Hollywood and Las Vegas

by Richard Morse

On a recent trip to America, my wife Sheila and I paid a visit to The Magic Castle in Hollywood, where we were privileged to be given a guided tour by the legendary Billy McComb. Fast inheriting the mantle of the late Dai Vernon as Dean of the Castle, Billy took great pains to make us welcome and to ensure that we saw everything. After whispering Open Sesame to the owl to gain admittance, Irma the invisible piano player serenaded us with Rule Britannia before we were served a beautifully cooked Sunday Brunch with champagne. Afterwards, we were treated to a performance of children's magic in the Parlour by Aldo Colombini, followed by the incomparable mentalism and rope ties of Glenn Falkenstein and Francis Willard in the Palace Theatre. A truly magical experience!


Whilst in Los Angeles we also visited Wizardz Dinner Theatre where we saw some exceptional magic by the suave and sophisticated James Dimmare, before flying on to Las Vegas. Vegas is the Magic Capital of the World. Since Siegfried and Roy were told at the start of their Vegas career that "Magic doesn't work in Vegas!" the art form has literally taken over the town. Magic is everywhere. At the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, where we stayed, Master Magician Lance Burton has had a theatre built for him, and his thirteen year contract with the venue is said to be worth a staggering $100 million. His show is superb, starting out with his award winning FISM act (which incidentally in my opinion suffers from the fact that he now talks his way through it. I felt it worked better silent) and running the gauntlet of every type of magic from grand illusion through close up, culminating in his driving a flying Corvette around the stage!


For sheer grandeur, his show is topped only by Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage. Their production has to be seen to be believed. They are the Masters of Grand Illusion, and their use of exotic animals, from rare white tigers to a full size elephant makes theirs a true spectacle. For magicians though, I suspect the highlight of the performance is the combination of three effects to make one stunning interlude. By linking the Gamolo Featherlite levitation with the thin model Sawing in Half (done incidentally with a portable buzz saw) and topping it off with Asrah, together with their long time assistant Lynette Chappell, they create real magic. She floats up through the dry ice from the floor to waist level, where with a wave of his hand Siegfried causes the silk which covers her body to vanish. With her suspended in mid air, the box for sawing her in half is wheeled swiftly underneath and she floats gently down into it. Together, Siegfried and Roy saw through her body with the spinning saw blade, separating the two halves and walking through the middle. The two halves are pushed back together again, and her body, covered with a cloth, rises high into the air out of the box. Below, the box is whisked away, as she lies motionless high up in the air. Then, unbelievably, the cloth is pulled away and she vanishes without a trace. A true classic of magic.....or rather three, rolled into one. The layman is astonished, but in this instance the magician is more astounded because only he knows the real technical difficulties that have to be overcome to perform what has just been witnessed. Sensational magic from a sensational partnership.....and they said it couldn't be done. It could only happen in Las Vegas. If you get the opportunity to go to Vegas, don't miss their show.....it makes my elusive rabbits look rather tame!


Richard Morse July 2000