Friday, April 29, 2011

the ruins of empire...

Did you watch the royal wedding? Did you? My lovely wife did. It's so nice of you all to take the time to give the British a little global attention for the only thing they have left after they kinda sorta gave up the Empire (hint to commonwealth countries, that's the new name for what's left of the Empire): elaborate pageantry, pomp, circumstance and ritual. When we lived in London, right near the tower of London, there was some sort of ceremony every other week. There is no industry, no manufacturing, the richest man in the UK is the Indian diamond merchant Bharat Shah, the beloved British Jaguar and Land Rover brands are officially 'subsidiary brands' of the Bombay-based Tata Motors Ltd. Even the premiere British brand Rolls-Royce is owned by the German Volkswagen corporation. So all that the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha family, the Germans who rule England, really have left is a bit of pomp. They let a commoner marry into the royal family. The most beautiful diamond they own is the Koh-i-Noor that the Queen of England stole from the Maharajah of Lahore. Was this because she couldn't afford to buy it or because she was too ill-mannered to ask for it politely?

Above is the Imperial Crown of India made for and used by king George V at the 1903 Delhi Durbar where the British tried once again to convince they Indians they ruled India. Below is Shri Tukojirao Sahib Holkar, the Maharaja of Indore, a noted collector of cars, horses, women, swords, and all things suited for a king. He was a Maratha king, a scion of one of the great Maratha houses that ruled the rich state of Indore. His descendant Richard Holkar stills lives there and runs an amazing hotel in their old family castle/palace on the Narmada river. Never heard of Holkar, the Marathas or the Delhi Durbars? It's not too late to learn. It's amusing for me to watch as the royalty of the world, both old and new, so let's include the Vanderbilts, Bushes and Clintons in that list, try to ignore the rise of India and China. Were those red coats stitched in the UK or in China? Were those Arabian horses bred in the UK or in Pune? Will the royal couple be driven in an Indian or a German car? Because there is no truly British car company left anymore. But the ruins of Empire are not all that bad. London is a lovely city to live in, if you can afford it.

Something for us in the US to think about as we lose our hegemonic position in the world in the next few years: once the center of global power is officially in Delhi or Beijing, will we have any ceremony in DC that will attract the world's attention like this? China will become the leading global economy in either 2016 or 2020, so let's start thinking about something cool to get the Hindi and Chinese speaking world's attention once in a while. And let's not fly planes into the Petronas towers either. We're nicer than that.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

