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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The September 2003 entrée: Whit Haydn » » Bizarre Magic » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Scott F. Guinn
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Yes, the house of magic has many rooms, etc, etc. However, while still a tiny fraction, it seems the number of "bizarre" magicians is growing. Personally, I don't care for this type of magic. I actually saw a "bizarrist" table-hopping in a restaurant--which really WAS bizarre! The thing is, he did the same thing that virtually every bizarre magician I've ever seen has done: VERY long-winded presentations with little pay-off at the end, and didn't get much of a response.

I remember you once told me you found a joke (that my friend Vic Brisbin and I came up with) amusing: "A bizarre magician is someone who dresses like the Grim Reaper and then bores you to death!"

I was just wondering, what is your opinion of this strange small branch of the art?
"Love God, laugh more, spend more time with the ones you love, play with children, do good to those in need, and eat more ice cream. There is more to life than magic tricks." - Scott F. Guinn
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Whit Haydn
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I did find that joke very, very funny. I am sure that many bizarrists did, too.

I have no problem with bizarrists. Everyone has a right to explore whatever interests them. I am certain there must be some fine ones out there, or the propagation you refer to would probably not happen.

Personally, I have not seen a lot of bizarrists perform, but the ones I have seen so far did not appeal to me very much.

Like you, I found the ones I have seen up to now to be long-winded and kind of puffery. The magic is not as strong or appealing as I would like to see in something that seems to take itself so seriously. I am not a fan at all of story magic, which seems to be at the heart of much of bizzare magic.

In fact, the ones I've witnessed seem pretty lame and boring. I think their appeal, like that of Harry Potter wizards and carnival sideshows is limited to certain groups and venues.

Nonetheless, within those venues they probably serve a need and, given the right artist, might produce some magic that I would like.

I can't really say more, because I just haven't seen enough of it. It's not the kind of magic that naturally appeals to me, and so far I have not seen anything that makes me want to go looking for more.

But I am open to the possibility, and if I hear of a truly gifted performer I would go to take a look.

I think that some very intelligent and serious people have applied themselves to this form, from reading their posts on various boards, I just haven't encountered any very exciting performances. It is not that easy to find them for one thing.

Perhaps some of the bizarrist forum members will recommend some performers here that are truly exceptional and that I should take a look at.

If I were to experience something truly unique and imaginative, and truly powerful, then I would change my opinion.
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To be honest, I consider myself a bizarre magician, and am not surprised that you find it dull.

The methods in bizarre magick are often very simple... they have to be. No sorcerer wants to be caught dropping a mystical object in his lap.

Therefore, there is no chance of someone with a reasonable amount of magic knowledge is not going to be fooled... thus the key ingredient of magic is missing.

And interestingly, I find the opposite very real... I find card magicians FANTASTICALLY dull... no presentation, descriptive (= patronising) patter, and very little real effect - notable exceptions being effects like out of this world... effects that have uncomplicated methods, so you have to use presentation.

Obviously this is not true for everyone, in the same way as your comments about bizarrists isn't about every one of it's performers.

One final point, it may be worth you checking out a bizarrist in a proper setting - ie, intimite room, lit only by candles, incense, etc. Perhaps your opinion will be changed slightly? or not at all?

There is only one way to find out.

Just some thoughts,

chat soon.

Liam
martyk
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Montz
A very reasoned and informative posting, with no ire. Strss tje wprd >oinmformative" I never realized nor thoguht about methods and reasons for etc. I'm not much into Bizarre either but
Eugene Burger's material often borders on it, or enters it, and it is inriguing indeed, such a his card piece wherein one chooses who wil be smitten by the plague (though I don't show that to my granedkids) Marty K
Bill Hallahan
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I’m not real fond of bizarre magic either.

Some bizarre magicians have a fascination with blood and gore that I do not share. I can’t say they are wrong to like it, but I don’t understand the attraction myself.

I also don’t like acts that deal with occult phenomena.

There is no accounting for people’s tastes.

