Images from Egyptian Hall: Will Nicola

Images from Egyptian Hall: Will Nicola

Will Nicola (seen on the right) was another globe-trotting illusionist from America. Young Will learned the magic business as an assistant in his father’s magic act and his older brother, Charles, who would gain his own fame as Von Arx, also mentored Will in the mysterious arts. Will’s first performance on his own occurred at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition held in Omaha, Nebraska in 1898. During the run of the Fair he became friends with the great Chinese magician, Ching Ling Foo, who was visiting America for the first time. Twelve years later, with his own full-evening show, Will had set forth on his first world-tour. While appearing in Tientsin, China, a familiar face turned up at the theater. It was Ching Ling Foo. This photo was taken in front of the theater to commemorate their reunion. In 1938 Nicola was on his fourth world tour working very successfully through Australia and New Zealand. From there they sailed to Java and then on to Singapore. It was during this engagement in November of 1939 that WW II broke out in Europe. Nicola thought it best to suspend the rest of his tour and cancelled his bookings in India. The show, as well as a large quantity of Chinese silk that he hoped to turn into costumes and backdrops, was loaded on board a British ship named Sirdhana. With the entire company onboard they set off for Honolulu but before clearing Singapore harbor the ship struck a submerged mine. The passengers safely scrambled into the lifeboats and then, from a safe distance, watched Nicola’s entire show disappear under the ocean’s surface....
Images from Egyptian Hall: Adelaide Herrmann

Images from Egyptian Hall: Adelaide Herrmann

  During the early morning of December 17, 1896 Adelaide Herrmann suddenly found herself not the co-star of the Herrmann the Great touring show but simply as the widow Herrmann. Her husband, Alexander Herrmann, had reigned supreme as America’s foremost magician for many years and she had lived a life of luxury. Now, just forty-three years of age, Adelaide needed to make a living and magic was all she had known throughout her adult life. Immediately following Alexander’s death she cabled her nephew in France instructing him to sail for America. Leon Herrmann was already an accomplished magician and perhaps even more important, he looked like his uncle with a black mustache and goatee. This new iteration of The Herrmann the Great show toured America for three seasons but a clash of temperaments finally doomed the enterprise. Leon further antagonized his aunt by retaining the title Herrmann the Great, which he used for his own full-evening show. Another nephew, Felix Kretschmann, the son of Adelaide’s sister, decided that he too would become a magician. He purchased enough of Alexander’s magic equipment, costumes, and curtains from Adelaide to produce an act, grew the required goatee and mustache, and then, much to his aunt’s chagrin, legally changed his name to Felix Herrmann. Taking this as an affront to her deceased husband, Adelaide never forgave Felix to the point that she removed his name from her will. Adelaide carried on as a magician, a domain that was inhabited almost exclusively by men. During her long career she appeared at the Wintergarten in Berlin, the Folies-Bergere in Paris, and the Hippodrome Theatre in...
Images from Egyptian Hall: Charles Carter

Images from Egyptian Hall: Charles Carter

This exotic looking wizard did not travel to America from the mysterious East. His name was Charles Joseph Carter, born in New Castle Pennsylvania in 1874. As a teen-ager he was already performing as Carter –The Boy Magician and what he lacked in artistic ability and creativity he more than made up for with ambition and fortitude. Attending law school in Chicago provided him with skills that served him well throughout a long career. He formed a booking agency called The National Theatrical Exchange; he started a theatrical magazine called The Chicago Footlights and for a few short years he owned the famous New York magic company (Martinka’s Magical Palace) before selling it to Harry Houdini. In 1921 Carter lost a fortune filming The Lion’s Bride in South Africa, a movie that was written, produced, directed and starring Charles Carter. Orson Welles he was not. In 1933 he lost another fortune when his Temple of Mystery at the Chicago World’s Fair closed after just two months of miserable business. But over the course of three decades Carter the Great made seven long trips around the world where he presented a three-hour show of magic and illusions. The secret to his success was that rather than appearing in major cities where he would be competing with the greatest magicians in the world, he played the far corners of the globe where audiences rarely saw anything like what Carter had to offer. His world tours could easily last more than two years and during those circumnavigations of the earth he lived like a king, staying in fine hotels, eating in the...
Magic of the Trick–Eddy Taytelbaum