There are a lot of guys in India who work at call centers these days, but these guys have decided to live a slightly different lifestyle. That is why even in 2011, people find India so fascinating, more so that in the past when it was perceived to be only 'backward and exotic.' Now, we know that there are hundreds of thousands of young Indians who can fix our most complex tech problems in the blink of an eye, and yet, there are still guys who spend their days lying around on beds of nails outside of Hindu temples in major cities like Calcutta (Kolkata) and Varanasi (Kashi). I won't try to explain why these guys do this routine, but I will explain to you why I do it. It's quite simple really. Because these guys do it, and their ancestors have done it for several generations, people expect to see an Indian magician lie on a bed of nails. So I went to the hardware store, bought a board, drove it home illegally sticking out of my open sunroof, and will soon proceed to drive nearly 1,000 large shiny spikes (that cost 18 cents a piece, you can do the math!) through this board. Then, because it's for a stage show in the US, not for sitting near an Indian temple, I will also put locking casters on the bottom, and likely cut it in half so it will fold to enable me to transport it more easily. My mother is quite right, I can do far better tricks than the bed of nails, and I will do them in my show. In fact, I am hoping to end with a stunningly beautiful mental bit that is straight from an Indian street magician I know.  It will soon be copied by magicians all over the Western world if I let out the secret. I'm tempted to put together a quick lecture tour and sell it myself, rather than let some magic company take the idea that I paid my friend Shaddruddin Baddruddin quite fairly (my wife thinks excessively) for. It's the trick he has closed his show with for years and he likely learned it from his father, who learned it from his father... so it's really an old Indian street magic trick. For those who couldn't wait for a magic show this spring, Jeff McBride did a fine show last night here on the Yale campus. I have tried throwing cards and never managed to do some of the things he can do, so I enjoy watching him. I hope that after a few weeks' break, in which I still have to build the new bed of nails, New Haven magic fans will turn out in even larger numbers for my final public appearance in this area. I pick up the paper postcards on saturday and will start distributing them immediately.  If you don't see them in whatever cool place you hang out, let me know and I'll drop some off. Or I can send a postcard directly to your home, real paper mail, signed by me, if you like. Tomorrow is that wedding in the UK where my friend Sandy Soparkar is performing. I wish him all the best and hope he got a really high performance fee from that old German family that has been ruling Britain for a few hundred years and has no plans of retiring. I think they planned the wedding for this year just to upstage prince Albert Grimaldi of Monaco, the Amherst alum, athlete and magic/circus patron who had finally decided to get married this year and give up his playboy ways. Let's face it, Prince Albert is way cooler. His family is the longest continuously ruling family anywhere in the world, his mother was Grace Kelly, stunningly beautiful scion of a famous rowing family from Philadelphia and also a movie star (duh!), he's a patron of the world's most wonderful performing arts, he's an avid water sportsman, and an Amherst man too. I danced with a lovely woman on the cruise who is going to Prince Albert's wedding, but could not be convinced to get them to hire me as the wedding entertainment. When Albert's father Prince Rainer III married Grace Kelly in April 1956, they had hired Channing Pollock to entertain with his original dove act that has been regularly copied but never bettered. So, they have seen the best Western dove worker ever. Maybe now it's time to book an Indian-American guy who's also an Amherst alum, a water sports enthusiast, and a pretty darn good fusion magician. I would much rather work the Grimaldi wedding in Monaco than the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha wedding in London, but if Sandy (real name is Sandeep just fyi) Soparkar really breaks a leg or can't perform tomorrow, I think I can cancel my sections of history 208 and entertain the Windsors. Otherwise, I'm rooting for my fellow Marathi from Pune to wow them with his Bollywood style.

when i grow up...

A young boy once told the former Dean of American magicians Jay Marshall that he wanted to be a magician when he grew up. Jay's reply was: "You can't do both." I used to think it was a joke but now I see the truth in those simple words. Grownups wear grey suits; men wear ties and women wear some type of expensive and uncomfortable shoe to work. They all worry about health insurance, (if they are living in this 'land of the free' (what exactly is free here?)) and IRAs and Roth IRAs and stocks, if they are 'lucky' enough to own any, and their mortgage, if they are 'lucky' enough to have one and not owe more than they paid for it (but in that case, people would call them 'irresponsible' if they walk away?!)

When I was younger, I not only wanted to be a magician, but also a movie star, juggler, clown, James Bond, Bruce Lee, astronaut and fighter pilot when I "grew up." I'm turning 38 this year and I have only flown a plane once in my life for about 5 minutes when a US Marine recruiter was trying to recruit me to the marines in pre-9/11 happy times. Kalpana Chawla's tragic death in the space shuttle Columbia in 2003 convinced me that my mother was indeed correct: being an astronaut is dangerous; a smart young Indian-American can die in the space shuttle. Really. I now realize that James Bond is 'just' a fictional character and that Sean Connery was 'just' an actor who played that character, and the actor who plays this character will always be white, and can also be blond. There was only one Bruce Lee. Even Jackie Chan had to stop trying to be Bruce before finding his success as an actor, martial artist, and superstar. Juggling is too hard. One class with Michael Moschen convinced me that he deserves his MacArthur genius grant and I will never win one as a juggler. I had a small part in an episode of 'Arrest & Trial' in about 2000 which led to.... no significant acting work for years. Kal Penn got the part in 'Harold and Kumar go to White Castle' (known overseas as 'Harold and Kumar get the munchies for cultural and marketing reasons) that I once thought was destined for me. Lucky too. My mother would be offended by the film. So my remaining options for fulfilling the aspirations of my 13 year old self leave me with: magician.