I wouldn’t say that I categorically dislike all bizarre magic. I haven’t seen very much. If someone came up with the right character with decent magical effects and they didn’t perform disgusting tricks then I might like their act.
Humans make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to create boredom. Quite astonishing.
- The character of ‘Death’ in the movie "Hogswatch"
Bill Palmer
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I don't actually classify myself as a bizarre magician, although I have published a book by one of the people considered to be one of the top men in the field. His name is Ulf Bolling. His stage name is Borodin. He is painfully aware of the situation with the average bizarrist. For one thing, he does not like gory magic at all. He also realizes that far too many bizarre presentations are long-winded and boring.

Bizarre magicians fall into two categories -- story magicians and ritualists. Story magicians can have a problem if they are not good story tellers. In bizarre story magic, the entertainment is about the story and the magic is either a small part of it or it is, in any case, secondary to the story. If the story teller is not skillful, he will bore the audience to tears. The story must be extremely well constructed, interesting, riveting (if possible) and most importantly, not too long. Then the magic should be excellent and flawless.

Ritualists, on the other hand, use trappings of Magick to present magic. They produce "phenomena" by means of magical special effects techniques. In these cases, a ritual, large or small, is performed, and something strange happens.

Borodin doesn't perform very often any more. He is 70 years old, and has retired from public performance. However, I did get to see him perform one of the items from his book, Sheherazade, when I was in Germany last November. He held an audience of about 100 tired German and Austrian magicians spellbound with a simple story about his late aunt Elise.

And at the end, her flute rose from its case and played a tune from the opera that the spectator had chosen.

However, Borodin was an actor before he began to study magic. He is as much a magician of the voice as he is a magician of the hands and mind -- a rare performer, indeed.

But some of the most famous ones are not nearly as entertaining as they think they are.
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Bill Palmer
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What "Bizarre Magic" isn't.

Some misguided souls think that if they combine long-winded patter with Tarot cards, any card trick will automatically become a "Bizarre" item.

Here is an example of what isn't bizarre:

During the last full moon, about 9:00 in the evening, I was strolling down a side street near one of the, shall we say, less affluent sections of town, and I happened upon small cottage with a sign "Tarot Reader" in the window. It was small and old, but neat. I entered the building, and was greeted by an old Gypsy woman, who asked if I wanted a reading. I replied that I did, and sat at the wobbly old table.

She opened a drawer and removed a pack of tarot cards, which were wrapped in a tattered blue silk scarf. She asked me to think of a question and shuffle the cards three times. I then cut them three times and she proceeded to deal out one, two, three, four, five, six cards.

She threw away one, two, three cards, and she still had one, two, three, four, five, six cards....
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Whit Haydn
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Smile
Payne
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Most magicians dislike Bizarre Magic because there isn't enough magic in it for their unrefined taste.
Your common Magician generally likes to see new tricks and moves not stories and presentations.
Curiously this is pretty much the exact same reason that many magicians loath Gospel magic as well.

Too much tale to not enough trick.

Bizarre magic's roots are more akin to the truly ancient art of storytelling than they are to modern prestidigitation.
Therefore the Bizzarest with his seemingly pointless presentations holds little interest to your typical move monkey who is desperately seeking his next magic fix.

Granted bizarre magic is not for everyone as the skill set required to properly present it is beyond the scope of your average finger flinger.
It can also be venue driven, often requiring a more controlled environment than one would find in your typical living room or, The God's forbid, family restaurant!

A more intimate setting is quite beneficial for many bizarre presentations. A small circle of supplicants is often more desirable than a theatre chuck full of devotees.

While many of my Brethren lean towards the dark side, preferring to venture into Lovecraftian realms, choosing the splendor of the Grand Guignol over that of yet another mindless variation on 3 Fly (unless of course the flies all meet a tragic and gruesome end) it does not have to reside there.

I myself was somewhat surprised when I was told that I was a Bizzarest. At that time I was doing a light hearted Mediaeval themed act. Granted I did (and still do) shove a sword through an innocent audience members neck. But I didn't call upon the powers of the Old Ones to do so.

