12/13/11 11:13 AM

He was SO SO rude to tourists coming in, it was hilarious. So many times people would come in when I was there asking for something lame, or a joke and he would just shout at them to get out. Whilst then selling me a Vernon book I hadn't yet bought.
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Postby PapaG » 12/13/11 12:34 PM

As a seven year old, excited to come down to London to visit a proper magic shop for the first time, his attitude almost put me off magic for life.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 12/13/11 12:42 PM

Toughened your nipples, didnt it?
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Postby PapaG » 12/13/11 12:49 PM

Not really.
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Postby Q. Kumber » 12/13/11 01:53 PM

I've seen Alan spend ten minutes with a boy and his parents demonstrating and teaching a simple trick that cost pennies while a shop full of other customers fumed with impatience.
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Postby mrgoat » 12/13/11 02:01 PM

Talking of pennies, he had a great thing (that is probably very old and not his etc).

He showed me a handful of change, and poured it all into his other hand, asking me to guess how much there was. I guessed. He opened his hands and they were all gone.

It was a little crocheted bag on a pull, and good god it floored me. I bought it straight away. Wish I still had it, was excellent.
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Postby AJM » 12/13/11 04:59 PM

I bumped into Alan at the Magic Circle Centenery event in 2005 - almost tripped over him if truth be told.

How is he these days?

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/13/11 05:04 PM

Last time I visited Alan at his apartment he was well. He has a bit of trouble with his balance, so he doesn't get to the Magic Circle much these days. But his sense of humor is still STRONG.
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Postby Allen Tipton » 04/28/12 07:02 AM

My wife and I always spent a full week in London, every year. She said I had picked the hotel we always stayed at because it was just round the corner from Alan Alan's shop;which we visited every time we were in London. I still have a 'blow out' gadget he sold me as a comedy prop for the Nemo Jumbo Rising Cards. People on the front row always pulled back as when I blew--the paper tube unrolled at least 12 feet. Alan said an old man used to make them specially for him.
He was always kind and polite to my wife.
Together with Pat Page (who was brilliant with her) & Edwin who always addressed his Christmas Card to both of us are the 3 magicians she both liked, admired and respected.
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Postby BarryAllen » 08/07/12 07:34 PM

Couldn't just read this thread without adding a few comments.

Alan Alan - wow what can you say about this man.......and his shop. First and foremost, as a magical demonstrator, I'd actually put him on par with Ken Brooke.

I must have got on his good side pretty early on - as he was always polite and exceptionally helpful even when I was young. He'd be willing to discuss magic for hours and, as pointed out above, any non-magicians/tourists were abruptly told "look in the window, everything's in there" if he was engrossed in magic-related conversation.

His demo's put a lot of other dealers to shame. His handling of small items such as various routines with a shell 2p and the 'Dual Control' gimmick and an Okito Box were truly magical. Two other items I remember him demming so well were the 'Baffler Box' and 'Coin Thru Glass'(Ching Ling Coin Box?). The coin pull as mentioned above was called the 'Go Come Pull' if memory serves me correctly - and was much better (and silent!) than the current plastic Universal Pull by Vernet. He also made the Cigarette Pull look so convincing - his timing was immaculate and the lit cig just appeared to melt away.

Of course Alan had learnt to dem magic correctly over many years; I believe that he once worked in a magic shop owned by Dick Chavel; before opening his own shop. prior to that of course, Alan was an escapologist as seen in this old British Pathe footage:

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/burni ... capologist

Getting back to Alan Alan's shop. Being located in London's West End he was quite near theatre land. Sometimes, he'd be visited by a theatre's prop buyer that wanted to buy magic tricks - such as a set of Chinese Linking Rings. Do you think he ever sold these (despite being offered more money than they were on sale for)? Not a chance. Alan was from the old school that believed in protecting the secrets of our art form. If only the same could be said for magic today - with the plethora of internet 'magic shops' that sell props to anyone; coupled with dire exposures on YouTube.

Alan was always immaculately dressed - usually in a three piece suit. In complete contrast, he'd usually have a punk-rock safety pin through his nose and theatrical fake blood over the back of his hand. Then when he next turned around, he'd have fake snot dripping from his nostril and a knife through his head. Then he'd sit on his stool; throwing a never-ending stream of those little paper exploding bangs at people as they walked in. It was worth being in the shop just to witness the unbelievable looks he'd get from customers that just couldn't make out exactly what they'd walked into; and how this guy that looked just like a bank manager, had not been certified.

The shop itself - never seen anywhere like it. I don't think that there was a single space left untapped in his shop window; all sorts of items from fake body-parts, masks, jokes and in the side window next to the door, magic tricks (many of which were Tenyo items). Upon entering the shop, there were massive wall cabinets on the left absolutely crammed with all types of magical props. Straight ahead was a display of books and booklets and a long counter on the right. On the counter itself, it personified the expression 'utter chaos' - complete with a rubber bell (actually a rubber female breast) with the sign 'Tush Pit For Service'. Could you get away with this in today's politically correct World without complaint? I would guess not.

Alan was the guy that got me hooked on Harry Lorayne and Harry's material. And here is the reason why I put him on par with Brookie. Alan Alan was the ONLY magical demonstrator that wouldn't only recommend a book, he would actually show you material from it. How refreshing that was. Other London magic shops at the time (two of which are still operating) would hype a particular title without having the first idea of it's true content. Alan was different. I remember him going into great detail about Harry Lorayne's Ultra Move; and spending ages showing me the technique once I'd purchased 'Afterthoughts' from him. I adore magic books even to this day yet, as previously mentioned, have never known any magic dealer to possess such an in-depth knowledge of each title's content. Alan was also an admirer of the author Lewis Ganson, and I bought a copy of every title on Alan's bookshelf over the years. I also remember, I must have been about 17 at the time, asking for a copy of Corinda's 13 Steps. Alan (possibly correctly) stated that not only was I too young but also that I didn't look like a mentalist. However, he recommended the book for some of the techniques and methods within. 30 years down the line and I still don't look like a mentalist but do you know what? The Centre Tear and a Swami have both come in useful on more than one occasion. Sound advice from a guy that truly knew this business inside out.

I think I first went into Alan's shop around 1979 when I was 15 and then throughout the early to mid 1980's. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that nowhere since has had the same appeal. A counter in such a mess with jokes, novelties and magic scattered all over the place; a magical demmer using a square carpet tile instead of a close-up mat; a magic demmer constantly chain smoking Dunhill Internationals as he showed you the latest miracles (as well as miracles from years gone by).

No magic shop that I've visited since has ever held a light to Alan Alan's - and do you know what? I don't think that any EVER will.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/07/12 07:46 PM

It was indeed a memorable place, and it gave me great pleasure to put Alan on the cover of Genii a few years ago.
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Postby Franco » 07/06/14 12:33 PM

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Postby Q. Kumber » 07/07/14 08:07 AM

Franco, That is a really nice write-up about Alan and the photo gives a very good idea of the inside of the shop which often had packages heaped on the counter.

I hadn't seen Simon Drake's comments which reminded me of some of the tips Alan gave on how to make eye contact with an audience when you couldn't see them because of the lighting, or how to take bows in an arena, plus all the other professional tips and advice on presenting yourself to an audience.
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