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Book Shelf Magic Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Ventriliquist

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Richard Potter”

Richard Potter: America’s First Black Celebrity

Apart from a handful of exotic–and almost completely unreliable–tales surrounding his life, Richard Potter is almost unknown today. Two hundred years ago, however, he was the most popular entertainer in America–the first showman, in fact, to win truly nationwide fame. Working as a magician and ventriloquist, he personified for an entire generation what a popular performer was and made an invaluable contribution to establishing popular entertainment as a major part of American life. His story is all the more remarkable in that Richard Potter was also a black man.

This was an era when few African Americans became highly successful, much less famous. As the son of a slave, Potter was fortunate to have opportunities at all. At home in Boston, he was widely recognized as black, but elsewhere in America audiences entertained themselves with romantic speculations about his “Hindu” ancestry (a perception encouraged by his act and costumes).

Richard Potter’s (1783 – 1835) performances were enjoyed by an enormous public, but his life off stage has always remained hidden and unknown. Now, for the first time, John A. Hodgson tells the remarkable, compelling–and ultimately heartbreaking–story of Potter’s life, a tale of professional success and celebrity counterbalanced by a racial vulnerability in an increasingly hostile world. It is a story of race relations, too, and of remarkable, highly influential black gentlemanliness and respectability: as the unsung precursor of Frederick Douglass, Richard Potter demonstrated to an entire generation of Americans that a black man, no less than a white man, could exemplify the best qualities of humanity. The apparently trivial “popular entertainment” status of his work has long blinded historians to his significance and even to his presence. Now, at last, we can recognize him as a seminal figure in American history.

Inscription: In memory of RICHARD POTTER The Celebrated VENTRILOQUIST who died Sept. 20th, 1835, Aged 52 years.

The book can be purchased here.

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More information on Richard Potter here.

Conjure Times

Scottish Rite Newsletter

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Book Shelf Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf: ‘Dawn of the New Everything’ – Jaron Lanier

Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality

by Jaron Lanier

“Essential reading, not just for VR-watchers but for anyone interested in how society came to be how it is, and what it might yet become.”  ―The Economist

Named one of the best books of 2017 by The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, & Vox

The father of virtual reality explains its dazzling possibilities by reflecting on his own lifelong relationship with technology

Bridging the gap between tech mania and the experience of being inside the human body, Dawn of the New Everything is a look at what it means to be human at a moment of unprecedented technological possibility.

Through a fascinating look back over his life in technology, Jaron Lanier, an interdisciplinary scientist and father of the term “virtual reality,” exposes VR’s ability to illuminate and amplify our understanding of our species, and gives readers a new perspective on how the brain and body connect to the world. An inventive blend of autobiography, science writing, philosophy and advice, this book tells the wild story of his personal and professional life as a scientist, from his childhood in the UFO territory of New Mexico, to the loss of his mother, the founding of the first start-up, and finally becoming a world-renowned technological guru.

Understanding virtual reality as being both a scientific and cultural adventure, Lanier demonstrates it to be a humanistic setting for technology. While his previous books offered a more critical view of social media and other manifestations of technology, in this book he argues that virtual reality can actually make our lives richer and fuller.

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“A highly eccentric memoir that traces the author’s quest for VR back to its roots, not as some sort of geeky engineering challenge but as a feeling he had as a child of being overwhelmed by the magic of the universe.”  ―The Wall Street Journal

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“Intimate and idiosyncratic . . . quirky and fascinating . . . Lanier’s vivid and creative imagination is a distinct character in this book . . . His vision is humanistic, and he insists that the most important goal of developing virtual reality is a human connection.”  ―Cathy O’Neil, The New York Times Book Review

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Categories
Book Shelf Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Writer

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf: Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government’s Investigations

Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government’s Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis

by Annie Jacobsen

The definitive history of the military’s decades-long investigation into mental powers and phenomena, from the author of Pulitzer Prize finalist The Pentagon’s Brain and international bestseller Area 51.

This is a book about a team of scientists and psychics with top-secret clearances.

For more than forty years, the U.S. government has researched extrasensory perception, using it in attempts to locate hostages, fugitives, secret bases, and downed fighter jets, to divine other nations’ secrets, and even to predict future threats to national security. The intelligence agencies and military services involved include CIA, DIA, NSA, DEA, the Navy, Air Force, and Army-and even the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Now, for the first time, New York Times bestselling author Annie Jacobsen tells the story of these radical, controversial programs, using never before seen declassified documents as well as exclusive interviews with, and unprecedented access to, more than fifty of the individuals involved. Speaking on the record, many for the first time, are former CIA and Defense Department scientists, analysts, and program managers, as well as the government psychics themselves.

Who did the U.S. government hire for these top-secret programs, and how do they explain their military and intelligence work? How do scientists approach such enigmatic subject matter? What interested the government in these supposed powers and does the research continue? PHENOMENA is a riveting investigation into how far governments will go in the name of national security.

