Famous Magician Sells His Art Out
For a Handful of Dollars
I have kept the news about the Houdini Exhibit at the Outagamie Museum off this page, because I didn't want to give them any publicity. But there comes a time when it's time to draw the line. And the time is now. In a recent article in the Appleton Post Crescent, there is an ad and an article about the upcoming benefit to be held in Appleton, Wisconsin (home town of Harry Houdini) for the Museum. What's wrong with a benefit for a museum? Nothing. In fact, normally, I would be all for it. But this museum is planning to expose Houdini's "Metamorphosis."
For several months, the various magic organizations have been working to combat this exposure, trying to convince the people responsible that exposure is not a good thing. Several big name magicians have made public appearances to help our cause, among them, David Copperfield.
I just got an e-mail (May 7, 2004) with the dreadful news. Jonathan and Charlotte Pendragon who feature the Metamorphosis in their act. will be appearing in a benefit show for this museum.
What's wrong with this picture? Don't they owe Houdini the courtesy of not exposing the method of the very illusion that they have copied! Yes! That's right! COPIED They may do it faster. They may have another method. But they owe their inspiration to Houdini.
I used to respect, and even admire the Pendragons. No more! They are no better than the Masked Magician.
What can you do to combat this exposure?
Not much, really. Jonathan and Char seem to have a rather spotty schedule these days. But if you hear that they are coming to your town, don't buy a ticket. That's the simplest way to handle it.
For my latest volley in the battle against the Fox-TV exposures, click here.
This page was given the following award by
Erick Olson for its dedication to the preservation of the art of Magic:
RECENT MAGIC EXPOSURES
As a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the Society of American Magicians and the Magic Circle of London, I took an oath not to reveal magic secrets.
For that reason, I am no longer providing a direct link to one of the larger magic sites on the internet. I used to name them here, but since they have such a high profile, if you knew their name, it would be too easy to find them. They have a section which reveals all sorts of secrets of magic to anyone who stumbles across it. Many people* involved in this venture maintain that by the time a person reaches these pages, they have gone through so many levels of material that they couldn't have just stumbled across it. This is supposed to somehow justify the presentation of some of our most cherished secrets to the public. They equate the internet to a library. They figure that if a person has to search for the information, he has the right to get it.
There is a direct link built into Encarta 97, which will not only start your web browser for you, it will send you right to the site in question. From there you are one mouse click away from the very magic secrets that all members of the IBM and the SAM have taken an oath not to expose. This is not like a library. This is like a newspaper that gets dropped into your lap with a big article advertised on the front page--Learn A New Trick--"click here."
The Society of American Magicians refuses to take any action about this matter. They also refuse to support magicians who actively oppose exposure, figuring that if they ignore exposure, maybe it will go away.
That never works! It didn't work with the Nazis, it doesn't work with diseases, and it won't work with exposure.
Another aspect of this, somewhat more sinister is this: the same company that hosts this site was also hosting the SAM home page. Was the SAM paying for this page? Or was it being furnished gratis? Were they turning their back on this exposure because they are afraid to lose their site?
(Note: since this was originally posted, the SAM has their own web site. This is a good thing. Maybe your complaints have helped!)
Many of us are concerned about exposure on the Internet. All we ask for is a token amount of protection--just a simple password.
Either that, or for the people involved in this exposure to leave the various magical organizations that they belong to and thus remove their obligation not to expose magic.
Let me give you a not entirely hypothetical situation.
Let's suppose that you do kid shows, and as a public service you have decided to go to the local elementary school or middle school to make a presentation about magic. Ms. Jones has decided to have the class do preliminary work by looking up "magic" in the encyclopedia. Some of her students have used Encarta 97 as their encyclopedia on the school's computer, which has an internet connection. They click on the link to that site, go over to the section in question, and there is an expose of "The Magical Filtration," which is a classic, and which has been exposed on their page.
In demonstrating the different types of magic, you choose this item, which you do not realize all the children in the class know. They proceed to shoot you down. Now your performance has lost credibility, and you have lost any possible advertising benefit that you could have picked up from this demonstration. Not only that, you have possibly unintentionally ruined the business for any other magician who wants to perform at that school or for those kids. A simple password would have prevented this.
The Society of American Magicians Praises the an Open Exposure Web Site for its Exposures
Doesn't Anybody Else Understand This?
The following piece appeared in the April 1998 issue of MUM, the official magazine of the Society of American Magicians.
1.5 MILLION HITS FOR DECEMBER ON R******** W***** SITES
New York City -- R******* W*****'s (name of exposure sites deleted) and related magic web sites surged past the 1.5 million hits for December of 1997. This exceeded the previous monthly hit record of 1.3 million hits for November.
With 1,528,388 hits in December alone, (name of exposure sites deleted) are proving to be the most successful publications in the history of magic," said Richard Robinson of R******* W*****, Inc.
