Monday, January 11, 2021

The Magic Circle

Just been informed by #Jamie Allan of #TheMagicCircle and #illusionarium that I am now officially a member of #TheMagicCircle! I'm over the moon! Thank-you #GordBoyes for selling me your cups and balls, #AnthonyDarkstoneBrook (International Assembly President and  MI.) and #JoelZaritsky (S.A.M President) for your sponsorship and support!

Friday, January 8, 2021

"Almost" Doesn't Cut It

 There I was, sitting in the offices of K-Tel in Winnipeg, Canada, circa mid '80's, waiting for my meeting with the whole "Kives" clan, pronounced "Kee-Viss". The Kives brothers owned K-Tel, along with a hotel in Winnipeg, "The Viscount Gort" where, coincidentally, I performed at the medieval feasts regularly held in one of the hotels' ball-rooms for ten years. They even commissioned me to paint caricatures all over the walls of one of the lounges in the hotel, where famed local comedian Pat Riordan (also one of my agents for awhile) performed every weekend. Maybe it was because I was on local television for nine years, or maybe because my agents booked me at virtually every fair and special event in and around Winnipeg, so I was "known"/a minor local celebrity; maybe it was because I was Jewish like the Kives family; or maybe it was because they thought I was "connected"...I really don't know why they asked me to participate in the making and marketing of a "Magic Mike Magic Kit", but let me tell was an honour and it thrilled me!


Some of you may remember the TV commercials for K-Tel products in the sixties, seventies, and eighties for the "Slicer-Dicer", or the VHS tape collection of various "War Battles" and "War-Plane Battles". Others of you might even remember the phonograph album collections of dance-music, and the annoying constant barrage of TV-commercials for said items. Coincidentally, I was one of the animator/cartoonists in the '70's who worked on the animated TV commercial for one of their most successful albums, the "Disco Devil"; take a look at it on YouTube: It was me who animated the dancing couple 14 seconds into it, as well as the dancing flames 29 seconds in; our "in joke" was having the little devil's tail go erect as the angel flies by, 17 seconds in...what great fun! K-Tel, who had an office in Montreal, my hometown, where I worked as a Graphic Artist after college, was one of Sprocket/Disada Productions' clients, for whom I worked as well. For Disada I drew a nationally-syndicated colour comic-strip, and was on staff as a cel-painter and in-betweener for their animated TV-commercials, whose clients included the Canadian segments for Sesame Street!


Fast-forward ten years, and now living in Winnipeg, I found myself working as a full-time Graphic Designer and magician, with a television show to boot! There I was, sitting sheepishly in their reception area, anxiously awaiting my meeting with the legendary owner/CEO Phil Kives, the "King of Infomercials"; Ted, his brother, I already knew from working with him at the Viscount Gort. Ted was a fine dresser, silk ties, pin-stripe suits, gold jewellery; Phil was no slacker as well! They greeted me with handshakes and we entered the "inner sanctum" for our meeting.

They consulted with me on the type of tricks to include in the magic-kit, samples of which consisted of inexpensive, overseas-manufactured plastic magic products. There was a small set of stainless-steel "Linking Rings", smaller in diameter and thinner than I'd ever seen before. There was a plastic, hollow thumb and small red handkerchief. "Just tell us what we should include...we can get ANYTHING wholesale!" Phil stated. He also let me in on a secret to their war-planes videos that they were making and marketing: as long as they changed the colours in the "borrowed" photos of the planes on the VHS covers, they became copyright-free! For whatever it was worth, I suggested a "Rope-to-Silk" effect wherein a piece of rope visually and suddenly transforms into a silk handkerchief; "We can get that for pennies!" said Phil. "The Professor's Nightmare", a.k.a. "The Three-Rope Trick", which involved three ropes of varying lengths transforming into three ropes of equal lengths; "We can get that too!" he exclaimed excitedly. Hell, I was even making those and selling them in my own magic-shop.

For weeks I was excited, anticipating being the only Canadian magician to have his own magic kit, and have it potentially marketed worldwide; but it was not to be. A year passed. K-Tel seemed to vanish from the television landscape; where was K-Tel, and my kit?

K-Tel filed for bankruptcy protection in 1984, re-surfacing some time later as "K5". Phil passed away in 2016, along with my dreams of ever having a K-Tel magic kit. After witnessing a Minneapolis magic-shop owner demonstrate a half-dozen simple tricks, then tossing them into a brown paper bag, calling that a "magic-kit", (with every customer in the shop throwing money down for those "kits") I was inspired to market my own kits of the same half-dozen tricks, but placing them into an attractive cardboard box with a cover designed by myself! Not only did those kits (available in my magic-shop) sell well, but I also used them as incentive for viewers of my television show to enter contests, with the kits being the "grand prize".


Sure, "almost" doesn't cut it, but it also doesn't count!