Archive for December, 2007

Time to Wrap It Up

Posted in Uncategorized on December 27, 2007 by hocuspoc

I hope you all had a great holiday so far. Last Friday, we had our annual Hocus Pocus Christmas luncheon, where we were all treated to some authentic Armenian cuisine. Everyone exchanged gifts, and wanted to take a nap after it was all over.


Clockwise: Betty, Tony, me, Renee, Jan, Karen, and Ken.

Monday, Christmas Eve, Tony and I arrived early to get all those last-minute orders that we still shipped out overnight for arrival the day after Christmas. The phones and emails were very full, and it took us all day to catch up. My son, Max, continued to call me all day updating me on the fact that it was Christmas Eve, and he couldn’t wait to open up his Christmas gifts. So, mercifully spared him the extra wait time and agony and headed home a little early. By the time I arrived home, he had already segregated all of the gifts, ready for opening. It didn’t take long for him to go through all of his gifts: all the things he had wanted for his car, a couple of DVDs, and more. The rest of us finished opening our gifts, and then it was off to my mother in-law’s house, where we spent time visiting the relatives and eating a hearty meal. And of course, for Max, there were more gifts! After our fill of good cheer, it was home-bound for us for a good night sleep.

Christmas day was spent at my sister’s house with her family, and there we visited, ate, and shared more gifts. Before I knew it, it was late and time to go home — Christmas was over, but what a great time we all had.

Overall, it was a great Christmas season here at Hocus Pocus. Thanks to all of you for keeping us so busy. I hope you all got everything you wished for and more. It’s hard to believe that in just a few more days, we’ll be celebrating the new year. It just doesn’t seem possible; where did 2007 go? I’m excited to see what the new year brings, personally and professionally. So many wonderful things and memories this year alone has brought, that I can’t wait to see what 2008 has in store…

I will be taking off the next five days to enjoy some family time with Max and Betty. Cole is off to Canada skiing, Renee is working, and Aimee is finishing up her studies in school. The Twilight Zone Marathon starts New Year’s Eve and runs through New Year’s Day at midnight on the Sci-Fi Channel, and every year, it has become tradition for my family and I to relive those episodes like we did when we were younger. Hey, I might even pop in a few DVDs of the Magic Land of Allakazam while I’m at it. Thanks, Mark and Nani!

However you celebrate New Year’s, I wish for all of you good health, happiness, and prosperity in the upcoming new year, and I thank you for your continued support and friendship.

Until next time,

Paul

Magic Land of Allakazam: A Day I’ll Never Forget

Posted in Uncategorized on December 20, 2007 by hocuspoc

Normally, I write the blog every Friday. However, I was so excited to report about my trip last week that I decided to write a day early. As many of you know, Betty and I traveled south to spend the day with Mark and Nani Wilson at their warehouse last Friday. Thursday evening, I was like a kid waiting for Christmas. I kept thinking about what I would see and experience once we arrived there. I couldn’t sleep and got up early to get ready to go.

We arrived around 11:15 AM and were met at the door by Nani and Mark, and they graciously took us into their offices. I think Mark could sense how excited I was to tour their warehouse first, so out the back door we went. The first stop was a small room that contained files and files of promotional materials, memorabilia, and some of the early mail-order magic sets. I glanced up to one of the top of the file cabinets where there was a box labeled “Mark’s Fake Head.” Of course, I immediately wanted to know if that was really in the box. And it was. This was part of an illusion that Mark performed where parts of his body were physically assembled as part of an illusion. The legs, body, and head were placed inside of an upright cabinet, spun around, and the doors opened to reveal Mark in the flesh.


Mark’s Head in my hands


Mark, Nani and I in front of the legendary backdrop from the Magic Land of Allakazam

Next, we entered the warehouse where Nani pointed out a large, blue curtain with white stars and moons. This was the actual backdrop curtain used on the Magic Land of Allakazam show. Wow! What memories this brought back! Betty looked at me as I stared at the curtain and asked, “Don’t you want to touch it, Paul?” Of course, I did. It was mesmerizing to think of all the memories this backdrop curtain contained and how many children saw it every Saturday morning.


