Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

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Dustin Stinett
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Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Dustin Stinett » May 6th, 2008, 3:49 pm

The Slydini thread is headed in this direction, so I thought I would try and redirect it to its own thread; its an important and interesting topic.

In the other thread, Richard Kaufman commented:

Richard Kaufman wrote:I suggest you take out a cigarette and watch the reactions of the spectators: they will shrink from you and react with disgust. Not the reaction you want.


To Richards point, I just had a conversation on this subject with good friend of minea nonsmokerwho works cruise ships. He put a routine he hadnt done in years back into his act. Now, this is a very funny guy and he diffuses most of the problem (which he expected) with some good jokes. But, as soon as he lit the cigarette and (his words) before the smoke from the cigarette even got to my nose, there were people in the audience coughing; even people in the back rows where it would have been impossible for them to smell the smoke.

He has also found some trouble with borrowing cigarettes. Even though you know there are people who smoke, they are not willing to admit to everyone in the room that they smoke, so they dont offer up a cigarette, he says.

He is now thinking about where he can take this (an unlit cigarette is not an option). Hes probably going to drop to routine again.

In many ways its too bad because there is a lot of great magic that can be performed with cigarettes.

The good news is that there are alternatives for some of it.

For example, years ago when I played golf, I used to do cigarette moves with golf pencils. (This was not my idea, but one I got from another pal, Greg Otto, who was toying with the idea of doing a golf-themed manipulation act.)

Obviously crayons can also be manipulated the same way. Someone must be producing crayons in their kids act out there.

Today, in social situations, cigarettes also offer the prospect for Michael Weber-esque opportunistic magic. That is, a magical moment that that appears to happen strictly out of circumstance. Imagine someone lights a cigarette at a party and you make it disappear: Chances are good that the many of the folks in the room will be quite pleased with you. Thats much better than borrowing a cigarette and making it disappear or turning a sport coat into a smoking jacket and later a blazer.

So, if my feeble little mind can think of these things, the thinkers out there must have some other ideas worth sharing. Id like to read them here.

Thanks,
Dustin

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Terry » May 6th, 2008, 4:13 pm

As a non-smoker, I think most of this anti-smoking crap is just that - crap.

Here in KY, they are passing laws that business have to be smoke free. Including bars and cigar bars.

One of the few things about Jacksonville, FL that I enjoyed while living there was our monthly non-club magic meeting at a local bar and grill. We enjoyed food, cigars and socializing with each other.

Try that now in our knee jerk "society".

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » May 6th, 2008, 5:00 pm

How do you know a magician smokes?

They stink

anyway I am fine with those who enjoy smoking and simply choose not to be in places where my clothes etc pick up that smell.
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Baph » May 6th, 2008, 5:39 pm

I suppose it depends on where you work... And the audience you work to. I work to a lot of "Rock" audiences, many of whom smoke. I've often met a number of them whilst outside having a smoke before my set/act.

Having suffered a public venue smoking ban in the UK for the last year, I always speak to the manager of the venue I'm working in and tell him about the "legal clause" to smoke if it is intrinsic to my act. I also make sure that anyone in the audience (which is part of my show) knows this, and can also smoke... A number of the venue staff often also smoke, so this allows them a cigarette whilst I'm working. It also ensures that I get an encore for "just one more cigarette". As my act is mainly mentalism, with a straight jacket thrown in as the term mentalist has other meanings in the UK now... I state that I need a cigarette to "think" and when I hide behind the board I write the Magic square on, all the audience get is a plume of smoke from behind it. This gives them permission to enjoy a cigarette, and not be like some naughty schoolchild having to go outside.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Dustin Stinett » May 6th, 2008, 7:27 pm

The politics of smoking is not the question, and should not be commented on here. It doesnt matter what your opinion is about the laws in Kentucky, New York, or Californiayou have to deal with that at a political level in your own state (or country, if thats the case). What matters is that we must adapt to those laws, like them or not. And there is also the social stigma associated with it, as illustrated in my post. Again, liking it or not is immaterial to the subject. So the question is, how do we modify our magic to fit into these real laws and perceptions.

