Magicana

And the Award goes to....

The Allan Slaight Awards recognize outstanding achievement in the pursuit of the impossible. The Slaight Family Foundation established the awards in 2015 and has pledged to give $50,000 a year, over five years, to celebrate exceptional work in five distinct categories. Each recipient receives not only a cash prize, but also a specially engraved iPad to commemorate the achievement.
— Magicana.com

The Allan Slaight Awards are distributed every year, celebrating extraordinary talent and accomplishments in the world of magic. This year, the recipients are being announced online, spread out over a week. The first award was announced this morning is the Canadian Rising Star:

The recipient is absolutely one of my favourite performers on the planet, Nick Wallace. His 2016 show Séance remains one of the finest live productions I've ever seen. When I was hosting Magic Tonight, Nick was a welcome guest many times. I once described him thusly:

He may pretend to look all sweet and inocent, but I am starting to suspect that he may, in fact, be the devil. Pure evil wrapped in Mr. Rogers’ sweater.
— Me, ca. 2015

Congratulations, Nick, on this well-deserved award. Stay spooky. 

Chan-tatachán!

One of my heroes in magic is the world-renowned Spanish magician Juan Tamariz. Like the famous Canadian magician Dai Vernon, who came to be known in his later years as "The Professor", he is often referred to simply as "The Maestro". He's one of the field's top thinkers and a uniquely captivating performer. Now in his seventies, he still performs and can still summon reserves of energy that make it appear as though 52% of his blood is caffeine. (Even though he once told me at dinner that he has only had a single cup of coffee in his life.)

Through my work with Magicana, I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with Juan — metaphorically speaking. In 1992-3, he hosted a program on Spanish television called Chan-tatachán. (As near as I can tell, it's a nonsense word similar to "Abracadabra".) He not only performed himself, but had guests performing magic close-up and on stage, which included some of the most notable performers of the era.

I got to digitize, edit and index about eighteen hours of performances for The Screening Room, a free online video repository of magic performances. The collection was finally published earlier today, ready to be watched and enjoyed:


Unfortunately, most of the content is in Spanish. However, I've found that many of the performers are capable of transcending the language barrier. Though I will admit, that it's only because I know these magicians by reputation that I'm willing to sit through pre-ambles I don't quite understand to get to the magic I fully expect to enjoy.

Having already watched the entire collection, I'll pull out a few favourites that might appeal to an English-speaking audience.


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This one is in English. David Williamson is one of America's finest comedy magicians. Here he presents a version of "The Cups and Balls" that had me laughing out loud when I first stumbled across the clip.


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This trick is performed silently (admittedly to some rather awkwardly placed Michael Jackson music) so no Spanish required. It combines one of the great classic illusions of balancing an assistant on top of a pole, suspended in midair, along with a strange construction of a newspaper tree. The trick keeps going getting more and more astonishing along the way.


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Finally "Mentalism" is more a comedy sketch than a magic trick (although the magic is baffling) featuring Juan and a French magician, Gaëtan Bloom. Bloom is speaking French so if, like me, you took French in school, you understand just enough to know that when he says, "Il sagit d'un tour de mentalisme," that nothing could be further from the truth. 

A bit of Movie Magic

For the past year, I've been working quietly on a project I'm now thrilled to share. A new addition to The Screening Room, an online archive of vintage magic videos hosted by Magicana brings the private magic video collection of Larry Thornton to the world for free.

Larry Thornton, of Calgary, Alberta, recorded magicians in his hometown and at magic conventions across North America. Many magicians, still well-known today, were captured looking younger than I could imagine. The process of digitizing the 8mm reels has been slow and careful and now the archive is finally available. 

Take a look at a short sneak preview and visit the entire collection through the button below.

Helping Hands

I've just had the pleasure of completing a special two-week workshop at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital called Helping Hands. It comes as an offshoot of Magicana's My Magic Hands program, which I have been involved with now for close to ten years. 

In an innovative treatment program, kids who have — for one medical reason or another — lost the use of one of their hands and had to re-learn how to use it. To speed up the process, the stronger hand is isolated through clever combination of foam, plastic and velcro, so all the work gets done with the in-training or "helping" hand.

Adding magic into the therapy puts a different spin on things. Rather than having to re-learn things that everyone knows how to do and take for granted, they get to learn things that no one knows how to do. 

For reasons of confidentiality, I don't have any photos of the kids doing magic, but it got subway poster sized thank you gift from the class:

Holland Bloorview - Helping Hands

This program is made possible through the generous support of the Slaight Family Foundation

The Allan Slaight Awards

Saturday night, as part of a special gala show concluding the 44th Magic Collectors Weekend in Montreal, Magicana presented the Allan Slaight Awards. The awards, now in their third year, were created by the Slaight Family Foundation to honour Allan Slaight. A deeply passionate magician who is better known to the world at large through his work in broadcasting, he is now in his eighties, his idea of a quiet Canadian retirement involves quietly donating millions of dollars each year to various healthcare and arts organizations. 

The awards recognize the best in magic with $50,000 a year in prizes. There are awards for performances for the public and also those who advance the craft, publishing reference material within the field. In the two years the awards have been given previously, some of my favourite magicians have received the awards, including Penn & Teller. 

For the first two years, the awards were presented a private dinner. This is the first time they have been open to see. The winners were:

Max Maven
Lifetime Achievement - $15,000

Derek DelGaudio
Sharing Wonder - $15,000

John Lovick
Sharing Secrets - $10,000

Edward Hilsum
International Rising Star - $5,000

Eric Leclerc
Canadian Rising Star - $5,000

David Ben, John Lovick, Max Maven, Edward Hilsum, Julie Eng - Photo by David Linsell

David Ben, John Lovick, Max Maven, Edward Hilsum, Julie Eng - Photo by David Linsell

This year, I was backstage for the show, so I had a slightly different perspective. For example, here is John Lovick who won the award for Sharing Secrets for a book he wrote in collaboration with Handsome Jack, the world's foremost male model magician. He's having a slight wardrobe malfunction.

Handsome Jack with his pants down... don't ask. 

Handsome Jack with his pants down... don't ask. 

Msgr. Vincent Foy

I learned recently that Monsignor Vincent Foy passed away at the age of one hundred and one. He was an important figure in magic in Toronto who also happened to be a distinguished Catholic priest. 

As is, I'm sure, true of most disciplines; many of the notable figures in the field go completely unheard of in the world at large. I'm not sure what to say when people ask me who my "favourite" magician is (why would I be boring enough to settle for just one?) because most of the possible answers will involve people they have never heard of. And many magicians make meaningful contributions to the craft, sometimes over the course of decades, as pure hobbyists while maintaining normal human jobs. 

In this case, he was the ghostwriter for two very important books highlighting the magic of Canadian master magician Ross Bertram. He also published some smaller pamphlets under the pen name of Dr. George E. Casaubon (in case someone objected to a priest knowing his way around a deck of cards.) Later in life his collection of one-handed cuts with a deck of cards was compiled and released in A Cut Above

I had the opportunity to meet him twice when I was invited to perform at his residence as part of Magicana's Senior Sorcery program. They were always sure to reserve him a front row seat for the many magic shows hosted there. 

This photo was taken in 2015 a few months before he hit triple digits. 

Msgr. Vincent Foy

Msgr. Vincent Foy