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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » A Hundreth Pleasant Conceipts - by Curtis Kam » » Ch 1: FINGER PALM--THE DISPLAY (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Curtis Kam
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Speaking of our friend Eddie Sachs prompts the next question—“is the fingerpalm effective when the heat’s on?” Sachs thought so, not about the FP per se, but about a certain display it provides:

How to Show the Hands Empty Whilst Still Containing Coins--In many tricks with money...it may be advisable, or even compulsory, by reason of the doubt of a spectator, to show that the coins are not in the hand, whilst they really are so...When two or more are in the hand the coins must be slid inside the doubled up fingers which hold the wand, placed across the hand. The really empty hand is opened, and the one containing the coins also, as far as the performer dare. Now, if he held the fingers doubled up without the wand, the spectator would know where the coins were; but, seeing the wand, the partial closing of the hand seems natural enough. Of course, the hands are boldly thrust out, the performer saying the while, "It is pretty plain that I haven't the coins, for here are my two hands, both wide open. Now sir, what have you done with them?" &c. Unblushing audacity is again the order of the day.

Sachs, at 177, Dover ed.

So the FP is deceptive even when suspicion is high? Is Kam’s Natural Law #1 already in danger? Perhaps. But this is not just the FP Sachs is talking about here, but the display we know as the Ramsay subtlety. As Sachs explained well before Ramsay, the FP leaves the palm of the hand looking deceptively empty. This works, as he points out, so long as there is a reason for the fingers to be slightly curled. So, if you believe him, naturalness rules, even in a challenge situation.

Sachs suggests holding the wand to provide a natural reason for the position of the fingers. John Ramsay, who was famous for his devious applications of the display, often used the other coins as his “wand”. (See also Edward Victor’s use of coins as the “wand” in his “Silver Collection” from “Magic of the Hands” circa 1937) Thus, FP display is an ideal concealment for a performer using multiple coins in a standup setting. (i.e. there is no place to put the other coins down) This might explain its popularity with coin workers today, who tend to perform in exactly these conditions. Chris Kenner’s “Threefly” is based almost entirely upon this display, as is much of the material in the first two volumes of my own “Palms of Steel” videos.

Despite the influence of Sachs, Ramsay, Victor and others, this display is mentioned infrequently in MCM. (I’m only talking about the first edition, here, not “The New Modern Coin Magic”) With one exception, the display used to conceal a single coin.

In the first two lessons, there is no object used to serve as a “wand”. Instead, the index finger is raised as the spectators are advised to “Watch”. See “Vanish with the Aid of a Handkerchief” and Ross Bertram’s “Trio of Vanishes”.

This is probably the most rudimentary and least deceptive application that one can imagine. Still, there are two things that Bobo gets right: First, at least the fourth finger is not extended straight out, as was often advised, and second, the display is used BEFORE the coin is shown to have vanished. In other words, Bobo suggests using the display to avoid suspicion, rather than allay it, giving Kam’s Natural Law #1 at least one friend in the business.

Later, Bobo does indulge in a bit of “unflinching audacity” of his own. In “The Bent Penny”, p. 187, he switches a borrowed American penny for a bent one, which he places in the spectator’s hand. Then, under the guise of “showing the spectator how to hold the coin” he boldly (for Bobo) holds his hand out in FP display. He’s concealing the straight penny right under the spectator’s nose, and, I’m imagining, chuckling to himself. Okay, so it’s only a single penny, and he’s still using it before the effect rather than after, but it’s still a delightful ruse. Consider applying it to other routines, a Copper/Silver transpo, for instance.

I’ve also found two examples of other magicians using objects as a “wand”. Kirk Stiles uses a die (see “Die to Dime”) and the ubiquitous Glenn Harrison stashes three halves under a deck of cards. (“Coins and Cards”) Mind you, I found these by paging through the book and looking at the pictures. There may be other gems about, but I leave that scavenger hunt to the dedicated students among you.

And that’s about it. That’s odd, seeing how popular the concealment has become. I suppose other people found other “bibles”. Given the paucity of material based on the FP in MCM, here are a few things you might have missed if Bobo was your only guide:

John Ramsay showed us that there are three basic positions for the display: Palm Up, (as Sachs describes) Palm Outwards (ala Bobo) or Palm to the Side. (See Andrew Galloway’s books on Ramsay’s work)

Although it’s rudimentary, Bobo’s raised finger display is deceptive, if used before the vanish is revealed. An example of this applied expertly is John Carney’s handling of the last vanish in his “Streamlined Cylinder and Coins” from “Carneycopia”. Ironically, although the “Cylinder and Coins” is a Ramsay routine, Ramsay himself did not rely on the “Ramsay subtlety” for this vanish.

To get away with the display generally, it’s better to have some object held in the hand. Ramsay used the other coins, or even an invisible coin that he hung in the air. A coin purse, purse frame, deck of cards, or even a stemmed goblet all make excellent “wands”.

Bobo doesn’t mention it, but the display is most useful for the concealment of multiple coins, and preferably multiple coins that the audience is not yet aware of.

Finally, there is some difference of opinion over whether the FP display is sufficiently deceptive to serve as a vanish by itself. With proper technique and misdirection, my experience says it is. As handled by most magicians, well, not so much. Mike Gallo uses the FP display as part of his “spider” vanish. This is extremely deceptive, since it allows his hand to appear quite empty, but more importantly, the audience is lead to suspect that the coin was never in his hand to begin with.

But what about showing a coin at your fingertips, slipping it into FP, going into the display, and claiming your hand is empty? Does “unflinching audacity” carry us this far?

I believe the FP display can be successful here, but it’s nowhere as easy as some authors would have you believe. I have done it, but only when I have a firm grip on the audience’s attention. Jonathan Townsend and Geoff Latta each have highly refined techniques, both unpublished as of the date of this article, that make this work deceptively. Troy Hooser does this in the context of vanishing other coins in the other hand at the same time, and this seems to work.

All I know is that using the FP as a one-handed vanish seems to require two things: First, a physical technique that makes it appear that the coin did not go into FP, and second, (and more importantly) something to draw the audience’s focus after the vanish. In most cases, the one-handed vanish will deceive, but not for very long.

I place the matter into your hands. Work on it, listen to your audiences, and report back.
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