Dustin

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Brian Morton » May 6th, 2008, 8:13 pm

I'd like to jump in here for a minute, from a somewhat different vantage point.

Richard lives down in the heart of professional DC, which has been a very nonsmoking-oriented area since at least the 19 years ago when I left that area for here in Baltimore, so I'm not surprised at his opinion of the reactions you'd get if you did a cigarette routine.

Thirty-five miles north, however, it's still a different story. Although the city just went to all non-smoking in public places (even before the statewide law took effect), Baltimore still remains a haven of blue-collar smokers. I've always joked that Baltimore is the "smoking lounge of the Eastern Mid-Atlantic seaboard." You wouldn't necessarily be looked upon as some sort of air-poisoning freak if you did a few moves with a cigarette up here; you would probably just have to confine your venues to standing outside the bar or restaurant with the sizeable contingent of smokers standing around the butt can.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby erlandish » May 6th, 2008, 8:28 pm

John Carney has a great routine involving wooden cigars. Great routine, none of the problems associated with actual smoking. It's not the sort of routine that you can blindly substitute cigarettes for the cigars, but that general presentational ploy seems fine to me.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Gordolini » May 6th, 2008, 9:34 pm

As pointed out earlier, social norms will continue to evolve and vary by geography, cultural background, age, experiences, etc but some venues may have audiences that are more willing to accept a cigarette act or trick where cigarette smoking is not out of place perhaps some night clubs, street magic, etc as opposed to a school, theater or restaurant. But it does seem odd to see a TV rerun of Dean Martin smoking on stage doesnt it? As society changes, some Magicians will adapt with the times. Alternative objects such as Candy cigarettes? Short drinking straws? Large nails? Pen knives? Collapsed pointer? Perhaps Syringes? Perhaps not. Besides the social acceptance of an object, does the object look familiar if not common? Small magic wands? maybe.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Doc Dixon » May 6th, 2008, 10:17 pm

Regarding cigarette substitutes, here are my two cents:
I remember seeing a magician perform cigarette manip about 15 years ago. The cigarettes were unlit and he pointed this out saying, "You'll notice the cigarettes are not lit. I gave up that habit long ago." This statement received a polite and unenthusiastic smattering of applause accompanied by a far larger smattering of indifference.

Yes, I did notice the cigarettes weren't lit. I also noticed it was about 10% as impressive as it would have been if they were lit. Social norms come and go. But when you make something vanish and reappear repeatedly that could burn a hole in your skin, that's a lot more impressive than making a similar shaped object disappear.

We may disagree as whether cigarettes are "cool". But fire? Fire is cool.

One more thing: one of the best manip segment of all times uses a cigarette -- P&T's Simple, Isn't It. (excuse if I've got the title wrong)

Best,

DD

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Brian Morton » May 6th, 2008, 10:50 pm

Doc Dixon wrote:Social norms come and go. But when you make something vanish and reappear repeatedly that could burn a hole in your skin, that's a lot more impressive than making a similar shaped object disappear.


Ah, so that's why your pants were smoking last time I saw you. I really wanna see that act when you get done working on it.

brian :D

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Richard Kaufman » May 6th, 2008, 11:27 pm

I just saw the film Iron Man last night--it was great. One of the things that struck me was, even though the character of Tony Stark is an incredibly debauched drinker and womanizer, he was never seen smoking a cigarette. How odd! Instead, the bad guy was seen smoking a cigar at one point.
How times change.
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby David Alexander » May 6th, 2008, 11:33 pm

Two of the finest acts of their generation, Frakson and Cardini, were noted for their production of lighted cigarettes. Different styles and different methods, but both presented the production of lighted cigarettes with perfection.

