Prop Magicians Are Boring?

Discuss your favorite platform magic and illusions.

Postby Guest » 07/03/03 05:55 AM

David Copperfield was a guest on TODAY (July 2, 2003), a live USA morning news and entertainment television show. He was working live, surrounded, on the platform normally used for street rock concerts. He could have chosen to perform anything he wanted, having one of the largest magic collections of the face of the earth.

What did he do? He vanished a duck in a take-apart box and it reappeared in a double-sided wooden bucket. Straightforward prop magic. Did he do it well? Yes... Was it interesting to the lay audience? Yes... Was it an original trick? Not in the least! It was the combination of the two elements, the vanish and the instant recovery, that made the basic prop trick hold together.

Just a little thought, combining two or more prop tricks into a larger process, makes a prop magician much more interesting. Copperfield's bucket was no more than a hard-shell change bag made large enough to hold a full-size duck. It worked because it looked somewhat like a rural wooden bucket (rather than a magic prop) and because it bothered to re-dress an old magical concept into something new. Even the take-apart box was re-dressed into a metal industrial box (right down to a stenciled serial number) rather than the usual lacquered wooden box.

Like any other kind of magic (or any other type of entertainment, for that matter), quality of the presentation is everything! Even the regular change bag has its place in a larger routine where the vanish of some item is incidental to the overall routine. Viewed as a utility item rather than the major modus operandi of a whole effect, the change bag regains its status as a worthy prop.

Prop magicians with imagination and enough spunk to work at a unique presentation can still enthrall an audience.

And, after all, are not stage illusion magicians glorified prop magicians? It's all in the presentation, folks...

Jon
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/03/03 09:43 AM

That's probably why Copperfield, Blaine and Siegfried and Roy made the FORTUNE Top 100 list. :p

They don't buy their tricks from Hank Lee :D and they don't buy their clothes at Kmart. :cool:
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Postby Guest » 07/03/03 10:14 AM

Did he do the funny version of the trick where he "exposes" it in slow motion?

Noah Levine
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Postby Robert Allen » 07/03/03 10:55 AM

They may not buy their tricks from Hank Lee, but in this case at least it looks like Copperfield bought his from Owen:

2006
OWEN DUCK DE LUXE

http://www.owenmagic.com/Livestock/Live ... ock_2.html

I've been baffled about Copperfields popularity ever since I first saw him on that TV magic show hosted by Richard Graves in the 1970's. But hey, he makes money, no arguing with that.
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Postby Guest » 07/03/03 02:44 PM

Topic: Prop Magicians Are Boring?

Yes.

Illusions? Beyond yes.
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Postby Kendrix » 07/03/03 05:20 PM

Geoff: Boring is in the eye of the beholder. Boring to me is five minutes of "coins through the table".
If you think Charlotte/Jonathon Pendragon doing the Metamorphisis, Copperfield doing the "Fan", Lance doing the Sword act are boring; you need new glasses.
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Postby Guest » 07/03/03 09:27 PM

Noah,

Yes, DC did do the slow motion expose version as well. In both versions, he used TODAY personality Al Roker to hold the bucket. DC did this trick on stage when I saw him 20 years ago on tour. At that time he did it in front of the curtain while the setup crew did some major set redressing for the next big thing...

Robert,

The Owen bucket certainly looks like the one in the routine. However, the Owen description of the box sounds more like a tabletop tipover box than like a take-apart vanish box...

;)

Jon
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Postby Bill Duncan » 07/03/03 10:10 PM

The best ever performance of the Duck Bucket was when DC performed for President Reagan, et. al and the bucket was held by Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. Mr. O'Neill was a rather large man and his Slo-Mo running, given his position in govt. was pretty damn funny.
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/03/03 10:12 PM

I believe the Duck routine DC uses he bought from Bill Smith... Bill used this routine for years, especially at the Magic Castle. The duck's name was Webster.

One night I was kidding Bill about the duck being at the Magic Castle without a tie... Bill then put the bow tie on the duck, and I think after that almost all the performers have "Pinched" the idea.
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Postby Jim Riser » 07/04/03 10:47 AM

Originally posted by Geoff Latta:
Topic: Prop Magicians Are Boring?

