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Preface:

 

                On  August 28th, 2013 I got the privilege of interviewing David Regal.  Over the course of 30 minutes and 11 seconds I was able to ask about his beginnings in magic, philosophies, mentors, and approach.  I know it was 30 minutes and 11 seconds because that’s how long the recording said it was (which I planned to share as a podcast).  However, when attempting to listen to the file……..silence.  When plugging the file into audio editing software, no sound waves could be digitally seen, and so the heartache of the breakdown of technology.  Despite several efforts by this author and the software company, to which this author utilized, that file is nonexistent.  So unless I can get someone in the NSA to provide me with their recording of that interview, it will never be heard.  Instead of floundering in the frustration of such a loss, your author has decided to document as much material as could be obtained (because the majority of exact quotes have been lost to a summation in thine own noodle).

 

Reeling in Regal:

 

                First of all, speaking with David reminded me of talking to an attending physician (whom I regularly work with in an emergency department).  He had that prose, poise and confidence in his speech which immediately makes one take him seriously (even though he is seriously funny).  However, I did not pick up any of the negative components of the aforementioned example of the physician.  He is quite easy to talk to, even if you are nervous when interviewing him (which of course I know nothing about).

                David Regal grew up in Newton Massachusetts where a neighbor friend of his was into magic and happened to have a copy of Tannen’s Catalog.  For those of you who don’t know, Tannen’s Catalog was frequently a 700+ page hard covered book in which dreams were made.  Or as David compared it: to a dirty magazine which was viewed at the edge of the bed with flashlight in hand.  However, those dreams were able to manifest into realities as this friend’s father regularly worked in New York City.  This allowed young David to spend time and learn magic at various “joke shops” (Little Jack Horner’s Joke Shop and another one which the name escapes me).  However, David did not appear to be the normal youth studying magic, as he was reading “adult” magic books (i.e. Al Baker). 

Even at an early age David was inventing his own effects.  As I was spouting off how much I enjoyed his color changing deck, he told me that was an idea that he came up with when he was only 15 years old.  He states for years he always felt it should be printed on a poker deck, and one day finally bit the financial bullet to purchase a large run.  You can get one of those decks from David HERE!




                Eventually David went to Emerson College for acting.  It is during this time that he fell out of magic, focusing on other areas of his life.  After graduating David became a part of Chicago City Limits.  Chicago City limits is a improv comedy troupe, in fact the oldest in New York City.  One of the fans of this troupe was the great Meir Yedid.  This is where David and Meir met.

                David spoke of when he got back into magic that he fell much harder into it then he did previously.  This led him to study and learn much more advanced sleight of hand, and one evening he invited Meir to watch him perform.  Apparently, the performances went well and the audience reaction was the way one would hope for it to be.  It was at this time David was feeling pretty good, and proud of the accomplishment of performing advanced sleight of hand.  He then asked his friend, Meir, how he liked it, and the response was not expected:  “David when you perform improv you’re great, but when you pick up a deck of cards you’re just like every other magician” (I’m not sure if I remember the quote exactly, again if you know anyone in the NSA who can get me a copy of that interview, that would be great).

 

 

                It would be easy for one to get highly discouraged and defensive about such a statement.  However, David Regal has an amazing gift to remain open and flexible.  It’s because of this wonderful quality that he re-evaluated his approach to magic.  I felt the need to ask him how fast the switch occurred from being like “every other magician” and becoming something different.  He told me “a long time” and went to speak of how it’s a continuing process and it is that process he finds most appealing.  Another wonderful quality of this magician!

                David is a puzzle solver, that’s not his words but mine.  He did speak of how much he enjoys the actual process of figuring something out, and stated he may enjoy that even more than the actual performance.  He says that at magic swaps, he usually takes two hundred dollars with him and buys a bunch of two dollar effects.  He then returns home with a couple of bags of magic items (which he calls “Divorce in a bag”) and studies them, coming up with new ideas.  If you know David, you know that he is still married.  So how does he maintain his marriage when engaging in practices such as bringing home divorce inducing bags?  Nope, it’s not another one of his amazing magic effects.  Instead he sells them on ebay after he has utilized their ability to inspire new ideas (and so another lesson I need to take note of to make my wife happier).

 

David on Harry Lorayne:

 

                One of the things I most wanted to talk to David about was his Mentorship with Harry Lorayne.  Before David met Harry he was a big fan.  He spoke of his love of Harry’s book “Close Up Card Magic” which is amazing book, and can still be purchased.  It was while speaking with Meir Yedid that he spoke of his admiration of the man.  Low and behold, Meir knew Harry and arranged a meeting.     