Today, both these marvelous acts would be limited to where they could play in the US. As Doc said earlier, unlighted cigarettes have about 10% of the impact of the lighted ones.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Kevin Connolly » May 7th, 2008, 12:00 am

Richard Kaufman wrote:I just saw the film Iron Man last night--it was great. One of the things that struck me was, even though the character of Tony Stark is an incredibly debauched drinker and womanizer, he was never seen smoking a cigarette. How odd! Instead, the bad guy was seen smoking a cigar at one point.
How times change.


Maybe. Or maybe they didn't want to send Downey back to rehab. :blush:
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby castawaydave » May 7th, 2008, 12:26 am

I have at times regretted not smoking precisely because of the many cool tricks I knew I'd never get to do with cigarettes.

I have also regretted not drinking coffee because I never get to say, "Gimme a cup o' Joe".

Everyone was worried their repertoires would be devastated when U.S. currency was redesigned, but there's a lot less grumbling about that nowdays. Evidently people have adapted, overcome, and moved on...Way to go, boys!

P.S. Cocktail parasols, when you find them, also lend themselves to some of the cigarette moves.

P.P.S. As Penn says, you really shouldn't smoke anyway...unless you wanna look cool.

;^D

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Bill Wheeler » May 7th, 2008, 11:36 am

I agree that there is quite a bit of cigarette magic that will simply be unable to be performed (at least in growing portions of the US). And regretfully, there just aren't many substitutes that seem to be able to compare, particularly with lit cigarettes.

But there is a whole litany of effects that are quite good but have largely fallen by the wayside due to changing times. Effects like baking a cake in a borrowed hat, or "The Sun and Moon" with a borrowed handkerchief (not to be confused with the coin trick).

But then again, there was a period of time when people on this forum thought that the prospect of playing cards disappearing altogether in the not so distant future seemed real too.
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » May 7th, 2008, 12:13 pm

Perhaps as aromamtic anti-influenza (anti-viral/anti-bacterial) medication dispensers they might make a comeback? We have folks popping pills and inhaling and patching all over the place so why not reclaim the fun of smoking behavior without the tobacco/tar issues?

IMHO going for the wooden props approach is missing the mark - as empty as reinacting the civil war without real bloodshed or slaves... it's apeing without the option of offering a learning experience and offering an unrealistic perspective which may prevent some learning.
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby raj k » May 7th, 2008, 1:16 pm

Here in California, cigs are considered evil. I don't smoke (cigarettes), but I do carry the fake "puff cigarettes" and practice with them. Up close, they're clearly fakes. Looking at them futher away, they seem to be the real thing. AND you can get a very realistic puff of smoke from them.

Goofy? Yes.

However, I use them for 'shock' value as nobody suspects them being anything other than the real thing. Since there's no real smoke, there's no real health effects. Psychological effects however are substantial. While you may not agree with my methods, I achieve my desired 'effect' via psychological manipulation. And, the cigarette manipulation seems even more impossible to the fact that it appears clearly lit. (Ron Jaxon's Outsmokin' Routine is incredibly brilliant. Hopefully no one reads this) Humans love to smoke. You'll find them if you look. If you're lit cigarrette act isn't faring well in the US, there's always Russia, China, etc. Just follow the Big Tobacco.

Smoking cigarettes indoors, and 15 ft from building entrances outdoors in Cali is illegal (soon to be anywhere?). What are your thoughts on 'ethics' of smoking fake cigarettes indoors? Any harm done?

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Richard Kaufman » May 7th, 2008, 1:23 pm

For many people, taking a cigarette out of your pocket is not much different than taking out a dog turd. I can't imagine why anyone would want to do it considering how small the number of current smokers actually is.
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Steve Bryant » May 7th, 2008, 1:35 pm

I have come to view cigarettes pretty much as Richard describes above, especially as I lose more and more friends to their lethal side effects. The best compromise I can think of for those who wish to do cigarette moves is to buy some of John Rogers' wooden cigars. He makes great products and teaches extraordinary magic with them. Performing them "in character," say as a riverboat gambler or Mark Twain character, might take some of the modern social stigma away from them.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Pete McCabe » May 7th, 2008, 1:36 pm

According to Cancer.org, 20.9% of Americans smoke. Data as of 2005. I believe this is 20.9% of adults.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » May 7th, 2008, 1:45 pm

Twenty percent??? What are they counting automobile drivers and those who have to inhale second hand smoke as smokers too?

