Archive for July, 2015

The Passing of Another Great

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2015 by hocuspoc

Betty and I are off to Las Vegas again to see Aerosmith. You may recall from a while back that we’d gone to see them in Concord, in the Bay Area, and the concert was unexpectedly cancelled due to the drummer be sick. It was disappointing to say the least — and frustrating — especially to die-hard fans like Betty.

Aerosmith

But, we’re going for Round 2, Aerosmith, so wish us luck. This time the concert is in Vegas so we’re hoping Lady Luck is on our side.

Final Curtain Call for Lee Grabel

In case you haven’t’ heard, we lost another great of magic this week, Lee Grabel. He was truly one of the finest performers our Art will ever encounter.

Grabel and his wife Helen spent much of the mid-20th century on a perpetual national tour, making horses vanish in Stillwater, Okla., doves fly out of scarves in Mayfield, Ky., geese pop out of hats in Salina, Kan., and pianos float all over the place.

They performed two shows a day, at small town high schools, county fairs, nightclubs, Kiwanis clubs, college campuses and anywhere else that would book them. The pair was hailed everywhere for its charisma, creativity and stunning sleights of hand, and the reviews were ecstatic.

Here’s his story.

Recognized as America's No. 1 magician after Blackstone Sr.'s retirement in the 1950s, Grabel was chosen by Dante as his successor.

Recognized as America’s No. 1 magician after Blackstone Sr.’s retirement in the 1950s, Grabel was chosen by Dante as his successor.

March 12, 1919 – July 27, 2015

He was a magician and illusionist of worldwide reputation. He stood as a living legend in magic and was recognized by many as the last of the grand masters in the tradition of Herrmann, Kellar, Thurston and Dante. He was the man upon whom Dante, just prior to his death, bestowed the title to continue his magnificent show.

Lee Grabel was born in Portland Oregon, March 12, 1919. The spark of magic was kindled in his heart when early when as a boy he witnessed a performance of a remarkable old conjuror, Professor Turtle. Lee always remembered the magical fantasies Turtle created.

Among his mysteries, Turtle took an oriental fan and fanning his empty hand a snowstorm of white confetti was created. Suddenly amongst the confetti a snow-white dove made its appearance. The white dove circled the stage and returned to Turtle’s forefinger. He then placed it in a cage. More paper snow fluttered in the air, grabbing a handful the professor squeezed it into a paper ball, which when bounced on an oriental fan transformed into an egg. The egg was broken in a glass; it was a real egg.

Turtle then took a sheet of newspaper, folded it in half and poured the broken egg into the newspaper. Looking out at the audience with a smile, the folded paper opened out flat. The egg shells, yoke and all had vanished.

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Turtle was an artistic performer and the aura of fantasy he created was an enchantment that started Grabel on his way to become a master of magic.

These early years in the life of a budding magician were the Great Depression years, and the need for money was keen in the mind of everyone. Young Grabel was no exception and he honestly states that making money motivated him towards making magic.

During those years, Lee worked five shows a week for $5.00 a show. It was good money for those times as his father worked ten hours a day, six days a week for only $18.00.

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For a fifteen year old to make $25.00 a week in the 30’s was mighty good. The money he earned made a deep impression on a young man that magic was the road to riches.

In 1931 Lee presented his first one-hour program which was sponsored by The Boy Scouts of America. In 1936 Lee advanced to win the coveted award for sleight-of-hand presented by the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians at the convention in Seattle. His reputation quickly grew as an accomplished magician.

Success followed success and in 1940 Grabel was engaged as a performer-lecturer by the University of California. He demonstrated to the students aspects of the psychology of deception. His appearances on the Berkeley campus lead to an initial tour with his show to other Western Colleges. During this period he also engaged as a featured attraction at the San Francisco World’s Fair on Treasure Island.

When asked the secret to his success, without hesitation, "I could never have done it without Helen," he said. "I put her through hell."

When asked the secret to his success, without hesitation, “I could never have done it without Helen,” he said. “I put her through hell.”

World War II came and Grabel was inducted into the army in 1942. His talents as a magician proved a boon to Military Special Services and he was sent to many bases to entertain. It was while playing at an army base in Southern California that he met a beautiful librarian. A swift courtship followed and in 1944 Lee married the lovely lady. She became an indispensable part of Lee’s show, and became known as Helene.

