Thursday, August 17, 2017

First Regular Close-Up Magic Gig

Enjoy this excerpt from I AM Magic Mike Likey! Collector’s Edition
It was 1981 or '82, and I was working for Westfair Foods ad department as their illustrator for the SuperValu (later Great Canadian Superstore) ads. I had just acquired the position two months after relocating from Toronto, having gotten married (first time around) and acquired a job as Layout/Paste-up Artist for the Downtowner newspaper, where I also had my cartoons regularly published for two years by then.
I had moved from Toronto fully expecting to also work part-time as a magician (stage and close-up) as I already had a couple of shows under my belt from the Toronto area. One Saturday night, I decided to drive around my new city, "feeling out" just the right places to approach about doing magic for them. My strategy was (and still is) to enforce the idea that magic is a strong marketing gimmick, used in most large cities to make more money for the sponsor by promoting the fact that they have a magician doing magic in their bar or restaurant, which most people get excited about. With the magic genesis relatively new at the time, (Copperfield and Henning were hot properties on TV and their specials drew high ratings) I was confident that I could convince a few places to hire me. I also had with me my "close-up magic box" filled with "miracles" to dazzle them with! I genuinely loved (and still do) magic and entertaining people, so I had the right attitude too. I passed by a place called "September's", (on Garry street, I believe) circling around the block a couple of times and then finally parking in their lot. I trusted my instincts, and armed with my close-up case, I entered the premises, determined to sell myself. The desire was just to do as much magic as I could for audiences and interacting with people, not so much the money aspect, so there (unbenounced to myself) I also had another key ingredient to success: playing down the pay!
I walked in, walked up to a server, and asked him where the owner was, saying I hoped to do magic here. He introduced me to a small, rotund European woman, who had an affable demeanor; barely able to speak English, she quickly introduced me to her son, Jiri (pronounced "Yeery") and his wife Reema. (spelled "Rima") We immediately hit it off, as I'm of European background, (my mother was an immigrant of Austrian/Russian Jewish descent, while my dad was of Polish/Jewish descent) Jiri and Rima were so pleasant and intelligent, seeing immediately the advantage of hiring me; besides, I was asking only for $50. for walk-around magic for an hour, plus a stage show. I was to start 11:00 p.m. the following Saturday-night, as they got the after-bar crowd, which in Winnipeg at the time meant that they were rowdy, fun, and friendly, perfect for magic! The following week, my first steady gig was fraught with culture-shock, as I came from a stand-up comedy background, where the "f"-bomb was used all the time; not so here! Imagine my shock when I casually dropped an "f"-bomb during a trick, and the female bar-fly I was doing the trick for responded with "EXCUSE Me?" Taken aback, I continued on, but learned quickly to go more conservatively with my audiences. When I was accused (after performing for a mixed outdoor adult audience) of having a sexist and violent show because I used a fake arm-chopper/guillotine in one routine and a brassiere for another trick, I realized again the kinds of audiences I could potentially face, so I dropped any suggestive and scary tricks from my all of my shows which (by-the-way) worked well everywhere else. Even in New Westminster, B.C., I was asked by the administration of Westminster Quay Public Market to drop the line from my show, "It's Magic Mike, not Copp-a-feel" which worked well, eliciting laughs not only in Winnipeg, but throughout North America; I guess you never know; when in doubt, go conservatively. I've long since put that "Copp-a-feel" line back in my shows when doing a particular trick. Regardless, at September's I did mainly Mentalism/Fake mind-reading culling from the amazing Kreskin's repertoire for my stage shows, doing tricks with appearing, disappearing, and color-changing canes and candles, and doves as well. My close-up magic consisted mainly of a bare-handed vanish and re-appearance of a red, silk hanky, cards that mysteriously changed to all blanks and back again, sponge "clones", and many other tricks too numerous to mention, and all housed in my close-up case. When I deviated slightly from any of my tricks or routines, the regulars demanded that I did this or that particular trick, which week-after-week, they never seemed to tire of! I guess there was a security and familiarity about always doing the same tricks for them. I'll never forget the night that I chose to substitute one finale trick for another, the howls for "The vanishing Coke bottle! Where's the vanishing Coke bottle?" I never left it out again. I used what magicians call a "bang-wand" in the routine, (a wand that fires a cap that goes "bang" and also shoots out a flame