Guillotines and illusions for as far as the eye can see


Props, scenery, and more


Nani giving the guided tour

As we toured the aisles of the warehouse, there were hundreds of crates and custom cases containing a lifetime’s worth of illusions and props stacked from floor to ceiling, wall to wall! Overhead, there were cartons of custom made costumes that Nani designed for each of their television shows and appearances. Down one aisle were not one but several guillotines (one of which recently made its appearance on CBS’s C.S.I. New York) and also a custom-made thin model sawing that Mark explained was created for Flip Wilson to saw the late, great Johnny Carson in half. At the end of another aisle was a custom made cabinet that was absolutely huge. Nani opened it to show that it contained drawers filled with custom “Good Night” banners they used for corporate sponsor shows, etc. There were so many in all the drawers neatly folded that at a moment’s notice, they could be pulled out and used again immediately!


A view from above of Nani’s office


Cartons and suitcases full of costumes

The tour continued as we gazed upon countless illusions and props until we came back into the offices and entered Nani’s very own department. Here’s where she takes and processes all the orders, assembles props, and takes care of the business end of magic. Up the spiral staircase of her office, we entered the second story where to the right, there are countless file boxes neatly stacked, all containing parts and pieces for the magic kits that were sold. We then entered another room where Mark showed me a multi-file cabinet that housed even more promotional materials and additional memorabilia! I have to tell you that at this point, I could not believe everything I was seeing. And the best was yet to come!


Scripts and show ideas


Hundreds of boxes containing original musical scores


Show film and video archives


Mark going through each show

Next, Mark pulled out many different artists’ renderings of the many shows they’ve created for theme parks, television, and corporate events. The artwork itself was so beautiful that it could be framed and hung on any wall! As we strolled down the hallway, there were shelves containing hundreds of boxes of original music reels that were created specifically for Mark and Nani. Every effect they performed in every show that used music was written and scored exclusively for them.

Down a narrow hallway to another room that contained racks and racks of original film cannisters from Mark and Nani’s many television shows and performances. I was completely awestruck to see all that I had seen so far exceeded even my own expectations!


The hallway to Mark’s office

Back downstairs, to Mark’s office we went. As you walk, all the walls are adorned with posters, memorabilia, and photos of their vast career. It was like walking in a time capsule; the things that I saw and all the memories that flooded back to me were truly overwhelming! I felt like a kid again seeing all that I saw, and to be standing and talking to the very people who were responsible for all that was humbling, to say the least. We went into Mark’s office where he and Nani shared stories of their magical lives. We watched DVDs and poured through scrapbooks containing every nuance and detail of their legacy. I even found out things about Mark and Nani that I didn’t even know; how he designed magical trade show booths and traveled with them all over the world, how the Robot Girl trade show attraction caused quite a stir in England, and so much more! Mark even showed us a few tricks and talked to us about a few new projects in development.

It’s a pretty amazing life Mark and Nani Wilson have led so far: The first couple to have a live weekly magic show on television, the first American magicians to perform in China, thousands of performances under their belts, one of the most successful courses in magic ever published, and invaluable resource to performers both new and old, all the corporate and amusement park shows and attractions they’ve created, all the television shows they’ve helped to consult and supply props for, and it doesn’t end there! Being with them, it is evident that they truly love one another and are real partners in life supporting each other in every endeavor. Betty and I walked away feeling like how you felt when you gazed at the stars for the first time and felt truly inspired by them.

The day had truly flown by, and before we knew it, it was time to go home. I was so excited by everything I had seen and experienced that day that I couldn’t stop talking about it all the way home. Poor Betty — she couldn’t get a word in edgewise as I jibbered and jabbered all the way home. She just looked at me and smiled; she knew what this day had meant to me. I still haven’t stopped talking and thinking about it (as is evident here). It became evident to me that their entire lives from the beginning to present day were housed inside that wonderful building that they so graciously allowed me to be a part of for that day. Before we left, Mark and Nani gave us a beautiful set of four autographed promotional stills, which will hang framed in a special place in my office:

To say my Christmas came early is an understatement. Thank you, Mark and Nani, for a day that I’ll never forget.

Merry Christmas to all of you.

