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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Boxes, tubes & bags » » Mike Caveney's Linking Coat Hangers (9 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Sealegs
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I really like the idea of doing the linking rings with coat hangers and I have taken part in a few of the threads about them here on the Café. The Hangers give a great context and framing for the effect and uses items that are familiar to the audience.

Over the years I've become a bit obsessed with this prop. It seems like it should be ripe for producing a magical and entertaining routine and I've spent many hours over many years working and playing with these props. Like most people who have played with these props I've found creating an effective routine a very hard objective to obtain. But I feel I'm getting closer to that goal.

In other threads here on the Café some have posted that the Hangers are, 'great for them' and gets, 'great reactions'. I'd like to believe this is true... and while it might well be the case and of course I have no way (or possibly basis) for refuting such claims I must admit I find such claims very hard to take at face value. Every performance that I have seen has been, at best, a bit of a damp squib. This includes performances of routines online that have been linked to in other threads and which have been described as, excellent, very entertaining, etc.

Here are some thoughts and conclusions I've come to about the Hangers,

Although coat hangers are familiar items to an audience the props used still look just different enough from any you'd normally encounter to arouse some form of... suspicion.. They look a like they might just actually be magicians' props. Because of this I think it's important to have something in the script to mitigate/explain their look. (I mention they come from a really upmarket hotel) I also think it's important for the audience to be given a casual opportunity to handle them. This allows it to be seen that the 'wire' can't be untwisted and re-twisted in some way and establishes them as regular hangers. Also, although a hanger forms a closed loop of metal it is known from experience that these are not actually permanently closed loops. Hangers can be untwisted. I feel it helps to have this idea addressed and dispelled and dismissed at the top of the routine. (A la Tamariz)

Unlike the Linking Rings, once the Coat Hangers have been linked, any further linking (or repeated linking and unlinking) adds no additional magic/interest/drama/mystery for the audience. The Coat Hangers don't have the beauty, simplicity or cleanliness of form, that the Rings have and which helps sustain interest in repeated linking and unlinking. Consequently, for the Hangers, the magical impact, if left uncompensated for, tends to diminish as the routine progresses.

Additionally, the entertainment/comedic factor that derives from the visuals of using coat hangers happens just once when they are first brought into play.... and that's it. After that they are just the things you are using for the routine. A really good entertaining script to accompany the actions is vital. (and in all the routines I've seen is generally lacking)

The hacksaw that comes with the Linking Coat Hangers, as a comedic tool for the routine, also provides (in my opinion) very limited comedic value. I feel it looks a bit too contrived and even a bit dated as a comedic ploy. It's hard for it not to look like a bit of a desperate and clumsy bid for laughs.

So... with all that taken into consideration, here's what I've got my routine down to.

I introduce the Hangers (gets a reaction) and hand one out to someone.
Take it back and hook two Hangers together as an obvious a 'cod' linking. (gets a reaction)
Then all 4 link instantly into a chain of 4. (This is a surprising, startling, magically strong moment that gets applause. It's the first time any of the hangers link)
One Hanger visibly passes through another (without unlinking from it) to give a chain or two and a single on one.
Then without bringing specific attention to the small action that causes it, all 3 end up on one.
2 Hangers are unlinked, one at a time as per Caveney's original routine.
The last two linked Hangers are given to the spectator, and they hold up one while the other is still linked to it.... and you simply appear to lift one, slowly, and gently, completely clear from the other to end.

So there's no linking and unlinking repeated at all. The Hangers link together only once (into a chain of 4) and that's it. Other penetrations aren't interspersed with any of the unlinking. The unlinking of the Hangers is done to return them to their useable, original state and it therefore makes sense to do. The final unlink looks and feels so different from anything else in the routine that works as a full stop and applause generating final moment for an ending that happens in the hands of one of the audience and leaves them holding one of the Hangers.

Well that's it. I have had to develop my own ways to link and unlinking the Hangers for this routine. It incorporates two unlinks from the original instructions and that's it. Of course it's the script that drives the actions and creates the basis for the entertainment within the routine. This part is still a work in progress... but for the first time I feel The Hangers are getting close warrant a place in my repertoire.

I'd be interested to hear any comments about your thoughts, or on my thoughts, about the Hangers, or the structure of the routine I've come up with.
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
0pus
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I have always liked the look of the coat hangers, and thought that they would appropriate particularly for kids.

I think that the coat hangers are best used in a comedic context.

I think that the coat hangers are best on stage, but might be OK in a living room standup situation.

I think that the coat hangers should be introduced obliquely, and not like, “I will now perform the mystery of the linking rings, but with coat hangers.”

So here is what I have been thinking: Many kid magicians ‘dress up’ their helpers. The put tuxedos, artist smocks, fairy costumes and chef outfits on them. My thoughts were to have those costumes hung on a rolling rack onstage.

