8-8-08. It must be our lucky day; it was only a week ago today that I was in Anaheim, California at Disneyland for the first time in 12 years! Betty, Max, Cole, and I were in awe of all the changes that have occurred since our last visit. We arrived about 1:00 PM and took the Monorail from our hotel into the park. The weather was great and much cooler than here in Fresno, and the first ride we went on was Star Tours, one of my personal favorites. After that, Space Mountain, then the Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean and the best part: we waited no longer than 20 minutes in any line. Off to dinner and back to the park until almost midnight.
Saturday, we took in the new California Adventure part, where I found my new favorite ride, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror! Cole and I were the only ones to brave this one; Betty and Max sat out. As soon as the ride was over, Cole and I looked at each other and said, "We're doing this again." We got back in line and convinced Max to join us this time. As soon as it was over, we all three did it again. After several hours at California Adventures, we went back into Disneyland, where we all enjoyed a nice dinner at the Blue Bayou Restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
After dinner, it was time to save our place for the Fantasmic Show. Although I have seen this show several times, and you have to save your seat at least 3 hours in advance on hard concrete, it's definitely worth the wait. Following Fantasmic, we watched the now-famous nightly Disneyland evening fireworks show. A few more rides, and a couple of shops later, it was almost midnight and time to go back to our hotel room.
Saturday morning, the boys went over to the parks while Betty and I drove to Alhambra, California, about 30 minutes away, to attend the wedding of Robert and Yumi Baxt. When we arrived at the home of their friends where the wedding was held, the first thing we saw was one of those carnival-style photo booths as we came up the walkway. Every guest sat in the booth and took a series of pictures which were saved and put into a photo album/memory book. A clever idea and definitely a Robert Baxt touch. Going into the large back yard, everything was beautifully decorated and the wedding area was completely covered with at tent. There were 140 guests in attendance, many of them well-known magicians like Carl Ballantine, Franz Harary, Johnny Ace Palmer, Dale Salwak, ventriloquist Mark Merchant, Bruce Gold, Goldfinger and Dove, Amos Levkovitch, Todd Brown, and Steve Valenti.
At 2:30, Robert made a small speech and the wedding ceremony began. Yumi was absolutely beautiful and Robert very dapper in his tuxedo. The ceremony was presided over by a rabbi, who was as much a stand-up comedian as he was a rabbi. Immediately following the ceremony, Robert and Yumi greeted all the guests. There was dancing, great food, and fellowship. Robert and Yumi did a fantastic job, and it could not have been topped!
All in all, we had a great weekend, and Betty and I wish Robert and Yumi all the happiness in the world. Congratulations, Robert and Yumi.
Thanks to all who participated and congratulations to the following winners:
3rd Place Winner: Arturo Zelaya, winner of Trans-Locations by David Regal
2nd Place Winner: Sean Cinco, winner of Buccaneer Booty by Larry Becker
1st Place Winner: Patrick Gregoire, winner of Cody Fisher's Bet Your Bucks
Congratulations to the winners! They all had some incredible routines and ideas for use with the Gecko, which will soon be released on the upcoming Gecko DVD. The Gecko remains one of our biggest-selling effects to date. If you have not yet purchased the Gecko, we urge you to check it out HERE!
I spoke to Mark Wilson several times this week about a very interesting set of books he just uncovered in his warehouse. Below, I'd like to share the letter and information about this incredible set of books:
Last week I discovered in a box of books in my warehouse a 4-volume set of "Recreations in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy". I had received them as a gift during my unexpected 50th birthday party, with which Nani totally surprised me. It was quite an affair. There were some 200 guests, including many of our magical friends such as Dai Vernon, John Booth, Kuda Bux, Billy McComb, Marvin Roy and Carol, Harry Blackstone Jr. and Gay, Johnny Thompson and Pam, Shimada and Diana, Bill and Irene Larsen, Milt Larsen, Walter “Zaney” Blaney, Bruce Cervon, and many others, better than any magic convention I can recall.
