Friday, March 28, 2008

It's Not All About Magic

Hi, all. Mike Giusti here.

Well, allergy season has officially arrived, and Paul is down for the count. It hits him hard with a sinus infection each and every year, and everyone here at the shop should start taking bets as to when Paul will be out; it happens that regularly! Get well, Paul.

On the home front, we've been busier than ever here at Hocus Pocus. I've been putting on new products and categories like a madman, and thanks to my old pal, Mr. Caffeine, I'm able to keep up with it all. Barely. This week we had one of the most successful Estate and Private Collectible Sales ever! In fact, more and more people are contacting us to help them sell their older, unused merchandise, so look forward to seeing more of these lists in the future.

Personally, I couldn't be more busy. In an effort to try to simplify my life, I have done the exact opposite: March, April and May are now completely booked with both magic and music gigs. For those of you who don't know, I picked up piano at an early age and studied for a while until I found my first true love: bass. I can't quite explain it, but ever since I remember, I've always had an affinity for singing harmony to the point where I could sing lyrics of songs to the bass line. In other words, I could sing the lyrics, but the music coming out of my mouth would always be the bass line and or harmonies of the tune.

My first bass was an old German stand-up acoustic that was bigger than I was. In fact, I remember traveling with my college band and dreading the size of this instrument. You all know what I mean:

The old German Stand Up Bass

So I finally sold it as my college salad-eating days couldn't afford me the luxury of owning both a stand up and electric. I picked up my first electric bass and truly found my niche. It was an old red Hohner bass that was licensed by Steinberger, (I really wanted the Steinberger XL2 but couldn't afford at the time). After a couple of years, I sold the Hohner and got a great deal on the Steinberger XL2! You've all seen the Steinberger bass I'm talking about; everyone who paid attention to all the bands of the 80s and 90s saw it:

The Steinberger XL2

Made entirely of a graphite composite and all one piece, I loved that bass and used it all the way up until the mid-90s, when it got stolen! I was heartbroken. To make matters worse, Steinberger had stopped making these basses, and eBay wasn't around back then, so the basses were scarce. So I unhappily borrowed a friend's Fender Jazz bass and played with various bands all over California, scraping all my pennies together for my next purchase and, since I was living in Northern California at the time, I was able to talk to the incredible people at Alembic, based in Santa Rosa! To me, Alembic was always unobtainable; they are the Rolls Royce of bass makers, and their basses are not cheap. In fact, master bass virtuoso, Stanley Clarke uses them all the time for every one of his albums. It was there that I bought my first custom-made Series 1, which I still own to this day:

My old lady: the Alembic Series 1

Such a work of art this bass is, with a neck-through-body construction and made of maple, exotic African Cocobolo wood, and my initials embedded in the neck with mother of pearl, this thing is not only gorgeous to look at, but it sounds SOOOOOO good, whether keeping the low end or soloing! It is, by far, my favorite bass, and the best sounding one I've ever owned. I use primarily for studio work, however, it's a bit on the heavy side, and I'm always afraid of dinging it, so I started looking for a more steady gigging instrument. I tried the Musicman Stingray, which I had always admired the sound that people like Peter Gabriel's bassist, Tony Levin and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist, Flea got, so I put some jack down for one. Here, you can see it in the middle of my "studio":

From left to right: the NS CR Double Bass, an old acoustic guitar hanging on the wall, the Stingray, and the Alembic Series 1

Call it buyer's remorse, but almost immediately, I didn't like the feel of the Stingray. It only had 20 frets instead of the 24 I am used to, so soloing was extremely limited for me, so I looked into Musicman's other options and sold the Stingray for the 24 fretted instrument called the Bongo:

The Bongo Bass I owned was the top black one

This bass felt a lot better, but its high end got lost with the rest of the instruments, so the search was on again for a gigging bass that sounded great, both in the low and high end. I came across someone who was selling a Pedulla 1988 MVP bass, and it caught my interest immediately; I remember seeing a great band in the Bay Area called WHaT, and the bassist/singer, Endre Tarczy, used it and I always thought it sounded great. Since I had gambled before with the other two basses, I decided to sell the Bongo and get the Pedulla. It has been with me ever since (in fact, it is the bass pictured at the very top of the blog). It gives me the tone I need without the weight of the Series 1, and I couldn't be happier with this bass.