Something like this:
https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Houseware-......oal+rack

The dress up outfits will be hung on matching hangers, something like this:
https://www.amazon.com/Hangerworld-Extra......c=detail

I was able to obtain an almost exact match of the Caveney coat hangers at Bed Bath and Beyond several years ago, but I think the hangers I bought are not available there anymore, and I also think that Caveney’s coat hangers look a little different today from what they looked like several years ago. The idea is to use a bunch of matching non-gimmicked hangers.

Use the rack and costumes throughout your show and then get to a point where you are introducing your next trick – a sleight of hand tour de force for which you have to remove your jacket to show that there is nothing up your sleeve. Grab a hanger off the rack for your coat, try to put your jacket on the hanger and notice that it is linked to another one. Attempt to unlink the hangers and off you go into the routine, which I always envisioned as borrowing very heavily from Topper Martyn’s.
Sealegs
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Hi Opus, I don't do kids shows so my post was made with the context of stage/cabaret shows. But thanks for posting.
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
0pus
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I think my suggestion was not necessarily limited to kid shows.

You just need a legitimate reason for having a coat rack with hangers on it onstage.

One rationale might be that you have your cabaret show broken into segments that are defined by your wearing different jackets/sweaters. So you might have biker/in their faces magic segment and you wear a black leather jacket. Then you might have a more relaxed set and you wear a smoking jacket or cardigan. Then a set where you wear an army jacket. Etc.

To divide these segments you doff the current jacket and don the next one. During one of these changing phases the hangers link and mayhem erupts. I am not sure I would use the hacksaw, but I would look to the thumb tie effects for the hangers getting linked onto chairs, button holes, the mike stand, etc., etc., a la Topper. Again, this is played for comedy.

I do not think the hangers play best for "serious" magic - they really aren't a "serious" prop. Kind of like doing mentalism with galoshes - no one will take that seriously.
Sealegs
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I could understand using this trick if the set up for the show was you describe, with various jackets for different sections of the show and a clothes rack to hang them on. But it doesn't make that much sense to me to try and arrange an entire stage setting and show structure to accommodate the possible contextual shortcomings of one particular effect. That's a huge amount of trouble to go to for a trick that's struggling, as it is, to warrant it's place in a show on its own merits.

Certainly though I think the Hangers lend themselves towards a non serious presentation. I think that's a given. But while the lend themselves to it they don't provide as much ammunition for such a presentation as might first be thought. The script has to really drive the action and the entertainment as the magic and the comedy that's intrinsically built into the props is actually fairly minimal.
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
Bill Hegbli
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This is another attempt to discuss the linking coat hangers. I believe I mentioned Previously that, I purchased the Hangers do to Mike Caveney's reputation for unique magic effects. I worked on the Hangers and presented it several times. It fell flat on all occasions. I thought audience members would relate to those troublesome hangers they all have in their closets. I was wrong, usually comedians get great responses for audiences when their material is relatable to themselves. Many years later I seen Mike Caveney at Abbott's GTG convention. It did not go over so well their either with a mixed audience of magicians and lay people. I sold off my set shortly there after.

That is why I previously mentioned Whit Haydn's routine, as the comedy comes from the spectator smart enough to show each ending sequence. The rings are not humorous either, but the mystery of the linking is an added feature that puzzles audiences. I believe the shape of the hangers, confuses the moment of linking, and is not as open and fair looking as with the rings. Maybe the gimmick is not made correctly for the hangers to work with an audience member.

Sealegs, being you are very zany in your act, maybe if you wheel out a rack of hangers and have problem with them as can happen in real life, it will connect with the audience more, to continue with the routine and patter.

Here is your previous posts: http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......art=20#6
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chmara
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I feel each of the above misses one major ingrdient in the presentation. It is NOT the linking and inlinking thagt is importance, nor is it the utility of a hanger.

It IS, however, the presentation and timing of the verbal with the linking, uinlinking and formation of the patterns. MNr. Caveney started dfoing this as a naive looking load -- and now Mr, Caveney can still do them well and briong joy to the audience. It is his premise, patter and not just link and unlink work that makes the routine classic. He commends, to others, the idea they develop their own patter and routine -- which IS hard work.

To me, there is nothing as boring as a regular magician doing linking rings. Even the dynamic approach (in your face) of Jeff McBride still leads me to feeling like I am watching someone practicing putting on a golf course -- I would prefer something new and innovative.

I must confess that I do also use rings -- but not eh classics style -- I use Quadro Vicious linking barbed wire rings. With these I make a prisoner escape an item of patter.