I was however doing story based and plot driven magic which was more than enough to allow me to be initiated into the club.

Eugene Burger has stated that "the house of Magic has many rooms". Ours just happens to be decorated a little more eclectically than most peoples tastes.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Jonathan Townsend
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re '3fly' ^ bizzare (or not?)

i recently suggested to Bob Kohler that he might want to pretend the coins get HOT from their transit... and so drop them into a glass of water when they arrive.

needless to say the glass is full of very hot water, and the coins are less likely to be examined Smile

BTW, the original presentation is a bit bizzare. About coins 'looking in the direction they want to go'

* please be nice to my coins across *
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Whit Haydn
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Hi, Payne.

I enjoyed your performance at Kramian's, and would not have considered that bizarre magic either. As I said in my post, I have nothing against bizarre magic, except that I am not very fond of story magic, for many of the reasons Bill stated. I said that I am open-minded about the subject, but just hadn't seen anything I liked.

The bizarre magic I have seen pretty much deserves all of the criticism that has been leveled here. But by the same token, much of the close-up magic around today would not impress me all that much, either.

Bill's description of Borodin made me want to see him perform. Perhaps those of you who are into bizarre magic could name some of the best performers you have seen that I could keep an eye out for.

You said:

"Most magicians dislike Bizarre Magic because there isn't enough magic in it for their unrefined taste.
Your common Magician generally likes to see new tricks and moves not stories and presentations.
Curiously this is pretty much the exact same reason that many magicians loath Gospel magic as well.
Too much tale to not enough trick."

I would pretty much fall into this category. It is not necessarily the story telling, but the generally bad story telling that I have seen.

I am from Tennessee, and have gone to several story tellers conventions. I love good story telling. What I've seen so far just wasn't good story telling.

Besides that, I find that the magic is relegated to special effect or transitional device in these stories. That to me is not magic. I am not a big fan of Gospel magic, either, for the same reason.

I don't think magic needs to have "meaning" added to it. It has it's own meaning and purpose. I hate seeing my favorite rock music being used to sell jeans or cameras as well.

I have to admit, nevertheless, that just once I would love to work for "a small circle of supplicants," rather than the drunk and jaded crowds with which I have to make my living.
Payne
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Mr. Haydn
I concur, there is a lot of abhorrent Bizzare Magic in the world. But then there is a great deal of bad plain ol' magic out there as well.
For storytelling magic to work the presenter must in fact be skilled in the art of storytelling. A balance between the two mediums must be found. A good story may strengthen a weak trick but a strong trick will rarely save a weak story. A weak story combined with a weak trick, well let's just not go there.
It can also simply be a matter of expectations. A month or two ago Doc Hilford gave a lecture here in Seattle. It was very well received by those who attended and many felt it was one of the best lectures they had attended that year. A couple of weeks later Doc gave the same lecture in Cincinnati and we heard through the magic grape vine that many in attendance were none too pleased with the lecture and thought it a terrible waste of time and money. Same lecture, different groups, different expectations.
I am a fan of storytelling or plot driven magic and while I know it isn't everybody's cup of tea I like to think that I am rather good at it. The greatest compliments I get are from magicians who, after seeing me perform, tell me that they always hated what ever trick I performed until they saw me do it.
I enjoyed meeting you at Stan's and hope our paths cross again someday.

Payne
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Scott F. Guinn
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Bill,

VERY funny bit about the "Gypsy Six-Card Repeat!" I laughed out loud.

Payne,

I don't think it's because my "taste" is "unrefined" or because I need a "magic fix" that I don't care for bizarre magic. I saw a guy who is supposed to be one of the best bizzarists out there. He went on for 25 minutes to do a copper/silver transposition. Had his story been five minutes (the actual trick is about 5 seconds), it would have been engaging and entertaining. But by the time he got to the trick, no one cared. NO ONE! How do I know? Because after he left everyone said so! These were not magicians, they were laymen, who didn't know I was a magician, and who spoke freely about the act. The unanimous consensus was: BORING!