                Fast forward to “the cafeteria”, Rebuen’s and the Magic Towne House.  Not only did David get to spend time with Harry, but he also spent time with Eric Decamps and Peter Kougasian.  However, let me get back to Harry.  David spoke that he has never seen a magician captivate an audience of laymen with a deck of cards like Harry does.  Apparently Harry would pull out a deck of cards, which had looked like they had been ravaged and in a case that was falling apart.  He would then perform, and people were (and still are when he performs) astounded.  Over time, David made the realization that he should pay attention to how Harry was able to captivate an audience in such a way.  What was it that Harry was doing with the deck of cards that made him so effective?  At what point did that excitement invade the spectator?  Upon conscious observation David made a surprising revelation:  “the audience leaned forward even before the cards came out of the box”.  It wasn’t the cards that were captivating, it was Harry himself!

                David’s relationship with Harry continued, and many different effects of David’s were published in Harry’s Apocalypse (a monthly publication).  At this time David was not going to conventions and was fairly unknown in the world of magic. David posed the question to Harry about possibly publishing a book of his original effects, and so the book “Star Quality” was released.  Over time this has been accepted by the magic community, and although it didn’t immediately become a huge hit, that didn’t seem to bother David.  A common theme with Mr. Regal, is that it is all about the process.  

                As we know David has become widely accepted in the magic community as a performer and inventor of effects.  He has even released a book on his methods appropriately named "Approaching Magic", a book which took him six years to complete.  When he is asked when his next book will come out, he remarks “the last one took six years, I don’t know if there will be another one”.  Again, it’s about the process for Mr. Regal.  Did I mention that he likes the process?

 

 

David on a Common Misunderstanding:

 

                One of the things that I have found in common with my favorite performers is that they emphasize on perfecting an effect, as opposed to accumulating a bunch of “tricks”.  David mentioned this same philosophy.  However he does state that we all go through a similar metamorphosis (magic pun intended) of collecting information. 

 

                David also spoke of how some magicians are quick to shun something because they know a little bit about it.  He gave an example of a beginner who is watching someone exhibit a magic effect, and the moment they realize there has been a sleight used they are familiar with there is a tendency to think “oh, I know how that’s done” and move on.   This is a real shame when it comes to magic, because such versatile effects/utility devices may be overlooked and not utilized.  He gave the example of watching Franz Haray perform.  He says that this great “mega” illusionist who “killed” with a thumb tip. 

 

 

David’s Regular Life:


                David currently lives in California and is a member of the Magic Castle.  Not only is he a member of the Castle, but he is on the Board of Trustees.  Some of you may not know that David is primarily a writer and producer of television shows.  Some highlights include: writing for Everybody Loves Raymond, and was also the head writer of the Rugrats.   Again, it appears to all be about the process for Mr. Regal.  He spoke of how when one episode is completed, you now have to solve the puzzle (“undoing knots”) to make a logical jump to the next episode.  And so it is, and so it goes for Mr. Regal in seemingly everything he does. 

                I do want to end this article with a wonderful quote David shared with me from the great Johnny Thompson.  I had mentioned to David that the majority of members at MagiBook are amateurs.  I must have used somewhat of a negative connotation with this, as it inspired David to share Johnny’s thoughts on the beauty of the Amateur magician “I retain the enthusiasm for magic of an Amateur”.  So let us all retain that sort of enthusiasm for this wonderful craft.

To learn more about David, please go to his website at: http://davidregal.com/

 

 

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Tricks:

The shiny, glimmering metallic shackles dangling while the reflections of light blinds my eyes.  A voice calls out “you call it a trick one more time and I’m going to cuff you with these for one hour to that pole, or until you can figure out how to get out of them.”  Hence, my first visit to a magic shop and the last time I referred to truly magical effects as “tricks.”

Considering magic as mere “tricks” is a slander to the art form.  It provides such degrading qualities as insinuating that these displays of wonder are simple and require little to no skill.  Magic is unique in several different ways, one of which is slanderous terms to describe various aspects of our art.  Terms such as “trick” dress some of our performances as nothing more than a challenge to the spectator.  I don’t recall ever meeting someone who WANTS to be the one TRICKED.  I give full credit for this type of ingrained behavior to the ego.

It’s simple really; no one wants to appear less knowledgeable than someone else.  Referring to magic as a “trick” immediately sets up the terms and conditions of the upcoming interaction as you against them.  That’s why many performers will have spectators (especially males all vying to be the alpha) try to pull one over on the performer.

