Skinner's Magic Hands

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Guest » 11/27/01 03:09 PM

Just finished watching the two Michael Skinner tapes put out by Houdini Picture Corporation. My God, the hands on that man!!
Every move, every gesture, so deliberate and artistic.
There's a moment during the Slydini silk routine where Mr. Skinner is about to split the knot on the silk...he pauses for what seems like a lifetime, finally crashing his hand down, splitting the knot. Now, there was a girl sitting next to him watching all this. Watching and waiting, for what seemed like a lifetime. Mr. Skinner's hand comes crashing down...the poor girl needed CPR. She was breathless!
Real magic.
Richard, if you read this, were you in the audience on volume two?
Everyone should buy these tapes and study them closely. Study every move and finesse and enjoy the performance of a real magician!

Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/27/01 06:19 PM

I have not seen these tapes, so I don't know where the footage comes from. I was in Mike's room in Atlantic City when a lot of footage of him was shot. Is the drape behind him Green with flowers? That might be Atlantic City. Can't really remember.
Skinner had a beautiful touch and unique timing.
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 11/27/01 06:24 PM

Part of Michael was programmatical. There was a beautiful deliberation in the way he applied his critical faculties. Some of this came from his love of chess--not only by playing the game, but in thinking about all of the strategy and tactics. Michael was in the finest sense of the word, a "true student" of magic and he deeply, wildly, passionately, and completely loved it...and when he performed, he revealed this love...and like a lover, he radiated his devotion. He took great care. It was ingrained in his body language. He literally CARESSED the "beautiful ideas" (of magic and performance)and he tried to make them as perfect as he found them to be in the abstract and in the theatrical forms he experienced them at the hands of his teachers and equally devoted friends.

This is what sensitive viewers see in the old videos. You witness a LOVER, loving what he does and wanted to tenderly share it with anyone willing to share these special moments...hoping of course that his secret and not-so-secret sharers will love and respect the "magic" as much as he did.

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Postby Guest » 11/27/01 07:13 PM

Yes! His timing was "unique", Richard. This is what drives you wild when you watch these tapes. You guys are in very enviable positions, having seen this magic first hand!
And yes, Jon, that "beautiful deliberation" you describe so perfectly had my mouth agape.

When I played guitar, my technique always improved directly after listening to a master in the field, as if some of their Godliness rubbed off for a little while. It's hard to explain, but when you're in the presence of a master, everything becomes elevated. You become focused in some mystical way.

They open your eyes!!

I've always practiced and preached the dramatic moment, (make them care, then make them wait; Ortiz), but Skinner really took it to a whole new level, didn't he?

I suppose there's room for other styles in this great big world of ours, and surely the fast and furious hands of a Greg Wilson or a Lee Asher are appreciated by many, well...I'd rather not finish this thought.

[ November 28, 2001: Message edited by: ChrisDavid ]

Postby Guest » 11/28/01 05:40 AM

I am going to ask for these tapes for Christmas. Mike Skinner was one of those guys that could make you believe he could perform real magic. He had a full understanding and, as Jon mentioned, a real passion for his craft. His magic was amazing (as it should be, in my opinion).

Postby Matthew Field » 11/28/01 07:48 AM

Originally posted by ChrisDavid:
. . . surely the fast and furious hands of a Gregg Wilson or a Lee Asher are appreciated by many . . .

This is not the first time I've heard or read Greg Wilson and Lee Asher's names linked with the description of "fast hands," but in my opinion there is a huge difference between them. (Not to belittle Chris David's excellent post, by the way.)

I've never seen Greg live and I've given his videos luke-warm reviews because I feel much of what he does is to rush through the magic and. while he is extremely entertaining, I feel the magic is diminished with this rushing through. The spectator is left overwhelmed and, I think, with a sense that there was an interesting effect, but I also think he may be left thinking that if he had just watched a littlemore closely he would have seen what the magician had done to fool him.

Lee Asher has also got a dynamic presentation, speedy talk and high energy. But Lee performs his magic very slowly! He makes a real attempt to show the spectator every step of the presentation. He choreographs the magic so it appears he's going out of his way to show every angle. He's actually only one step away from Slydini's famous (and controversial), "If you miss what I'm doing this time, it's not so good," or Rene Lavand's, "I can't do it any slower," or Goshman's "challenge" presentation. Lee doesn't out-and-out challenge, he makes it clear he's in it for the fun. But like these masters, he wants the spectator to know that they've been fooled while they were at their most observant level of attention.

And this, to me, is also what Mike Skinner did.

And, by the way, the opportunity to observe this on video is one of the greatest benefits of this electronic medium. It is a lesson one might see described in a book (and I think everyone reading this knows I am an unswerving believer in the superiority of books for learning magic), but actually seeing it for oneself is, I believe, infinitely better.

We might open another topic on another theory I have trouble with, Darwin Ortiz's belief that the pace of the magic should be slow except while the "dirty work" is happening. Then he speeds up, and then slows down again for the remainder of the effect (the denoument, usually).

It's an interesting notion, but open to debate. Maybe another time.

By the way, another master who performs in a deliberate and "slow" manner, and someone I've had endless discussions with about this very topic, is the great Harvey Rosenthal.