Magic of the Trick–Eddy Taytelbaum

In my inaugural column we explored some magic theory as it related to the use of the term “trick.” As we discussed, many magicians hate the word “trick” so much that they will spew utter nonsense just to keep from saying it. One cause for this distaste is rooted in the performer’s ego. The idea of a “magic trick” suggests to the audience that a special prop or device, something that anyone could buy if they only knew where to find one, was the cause of the miracle the audience has witnessed and not the skill of the performer. But, as any passionate magic collector will tell you, there are props and tricks which are specially made just to create a miraculous moment, and some of these “tricks” are pretty darned amazing. Their inventors and builders manage to combine engineering, design, psychology, craftsmanship, creativity, and even sleight of hand into these amazing products that can amaze and befuddle as deeply as any other magic experience, by any name you wish to call it. I love “magic tricks.” Some of the most beautiful magic “tricks” ever presented were the design and creation of a Dutch magician named Eddy Taytelbaum. Eddy is 91 years old as of 2016. Like many, his interest in magic began in childhood. An early leg injury sent him into the hospital where he discovered a book on magic. He was attracted to a particular piece of card conjuring which necessitated remaking a standard card into a special magic changing card. His talents for arts and crafts served him well over the years, working as he did...
Flibberty-Gibberty 7 by Jon Racherbaumer

Flibberty-Gibberty 7 by Jon Racherbaumer

FLIBBERTY-GIBBERTY #7 Jon Racherbaumer REGARDING A FEW OF THE QUOTATIONS PUBLISHED IN THE GREATER ARTFUL DODGES OF EDDIE FIELDS     Most quotable pundits belittle the practice of quoting other pundits. That being said, consider these two sentences by Ralph Waldo Emerson:          “I hate quotation. Tell me what you know.” Well, I know lots of little things. I know, for example, that I started to conscientiously collect quotations in 1955. Whenever I ran across a phrase or quotation that seemed supple, thoughtful, incisive, poetic, or witty, it was savored and saved. The quotations chosen for the Artful Dodges book were not capriciously picked. Each was germane regarding how Eddie Fields approached and presented his magic. Their allusiveness was meant to supplement my youthful, slap-dash prose. I needed to intermittently pump some gravitas into my wobbly exposition. Looking back, the quotations are not as suggestive and opaque as early critics claimed. I repeat: none of them were arbitrarily chosen. On the contrary, they are proven, pertinent points that Fields wanted to emphasize. I hope the following annotations will sharpen your understanding of any possible allusiveness or intent?   THE QUOTATIONS   “Imitation is criticism.” -William Blake Fields repeatedly stressed the importance of working from the inside and then outward. “Start within and work your way out. Learn the mechanics of the trick and then figure out the psychological parts.” He recommended internalizing these aspects. “Figure out how you would express any trick. If you do this, your presentations will be inimitable. Nobody can copy these things in an ongoing, spontaneous basis. If somebody can imitate you (not your tricks), then...
Flibberty-Gibberty 6 by Jon Racherbaumer

Flibberty-Gibberty 6 by Jon Racherbaumer

VANNI BOSSI: CLASSY SCHOLAR Jon Racherbaumer   Vanni Bossi was a classy scholar who diligently pursued excellence and he was a model of such artistic intent. This is why it’s challenging and perhaps futile to find an apt and summarizing word or two to pin like shiny medals on Vanni’s yet-to-be-passed mantle. “Class act” comes to mind. So does “quiet elegance.” The last two words suggest other considerations because he was indeed an aristocrat of scholarship. He researched, read and studied the roots of our art form; and deeply cared about everything he investigated. This had a humbling effect on him because when he spoke and performed, he did so without any swagger or ostentation. A different kind of assurance was at work. His modesty gave rise to a subtle and winning kind of gravitas. Slowly and surely he made the most of available time. Gradually and unfailing he cast spells and while doing so he managed to radiate an old-world, sweetly seasoned, charm. But most of all, he eschewed anything that might trivialize or discredit the art form he loved, which is why his level of creativity was cutting-edge. It always seemed as though he was distilling four centuries of mystery and manners—all served up with grace and civility. Vanni’s research drilled down deeply. Details mattered. Patterns had to connect. If a subject such as the mnemonic use of playing cards interested him, he would start digging and would eventually find and reprint works dating back to 1593 such as Horatio Galasso’s Giochi di carte bellissimi di regola, e di memoria. He might also take time out to...

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