2003 The Year in Review
From war in Iraq, to the wildfires of the summer, all the way to yet another convoluted Bowl Championship fiasco, its been one heck of a year. Our little world of magic is no different. We started with one of the greatest seasons in book publishing history, only to see the number of books (not DVDs, mind you) slow to a paltry trickle. This was the year that the e-book finally came to roost, and the year that David Blaine made a roost out of a Plexiglas box. From the triumph of a well-run FISM, to the tragedy of Roy Horns tiger attack and subsequent stroke, its been a year to remember. And so we can do just that, Ive put together a little retrospective for your enjoyment.
Some brief caveats before we begin. First, I didnt include everything, there is simply too much to record. Second, Ive tried to put items into the month in which they occurred. This has proven more difficult than you might think, as an ad may appear six months before the product hits the shelves. Finally, Ive had to make selections based on what interests me and your interests may vary. While Ive tried to take my sources from several different places, Magic Magazine, Genii Magazine, the Genii Forum, Conjure Nation and personal emails, see point one. It was a very busy year.
So lets get down to business. Set the Way Back machine for twelve months in the past and hold on tight. Its going to be a bumpy ride.
January: We start the year with the 40th anniversary of the Magic Castle, that lovely Victorian mansion that Milt and Bill Larsen created. While many bitter feuds have come up in recent years, the truth of the matter is that the Magic Castle is in trouble. Increased rent combined with decreased membership and attendance are spelling the end. Go now before its too late.
Jeff McBride opens the modestly named McBride Magic Center at the new Las Vegas Magic School. Magicians who miss the Mystery School breath a sigh of vegan relief.
Penn & Tellers [censored] premiers on HBO. The world yawns.
In a remarkable turn of events, several important magic books are announced. John Carneys Secrets, The Secret Ways of Al Baker, The Magic of Robert-Houdin, and The Magic of David Berglas. We all send in our money and pray that Jeff Busby has nothing to do with any of these publications.
In a not-so remarkable turn of events, Jay Sankey begins to completely sell-out. This months offerings: Sankeys Secret Files v. 1 and 2 and Astral Projection/Foreign Exchange.
During a roast for the Amazing Jonathan at the World Magic Seminar, Penn, dressed as a Roman guardsman, wheels in a six foot cross with a bearded Jesus (Teller? Nobody says for certain) being fellated by a dwarf. In spite of a huge outcry in the magic world and a condemnation by the Las Vegas archdiocese, Penn and Teller keep playing to sold out houses. Six days later, the Amazing Jonathan moves into his new digs at the Golden Nugget for a crap load of cash.
Paul Harris returns from the grave with the Reality Twister, and Ted Lesley releases a set of 4 DVDs.
February: Siegfried and Roy celebrate 14 years at the Mirage.
Lance Burtons Science of Magic premiers on the Discovery Channel, once again proving that magic is a pretty dull subject when you get right down to it.
Fantasma Toys opens at FAO Schwartzs flagship store in New York. Less than 10 months later, with FAO Schwartz in bankruptcy reorganization, the toy maker files Chapter 11 themselves.
Illusions Restaurant, home to such modern stars as Mike Close, Chris Kenner and Homer Liwag, closes its doors. As one patron put it, The only real trick was choking down one of those over-priced burgers.
Mark Wilsons column appears in Genii Magazine, proving once again that if youre willing to work 26 hours a day, 8 days a week, the American dream is alive and kicking.
Healed and Sealed hits the shelves, creating yet another pointless debate as to who came up with it first.
Larry Becker announces Stunners Plus, a new version of the exclusive manuscript sold at least two times before, and probably many more times than that.
Jay Sankey releases Earplugs and 45.
Bob Kohler appears on the cover of Magic Magazine. In later months a furious debate will rage over how ethical he is, but even the harshest critic cant deny Bob one thing: All his stuff is WAY overpriced.
Frank Simon passes away in a rest home in New York, less than one month before his book Versatile Card Magic is re-released.
The Jinx and The Gen are published in digital format.