Yes.
Now, Geoff, just looking at many of the stupid looking props with their poorly stenciled designs featuring all kinds of overspray is rather comical. Watching the magic props for sale on ebay is in itself entertaining. The glowing descriptions describing beautiful "stencil work" and design are a distinct contrast with what is shown in the images of these "vintage" or "rare" props. When a 15 year old brings out some prop with its supposedly oriental decoration then describes how he picked up this item on his last tour of the orient, I really have to chuckle. Ah, presentation at its best!

Geoff, perhaps you are looking at things incorrectly. Perhaps you are expecting to be fooled and entertained by the performer. The props themselves can often be much more entertaining.
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Postby Guest » 07/04/03 11:59 AM

Ah, Jim, I knew I could count on you to straighten me out.

Ok, I was being flip before, but here's what I really meant. I've always thought that magic with ordinary objects is the only kind that can truly be inexplicable to an audience, particularly -- but not only -- if the items are borrowed. With things that are obvious magic props, there is always one small part of the spectator's brain that can lay the explanation on the apparatus, even if they don't know how it works. Even if they can't imagine how it works. They "know" it's (say it with me now) A TRICK BOX! And a level of mystery has thereby been removed.

Best,

Geoff
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/04/03 12:03 PM

Hey Geoff; Since you feel "prop" magic and illusions are always boring (and beyond), is there an inference here that close-up/sleight-of-hand magic is never boring because it is, after all, close-up/sleight-of-hand magic?

Dustin
(Prefers close-up/sleight-of-hand magic too.)
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Postby Jim Riser » 07/04/03 12:17 PM

Geoff;
Apparently you just do not understand props. Here's how the level of mystery is accomplished. The idea is to have such a garrish paint job on that unusual looking thing that instead of closely watching the performance, people will be asking themselves things like "where did he find such a lovely item?". This is the built in misdirection that costs so much when props are bought. By letting the prop do all of the work, the magician can relax and not have to work too hard on developing presentation. It even says in the ads "no skill required".

I think that you will agree that this is much easier than having to look a spectator straight in the eyes and ask a question for your misdirection. This requires some measure of skill and timing. Skill and timing require practice - that translates into work.

I do feel that totally innocent looking props, though not everyday items, can be quite acceptable if a logical part of the entertainment. But, then again, they will require some skill in their convincing use and a rehearsed routine.

Now where did I put that spray can and my dragon stencil? My coin box looks too much like an everyday pill box. :D
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Postby Guest » 07/04/03 03:57 PM

From the wit and wisdom of Geoff Latta
Topic: Prop Magicians Are Boring?

Oh boy Geoff...now you done it....I'm telling Mom!

Mike
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/04/03 04:36 PM

Dog Pile on Ge-off!
Dog Pile on Ge-off!
Dog Pile on Ge-off!
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Postby Guest » 07/04/03 11:57 PM

Originally posted by Mike Gallo:
From the wit and wisdom of Geoff Latta
Topic: Prop Magicians Are Boring?

Oh boy Geoff...now you done it....I'm telling Mom!

Mike
Oh, like you would know who your mother is.
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Postby Guest » 07/05/03 12:06 AM

Originally posted by Dustin:
....close-up/sleight-of-hand magic is never boring because it is, after all, close-up/sleight-of-hand magic....
Couldn't have said it better myself.

cheers,

Geoff
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/05/03 01:29 AM

The question may apply to most of us...

If the props aren't borrowed or at least appear organic to the performing context then the criticism that 'special props do the work and the magi is a poser' can be pointed at the performer.

This applies to silver coins, decks of cards handled like fragile mechanical marvels, coin purses your wife or mother would not carry today and your great grandmother might have considered fashionable... such a list would be extensive.

Can we shift the question to the relation of the props to the performing space of the magician? There are people who do 'cartoon' acts and others that do 'period' acts. Props which appear congruent to the costume setting might not be subject to this criticism.
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Postby Eric DeCamps » 07/05/03 03:34 AM

Geoff:

Would you consider the Okito box a prop?

If the answer is yes, then Mohammed Bey, Frank Thompson, Mike Gallo, David Roth, Bob Bengal, Michael Rubenstein and even Geoff Latta are all prop magicians.

Its a shame that none of the guys listed cant be considered sleight of hand artists. ;)

Eric DeCamps


PS I know who Mike Gallos' mother is! :D
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Postby Guest » 07/05/03 08:24 AM

Originally posted by Eric DeCamps:
Geoff:

Would you consider the Okito box a prop?

Not in the same sense. To me, the word "prop" in "prop magician" is defined as something which bears no resemblance to anything one might normally run into and does all the work (or most of it, at any rate) for you.