The problem I see is the same problem I see with most magicians, whether close up, platform, stage, bizarre or comedy. They think they are "too cool for the room" and if the audience didn't like it, that's because the audience just doesn't get it, or they aren't smart enough or they're too "unrefined." I don't buy that--not for one second. It is the AUDIENCE that the show is supposed to be for and about! NOT the performer!
"Love God, laugh more, spend more time with the ones you love, play with children, do good to those in need, and eat more ice cream. There is more to life than magic tricks." - Scott F. Guinn
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Paul Chosse
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Quote:
On 2003-09-05 20:14, Scott F. Guinn wrote:

The problem I see is the same problem I see with most magicians, whether close up, platform, stage, bizarre or comedy. They think they are "too cool for the room" and if the audience didn't like it, that's because the audience just doesn't get it, or they aren't smart enough or they're too "unrefined." I don't buy that--not for one second. It is the AUDIENCE that the show is supposed to be for and about! NOT the performer!


Hooray!

Best, PSC
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Bill Palmer
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Much truth is being spoken here.

Among my friends was the late Punx. He was a fine storyteller, but his presentations probably would not work now. They would probably be too long.

When I was at Borodin's house this past May, we watched one of his presentations which was videotaped 20 years ago. At that time, it was paced quite well, but Borodin feels that it is too slow-moving to work on modern television.

This is the case with a lot of the older bizarre magic. Some of it is just too slow. And some of its proponents, just not really good storytellers.

However, there ARE good storytellers out there doing very good magic. Van Cleve was one. He was the one who got me interested in that particular facet of the art.

But all of us must remember that times change and audiences change and storytellers must change with them.

I hate to give a blatant plug for Borodin's book, Sheherazade, but it has some really fine storytelling in it, along with some excellent bizarre magic.

And most of all, it gives you the key to how to do it, and what it takes to make it work.
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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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Whit Haydn
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A room full of suplicants...
Payne
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Quote:
On 2003-09-05 20:14, Scott F. Guinn wrote:
The problem I see is the same problem I see with most magicians, whether close up, platform, stage, bizarre or comedy. They think they are "too cool for the room" and if the audience didn't like it, that's because the audience just doesn't get it, or they aren't smart enough or they're too "unrefined." I don't buy that--not for one second. It is the AUDIENCE that the show is supposed to be for and about! NOT the performer!


"The entertainer gives the audience what it
wants - The artist gives the audience what it didn't know it wanted"
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Scott F. Guinn
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Quote:
On 2003-09-06 00:18, Payne wrote:
"The entertainer gives the audience what it
wants - The artist gives the audience what it didn't know it wanted"
But in each case, the audience did want it, and knew, at least after the fact, that they wanted it.

"The egocentric hack gives the audience what HE wants without regard to THEIR wants!"
"Love God, laugh more, spend more time with the ones you love, play with children, do good to those in need, and eat more ice cream. There is more to life than magic tricks." - Scott F. Guinn
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Whit Haydn
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I think there is a time and a place for everything. People go to the legitimate theater to be stretched, to grow and learn--to feel intensely and be made to think. That is what they expect, and that is what they are paying for.

The crowd at a nightclub wants something different. They are drinking and relaxing and want to have "fun." They want to pass some time in a way that makes them forget the troubles and hassles of the day. They don't want to think too hard, or be pushed and pulled in ways that require work on their part.

The first group is looking for an artist, the second for an entertainer. Both performers are valuable and even necessary. But the serious artist will have as rough a time in a nightclub as a bad act.

I think magicians can be either of these or both. But venue is everything.
montz
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It's refreshing to read a thread on bizarre magick that isn't just bashing it or praising it... It's nice to have both sides of the arguement.

I don't think that all magicians should be bizarrists, but I think that a spell (no pun intented) performing it can and would be very beneficial...

I know it was to me. When I demonstrate material that isn't bizarre (I DON'T do bizarre table hopping), I use what I learnt from bizarre magick... presentation, theatre, suspense.

There is a lot more to it than "freaking" spectators out with excessive amounts of blood and gore...

Or at least there should be.

Liam.
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