Cigarette magic?

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Guest » 06/30/05 07:27 PM

I was watching a good friend of mine do a routine here recently, and he started in with some cigarette magic. I noticed some of the reactions of the audience, and it was sort of like a subtle, collective groan when he lit up his cigarette. It was a magic dinner theater, and people were reacting like "is he seriously going to light up a cigarette here?" He put on a great routine, but that initial reaction to somebody lighting up a cigarette in a small venue, and the smell that it made (all the more conspicuous now that even bars are smoke-free) got me thinking, is cigarette magic even a viable genre anymore?

Sort of like performing in black face, it just seems like cigarettes have such a permanently negative connotation that I wonder if even the greatest performances and effects are really worth it anymore. Yes I know that the dollar bill through the quarter doesn't work as well and isn't nearly as cool as the cigarette through the quarter, one of close-up's all-time cool effects. I wonder if winning over an audience and getting magic to hit isn't enough of a challenge already without trying to row against the changing of the tides and cultural megatrends. With so many other things that are possible these days, is it worth it to even put in the work to learn something that's going to turn a lot of people off?
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Postby Guest » 07/01/05 08:49 AM

True. I think cigarette magic is dead.Even production of cigarettes ala Miser's Dream wouldn't be looked upon kindly even using unlit cigarettes.

I'm surprise the PETA people haven't come out against magicians using rabbits and doves in their acts

Marvin L.
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Postby Gerald Deutsch » 07/01/05 09:40 AM

There are still SOME restaurants SOMEWHERE that permit smoking.

Some years ago my wife and I were having dinner with another couple and the woman opposite me took out a cigarette while we were having drinks.

I asked her for the cigarette and then I did the effect of pushing up my nose to "clear my passages" (I think Eugene Berger does this)lapping the cigarette. It got a nice reaction and was forgotten as we had dinner.

Then during dessert the woman took out another cigarette and I again asked her for it and I did Slydini's broken and restored cigarette (with the unlit cigarette - broken into 3 pieces etc) having the extra cigarette from before to do the restoration.

I gave her back the cigarette and it was a strong effect because they all knew I didn't smoke and wouldn't carry cigarettes and what I did before dinner was forgotten (I did other magic during the meal.)
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Postby Guest » 07/01/05 11:18 AM

Come on Scorch, he tried cig magic in the Bay Area? Cigs here (I'm in San Jose) are as popular as baby juggling, folks don't and won't like it.
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Postby Guest » 07/01/05 02:03 PM

I'd think that anything that provokes such a strong reaction (on either side) could be utilized to create a very strong presentation. Without trying to win souls and lungs for one's own particular preference, finding a way to comment on the public smoking controversy via magic could be great stuff. Then again, my baby juggling routine fell flat (it wasn't that I dropped any, but their little fontanelles kept slipping off the rack of spikes I used as a holder.)
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Postby Robert Allen » 07/01/05 04:44 PM

In the U.S. at least I would say that cig. magic is limited to a select few outdoor venues (San Francisco just banned smoking *outdoors* in many parks, etc.) and indoor venues such as bars which still allow smoking.

Don't even get me started on the bad manners shown by the 'OMFG that cigarette/cigar/pipe stinks horribly and is killing me one second hand puff at a time you loathsome murderer you!' mentality shown by people who feel compelled to react to cigaratte smoking nowadays.
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/01/05 07:03 PM

I think (not lighting them of course) a cigarette routine where they keep appearing and you keep trying to get rid of them would be just fine... use wooden dummies for longevity.

The acting would be the key.

And the table stuff, ala Slydini has such strong magic I think it is great (as in earlier post above).

It ain't whatcha do it's how ya doit.
Stay tooned.
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Postby BlueEyed Videot » 07/01/05 07:17 PM

I really like Ron Jaxon's Outsmokin' routine as a fine example of cigarette magic that will work in a non-smoking venue.

View Ron's routine Here

View Peter Eggink's take on the same Here

John Rogers has a variation for you cigar smokin' types, called the Diablo Cigar. Video Here
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Postby Terrence » 07/02/05 09:40 AM

Johnny Lonn "accidentally" burning himself palming a lit cig kills me every time.
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Postby Guest » 07/02/05 10:24 AM

Originally posted by Robert Allen:
Don't even get me started on the bad manners shown by the 'OMFG that cigarette/cigar/pipe stinks horribly and is killing me one second hand puff at a time you loathsome murderer you!' mentality shown by people who feel compelled to react to cigaratte smoking nowadays.
I guess that level of rudeness and lack of class is fairly well matched by those who continue to light up in public places with the full awareness of the discomfort that it causes to others around them.