This way, a Die Box is a prop. A Chop cup is not.

As for the Okito box, I've seen plenty of pill boxes, for instance, that look like Okito boxes. In fact, I call it a pill box. Laymen think it's a pill box. That's usually their first guess. "Is that a pill box?" "Yes" And that's that.

Best,

Geoff
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Postby Guest » 07/05/03 08:35 AM

As interesting as it is to discuss what constitutes "props", it might be even more interesting to discuss what consistutes "boring". :sleep:

The tragedy, folks, is when the performer is boring (without reference to his tools). And let's not pretend that prop magicians have a monopoly on this affliction.

regards, Doug
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/05/03 09:10 AM

Hmmm. I think Geoff knows that there are pathetic close-up performers who could make a bundle of energy like Richard Simmons do a chin-on-chest. I think he's referring to the inherent character of the magic itself (for lack of a better phrase, given the early hour after a very long night :D ). Over the years I have had far more people say to me that they prefer close-up magic over illusions than the reverse.

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Postby Guest » 07/05/03 01:48 PM

Thanks, Dustin. Yeah, even when I was a kid, "the dingus is bogus" could explain any prop trick in general, and therefore, make it utterly uninteresting to me. But when I first saw Vernon on Cavett twirl a stick around a ball and make the ball disappear, I was flabbergasted, fascinated and galvanized. A stick and a ball. It was obvious to me even then that the stick and the ball were ordinary, and not doing the trick for him.

Just my opinion, as well as the unsolicited opinion of many of the folks I've performed for: sleight of hand rules, box tricks suck.

Best,

Geoff
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Postby Rick Maue » 07/05/03 01:55 PM

Interesting topic...

I have never been a fan of prop magic, but I still cannot say that all prop magic is boring. (Although I personally find it boring.) To me, it has always come down to a question that I believe we all need to ask ourselves:

Do you use your props, or do your props use you?

In this case, by props, I am referring to everything from large stage illusions, to cards and coins. After all, there are boring card guys; boring coin guys; boring illusionists; and certainly boring mentalists and bizarrists. On the other hand, there are those that excel at these things as well.

I should also tell you that several years after I started asking magicians/mentalists my question from above, I realized that it should be rephrased. So I changed it to:

Do you use your methods, or do your methods use you?

After all, the one thing that I always find boring is a self-indulgent performer. The props and/or methods that we use are merely tools. It is the performer that is responsible if the audience is bored.


Keep the change,
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/05/03 03:33 PM

Props don't bore people, magicians do. :whack:
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Postby Guest » 07/05/03 06:56 PM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
Props don't bore people, magicians do. :whack:
That being said (and granted), there is some truth to the contention that the more investment a performance involves, the less boring the performance is.

Sometimes the investment is money, sometimes creativity, sometimes a lifetime spent busting knuckles. As society becomes more educated and more affluent, it is natural that the preference would slant toward those investments that are not simply monetary.

Frankly, I have a huge preference for sleight of hand. But I love Dan Sylvester's "prop shtick" and Pete Biro's Plumber's Sticks.

regards, Doug
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/05/03 09:34 PM

A man of great taste. :cool:

Do you know I was the first convention booker to put Sylvester the Jester in a show (with David Williamson and Bob Sheets--what a show it was!) AND THE IDIOT political bozos of the IBM "criticized me severly" for hiring Sylvester.

Because he produced a lump of wax from his ear. :eek:

Same guys criticized me for being the first to book Rudy Coby "becaue he only did 3 1/2 minutes"... I told the guy, "I don't know if you noticed, but Coby's audience is still standinig and applauding. :D

And another political fool criticized me for bookuing an MC with a speech impediment when I booked Michael Finney. :D

Any idea why I got fed up and quit? :whack:
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Postby Dan McLean Jr » 07/05/03 09:39 PM

I know we're talking about whether the "inherent character" of prop magic is boring, and not about the performance, but to me, the question is entirely moot. Having seen Chris Capehart do "Fraidy Cat Rabbit" in a concert hall with about 100 kids at the front of the stage, I don't think a prop is any more boring than a plaing card, and while I realize that a "prop" does not exist anywhere in nature, it's as iconic to magic as is a playing card, so it doesn't matter that it looks like a prop. Does this make sense to anyone else?
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Postby Q. Kumber » 07/06/03 03:36 AM

I think we're all confusing "Boring" with interesting, entertaining and magical. Using or not using props is an academic point. Is a singer a better singer because they musical accompaniment?

