Friday, October 28, 2005

Halloween, Hurricanes, and More, Oh My!

Happy Halloween, everyone! We're just a few days away from all Hallow's Eve, and the Gross household is abuzz! My son, Max, has completely decorated our house with all the Halloween paraphernalia we've collected over the years, and the candy bowl is awaiting its supply! Max's costume is all set -- he's going to be Napoleon Dynamite, and what a funny one he makes! He does a perfect impression when he's all dressed up in costume, and he cracks us up!

On Monday, we received distressing news that John and Tammy Calvert were somewhere lost at sea in their yacht, "The Magic Castle II," due to Hurricane Wilma in Florida. We breathed a sigh of relief when we received the below article from the newswire:

Surviving Wilma on the waves
Couple ride out terror as John Calvert, 94, and his wife, Tammy, 63, survive Wilma on a runaway boat

Laurin Sellers Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted October 26, 2005

Retired stunt man John Calvert, 94, and his wife, Tammy, 63, row back to shore Tuesday after being rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. They spent a rough day Monday on their 67-foot boat after Hurricane Wilma destroyed the dock to which the craft was tied in Merritt Island.

MERRITT ISLAND -- At the height of Hurricane Wilma, John Calvert stood on the bow of his yacht in the Banana River struggling with a frayed anchor line.

If it snapped, the 94-year-old man was certain the fierce winds would send his boat crashing into the Mathers Bridge.

Inside the thrashing 67-foot vessel, Calvert's wife, Tammy, prayed.

"I was scared to death," she said Tuesday. "I thought it was the end of us."

Hours earlier, Tammy Calvert, 63, who can't swim, had urged her husband to leave the yacht they call home and ride out the storm at a friend's house.

But Calvert, a former stuntman, magician and adventurer who has flown blindfolded and once doubled for Clark Gable, was convinced they would be fine.

The yacht he had helped build 25 years ago was tied to a dock and was weighted with seven anchors.

But as the winds howled Monday afternoon, a nearby dock suddenly broke apart and slammed into the dock where the Calverts' boat, the Magic Castle II, was moored.

"I had to cut the moor lines and all but two of the anchor lines loose so I could get away from the dock," Calvert said.

He managed to start the motor and steer toward the middle of the Banana River about 100 yards from shore, where the water is 20 to 25 feet deep.

Despite near-100 mph winds, 5-foot waves and pounding rain, Calvert still was convinced they would be safe.

Then he noticed the fraying line.

"I had to get that part of the rope pulled in so it wouldn't break," he said. "I have to say, I was getting very concerned."

Using a cell phone with a dying battery, Calvert called his friend Bob Green and asked him to get help. Green called 911 and then the U.S. Coast Guard.

But even before Green called him back, Calvert knew nobody would come for them.

The winds were too strong to send a helicopter, and all the boat ramps were flooded, Coast Guard Petty Officer Ben Fleming said.

"I already knew I would have to figure my way out," said Calvert, adding that the Coast Guard kept close tabs on them, calling every hour.

Somehow, Calvert managed to secure the anchor line, and the couple spent the rest of the night huddled inside the stranded yacht.

Early Tuesday, a Coast Guard vessel brought the weary pair to shore.

By late afternoon, a diver from a salvage company was trying to untangle a mass of ropes and lines in the murky water, some of which had gotten caught in the boat's propeller.

"I don't have a bone or a muscle in my body that isn't aching," Calvert conceded. "I've never worked so hard in my life."

Tammy Calvert spent the morning on the phone with her sister.

"We both just cried," she said, the tears suddenly welling.

As for the Magic Castle II, Calvert said he had decided to sell it just days before the hurricane hit.

Tammy Calvert couldn't be happier.

"This was like going through hell," she said.

Other friends who have been hit hard in the Florida area like Guy Bavli, who called the other day to say they won't have power for 3-4 weeks are also doing well, despite the inconvenience. We're also hoping to get in touch with Ulf Morhling and Lawrence Lemon, both of whom live in the hardest-hit area of Florida. Hopefully, they'll read this and get in touch with us; we want to make sure they are doing OK.

Next Tuesday evening, November 1st at 8:15 PM, Mike Giusti has invited me to be his guest on his show for the Magic Broadcast. If you have a chance, please tune in and give us a call during the show with any questions or comments you may have. I look forward to talking with some of you during the broadcast.

Image hosted by
Harry Blackstone Jr.