My post was not to elicite comments on the social/ethical issue, but rather to ponder if the increasingly common public reaction to smoking (that you referred to) is a context that would be conducive to performing magic. My suspicion is that it is not.
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Postby Guest » 07/02/05 10:27 AM

Originally posted by Marvin L.:
I'm surprise the PETA people haven't come out against magicians using rabbits and doves in their acts
Shhh! Not so loud! You'll give somebody the idea...
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Postby Steve V » 07/02/05 05:31 PM

I'll tell you this, when I'm asked if I use animals in my show I have no idea how to answer because they may be militantly against bunnies. Tis a scary place we live in!
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Postby Guest » 07/03/05 09:39 AM

Well here's how to answer that one: "Do you WANT me to use animals in my show?"

I suppose since you're in the Bay Area, you could put a blurb in your promotional materials about not being cruel to animals, like the disclaimers in the movies about no animals being hurt during the filming, etc.

It's sort of a funny topic to take too seriously, but you never know.
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Postby Steve V » 07/03/05 10:58 AM

I actually DO put a statement "no animals used out of kindess". I will say that everyone who has asked about animals wanted a bunny to appear, so far.
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Postby John Smallie » 07/05/05 10:46 AM

In Richmond Virginia I have yet to have a problem performing cigarette magic in resturants, bars or outside. I don't smoke myself, but have always thought that cigarette magic has a certain elegance. I can take a cigarette through quarter to almost any performance with the knowledge that I will be able to borrow a cigarette with which to perform it. And that no one will object. As you can tell in Va. it is not illegal to smoke in bars resturants or outside, but then again we don't have to wear seat belts either if we don't want to.
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Postby Terrence » 07/05/05 02:12 PM

Remind me to send my mother-in-law to Virginia. :)
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Postby Steve V » 07/05/05 02:45 PM

I'm an ex smoker but lemme tell you the law here in my fair city. No smoking in businesses, no smoking in bars or restaurants, no smoking w/in 15 feet of an entrance to a building, no smoking in public areas. Other than that, you can puff away.
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Postby Ryan Matney » 07/05/05 02:48 PM

The optional seatbelt law may be true for Richmond, although I never heard of it, but you certainly have to wear a seatbelt in my part of Virginia.
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Postby Terrence » 07/05/05 04:00 PM

Going back to scorch's original question: ...is it worth it?...

I think lit cigarette manipulation really gets its interest from two things - how can someone produce or hide burning hot objects, and that the smoke adds a mysterious visual ambiance. It looks unreal.

But lit cigarettes were also common everyday objects most of us could relate to, and that part of it is now gone, and given all the technical headaches and risks required to do it well, it indeed may not be worth it anymore, given their new social pariah status.

Hate to cripple or cut out anything that's astonishing, but that's the reality.

But for non-US, or competitions - keep on a-flicking those coffin nails. Won't stop me from votin' for ya!
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Postby Kendrix » 07/13/05 02:50 PM

If you have ever seen John Calvert's "Symphony in Smoke", you understand how powerful a routine it is. He doesn't light the cigarettes, of course. He, also, starts it by warning people not to smoke.
The last time I saw his show Lance Burton was still using lit cigarettes for his dove production.
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Postby Jonathan P. » 08/23/05 08:44 AM

Check out "quit smoking", the cigarette routine of David Stone. While trying to light up his cigarette, the cigarette disappears, then the lighter, and there is a lot of fun with those two objects never being together at the same time. The patter presents the magic as the reason why the magician quit smoking. You end with nothing in your hands. It is a completely no-smoking cigarette routine.
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Postby Guest » 08/24/05 12:40 AM

John Calvert's "PC" set-up, as well as routine itself, is great to watch.

10 years ago, I watched Vic Kirk do a cig production/manipulation routine during his act, at Wizardz.
I commented to the entertainment director that you hardly see this kind of act anymore.
Sadly, 7-8 years later, Vic died of cancer....now you know why don't see, and shouldn't do that kind of act.
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Postby Dave Egleston » 08/24/05 09:55 AM

Originally posted by scorch:
I was watching a good friend of mine do a routine here recently, and he started in with some cigarette magic. I noticed some of the reactions of the audience, and it was sort of like a subtle, collective groan when he lit up his cigarette. It was a magic dinner theater, and people were reacting like "is he seriously going to light up a cigarette here?" He put on a great routine, but that initial reaction to somebody lighting up a cigarette in a small venue, and the smell that it made (all the more conspicuous now that even bars are smoke-free) got me thinking, is cigarette magic even a viable genre anymore?

I also saw the show "Scorch" is talking about at THE CALIFORNIA MAGIC AND NOVELTY COMPANY DINNER THEATER along with another show previously put on by John Calvert, I didn't hear or see any "collective groan" - I did see a couple of eyebrows raised and the resulting ovation for a well performed show.

