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Posted 04/01/2016

Some Slydini Basics and Thoughts

Some Slydini Basics and Thoughts

I was extremely fortunate to be a Slydini student in the 1970’s. As you probably already know, Slydini was one of the two, finest, sleight of hand artists and teachers of sleight of hand magic in the entire 20th century. I was honored to be the only student Slydini ever authorized to lecture his magic, on his behalf, which I did to thousands of magicians in 74 cities throughout the United States and Canada from 1976 to 1979. He personally sponsored me, in writing, to all magic clubs, societies and groups in the US and Canada, to take his place and introduce his two, new, double-volume book sets, written by Karl Fulves, “The Best of Slydini and More" and "The Magical World of Slydini", both now classics of magical literature. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from my current, commemorative, lecture notes.” --- Bill Wisch


"Some Slydini Basics and Thoughts"

An excerpt taken from,” SLYDINI-THE LECTURE”, by Bill Wisch

©2010 Wisch-Craft Productions


Slydini’s aim for teaching was always by rote. “Learn…to the letter, exactly what I show you. Then, and only then, can you change what you do. However, I know what’s good! This, what I show you, is the best! There’s no reason to change.”

I felt comfortable with the exact handlings, to a point, but I never really wanted to master them and then continue using them exactly the way he taught them. I knew they wouldn’t fit my personality and never would no matter how much I tried. Also, I always knew other students would be doing the same routines basically the same way I did, so I decided, early on, not only to do my best to learn Slydini’s magic, but, more important, try to understand and appreciate some of his creative processes as well.

More than once, Slydini mentioned that I asked more questions then anyone else ever did. He used to say (kidding), “you ask-a so many questions…you drive-a me crazy! Nobody asks so many questions!” Guess what? It never bothered me because in the end I knew I’d get more answers!

At my first lesson, at 2pm on Monday, December 10, 1973 (no, it wasn’t very important to me), Slydini asked me what I wanted to learn…a routine, like the coins, or the knotted scarves or the paper balls to the box, or did I want to just learn a trick or two. I answered that I wanted to learn it all, if I could, no matter how long it took. He smiled and said, “You come-a to the right-a place.”

Generally, if the student had no specific routine in mind, Slydini would start instruction with the coins through the table. He felt it embodied more of his basic techniques and misdirection principles than other routines, so that’s where I started.

“Magic is like building a house”, he said. “If you build it yourself, and you know how, then you know it will be the best. When you are a professional, you use the best tools. At first you borrow, and you take very good care of them, and then you get your own when you can. In magic, your hands are your tools. They are your building materials.”

Slydini wasn’t too fond of flourishes. “That’s not magic. Magic is always something they don’t see. Simplicity and naturalness lead to the most magical results. And you never settle for second best…only the absolute best.” Speaking of the best, Slydini was best at a lot of things besides sleight of hand magic and psychology. He painted the wood paneling in his studio to look exactly like marble. He created and sewed his incredible gaucho outfits, each taking almost a year to make. Also, he used an old-fashioned sewing machine to hem the scarves he used and sold with such small hems that even professional seamstresses found it extremely difficult to duplicate them (he also made a mean spaghetti and meatball dinner!).

There were a number of Slydini effects and routines that I was proud to have played a part in getting into wider circulation. I had seen a routine on the cover of an issue of Hugards Magic Monthly called The Slydini Aces. I asked him if he would show it to me. He couldn’t remember even the slightest detail about it. I went through a description and it still didn’t help. So I went home, got the issue and brought it into the next lesson.

He looked at it and says, “Ahhh yes, now I remember!” Then we go over it and it became, and still is, one of my favorite, seated effects. But most important, at the same time I was learning it, Karl Fulves was going over with Tony what would be included in the new Slydini books that he was writing. I’m proud and delighted to say that if I hadn’t mentioned the effect to Slydini, he would never have remembered it and it wouldn’t have been in The Magical World of Slydini.

The Slydini Aces, combined with The Slydini Switch, was responsible for my getting a huge, trade show contract with the Minwax Company. I was auditioning for the President of the company and he asked me if I could do a trick with his deck. He gave me an unopened deck of cards with the company logo on the back. I was sitting across from him at his desk. After fully shuffling his own cards, he selected and gave me four of the cards at random. When I turned over the cards and he saw that he had, in fact, selected the four aces himself, with his own deck, he immediately put out his hand and said, “You’ve got the job!”

On another occasion, I brought in a set of the Jerry Andrus Linking Pins to ask Tony if he had ever played around with them at all (I used to bring in all sorts of unusual, but staple props, to see what he did or could create with them). He took one look at the pins and with relative distain said, “That’s a baby trick!” Then he goes into his silent, thinking mode for a minute or so. He then gets up from the table and opens his big armoire and brings out a couple of pins he called Piff, Paff, Poof. He asked me if I had ever seen the trick and I said no. Long story short…he showed me the basic moves of the trick and played around with the pins for a few minutes then put them to the side.

At my next lesson, he shows me a routine he called, The Mystery of the Gold Pins and tells the story of how a mummy in Egypt was wrapped with linen strips and had these special pins holding it all together…and so on and so forth. It turns out that this so called “baby trick”, that he had scorned, ended up as one of his most popular close up routines that could be done anywhere, anytime and without a table. One of his friends, and long-time pupils, Palmer Tilden, was, and still is, an expert metal worker (Sterling Creations). He manufactured the pins for Tony and the routine is still one of the most effective, intimate routines ever created.

These are just two of a number of such incidents. Is it necessary to mention again why I asked him so many questions and brought in so many unusual and over-the-hill props? Slydini was a veritable gold-mine of information, but it had to be dug out. Otherwise, he would just stay with his standard routines and effects. Obviously, that was fine with me, but observing how Slydini used his mind and his creative process was the real magic for me and the most valuable thing I could have ever learned from him. Thank you, Tony.

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