Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Fun Shop Cups and Balls

I've done the cups and balls for the vast majority of my life. I did a version of the trick, as published in the Dai Vernon Book of Magic; written by Lewis Ganson. That, as an aside, is a fantastic magic book. It is long out of print. The publishing firm of L & L has recently printed a compendium of Vernon's works. This huge work is about a hundred or so dollars. A quick foray into Google yielded this link:

If you have any interest in magic and don't already own the individual texts, you ought to pick this up. But, as you'll find, if you follow this blog . . . I digress; back to blaming Brett Sherwood.

I ordered a set of cups from Brett Sherwood. They look a lot like the ones Dai Vernon had pictures of in the Ganson Book. The darned cups cost 1150 dollars U.S. With shipping and insurance it was well over 1200 dollars. Once I picked them up from the post office I realized I'd made a silly mistake. I didn't even do the Vernon routine very well. Certainly not well enough to blow that kind of money on a magic trick. The cups really are beautiful. You can see them on Brett's site here:

I got the engraved silver ones. I have no earthly idea why I spent all that money on a magic trick I had no great ability with. Aghast at my whimsical expenditure, I resolved to come up with an original routine worth of these great cups.

I spent over a year just experimenting with different routines. I learned and worked up the routines of: Harry Riser; from The Feints and Temps of Harry Riser. I taught myself the routine of Michael Ammar from The Complete Cups and Balls. I could also do the Vernon routine that I had been performing since I was seventeen.

I wasn't happy with any of them. I still think Harry Riser's routine is seminal and greatly under-appreciated. I got to meet Harry at the first iteration of a small magic convention held out here on the West Coast. David Nelson, Theron Schaub, Dorian Rhodell and I run the darned thing. It's call the Golden Gate Gathering. We were honored when Harry assented to come lecture for us. This was in 2007 on August the ninth when he lectured. It was my fiftieth birthday. Seeing Harry actually perform the routine I'd worked up from his book re-invigorated my desire to come up with my own routine.

A huge number of people helped me with the routine. I have to mention the Witkowskis though. I had ordered a table to do the cups and balls on. The proprietor of the business took ill and could not ever send me a table. The Witkowskis bought the business from him. I contacted them and their business acumen was so high they shipped a table out forthwith! I've used their "Tabman" table ever since. I cannot recommend their products highly enough. You can see their stuff at:

So at this point I had a great set of cups and a wonderful table to perform on. No freakin' idea of how to do the trick, but I had some darned fine props.

I revisited the works of one of the greatest minds in cups and balls magic, Al Schneider. His works are truly seminal. He had recently published some new works on the cups and balls. His great stuff can be found here:

I'd had the honor of meeting Bob Kohler in my travels. He provided the final link for me. He had an idea to use a very old technique and apply it to the cups and balls. He and one of his cronies provided me immeasurable assistance in the progress of my version of this chunk of magic. Without the two of them my little contribution would never have seen the light of day. Thanks Bob. Thanks to the other Bob who I've never met face-to-face yet who provided me tons of encouragement and great advice. Why don't I mention the last name of the other Bob. Because I've dropped enough names already. Thanks anyway Bob 2.

I then found a group of local magicians who have helped me immeasurably. I mentioned them earlier; David Nelson, Dorian Rhodell and Theron Schaub must have seen this routine when it was just awful. I listened to their advice and without them . . . there'd be nothing. David especially provided assistance and encouragement. He's had to play wingman many times and places as I've drug that damned table to anyone who'd watch an old man do the cups and balls. Without David's encouragement and willingness to hang out at every magic meeting in Northern California I'd have never gotten as far as I have. Thanks guys, without you there'd be no:

The Fun Shop Cups and Balls

Those three-and-a-half minutes took years to develop. This one trick made me realize that I could actually create my own magic tricks. I don't mean to say that my way of doing the trick is better than anyone else's way. It is the best way for me to do the trick.

I performed the trick for the crew at the second iteration of the Golden Gate Gathering. I competed (and did really badly!) at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas. That evolution gave me a drop dead date and really motivated me to quit fiddling with the routine. Even though I did not win, place or show at the competition I got a lot of positive feedback from some excellent magicians. A huge thanks to ????? (no name-dropping dammit!) who both years of WMS worked with me for a bit and gave me some truly solid advice.

The following year Pete Biro and Dr. Wells were kind enough to let me lecture at the WMS about my version of the cups and balls. I got to hang out with a bunch of Cups and Balls enthusiasts and do my routine in the dealer's room for anyone foolish enough to stop and watch. An expert on the trick, Etienne Lorenceau was kind enough to spend some time with me. His insight allowed some more refinements. The folks from the travel channel even video-taped me doing the routine. I'm hoping they might televise it. Dr. Wells tells me the show it could be on it coming up on the 23rd of September. I believe the show will be called Extreme Conventions. I actually doubt they'll use the footage they shot. A guy can hope though.

These three minutes of cups and balls will be the closing routine I do. Max Maven books the acts at the Magic Castle. I like to think, having done this trick thousands of times in practice/rehearsal and dozens of times in performance that I've got a solid anchor to base a Castle Act on. With applause, (I hope), the routine goes a little more than four minutes. Only thirteen minutes to go!