Sunday's New York Times featured a profile of Eli Bosnick, a New York magician who also spearheads, Magnets, a group of conjurors who meet for weekly magic jam sessions. The article appeared as part of the weekly Character Studies series, which highlights interesting New Yorkers.
Jerry Oppenheimer, a longtime member of the Parent Assembly of the Society of American Magicians has been selected as the assembly's Magician of the Year. The award honors a notable magician from the New York area.
"I was surprised, happy, and grateful," Oppenheimer said when asked how he felt when he learned of the honor. Oppenheimer has been a member of the Parent Assembly for more than 44 years and has served the New York club in many capacities including President, Secretary and Editor of the Spellbinder newsletter. He is a regular at the weekly "Magic Table" lunch gatherings and was featured in recent news coverage about the Table in The Wall Street Journal and on the Today show. "Jerry has been our unofficial magician of every year, and needs to be recognized as such once and for all time," said George Schindler, Dean of the National Society of American Magicians and a member of the local assembly's Board.
Oppenheimer, who was born in New York, became interested in magic as a youngster and sent away to buy mail order tricks related to the Chandu the Magician radio show. Later, during his career as a court reporter, he was known as the “court magician” performing for judges, attorneys and felons. He also inspired his daughter Janet to pursue magic, and in a New York Times interview she credited her conjuring career as instrumental in her preparation for becoming a noted health care executive, as well as bonding with her parents who were her magic assistants.
Today, at age 93, Oppenheimer displays a twinkling sense of humor when passing out "million dollar bills" to the Magic Table diners, regaling the table with stories about magicians of the past, and in particular talking about his long marriage to his wife Lee. "My best trick was marriage to a woman I'm crazy about," Oppenheimer said. The couple met in the small town of Douglas, Georgia in 1946 when Oppenheimer was stationed there while enlisted in the Air Force. He and Lee had two dates before Oppenheimer was shipped overseas. He wrote and proposed marriage to her by letter. "Here we are 69 years later, with two daughters, and four granddaughters," Oppenheimer commented.
The formal award presentation for Magician of the Year will be made at the upcoming Salute to Magic, the Parent Assembly's annual show, which will be held this spring.
News from the dealer's room at Magi-Fest included the launch of Lost Art Magic a new, New York-based company headed by Xavier Spade and Eric Jones. Lost Art was showcasing their DVD Misbehavin, which teaches a core routine from the repertoire of Kainoa Harbottle. The company is also selling Si-Fi Project. a floating ring effect by Xiang Liu which was originally issued by Spade's now defunct company The Daily Deception.
In an interview during Magi-Fest Spade offered few details about the company's upcoming products, although he did acknowledge that they would be releasing material by Eric Jones and have other products in the pipeline. "Our idea was 'we're sick of the way magic companies treat the artists.'" Spade commented. "They don't give them the respect or the care for the things that they offer. We 'decided to sit down with the artist and put the artist as the star of the product rather than the company."
Although Harbottle released an earlier version of this routine in a self-produced book, it has never been explained on video. In the course of teaching two versions of the routine the video provides clearly shot, thoroughly explained, and unrushed descriptions of the trick's moves, including an in-depth look at Edge Grip and related techniques. Spade explained that Lost Art's videos include ratings to indicate their difficulty and the audience for whom they are best-suited. Misbehavin is rated at four out of five stars for difficulty and described as appropriate for the Worker/Professional. The disks can be ordered through lostartmagic.com, and a downloadable version can be purchased at ellusionist.com.
Other New York-based companies that had a presence at Magi-Fest included Tannen's Magic shop, which had a large sales booth, and Vanishing Inc, the company run by Joshua Jay and Andi Gladwin who are also the convention's producers. Magi-Fest was presented January 29 through February 1 in Columbus, Ohio.
Changes at two New York City magic shops have affected the texture of the local magic retail landscape. In Manhattan, Magick Balay, a longtime fixture as a demonstrator at Fantasma Magic has left his position there. Meanwhile, in Queens, Roger Quan, proprietor of Rogue's Magic and Fun Shop, has moved the store out of its stand-alone location. He now is selling magic within another nearby retail store, sharing the space with the Emerald 99 Cent Store at 84-08 Queens Boulevard.
Balay has departed Fantasma at the same time as he has emerged as one of the lead cast members in a nationally airing TV program, Close Up Kings, which is shown in the United States on the Syfy network and on other networks internationally. The program shows Balay and his two friends and fellow magicians Loki and Johnny Blaze in a city-to-city journey that showcases magic influenced by the culture of each locale they visit. Balay also regularly performs in a variety of public and private performances, including, for example, two February 15th shows in Windham and Catskill, New York at which he will headline a bill that also features fellow magicians Steve Dane, Sean Dooly, and Dave Murillo.
Quan, who is more widely known by his stage name, Rogue, began his magic retail endeavors selling tricks on the street from a backpack. He briefly sold magic and presented shows from his mother's apartment before taking space within a bookstore in Rego Park and eventually leasing his own shop on Queens Boulevard where his store was located for 14 years. Recently Rogue established a magic bar in the Panda Asian Restaurant at 95-25 Queens Boulevard. Free shows are presented there on Friday nights. Rogue was also a contestant on America's Got Talent last season and performs at a variety of local venues. He will be part of the next Magic Mania show at the West End on 107th Street in Manhattan on February 8 where he will share the bill with Harrison Greenbaum and Rich Marotta.
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