The photos above are from India's most popular and successful magician who has created an amazing show now playing in Delhi. His name is... Franz Harary. India's most famous magician is a white guy, from Michigan. You know that I love non-Indians who dress up as Indians to perform magic. I love Franz. He's a wonderful illusionist, friend, and has done more to promote the art of magic in India than anyone I can think of. Not only is he performing in perhaps the world's largest magic show right now, but he was also a judge on tv show meant to find 'India's Greatest Magician.' I had wanted that part as well, and am jealous that he has worked with Jackie Schroff and lots of great Bollywood people during his years performing in India. But when I saw how he combined a bit of the brutal honesty of a Simon Cowell with a genuine encouragement to India's aspiring magicians to create real magic in their shows, I was truly amazed. I could never do that. I'm too mean. And bad magic, particularly bad Indian magic, annoys me too much to be nice about it. So maybe everyone gets what they really deserve... I will soon see if I lose money on my upcoming show and decide that I can't even really be a magician anymore or maybe it will become an annual event and will be repeated in a city near you. You actually get to shape my destiny by voting with your money. If you want me to continue publicly performing Indian magic, go to and buy a ticket to the show. If you can't come in person, let me know and I will donate your ticket to a poor local child who really needs and will appreciate it. Magic is good, but it's all about self-promoting. I am a terrible self-promoter to have promoted two other magicians on a blog ostensibly meant to promote my show. It's past 3am and I am still awake. That explains a lot. But it should help me lose a few extra pounds for the show. Hope to see you there. We open in 27 days...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

life is like...

Beds of nails, shoes of nails, hook swinging, coal walking, tongue, cheek piercing, bodily mortification in general used to annoy the British so much, that they banned most of these from Hindu temples when they were trying to run India. There are of course lots of jokes about the bed of nails and it's really only funny until you're the guy who has to lie on one. Which I have to do. In less than a month. So I was out in the gym after 9:30pm last night and I will be in a yoga class at 9:30am this morning. From my point of view, the biggest problem with Indian magic is that there is no trick to it. You lie on a bed of nails or you swallow a sword or needles, or a burning hot coal (there must be a trick there but I don't know it as yet...) I once met a magician named Samjunath Lalnath Wadi whose show-stopping trick is to produce a live snake and a live scorpion from his mouth. He was teaching his son the act and I was able to get a video of the act in case his son decides on a more practical way to earn a living. It is a great act that I'm sure PETA will prevent you from ever seeing in America, but I'm not too worried about scorpion rights and my star sign is scorpio! The problem, from a performer's point of view, is that you have to put live snakes and scorpions into your mouth at some point before you magically produce them. But this is the reason that Indian magic is so amazing: people really do some strange stuff in India. Even today in that land of call centers and computer programmers and mega shopping malls, you can still find a few little wonderful bits of real magic. And to save you the time, effort, expense and trouble, I have spent most of my youth finding, watching, and learning Indian magic, and will present the results to you right here in the comfort of a lovely 1913 music hall. Aren't you lucky? It's me who will be lying on the nail bed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

happy easter

Happy Easter. It's a season of renewal and life and fertility. My easter bunny didn't look quite like this. It does remind me of the year I was the easter bunny for my family and I hopped around our backyard in a homemade bunny outfit hiding eggs for my little brother and sister. Perhaps next year, I will hire a girl to wear the outfit above and hide eggs in my backyard. I'm glad that even the catholics weren't able to take the eggs and bunnies away from what used to be the Rites of Spring in pagan Europe. I recently found out from my lovely wife that an old friend of mine will be performing at the upcoming wedding that the royal family is planning in London. More on that in a future post. They still have a few days to book me for the wedding. Otherwise, they'll probably just book Peter Mehtab and Faye Presto like they usually do. To make up for not entertaining at the royal wedding, I'm going to try extra hard to sell out all four shows at the lyric hall next month.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

gratuitous skin show?

