A grumpy magician who wears a dragon suit!

These days, John Van der Put is best-known as Piff the Magic Dragon. He’s a magician with an onstage persona that is somewhere between grumpy, irritating and disinterested. If you’ve seen him on TV, you’d remember him. He wears a satin dragon costume and is accompanied by a Chihuahua – Mr. Piffles, who has his own dragon suit – and a showgirl named Jade Simone.

Clearly, it’s an image that has been successful for him. He has a long-term contract with the Flamingo Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. And when he’s not there, he’s on the road. On Sept. 15, his wide-ranging travels bring him to the Rising Star Casino in Rising Sun, Indiana, for a single 8 p.m. performance.

It wasn’t always this way. Oh, the glum, moody attitude was always there. But his magic acts weren’t always such a big hit. For the better part of a decade, Van der Put performed at bar mitzvahs, corporate gatherings and weddings.

But there was a problem. People really didn’t like his act.

“Everyone hated it,” says Van der Put, speaking by phone from his home in London, “I would get fired all the time. It certainly wasn’t successful.”

When he started doing illusions, around the age of 14, he dreamed of a glorious career as a master magician.

“But it was just a hobby when I was younger,” he says. “It was something to fill the time. Then it became a job. Then it became something I could to do avoid having a job.”

The turning point – there has to be a turning point to his misery, right – came when he was invited to a holiday costume party. He didn’t have a clue about what to wear. But his sister happened to have a dragon suit in the closet. He was desperate, so he borrowed it and headed for the party.

When he arrived, he was the only one wearing a costume. He could have turned around and left. But hey, what’s a little more ridicule when you’re already feeling low?

“Since it was a Christmas party, I told everyone I was rein-dragon,” he recalls. So what did people think? “I don’t really want to know the answer.”

In an odd way, though, he found the experience liberating. He could be just as testy as he wanted and no one got angry with him. Indeed, everyone was amused. For a terminally disgruntled guy, this was a dream come true.

“When I found out I could re-invent what I was doing, I had a lot of fun,” says the 38-year-old Van der Put. “Basically, putting on a dragon outfit allowed me to say anything I want. Now I’m doing the show 400-500 times a year.”

When you do a show that often, though, there are bound to be audience members here and there who are frustrating. Or worse. But even that is OK.

“Now, I can say what I feel,” he says. “Instead of being fired for saying sarcastic things, I get to turn it into humor. It’s really quite amazing. When I had to do someone’s wedding, I couldn’t say these things. Now, people can’t wait for it.”

So, having unleashed this new vein of mocking wit, who is it who is attracted to his shows? And to his humor?

“Mostly, I aim for the people who don’t like magic,” he says. “You know – if you hate magic, come see Piff the Magic Dragon. I’ll turn you around.”

Source – cincinnati.com…

Branson magician brings show to Pittsburg

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Reza Borchardt, like most professional illusionists, was seduced by magic at a very early age. After witnessing his first magic show at the age of 6, he was conducting his own shows less than a year later, wowing his fellow classmates.

“I was an entrepreneur from day one; it was in my blood,” he said, who performs under the professional name of Reza. “Because of that drive, I was always able to make it a profession in the sense that I never had to get a real job.”

“However, it took me over a decade of constant dedication before I started achieving any type of huge success, so it definitely wasn’t overnight.”

Though he performs 100 annual shows at The Starlite Theatre in Branson, he loves to take to the road when he can, performing roughly another 100 shows “in other parts of the world.” Reza will be performing two live shows, the first at 6 p.m. and the second at 8 p.m., on Saturday at Kansas Crossing Casino in Pittsburg. This will be his second show in Southeast Kansas; he previously performed at the Pittsburg State University’s Bicknell Center for the Arts.

He has purposely steered clear of cliched acts such as “rabbits inside hats,” as he calls it, which is symbolic of magic acts of yesteryear.

“I don’t spend a lot of time practicing, but I spend a ton of time creating, developing and designing,” Reza said. “My brain is wired to constantly take ideas from the world around us and apply it to new ideas for the show. I think that might be what allows me to connect to audiences. The magic revolves around objects that we can all relate to, like power tools and spray paint, rather than sparkly boxes that don’t exist in our day-to-day lives.”

Voted Branson’s “Magician of the Year” in 2016, he has appeared before millions on television, from MTV to the A&E channel. In 2017, he appeared on an episode of “Duck Dynasty.” Earlier this year, he appeared on “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.”

His show, “Edge of Illusion,” is a high-energy production that Reza designed to connect with the audience on a personal level.

“The live show incorporates a lot of different types of magic and allows me to change the set list on a nightly basis, both to keep it fresh for myself and for those that come back and see the show over and over,” he said. “One moment, it might feel like a high energy rock concert as I’m passing through the spinning blades of an industrial fan. The next moment, I might be in the middle of the audience doing magic with an Oreo cookie. I try to strike a balance between the tricks people expect to see and the totally unexpected.”


A Comedy Magic Show

Comedy and magic, magic and comedy. The two are made for one another. Tricks can be hilarious as well as awe-inspiring, and a few laughs can help a magician distract an audience, diverting their attention away from the trick.

David Eliot mixes magic and comedy with aplomb, joking with the audience while spinning out tricks: card tricks, sleight of hand, catching flying objects in ways that would seem impossible.