I've seen Barbara Cook do a full theatre show with only piano and Shirley Bassey do the same with a full orchestra. Which is better?

The three times in my life that I have been totally and completely baffled to such an extent that it shook me was the first time I saw "Where Do The Ducks Go" and The Zig Zag". The third was Max Maven performing "The Four Sided Triangle". They were all on my mind for weeks and I'd love to experience it again.
I have seen many sleight of hand guys at magic conventions. Many times I don't know how it's done and I'm sorry to say that with most of them as performers I don't care how it is done.
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Postby Guest » 07/06/03 04:51 AM

They may not buy their tricks from Hank Lee, but in this case at least it looks like Copperfield bought his from Owen:

NOPE

Its a John Gaughan Bucket, the largest in the biz and a Mendoza Duck Vanish box.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 07/06/03 12:44 PM

Wah Hey! Time to make some _new_ enemies :)

I side with Geoff on this one. I have never found illusions the least bit interesting, from jobbing magicians to the zillionaires. I've tried, heck knows I've tried, but I just can't muster the energy to be impressed (not exactly true, the Pendragon's metamorphosis is undeniably skillful).

The fact that the zillionairs are zillionairs shows that ordinary people do like illusions, but I suspect the flingers amongst us prefer the more dextrous side of the obsession.

My wife, a true magic hater, has had to eat in front of most of the Masked Magician shows over the years. Halfway through the last one she commented that it was the women who were doing all the work. I found it hard to argue, even if it might be a wee bit wide...

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Postby Q. Kumber » 07/06/03 02:32 PM

I think I'm at cross puprposes here and confusing the issue. I assumed we were discussing what laymen would prefer to watch (an interesting personality - regardless of what the magician uses - props or no props), as opposed to what most magicians prefer to watch (clever moves and sleights - if they happen to be part of a good routine, that's a bonus).
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Postby Ian Kendall » 07/06/03 03:07 PM

I think we started off with what Laymen think and took a wee detour into what magicians think (which is a bit more relevant).

It seems:

1. Laymen find illusions and prop magic interesting on some level.
2. Magicians who do not do prop magic do not do prop magic for a reason.
3. That reason is it is boring (to a flinger)
4. Sleight of hand can be boring too (ref pretty much any card trick) *flame bait*
5. When magicians watch magic, we concentrate on method as an unavoidable side effect of knowing too many secrets. When the method is 'press this button' interest wanes.
6. I'm not sure Vernon had prop magic in mind when he said 'be natural'.
7. Or illusions, for that matter.

Take care, Ian
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Postby pduffie » 07/06/03 04:02 PM

Well, I'm a "flinger" and I absolutely love watching illusions. It's the prancing-vomit-inducing-posers who present them that I find boring. The Father of modern illusion-building, Robert Harbin, required no music, no dancing girls and no hair-gel to create a truly mind-bending experience.
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Postby Glenn Farrington » 08/05/03 10:32 PM

Oh great...now I cant use hair gel.
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Postby Jon Allen » 08/06/03 08:21 AM

Is hairspray allowed?
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Postby Pete Biro » 08/06/03 09:10 AM

Correct on Harbin... one of the greatest...

Now take Kaps... a flinger for sure but a prop man as well... sadly most never had a chance to see him work in Holland in his native tongue destroy audiences with the spot card, professor's nightmare, chinese sticks...

And when he did his close up NO Phoney Patter... just his charming personality.

Again, I say, props are not boring it is the performer that CAN BE BORING...

:sleep:
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Postby Guest » 08/06/03 05:32 PM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
Kaps... destroy audiences with the spot card, professor's nightmare, chinese sticks...

And when he did his close up NO Phoney Patter... just his charming personality.

Again, I say, props are not boring it is the performer that CAN BE BORING...

Thank you, Pete. I reiterate my original thought that started this thread:

Prop magicians with imagination and enough spunk to work at a unique presentation can still enthrall an audience.

Jon
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 08/06/03 07:04 PM

Originally posted by Jon A. Hand:
Originally posted by Pete Biro:
[b] props are not boring it is the performer that CAN BE BORING...

Prop magicians are probably not as entertaining as live magiciains. Maybe at DisneyLand they could be close though.
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Postby Brian Marks » 08/06/03 10:38 PM

I often find illusions boring. I will often overlook it if the magician/performer is good.
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