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Postby Guest » 11/28/01 09:26 AM

Everyone should buy the skinner tapes put out by houdini magic, Michael is outstanding on these tapes! These tapes finally gives people a chance to see perhaps the greatest close-up magicians of all time!


Postby Guest » 11/28/01 10:44 AM

In response to Matt's post:

I didn't read your review in Genii about Greg Wilson, but I do agree with you that he rushes through his stuff. I also think that he is a powerful performer (as far as being loud and lively), but I don't think the people will remember his magic in as much as they remember how funny or entertaining he is. It's too bad because he is very skilled and does some very strong routines.

As far as Darwin Ortiz's belief that the pace of the effect should be slow until you get to the dirty work. I am pretty certain that is really not his belief. That is his philosophy when performing the Gemini count, but when he performs John Carney's Versa Switch or an Elmsley Count, he performs them slowly and very open.

Since this thread is supposed to be about Mike Skinner I will reiterate that I will get these tapes, especially due to the overwhelming positive responses for them.

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 11/28/01 01:01 PM

Fast or slow?

I've had long discussions with Gregory Wilson about "slowing down," or more specifically, the importance of learning the complex "punctuation of timing"...

Fast or slow?

Also reminds me of the hoary line by the male rabbit regarding "having sex." He says:

"This is fun...
...wasn't it."

Some tricks, alas, FEEL like that!

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Postby Randy DiMarco » 11/28/01 02:57 PM

I never got to see Micheal Skinner live, but being from Rochester I had heard many stories about him and his magic from many who knew him both here and at the Forks in Buffalo. I always felt that I learned alot about how to present magic just by hearing the stories. Now I am able to view his performances and learn even more. Its not the tricks, it is the way they are done, the thinking that went into every move. When he performs almost any action, even an action as simple as turning over a card, you think to yourself that the action exactly fit the situation. The action could not have been done in a better way. I can only hope that I have learned to put as much thought into my own magic and that I can make the correct choices the way that Micheal Skinner invariably did. I know that there are many more hours of underground tape out there. Does anyone know if there are plans for further volumes in this series.
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Postby Guest » 11/28/01 04:05 PM


Yes, houdini magic is going to put out 2 more videos of michael skinner......


Postby Guest » 11/28/01 10:31 PM

your are right, I should not have lumped Lee Asher in with Greg Wilson in the sense that Wilson's frenetic energy often times leaves one exausted.
Michael Skinner compared his style to a car shifting gears; one moment idle and the next, cruising, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. He felt if you had to choose between a fast style or slow one, it was always better to choose slow. I tend to agree.
recently, while out in the world, I started challenging myself to work as sloooooow as possible; each performance slower than the last. It seems I can't work slow enough for people.
It should be noted that there is more to this "slow" stuff than simply movement, and not every action should be the same tempo. Within the parameters of slowness, swiftness can greatly enhance performace.
For example, four face down cards, two in each hand, are flopped face up one at a time. The tempo could run: 1,2 (beat) 3 Beat, Beat) and finally, 4, with the emphasis on the fourth card, the change, or the revelation. It all gets very complex, but this is the sacrafice, and what separates the artists from the rest.

Postby Bob Gerdes » 11/29/01 02:14 PM

Can any of you who have seen the tapes tell me about the picture quality? I know they were recorded a while ago, and the ad for the second tape has a note about it being "home shot video". I don't expect them to be broadcast quality, but can you at least see whats going on?
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Postby Guest » 11/29/01 07:48 PM

Everything can be seen. It is a one camera shoot. Volume 1 is a wide shot of Skinner performing at a private show and in his home, everything can be seen. Volume 2 is essentially one long close up of Skinners hands performing card magic, with some non card material near the end in a wider shot.. Picture quality is good. Let's put it this way, the message clearly comes across.

[ November 29, 2001: Message edited by: ChrisDavid ]

Postby Gordon Bean » 11/29/01 08:59 PM

Regarding the fast/slow issue, it's interesting that you rarely see a beginner go too slow, but often see a beginner go way too fast. When someone is nervous they almost invariably tend to talk too fast, and I suspect this bleeds over into the performance realm as well. The huge problem--one not shared by Skinner--is not having mentors around to tell a beginner to put peaks and valleys in a performance, since the habit of racing through effects is an extremely hard one to break. The ultimate irony is that magicians are all too often performing superhuman feats while exhibiting the mannerisms of the perpetually insecure.
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Postby Guest » 11/29/01 09:28 PM

that was perfectly put!!!
It it extremely difficult to break the speed habbit. As I posted above, I am challenging myself lately to work slower and slower and slower, in moves as well as speech. To let the moment linger.

I counted 6 or 7 seconds at one point on the Skinner tapes before he revealed a card, and it was exactly then, as you have just stated, that I realized how confident one must be to pull this off.

I just got back tonight from a private party in Westchester, NY. A small dinner party, 12 people. I used the example set by Skinner on these tapes, slowing all crucial moments, ie. revelations, dissapearances, changes etc., and I doubled my "gasps"!!
That's pretty impressive. And I still felt I was moving too fast.

Tempo, I believe, is the key to the whole thing! Tempo, dynamics, and personability.

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