Warning: gratuitous Indian magician photo above. I have always loved this image. I had it on my wall when I lived in Chicago as a younger single magician and could just stick things on my wall with tape, or a bit of blue tack. I now have framed images on my walls, but not a single one relates to magic, as it so happens. This rainy New England afternoon, I am off to the printer to order the post cards and some posters for the show. This is the "old-fashion" kind of promo that I know how to do. I remain a skeptic when it comes to the utility of the internet for promoting a live show. If you are the type of person who looks at a lovely paper poster or picks up a postcard, I suspect you are the type of person who will also make the effort to go and see a fun fusion Indian magic show in a historic theater. I will keep this blog going until showtime and if it was the blog that motivated you to come to the show, please tell me this when we talk after the show. Otherwise, I hope you pick up a postcard from a coffeeshop or see one of my lovely full color posters somewhere and get intrigued enough to come to the show. It's going to be a lot of fun for the lucky and motivated few who do come as seating is extremely limited in the historic 1913 Lyric Hall theater in New Haven. If you live somewhere else and want to see the show, let's talk. I am sure I can take a version of the show on the road to a theater near you. I was going to post the text from the postcard, but you'll just have to look in a New Haven hangout and pick it up for yourself once it's out on paper. If you live somewhere else and really want a post card, let me know and I'll have one sent.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Why on earth would I put another magician's promo photo on my website? He's much better looking, perhaps a bit more talented (definitely a better juggler, not such a good South Asian linguist; touche?), and could potentially steal my clients. Except, he lives in Chicago and I live in New Haven and we do very different acts. The reason I am putting his photo on my blog is that he also did a magic show that was directed by the same Alexander Marshall who has generously agreed to direct my show.  I think it turned out okay. Comments from the man himself would be much appreciated here. I wished him well, and hope to have a chance to work with him someday. I just returned from watching a few comics at the Joker's Wild. The quality varied, but my friend's son Cody was quite good. The fact that I mention two other performers on my self-promoting blog perhaps proves that I am "not your everyday abracadabra man" as The Times of India said. There, finally a bit of self-promotion. Happy? Now buy some tickets to the show and let me know if the paypay is working on Thanks.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

a beard, a beard, my kingdom for a...

Okay, the votes have been tallied. My lovely wife, and Norm and Lupe Nielsen prefer the slight beard as do Teller, Tom Ogden and Eugene Burger. Gen. Stanley Mcchrystal prefers the clean shaven look. Since I have to live with my wife, and I trust any advice that experienced magicians offer, and the opinion of a lovely lady other than my wife is always appreciated, I will grow back the beard. Gen. Mcchrystal is a wonderful General, and I really respect his thinking on counter-insurgency. I was seriously impressed by his talk yesterday, but I will take my show business advice from my wife and experienced magicians who wish me well. Today I am going to the hardware store with the baby to buy nails and a boar to nail them into. I wish there was a trick to the bed of nails, but not the way I do it. In the show, you will see my bare flesh lying directly on over one thousand sharp nails that have been examined by the audience. If you are suspicious, you are welcome to come up on stage and examine the nail bed yourself. I look forward to an opportunity to present this lovely Indian demonstration for you, but please don't ever call it an illusion, as there is no trick to it. This might be the last time I present this demonstration. I'm not so young anymore.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


It's a good thing that I did shave yesterday because I'm going to see Gen. Stanley McChrystal tomorrow. I look forward to hearing about his strategic vision for the US in South Asia. More importantly, I can go to the talk tomorrow, and sleep at a reasonable hour tonight because I just sent my esteemed director the script. It was really strange to write down things that I've been saying for years, and things I have not yet said on the same page. Some routines are old friends and some are still wishful fantasies. The rope trick I am hoping for is still coming together, but there is a rope trick version that I regularly do, so there will be a rope trick in the show. The script will continue to evolve as we see what works on the stage of the lyric hall, so what you see in late May will differ from what I sent Sandy today. But it will all be fusion jadoo, never fear...

Monday, April 18, 2011

to shave or not to shave?

