Thursday, July 03, 2008

MAGIC: Metamorphoses

Mark Evanier is running a series of articles over at his daily blog, detailing the comeback of the magic act, The Pendragons. It's a heart-warming tale that involves Arthur Pendragon's recovery from a training accident that results in him getting impaled by an arrow. The scare is VERY impressive. At any rate, Evanier has opined that the Pendragons' version of the magical trick, Metamorphosis, is the best he's seen. Not the least of reasons is that Charlotte Pendragon changes costumes mid-trick.

By the way, you probably have seen Metamorphosis performed if you've watched any magic at all. Magician puts assistant into a bag inside a locked wooden box. Magician bounds to the top of the box and raises a four-sided shroud above his or her head and then immediately drops it. Standing there is the assistant. They go into the box and into the bag and it's there that we find the magician. The fastest metamorphosis on record from the time the shroud goes up until it comes down to reveal the switch is something under a second. It is ALWAYS impressive.

Today, Evanier added to the thread by showing a Doug Henning version of the trick. He still thinks the Pendragons do it better. But that's why there's vanilla and chocolate ice cream. And in this case, I prefer Henning's version. And part of the reason is that I was there when the clip in the YouTube video was being filmed!

Yeah, back in the late 70's, The Magic Show was hot on Broadway. Canuck Henning was this little chipmunk of a fellow who managed to take a lot of mystery out of magic and replace it with whimsy instead. Little kids (and little kids at heart) flocked to his shows, making him probably the English-speaking world's most popular magician at the time. They eventually decided to make a movie out of The Magic Show and they filmed a lot of it here in Toronto. Ken Koyama and I decided to take in a taping of the show, for which tickets were very moderately priced, less than ten bucks. The reason for the cheap price was that it wasn't ACTUALLY The Magic Show, it was a taping of segments.

Anybody who's ever been on a film shoot knows that there is a LOT of waiting on set. This was no different. Some material would be repeated multiple times, others were done in one. Very few segments lasted longer than three or four minutes. After which, the director would yell "Cut!" and the cameras would be reloaded with new film. All told, I think we were there for four hours, and probably saw 40 minutes of actual magic.

That was okay with me. I loved Henning's take on magic. And his Guest Star assistant was Didi Conn, who I had a crush on. Plus, it was fascinating to watch the whole process (for about the first hour, hour and a half). I would learn much more about the movie set life later, but back then it was new and fresh.

And I figured out one trick.

THAT made it all worthwhile. I KNOW people want to believe in magic, but I don't think anybody of legal voting age doesn't look to see if they can figure out the illusion. When a slight malfunction of the motorcycle trick occurred, I suddenly knew how it was done. I left the old theatre down at the CNE pretty happy that night.

Now, as it turns out, the trip to the theatre happened during the aftermath of the great Mississauga Train Derailment. The gas-bearing train went off the tracks just down the road from the composing room where The Brampton Guardian was normally assembled. With much of that part of Mississauga evacuated, we had to change our routine that week. And it was just my luck that it was MY turn to go down and proofread the Sports Section (I was Assistant Sports Editor at the time). And Ken, being the Manager of Advertising, had to go and proofread the ads. But that week, were were going to have to go to Pickering and take the early morning slot there (3am).

So, we decided to just kill some time before heading out the Pickering. At the time, 3am was a fair bit early in the day (or late at night) for me being up and about. We had two or three hours to kill and Ken decided we'd do it at a noted Brampton landmark, the strip club. It was the only place in town then open and serving food I would eat (french fries). As it happens, this was the only time in my life I ever went to a peeler palace. I got my eyeful, my full stomach, and enough energy to make it through the trip to and fro from Pickering, doing the proof-reading inbetween.

And to my knowledge, I didn't let a single typo go uncorrected. And that, dear reader, is true magic.

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