Steven Bridges may make sub optimal choices when it comes to supermarket salad bars, but he’s a hell of a street magician.
In this latest video he’s once again pounding the pavement of Carnaby Street, London, laying waste to any cutlery he comes across. His fork bending is smooth and fun, but he goes on to disappoint me once again by breaking out a deck of Bicycle Reds for a very cool box trick.
We don’t even use Bicycles over here, Steven!
This is what happens when a magician goes to McDonald’s ?? pic.twitter.com/4UANIRuUMp
— J O E L (@imjoelm) May 13, 2018
Last time we caught up with young Irish magician Joel M, he was wreaking havoc in IKEA with a variety of cool tricks. This time, having honed his craft in Tescos, he’s determined to put McDonalds out of business by generating an infinite number of chicken nuggets.
Those boxes hold, what, eight nuggets?If Joel were to generate another one hundred chicken nuggets, that would bring the total number of chickens used to make his meal up to… zero.
That’s a joke. Please don’t sue us, Ronald.
I’m quite fond of magic, but food is my true passion. This fact is obvious to anyone who has ever seen me walk up a flight of stairs. So this latest video from YouTube jetsetters, Simon and Martina Stawski, is entirely my jam. I would also like to eat the jam, please.
The Canadian couple were treated to a tour of Shibuya’s famous nightlife food and drink scene by a tour company called Magical Trip. Conveniently, a street magician turned up half-way through filming to provide the “magical” part of the tour.
Okay, yeah, this video isn’t exactly overflowing with tricks, but look at that fishcake and fried egg thing at ten minutes in. I would vanish that in an instant.
If you ever find yourself in Tokyo, that tour will run you $55, plus the cost of food and drink. In my case, that latter cost would be substantial.
“Vegas at 11am is one of the most depressing sights known to mankind,” says Piff the Magic Dragon as he surveys the paltry foot traffic outside of the Flamingo Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.
Thus begins a hilarious episode of Vegas 24 in which host Roberto Raad tries in vain to summon a sliver of enthusiasm from the famously cantankerous supernatural lizard.
I’ve honestly ran out of things to write about Piff – who has mysteriously never been seen in the same room as professional magician, John van der Put. He’s been doing amazing things in the magic scene since 2008, but really hit his stride when he appeared on the first season of Penn & Teller: Fool Us in 2011. He’s since appeared on America’s Got Talent three times, reaching the top ten in two of his appearances. While it’s clear Mr. Piffles is the power behind the throne, Piff’s tricks are great, his wit is lightning fast, and his English is great for an ancient mythical beast.
Having hibernated throughout the winter months, magician and street performer Steven Bridges is finally back on the streets of London doing what he does best: Interviewing other performers.
I kid. Bridges is great and we’re big fans of him here at GeniiOnline, but he doesn’t actually perform a great deal of magic in this latest video. We see a couple of tricks and the tail end of a disrupted set, but the bulk of the runtime is dedicated to quick hellos with his fellow street performers, a request for challenges from his viewers, a random dancing lady, some solid advice about performing in front of crowds and a trip to Tesco’s salad bar.
The vid is actually a really interesting glimpse into the day-to-day grind of street performing, but I can’t let Bridges’ poor life choices when it comes to salad requisition stand unchallenged. Morrisons’ salad bar is clearly superior both in terms of cost and salad quality. Not only that, he didn’t even overfill his salad container until it was bursting at the seams and then secure it with elastic bands. Terrible.
That headline kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Here’s the tweet.
Anyone in LA want to be in a quick little street magic thing I'm shooting tomorrow? Would need your pretty face in Glendale for 30 min sometime between 5:30-7:30pm. Email here for details: Justinwillmanproject@gmail.com pic.twitter.com/LBvvyTn1Xd
— Justin Willman (@Justin_Willman) March 28, 2018
Because I can’t send you, my precious readers, off into the arms of some dude on twitter without doing at least a modicum of research, I did some journalism on this Justin Willman guy. Turns out he’s a pretty big deal. He’s appeared on a whole bunch of shows, hosted Cupcake Wars, has a ton of magic tours under his belt and is starring in his own magic reality series on Netflix sometime this year. He even has his own Wikipedia page, a sure sign of big-deal-ness. So, I can say that, on balance, this probably isn’t an elaborate kidnapping plot, but if it is, points for effort, man.
