Nelson Downs' billiard balls routine

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Postby Carlo Morpurgo » 03/18/07 12:56 PM

Hi - I finally got my Fakini balls last week...after so many years of manipulating junk this is such a breeze....
Anyhow, one of my favorite routines is that mentioned in "the Art of Magic", pages 305-310.
Basically it's a 4 solid balls production with NO shell. There are a couple of questions for those who have tried it, or for those interested in reading it.

1. Page 306, line 8 "...the ball is back palmed, which is accomplished by throwing back the thumb and holding the ball between the thumb and the back of the hand."

WOW can you imagine that? The he adds a few lines blow: "As the majority of readers will be unable to perform this sleight..." No kiddin'...anyone here who can do this?

2. This is I guess for people who already know the basic method, the idea is to palm a ball, in the hand that shows either 1,2,3 balls, and roll the showing ball(s) over, freeing the slot between the thumb and 1st finger, and letting the palmed ball slide there. Now the method proposed by N.D. (when you have 2 or 3 balls showing) is that of rolling 2 of the balls OVER the fingers, which is quite hard if you are doing it with three balls. ("This movement is extremely difficult - without doubt the most difficult sleight in the whole range of conjuring" p. 310). What I've always done instead is to roll UNDER, which has a disadvantage of not being a one shot move, since you need to roll them one by one. But I can't decide whether or not it's really worth learning the ND technique. Any thoughts on this?


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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/18/07 03:25 PM

I've done many billiard ball routines, but never tried the one in Art of Magic.

Your first question can be answered this way: the ball is held by the upper side of the pinky and the lower side of the thumb. This is an antiquated stage move that is no doubt based on the notion of back palming a shell.

Your second question: I'd like to see someone do it. Downs was not above exaggerating his ability.
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Postby Guest » 03/18/07 06:18 PM

It should be noted that Downs's book was published before there was much in the way of organized amateur magic. The majority of those who bought the book in the early days only had a few people to talk to and compare notes. As Richard said, Downs was not above expanding his abilities which is another way of discouraging someone from trying to reproduce his routine. A lot of the old timers did that sort of thing.

Other books have shown that Downs was not above using gimmicks to achieve ends that he claimed were "pure sleight of hand."

Two of the more elegant and entertaining billiard ball routines were done by Alan Wakeling and Cardini. Those routines, the Fakini balls and plenty of rosin on your hands and hours of practice will lead you to success.
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Postby Carlo Morpurgo » 03/18/07 06:27 PM

Richard, what size ball are we talking about here....I use 1-5/8 I simply can't imagine palming like you describe! But even if it were larger....Are you sure?

I am glad you confirm that ND was a bit overrating his skills... this is a good routine though...the main point is the idea of producing the palmed ball between the thumb and first finger, doing away with the shell. How you do this with three balls in your hand+1 palmed, is a question of taste I guess....

Carlo

ps. why can't we quote anymore?
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Postby Carlo Morpurgo » 03/18/07 06:35 PM

David, I see your point, however the routine can be done. Even I can do it! I am not claiming that I can do as ND describes it, but definitely from 1 to 2 balls is doable, and even from 2 to 3, but I roll under. I guess if I had bigger hands I could roll under more easily producing 4 from 3, but instead I just move one ball between
the 3rd and 4th finger before producing.
I am just surprised that almost no one knows it.
I guess it would work best for a crowd of magicians....

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/18/07 10:05 PM

Cardini could roll a ball under as well as over his fingers, but his billiard ball routine has not been preserved on video.

As far as producing a palmed ball between the thumb and first finger while three balls are held between the first, second, third, and fourth fingers--this is easy and I've been doing it since I was 13. Just swing your hand in the direction of your fingertips and allow the palmed ball to roll upward and nip it while it's moving between the thumb and first finger. Not difficult and the larger movement covers the smaller--the ball just appears between your thumb and finger from the audience view.
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Postby Carlo Morpurgo » 03/19/07 03:44 AM

Richard, yes I know that....the question is how does one manage to produce a 4th ball when you have the other 3 in between thumb, 1st, 2nd, 3rd finger....but without freeing a slot with the left hand. What I can do is I free the 2nd slot with the left hand, so at least it's not so obvious how a ball can appear as when you simply roll a palmed ball into the empty 1st slot.
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Postby Carlo Morpurgo » 03/19/07 09:59 AM

IN other words, what I am trying to say is that
the idea is to have the new ball appear without showing the first slot empty, but in one motion roll all the balls upwards and almost simultaneouslty let the palmed ball fall into place between the thumb and first finger. I think that ND idea is that rolling the balls over the finger would allow a single (more or less) motion of the fingers in order to accomplish this.

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Postby Guest » 03/20/07 08:57 AM

its worth remembering that at the time Downs was performing, back palming was not a sleight per se, and that it was common place to expose any item held there, to prove the performers skill.
Hugards magic monthly has a rather long piece on this.
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