The 100th President of the S.A.M.

July16 cover

“Who is this Jeff Quinn? Why did he run for President of the S.A.M.? Does he have an alter ego named Sikora? Does he really have a skunk collection? What does he plan for the S.A.M.?” Magicians ask a lot of questions. Let’s start with the easy stuff: the name Jeff Quinn and the skunks.

Jeff Sikora, Jeff Quinn, and Skunks

Jeff’s illustrious career as an entertainer began in radio, long enough ago that the title “disc jockey” applied. The soft ending of “Jeff” and the soft beginning of “Sikora” blend together, making them difficult to understand. Jeff replaced his given last name with the first name of his nephew, Quinn. Since radio-listeners already knew him as Jeff Quinn, it was only natural to keep the name when his magic career replaced his radio career.

Jeff has an affinity for skunks. This includes a large collection of skunk figurines, artwork, pictures, and even a mounted skunk in his office. Why? “When I was a kid, I had a pet skunk – de-scented, of course. She was a great pet. Didn’t bark at night, used a litter box, even walked on a leash and did tricks. If it were legal in Nebraska, I’d have another skunk in a heartbeat,” Jeff explained. “I admire their attitude. They go about their own business, not bothering anyone. They go out of their way to avoid conflict. But if you mess with them, guess what? They win.”

STAN ALLEN & COMPANY

When Preperation Meets Opportunity

Jun16 cover

Goodsell: I’ve heard it said, “Stan Allen is one lucky guy.”

Stan: You must have been talking to Rhonda [Stan’s wife].

Goodsell: Of course, that’s a given! But usually it has to do with the success of MAGIC magazine. How did MAGIC come to be? Luck? Entrepreneurs define luck as: when preparation meets opportunity. But that is not enough, because opportunity requires timing and place. So, let’s begin with Time and Place. The time was the late ‘60s in southern California. The Magic Castle had recently opened and quickly became the Mecca for magicians everywhere. But perhaps the place we should start is with the Long Beach Mystics, that unique magic club for youth that spawned you, Mike Caveney, Mark Kalin, Michael Weber, and so many others. The Mystics story has been well told elsewhere, Stan, but how did it shape you?

Stan: From the time my sister bought me the S.S. Adams Nickels to Dimes trick at Disneyland’s Magic Shop when I was ten, I was hooked. But I was never one to just hole up alone with my magic. If I had been the kid from a small town with a couple of books and no other magicians, I’m not sure I would have stayed with it. A magic buddy and I read in the newspaper about a magic club for kids called the Long Beach Mystics. We went to it and discovered they were planning to put on a show. Kids! Like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland! They needed some guys backstage; before I knew it we were pushing around a Super-X and didn’t know what it was. I thought, “This is fun. I want to do this!”

Gene Anderson

Science, Magic, and the Secret of Happiness

May16 cover

Every now and then, a performer comes up with a presentation and method for an effect that captures the attention of magicians, whether they are hobbyists or professionals. In the 1950s, Don Alan’s routine for the Chop Cup became the way to perform that trick. In the world of stand-up magic, Gene Anderson’s method and presentation for the Torn and Restored Newspaper (published in 1968 in the book Newspaper Magic co-written by Gene and Frances Marshall) became the way to perform that trick; other methods have appeared, but no one has found a better presentational premise.

Doug Henning used Gene’s method and presentation in The Magic Show on Broadway, and the trick’s popularity exploded. Had this routine been the only thing Gene created, his legacy in magic would have been well established.

But it is hardly the only thing; Gene Anderson is much more than a one-trick pony. He has finally completed his magnus opus, The Book, which will make its official debut this summer at the S.A.M. convention in Indianapolis. It is a big book: 256 pages filled information gleaned from a lifetime of performance. To be sure, there are routines with newspapers, but there is also much more. [An excerpt from The Book will appear in the June M-U-M; a full review will appear in July.]

Dorothy Dietrich

Apr16 cover

A few years ago, I was at a party at Fantasma Magic Shop in New York City. The party honored the performers and friends who were to appear at the following night’s Parent Assembly’s Salute to Magic show. I was standing in the corner (as I usually do) watching and listening to the celebrities when I saw a magician walk over to the people next to me. Those people were Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brooks. The magician kissed Dorothy’s hand and said, “Dorothy, you look exactly like you did on those magic magazine covers in the ‘70s. You are beautiful.” I remember seeing those covers, too. She looked like a living Barbie doll. It was so unusual to see a woman on the cover who wasn’t being sawed in half or floating. Dorothy was getting out of a straitjacket. Dorothy Dietrich pioneered the idea of a female magician during the Doug Henning era, appearing on many magic and variety shows on NBC, ABC, and HBO.

The first time I saw Dorothy live was at an S.A.M. convention at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. I saw Dorothy and Dick in the dealers’ room, but was uncomfortable approaching them. I had nothing to talk about and was not the type of person to gawk at celebrities. After all, she was a big name in the New York magic scene.