Magicians all around the world have plenty of chances to gather and talk shop at conventions large and small. One of the best ways for a new event to carve out its identity is by finding a focus. For the brand new event Street Magic Con, that focus is right in the name.
Jonny V is the brains behind this convention, which will highlight street magic performers. He’s promising networking with fellow close-up specialists, lectures, jam sessions, and vendors. The organizer himself says he’s been performing magic on and off for 20 years, and fell in love with close-up after seeing David Blaine’s Street Magic in 1996.
Everything is clearly still in the very early stages of planning. There isn’t even a set date yet, although Jonny V is targeting summertime in Los Angeles, so Cali locals in particular may want to keep tabs on how this shapes up. Anyone can sign up for email updates to find out more details as they are announced.
One of the most fascinating forms of magic is street magic, taking your work out into the masses to make a living busking. Arguably the best known of the street magicians is Gazzo, the ‘King of the Buskers’. After ten years in the UK, Gazzo has left Old Blighty’s shores once again to head back to the US, but why?
While it’s easy to blame everything on Brexit these days, Gazzo’s departure was financially, rather than politically, motivated: “Well I’m a full-time busker and I don’t busk in England, at all. I mean, I’ve done it a few times, it’s just that to me England’s not a busking country. You can only do it in the day, there’s no busking areas at night – everyone’s drunk and in pubs and when they come out of the pubs they’re drunk and obnoxious. There’s no café culture in the UK, you know?”
Britain’s lack of café culture is well documented and often cited as the cause of our binge drinking problem, but Gazzo makes it clear that this ‘let’s go out and get wasted’ attitude makes it difficult for buskers and street performers in the UK. With the drunks ruining the nighttime hustle, buskers are forced to work the day shift, which comes with its own issues: “When you’re busking in the day, I tend to find it’s just mostly shoppers and tourists, and these people just don’t have the tolerance for it, in my opinion.”
Before leaving the UK, Gazzo had been running the Krowd Keepers Magic Theatre in Bath, putting on regular shows along with other magicians, including his protégé, Billy Kidd. While Krowd Keepers has become a very successful venue in Bath, Gazzo laments that he originally had something grander in mind: “I got that going about two years ago and it’s a successful venue, but it’s very small […] the idea was to open it up in Key West, Florida and I was this close to doing it, but obtaining a room in Key West is very difficult because of high price rentals, and not anybody is willing to give you a room for free to get a business going. So, I ended up abandoning that idea.” Krowd Keepers is still open in Gazzo’s absence, in the capable hands of Billy Kidd. Gazzo speaks very highly of Billy, both as a magician and a businesswoman: “She was the one that was really running the thing. I was doing the shows etc., but she kind of runs the business side of it – that is not my forte […]. She’s probably, in my opinion, the best female performer in the world right now as far as magic is concerned.”
Now Gazzo is leaving the theatre business behind in favor of touring the USA performing street magic. For a man with the moniker of “King of the Buskers”, it’s familiar turf, but I was interested to know why Gazzo developed such an affinity for street magic over traditional stage shows: “The idea of magic is to perform it in front of an audience, you know? I’ve never liked the idea of practicing in my bedroom or anything. I like to practice, but I also like to practice while I’m performing, to put it in front of a real audience, and the best venue for that would be the streets because it’s an accumulation of different crowds, constantly and forever.”
Gazzo insists busking is the best way to learn, saying that “today, on the internet people are buying the latest trick, which is a two-minute trick to perform and it’s usually on a one-on-one basis. You don’t really learn to perform with those tricks”. Gazzo’s routine is filled with the classics of magic: the cups and balls, the ambitious card, the gypsy thread, all “classic routines that are tried and tested in time” as he puts it, emphasizing that they’re “wonderful tricks to perform in front of an audience”. As a result, Gazzo doesn’t develop new tricks of his own, preferring instead to put his own unique spin on well-known tricks. He puts it best when he says that “if someone comes out and juggles three balls, they didn’t invent the three-ball juggle, but the way they do it is what makes it unique […] I never invented the cups and balls, but I invented a routine using the cups”.
