Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson Dies - Loved magic...

"Pop superstar Michael Jackson has died. The singer was rushed from his home today after suffering from cardiac arrest... Jackson was not breathing when he arrived at the hospital."

I had the opportunity to visit his Neverland Ranch several years ago in Santa Ynez and saw Michael in a remote magic shop in Las Vegas (not a tourist magic shop). Michael loved magic... so much that he would buy half a supply of a magic shop to perhaps dabble... He'd stock up on mentalism books, magic dvds, props, etc. I always found that interesting and thought I'd share. What a legend... 50 years old... wow.... and just to hear about actress Farrah Fawcett just earlier today, also in Los Angeles. I happen to be sitting here at the computer when I heard and my first thought was how much he admired magic... and supported David Blaine and others.

As we are all so connected now and we have reached a timeline from when legends have been made household names, I suppose we will have more blows like this soon enough. Sad day.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

"magician"... what do you think of?

What do you think of when you hear the word magician?

Think about MUSIC for a second. There are several types of instruments, several styles and many forms of involvement from writers and directors and singers to drummers! In the exact same way, there are huge varieties in magic. Obviously, most can recognize that there are performers that do magic for children and families, others who do large scale stage magic. However, within the mix, there are huge differences in discipline, approach, studies, responsibilities, uses and more.

Stage Magic: (Illusionist) Larger scale productions and illusions involving choreography, music, sometimes animals, large props and often several assistances. >Although I do not perform traditional stage magic, I have been a consultant for some of the best stage performers in the world. It is quite interesting to me.
The Steelgraves stage illusion
Platform Magic/Parlor: Seen in small theaters, clubs, cruises and corporate events, this style is in between stage and close-up. Often you seen card fans, billiard-ball manipulation, mind reading, small props, rope tricks and comedy. >This is often the style of performance done by me when asked to "perform for the entire group."
Parlor of Prestidigitation at the Magic Castle
Close-up/Sleight of Hand: (Sleight of hand artist) Effects done with "everyday" object like rings, coins and cards. Sleight of hand magic can involve extreme dexterity and masterful practice. Traditionally, this is done on a small table or felt pad for small audiences. >This style of magic is my favorite when mingling with guests at private events and cocktail socials. My style is a bit of a mix of pick-pocketing, sleight of hand and psychology.
Bill Wisch at the Up Close Room at the Magic Castle
Strolling Magic: This is a style seen at high end parties which can combine comedy, wit, sleight of hand, pick pocketing, mind reading and more. Instead of a stage show, a magician mingles throughout the event doing intimate presentations up close and personal.
Rich Ferguson mingling at a Corporate VIP party
Escapology: Handcuffs, straightjackets and more! Some entertainers entire act revolves around getting out of dangerous situations while being locked up. >I do not regularly perform any escapes, but have considered a complex escape effect as a publicity stunt.
Houdini was famous for escapes
Children's Magic: This style is usually performed for an audience primarily composed of children for birthday parties, preschools, elementary schools and similar. This type of magic is usually comedic in nature and involves colorful props, ballooons, audience interaction as well as volunteer assistants. >I love kids and am working hard to provide a platform for kids to perform, however, I never perform "children's" magic.
Groans, laughs and more with children's shows
Corporate Magic/Trade-show: Often used as a sales tool or crowd gathering technique with patter and effects that enhance products and messages. >One of my clients is HP. I have been thier "entertaining" spokesperson at tradeshows blowing the minds of guests or partners while mixing in bits of HP branding or info. This form of entertainment involves huge preparation and serious responsibilities.
Rich Ferguson doing presentations using magic and computers
Street Magic: From hustlers and street performers working for tip and to the style of David Blaine, street magic incorporates interactive type effects done with a spectator in a real world setting. >I love this type of magic when done correctly. Often, there is a line crossed with interrupting people to do "bizarre" magic to them.
Street show type of street magic
Mentalism: (Mentalist) Sometimes confused or compared with "mind-reading", I believe mentalism to be the highest form of the magical arts. There are tricks within magic to enhance mentalism, but a true mentalist uses acute observation, suggestion, forms of psychology and non-verbal communication to create mind-boggling experiences. >There are two studies within mentalism... I take the purest form and perform "honestly" about my abilities and skills. True mentalism is often considered the most sophisticated type of magic. Every situation, person, reaction and more is quite different and there is much more risk involved for the performer... which is the part I like best!
Rich Ferguson doing Mind Reading at a corporate event
There are numerous other categories, but I've just mentioned the most common. By the way, there is not a goal to start with children's magic, then move to street magic, then sleight of hand, then stage and someday hope to be a grand illusionist! Does a drummer aspire to one day be in a 25 piece classical ensemble? Nope. There can be a normal learning transition, but usually there is some focus and desire to perform that type of magic you see a magician performing.

Within any category, there are a huge differences in personal styles as well within any category. Just like in music, a magician can be a collector, inventor, designer, assistant, consultant, hobbyist, professional, funny, dangerous, etc, etc.

So the next time you see a magician, as yourself if the magician is actually specializing in what they are doing instead of wondering if they hope to have a "bigger" show someday or hope to learn the tricks you've seen from other entertainers.