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Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 13th, 2004, 9:42 am
by Guest
On another thread, I just read another piece in the puzzle of "Who Is Pete Biro?" He mentioned his award-winning FISM act, and I didn't even know he had such an act!

This man makes so many good posts on the forum, it would be great to read an article about him in one of the magazines. Has there been one in a magazine lately?

I met the guy only once, at the Magic Castle Swap Meet, when I introduced myself and immediately insisted we chat about the etymology through the decades of a curse word beginning with f and ending with iretruck. But I'm sure there's more to his wit and wisdom than his educated answer to this inane question.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 13th, 2004, 9:54 am
by Pete Biro
As Seabrooke would say, "An Error Has Crept In."

Grand Prix win at PCAM was the message. A funny story. Many years ago I entered the PCAM in, I think it was "Tumwater Washington."

I had a comedy act with an opening impression of Arty Johnson, from Laugh In, doing a quick bit with a cigarette holder and a German Helmet.

Then into a sequence of stuff, coached by the late Emile Clifton (Tuskeegee Airman in WWII) and in the middle of the act something happened behind the curtain (I was working in one in front of the curtain) and the guys setting the next act were TALKING LOUD... I stopped, opened the curtain, looked back and threw a line.

The line got a good one minute plus laugh...

Near the end of my act, the RED LIGHT came on, which means you are disqualified. So, I figured I was dead meat and did a few extra gooffy bits.

At the award ceremony I was relaxed, wondering who would be the winner.

When MC Ernie Bryan came to announce the Big Winner, he said, "Normally when the red light comes on your time is up (there was a 10 minute limit) and you are DQd, but the judges decided it wasn't his fault and we declare the winner to be Pete Biro.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Stay tooned... :cool:

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 13th, 2004, 2:07 pm
by Larry Horowitz
I have spent many good times with Pete biro.

He knows ALOT of magic!!

He was close friends with Fred Kaps and can discuss and demonstrate anything from Cards to coins to stage illusion.

He and Joe Porper have products they have built together on the market.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 13th, 2004, 3:11 pm
by Bill McFadden
Peat is a guy who can make you remember how much you miss Mike Rogers. ;)

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 13th, 2004, 10:01 pm
by Richard Kaufman
Who is Pete Biro?
Pete's a great photographer and a pleasure to work with.
Oh ... and he has the damndest Linking Finger Ring routine that Porper is putting out. Just wait! :)

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 13th, 2004, 11:05 pm
by Bill Hallahan
Pete Biro doesn't know me at all, but Ive been a huge fan of his for a long time, even though Ive never met him. Ive only seen his online posts.

He knows what to write, how to write it, and when to write it. Hes got a great sense of humor. He never has a bad thing to say about anyone. I have the feeling hes the same way in person.

Hes met so many of the greats in magic. He was a F.I.S.M. judge too!

I suspect most magicians will never know as much about the art of magic as Pete Biro knew 30 years ago.

(By the way, Joe Porper makes great card clips too! :) )

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 14th, 2004, 1:47 am
by Dustin Stinett
Has anyone mentioned that hes pretty good on skates too?

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 14th, 2004, 2:41 am
by John Pezzullo
Pete Biro used to write a column (The Reel Works)for Genii during the 'Larsen years'. It was always filled with interesting ideas, informative news, and shrewd observations.

I hope that Pete's 'work in progress', "The Son of Greater Magic", makes it to print in the near future.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 14th, 2004, 7:45 am
by Tabman
magician, photographer, genii columnist, skater, pete biro was also the entertainment director fot all those great 1000+ IBM conventions in the 80s into the mid 90s and in this post pete brought a lot of fine performers into the national spotlight as well as being one of the best, nicest, smartest people on the planet and a great friend and mentor!!!

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 15th, 2004, 4:55 am
by Terry
On the Gemini forum, he was the arch nemesis to Mike Rogers..... :D

Actually you could tell with all the back and forth, they were good friends. Made the board fun to log onto just to see them go at it.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 15th, 2004, 8:52 am
by Pete Biro
Sure do miss Mike Rogers... we were pals since our late teens...

Those "gents" reading here, get your prostate cancer screening, now. Unlike Mike, who didn't catch it early, you can.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 15th, 2004, 8:59 am
by Pete Biro
Regarding teh "skating".... until I broke my ankle twice in two weeks (Yes when you are 17 you are pretty lame in the brain department) I skated six days a week and 8 hours every Saturday. I didn't have the "form" for competition skating, but could do a lot of trick stuff... after all my Dad was one of the greatest skaters of all-time, doing his act in vaudeville in the Roaring '20s. He played the Palace Theater in New York, matter of fact he was on the bill with Ben Blue, and magician Tom Blue (Ben's son) didn't have a "review" of that show, but I did and copied him on it.