The books were a gift from my business manager, whose showbiz oriented management firm represented many talented people in Hollywood, such as Marlon Brando and Judy Garland. When I opened the gift, with the excitement and pandemonium of the party, I had thanked him, but never really looked inside those books until last week. Thumbing through the books, on the title page, I saw they were a first edition set, published in 1803 in London. A few days later I looked again and saw that the previous owner had written his name several times inside the volumes. It was Harry Houdini! I also saw that one of his signatures was “Harry Handcuff Houdini,” which I had not seen before, but I understand is even more valuable to Houdini collectors. Each volume has over 450 pages. In addition, the title page in each book states, "there are 100 quatro plates." These are fold-out pages with line drawings illustrating the various sections. As I looked I realized, over the intervening 200 years, many of those drawings and many items described in the volumes, have developed into our present-day magic effects and illusions. Although I am certainly not a rare book expert, it seems to me the pages are of excellent quality, just a little tan at the edges from two centuries of aging. The covers are also excellent, but perhaps not the originals. Frankly, I don't know enough about books printed in 1803 to tell the difference.
The bindings are totally intact, every page is completely readable with no folds, and their are almost no spots on any of the pages. You will see several pages in the attached photographs. The photographs are as follows:
1. Title page, volume one, where I first saw "published in London in 1803."
2. Title page, volume two, Harry Houdini signature.
3. Title page, volume three, Harry Houdini signature.
4. Title page, volume four, Harry Handcuff Houdini signature,
5. Back page, volume four, "Harry Houdini bought these 4 volumes in Birmingham, England.”
These and other notes are in the same handwriting as the Houdini autographs.
6. Photograph 6 has notes written on the edge of a page in volume four, in the "automaton" section that refer to a sentence concerning the most important automata of the day. It reads; "We have also of late been amused with these surprising performances of the chess players, the small but sweet singing bird, the writing figure, the musical lady, the conjurer, etc. etc". Houdini marked this sentence on the side for quick reference and there are two notes, each of a different size, which I feel sure were written at different times. The first line is a question and the second is the answer he wrote to himself... The first, "What did Houdin invent?" The second, "Houdin bought the figures'" These notes about Houdin could be one of the discoveries, which influenced Harry’s book, "The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin."
Photo #7 is a quarto drawing, which is not magical, but I find particularly fascinating, from the " pyrotechnics " section, is an almost exact outline of one of our latest fighter jet airplanes. Wow! You will see it` in the upper right hand corner of photograph #7. Every time I pick up one of the books, I am amazed at what I find related to magic. There are sections devoted to automata, magic squares, optics, quick mathematical calculations, pyrotechnics, puzzles, riddles, betchas and even card tricks. Many of these are predecessors of the magic we do today. As an example, in volume 4, I found "Magic Oracle," a magic trick written in the now classic style of "effect" and "secret.", The effect is how to make written answers to questions magically appear on blank pieces of paper when they are placed into a special gimmicked box. The method is completely explained, including how to build the special box and how to gimmick the papers. It even recommends you make some papers in multiples, so that you can secretly select, the best answer to the question. There are even clever names for the props and suggested patter! In the “mirror” section under Opticals in volume 2, one heading reads: “Of some tricks or kinds of illusion, which may be performed by means of plane mirrors". And sure enough, the next pages give explanations of illusions that can be done with mirrors. Yes, they were certainly right about that, weren't they? And don't forget those card tricks.
Although I have only read a few, I happened upon one that has developed into what we now call "Card Counting," the mathematical Blackjack gambling cheat system now banned from casinos in Las Vegas. Also on a blank page adjacent to the page on which Houdini states he purchased the four volumes in Birmingham, England. In conclusion, the good news is, I received these rather incredible books as a gift on my 50th birthday. The bad news is, that was 29 years ago. To end on a happy note, being here to read them now is far better than any other option I can think of.
The reason for this post is that Mark is currently considering selling these rare books. The interesting part is that the value is two-fold: The set of books themselves is not only an incredible source of magical knowledge, but due to the rarity of their nature, they are highly sought-after and collectible as well. Secondly, the fact that these books were owned by Harry Houdini himself with authenticated signatures and personal notations within the book's pages add to its value and desirability. If you are interested in obtaining these books, please feel free to contact me personally her at Hocus Pocus for more information.
WE'RE ALMOST THERE
I know this is a long blog; there's been so much to cover and talk about, so before I sign off, I want to let everyone know that the long-awaited and highly-anticipated Extractor has finally arrived and is in-stock at Hocus Pocus. This is one of the most talked-about effects this year and was a huge hit at the recent IBM/SAM convention in Kentucky. For more information and details about this amazing effect, click HERE!
That wraps it up for now.
Until next time,