If you imagine a slightly (?) older and wiser version of this photo, it's how I look today because I did my usual spring ritual and shaved my face completely clean. The show opens in 38 days so I have to make the big decision of how much facial hair I want to have on opening night on May 25. Part of me wants to grow as much of a beard as I can between now and then, part of me says to stick with my look of neatly trimmed goatee (or 'Frenchie' in Indian English:). I have to decide on something and stick to it so my promo photos from the show all match my look opening night. But for today, I look as above, just a decade older, less well made up and less dramatically lit...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cups and Balls

The Shankar family of Udupi India has hosted visiting foreign magicians for years and has also made great efforts to preserve the ancient Indian art of jadoo. They organized the wonderful Gili Gili magic conventions in 1997 and 2001.  The 1997 convention featured an outdoor performance of the famous Indian rope trick and the 2001 convention included a performance by yours truly along with an escape from a straight jacket while hanging from a burning rope performed by Dean Gunnarson.  This is a photo of Shankar junior performing a version of the Indian cups and balls that he learned from an old street magician.  The act was performed by Professor Vazhakunnam, a magician from Kerala.  Shankar learned the act from one of the professor's students.  Inspired by the traditional Indian cups and balls routine, I am working on a fusion jadoo act that combines the western and Indian styles of cups of balls.  I may perform a version of this routine at the upcoming show. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Today is my first post without an image. I decided to try it to see if there was any different response from my still phantom readers. My show opens in less than six weeks, so things are really starting to heat up in terms of rehearsals and marketing. Luckily, the weather is also heating up and there should be blossoms on our local cherry trees this weekend. This makes people want to go outside and perhaps see some real Indian jadoo. I found a place to print the promotional postcards and posters for the show and might even print up some "got jadoo?" t-shirts if people express interest in buying them. With the proper promotions, jadoo could become like chai, pajama, guru, pandit, sitar, and mogul, a cool from an Indian language that is happily assimilated into the English language. As my routines come together, I might try them out with some street performing, since that is the way jadoo was performed for the last many decades. I might use this blog to post times and locations of my performances. First I need to find out the rules for performing on the street in New Haven. I will keep you posted...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

portrait of an artist

I admit, the photo is over a decade old. I'm a little older, a little greyer around the temples, but my wife tells me that's a good look, especially for an Indian magician. This promo photo was taken in Pune in 2000 back when I first got really serious about working as a professional entertainer. It has been seen in many newspapers and press releases and has represented me well. If you think it's a reference to the great illusionist  M. C. Escher, you're right. Escher made illusions on paper and I make them on stage and in homes. I am neither superstitious, nor triskaidekaphobic, but I choose to believe that my lucky number is 13, the day of my birth (13 days after halloween for anyone who is superstitious or scared of the number 13!). Since this is my 13th blog post and it's being posted on the 13th of April, just 13 days after April Fool's day if that sounds more mysterious, I believe that something good will happen to me today. I woke up with a cold, achy, sore and stiff, and with a bunch of papers to grade by the afternoon, so it hasn't happened yet. You can help make something nice happen to me today by commenting on a blog post so I know that someone is actually reading this. Better yet, tell your friends that they too can read about the creation of an original Indian fusion magic show for the next few weeks. The posts will really start to get interesting once our esteemed (multiple Emmy award winning) director returns from London, where he is currently promoting his excellent book 'Beating a Dead Horse,' which chronicles the life and times of the esteemed late Dean of American magicians Jay Marshall, who is our director's father. Not only am I second generation Indian magician, our director is a second generation magician, who comes from American magic royalty, on both sides of his family. What happens when you mix a second generation Scottish-American magician/director/author, a second generation Indian-American magician/scholar/author, a strong man, an Indian princess and a certified financial analyst together into one show? Keep watching the blog for updates, then come to the Lyric Hall memorial day weekend to see if we all survive!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

White Swami, (It's Magic!)