I received a most precious gift from my good friend Ron Allesi this week. Ron knows how much of a fan of Harry Blackstone Jr. I am and when he came across one of Harry's Vanishing Birdcages, he sent it to me as a belated birthday gift, and I couldn't be happier! For those who know me well enough, you know how much of an influence Harry was on my life in magic. Someday, in the near future, I'll tell you the story of Harry Blackstone Jr. and myself. Definitely one to look forward to!

We're staying extremely busy as the Holidays gear up, and each day gets more and more hectic. We couldn't be happier. We're ready for the holiday rush and gearing up to bring you some of the best magic for your holiday shows! Look for the special Hocus Pocus Holiday Page in the next week!

Image hosted by
Losander and Luna

A big congratulations go to Luna and Losander on the birth of their son, Adam, yesterday morning. Losander called me today, and I could tell how proud of a father he was as we talked. Luna, the baby, and he are all doing fine, and we wish them all the happiness in the world!

So there you have it -- an extremely eventful week, to say the least! Make sure you have a safe and fun-filled Halloween this weekend and don't eat too much candy!

Until next time,


Friday, October 21, 2005

Max's Funny Farm

Well, as promised, below you'll find below the photos of my son, Max, selling his wares at last week's school carnival! From the moment we set up at 2:00 until we closed at 8:00, the kids came in droves! Max broke all previous sales records and raked it in for his school's music and arts department! I'm really proud of Max. Some of our best sellers were:

Shocking Pens
Itching Powder
Grab Bags
Exploding Golf Balls

Max putting the finishing touches on his Funny Farm.

A fan looks at all the merchandise!

The customers begin showing up.

It's a madhouse!

All in all, everyone had a good time for a great cause.

Exciting news back here at the shop: we have made arrangements with Borodin to sell his entire act! If you own the book, Sheherazade, you will see many of the effects featured there. These are one-of-a-kind pieces that were custom made by Borodin himself and used in his now famous act for many years! Mike will be creating a special page with photos and descriptions for these items next week, so stay tuned; this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only own a unique piece of magic, but a piece of history as well!

Last week, I mentioned how busy it was becoming due to the holidays. This week, we received hundreds of orders, and we're literally running to fill them. Again, thanks to all of you for your continued support that keeps Hocus Pocus going.


Khyber Kobra by Collector's Workshop

We are looking for a Collector's Workshop Khyber Kobra. If you have one you are no longer using and wish to sell it for immediate cash or trade for new magic props, give me a call toll-free 800-407-4040 or email me at

Sorry to keep it short this week, but there's so much to do. UPS just delivered about 40 boxes of new merchandise. I'm like a kid at Christmas time and can't wait to open those boxes to see what's arrived!

So, have a safe weekend, spend some quality time with your family, and most of all, have fun!

Until next time,


Friday, October 14, 2005

Step Right Up!

That's what we'll be saying all day today as Betty, Max, and I will be manning Max's Funny Farm booth at his school's carnival. Last year was our first try, and it was a huge success! Max sold over $600.00 in novelties and gags to his friends and made out like a bandit! All the proceeds went to his school library fund. This year, the organizers called and begged him to come back as he was so successful last year. So, I've loaded up the truck, my car, and I'll be leaving very shortly to help set up and prepare for the throng!

Tony Blanco has graciously volunteered to stop by after work to juggle and perform magic along with balloon animals to draw in more of the crowd. Mike will be stopping by as well to take photos, which we'll be posting here next week for you to see.

Today is our own Mike Giusti's birthday! He's met a very special person, and she, along with his friends, are going out for a night of fun this evening! We all wish Mike a very happy 36th birthday! And we're NOT going to mention the gifts he's received from our staff here at the shop!

Oh yes, welcome to the Hocus Pocus Barber Shop! To prove that I don't allow Tony any time off, our friend Louis (who Mike pointed out eerily resembles Dean Dill) gives Tony a quick clip & dip at his desk. Whoever said Hocus Pocus isn't a full service shop? Watch out, Dean!

Louis has his work cut out for him.

Is this how Dean Dill started out?

Criss Angel

Last night, Criss Angel called me at home to tell me the good news: he was named 2005 Magician of the Year by The Academy of Magical Arts (AMA) at a press event at Hollywood’s Magic Castle. Congratulations, Criss, and keep up the good work! Criss is hard at work on some exciting new projects and ventures, which will soon be publicly announced. He said he's up everyday for about 21 hours and hasn't been home to New York in almost a year. I believe it! Congratulations, Criss!

