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Chicago Bar Magic DVD Review

Official Review

September 20th, 2006 10:48pm
Reviewed by P.T. Murphy
Having grown up in Chicago I am very familiar with many of the routines on this DVD. Watching Randy Wakeman perform these classic effects brought back many happy memories.

One particular memory involved going to see Bill Malone perform at a restaurant he and his wife owned and operated on Chicago's Southside. That night I got a very special introduction to the world of Chicago Bar Magic.

That was almost 25 years ago! And believe it or not these routines are still being performed today by Chicago bar magicians such as Al James and Jimmy Krzak.

On Chicago Bar Magic Randy Wakeman conjures up the gho sts of Chicago’s magical past as he performs classic effects such as Red Hot Momma, The Big Stop and a very practical and EASY handling of the classic card stab routine titled The Chicago Stab. All of the routines, as well as the others presented on this DVD, were reputation makers for Chicago magic legends like Don Alan, Jim Ryan and Johnny Paul.

Chicago Bar Magic opens with Randy performing behind the bar. Here we get to see what it may have been like to watch Heba Haba Al or Frank Everhart perform for their patrons. Randy handles the audience in typical Chicago bar magic style tossing out one-liners and keeping the “frisky” spectators in check. While watching Randy perform it dawned on me that not only have these effects been passed down from generation to generation but so have the one-liners! Think what you will, BUT these one-lines along with the effects presented are what made the Chicago Bar Magic scene.

The effects on Chicago Bar Magic are very visual and most importantly they involve the audience. The skill level of some of these effects may be beyond the average beginner, but that should not dissuade you from getting this DVD and learning these routines. The more difficult sleights taught are important to know and as I have said these routines are classic Chicago.

Perhaps in the future somebody will produce a more extensive work on the Chicago “school” of magic. There is much to explore regarding Chicago’s rich magical history. Chicago Bar Magic does not give you the whole story of the Chicago scene but it is a good place to start.

The material presented on Chicago Bar Magic was seminal in my development as a young performer. I know that you will find a few items that you can add to your repertoire.

I am only giving this DVD 3 stars. My one gripe about this DVD is the same thing that I like about it, oddly enough. The material and the presentations seem to be frozen in time. Very little has been done to breathe new life into these routines. I can see how somebody not familiar with the history of Chicago magic may think that this material is a bit dated.
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Product info for Chicago Bar Magic DVD

Author: Various Artists
Publisher: Randy Wakeman
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $35.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

Over the 1950's, 1960's and through the 1970's a brand of bold and direct close-up magic was developed in Chicago, Illinois. These effects were punctuated by simplicity, clarity and strength of effect, and the powerful response they elicited.

Chicago magical legends Don Alan, 'Heba Haba Al' Anducci, 'Senator' Clarke Crandall, Frank Everhart, Jack Murray, Johnny Paul, James Patrick Ryan, and Matt Schulien forged their reputations with these effects, and now you can too.

While these quick, direct, simple, baffling effects were common in Chicago for decades, they were far less widely known and practiced outside of Chicago's nightlife venues. Many of these wonderful pieces have evaporated into the ether, for no other reason than they are not the 'latest.' To say that you could make your living performing these eternal impossibilities is beyond dispute. Many of our talented trailblazers have done precisely that. Now is your chance. If you are just getting your feet wet in close-up entertainment, let this information serve as your magical springboard. If you are a close-up veteran, you'll find yourself wondering why you aren't performing these gems regularly.

Contents include: Davebury Delusion; Exploding Aces; Stacked Impact; Standing Ten Count; Red Hot Mama; The Big Stop; I Chink So; The Chicago Stab. All this, and much more, including a truly invisible handling of the Johnny Paul / Jim Ryan Bill Tear. All performed before impromptu audiences and clearly taught.

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