Here is a poster for the current tour of "It's Magic." Yup, it's a white guy wearing a turban. He appears to be throwing cards in the air. I learned this trick at a young age, but it took years to learn to pick them all up again. I'm hoping my mother has a picture of me in a turban and suit doing magic in my grade school talent show. If I can acquire it, I will post it. This reminds us that white guys still like to wear turbans, but it still doesn't explain why. I'm working on a book chapter on Indian magicians right now and will write a bit about non-Indians who dress up as Indians to perform. The book should be out next year, edited by James Frey, a wonderful historian and scholar of Indian magic who currently teaches at UW-Oshkosh.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Here we have a lovely trio of white magicians who dressed up as Indian magicians to perform magic in the early 20th century.  As you can see, the only thing they had in common was a turban, the iconic hat that I too will briefly don for my upcoming show. I don't know all the reasons that non-Indian people in the 19th and 20th century would dress up as Indians, but I am thinking and writing about it these days. You will note that Carter, as well as Houdini, and Jadugar Anand, did vanish an elephant in his show... I am starting to think that I should do some type of elephant vanish in my show as well. The theater is small, and Barnum's elephants are long dead, so it will be quite a feat... I will keep you posted as usual. The originals of these posters are available from Norm Nielsen. His website is the source for the small thumbnails that you see here. Someday when I am rich, I will buy some original posters from him, but for now, his reproductions along with original contemporary Indian magic posters are good enough for me. 
If I had a cool web designer guy or a marketing intern (job available for someone who wants to work!), I would have them design a more subtle version of this basic image for me. This shows two generations of a famous Indian magic family. Magician Raghuvir was a contemporary of my uncle. He was based in the city of Pune and performed world-wide in the 1950s and 60s. He inspired my uncle and even taught him a few tricks I think. This image shows Raghuvir and his two sons, who are also magicians. If only one of them also had a son going into magic as I hope to have in a few years, that would be three generations of Indian magicians. I do think the white gloved hands and lightning are a bit over the top, but for India, this is what sells. Like music, magic can be passed down best in the family as the real secrets are too subtle to just put on a DVD or a youtube clip. You can see for yourself in just a few short weeks...


We spent the morning in bed together feverishly creating... our show poster. Using Harry Blackstone Sr.'s circa 1920s poster as the base image, we added information for our upcoming show. Blackstone's show title "Oriental Nights" was appropriate for a 1920s magician. Since we reinterpret these oriental stereotypes, our show has a different title. We will present the famous Indian rope trick in the show. It will be a version unlike any seen on a western stage. We continue to refine traditional Indian jadoo for performance on the lyric hall's lovely proscenium stage. We will reproduce this poster as a postcard as well as a poster to promote the show. It's wonderful that an image created to promote magic shows in the 1920s can still be used to promote an Indian magic show today. If there is enough interest, we can also produce a very limited number of canvas prints of this poster, and even t-shirts if people pre-buy them. We will definitely make t-shirts for ourselves and the show crew. We look forward to seeing you all in just a few short weeks now. Better get back to work making that magic, and practicing juggling!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Magical Heritage...

As a child, I thought it was normal to have an Indian magician uncle. It was also normal for me to have a Mormon bishop uncle, and a prophet/cult leader as great great great grandfather (W. W. Davies, more on him in a later post). It was only as I got older that I realized that my background was unusual, to say the least. Here is a lovely photo of the Palshikar family magic show that my father found in Pune some years ago. I own the original, and Teller owns the only copy in existence as far as I know. It should not be hard for anyone to identify my magician uncle in the photo (hint: the person wearing the black suit. Some things never change!) The dapper young man standing behind my uncle with a scarf jauntily around his neck is Mr. Y. P. Deshpande, formerly the registrar of Modern College in Pune.  He is still alive, living in Thane, is my father's first cousin and was the singer in the television trick that my uncle performed. The woman on the left is my recently deceased aunt Suman Palshikar, who helped her little brother in this show.  The boy seated in front of her is my father's brother Nanda, who later died of an electrical shock that he received while helping out with my uncle's magic show. The sickly little boy seated next to my magician uncle is Suresh, my father's other brother who died of jaundice at a young age. The two boys standing in back were hired to help with the show. Labour was cheap in Pune back when this photo was taken, so I'm sure my uncle didn't have to pay them much. If more of my family lived nearby, I would put them to work in my upcoming show like my uncle did, but alas they live too far away to even come and watch the show.