Either way... as pleasant as some may find the act - it's side effects and lingering tait leave it less than laudible for now IMHO.

As to continuing the acts simply because they were cool once -> hey, if you want to go that route - since we have so many diabetics how about using insulin syringes instead? CRINGE
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Richard Kaufman » May 7th, 2008, 2:34 pm

That 20% keeps a low profile these days, and the rest of us are healthier for it.
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Doc Dixon » May 7th, 2008, 4:18 pm

Brian Morton wrote:
Doc Dixon wrote:Social norms come and go. But when you make something vanish and reappear repeatedly that could burn a hole in your skin, that's a lot more impressive than making a similar shaped object disappear.


Ah, so that's why your pants were smoking last time I saw you. I really wanna see that act when you get done working on it.

brian :D


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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby castawaydave » May 7th, 2008, 4:39 pm

Note to self: Do NOT show Richard Kaufman my multiplying dog dirt routine.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Pete McCabe » May 8th, 2008, 10:55 am

I have a vanishing dog turd effect, but the performer does not end clean.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » May 8th, 2008, 11:15 am

A friend said he had a dog that used to vanish its own turds. Can't decide if that's worse than letting the dog smoke.

Wonder how a seeing eye dog that smokes would go over in a restaurant?
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Pete McCabe » May 8th, 2008, 2:20 pm

I also have a version of the Razor Blade trick where the performer ends clean shaven.


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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » May 8th, 2008, 3:01 pm

hmmm might be interesting to put the fragments of a gallstone on the string along with the blades for that classic.
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Brian Morton » May 8th, 2008, 3:47 pm

Doc Dixon wrote:My pants were "smoking"? Brian, my brain is currently seizing up from the jokes I'm not allowing myself to type here.


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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Scott Fridinger » May 9th, 2008, 5:18 am

I would think that if you are going to use "other props", like crayons, you are going to be stuck with children's show environments.

Fake "smokes" are just that, fake. They know they are fake and they become a prop. You are not using a "common" object, and in my opinion all they will see is a magical prop, that is probably doing all the work.

And just to throw in some info I learned recently, according to my Father's Dr. a Johns Hopkins, over 60% of people who develop lung cancer are non-smokers. My Father never smoked, never hung out in bars around second hand smoke, and passed away in Feb. from Cancer.

The social view of smoking will make us alter our effects. I think that instead of substituting new props to throw into a cig. routine, we should look to work on other routines. Unless you can specifically go into an area where smoking is "appreciated". How about doing tradeshow work for Phillip Morris, would probably go well there.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » May 9th, 2008, 7:30 am

And... anyone gonna suggest scaling up to cigars the same way the coin guys tooled up from halves to dollars in the last generation?

Do cigarettes still link to "ambition" while cigars link to "success"?

I still hold out hope for "inhalers" - the form factor is right in the same way our phones and palm pilots converged. At this time pens and syringes are about the same size - so my guess is "medical"

But tooling UP to the "classy" cigars may yet have possibilities.
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby David Alexander » May 9th, 2008, 8:40 am

As one of the people on this forum who actually performed a cigarette act in the "bad old days" I can tell you that few effects register as strongly with an audience. As has been mentioned, social norms now preclude the use of cigarettes in magic. Good for public health, bad for those of us who know how to do the effect to full advantage.

And on the idea of "scaling up" to cigars...Frakson tried it decades ago. It didn't work. He told me it made him sick and the prep time was massive.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » May 9th, 2008, 8:54 am

There are small cell phones of similar form factor to cigarettes (okay pack of gum but pretty close). Is the cell phone ring and the action of "answering the phone" about as socially recognized today as lighting up a cigarette and taking a puff was a generation ago?

The idea of a performer getting lots of calls - so many that they carry lots of phones and still more appear might parellel the structure of the cigarette/cards "and another?" type routine.