Also, my dear friend Richard Burr sent me the good news that he was inducted into the Guiness Book of World Records for breaking 3 world records with coin rolls, beating out Jeff McBride who held the current record for one of them! Check this out:

Richard Burr, breaker of 3 world records!

Guinness World Record #1

Using the classic “coin roll” technique, Richard Burr (USA) passed a single silver dollar around the fingers of his left hand a total of 40 times in a minute. The record was previously held by Jeff McBride with 31 revolutions in a minute.

Guinness World Record #2

Richard Burr (USA) simultaneously rolled two silver dollar coins (one in each hand) using the classic rolling technique, 68 times (30 in the left and 38 in the right).

Guinness World Record #3

Richard Burr (USA) simultaneously rolled two silver dollars forwards and backwards over the fingers of both his hands (one per hand), each hand completing 40 moves in one minute. For a total of 80.

All three records were set the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California, USA, on February 8, 2005.

Congratulations, Richard!

It continues to be extremely busy here, and we can feel the momentum begin to build for the holidays every day. If the last two weeks are any indication, this will be the biggest year Hocus Pocus has ever had! And we have you to thank for that.

So while Mike enjoys his birthday, Tony enjoys his new 'do, and I enjoy Max's carnival, make sure your weekend is filled with fun, relaxation, and be safe.

Until next time,


Friday, October 07, 2005

All Systems Go!

To say that it has been another week of high activity here at Hocus Pocus would be an understatement! There is so much magic bursting at the seams that we cannot make room fast enough to accommodate it!

I was extremely excited to see Icarus Effect come through the doors, and I immediately checked it out. All I can say is, "WOW!" Aaron Paterson has really outdone himself on this one. The comprehensive DVD that accompanies the package is phenomenally well put-together and is clear, concise, and captivating. This has to be the best self-levitation to come out since the Balducci! In case you haven't checked it out yet, take a look!

Another product worth your consideration is "I'm Sitting On It" by Greg Gleason, a fantastic Bill or Card on Seat effect that comes to you as a kit to make your own gimmicked and ungimmicked chairs. I watched the DVD and immediately wanted to put one together myself; it's that fun to watch and extremely motivating! The props constructed are extremely well-made, and the method is different from anything ever offered on the market. And the best part is, you don't have to be Bob Villa to put it together; it is extremely easy and will only take one half hour to assemble. There are no special tools required! Check it out here!

And how can I forget our latest Hocus Pocus Exclusive, Cesaral Time Perfect! If you've ever wanted to perform the now-classic mentalist effect, "Time Prediction," but you didn't want the hassles of extra gimmicks, stalling for time, etc., this is the one for you! The method is completely different from any other, and it's super fast and 100% accurate! The performer never needs to even touch the watch as soon as the effect has begun. I'll give you a hint: if you can push a button, you can perform this trick! Check it out here!

The Fresno Fair

In other news, the big Fresno Fair began this week, and Betty and I made sure we were one of the first people through the door! I love the fair, and so does Betty. It's one of the things we look forward to going to each and every year, and we never miss it! The food is terrific, and the entertainment is unmatched for a family atmosphere. My favorite is the corn dog and this year, I indulged in a foot-long corn dog! Betty loves the cinnamon rolls and soft tacos. This weekend, we'll take the kids so my son, Max, can toss ping pong balls to win goldfish! So far, he's undefeated each and every year! Last year, he won a total of 8 fish! You think he's figured out the method?

It's good to see some of my old friends like Tom Jorgenson and Ernie Guderjahn at the fair this year. Both are extremely talented performers both in magic and in the allied arts. Ernie's Travelling Game Show is one of the biggest attractions at the fair, and Tom is a hot commodity to the fair circuit!

Today, I'm doing double duty as Tony Blanco has flown back to Las Vegas to pick up his remaining storage. He'll be behind the wheel of a 26' truck all day tomorrow. How a little guy can have so much stuff is beyond me! He may even have to go back for a second trip!!! You're insane, Tony! Drive safe.

Mike is going on his third date this Saturday, and he's pacing the joint like he's addicted to prescription drugs! Could this be love? Could it be friendship? Could it be...? Tune in next week to find out the answer, friends. But seriously, we've all been giving him a ration since he's entered the dating game after 14 years. To say he's been nervous is an understatement. This girl he's been dating sounds like she's a pretty cool cookie with a good sense of humor (a must if you're going to spend some time with Mike).

Don't forget -- Halloween is coming. Dust off your Halloween costume, get the candy, and don't forget those Halloween effects. As for me, I'm going into physical training to be able to down another corn dog!

Until next time,