This is one of the first tricks I ever created. I'm sure I couldn't have been the first to do this effect using this method. I was 13 or so when I came up with it, and I don't consider myself that precocious.
There was a magic shop in my town. It was a real shit-show of a shop and I'm glad it's gone. But that's another story for another day.
I had attended my first lecture there and afterwards, while people were eating stale popcorn from a large tin bucket, a few people were encouraging me to join the local branch of one of the magic organizations. I don't remember if it was the IBM or the SAM and the difference is too inconsequential for me to google it. I asked what it entailed to join and I was told that I would need to perform a routine. (I'm sure there were some other requirements too. Pay some dues? Fill out some forms? Kill a runaway?)
I was stymied by the idea of performing a trick for people who were likely to already know the secret. As a beginner magician, that's all magic was for me, the secret. There was one other young guy at the lecture. He was 17 and considered himself a bit of a hot-shot on the magic scene. For the purposes of this blog post we'll call him Jason, because... well... I'm pretty sure that was his name. I pulled him aside and asked him what type of thing I could perform for this group that would impress them. The average age there was "almost dead." What could I, as a kid, perform that would fool these wisened, wizened, wizards?
He told me there was a group of effects that people considered "magician foolers" and he would help me find some. I was enthralled by this notion. Magic that was so incredible and impossible it would fool magicians! And I spent a few weeks trying to come up with my own effect that would qualify as a magician fooler. I eventually stumbled across an idea that utilized some of the rudimentary knowledge that I possessed at that time that I thought might be able to fool some magicians. But certainly, I thought, this effect is not up to the mighty standards of a true "magician fooler" effect.
At the next gathering I attended at the shop I cornered Jason again. I told him I'd come up with a trick and asked him for any help he could give me with it and if he could show me some other tricks that might fool these magicians. We sat down at a table and he pulled out a deck of cards. A few other guys joined us. Then he performed three "magician foolers" for me. After each trick the crowd around us grew. And all these guys were really enthusiastic about the magic. I was just sitting there, surrounded by heavyset, older, white guys, and I wish I could play that moment back for you, and you could see my expression, and hear my thoughts like I was Kevin Arnold in The Wonder Years. I think it would be funny to see the forced smile on my face, and watch my eyes dart side to side, and hear the confusion and disbelief in my voice as I thought, What...in...the...fuck...is going on here?
They were the shittiest tricks I'd ever seen. And I looked around at these braying idiots with the dawning horror you would read in a novel where someone realizes, "Oh my god, this is a party for vampires!" or something like that. Except my realization was, "Oh, these people are all terribly dull. And this hobby that I thought was about dazzling people can be wildly boring." I have since found dozens maybe 100s of magicians I admire and enjoy being around, but in that moment I was just like, "Ugh. These people suck." And I just wanted to be out of there.
"Magician foolers" weren't some ultra-impressive tricks. They were just tricks that were so convoluted and uninteresting that they only appealed to people whose sole criteria for a successful effect was: do I know how this is accomplished? They hadn't raised the bar. They'd lowered it to the point where no one other than magicians would care about the trick.
Jason passed the deck over to me and suggested I show everyone the trick I was working on. "It's not a card trick," I said, and pulled out the little silk that came with the Klutz Book of Magic.
It seemed my nerves had gotten the best of me because I was flashing the thumbtip on my right thumb wildly, forgetting to point it at the correct angle to make it invisble. (And yes, I use "thumbtip," one word, to describe the gimmick and differentiate it from your actual thumb tip. This should be standard in magic. Okay? Thanks, bye!!!!)
I stole the thumbtip with my left hand somewhat clumsily, then I poked the silk into my left fist with my right forefinger and then my thumb. I drew my right hand away. It was, perhaps, unnaturally tensed and awkwardly positioned, but at least I remembered to keep the tip of my right thumb pointing at the audience. I opened up my left hand to show the silk had disappeared.
"I've just started working on it," I began.
"You need to practice in front of a mirror," someone interrupted. "You flashed the thumbtip multiple times. We can see it," he said and gestured towards my right hand.
"I what?" I said, letting my right hand relax and open.
There was no silk. There was no thumbtip. My hands were truly empty.
My "magician fooler" was not a silk vanish, but a thumbtip vanish. And I'd fooled them badly.
I promised to show them how I'd done it at the next meet-up at the shop. And then I just never, ever, ever went back when people were meeting up there. For a second time I'd fooled them with a disappearance.
I still like to use this trick when I'm meeting a group of magicians for the first time. Or, even better, when dealing with some dude who knows a little about magic and feels the need to pontificate on everything when I'm messing around at a party or something. This is a good trick to shut him the fuck up.
Its a very satisfying structure to lower expectations and then destroy those expectations. I do it with women too. "For someone who was so excited about trying a Quesalupa," they say, "I never expected you to be such a vigorous lover."
How did I do it? Simple. I had the silk and the thumbtip, but I also had a universal pull in my left hand and just used that to vanish the whole shebang.
(Can we take a moment to admire that ad for the universal pull? First, I like when it says, "This is not another pull," when, yes, that's exactly what it is. I'm also amazed by this line: "Its excusive [sic] design made it get the Inventions First Prize during the Second Argentinean National Congress, in 1981." Okay, that sounds perfectly reasona-- wait... what? I have no idea what the Second Argentinean National Congress is. The only reference I can find to it is in regards to this gimmick. Maybe it's just some cruddy Argentine magic conference. I don't know. But it sounds like something much more significant. And that only makes the idea that a pull won the "Inventions First Prize" there sound all that much more ridiculous. It would be like if you said, "And then he won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his slush powder." Or, "And then he won the pulitzer for his magic blog."
I have a big affinity for pulls. You can do such visually astonishing magic with them. But it can be a pain in the ass to pin them into your coat and stuff. I'm lazy. It's strange. I'll spend 6 months preparing for some effects, but then bristle against setting up a pull. "I can't be opening and closing safety-pins all day! Jeez louise! I'm not a tailor for god's sake." But I'm going to get back into them I think. Well, when fall rolls around and we're back in jacket weather. (I did once use a pull that went up the leg of my shorts that I could use when sitting. I tried it once in real life and it whacked me in the balls hard as hell. That's another thing I wish we could go back and watch. Me being like, "And with just a blow your ring is gone- FUUUCCCCCKKKKKKKKK.")
Many years after I first performed this effect I read an idea in the Jinx, called the Invisible Pull, where Annemann combined a pull with a thumbtip. Alas, you can't really use it to vanish the thumbtip itself, as in the effect above, but it still seemed like a very versatile idea to me for other effects. I never really got accustomed to the handling for it, and I'm guessing not many other people did either, as it seems to not have caught on. But in experimenting with it I came up with a whole new set-up that I think a lot of you will find interesting. It's not just a pull or thumbtip. It's kind of an invisible close-up magic multi-tool. In fact, that's what I'll call it, The Invisible Close-Up Magic Multi-Tool (ICUMMT).
At the end of his write-up for the Invisible Pull, Annemann says:
And while I have had some things to say about that gimmick, he has been completely ignoring my emails. So instead I will be posting my evolution of the Invisible Pull, the ICUMMT, on this site next week.