of fire!) in all of my birthday party shows as well, for the same Coke bottle trick. On one occasion, the flash-paper landed on the parent's couch, not disintegrating quickly enough, thus leaving a small burn hole. There was a pregnant pause, and a deep breath from everyone. The parents (wonderful souls that they were) later said that it was "an old couch any ways!" still giving me my pay-check. I offered to forgo my fee to pay to fix the couch, but they refused. In another birthday-party show, I remember the birthday-boy asking for the rabbit which he had seen me produce at another friend's party. My quick and thoughtless response was "Your dad wouldn't pay the extra $10. for it!" Needless to say, I received an equally-rude response back from the dad by telephone later, who argued initially with my paltry $50. fee! Oh, the perils of doing children's birthday parties...seldom from the kids themselves!
A moment about my close-up case at this point. Some magicians ascribe to the school of close-up magic where the performer carries everything on their person, crammed in pockets, but still maintaining "pocket management", or knowing and organizing where every trick is at every given moment. This is too much for me. I want to focus on entertaining my audience, not fumbling and worrying about where everything is, after all, what if I pull out one trick while pattering on about another one? At the very most, I keep my sponge-ball trick either in my pants pockets or jacket pocket. I keep my thumb-tip and hanky (or sometimes folded money) in the breast pocket of my waistcoat or jacket, and a key-chain in my back pants pocket. Everything else is housed in my close-up case, which, after approaching a table and introducing myself, I plop down on the guests' tables. It gives me a nice, felt-like surface to work on (like a "close-up stage" if you will) for any card and coin work I might do, but it also adds a central focus, also "announcing" that the "show is about to begin"! I LOVE my close-up case, which I sometimes call my "mysterious magic-box of mystery", tongue-in-cheek, for family audiences. I found my current one at Value Village, and it's a beauty! It's like a cutlery-box, around the same size, and all red-felt, with a perfect "working surface" on top; I added a 3-sided gold picture-frame to the top of it so that objects don't roll off of it. The top half tilts open, and also stays shut, secured by a small, gold, looped rope which fits over another gold rope/knot attached to the bottom half. It's beautiful and came ready made: in the world of magic, close-up cases can cost $200. or more and are made of heavy, attractive wood, but they also have nifty compartments, which can sometimes be custom-made to fit the magician's specific props. Mine cost $10. My very first close-up box/case was an actual cutlery box, with the innards removed. I had someone custom-sew a red-velour close-up mat (working surface) to fit the exact size of the top of the box. It Velcroed on and off, in case I just wanted to use the mat without the box, which would remain at what I call "home base": an area in the restaurant or bar where I could safely leave my case and other props so that I could go back to "home-base" to retrieve a new prop, or re-set another.
My second regular gig (which I got at the same time as "September's") was for "Gabby's" restaurant on Pembina highway in Winnipeg. It had a western theme, so I was forced to endure both the "Doc Holiday" moniker, as well as the western garb! Nonetheless, I received endless crucial experience in the close-up magic world, performing twice-a-week there, in addition to doing a kids' stage show Sunday afternoons. I remember on one occasion, I approached a large table of twelve people; (a magician's dream, as the management hears the exaggerated reactions thanks to the larger audience) the distinguished, grey-haired older gentleman turned around to me, quietly declaring in hushed whispers to me, "We're Jehovah's witnesses, we don't believe in magic." I was stunned. I quickly replied, "You know that it's not real magic, we're only having fun here, don't you?" He quickly dismissed me with a wave of his hand, as if saying, "Off you go, now!" Feeling hurt and rejected, I immediately mentioned this to the management and the workers in the kitchen, all of them re-assuring me that it wasn't a personal thing. It was the first time I felt helpless, for no good reason. Ah, the perils of working for the public!
From these initial steady magic-jobs, (which lasted a few years) I was asked for business-cards, and thus grew the amount of shows I did in Winnipeg to average two-hundred a year. In short fashion, I was making more from magic in my spare-time than I was with my full-time job in advertising.
I shared these stories with you because recently I did my first close-up gig in years, (usually I do stage-magic, medium-sized tricks performed for larger audiences from a slight distance and/or a stage or platform) which management loved and has invited me back for future special promotions. I'm falling in love with magic all over again!