FISM announces that there will be two Grand Prix winners, one in stage and the other in close-up. This is a bit of gamble as theres rarely anybody good enough to award one Grand Prix, let alone two.
March: Genii Magazine publishes the Ross Bertram Issue, 22,000 words on the reclusive master by one of his most accomplished students, David Ben. Several magicians want to nominate it for book of the year, but then realize theres no such thing.
Jay Sankey releases Public Transit, 20 Years of Magic, In a Flash, Real Magic and has a feature article in Magic Magazine where he claims he stopped performing magic ages ago.
Dan Harlan releases Premium Blend, two hours of pretty good magic spread over six awful DVDs.
The Genii Corporation publishes The Lost Notebooks of John Northen Hilliard. They sell about four copies.
Shoot Ogawa appears on the cover of Magic Magazine. After pissing off every magician in Japan for exposure and for stealing other peoples ideas, Shoot makes a pact with Bob Kohler to steal stuff from American magicians and sell them to him.
Siegfried and Roy hold a contest to name three baby white tigers. They completely ignore my entries, Persian Rug, Oriental Rug and Throw Rug.
Billy McComb collapses while touring Copperfields Las Vegas mansion/museum. Billy later claims it had nothing to do with those nice young ladies in bikinis. Nothing at all.
Singapore hosts The International Festival of Magic. Once again, Max Maven speaks perfect Japanese and lords it over everybody else.
Jeff Busby resurfaces in a deranged letter posted all over the internet. Many people want his head on a platter, some just want to take his house, most think hes already dead and couldnt care less.
April: Henry Evans releases a 4 DVD set. Everybody says, Who?
Houdinis Magic announces the upcoming release of a Brother John Hammon DVD set at $29.95. Four months later its finally released at $59.95, causing many magicians to give themselves concussions while slapping their foreheads.
Shade, a movie about card hustling staring Sylvester Stallone and Gabriel Byrne (plus Hal Holbrook as The Professor) makes a splash, treads water for a few months, then sinks, never to be heard from again.
Jay Sankey releases Back Breaker and The Bigger Finish.
David Regal releases Sudden Deck, a much improved handling of a Paul Harris item, proving that Paul Harris is magics answer to Bob Dylan: His tricks look better when somebody else does them.
The Miracle Factory announces The Mystery School, a book based on Jeff McBrides former magic seminars. When its finally released, its so large that most purchasers cannot lift it due to lack of meat in their diet.
Frank Simons Versatile Card Magic and Earl Nelsons Variations are re-released.
The American Museum of Magic celebrates 25 years of existence and a swell new home. Bob Lund would have been proud.
Secrets of Psychics Revealed premiers on NBC. Magicians once again decry the evils of exposure, all the while waiting for the next set of DVDs to come out.
The Tower Magic Bar in Aspen closes, then reopens, or it never closed at all. Reports cant seem to make up their minds.
Magic says goodbye to Lee Noble, Lee Jacobs and Stuart Cramer.
May: Ed Marlos Revolutionary Card Technique is released in one hardcover volume. Magicians once again learn the joy of fifteen variations on a trick you wouldnt do even if you had real magic powers.
Tony Georgio is profiled in Genii Magazine. Tony makes a big stink about Dia Vernon not being able to do a center deal during a real poker game. Young magicians say, Dia who?
A special edition of The Expert at the Card Table is released. Richard Kaufman and Bill Kalush claim absolutely, positively, no credit.
Lance Burton presents the Single Record of the Year at the Country Music Awards. People are more puzzled by the categorys title than the magic.
L & L reprints a whole slew of classic titles, including The Vernon Chronicles, The Classic Magic of Larry Jennings and Harry Loraynes The Magic Book.
Shoot Ogawa is awarded Magician of the Year, proving once again how far out of touch the Magic Castle really is.
The Secret Ways of Al Baker is finally delivered. Several lawsuits are filed against The Miracle Factory by the Postal Carriers of America due to all the hernias.
June: Card College v. 5 hits the shelves, completing one of the most ambitious publishing projects in years.
