Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from thrift stores, estate sales, and flea markets.
A big ol’ stack of professional magicians’ magazines
Date: 1950s through the 1970s
Discovered at: Grey Matter Books, Hadley, MA
“Patter collected by Cliff Green: The best way to get rid of a noise in your car is to let her drive … Bikini bathing suits give as much coverage as a lapsed insurance policy … Most girls are divided into two classes: Those that knit ’em and those that fit ’em.” (Hugard’s Magic Monthly, February, 1958)
The rare performers once welcome at both night clubs and kids’ birthday parties, professional magicians — like traveling salesmen or novelists not specializing in Swedish murders — today find themselves facing a dispiriting truth: That their time of cultural prominence is not at all like some endless, ribbon-like hanky pulled and pulled from the great fist of creation.
No, that time of prominence has ended, making life ever tougher for those dedicated to hocus and/or pocus. Whither the world of secretive illusion, of doves up the sleeve, of audiences eager to be tricked, of distracting patter about women drivers? Sadly, that world is gone.
Here’s how great that world was:
Seriously, no matter what he’s charging — who wouldn’t want that guy at a party?
Of course, some other magicians were a harder sell.
Last week your Crap Archivist happened upon a collection of decades’ worth of old magazines for professional magicians. There I learned something shocking: The true magic in magic was actually sausage.
That’s from a ’76 issue of Magicram. In it, you’ll find a pair of the greatest sentences in the English canon: “Here’s a sausage pistol with a difference. Nothing to jam, nothing to go wrong, and Wow! What a load of sausages!” What I especially relish is the writers’ assumption that anyone reading it will inevitably have been disappointed at some point by inferior sausage guns.
Perhaps the idea with these was to teach kids about puberty. The ad copy claims it’s “especially invaluable … to the children’s performer,” and then states flat out “The magician taps his wand around, waves it in the air, and voila! — the wand suddenly changes to a long string of sausages!”
For all that, I don’t want to give the impressions that last-century magic was nothing but a sausage fest.
To their credit, some magicians didn’t just give their assistant positions to any young slip of a thing with access to a babysitter.
SHE IS THE COOLEST EVER! Also, that second image is not of a trick — it’s of women’s healthcare during the Johnson years.
Still, the world of magicians was a boyish one. Often, the names of their illusions were weirdly suggestive:
Look, back-of-the-head sight is something wished for by any boy in a corner making pocket magic.
NEXT: More amusingly suggestive magic tricks, plus gorilla madness!
This one sounds like a bad idea.
And again with the sausages!
Magic wasn’t all dirty-mindedness and encased, tubular meats. In the best shows, there was also pageantry:
Magicians, of course, have long held to a code of secrecy, but I don’t think I’ll get in too much trouble if I reveal how to achieve that remarkable gorilla effect:
Let’s wrap this up with some portraits of the practitioners of this almost-gone art:
Thanks to Poz and all the rest for their dedication to an art that is vanishing — and not in the fun, how-did-they-do-that? way. Keep it going, any of you magicfolk who might be left! May your hats be great with bunnies and your assistants fully sawable!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 18, 2012