Oh, and during my search for a good gigging bass, since I missed my old friend, the German acoustic stand-up bass, I decided to revisit history and look into Steinberger's new series of basses, and I was able to get a great deal on an NS CR Double Bass:

NS CR Double Bass

This bass weighs more than half of the old acoustic stand-up and sounds just as good, if not better, and is perfect for playing the smaller venues like clubs and coffee houses where jazz and blues are more appropriate. It even comes apart and fits into a single gig bag over the shoulder, quite unlike the stand-up.

Wow. If you've read this far so far, you deserve a standing ovation! I hadn't planned on this much information, but I am happy to say that my band, Smoke Break, is getting more popular by the day, and tonight, we are playing live at Club Milano in the Fulton Mall area of Fresno, and you can also see us at Club Salsa Monday, April 7th and again at Club Milano Saturday, April 19th.

Paul will return next week, so enough of my mindless off-topic prattling.

Take care,


Friday, March 21, 2008

Ah, The Good Ol' Days...

It's certainly no secret to any of you who know me how much I enjoy older antique magic. I attribute my early exposure to the late Marvin (Buma) Burger from San Francisco's old House of Magic. As a young man in my early teens, I remember the first piece of antique magic I ever bought from him, and I still have it to this day. Little did I know that this part of the magic world would become such a huge part of my life today... As my personal collection grows, I'm happy that I have a large enough space in which to display it. The history of our craft is most interesting to me, more than just books on tricks, I specifically enjoy historical and biographical books on the subject. Enter the recent Pleasant Nightmares Book by William Rauscher. This is just that -- a historical and biographical look at the career of Bill Neff. Neff was a master of the Spook Show, and his career spanned from the 1930s well into the 1960s. I found this book both extremely fascinating and hard to put down. Within two nights, I read the entire book and cannot recommend it highly enough. It is filled with great information and fantastic, vintage photographs.

The interesting coincidence is that I recently acquired several original Bill Neff comic books from the 1940s. Walter B Gibson was instrumental in bringing these to life starting in September, 1948 through February of 1953. I purchased these from the original purchaser, who bought them in his youth and kept them in immaculate condition -- as new as they day they came off the presses!

The Red Dragon issue is one of the rarest and sought after by both comic collectors and magicians. Below are the others, Ghostbreaker, published in September of 1948 and Racket Squad in February of 1953.

In addition to these comics, from the same collector, I acquired this extremely rare McElroy Talking Skull from 1937! The McElroy Brothers were well-renown ventriloquist figure makers, and their figures and craftsmanship so unique, they are sought after with vigor by collectors today. Any McElroy products are extremely rare, and I cannot tell you how excited I was to add this piece to my collection. Considering this skull is 71 years-old and in mint, perfect condition makes it an even more rare find! Included with the skull is the original manuscript, written by Lester Lake for the McElroy Brothers. Ah, the good ol' days. If there were only a time machine and we could go back again.

The McElroy Talking Skull and original manuscript

Greetings from Argentina!

Our good friend, Noberto Jansenson, came from Argentina, via Los Angeles to visit for a couple of days. We always enjoy Noberto's visits, almost as much as he enjoys our city of Fresno, which is quite different from that of Buenos Aires. While here, he told us about a recent television special that he has filmed in his home country that will feature interviews with the biggest and brightest stars coupled with his very own magic. This venture is completely different from what is typically presented in the evenings, and the television company has given Jansenson creative freedom from the interview questions to the type of magic he wishes to present. He is very excited about this new venture, and we are sure that it will be a huge success.

Jansenson sees a magic prop he likes

And I left him locked in it (but not for too long)

Tomorrow evening, my son, Max returns from his 2 week-long vacation from France. He's called Betty and me to report in, and it sounds like he's had a great time! His only complaint is that he wants us to take him to Burger King for a bacon cheeseburger and fries when he gets home.

Have a good Easter weekend.

Until next time,


Friday, March 14, 2008

The French Connection

Max is here.

