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‘Please close your eyes as I perform my next trick’ 

The famous disappearing quarter trick. First, show your audience an ordinary quarter. Then, when they’re not looking, slip it in your pocket. When you open your hand, the quarter will have mysteriously vanished. It must have been magic!

The famous disappearing quarter trick. First, show your audience an ordinary quarter. Then, when they’re not looking, slip it in your pocket. When you open your hand, the quarter will have mysteriously vanished. It must have been magic!

When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a magician.

I loved magic tricks of all kinds, from the grand-scale spectacles with stages and showgirls, to the swift sleight-of-hand of lone street performers.

To nurse my growing fascination with magic (and perhaps to wean me from my harrowing Nintendo addiction — which at the time was a rampant epidemic), my parents bought me dozens of how-to books, in addition to magic sets.

Most of the books were intended for children, with depictions of simplified card tricks. Others illustrated illusions you could perform with everyday items.

One book in particular stands out in my memory, because the success of its tricks relied on the performer having an ignorant audience.

Take, for example, its proprietary version of the disappearing quarter:

“Hold the quarter in your palm,” the book instructed in a matter-of-fact tone. “Curl your fingers into a fist and tap on your knuckles with your faux magic wand.” (As opposed, I presumed, to the genuine magic wand included in the more-expensive magic set — the one my parents didn’t buy me.)

The book continued: “Show the audience your balled fist with the quarter inside. Then, when no one is looking, slide the quarter into your pocket. Show the audience your fist, and when you uncurl your fingers, the quarter will be gone — as if by magic!”

Sounds easy enough, I thought, nodding. Visions of fame and riches swirled through my head.

Another trick involved cutting a piece of ribbon in half and reassembling it with magic.

“To perform this trick,” the book said, “you’ll need a piece of ribbon.”

Wow, I thought. What an informative opening sentence. What other spellbinding insights did this magnanimous tome have to offer?

“Show your ribbon to the audience,” the book continued. “Then, ask an adult to cut it in half with a pair of scissors.” (Such overcautious overtones defined my Millennial upbringing. To this day, I can’t touch a pair of scissors without my mother’s say-so.)

The book continued: “Hold both pieces of the cut ribbon for everyone to see. Announce to your audience that you’re going to combine the two ribbons back into one.

“Then, when no one is looking, slide the two halves up your sleeve and pull out a second piece of ribbon hidden in your pocket. Open your hand to show your audience the ‘reassembled’ ribbon.

“It must have been magic!” the book concluded with a self-satisfied, exclamatory finish.

Wait a minute, I thought, rereading the instructions. I was no Dick Tracy, but I was starting to detect a pattern. To perform either of the tricks successfully, you not only needed repurposed household props – you required an oblivious audience.

“When no one’s looking…” I mean, wow. Even as a kid, I was stunned by the laziness. (And remember, this is coming from someone who was addicted to Nintendo.)

Did all professional magicians depend on their audience members to simultaneously look away at an opportune moment? Was this one of the enduring secrets of the enigmatic conjuring community?

I began to doubt that veteran performers like Lance Burton and David Copperfield had learned their craft using the books I was reading.

What if a large-scale illusion hinged on the entire audience looking away at the same time? I imagine the instructions would sound something like this:

“How to hover in front of an audience of 14,000.

“First, walk onto stage and greet audience. Introduce a scantily clad assistant to keep the bored husbands and fathers entertained.

“Announce to the audience that you’re going to hover using your ‘magical’ powers. Dance around for no reason to upbeat techno music, waving your cape and seductively clutching the scantily clad assistant.

“Then, when no one is looking, strap on a harness with invisible wires. Have a backstage assistant hoist you into the air, to give the illusion of flight. Wave and blow kisses as you ‘soar’ across the stage with your arms outspread.

“Then, land back onstage and bow to thunderous applause. Proceed to collect millions for your amazing ‘magical’ abilities.”

I never did become a professional magician — and with my so-called schooling, it’s no wonder. Instead of practicing my sleight-of-hand skills, I was waiting for that elusive moment when “no one was looking.”

Sort of makes me wish I’d stuck with Nintendo.

19 comments on “‘Please close your eyes as I perform my next trick’ 

  1. I’m shocked that you never managed to become a professional musician despite the first class instruction provided by that guide. Here are some other guides in the same series.

    How to Become a Wine Taster
    Get someone to give you a glass of wine. Taste it. Decide if it’s good or bad.

    How to Become a Millionaire
    Open a bank account. Make a million dollars. Put into the account.

    How to Become US President
    Be born in America. Stand for election. Get more people to vote for you than for anybody else.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Allen, while in Vegas I caught your Nintendo act. You were great! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not looking…go ahead and I’ll be ‘awed’ appropriately.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My grandmother gave me an unsolicited gift of Magic for Dummies. I was pretty sure it was a veiled insult.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Allen, do you realize you’ve vanished ever since you posted this magical post. That’s one hell of an act but we want you back. :O)

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Hey, Paul! Yeah, I’ve just been swamped at work lately. I tried to hide in the break room to avoid all the extra assignments, but they found me anyway. Apparently, standing in a bucket and pretending you’re a mop doesn’t work so well. I probably would have gotten away with it, but my cell phone rang. The astute manager determined that most mops don’t carry ringing cell phones.

      Hoping to make a brief comeback this week, as well as make my rounds in the blogosphere. That is, if they unclamp the chain securing me to my workstation. 🙂

      Take it easy.

      Like

      • LMAO! Great response, Allen. I understand and can relate. I’ve been very busy of late as well, so no worries. But I’m terribly sorry to hear that the old pretending to be a mop in the mop bucket trick didn’t work out. Whoever dreamed up those cell phones probably never had to perform that wonderful illusion before their employer while on their job. That’s a tough crowd. Wait! Your trying to perform the dreaded—only attempted once before—chained to the workstation escape trick, too? The last magician (the only magician) ever to attempt that incredibly hard trick (one Bob Smith from accounting) had himself locked in an office cubicle and was never seen again—not even after Five O’clock! He just simply vanished. Better bring the secret time clock key—just in case. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • It seems likely that Bob ended up in an evil alternate universe — one in which innocent corporate drones toil over stacks of useless paper, entering insignificant data into overcomplicated systems. Their misery knows no end … except for maybe a week’s vacation, which they have to accrue. And in this wretched, terrifying alternate plane, there is no hope, no laughter … only tedious drudgery and stalled career paths.

        Oh, wait. That’s not an evil alternate universe. That’s this universe.

        Like

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