Now it’s time for a simple equation:  If you try to trick me, but I in turn trick you, that equals I’m way too clever for you to fool.  And nobody wants to be a fool.

Can we blame the spectator for engaging in this natural response?  You’re DARN RIGHT WE CAN!!!  And we do.  But is it wise to do so?  If you ask your career it would more than likely beg you to not be an idiot.

So how do we combat this without destroying what little rapport we have with the spectator?  I suggest that if we want our performances respected, than we too must respect our art.  It is up to us to set the stage, tone and pacing.  A fairly simple way to do this is to use “CONDITIONING” in conjunction with ANCHORING (an NLP technique) to help set in triggers to pull out the desired response.  Okay, maybe not so simple without study on the subject.  So let me give you some things you can set in motion immediately.

It is wise to choose the willing participant and not the person who is going to try to sabotage the effect.  Most of us amateurs feel like we have something to prove and therefore run head on like two rams knocking noodles to prove dominance.  This type of behavior can only lead to a headache!  But what to do with the difficult spectator (this will typically be men due to our innate nature to be the alpha)?

There are several ways in which to set the alpha male at ease.  For instance, I sometimes gently nudge a spectator to give the impression as if the two of us are “in on it” together.  Dai Vernon would go as far as telling the spectator to not worry about figuring out the effect, because he was going to let them in on the workings later (to which he did no such thing).  One could also use witty one-liners that turn the spectators against the troublemaker.  For example, we all have had the individual who will lie about the identity of the card that they have previously chosen.  A simple solution is to look around to the other spectators and state “who are you going to believe?  I’m only THE magician” (this is based off of a series of ideas Tom Mullica posted in his lecture notes in the mid-1990′s).

It all really boils down to what your character is, but that’s shuffling down a different sidewalk.

And so it goes…….

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The Art of the Lie (oddities):

Oh the guilt! The magician’s GUILT! The horrible blinking of the eyes when telling a fabrication….. the treacherous need to look away when performing a slight. Oh, how the art of the lie has suffered its true potential: an aid for truthful expression. And so the little or big lie gets lost to confusion, so sad in its pitiful malformation of existence.

It’s not that the lie is a bad thing; it’s just that it’s been perverted and overused. We shouldn’t be filled with guilt when offering a semi untruth to create a miracle. But many times we cringe at the very notion of offering up a half truth.

Ironic isn’t it? We do this daily without hesitation, but during the honest performance of deceit we feel guilt for our presentation. And so it goes, in our sad little expression of self assuredness in our presentation of deceit. But the spectator knows best, and all of the smart banter in the world can’t successfully argue the layman’s point of view.

It has taken me years upon years to become comfortable in the art of deceit. Even still I find myself having to consciously combat my instinct of honesty. Many times I have felt lost, not sure of my performance because I couldn’t stand to look at the deceit I was offering. I did not realize that the thing I was offering to the spectator was the wonderment of “not knowing”. “Not knowing” and the unknown is an awesome thing to produce in a spectator’s mind. Wonderment is amazing, that is where creativity can manifest the impossible into the probable.

One of the ways I was able to combat my selfish need to be honest, was to force myself to focus on the moment at hand. For example, I have a horrible time not blinking or turning away (in an extreme exaggerated way) when executing a slight. I have a tendency to be completely unnatural which only ruins the effect. So part of my repertoire of practice is to force myself to look at my hands when performing a slight, so that I don’t cringe, or give away that something deceitful has happened. The way I could convince myself to do this, was to create an internal monologue telling myself that I am witnessing a miracle, not that I am creating one through trickery. However, I do not do this during performance. I get to the point where I don’t even think about my hands, and allow the naturalness through preparedness shine through.

I now practice this method daily, and it has greatly improved my performances. It has also improved my confidence in performing because I get myself into the mindset that I’m actually creating these miracles. As the great Antony Gerard would say, we do not perform tricks, tricks are something a dog does. What we do is perform magic, which is an art, and takes countless hours of practice and dedication in order to present this wonderful art. Just as one would study a musical instrument, we must practice, learn our scales, understand the theory of composition, different methods of presentation, tempo, pacing, ect… However, that is a different topic all together. And so it goes……..