The Kingston, Ont., native (a fact that elicited a lot of laughs, “Always the appropriate reaction to Kingston) brings his street performance into a stage setting, allowing him to try out new tricks and a fun new setup. His opening trick (which I won’t spoil) was both hilarious and amazing. I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking about the trick, wondering how exactly he did it.

It’s what makes the best magicians, tricks that seem impossible and keep you thinking, keep you running it through in your head.


Howard Thurston, the Magician Who Disappeared

A woman rose in mid-air. Cards hovered, and a box of candy became a rabbit. A horse and rider vanished, floating away as if in a dream, spangles sparkling in audiences’ eyes. At the magician Howard Thurston’s show, the world flouted nature. Through it all, the audience felt Thurston’s affection. Dale Carnegie included Thurston in his famed self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People, because Thurston had told Carnegie that before every show, he stood behind the curtain, saying over and over, “I love my audience.”

In the 20th century’s first decades, Howard Thurston thrilled people with his own brand of stage magic, a giant production requiring 40 tons of equipment. Today, he’s all but forgotten, eclipsed in history by his contemporary Harry Houdini, even though Houdini was more of an escape artist than a magician. But in his day, Thurston was the best. “It’s sort of like the hype of everybody that wanted to see Hamilton,” says Rory Feldman, a magician with a Thurston collection of more than 65,000 pieces. “Thurston—that’s what it was.”

Born in Ohio, in 1869, Thurston had a rough childhood that included some time riding the rails. While contemporary accounts reported that he’d been training for the ministry when he decided upon magic, biographer Jim Steinmeyer says that the young Thurston was a near-criminal who escaped institutionalization by saying he had found religion. Steinmeyer unearthed correspondence between authorities about the high-school aged Thurston. “It’s kind of jaw-dropping what they write about this kid,” he says. “They say ‘If you don’t take him, he’s at the end of his game.’ And ‘I really think this guy is redeemable, but he’s the roughest case I’ve ever seen.’” Thurston overcame those early trials, hiding his background to become, by the time he reached his early 30s, a stage magician whose success rested in part on his gentlemanly demeanor, what Steinmeyer calls his “bank president” grandeur.

In his white tie and tails, Thurston performed incredible tricks. One, called the “Rising Card,” started with an audience member choosing certain cards, as if for a regular card trick. But expectations turned upside down when Thurston put the deck into a glass goblet. He would then call up certain cards—the king of spades, the ten of clubs—and they would rise two feet in the air, into his hands. The dazzling end was when all 52 cards were thrown, serially, into the audience. One reporter wrote that they fluttered to audience members “like beautiful butterflies.”

Audiences of the ’10s and ’20s loved magic. Many vaudeville shows included magic acts. Thurston inherited the “mantle of magic” from Harry Kellar, who popularized the floating woman illusion, or the “Levitation of Princess Karnac.” Thurston added Ziegfeld-inspired touches to his show, like gaudy costumes for his assistants. And he closely observed European magicians he encountered, as Steinmeyer writes, especially those at London’s Egyptian Hall, where the most accomplished magicians gathered.

Howard Thurston Magician – Continue Reading …

The street magic of India once captivated the world, including Harry Houdini himself

n 1893, years before he made his name as a legendary escapologist, a 19-year-old Harry Houdini sought to entertain visitors at the Chicago World Fair. So he darkened his face with makeup, put on a white robe, and posed as a “Hindu fakir.”

Houdini was capitalizing on the growing fascination with the mysticism and magic of India which had sparked what one commentator described as a “fakir invasion” in the West. Indeed, he was following in the footsteps of many Western magicians who gave themselves titles like “The Fakir of Shimla” and “Fakir of Jeypoor.” These artistes dressed up in outlandish outfits, muddled together tricks from across the world, and passed them all off as Indian.

“…Science was able to explain everything, yet the East held out the promise that there were things out there that might not be explicable, that there might be a place where real magic existed. So Western magicians were very keen to exploit this belief,” said John Zubrzycki, the Australian author of the new book, Jadoowallahs, Jugglers and Jinns.

In the book, Zubrzycki traces the rich social, cultural, and political history of the art of magic in India. He explores its close connection with spiritualism and the changing roles of the country’s traditional nomadic street magicians, jugglers, and acrobats, once ubiquitous in Indian cities.

The author first visited India in the late 1970s and witnessed his first Indian street magic performance in West Bengal’s Alipurduar district: An old man and a young boy performed the classic basket trick—a child enters a small cane basket and appears to be stabbed repeatedly, only to re-emerge miraculously unhurt.

It wasn’t until decades later, when Zubrzycki was working on his second book about a diamond trader in Shimla who dabbled in magic tricks, that he thought of tracing the history of the art in India.

Zubrzycki has spent the past three years hunting down hard-to-find journals of Indian magic and meeting local magicians to hear about their lives and pore over their personal artefacts. His research took him from archives in Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata to London, Cambridge, New York, and Washington DC, where the Library of Congress hosts Houdini’s vast collection of books on spiritualism, magic, and witchcraft, which include many references to India.

He found that the enduring idea of India as a mystical place has its roots in the 6th century BC when historians, geographers, missionaries, pilgrims, and royal chroniclers began presenting the region as “a land of strange beasts and fantastical races, ascetics and saints, soothsayers and snake charmers, wonder-workers and necromancers.” Read more