Monday, August 14, 2017

I AM Magic Mike Likey! The Collector's Edition

 Dr. Michael Likey (Magic Mike Likey) recounts stories from when he was a television and media celebrity in Winnipeg, Canada in the 1980's and '90's. Filled with humorous anecdotes and tall tales of misadventure, this is not only an autobiographical account of Magic Mike Likey, but is also important for its historical significance, and also for Magic Mike's place in Winnipeg's so-called Golden Age of Television! If you want to recapture the magic that was (and still is) Winnipeg, this is for you! This collector's edition also contains more than 30 rare and collectible photographs!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pocket Management

I’ve been doing magic professionally since 1981. I started doing a small stage/platform show in the summer of 1981 in Toronto, and then after my move to Winnipeg that year, I continued doing stage-magic in addition to working as a full-time Graphic Designer and Editorial Cartoonist.
In November of 1981, I started my regular close-up and platform-magic gig at a restaurant/lounge called “September’s”: the owners were kind enough to gamble that I would bring in an after-hours crowd, which I did! Besides producing and vanishing doves in my show, I also did Mentalism (a la Kreskin) plus close-up/walkaround magic in-between my stage shows. That led to many more corporate, stage, and birthday-party magic shows, including a regular, twice-weekly stint at “Gabby’s Restaurant”! (again, see left-side of above banner for a pic from those days)
For my close-up/walkaround/table-to-table magic, I always used a cutlery box which I altered and painted, topping it off with a Velcroed close-up mat/pad made of crushed red velour. The case housed a myriad of trick playing-cards, coins, and many other professional magic-tricks, and I continued to use a fancy “close-up case” in one form or another until recently, late summer 2017. It was recently, for a Dairy Queen “Miracle Treat Day” promotion, that I decided to go without the heavy and cumbersome case (see picture/banner above) and work strictly out of my pockets.
I had to seriously choose a dozen or less tricks from the many dozens of tricks that I had been doing for years, plus some newer ones that my case housed; to make things more challenging, I had to stuff these tricks into the pockets of my three-piece suit without looking like a stuffed turkey! Fortunately, choosing my more effective and familiar tricks was relatively easy, and stuffing them into my pockets was even easier, as I have TONS of pockets in my pants, jacket, and waist-coat. (vest) The other problems were two-fold: remembering where each trick was, (so that I don’t accidentally pull out one deck while intending to do an entirely different trick) plus the anxiety associated with this issue. After a little practice to remember automatically where everything was, I was ready. This technique of stuffing the pockets creatively and remembering where everything is is also known among professional magicians as “Pocket Management”.
Choosing the Effects
As stated previously, the effects had to meet some criteria, including being visually stunning and interesting, plus, in order to make me grow past the familiarity of doing the same tricks, many that I have been doing since 1981, (mainly because they are easy but look impossible to lay-audiences and are therefore “sure-fire”) I selected a few brand-new stunners, three of which were created by magical genius (and fellow-easterner) Jay Sankey! These are “Mismade Monopoly” (with my own twist of handing out the final bill, (after it had gone through numerous “transformations”) which serves as a fancy business-card, as my image and particulars are printed on this final piece of “money”; the modus operandi for this and similar “bill switches” was used by David Copperfield and Doug Henning in their television specials of the 1980’s and ‘90’s, after a technique refined by magician Michael Ammar from the original version by Mike Kozlowski! Another Sankey effect is his visual “Holey Moley” and “Holey Stretch”, in which two metal washers change in a visual and mysterious manner, eventually stretching into a longer, metal version of the original ones! Another visually stunning Jay Sankey effect called “In a Flash” involves a signed card, signed coin, and small piece of tissue-paper; the coin and the card end up somewhere after a surprising flash of fire!