Bonjour. OK, that's all the French you'll get outta me today. I started out the blog today as my youngest son, Max, left Wednesday on a trip to France! As part of a class trip, he'll be gone for a total of nine days where he'll be able to see such landmarks as the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, Chateau of Chenonceau, Palace of Versailles and then they will be off to Normandy to see the battleground of World War 2, not to mention the fine French food and other things. At 15 years of age, both Betty and I felt that this would be an incredible opportunity for Max. He's already phoned once and is having a great time. Betty purchased him a special memory card for his camera for plenty of pictures. He returns at midnight next Saturday, and I'm sure he'll have TONS of stories to share with us. In the meantime, he's left us explicit instructions on how to take care of the birds in the aviary, which I am following to a T, and of course, there's the car. He's left a list for his older brother, Cole, to start it up and drive it every day. No eating, drinking, etc. are allowed inside, however... He's even asked that Cole pick him up at the airport and drive him home in his Nova.


The response to the Allakazam Hat has been tremendous! As you may remember, we made this visible on the web site a week ago today. With only 50 limited edition units being produced, we have already sold over 50% of them. We still have a few units available to those who pre-order the first 36, enabling you to also receive the special Allakazam Memorabilia Package and personalized autographed photo. Contact us soon if you are interested.

If you haven't seen the web site this week, Mike has put on a new record of hot products, averaging around 10 per day. If you want to keep ahead of the game, you can sign up with your email to get daily updates around 5:00 PM PDT each day. Simply click your mouse on the right-hand column of the web site that states :

New Feature: Would you like daily email updates on new products added to our website? If so enter your email address below.

Also, treat yourself to the brand new free download from Michael Boden called "Hole in One," the third in a series of free downloads we are offering. Each effect is unique and well worth taking the time to check out. Simply click the FREE DOWNLOAD link inside the web site on the left hand column.


Our good friend and customer, Michael Grandinetti, will be the host magician performing at this year's Easter at the White House! Michael's a great guy, and we know he'll do an outstanding job. Congratulations, Michael!

Illusionist Michael Grandinetti Brings Easter Magic To The White House

Master illusionist Michael Grandinetti, as featured on NBC, CBS, FOX and stages around the country, performs amazing, never before seen illusions for an expected audience of over 18,000 people at the 2008 White House Easter Egg Roll!

Over the past 15 years, illusionist Michael Grandinetti has had many spectacular career highlights. His magic has been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX. He has traveled nationally, creating custom illusions for major corporations including Bayer, JDA Software, Countrywide, Hewlett Packard, and Harley Davidson. He has performed in such noteworthy places as Heinz Hall, The Kodak Theater in Hollywood, and Grand Central Station in New York. He has even designed illusions for Las Vegas and Branson production shows, national commercials, and for a television special in Italy.

However, on March 24th, Michael will experience one of his biggest career milestones yet as he performs at The White House in Washington D.C.

As one of the featured stage performers at this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll, Michael has been invited to share his unique brand of magic with the over 18,000 guests expected to visit throughout the day. Featured acts and celebrities from previous year’s events have included Miley Cyrus, who stars in the hit series Hannah Montana, Jane Seymour, NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, Olympic medallist Kerri Strug, and actor Stephen Baldwin.

The White House Easter Egg Roll is an annual family event dating back to 1878 when President Rutherford B. Hayes officially opened the White House grounds to local children for egg rolling on Easter Monday. Successive Presidents have continued the tradition of inviting families to the White House Lawn for activities and entertainment.

Since his first professional performance fifteen years ago, Michael’s reputation for cutting edge magic and a charismatic personality has spread throughout the world. He has appeared on countless stages and television programs including Entertainment Tonight, Fox & Friends, New York Today, Crook & Chase, The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, and NBC’s “The Worlds Most Dangerous Magic”. To promote the national “World Magic Awards” broadcast, Michael traveled to New York City where he levitated a girl as crowds at Grand Central Station, Central Park, and Rockefeller Center watched in amazement. Michael was honored to receive the City of Pittsburgh’s “All-Star Achievement Award”, given to those who carve noteworthy paths in their field. He was also recently interviewed for the book “Variety Careers: Gaining Respect” along with six other noted illusionists, including famed Las Vegas performer Lance Burton.