SO, as Caveney askes, where DO dry cleaners get their hangers?
Gregg (C. H. Mara) Chmara

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C. H. Mara Illusion & Psychic Entertainments
Sealegs
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Hi Bill, This is indeed another attempt to create a discussion about the Linking Hangers and it's good to have your input. Smile Didn't I mentioned that I was a bit obsessed with them in my OP? Smile

Thanks too for the link to the previous thread. I did several searches before starting this thread looking for that because I thought I might just add onto it. I found and read through pages of threads but strangely couldn't find that one even though I knew it was out there. But maybe having a separate thread is better as (even though this segues well from that one you linked to) it shows the final process of thought that has got me to the routine I am doing now. That's why I listed, in my opening post, the conclusions about the underlying things that I felt I needed to be addressed to make a routine work for me and also discuss what I did to address them. I posted here hoping that this partial victory might help others who have spent money on this prop and found they can't get anything out of it.

Bill, you obviously found some of the same issues too. Maybe I should have sold my set on like you did. A friend suggested to me some years ago, after one of many failed outings with the Hangers, that the best thing I could do is take the tin-snips to them!!! But my obsession with them wouldn't let me give up with them.... and I feel the time I've put into them might finally be close to paying off for me.

Your suggestion of incorporating Whit's brilliant presentational ploy with them is an excellent possible solution to making them work both magically and as an entertaining routine. In fact the least dull, of the many, 'not so great' routines that I found online was by someone who had done just that. But it's not a solution that suits me as I have a policy that I don't get people up on the stage with me. I think it has other potential problems too as the Hangers are almost bound to get badly bent out of shape at some point by someone trying to forcibly pull them apart.

And while I agree, Bill, that the Hangers are not as clean in their form as the Rings, I don't think the moment they link together is particularly confusing. In fact in previous routines I always found the first link of 2 Hangers registered ok and wasn't at all confusing. However after that initial link, unlike the Rings, I found the the magic effect of any further linking and unlinking sequences to be practically zero. That's why I developed a routine that starts with an instantaneous link of 4 separate Hangers into a chain of 4 and as far as the linking of the hangers within the routine goes, that's it.

My 'act as known' could I guess be characterised as being zany. Its not a term I would use but I can see it fits. But I've been doing it so long that I know exactly who the character is on stage and my particular type of zany doesn't include slap stick or ever being a victim of the magic. So getting the Hangers tangled up on me would definitely not fit. But its mentioning these sorts of things that is exactly the kind of discussion I was hoping to elicit. Your's and Opus' suggestions might well give inspiration and help to others (and me) who might be struggling with making these (or maybe other) props work for them.

Chmara: Thanks for the reminder of the importance of the script/presentation. I wrote in my OP, "Of course it's the script that drives the actions and creates the basis for the entertainment within the routine." So scripting wasn't being been ignored. The script/presentation and the actions of a routine of course work in tandem. They both have to serve any routine. Mike Caveney says himself that the Hangers aren't as magical as the Rings. That's an issue that I've been trying to address. As Bill noted too, the Hangers just don't make the audience feel they're seeing something magical during sequences of being linked and unlinked. As the Rings don't have this same deficit the props themselves must play a part in this. That's why I've been looking at what physically happens with the Hangers and I feel I managed to identified any physical reasons as to why they have this issue and work around and with these traits to give a series of actions that allows the Hangers to realise the potential that those that have purchased them obviously feel they have. For me, all this work does represent something new and innovative.

And while I certainly agree that there's nothing as boring than watching a 'regular' magician doing the Linking Rings I would extend that to include anything that a 'regular' magician might perform... but as regular here equates to me as, 'bad' I'm not sure I can get anything from that as it's simply saying badly presented magic is uninteresting.

Oh, and I think dry cleaners get their hangers from wholesalers. Smile
Neal Austin

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Eugene Chekhov
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Https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGpq5cg8CuA

I like this kind of hangers - unlike metal hangers. Someone has experience with them?
I love the magic & history of magic! My favorites magicians - Dai Vernon, Max Malini, Fielding West, Michael Finney, Jeff Hobson, Bob Sheets, Nick Lewin, Harry Murphy, Dick Oslund- great showmen of magic!
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Sealegs
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I can't see why people would have less experience of metal hangers than they would of plastic ones. Smile

There are positives and negatives associated with these particular plastic hangers. The notion of plasticity for instance certainly doesn't help add to the psychology of the deception. They also look really cheap... and while using 'everyday objects' can help add to the deception these look too cheap for my liking. Also the 3 single set doesn't allow for the same range of possibilities as Caveney's Hangers.

What is potentially a good point about them is, unlike metal hangers, they do form a 'welded' closed loop.

As part of my endeavour to explore the Hangers I came across these hangers while looking into posting this thread. What's more I actually ordered a set of them yesterday!! I have no intention of using them but I just want to experiment with them. You never know what something different might bring to the table.