I included a variation of the “Invisible Deck”, also from an idea by Jay Sankey, in which a named card by a spectator (they can name, quite literally ANY card) either is the only card in the deck with an “X” on it, or sometimes all the cards have an “X” except the named card! This produces gasps every time! For the kids, I do a sponge-ball routine called “Clones”, also a rope-trick called “Professor’s Nightmare” and lead into a ring-off-rope routine culminating in the ring appearing in a key-chain; (see video!) the ring is ordinary and often borrowed from a spectator. In case no rings are present, I use my own, examined, and un-gimmicked ring. Sometimes after this, I’ll lead into a paddle-move (amateurs look that up) effect with a key from the key-case. Kids also love my colorful rubber-band routine, (see video) in which one rubber-band melts through another several times, even in a spectator’s hands culminating in the two bands linking, which I hand out as a souvenir! The idea of the bands separating from each other is an old effect, from a series of magicians’ books from the 1920’s or ‘30’s called The Tarbell Course in Magic. Sankey’s original addition is that the bands have a knot in them, as if they were broken and then re-tied. My original touch is that I use colored bands with the knots as well, and hand out the final linked pair as a souvenir, which delights everyone!
More effects I carry with me are the “Rising Cards”, (mouths drop as each selected card mysteriously rises from the pack!) and “Mental Photography Deck”. (originally called “The Nudist Deck”) With the “Mental Photography” cards, the premise is the cards are all blank (you spread them out fairly, openly showing fronts and backs, then with the snap of your fingers, they turn into a full, and normal-looking deck, which you openly show fronts and backs; although this is a stunning and visual effect, almost every spectator over the years has jokingly said “now let’s see those cards”, which of course, I can’t do; I always just smile, wink, and put the deck away. This always bothered me, so I would immediately go into a non-card trick. Nowadays I ALWAYS carry with me a REGULAR pack of cards; (always “Bicycles” by-the-way!) with them I do what’s known in the trade as an “Ambitious Card” routine (amateurs look it up!) with one finale or another.
Believe it or not, all of the aforementioned effects (and more!) all fit in my three-piece suit pockets; (for the details, see video and illustration) in case I have to go “backstage” between tables for refills such as rubber bands and the monopoly bills, I select an area called “home-base”: this is a quiet area, sometimes in a corner of the kitchen of the restaurant/bar where I know no-one will disturb my case filled with extra cards and those all-important refills! I hope that some of this information has been or will be useful to you both as an up-and-coming magician and as a working pro!
Remember “Pocket Management” and you won’t go wrong!
Learn more about me here:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Flashback Friday

 #FBF #magic #closeup #walkaroundmagic #thenandnow #firstcloseupgig #winnipeg @magicmikelikey

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Miracle Treat Day

 Join us tomorrow! #portmoody #icecream #CMN
@MagicMikeLikey the magician will be here at 6pm to entertain

Thursday August 10th

Tomorrow (Thursday, August 10th) from 6-7 I'll be doing magic table-to-table at the Dairy Queen in Port Moody! Come join me for Miracle Treat Day and I'll see you soon!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Shiner and Moondogg Then and Now

My children's book (originally penned and illustrated in the '70's) has quite the back-story! Check out my "then and now"/side-by-side illustrations from the '70's, '80's, '90's and today! The black-and-white cartoon-strip appeared in English and French papers in Montreal in the '70's! You can buy the most up-to-date version of Shiner & Moondogg on Amazon:

An Excerpt from Shiner & Moondogg