His vast experience and thorough understanding of his art has made Michael in high demand in the corporate and private event circuit. Over the past year, Michael has performed over 100 shows around the country. He recently returned from performing ten shows at New York City’s Javits Convention Center where, to illustrate that his client could not be harmed by the competition, Michael magically passed a wall of steel spikes through the company’s CEO. He also levitated 10ft into the air and caused $100,000 to appear in a glass box, all while surrounded by the astonished audience.

Michael’s talent for creating the perfect illusion for each event will be put to use once again during his special performances at The White House. In addition to several of his classic stand-up magic routines, Michael will close his show by making hundreds of colored Easter Eggs, and the symbol of freedom, a 10ft wide United States Flag, magically appear.

Michael’s penchant for designing original magic started at age 15 when he created an illusion in which a girl vanished from the middle of a football field during halftime shows. Since that time, Michael’s original magic designs have been featured in theatrical productions around the world, including the "Magic & Beyond" show in Branson MO, and the television series “Paolo Limiti” in Italy. Michael was also approached to contribute a design for the recent Hans Klok & Pamela Anderson show at the Aladdin Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

Michael Grandinetti is redefining the word “Magician.” With intimate sleight of hand, innovative platform effects, and spectacular grand illusions, combined with his inimitable personality and contemporary style, Michael shows his audiences a side of magic they will not soon forget.

My oldest son, Cole, comes home to spend Spring Break with us. This weekend we start to work in the yard again to get it in shape for the warmer weather. We're keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn't rain this weekend, as promised.

Until next time,


Friday, March 07, 2008

A Magic Land of Allakazam Kind of Week!

Wow. Lots to talk about so let's get started:

As you all know, last weekend, Betty, Max, Mike, and I all made the trip to Hollywood, California Saturday. Saturday night, we had a great dinner at the Magic Castle with our hosts Mark Nelson and Mark & Nani Wilson (who also had been giving private lessons to Fred Rosenberg, a student who had traveled all the way from Alaska to learn from the Wilsons). After a great dinner, we all caught the Palace of Mystery show featuring Ice McDonald, whose dove act was not only unique but extremely entertaining. Also on the bill was Mystina, whose high energy and versatile act captured the entire audience's imagination. It was a great show, and we decided to skip the rest of the shows to head downstairs to see our good friend Glenn Farrington perform at the W.C. Field's Bar. Glenn slayed 'em! His dice stacking routine was one of the best I'd ever seen, but he really knows how to rev up a crowd and keep them in the palm of his hand. Now, close to eleven o'clock, we all headed back to our respective hotel rooms and call it a night.

At 8:00 AM the next morning, Mike, Betty, Max, and I headed over to the Castle with both cars filled to the brim with magic and met Tim Mannix! Immediately we backed into the side exit and began to unload and set up our tables for Dealers' Day with Tim's help.

Trying to find any open space possible

Setting up and straightening out

The doors open for business

And they kept coming

Catching up with my old friend, James Hamilton

My son Max working the booth

This year's Dealer Day was even busier than last year's. There was a little bit of concern due to the fact that the famous Los Angeles Marathon was happening the same day, and all the streets surrounding the Magic Castle were blocked off, but hey -- they are magicians; they found their way. Lots of old friends stopped by to say hello like James Hamilton who, in case you did not know, performs a historical magic act as Alexander Hermann. Mark and Nani's student, Fred Rosenberg also hung out at the booth as did Rich Hurley of Ring Finale fame, and we all had a great time talking to him as well. If you haven't checked out Ring Finale on our web site yet, please do so! Rich is a real down-to-earth guy and his Ring Finale is one of the best-selling items this year. It was nice visiting with other friends and customers as the day rapidly progressed. Dealer's Day was originally set to close at 3:00, but it was so busy that we didn't start breaking down our booth until almost 5:00! Special thanks to our good friend, Tim Mannix, who helped us out all day long, and even demonstrated products behind our booth! Tim is a great guy and a wonderful performer, and we were lucky to have him there to help us. Mike also demonstrated products like crazy but the biggest seller was PyroKinesis, which completely sold out. We even had one customer offer to buy Mike's demo model. What a great day it was.