Jay Sankey releases Killer Key, the Flicking Fingers release The Movie, and Card Conspiracy v. 1 is announced.
Siegfried and Roy announce plans for Father of the Pride, an animated TV series for NBC. No, seriously, its a cartoon, about the tigers, and oh, never mind.
Forbes releases its top grossing entertainers of the year. David Copperfield comes in at number 10, Siegfried and Roy are 12, and David Blane squeaks in at 97. (Steven Spielburg was first.)
The Magic Wand and Stanyons Magic are released on CD-ROM by Martin Breese.
The Houdini Historical Society of Appleton, WI, announce plans for an exhibit exposing Metamorphosis, Houdinis one good trick. (Which was probably invented by his brother. Houdini was a lousy magician.)
Bob Kohler and Todd Lassen have a very public, very bitter feud over the Ultimate 3-Fly gaff. Todd continues to make beautiful coin gaffs. Bob laughs all the way to the bank.
July: Tommy Wonders 3-DVD set is released.
David Mammet announces plans for a movie entitled Sleight of Hand, never to be heard from again.
Jay Sankey releases The Big Finish, a misnomer if Ive ever heard one, as Jay is not done by a long shot.
Jonathan Townsend, the originator of the fingertip coins across plot (commonly called 3-Fly) resurfaces on the Genii Forum after disappearing for several years, takes a look at the state of magic today, wonders why he bothered coming back at all.
Tomo Maeda is on the cover of Genii Magazine and reminds us that Tokyo is really expensive.
Harry Anderson opens Sideshow in New Orleans. Promises that this store will actually be open once in while.
The Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, CA celebrates 25 years of operation. Now THATS a good trick.
Lance Burtons Guerilla Magic premiers on Animal Planet. PETA sends death squads to his Las Vegas mansion.
FISM is held in Den Hague, Netherlands. Everybody says it was the best FISM ever. Everybody also says they smoked way too much hash.
August: Sean Fields releases Flight 204, yet another clever version of Ring Flight nobody will ever use.
Christopher Nolan (of Memento) announces plans to direct The Prestige, a movie about two professional magicians in the late 19th century, and is never heard from again.
Absolute Magic by Darrin Brown is released in hardcover. Introductory chapter How to be a Smarmy British Bastard for Fun and Profit creates big stir.
Lee Asher and Paul Wilson release Hit the Road on DVD. For the first time, magicians learn that not all breasts are pleasant to look at.
Magic Magazine publishes Simon Aaronsons newest version of Shuffleboard, the first good trick to appear Magic in years.
31 Faces North, an invitation only convention is held just outside of Toronto, Canada. Great, another cool convention Im not invited to.
Shoot Ogawa and Apollo Robbins Culturally X-change their names for the original creators. Hilarity ensues.
Street Magic premiers on the Travel Channel. Surprisingly, this special showcases some good magic, prompting the viewing public to completely ignore it.
September: Jay Sankey releases No Card Tricks and Transfusion.
Genii Magazine publishes an extensive article on escapist Thomas Soloman. Magicians around the world dust off their Siberian chain escapes. Locksmiths prepare for a busy season.
David Williamson releases Aunt Marys Terrible Secret. Turns out her secret is that she actually understands the Gilbreath principal.
After being presented as Siegfried and Roys successor-in-training, Darren Romeo reappears at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL in a review show entitled Enough with the singing, already!
The Digital Pabular, Digital Pentragram and The Magic Wand are released by Martin Breese on CD-ROM, proving that the magic glut is not necessarily a new phenomena.
Chris Capharts ring routine is released on DVD. Bob Kohler gets nervous.
Jack Flosso, Russell Barhart and Richard Buffum pass on. They will all be missed.
ESPN runs a story on Jon Derenbos, a long snapper for the Buffalo Bills who also does magic. Im sure theres a joke in here somewhere, but the guy is huge. I mean, really, have you seen him? He could palm a jumbo-deck if he wanted.
David Blaine enters a Plexiglas box and is hosted high into the London sky. People taunt Blaine with cheeseburgers dangling from remote-controlled planes, try to cut off his water supply and flash their breasts at him. Blaine still doesnt show any emotion.