Monday, April 4, 2011

that's not a knife

This is a knife, a real genuine Gurkha Kukri dagger from Nepal. I bought it in India in 1993. The kukri is the preferred knife of the famous Gurkha warriors, who form an important part of the British, Indian, and of course Nepali armies. It is said that the blade represents the goddess Durga so must be fed with blood each time it is removed from its sheath. I have three of these terrible knives and will attempt the feat of juggling them for public amusement this memorial day weekend. Hopefully, they will return to their sheath still hungry for blood, and I will complete the act with a full count of digits. This photo is over a decade old, even the knives have rusted a bit in the intervening years...

Sunday, April 3, 2011



We are attempting to recreate the famous Indian street magician routine known as the diving duck on the Western stage.  This requires finding a suitable duck that will be visible from the back of the house and I think we found just such a duck at a toy store in Middletown, CT today. As you can see, we now need to get a larger bowl of water for the duck to sit in as he barely fits into the lovely Mikasa bowl I had previously purchased for this routine. In case you were wondering, the demon duckies sold in the US by Archie McPhee & Co. do not float very well in water, though they are might devilish to look at. The infantino blue duck that you see here floats very well and was our backup plan until we stumbled upon the behemoth bird you see here. 

Elephant vanish

While Eric and I were searching for magic in India in 2004, we happened upon Jadugaar Anand's stage show in Jaipur.  It was the only time I have ever seen an elephant vanish live in front of my eyes in one quick puff of smoke.  It was the most impressive large illusion I have ever seen. It used a method very different from the one Houdini had used to vanish an elephant in the Hippodrome in New York that is detailed in Steinmeyer's excellent book on the illusion. Even when you know how it's done, there is no illusion to top the vanish of a live pachyderm. The best part for me was that being India, where people accept that life is uncertain and can't sue each other for everything, the magician led the elephant up an aisle in the theater to the stage. That part worried me a bit as I have not yet read any Sanskrit manuals on elephant training. Luckily, no elephants were sighted on the most recent India with baby Anand, so no need to read them just yet. A friend's friend does have a family elephant so maybe I can borrow it at some point and perform the elephant vanish myself. Connecticut's own P. T. Barnum would be proud...

Dragon breath

After the young boy has warmed up by eating a small flame, he demonstrates fire breathing.  This is more dangerous than fire eating since you risk setting fire to your entire head as well as mouth if you make a mistake.  Luckily, local laws prevent me from trying this in the Lyric Hall.  A flame this size could easily ignite the curtains and send the entire theater up in smoke.  Descriptions of theater fires from years past suggest that you would not want to be in a burning theater so I will not put any of us in that situation this memorial day weekend.  My brave young friend in Delhi survived his demonstration unscathed and is hopefully still working somewhere.  Next time you're in Delhi, stop by the slums of Shadipur depot and ask for Mangelal and party, and tell 'em Shreeyash sent you.  You might receive a warm magical welcome like this, or they might be out performing somewhere and you will just see the slum for what it is.  It's a lot less romantic than the one shown in the movie 'Slumdog Millionaire.'

my uncle

People are rarely surprised to learn that I am a second generation Indian magician.  Above is an image from a brochure that my uncle used to use to promote his magic shows.  I sincerely hope his escaping skills were better than his spelling skills.  I often wonder how long he held the title of India's youngest magician, a title more recently claimed by Jadugaar baby Anchal Kumavat about whom I have written. I am not sure if the woman in the picture is my aunt or a hired assistant.  I would guess she was a hired assistant.  Alas, I never saw my uncle performing handcuff escapes in his prime.  In my show I will try to recreate some illusions that I did see my uncle perform when I was young and he was semi-retired. 

Spicy Curry

In 2004, Eric Spruth and I were wandering around India looking for magic.  I took him to see some of my former coworkers who live in Shadipur depot in Delhi.  They put on a show to welcome us and this is a picture that Eric took of their show.  My young friend is eating fire, one of the most dangerous and entertaining Indian magical demonstrations.  Local laws prevent me from performing this in the Lyric Hall, but I will do needle and sword swallowing to demonstrate my unusual oral dexterity.  This young man is part of the troupe of Mangelal, a Delhi-based Rajasthani impresario and musician. 

Come see the show