In 1944 Lee was sent to General Headquarters in the South Pacific to organize soldier shows in that area. While in New Guinea he ran into Arnold Furst, who likewise was in the war theater in those battling years of the 40’s. Arnold was touring for U.S.O. The two magicians began a long friendship that has culminated in the publishing of this book, The Magic and Illusions of Lee Grabel.

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Grabel levitates a 700-pound piano and spins it 6 feet over a stage, complete with a strapped-in pianist plinking at the ivories.

Arnold Furst tells of the time he was riding in a jeep with the famous motion picture producer, Elia Kazan who was in the south Pacific working on a program to enhance soldier shows. Kazan told Arnold of how fortunate he had been in discovering one of the greatest magicians he had ever seen and had enlisted his aid to join in military show production. The magician Kazan mentioned turned out to be Lee Grabel.

Following the war years, in 1946, Grabel started in earnest building his show into the theatrical institution it eventually became.

In the 1950’s, after Blackstone Sr.’s retirement, he became recognized as America’s No. 1 Magician. With his great show he toured coast to coast across America with both artistic and financial success. Variety Magazine described him as one of the theaters outstanding personalities and a master illusionist.

In 1954, Grabel was chosen by the Great Dante as his successor. In 1958, his magician peers commemorating his recognition as America’s #1 magician presented Grabel with a gold medallion.

 

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Quotes from many great names in magic have acclaimed Grabel’s mastery of magic and illusions.

  • “Lee Grabel has the most spectacular magic show on the road today.”Percy Abbott 1955
  • “Lee Grabel is the legitimate successor to Dante.”Moi-Yo-Miller, Dante’s featured Assistant
  • “Lee Grabel was the reason I stayed in Magic.”Channing Pollock
  • “Lee Grabel was my inspiration.”Andre Kole

In 1959, at the height of his popularity, Grabel suddenly announced his retirement from professional magic and left the stage for a quiet life on his ranch in California. As he puts it, he wanted to unwind from the grinding life on the road to give Helene, along with their young daughter, Cindy, an opportunity to live a normal life. A second daughter, Kate, was born to Lee and Helene in 1963. Kate was one of the troupe during the ’77 tour. There were also investments derived from the success of the big show that required attention. Lee’s “quiet life” soon expanded to include a variety of business endeavors centered on the east side of San Francisco Bay.

The “second career” was the management of the investments he had made from the success of his shows. He was still active in such work, but the call of magic has always been great. Thus, the illusions that had made the name of Lee Grabel synonymous with the best in show business were dusted off, and what Lee called “Selections From the Big Show” (his last tour) took a twenty-week run of the cities in the western United States in 1977.Grabel Show – Capacity Crowds

Lee-Grabel

But, as for a “Farewell Tour,” that will never be, for the Master Magician, like magic itself, never really quits. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word and mentor to many of us in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Sugar Trick

Scott Alexander and Puck show us their out-of-the-box thinking and creativity with the Sugar Trick. It’s a video the duo created to underscore an important message to parents and kids about sugar and childhood diabetes. This classic trick Multum in Parvo has always been intriguing, but most preseters and magicians have never known quite what to with it.

And what about that name? What does it really mean? For a quick answer, we turn to Google:

Multum-in-Parvo

Apparently it means, a great deal in a small place.

Mystery solved!

Now take a look at Scott & Puck’s new video.

The BACKSTORY to this — Scott & Puck called a few months back procure a good quality Multum in Parvo. Luckily, we happened to have one in our Private Estate collection manufactured by Mephisto Magic. The prop was a beauty and long out of production. It was crafted by Mephisto International Magic Studio of Leper, Belgium and worked in REVERSE of the standard version, allowing the user to fill up the glasses after making the liquid grow in capacity.

Deluxe Multim Parvo

Interested in perhaps including this trick in your repertoire? Since Mephisto is no longer in business, the prop we recommend is the Deluxe Multum in Parvo, which is available here at Hocus Pocus. It is a contemporary version of the same trick and works precisely like the one in the video. Just click on the image below and you’ll be directed to it on our site.

A visual classic that has been updated for the 21st Century!