October: David Blaine finally leaves Plexiglas box, immediately eats a cheeseburger, strangles a guy with his water hose and asks, Where did those chicks with the breasts go?
NBC announces plans for THEM, Totally Hidden Extreme Magic, a reality magic show, never to be heard from again.
Richard Osterland releases 4 volume DVD set, makes prediction that it will sell out in less than month. As usual, the prediction is incorrect.
Dan and Dave Buck make the cover of Genii Magazine. E-llusionist clones flood the internet decrying how the Bucks stole all their material, then go back to asking questions like, Could somebody tell me how David Blaine bites that quarter?
Jon B. Born releases Matrix Gods Way, with, surprisingly, no sense of irony.
Ballentine Books signs James Swain to a deal worth a reported seven figures, guaranteeing five more books that nobody will read.
Zippotricks.com, a website showcasing a number of maneuvers with Zippo lighters is shut down due to the danger posed to children burning themselves up. To make up, Zippo promises that any child who sends them an email will receive a free pack of cigarettes.
Chris Angels Supernatural premiers in the Sci-Fi channel, prompting one viewer to exclaim, Man, Trent Reznor looks like [censored].
In the middle of their evening show, Roy Horn is attacked by Manticore, one of his prized white tigers. In spite of all efforts, Roy suffers a series of strokes that leave him paralyzed and unable to speak. Magic finally realizes how important Siegfriend and Roy really are.
November: Jim Steinmeyers new book for the public Hiding the Elephant is published and has a lengthy cover article appear in Genii Magazine, proving once again that he really is smarter than you.
Tricks by David Ben and Card Fictions by Pit Harding are released.
John Carney finally breaks down and releases Secrets v. 1 and 2 and Carney on Ramsay on DVD. Young magicians finally see what all the hubbub is about, but still dont pick up the book.
SH Sharps The Art of Magic is released by the Miracle Factory. Thousands of magicians use it to get a good night sleep.
Ben Harris releases Exit 51, another trick based on a Paul Harris effect. The Bob Dylan simile starts to look better and better, doesnt it?
Darwin Ortiz and David Roth star in a stage production entitled, All the People, All of the Time. Magicians around the country exclaim, They can act?
Magiclab releases yet another confusing trick using three gaffed cards.
Del Ray passes on. He was, simply, the best.
Michael Vincent is awarded the Magic Circles Magician of the Year. Several magicians ask, Wasnt he that guy from Beauty and the Beast? I mean, that weird TV show with the lion-looking guy with a deep voice. Wasnt that Michael Vincent? No? Then Ive never heard of him.
December: One of David Copperfields equipment truck rolls over in Kentucky. While the driver was slightly injured, the props were pronounced dead on the scene.
David Regal releases Premise, Power and Presentation on 4 DVDs. Even Jay Sankey thinks David has published too much.
The World Alliance of Magicians closes its doors after seeing Fox Broadcasting go bankrupt, NBC issue a public apology and Valentino sent to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Richard Kaufman tongue kisses Chris Angel in celebration of publishing five years of Genii Magazine.
The Magic of Sam Schwartz is published. Once again magicians around the world say, Who are all these people, and why do they keep getting books?
In a surprising development, the Magic Castle shows a modicum of good taste and awards Mac King Magician of the Year.
After nearly three months in the hospital, Roy Horn is allowed to go home for the holidays. Interviewing Siegfried, Barbara Walters says, While Siegfried and Roy may never be an act again, the magic lives on, then proceeds to make Siegfried cry.
* * *
And so ends another year in the pithy little fraternity we call magic. There are a number of people I probably should apologize to. Shoot Ogawa really is a talented magician and my dealings with Bob Kohler have been nothing but professional. Jay Sankey can publish as much as he wants and Paul Harris is a remarkably gifted performer. Ive probably misspelled too many names to count, and Im sure that some of the dates are way off base, but it was fun, wasnt it?
Heres to a peaceful, magical 2004. May it bring all of you the best that life has to offer.