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Here is a little something I had published at the secret arts journal, and a medical magazine:

The case load is mounting, and I’m told I’m getting one of those “difficult cases.” It turns out to be a young 15 year old male who is currently on probation for attempted murder.  I remember he was number 37 in my case load list.  I was only a feeble minded bachelor’s level social worker then, working for a non-profit whilst the state’s economy was in such disarray that they had suspended our budget.  As a result they thought it best to not pay the employees of the aforementioned non-profit agency. Regardless, it was determined that we would continue to work with these at risk youths because they had been dropped too many times before, and one more adult failing them might be enough to crack the already fragile shell of what was left of some of these children.

However, you wouldn’t have guessed a fragile shell on this latest addition to my case load (we will call him Jordan).  Jordan, although at the very beginning of his 15th year of life, was taller than most adults, had biceps bigger than most people’s heads, and a look of solid stone.  I always know these interactions are going to go well, especially when I’m introduced to someone by a principal or parole officer for the first time, and the response is “what the F*** does this Cracker want?”  This is not unlike the response that Jordan gave me.  When it was explained that working with me was part of his probation, I learned of Jordan’s ability to not utter a single word.  Cue the awkwardness of mandated therapy via probation.

It would be easy to think, “What am I doing, I’m not even getting paid anymore, and I’m surviving on ramen freakin’ noodles.”  In fact, it was so easy to think that, that I did in fact allow those thoughts to filtrate through my own noodle.  At this time, I was living in Michigan, and I was literally picking up cans and plastic bottles to recycle, because in Michigan those items are ten cents a piece upon return, and ramen noodles were a mere 15 cents per bag.  So if you do the math, and I’m sure you have……n’t, three cans and or bottles equates to a feast for the ages (or two bags of ramen, if you don’t think about tax).  But this was all a fleeting thought, because I loved working with these kids.  I have a knack for working with these exceptionally challenging individuals.

It has become clear to me that this young man is not going to engage in “traditional” tactics.  Imagine the shock of Jordan, as I pulled out of a deck of playing cards, and began shuffling them.  It’s then I start saying, “You know, most people think that this is just a simple deck of cards, but it’s much more complex than that.  I find cards are much like people.  So many hidden secrets that no one could possibly fully understand, which only makes them that much more interesting.”

I then ask Jordan if he knows how many cards are in a deck of cards.  True to form, Jordan remains silent.  I then ask Jordan if he knows how many weeks are in a year.  Here’s something to know about Jordan:  is he scary?  You’re darn right he is.  Is he intimidating?  Without a shadow of any doubt.  Is he stupid?  Not in the least, and Jordan didn’t want to be perceived as so.  In fact he almost killed someone in a fight for essentially calling him stupid.  I knew all of this before we began.  I also knew that Jordan wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to answer “52”.  I get goose bumps even thinking about it, the individual refusing to engage or talk has just done both inadvertently.

I continue, not willing to relinquish momentum.  “How many suits are there in a deck of cards?”  Again, Jordan attempts to hold steadfast and says nothing.  I ask, “How many seasons are there in a year?”  Now, Jordan didn’t exactly answer, but what he did was much better, he genuinely smiled.  With a smile back, I continue on my rampage “You know there are two colors in a deck of cards, red for day and black for night.  Check this out, if you add up all of the cards together, the ace for 1, jack for 11, queen for 12, and king for 13 you get 364…………..if we add one for the joker that’s 365, the same number of days there are in a year.”  Jordan’s response, “Why are there two jokers then?”

I now know that I have reeled him in.  He’s engaging with me, and I now have him asking ME questions.  We are exactly where I want to be.  I don’t give him the answer, very much mirroring therapy, but simply state, “One more joker would all add up to 366, what’s that make you think of?”  The lights in his eyes turned on, a twinge of excitement in his voice, and the proud stature of this child in a man’s body proudly expressed “A leap year.”  From there, our relationship was fantastic.

We continued to utilize playing cards, especially different magic effects, in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy to work on different issues.  The amazing power of displacing such personal issues, into these pasteboards, into an artful expression of magic was not truly known to me until three months after working with each other, when he came to our session and had been beaten up.

I asked Jordan what had happened, and he stated a fight broke out at his school.  I asked how he got beat up, he stated that he didn’t fight back, and just focused on getting away from the conflict.  When I asked why he didn’t defend himself, he told me “If I hurt my hands, I couldn’t create magic.” This child who was once on probation for attempted murder, now learned that those same hands that almost killed another human being, were now meant to create magic.

John Jan 24 '13 · Rate: 4 · Comments: 3 · Tags: blogs, john midgley, magibook, the glass violin, siaz, perceive reality, philosophy, therapy