Just thinking- what do you think?
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby Brandon Hall » May 9th, 2008, 12:43 pm

That's a great idea Jonathan, a fractured "hussler" with cell phones going off everywhere...an updated Cardini
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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby David Alexander » May 9th, 2008, 1:41 pm

An electronic device emitting a sound is hardly on par with a lighted cigarette which, to a lay audience, is far more difficult to control.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby NCMarsh » May 9th, 2008, 9:11 pm

I saw Torkova performing the multiplying candles at MNM (a really beautiful routine) and no one in the room seemed to be exhaling during that part of the act...very strong stuff...I wonder if it might be an alternative...

I will say that -- though I have only seen the "old guys" on film (there is some footage of Frakson doing cigarette work on YouTube now) -- I think the impact goes even beyond the strong fact that you're controlling burning objects. Additionally, the smoke is beautiful and mysterious (the Benson book mentions lighting cigarette smoke with a blue gel...I can see the combination of that with the warm orange glow of the embers looking really, really smooth), and the whole thing was so organic...it was magic happening around something that was a normal, casual occurrence...

I think the other big advantage, for performers, was that cigarettes are extremely small and portable objects that -- because of the smoke -- can be clearly seen and recognized in the largest theater.

Were they socially acceptable, a cigarette act would be very appealing to me...a piece that fits in my pocket, is extremely magical, and can play in any size room anywhere for people who speak any language? Sign me up

So, for all the benefits to public health, magic has lost a truly beautiful and unique genre...

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby NCMarsh » May 9th, 2008, 9:34 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:There are small cell phones of similar form factor to cigarettes (okay pack of gum but pretty close). Is the cell phone ring and the action of "answering the phone" about as socially recognized today as lighting up a cigarette and taking a puff was a generation ago?

The idea of a performer getting lots of calls - so many that they carry lots of phones and still more appear might parellel the structure of the cigarette/cards "and another?" type routine.

Just thinking- what do you think?


It's definitely a thought...I like the idea of vanishing -- rather than producing -- a ringing cell-phone...the sound continuing after the phone is "actually" gone would make this very deceptive (ala the vanishing radio) and stooging it as if a spectator's phone went off during the show, leading to the "impromptu" vanish...could make for a very powerful routine...

here's a rough, rough draft for a piece based on Jonathan's idea

A cell phone is set to vibrate...it is loaded into the spec's outer coat pocket in the course of a routine (lots of possibilities here...though I guess that cigarette in coat is no longer one...)...the phone in the spec's coat is called and it begins to vibrate, a moment after it starts vibrating a track of a ringtone is cued (this mimics a lot of cell phones that vibrate for a few moments before making a sound)...when he takes the phone out he will likely deny that it is his...you take a few beats to look at him strangely...and then proceed to vanish the phone (a pendulum holdout strikes me as a practical method here)...with some kind of static-y sound effect hitting at the moment of the vanish...

there are a lot of problems here (one that strikes me is that the vanish must be precisely sync-ed to the soundtrack, but you're working with the reactions of a living spectator to the strange phone going off in the pocket)...also, I don't think the track can be convincing coming out of the main sound system...but I don't know...

Another idea (and this is way afield of magic with cigs, but Johnathan's suggestion of a cell-phone as a prop has me very interested in the idea of stand-up magic with cell phones and using magic to solve the believable problem of a phone interupting a performance):

Pre-show a guy to get his phone number and ask him to leave his phone on..he comes on stage for something...the phone goes off...it is vanished or smashed to pieces in a bag...then you hear it ringing from inside a loaf of bred, a nest-of-boxes...what have you

anyone have other thoughts? I really like the premise...

N.

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Re: Discussing a Disgusting Habit—Cigarettes and Magic

Postby David Alexander » May 10th, 2008, 11:31 am

Years ago in Genii there was a vanishing transistor radio effect. A mercury switch tied to the off/on switch and a Devil's Hank completed the necessary business.


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