A visual classic that has been updated for the 21st Century!

The only difference in this product versus the Mephisto prop is that the largest glass (pitcher in the video) has no handle.

Magic LIVE 2015

magicLIVEWe’re getting excited about attending Magic LIVE. It being held August 9 – 12th in Las Vegas at the Orleans Hotel. And although we are not going as dealers, we will be there as attendees and both my sons, Max & Cole, will be joining Betty and me. We hope to see you there!

As always, have a great weekend my friends.

More news later,

Paul

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Summer Heats Up with These New Releases!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24, 2015 by hocuspoc

This is the time of year that is typically less busy than others, but it’s been usually busy as we’ve been experiencing remarkable success with our Daily Specials plus the release of two particularly stellar new effects. But, more about them later. First, let me tell you or recent visitors to Hocus Pocus.

It's that time of year when traveling magicians stop in to say hello.

It’s that time of year when traveling magicians stop in to say hello.

Just Stopped In For A Quick Visit

As is customary this time of year with busy performers and fairs and festivals, we get traveling magicians and other performers as they pass through Fresno. This week magician Terry Godfrey aka Godfrey the Magician stopped in to make a few purchases and to show us his brand new access van. Godfrey was on the way to Oregon for the Hood River County Fair, just beginning a 5-week trek to a number of Western fairs.

Godfrey's new access van is perfect for a working magician.

Godfrey’s new access van is perfect for a working magician.

The remote-controlled panels open up like magic to access your stuff.

The remote-controlled panels open up like magic to access your stuff.

As you can see, everything but the kitchen sink is packed and ready.

As you can see, everything but the kitchen sink is packed and ready.

The cardboard box with air-holes will hold the chicks for Godfrey's finale to the Cups & Balls.

The cardboard box with air-holes will hold the chicks for Godfrey’s finale to the Cups & Balls.

They Fly in for Owen Props

Also, John Walton actually flew in to Fresno for a quick visit (4 hours on the ground) to purchase a Barrel of Spirits by Owen Magic Supreme. John owns Walton Beverage, a locally-owned Pepsi Distributor in Ferndale, Washington and wanted the Barrel of Spirits for a presentation he was doing for potential clients. Of course, it’s Owen and it worked beautifully, so he immediately made the purchase.

The  Barrel of Spirits by Owen Magic Supreme is a beaut!

The Barrel of Spirits by Owen Magic Supreme is a beaut!

Now, if you’re not familiar with the effect, it goes like this:

Effect: The empty shell only of a wine or liquor cask is displayed and the ends are covered with paper held in place by metal bands. The keg is then suspended by chains in an open framework stand.

A small brass spigot is pushed into the paper at one end of the keg, opened and an endless stream of liquid pours forth. The magician fills countless glasses with wine, liquor, beer, milk, etc.

When the Barrel is displayed on the stand, it makes for a substantial prop.

When the Barrel is displayed on the stand, it makes for a substantial prop.

2nd Effect: The performer exhibits a tall mug filled with milk or any opaque liquid. The mug is not gaffed, and may be held by a member of the audience. Stating that some folks in the audience might be thirsty, he introduces four matching empty mugs. He then proceeds to fill all four of the empty mugs to the brim. This leaves a bit of liquid in the bottom of the original mug and the performer toasts the audience. It is custom made in sturdy acrylic and nearly indestructible.

The effect may also be performed in reverse….four full mugs of liquid somehow fill only one other mug. Lots of performance options and a truly unique set of apparatus. Beautifully made of brass and copper and finished to simulate wood. Entirely self-contained.

Two Slammin’ Great Effects

Wow, are we ever impressed with two of the latest tricks out on the market — the EXAMINER by John Graham and THE KEY by Wayne Dobson. First, let me tell you about Dobson’s newest.

The Key by Wayne Dobson

To give you some indication as to the response from magicians worldwide to the effect — let me just tell you that all 40 units we initially got in were immediately snatched up (within 48 hours) and shipped out in record time! And the next batch are having a very similar fate. Be sure and get YOURS now.

The Key is elegant magic that is straight-forward and direct.

The Key is elegant magic that is straight-forward and direct.

Inspired by Peter Crush and designed by Alan Rorrison, THE KEY by Wayne Dobson is one of THE hottest tricks for 2015! It is beautifully crafted and comes complete with spare matching regular key.