Among the "firsts" that (name of exposure sites deleted) provided in 1997 were live magic performance webcasts, web video previews and digital video advertising. This month (name of exposure sites deleted) introduces another first, the (name of exposure sites deleted) , the first web magic book. (note: Robinson is wrong in making the claim that this is the first web magic book. Jim Finger had one on the web more than a year before Robinson. I wrote the introduction to it.)
That's just great! The oldest magic society in the world is praising this man for exposing magic. Why?
WAIT A MINUTE!!
HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED THIS?
Maybe my pleas to various people in the upper echelons of the Society of American Magicians have finally been noticed!
For almost two years, a group of us in Texas have been complaining to the SAM about the All Magic Guide and its concomitant Magic Show, with its exposures. David Goodsell has actually thrown down the gauntlet. If you are a member of the SAM, please read the article I refer to in the April 1998 issue. Remember, Richard Robinson is going to be teaching basic card work online to anyone who can find his pages. That's a lot of people, and when you consider that by Robinson's own estimate, 90 percent of them are not affiliated with any magical organization, that's too many to be good for the working performer.
If he gets 1.5 million hits a month, that's 1.35 million hits from non-magicians. If each person logs on daily (best case scenario) that's still 45,000 non-affiliated people. You may wonder what harm there is in that.
That which is given away has no value.
I earned all my magic. I sought out teachers, paid for lessons, did favors, researched books, translated papers and I practiced my behind off. When they give our stuff to the lay public, who do not have to do anything but click a mouse to obtain it, it devalues everything that you and I, as magicians who are respectful to our art, have done to achieve even a level of mediocrity, much less excellence.
Before any of you try to justify these exposures, get a copy of the book Night Rides by Charles Beaumont. In it there is a story called "The Magic Man." It is about an old magician who has performed on the same circuit for years. His audiences love, respect, revere and even fear him. So he decides on his last circuit that he loves them so much that he is going to tell them how it all works as a reward.
When he reveals the secrets, they hate him for it.
They are so disappointed that they shun him. Once the mystery is gone, so is the respect, the love, the fear and everything else. And worse, he is now just another broken down old man.
I urge every one of you who is a member of the SAM to write a letter to the home office or drop them an e-mail urging them to put a stop to this exposure on the internet. All we ask is that people who sign on use a password to get to the secrets.We are not even asking that they belong to any particular magic club, just that they can demonstrate a genuine interest in magic.
Are these the biggest exposers in the history of magic?
Right on the Money!!
Valentino Reveals Himself to be the Masked Magician
On October 29, 1998, Fox aired its most recent exposure show, promising to reveal "one of the biggest secrets in magic--the identity of the Masked Magician." Was there ever any doubt? All of you who had seen this page already knew the answer--Valentino (Leonardo Montana).
Why did he do it? He says it was to advance the art of magic by revealing the old secrets.
According to my sources, he did it to pay off some debts and to get even with certain television producers. This may or may not be true. But I will tell you this--if you think that he revealed the real work on more than a couple of tricks, think again. Most of the methods he used were outdated, or even some he made up for the specials. If you don't know which ones were the real ones, I'm not going to tell you.
But remember--you saw it here first, unless you are on some very exclusive mailing lists!
My opinion--Val--crawl back under your rock. We don't need you.
Various Reactions to the Recent Exposures on the Fox Network
When the Fox network got ready to air its most second exposure show, the Fox affiliate in Houston asked me to come down to the station and present our side of the story. I cannot claim to speak for all magicians; however, I am a member of IBM, SAM and the Magic Circle of London. I wanted to present the best case possible to the audience in Houston, and I wanted to have at least a modicum of support from these organizations. So I called the presidents of the various organizations. Abb Dickson of the IBM not only gave me his full support, he supplied me with a metaphor which I modified a little. It was used on the broadcast. David Berglas, MIMC, president of the Magic Circle of London, was gracious enough to leave a meeting and give me his support, too! I really appreciated that.
Most Illustrious Loren Lind, then president of SAM, refused to give me his support, stating the official position of the SAM was not to confront them. I assured him that I was going to present the case in a calm, resonable manner, but that still didn't work. He did mention that it seemed this form of inaction was not working (it never does). He is encouraging people to write letters to the sponsors. Fat lot of good that will do. It worked so well last time, didn't it. Fox may have lost some sponsors, but they are still producing the show. They will not go away.
Here is the metaphor Abb Dickson gave me, the way I stated it on the local newscast.
Magic is like a butterfly. You can give a 5-year old boy a butterfly, and he can look at it, admire it and marvel at its beauty, and then he can let it go.
Or he can pull the wings and the legs off of it, to see how it works...and all he will have left is a dead butterfly..and he still won't know how it works.
The Metaphor That Got Away
This is the one they didn't use--inspired somewhat by Eddy Taytelbaum.
What does the Fox Network owe its very existence to? What show really put it on the map, and keeps it going? "The X-Files"--right? And the thing that makes "The X-Files" work is all the special effects on the show.