A highlight was finally meeting Mark and Nani Wilson's son, Greg Wilson and his wife. We had a set of linking rings that Greg had been looking for, and he walked away with them lovingly holding them in his arms. Even when Nani offered to lock them up in the Castle Classroom, Greg refused

The best part of the day came next:

As we teased last week about an upcoming project with Mark and Nani Wilson, Sunday was the secret unveiling and debut of this exclusive item. It all started last December, when Betty and I visited Mark and Nani at their warehouse. Mark expressed an interest in finally releasing the Allakazam Hat! Of course, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved with them in this project. Mark's concern was finding the right builder to tackle the project, and I told him I knew just the guy for the job. After a few phone calls to my good friend Jay Leslie, a meeting was scheduled and the result is what you see below: the Limited Edition Allakazam Hat! If you could have seen the looks on Mark's, Nani's, Mike's, and my faces when Jay unveiled it at the Castle last Sunday; nothing more needed to be said. Jay really outdid himself with this! For me, it was like taking a trip back to seeing the Magic Land of Allakazam for the first time! Being in the same room with those great people who started it all for me was almost overwhelming...

It all started here in October of 1960

On October 1, 1960 many of our lives were changed forever when the first episode of the Magic Land of Allakazam aired. Every Saturday morning, Mark and Nani (Darnell) Wilson came into our homes and amazed and delighted us with unforgettable magic. One of the featured effects performed was the famous Allakazam Hat.

The Allakazam Hat is a stylized, improved version of the Square Circle that became a regular effect on many of the Magic Land of Allakazam episodes that were seen by millions of viewers every week. As a matter of fact, the Allakazam Hat was used to produce Basil, the Baffling Bunny, the live rabbit who appeared in many episodes, and it was occasionally used to produce some of Basil's friends, such as Doris, the Daring Dove, Gertrude, the Glamorous Guinea Pig, Harriet, the Harmonious Hamster, and Charles, the Charming Chicken!

Due to the specialized design of the hat, its brim, and breakfront cabinet, the handling and performance was different than that of the standard Square Circle, creating a more deceptive performance and fooling those who were familiar with the Square Circle principle.

At the end of the five-year run of the Magic Land of Allakazam, because of the vast audience available through the medium of network television, the Allakazam Hat was the one magic prop that had been seen by more people throughout the world than any other magic prop in history!

For years, magicians have asked Mark to make this wonderful prop available. Now, Hocus Pocus is proud to announce, through exclusive arrangements with Mark and Nani Wilson, the Allakazam Hat!

Nani, Mark, and I with the Allakazam Hat

Limited to only 50 custom made units, each Allakazam Hat has been painstakingly recreated by master craftsman Jay Leslie and officially authorized by Mark and Nani Wilson, each unit will be personally signed and numbered by Mark and Nani along with a certificate of authenticity. Plus, if you are among the first 36 magicians to pre-order the Allakazam Hat, you will receive absolutely free, a Magic Land of Allakazam Memorabilia package which includes many original and rare valuable items. As an additional special bonus, an original 8" X 10" publicity photo of Mark and Nani Wilson will be autographed to you personally with your name included.

Now that you understand the versatility of this incredible prop, its uses are merely limited by your imagination. Whether you are a performer or collector, you will be proud to own this beautiful prop and piece of magic history.

As of the time of this blog, we have already pre-sold 17 units. If you are interested, we urge you to check it out HERE!

Mark and Nani Wilson are truly magic's national treasures. Can you name any other couple in the history of magic who have done and continue to do so much to promote the art of magic? They are continually teaching magic classes both privately and at the Magic Castle and continue to be sought-after consultants for TV, movies, theme parks, etc. This is your golden opportunity to own a real piece of magic history and memorabilia with Mark and Nani's stamp of approval. It's a real honor to be involved with Mark and Nani in this project (in ANY project, for that matter). I've said it before, and I'll say it again: they truly are my magical heroes.

I wish to thank Mark and Nani and our gracious host Mark Nelson for their generous hospitality this past weekend, and I look forward to our next meeting.

With all this activity, this weekend Betty and I have decided to take it easy and relax. I think we've earned it.

Until next time,