Each key is handmade and will accommodate almost every kind of ring, including wedding bands.

Visually link rings, headphone cables, rubber bands and more to The Key!

“I have always loved this effect and Wayne’s gimmick is awesome! The Key is a must have prop for any magician. Innocent looking and beautifully engineered. Well done Wayne for breathing new life into this modern day classic.”Peter Nardi

 

Paul Harris Presents Examiner by John Graham

Introducing the 100% Examinable Torn & Restored Newspaper! Here’s a headline for you…

EXPERTS BAFFLED BY NEWSPAPER TEAR THAT’S 100% EXAMINABLE!

I think you'll agree that the thinking behind this latest version is out-of-the-box.

I think you’ll agree that the thinking behind this latest version is out-of-the-box.

Stage and stand-up performers rejoice over super easy 30 second set-up / reset with normal newspaper!

Option for newspaper to be examined before and after!

Works with any normal newspaper.

  • No Glues.
  • No Wires.
  • No Magnets.
  • No palming or pulls.
  • Nothing to ditch into pockets or clothing.
  • Performer can mark with spectator’s initials before the tear.
  • No special clothing requirements.
  • Featuring precision engineered gimmick.

Examine everything with the examiner!

Pre-Order Yours Now and get FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING!

Okay, One Last Trick

I know this blog is a bit more trick-heavy than my standard blogs, but there’s just so many great new effects of late. So, here’s one last mention – Nick Lewin’s ULTIMATE GYPSY YARN, a Hocus Pocus Exclusive. It’s one of the best instructional DVDs on the subject from a longtime working professional. In my humble opinion, it is worth your serious consideration.

This could well be the BEST explanation and presentation of the Gypsy Thread yet!

This could well be the BEST explanation and presentation of the Gypsy Thread yet!

As always, have a great weekend my friends.

More news later,

Paul

 

Dante’s Vanishing Bamboo Radio

Posted in Uncategorized on July 10, 2015 by hocuspoc

We got in a wonder item the week that belonged to famed magician Dante, so I wanted to introduce Dante to those who have perhaps NEVER heard of one of America’s most famous magicians. Dante was the last of the greats from what historically has been known as the “Golden Age of Magic”.

Here’s his background.

Harry August Jansen (October 3, 1883 – June 15, 1955) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and settled in the United States. He traveled the world as a professional magician under the name Dante the Magician.

Born on October 3, 1883 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Jansen came to St. Paul, Minnesota at the age of 6 with his family.

Dante was known throughout the world under the name Dante the Magician.

Dante was known throughout the world under the name Dante the Magician.

At the age of 16 Jansen made his stage debut under Charles Wagner. He then set off on a world tour for 5 years as the Great Jansen. In 1922, magician Howard Thurston, realizing Jansen’s talent and possible competition to him, engaged Jansen to star in the #2 Thurston show. Thurston gave Jansen the stage name of Dante. The name came from the original Dante, Oscar Eliason (1869–1899),[8] who had been killed in a tragic hunting accident in Australia years earlier. In 1925, Dante the Magician Inc. came into being with Thurston as co-owner. The 2nd unit Thurston show was built and co-produced by Jansen.

danteDynasty2

Dante was known throughout the world under the name Dante the Magician, working in vaudeville, burlesque, legitimate theatre, films, and in later years, television. Dante and his troupe, consisting of between 25 to 40 performers, made several global trips and appeared in many U.S. theaters. His stage trademark was to utter three nonsense words, “Sim Sala Bim” (taken from the lyrics of a Danish children’s song, during his performances to acknowledge applause. He can be seen using these words in the Swedish 1931 feature Dantes mysterier (Dante’s Mysteries) and in the 1942 Laurel and Hardy comedy A-Haunting We Will Go.

Released August 7, 1942, Hobos Stan (Stan Laurel) and Ollie (Oliver Hardy) mistake an illusionist's (Dante the Magician) crate for a coffin hiding a gangster, among other shenanigans.

Released August 7, 1942, Hobos Stan (Stan Laurel) and Ollie (Oliver Hardy) mistake an illusionist’s (Dante the Magician) crate for a coffin hiding a gangster, among other shenanigans.

