Old-school tricks still amaze at Daytona Magic
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — If anyone wonders whether old-fashioned sleight-of-hand still has the capacity to amaze in an era of instant news and talking smart devices, a visit to Daytona Magic reveals that it does, as fast as you can say “Abracadabra.”
Actually, no magic words were required as this month owner Harry Allen and his staff entertained shoppers with coin tricks, metamorphic playing cards and other prestidigitation accessories at the shop that has been a fixture in Daytona Beach since 1976.
Even if smart phones have jaded some, the sight of a shiny penny that vanishes only to reappear inside an audience member’s pants pocket is still astounding, as it has been for centuries, Allen said.
“Magic has been around for over 5,000 years,” Allen said. “It has always been alive, even if it has had its peaks and valleys.”
It’s alive and well at Daytona Magic, the shop that Allen helped start in the Daytona Mall, at the corner of Nova Road and International Speedway Boulevard, in 1976. The business had relocated from Philadelphia, where it originated in 1968, Allen said.
After a stint at Bellair Plaza in the 1980s, the shop moved to its current home on Beach Street in 1990.
There, the business thrives on a combination of tourist-based walk-ins, a small but devoted local clientele of magicians and a bustling online mail-order business for some 500 items manufactured in an upstairs sewing room as well as two woodshops and a machinist’s shop elsewhere in town, Allen said.
“We’re online shipping 30 packages a day out of here,” Allen said, “all over the world.”
In the fall, the shop sponsors its annual Daytona Beach Festival of Magic, a convention that culminates with a public performance by professional magicians at the News-Journal Center.
This year’s 18th annual edition will unfold with lectures, teach-ins, dealer rooms and other magic-related activities Nov. 2-4 at the Daytona Beach Resort & Conference Center. The show, featuring magicians Jeff McBride, Losander and Sindy Skinless, will be at 8:30 p.m. Nov. 3 at the News-Journal Center.
“We’re so happy to bring magicians to Daytona Beach every November,” Allen said. “It’s a G-rated weekend, all family friendly, but the shows that we put on are the same thing you would see in (Las) Vegas, full illusions, comedic magic, a variety of magicians performing their acts for two hours.”
Although technology has yielded a younger generation potentially less impressed with old-school magic, the craft has received a boost from TV shows such as “America’s Got Talent!” and niche programs such as “Fool Us,” a talent show on The CW hosted by comedic-magic duo Penn & Teller, Allen said.
“It’s funny how the old-school magic maintains,” said Allen, who started dabbling in magic at age 9, as a part-time employee at a magic shop in New Jersey. “The traditional cups-and-balls, a trick that requires no technology at all, is just as popular today as when I was starting in the business in the 1960s. A lot of the same tricks are popular now.”
At Daytona Magic, the next generation of magicians is represented by Luke Crouch, 14, who officially started a part-time summer job there this week.
“I saw some friends doing card tricks,” Luke said of his introduction to magic two years ago. “I went to the library and found as many books on it as I could.”
At the shop, the teen is surrounded by magical gadgets and the people who love them. One wall is lined with hundreds of gag gifts, ranging from fart whistles and booger noses to invisible ink and spy glasses (to see who’s following you).
Turn a corner and there are sets of multiplying rabbits, playing cards with evocative names such as Sinner’s Deck, bowling balls that somehow are extracted from slender briefcases, juggling pins and top hats with warning signs: “Don’t lift switch! Bunny sleeping!”
Tricks range from outrageously high-end professional fare — the Gamolo Levitation, at $3,499 — to sponge-ball starter kits at $29.99.
“We have 20,000 items in the store that are easy (to perform) out of the box,” Allen said.
At the counter, shop staffer Pete Gould is demonstrating card tricks for an amazed couple.
That’s not always the reaction, he admits.
“I can’t do magic for my sister, because she gets really frustrated that she can’t figure out the trick, but the whole purpose of doing magic, as a magician, is to be invisible,” Gould said. “All the cool stuff, I can only share with other magicians.”
To watch, however, requires only one thing, he said.
“To witness magic, you’ve got to be willing to suspend your disbelief,” Gould said, “and it’s a good break, to make somebody smile, to make somebody laugh. That’s all we’re trying to do.”
Information from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com