As a hanger on after the shows - I also heard no negative discussion about the use of a lit cigarette.

I wish I could remember this guy's name because he is well worth the effort to go see.

I wonder if the "Collective Groaners" were the same folks who drank several adult beverages and drove home from the theater.

It's also against the law in Martinez Ca., where the Dinner Theater is located, to discharge a weapon within city limits, however we've had several performers use a pistol in their acts.

We've also had magicians drive swords through a child's neck on occasion, which is also against the law believe it or not.

It's unfortunate that we live such a "P.C." driven time in history that we can't enjoy ourselves for an hour or two.

Dave
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Postby Guest » 08/28/05 06:27 PM

Originally posted by Dave Egleston:
I also saw the show "Scorch" is talking about ....I didn't hear or see any "collective groan" - I did see a couple of eyebrows raised and the resulting ovation for a well performed show....As a hanger on after the shows - I also heard no negative discussion about the use of a lit cigarette.
Oh, it was absolutely an excellent performance! And I mean no disrespect at all to anybody who performs cigarette magic by raising this question. I remember no discussion at all about it (a great performance tends to justify its own choices), but as even you noticed, there was a subtle but easily discernable negative reaction to his lighting up a cigarette during the act that caught my interest.

It is not my contention that we need to take everything out of all of our acts that might in any way offend anybody. I think political correctness, like religious zealotry, is the death of art. But then again, most things that offend people's sensibilities do so for very valid reasons (like performing in blackface, for instance, or using a lot of other racial slurs), and deservedly remain in the proverbial trash heap of history. And there is a real world concern about whether or not the negative associations people have with routining choices are obstacles to the actual entertainment value itself.

So is a magician who continues to do cigarette magic in American today a rugged individualist who defies narrow-minded political correctness, or simply embarassingly out of touch with the times and the sentiments of modern audiences? It's an interesting question, and I don't presume to define it for somebody else. As both a non-smoker and an amateur magician, the issue simply doesn't apply to me. But I thought it would prove to be an interesting topic to explore.
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Postby David Alexander » 09/06/05 08:06 PM

A few years ago a friend invited me to an magic organization's anniversary with the express purpose of having me recreate Frakson's cigarette routine. I was willing, but the other leaders of the group were, I was later told, horrified that anyone would dare to do lighted cigarette production, even as a homage to a past master by his pupil. The invitation was withdrawn.

Sadly, about the only place I could perform the cigarette act today would be in South America or parts of Europe. Most of the US and Canada just wouldn't permit it, but there were downsides for me personally. While it is beautiful and very magical and used to stun audiences, it also left me smelling like an ash tray, something I'm not fond of at all. Reeking of tobacco is no longer socially acceptable as it was in the 30s, 40s, and 50s when nearly everyone around you smelled much the same.

When I was doing the act on the road I found my formal shirts were permanently stained yellow on the backs and on the one inside area where I wore a tank. The laundry could never clean those stains. Fortunately, I never inhaled.

Frakson, who stopped doing the act regularly after he taught it to me, returned to Spain in 1972 and lived to be 90. This was after doing the cigarette act for something like 50 years. I think he stopped smoking sometime in his 50s and after that, when he performed, he didn't inhale either. Certainly, when he was teaching me there was no need to inhale. I consider that a lucky break.
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Postby Terrence » 09/07/05 08:50 AM

John Calvert's cig production would look far better with lit cigarettes (IMVHO), as it was originally.

Yet he's still alive and performing (!!!) - at his lecture he shared his belief that not smoking has contributed to his (amazing) longevity.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/07/05 10:07 AM

I will not tolerate ANY discussions regarding politics, religion, or political correctness if it touches any of these issues.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
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Postby Ryan Matney » 09/07/05 11:13 AM

I think maybe the current situation could be used as a way of presenting cigarette magic esp. on stage. I'm thinking a presentation along the lines of 'here's an old genre of magic that you don't see much anymore' would do well. Make it seem like something special. Not many people are doing that kind of magic anyway.

There's still a lot of smokers out there as well.
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Postby David Alexander » 09/07/05 01:18 PM

Ryan,

While a lit cigarette routine could be presented as an historical artifact or homage, the majority of audience members simply don't tolerate cigarette smoking in our culture. As I mentioned, if I wanted to do the act again, other than at the occasional magic convention, I'd be working in South America.

Then there are laws preventing the use of cigarettes in some theaters. It would be rough on the performer if they were booked for a week's run and told the second day that they couldn't do the cigarette routine.

With that said, when I was still doing the routine but aware that the tide was turning, I'd open my act by saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, the most dangerous magic act in the world," and produce a lit cigarette at my fingertips and go into the full routine. It always loosed the audience up so they knew that I knew what I was doing.
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