In 1940 he produced and starred the Broadway revue Sim Sala Bim on the Morosco Theatre. With television, the public stayed home more often, and the world of variety theatre suffered drastically. As a result, Dante retired to his Southern California in the late 1940s.

He died at his ranch in Northridge, California, of a heart attack, at the age of 71. He was alone at the time of his death.

Dante’s Vanishing Radio

When it came in I was thrilled. Dante’s actual Vanishing Bamboo Radio, not just some old trick, but a piece of magic history, owned by  “Dante The Magician”.

This radio was displayed in Harry Jansen’s (“Dante The Magician”) home. Dante had a Bamboo Room designed and built into his home, known as “Rancho Dante”, located in Northridge, in the San Fernando Valley, just outside of Los Angeles.

Dante's Vanishing Radio from his private residence, Rancho Dante in Northridge, California.

Dante’s Vanishing Radio from his private residence, Rancho Dante in Northridge, California.

The Bamboo Room was Dante favorite room where he would entertain his houseguests and regale them with stories from his worldwide travels and tours with a full evening show of wonders, which included an extensive array of props, costumes, cast & crew. The bamboo style was quite popular in the late 1940’s and early 50’s, and the entire room was decorated with an elaborate Bamboo theme throughout.

The Vanishing Radio was crafted so as to match the Bamboo Room’s motif, appearing like a common everyday radio.  When Dante was “imposed” upon to perform a trick for his guests, he’d casually select an object from the room, “Let’s use the the radio.”, and he’d proceed to make it vanish without a trace.

The Bambo Room was built by design for Dante to host guests and entertain.

The Bambo Room was built by design for Dante to host guests and entertain.

It appears to have seen more of a display piece than much of a performance prop as it is such phenomenal condition.

It even has its custom-fitted transport case containing the original vanish cloth. Oh, and the original internal electronics that illuminate the radio’s dial are still in good working order.

The Vanishing Radio still has its original custom-fitted case and vanish cloth.

The Vanishing Radio still has its original custom-fitted case and vanish cloth.

What I wouldn’t give to time-travel back to the late 1940’s and be a fly on the wall at Rancho Dante, and to see Dante entertain his guests in the Bamboo Room with the Vanishing Radio.

This is NOT a prop I’ll want to see go. I’d rather have it stay awhile with us in the showroom. Nonetheless, it will soon be online and seeking its new owner. Will it be you?

We love to visit Morro Bay and to frequent the shops for oddities and treasures.

We love to visit Morro Bay and to frequent the shops for oddities and treasures.

Off to the Coast for a Cool Breeze

Betty and I are off for the weekend to escape the summer heat to our favorite haunts in Morro Bay. I’ve got a nursery that beckons my continuing interest and Betty has a linen store that she loves to visit, so we’re happy to pass the time with lots to see and do. Morro Bay is crawling with great shops.

Next week, we’ll not post a blog. We’re taking a week off. But, we’ll be back with news and updates with all that’s fit to report from Hocus Pocus soon enough.

As always, have a great weekend my friends.

More news later,

Paul

 

Happy 239th Birthday America!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 2, 2015 by hocuspoc

We’ve decided to close early today and take Friday off giving our employees some additional time off to enjoy the holiday with their families.

We celebrate bravery of our fathers and their gift of freedom. Long may our flag wave!

We celebrate bravery of our fathers and their gift of freedom. Long may our flag wave!

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.  ~ Elmer Davis

My patriotic heart beats red, white, and blue.  ~ Author Unknown

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.  ~ Erma Bombeck

Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.  ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.  ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Liberty is the breath of life to nations.  ~ George Bernard Shaw

May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!  ~ Daniel Webster

Where liberty dwells, there is my country.  ~ Benjamin Franklin

This year we celebrate the 239th birthday of America.

This year we celebrate the 239th birthday of America.

The United States is the only country with a known birthday.  ~ James G. Blaine

My God!  How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!  ~ Thomas Jefferson

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.  ~ Abraham Lincoln

Freedom is never free.  ~ Author Unknown

patriotic-bunting-dividers-A

Marine Corps Band Plays America’s Official March

Happy birthday America!

Best wishes to you and yours for a safe and happy Independence Day.

More news later my friends,

Paul