Gazzo’s own style is that of the ‘wide boy’, a description that will likely mean nothing to readers outside of the UK and it’s a difficult one to explain. When it comes down to it, a ‘wide boy’ is a hustler – the streetwise conman who uses a mixture of charisma and underhanded tactics to make a living. If you’ve ever seen Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch, any character in either film fits the bill. Gazzo’s character can also be brash and offensive, engaging crowds by insulting them as often as entertaining them, though he’s always quick to point out that it’s only a character: “everyone needs a gimmick when they perform, and my gimmick is my English accent in America […] it helps me get away with certain things. I can hide behind that character, my English accent, even though I’ve been in America longer than I have my own country, England”. So, while he may look, sound and act like the quintessential British magician, Gazzo moved to the USA at the age of 20 and spent nearly 30 years performing for American crowds all over the states and developing his Gazzo persona.
Though he’s now regarded as one of the greatest street performers in the industry, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Gazzo. Back in 1994, on Venice Beach, LA, Gazzo suffered a stroke mid-performance and was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital. “I remember it because it was the day Nicole Simpson got killed,” he recalls, stating that he’d lived a clean life free from drugs and heavy alcohol consumption and yet still suffered a stroke at the age of 34. The stroke severely impacted Gazzo’s left hand and left him unable to perform. Gazzo was effectively out of the magic business for 5-6 years: “I had suffered greatly because of loss of earnings, all my stuff was repossessed, I lost my house, it was devastating for me. I didn’t have health insurance and I had hospital bills […] it was a horrible time in my life”.
Despite these hardships, Gazzo managed to make it through, thanks in no small part to the support of his wife at the time, along with the generosity of his fellow performers: “I didn’t have a lot of savings, but luckily magicians and performers from all over the world collected money for me and it was great […] It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to enable me to keep my head above water”.
Gazzo made it through to the other side though and got his career back on track, even being featured on season one of Penn & Teller: Fool Us where he performed his rendition of the oldest trick in magic, the cups and balls. Penn and Teller loved the act, with Penn saying that “in all art and performance, it’s the singer not the song and you are the best singer we have ever seen”. After relaying my appreciation to Gazzo, he immediately hits me with a bombshell: “Not what you saw though, you only saw the edited version […] I did a 40-minute cup and balls routine, that’s why […] If you saw the full version then you could understand why they praised me highly – I didn’t deserve the praise for the two-minute piece they showed on TV”. Looking back on the show, this makes sense. Penn opened his comments to Gazzo by saying “can we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for letting us be on your show”. This line always seemed a little out of context in the original recording, but if they’d just sat through a 40-minute cup and balls extravaganza then it makes perfect sense.
Another thing that seemed odd to me was Gazzo’s choice of trick – it’s a fantastic version of the cups and balls, but it’s still a trick that Penn and Teller obviously know how to do, so why would Gazzo choose it to fool them? Well, as it turns out, he didn’t: “Well it was actually Johnny Thompson, their advisor and consultant who suggested they bring Gazzo on, because as I understood, they told me they needed a laugh track. They wanted to tape the laugh track for certain performers who were on there who weren’t funny”.
Now after giving his home country one last go, Gazzo has come to terms with the fact that the UK just isn’t for him. So he’s returned to the land where he made his fame, living on the road and performing magic on the streets of America’s most beautiful cities. It’s a shame to see one of our finest performers leave Britain’s shores again, unlikely to return this time, but it’s hard to argue with his reasoning: “I have a box van that I live in and I park anywhere I want to go, usually by the water and I open my doors and see beautiful blue water. Where else can you see that?
Life hack: If a stranger walks up to you and asks to borrow your phone, only say yes if they’re a magician. You’ve perhaps seen the set-up for this trick before, but Australia’s James Galea certainly puts a memorable spin on it. This clip is from his Best Trick Ever special, which premiered on Australian ABC and iview just this past week.
Here’s one for the next time the barista at Starbuck’s mangles your name. Take her Sharpie, break the clip off the cap and instantly restore it. The video includes four different handlings.