Of course Mom was a dancer in the biz too.

To me one of the greatest magic acts of all time, based on the fact that he was making $10,000.00 a week (for a solo act) in the '20s was "The Dippy Mad Magician--Frank Van Hoven". The problem is almost NOBODY knows what he did in his act, other than "Make Ice Famous" -- you see he had a kid from the audience and produced a 50 lb. block of ice and had the kid holding it.

Now, there is a story few believe, but it is true as my Dad verified it.

Van Hoven actually left the stage during his act, slipped out the backstage door and into a bar, ordered a beer and then came back to finish the act.

My Dad witnessed this several times. He said the audiences were laughing all the way.

Anybody out there in cyberspace know any more about the content of Van Hoven's act?

:confused: :eek: :confused:

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 15th, 2004, 10:51 am
by Grant McSorley
I just did a quick google search fo Frank Van Hoven and came up with Igor Moll's website. He has a magic quiz here . Question 7 reads:

Magicians have a long history of billing themselves in superlative terms. There have been no dearth of claimants to the title "The World's Greatest Magician." But what variety era magician claimed to be "The Man Who Made Ice Famous?"

"The Man Who Made Ice Famous" was the great burlesque magician Frank Van Hoven (1886-1929). Van Hoven first set out to become a juggler, but was not terribly adept at it. On seeing him practice, Jansen (later Dante) counseled him to take up magic instead. He took the advice but was not faring well until he transformed his magic act into a comedic routine. Thereafter his success was phenomenal and he became one of the stars of vaudeville. His trademark routine involved an audience member holding a block of ice while he tried to make a silk appear inside it. Following Van Hoven's death in 1929, Dell O'Dell (Nell Newton) acquired the rights to his comedy magic act.

By the way, the other 6 questions are pretty interesting as well.


Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 15th, 2004, 11:26 am
by Grant McSorley
Found something else...

Gilbert Sedes wrote a book titled The Seven Lively Arts in the 1920's, available online here . While the publisher info isn't there, the author's note finishes with
Ile St Louis -- New York City
March 1923 -- February 1924

On pp. 257-258 Mr Seldes writes:

...exceptional mad magician of Frank Van Hoven. Van Hoven carries farther than anyone else the appearance of not knowing the audience is to be amused. He complains in a mutter of the presence of human beings, individually probably all right, but en masse . . . ! He leaves the stage and passes out of the auditorium, bidding the audience amuse itself while he's gone. And his great finale, with a bowl of goldfish, a handkerchief in a trunk, a table covered with a cloth, an inflated paper bag, and a revolver shot-at the sound of which exactly nothing happens, is the last word in destroying the paraphernalia of the magician and all his works.
While I haven't read much of the book, the part leading up to this gives an interesting review of what made a good vaudeville act and some details on the author's favorite performers.

If I find anything else I may need to start a "Who was Frank Van Hoven?" thread....


Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 15th, 2004, 3:13 pm
by Guest
Who is Pete Biro?

Apart from being an all-round good guy, he invented the excellent "Ring on wineglass" which was performed by Fred Kaps.

Kaps performed it perfectly, as you'd expect. No snide ring "Oh look there's even a place for a stone" (cringe) jokes that we often see from other 'performers'. Fred was a gentleman who brought Pete's miracle alive.

Wonderful stuff.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 15th, 2004, 3:20 pm
by Pete Biro
Wow, thanks for the Van Hoven leads... and Graham, you (and others) are too kind.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 15th, 2004, 6:22 pm
by Grant McSorley
This might really only be of interest to Pete and I, but I'll post it here anyways. I just tracked down the last of what are probably the really easy to find pieces of information on Frank van Hoven. On page 431 of the 1944 publication of Expert Card Technique (the Dover reprint is identical to this one) the authors, in reference to comedic perfomances write: should remember that not everyone can be a Frank van Hoven or a Russell Swann.
While this doesn't explicitly tell us anything about Mr van Hoven, it does imply that he was relatively well known years after his death in 1929. Does anyone know if this section (Part 6: Misdirection and Presentation) was in the original 1940 printing? If not, it means that even 15 years after his death, the authors believed that the name Frank van Hoven would be immediately recognised by the readers. This may not be surprising, considering the fees Mr van Hoven was earning. However, it's odd that with this popularity it would be difficult to find out what he did in his act.

And for those who think I scoured my copy of ECT looking for this reference, I don't really have that much time on my hands. There's an index to ECT at compiled by Ronald M. Hudspeth.


Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 16th, 2004, 7:43 am
by Guest
These are the magicians whom I most admire: those whom audiences love, not necessarily those whom magicians most admire. Frank van Hoven and Russell Swann fit into that category, apparently.