Until next time,

Paul

The REAL Magic Land of Allakazam

Posted in Uncategorized on December 13, 2007 by hocuspoc

Writing the blog a day early this week as tomorrow morning, Betty and I head south to Valencia, CA. to spend the day with Mark and Nani Wilson. They are giving us a tour of their warehouse and who knows what else will happen? Mark has promised to show me some interesting things and a few surprises along the way. All I can tell you is that I’m extremely excited in anticipation of what the day will bring. I promise to take pictures and tell you all about the experience next week. I’ve been looking forward to this since the last time I was in Southern California, when the heavy traffic kept us from visiting Mark and Nani, and the normally 3 hour trip took more than 6 hours!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here at Hocus Pocus. This week has been exceptionally busy, even more so than last year, which is always a good thing! UPS, Fed-Ex, and the post office trucks pull in, drop off, come back, pick up, drop off all day long! We appreciate you keeping us so busy; it is always our goal to have your packages to you as quickly as humanly possible during this hectic time of year…

The Swap Meet and Get-Together is only a month away, and Mike has updated the information page, including a lineup of lecturers. Believe it or not, we are still working on a few more lecturers before the final lineup is complete. If you haven’t yet registered, please do so soon as spots are rapidly filling up. Don’t forget — you can also rent a table if you wish to sell your magic. For more information and details, click here!

So that about wraps it up today as the phones and guests are keeping me very busy today.

Until next time,

Paul

Lights, Camera, Christmas!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 7, 2007 by hocuspoc

It’s official. As promised, here are some outside photos of the Gross Family homestead. All lit up and ready for the holidays. Unfortunately, pictures at nighttime are never as good as seeing it live in person, but you get the idea. Remember, start sending your holiday decoration photos to us and we may even share them on the blog (with your permission, of course). Remember, the winner receives a $100.00 Hocus Pocus gift certificate!

We’re all excited here as John and Tammy Calvert will be arriving for their lecture/performance Monday evening. It’s going to be a full house and a rare chance to see a real living legend of film and magic! If you are anywhere near Hocus Pocus, we urge you to not pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see John lecture. Click the banner above for more information.

My son, Cole, will be home today for Winter break from college, and Max has one more week before he’s out of school for his break. Cole’s already making plans for hitting the ski slopes in the Sierras as soon as he gets here and Max is anxiously awaiting Christmas day with as much anticipation as when he was 8 years-old. Circling the Christmas tree is not only a ritual for Max, it has become some sort of strange tradition, given the fact that he’s now 15! I love the fact that the magic of Christmas still captivates him, and it makes me feel like a kid again.

Things have been really buzzing here at Hocus Pocus. Orders are coming in faster than we can process them (almost), but have no fear; as we say every year at this time, your orders all receive top priority no matter what time of year it is! Our shipping department is even faster than ever before this season so have no fear when placing those orders for your holiday shows and gifts.

Speaking of Cali (I know, I didn’t), the little bird is getting along quite nicely at home as Max and I have trained her to come to me when her name is called, and she gets a little treat. She also gives kisses on command and walks up and down her little ladder that we gave to her. She even puts a miniature basketball through a basketball hoop! Each day, we train her to do something new, and she picks up on it very quickly! It’s amazing how intelligent these little cockatoos are, and the way she nuzzles up to me at night just melts my heart. She has really been a terrific “addition” to the Gross family menagerie. By the way, I want to thank all of you who emailed me handling tips for cockatoos; your information has been very helpful and informative.

We’re only a little over a month away from the 2nd Annual Hocus Pocus Swap Meet and Get-Together, so if you have not yet reserved your seat and table for selling your wares, space is running out. For more information, click the banner above and call us toll-free at 800-407-4040 to get your tickets and to reserve a table for the Swap Meet.

Next week, Betty and I have been invited to travel to the Los Angeles area to meet with Mark and Nani Wilson. They’ve graciously offered to give us a tour of their offices and facility. Talk about a dream come true!!! I’ll be like a little kid in a candy store as I soak up the atmosphere. Who knows what we’ll see? All I know is that it will be one of the greatest days of my life! As expected, I’ll have plenty of pictures and tales to share with you all, so stay tuned.

With only 18 shopping days left until Christmas, I hope most of you have nearly finished up all your shopping. Betty and I will be finishing up this weekend and Max will be kicking up his heels as the presents begin to magically multiply under the tree!

Until next time,

Paul