It sparked the idea of playing around with having different hangers. Caveney's and these which I also own... and maybe one of the plastic ones or even an ordinary wooden one too.
Neal Austin

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Eugene Chekhov
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You are right, you need to try to work with both metal and plastic.
I'm just interested in the experience of people with plastic hangers.
To be honest - I do not like this trick.
If I understand correctly, Mike created it in the 80's. Yes, for that time it was an explosion. But today people know the principle of linking rings. Everyone is watching programs exposing magic. Therefore - I would use it as a humorous gag, not trying to create a hoax. But this is my personal opinion - I'm glad that the magicians see this situation differently.
I love the magic & history of magic! My favorites magicians - Dai Vernon, Max Malini, Fielding West, Michael Finney, Jeff Hobson, Bob Sheets, Nick Lewin, Harry Murphy, Dick Oslund- great showmen of magic!
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~
I saw only one magician - who made this routine as good as Mike, if you're interested in PM me. I'll post a link to the video.
~
I love the magic & history of magic! My favorites magicians - Dai Vernon, Max Malini, Fielding West, Michael Finney, Jeff Hobson, Bob Sheets, Nick Lewin, Harry Murphy, Dick Oslund- great showmen of magic!
*
Eugene_Chekhov@yahoo.com
Bill Hegbli
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Those plastic hangers look workable, far more then Caveney's routine. All the videos have some good ideas on the handling and linking.

Only problem with the steel hangers, is it would be very difficult to gimmick them when making the linked hangers.

I believe part the problem with the Caveney hangers is them being made from aluminum hangers.

Very good to see the hangers routine may just have a future, that is if they don't do away with cloths hangers in the future.
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Pete Biro
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I actually made linking hangers, gave sets to Terry Seabrooke and Fred Kaps, kept one set. Caveney credited me, making his from same hangars that I used. Smile
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hugmagic
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Here is the basic problem with coat hangers...it doesn't play for kids. I tried and tried to get a reaction. The adults loved it but the kids could care less. Then it hit me the kids never hang anything up on a hanger so why would they associate with it.
As for problems with the aluminum coat hangers, I never had any. One thing I did do was file a small groove in the hacksaw on the end opposite the handle so when I do the last removal of the hanger it tends to stay on better.
Mike's routine is solid and tough to improve on.
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Bill Hegbli
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What I am speaking of with the aluminum hangers is that when hangers are linked, or the saw is linked, it pulls heavily on the opening gimmick. It is therefore more difficult to handle the gimmick. I was always worried that it could bend the gimmick out of shape. So I never left it dangling very long.
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Sealegs
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I don't find the aluminium Hangers of Caveney's give me that issue at all Bill. And the routine I have been working on doesn't have me holding the hangers near the gimmicked part of the Hangers for either the linking or the 'displays'. It allows for very open handling and I'm perfectly confident the props behave as they ideally should.

You do have to make sure that there is the right amount of 'spring' to the key before you start so that it leaves no trace of itself before during or after any linking or unlinking. But again I've not found that an issue and I don't have to make any readjustment of the 'spring' until I've worked a routine a good 30 or more times. And even then the adjustment is very minimal to get it to the perfect 'springiness'.

I just received the plastic coloured linking hangers this afternoon. They are actually made surprisingly well. They handle slightly differently from the other versions and their mechanics is also slightly different. The hangers have been very well chosen so as to hide how they function and the gimmicking has been done surprisingly well.
Neal Austin

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Sealegs
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One of the solid plastic hangers just broke in the action of linking two of them together. Smile Smile Smile Smile Smile
Neal Austin

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Harry Patter
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I'm planning on using my Coat Hangers for the first time next week.

I have had them years but really struggled with a script and routine. For me it is important to remember why I bought them in the first place. I did find Caveney's routine very entertaining and amusing when I saw it along time ago now.

Unlike the rings they do not lend themselves to a beautiful routine, but more a comedy, frustration almost magician in trouble scenario. That is the way I am going. Hasn't everyone had hangers tangled before?

So unintentional linking and wardrobe/ bedroom humour, is the path I have taken.
Sealegs
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Best of luck with it Harry Patter. My experience both from performing and seeing the Hangers being performed, is that the 'tangled hangers', 'Magician in trouble' scenario is a very thin vein from which to extract an unentertaining routine. It can make, perhaps, for one solitary, and very brief, moment within a routine, but making it the premise or backbone of the entire routine is, I think, extremely,,,,, ambitious.

This is one set of props where the comedy content seems to need to be layered onto and around the props rather than it being something that stems from the props themselves. But there are no golden rules so fully you'll have a good outcome to report bucket us. Smile
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
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