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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Periods & styles of Magic » » Old Timers...what was it like? (30 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Doug Higley
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V.I.P.
Here and There
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I got into magic and did my first shows over 50 years ago in 1964. There was Tannen's, where I bought my stuff. There was Robert Nelson's wonderful catalog. Occasionally there was a 'convention'. It was NY City but I lived on Staten Island away from the hubbub...so I was on my own which added to having to come up with a lot of original ideas. I got $50 for kid's parties and did the occasional Showcase in the 'city', Charity shows for the elderly etc. By 1965 I had a flock of Doves. In the later 60's I met the great Mario Manzini at Ringling's and he taught me a few Escape gags...which I turned into a Night Club Escape act in '67 which most likely sucked but was fun to do. Being somewhat of a loner, I didn't hang out with Magicians or absorb 'the scene'. That was the Beginning...there was more...Smile
What was it like? Wonderful!
Higley's Doug's Museum
malaki
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490 Posts

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Before the Internet, it was certainly a time that required more effort to learn magic, or research it, for that matter. That is why it took me 10 years to compile and publish my first book, "A Timeline of Magic".

I learned magic more than 40 years ago, and was fortunate enough to be taught by a mentor, who's dominate hand was the opposite of mine. Watching him was like looking into a mirror, with the same results when I was practicing at home!

In the 1970s, in Oklahoma City, there were few magic books in the library, and even fewer magic stores. Hecklers was the first magic/joke/costume shop that I ever visited. Tucked away in the back corner was the magic counter, usually with a magician standing behind it, with all of the pretty apparatus that I could not afford. Many times I would buy a cheap version of an effect, then go home and build a proper one that fit my style. I also met many a wonderful magician on my visits, including my good friend, Steve Crawford. It was also through Hecklers that I learned where and when the local IBM club met.

It was due to the rarity of magical books that I started building my magical library, for books were, and are the best value for your money. Basically, I would make the rounds of the book stores, pouncing on any magic book that had made it to the shelves, that another magician had not yet snagged. This is how I found Dunninger's publications, the hard bindings of which I nearly wore out from thumbing through, trying to find the items I had seen before (Morticia: "Is there an index or table of contents?" Lurch, shaking his head: "MMMMM..." The Adams Family). I spent nearly all of my "disposable income" on books (and some not-so-disposable income), building the collection that now takes up one entire 6" long, 8' tall book case for just the conjuring and theatrical books (another of the same size for the books on natural magic and history). I have never been known for having an eidetic memory, but I can usually picture the page of what I am looking for, just not well enough to "read" it from memory.

When I first got a computer (Windows 95), I was astounded at the abilities of the search engines online.

The development of You Tube is both a godsend and a curse to the magical community. It was a very valuable resource for seeing the performances of some of magic's greats when researching to build a new C&B act. Google lent a helpful hand when searching for period terminology for my Medieval style. Like anything else, the Internet is a double edged sword. In many aspects, it is the "Yellow Perils" of our age.

I do find it amusing, though, when I am talking with folks, and discover that they are googling the subject or a term of which I am speaking...
drmolarmagic
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Brooklyn NY
120 Posts

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20 years ago When I started busking I would spend every free minute hanging with a busker named Chappy Brazil (a watch steal expert and great street performer- we lost him too young) in Washington Square Park. I would hang out a Tannen's spend all my money on books as recommended by the people who worked there and then every Saturday go to Reuben's Deli to hang with the NYC magicians and sit there wide eyed learning by watching. As I got to know the attendees and got the nerve up to work in front of them I would get advice and critiques (to put it nicely) and I worked very hard to become proficient at my craft. Great times and met lots of magicians and a few of us who were the young kids hanging out in the corners trying to learn are still friends to this day and go to the magician hangouts after work and on days off.....all before the internet.....kind of miss that vibe
Bruce
Dick Oslund
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Inner circle
8180 Posts

Profile of Dick Oslund
I booked my first (real) show at the local Jr. High School on October 24, 1945. I tell about it in detail in my book, "Dick Oslund--Road Scholar". It was a school assembly (45 minutes). I booked it on a percentage deal (50/50). Admission was ten cents! I made $24.00 in 45 minutes! Pretty good money for a 13 year old! A cup of coffee was a nickel, then!

All thru high school, my buddies were bagging groceries, or moving lawns (with a "push" mower) for 50 cents an hour. I was getting ten to twenty bucks for my little little show!

My parents took me and my sister to Milwaukee (about a six your drive) to see HARRY BLACKSTONE SENIOR at the old Davidson Theater, in November of '45. (I had "died and gone to heaven!!!) I got to meet Mr. B. backstage! It was the beginning of a "lifelong" friendship!

Now, retired, after a lifetime of performing coast to coast and, border to border, I'm busy, mentoring, and, enjoying the memories!
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
HenryleTregetour
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Dick wrote:
I made $24.00 in 45 minutes! Pretty good money for a 13 year old!

Actually that's not that bad today ($32.00/hour), especially considering minimum wage.

Have a great holiday, Dick.

Henry
Stephon Johnson
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Arkansas (WooPigSooie!)
442 Posts

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I discovered magic in mid 70s when I met a couple friends at a new school.
I learned everything they would teach. I bought all books in the Novel rack at Ben Franklin store. I got Bill Severn’s “Big Book of Magic” and Henry Hay’s “Amateur Handbook of Magic” and everything else in the Library! The Magic Magazine was in Walmart’s magazine rack and ordered a catalog from Magic & Fun in NY. TV Specials from Copperfield and Henning, so I was always busy learning, performing and mowing lawns to make money to buy more things.

I was never overwhelmed with information like it is today. I think I would lose my mind to be a newbie in Magic and see all the flood of products, videos, and trick of the week!
I feel lucky to have a very limited flow of information in my early years. Because of that, I had to work and work on basics available from Classic experts! I got a great foundation that way.
In the early late 70s into 80s I found a group of magicians to meet including Bob Sanders who definitely befriended and mentored me. I also joined IBM Ring 75 and met Bill Pitts and other great magicians.
In 1982 I rode 2-1/2 hours to attend my first lecture with a fellow that I didn’t know, and he transformed my magic thinking...Eugene Burger! I had been focused on standup/Parlor type magic (Billiards, Rings, Silks, Card Fans) but Eugene changed me into a Closeup Magician for the rest of my life!
It was a great time to learning magic, and NO internet, NO videos, NO instant downloads! 😃
WHAT IF you wake up tomorrow with only the things that you thank God for today?
HenryleTregetour
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Stephon wrote:
"I was never overwhelmed with information like it is today. I think I would lose my mind to be a newbie in Magic and see all the flood of products, videos, and trick of the week!"

Speaking as a perpetual newbie, I absolutely agree with you there. I see so many good tricks out there that it is hard to focus on a core of solid, fundamental ones. And choosing which sources of information to select is daunting as well. When is too much too much?

Maybe the problem is the new magician is more trick oriented than fundamentals oriented.

Stephon wrote:
"It was a great time to learning magic, and NO internet, NO videos, NO instant downloads!"

True enough, but at least they are something. But many of us live out in the magic "sticks," and finding a face-to-face mentor is harder than finding a needle in the woods. As a fellow Arkansan I am sure you would agree there.

Woo, Pig, Sooie back.

HLT
drmolarmagic
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Brooklyn NY
120 Posts

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Henry Hay’s “Amateur Handbook of Magic” was my first magic book when I got back into it in HS. But my interest predates that by a few years as I did find a photo in my parent's basement of me holding up a magic set I got one Chanukah, the same year I saw "THE MAGIC SHOW" on Broadway....
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