Magicians invented special effects. It's what we do. Not only that, the first special effects photographer was an amateur Magician! His name was Georges Melies, and he had a studio right above Robert-Houdin's Salon du Magie in Paris. He made the very first special effects movies. If it weren't for us, the Fox network wouldn't exist.
It reminds me of the story of the boy who killed his father and ran off with his mother.
For the Dedicated X-Files Fans
Since the original posting of this article, I have received a few comments from a couple of dedicated X-Files fans who feel that my statements about the importance of special effects to the success of the X-Files "weakens the argument of my essay." I understand this viewpoint completely. However, I think they are missing the point here.
Calling this page an essay is a bit much. This particular section is simply a report of what I told an interviewer at the Houston affiliate of the Fox network. If I changed it now, it would not be an accurate record of what I said during the interview.
They take issue with my statement that special effects made the X-Files what it is today. Their contention is that the fans watch it for the conspiracy plot and the interaction of Scully and Mulder.
First, when I made the statment to the interviewer from the local Fox affiliate, he agreed with me completely.
Second, "special effects" is a broad term, and special effects can be very subtle and enticing. In the X-Files, they are sometimes so effectively used that it is easy not to notice them. Some special effects are things we take for granted--rain scenes, driving sequences, fog.
The amount of special effects varies from episode to episode
For example, I watched "The X-Files" on May 8, 1998. In the opening sequence there was a rain scene, a sequence of chroma key work on a computer screen, a driving sequence and a gunfight ending in all of the windows being blown out of a diner--all special effects. Then came the title sequence which had 6 or 7 special effects items (depending on whether you count the shot of the UFO or not) within about 30 seconds. The rest of the show featured several explosions, laser blasts, thermal photography, taser shots, "SDI" satellite to ground shots, a miniature robot, a double amputation performed on Mulder, a virtual reality sequence that dissolved on screen and the inevitable driving sequences. As viewers, we have come to expect many of these things, and do not realize that many of the commonplace video techniques that we take for granted are, in fact, special effects. For example, most, if not all driving sequences require a special camera mount in order to make the scene look realistic to the viewer. Almost all laser beams and all electrical "moving spark" shots require some kind of special effects work to make them look right.
I watched it again on May 15, 1998. This time, there were far fewer special effects used. Even the title sequence was slightly different. However, therer were still the driving sequences. There was also fog, some really nice green eyes on a group of vampires, and a brilliant sequence in which Mulder and a sherrif shoot the tires off a runaway motorhome. If all of the special effects were removed from "The X-Files" it would be a much less interesting show. Fox seems to think they are necessary, so they spend a lot of money on them. If they weren't necessary, Fox would save a big chunk of change.
Perhaps my statement that special effects were what made the X-Files what it is today is an overstatement. However, the special effects do add a lot of interest to the show for those who do not watch it for the reasons mentioned above.
If you want a letter to send to your magical friends to help them combat this rampant exposure, click here.
If you wish to help support a very active group of professional magicians who are working to stop these television exposures and other similar activity that is destructive to our art, go to the home page of The World Alliance of Magicians.
Alas, the World Alliance of Magicians has now folded. Some of the members felt that since only a handful of us supported the effort, it was not worth their time. Too bad. They actually did some good.
This People Against Magic Exposure site is owned by
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Finally! Fox Does it Again!
Just when you thought it was safe to perform in public
A NEW "Masked Magician" Sells His Brothers Out
Update, November 16, 1999
No matter how long I am involved in magic, I am still amazed at how easy it is to find some misguided moron who will sell us out for a few pennies. David Blaine, who is a fine magician, made a big impact with his street magic presentation. He dazzled the laymen and did wonderful magic. David is one of the good guys, and he is not the fellow who is selling us out--just in case anyone wonders. (Don't get ahead of me on this now!)
In an effort to capitalize on David's success, Fox has found someone who has actually learned 20 or so tricks, and they are going to foist this substitute magician upon the world as a real magician. Maybe they promised him fame (with a mask on so nobody will recognize him--that's funny in a way.) Maybe they promised him fortune. We know that Valentino sold us out for barely six figures. So this new Judas will probably wind up like Valentino--barred from the better venues--unknown except as a traitor. Perhaps even on the street where he belongs.
On November 24, 1999, the new cowardly conjurer will appear on Fox and tip the marks to the work.
Don't let all this get you down, brothers and sisters. They can't reveal the real secrets of magic, just the way they do these tricks. There IS a difference. Don't panic. Stay calm.
From time to time, some well-meaning soul who is not actually a professional performer e-mails me with some inane comment about how my efforts are in vain, and how they won't actually accomplish anything. Don't bother. You don't know what you are talking about. We have made headway. And, in a way, just writing this accomplishes a lot for me.
Remember: When well-meaning people do nothing in the face of evil, they are contributing to the evil, itself. If you are a magician, and you are not actively fighting exposure, then you are just as guilty of it as the person who exposes. It's not just a hobby for some of us. It's an art form, and it's the way we earn our livings.
©1997, 1998 Bill Palmer. All rights reserved. For permission to republish contact Bill Palmer at the above e-mail address.