It is instructive, though, that those magicians who leave behind a book or videotape are remembered best. Certain of today's magicians come to mind, those who haven't published but are consummate performers, including Dimmare, Jonathan Neal Brown, Bodine Belasco, and others. Del Ray fits into category, as well, doesn't he? I will remember the abovementioned, as Pete has remembered van Hoven, but will others?

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 16th, 2004, 7:44 am
by Guest
Pete, your father was one of the greatest skaters of all time? Prithee explicate, noncle....

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 16th, 2004, 10:07 am
by Pete Biro
My dad was a roller skater, born in Budapest Hungary. He had the top act of it's kind in vaudeville. He originated the act where the entire act was done UP ON A TABLE. It was about 10x10 and 4-feet up. He had a partner that was a HUGE guy (My dad was about 5.5) who would spin with my dad the "Flier" and originated the one foot around the neck trick, and my dad was the only one to ever perfect the one toe spin (spinning on only the front two wheels)...he could hold the spin for 100 revolutions -- next time you watch the olympic type skaters (ice) count how many times they revolve in a spin. 10 maybe!

The act name was "Gaynor and Byron" (Biro was too hard to pronounce he said) the act was billed as "A fast pace in a small space".

They played every major theater including the Palace in N.Y. in it's heyday.

They also were in Olsen and Johnson's famous show "Hellzapoppin" -- unfortunately they refused to have anyone ever film the act as they didn't want others to steal their material.

They worked with all the major stars, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Ben Blue, etc. etc. My dad was also very funny with great "comment lines" all his life. He lived to be 90.

Once he slipped off during a spin (he had one foot around his partner's neck) flew out and into the orchestra pit and you guess it... landed on and fell through a base drum.

He did suffer injuries (not from the above bit) that eventually caused nerve damage and he had to retire.

Mother, from Copenhagen, Denmark, was a dancer. She came to the USA at about age 18 and joined "The Six Lucky Girls" a vaudeville dance troupe that did everything from comedy excentric to ballet. She also made it to 90 before she went to the big stage in the sky.

Me? Hah... born in Oakland, California, baby sitter's dad owned the Oakland Raiders. Started life wanting to be sign painter. After Army stint (2-years of doing shows in Europe) went into graphic arts, contracted POLIO the week before the Salk Vaccine was available... not bad case, but paralized right arm (it works at about 50%) then was kinda forced into become a photographer specializing in motorsports, which led to assignements all over the world.

All the while doing the magic stuff, including work in Japan, France, England, and USA... Booked all acts for IBM for 11 years until politicians got crazy so I quit that scene and went back into working comedy clubs in L.A. area. :D

(Need to rest)

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 16th, 2004, 1:06 pm
by Ken Becker
Grant McSorley
Re ECT page 431 quote..." should remember that not everyone can be a Frank van Hoven or a Russell Swann...".
Same appears on page 431 of ECT first edition.

Ken Becker

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 16th, 2004, 1:47 pm
by Grant McSorley
Thanks for the info Ken.


Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 17th, 2004, 11:33 am
by Guest
Funny that no one had mentioned that Pete Biro has not only forgotten more magic than many will ever know (and he still retains more magic knowledge than most ever will) BUT that he has forgotten many of the contents in the boxes he keeps in the garage.

All in all, you will find few that have the magical expertise, experience and knowledge that Pete has and even fewer are as giving and as generous as Pete is. Knowing Pete Biro, even as a "distant" friend that you only get to see at conventions or through the occasional e-mail is to truly be wealthy when you have him as a friend.

PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat
AB Stagecraft

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 17th, 2004, 1:46 pm
by Bill Palmer
Who is Pete Biro? Well, let me give you an unsolicited testimonial.

Pete knows a LOT about the cups and balls. He has three different sets currently on the market -- four if you count the two different styles of Galli-Galli cups. I purchased a set of his Johnny Paul cups from Joe Stevens, and neglected to unstack them right after I bought them. They just went right into my cabinet. A couple of weeks later, I did unstack the cups, and noticed a big ding in one of them.

I figured it was a little late to do anything about it, so I never bothered to mention it to Joe. One day, in response to a PM on another forum, I mentioned it to Pete in passing. He replaced the cup without question.

Truly, he is a gentleman and a scholar. I would trust his judgment on just about anything relating to magic.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 17th, 2004, 2:32 pm
by Pete Biro
Awwwww shucks, you guys... gee whiz...

(above words indicate my generation)...

As Alberstat says, "more stuff in them boxes" well, I think it is time to unload 'em. :p

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 18th, 2004, 8:03 am
by Rick Ruhl
The first time I met Pete Biro, it was online, in 1990 on the MAGIC! bbs. I have never met him in person, but through the years, I have come to know him as a person not only well versed in magic, but as a gentlemen online, the type not many of which are seen today.


Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 25th, 2004, 8:50 am
by Danny Archer
I too have read Pete's posts and wondered about the man behind them .... then about two weeks ago at Dean Dill's Shop, I had the good fortune to meet Pete ... He showed me the linking finger rings that RK mentioned (they are wonderful) and he also busted out some cup and ball moves that I have never seen ... it was too short a visit but I enjoyed it immensely .. when Pete says something pay attention ... I know that I will ...

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 25th, 2004, 9:19 am
by Pete Biro
YO Danny A... it was a pleasure to meet you after all these years... stay tooned... :cool:

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 26th, 2004, 9:24 pm
by Guest
I'd be remiss if I didn't throw my two pence worth in.

Pete Biro is one of the most helpful, humble guys I've ever met in magic. Over the years I've gotten to meet some that were downright rude, insincere, arrogant...the list goes on. The ones that really stand out to me, though, are the ones that took the time to help out a neophyte wannabe that had tons of questions and thought he knew a lot. Ted Lesley, Bill Palmer, Eugene Burger, Max Howard, Martin Lewis, and Pete Biro. Pete has never failed to respond to a question even if he didn't know the answer. I won't go into details, but just this weekend he proved to me once again why he's loved by so many.

Pete, I raise my mug of Scottish Ale in your honor, sir!


ps, Pete, tell the photographer that took the picture for the back of the new Stevens catalog that if they'd use a taller tripod, you wouldn't have to scrunch so much! :D

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 27th, 2004, 9:12 am
by Pete Biro
I took the pic myself, with one hand holding the camera and the other the props. :D

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 27th, 2004, 1:55 pm
by Jeff Eline
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: The best photo of Pete has to be the one in Futagawa's "Introduction to Coin Magic".

Groovy BABY!! :eek:

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 30th, 2004, 10:54 am
by Guest
Just beware that if Biro is gonna open those boxes, he might never be found again.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 30th, 2004, 10:09 pm
by Guest
I should have known. I've seen some of your work on the automobiles...great stuff!


Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 31st, 2004, 2:46 am
by Guest
I have never had the pleasure of meeting Pete. However have heard some stories from Papa Stevens. Joe has a great picture in the shop of the "Wichita Mafia" which is priceless. I will say Joe has high regard for Mr. Biro. Pete, if you ever make it to Wichita again, PLEASE let me know!

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: July 31st, 2004, 5:13 am
by Doc Rogers
I "met" Pete in the early 70's through Lloyd Jones The Club and Petes's Leaflet. I still do a routine he outlined using a frog and a bag.

Thank you Pete for all the fun that has come from this routine and your many other contributions through the years.


Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: August 1st, 2004, 4:08 pm
by Guest
Hmmmm - what has nopt been said about PEAT.

I first met this most kindly of curmudgeons via the old Stevens Gemini line. His generousity of information and ideas was only surpassed then by the number of boxes of unbelievable magic in his garage.

I was fortunate enough to be the receipient of some of those wonderful effects fropm Pete -- with newly written instructions, guides, ideas photos and suggestions. I still use them as they are all in "active act" condition or better.

When I visited Pete in Azusa a few years back -- he took the time and trouble to (with Allan) to walk me through what must have been his umpteenth tour of Owens. The he had the affrontery to not let me pay for lunch -- and has not been in Tucson since to collect.

And-- Pete does not take the bull_____ well, but unlike others I know will not offend anyone's (deliberately) discourteous affronts with the vitriol we find on some part of the net. He knows how to call a spade a spade without being nasty.

And his defense of the art of magic (defence in Great Britain) is legendary without bordering on paranioa.

Other than those traits -- he is an OK guy by me.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: August 2nd, 2004, 9:51 pm
by Guest
Pete is a fount of magical knowledge, and a real treasure trove of information in any number of fields. He is always a pleasure to work with and to hang with.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: August 2nd, 2004, 10:39 pm
by Pete Biro
Was it Bob & Ray that said "Hang by your thumbs?" I'll hang any other way Whit... tanks.

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: August 3rd, 2004, 12:04 am
by Steve V
Pete, how odd is it that you are witness to a search of yourself?
Steve V

Re: Who is Peto Biro?

Posted: August 31st, 2004, 8:47 pm
by Bill Wells
Pete Biro -

Sounds familiar...I think he is a guy who likes to eat in gourmet restaurants and who I don't believe has ever said anything evil about anyone. He lives and breathes magic and shares most of it.
A partner in far too many magic conventions and other magical escapades...I am honored to be able to call him a friend.