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With Phenomena, Annie Jacobsen has once again produced an utterly absorbing and brilliantly reported chronicle that truly breaks new ground. This is a boundary-breaking story of mental phenomena-extra sensory perception techniques-that is truly a pleasure to read. A mind-bending triumph!” ―Alex Kershaw, bestselling author of ‘The Liberator’ and ‘Avenue of Spies’.

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“Annie Jacobsen has written an entertaining narrative of the many salaried people in our government who have supported the exploration of psychic phenomenaMuch of the information presented is already known, but Jacobsen has accomplished the gargantuan feat of bulldozing it all into one place. She has a keen eye for amusing anecdotes and writes them up with convincing detail. More than that, Jacobsen has arranged her story in a kind of nonfiction picaresque novel.” ―Dick Teresi, New York Times Book Review

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“Annie Jacobsen is back with a new tome that should entice anyone who doesn’t mind thinking outside the box; or as referenced in her book, as if there is no box….Not only is it a well-researched and fascinating tale, but there are some lessons for anyone wanting to truly break the mold in business.”―Simon Constable, Forbes

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You Can Get the Book Here!

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Book Shelf Photography Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “One, Two, Three, More” by Helen Levitt

Vaudevisuals recommeneds this beautiful photography book by Helen Levitt.

Born in Brooklyn in 1913, Helen Levitt’s photographs made on the streets of New York have inspired and amazed generations of photographers, collectors and curators. Helen Levitt’s first major museum exhibition was at the Museum of Modern Art in 1943, and a second solo show was held there in 1974. Retrospectives of her work have been held at several museums including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, International Center for Photography and the Centre National la Photographie in Paris.

Helen Levitt’s earliest pictures are a unique and irreplaceable look at street life in New York City from the mid-1930s to the end of the 1940s. There are children at play, lovers flirting, husbands and wives, young mothers with their babies, women gossiping, and lonely old men. A majority of these photographs have never been published. Other pictures included in this book are now world-famous, now part of the standard history of photography. Together they provide a record of New York not seen since Levitt’s pioneering solo show at The Museum of Modern Art in 1943.

Introduction by Geoff Dyer:

Geoff Dyer’s many books include But Beautiful, Out of Sheer Rage, The Missing of the Somme, The Ongoing Moment, the novel Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, and the essay collection Otherwise Known as the Human Condition (winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism). His latest book is White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World. A recipient of a 2015 Windham Campbell Prize for non-fiction, he is an Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He currently lives in Los Angeles where he is Writer in Residence at USC.

Helen Levitt Self Portrait

Link to Book Review

Link to New York Time Obit

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Categories
Art Book Shelf History Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – ‘Fantasyland’ by Kurt Andersen

“This is an important book—the indispensable book—for understanding America in the age of Trump. It’s an eye-opening history filled with brilliant insights, a saga of how we were always susceptible to fantasy, from the Puritan fanatics to the talk-radio and Internet wackos who mix show business, hucksterism, and conspiracy theories.”

Walter Isaacson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER •

“The single most important explanation, and the fullest explanation, of how Donald Trump became president of the United States . . . nothing less than the most important book that I have read this year.”

Lawrence O’Donnell

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In this sweeping, eloquent history of America, Kurt Andersen shows that what’s happening in our country today—this post-factual, “fake news” moment we’re all living through—is not something new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character. America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by hucksters and their suckers. Fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA.

Over the course of five centuries—from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from P. T. Barnum to Hollywood and the anything-goes, wild-and-crazy sixties, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials—our love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we’ve never fully acknowledged. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies—every citizen was free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. With the gleeful erudition and tell-it-like-it-is ferocity of a Christopher Hitchens, Andersen explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails.

Fantasyland could not appear at a more perfect moment. If you want to understand Donald Trump and the culture of twenty-first-century America, if you want to know how the lines between reality and illusion have become dangerously blurred, you must read this book.

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Categories
Auction Book Shelf History Magic Photography

Blackstone Magic Auction – Potter & Potter – Oct 28th, 2017

Harry Bouton Blackstone (born Henry Boughton; September 27, 1885 – November 16, 1965) was a famed stage magician and illusionist of the 20th century. Blackstone was born Harry Bouton[1] in Chicago, Illinois,[2] he began his career as a magician in his teens and was popular through World War II as a USO entertainer.[3] He was often billed as The Great Blackstone. His son Harry Blackstone Jr. also became a famous magician. Blackstone Sr. was aided by his younger brother (2 years younger) Pete Bouton who was the stage manager in all his shows.[4]Blackstone Sr. was married three times. Blackstone Jr. was his son by his second wife.

This auction presented by auction house Potter & Potter is enormous! I have posted quite a few unique items and a link to the auction catalog.

Harry Blackstone Sr.

11. Salla, Salvatore (American, born Persia [Iran], 1903— 1991). Portrait of Harry Blackstone. Oil on canvas, depicting Blackstone forming a shadowgraph of a rabbit. Original gilt wooden frame with lamp attachment. 30 x 23 ½”. Signed “Salla”. Collection of George Hippisley (List No. B1250). 3,000/5,000

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138. Blackstone, Harry (Henry Boughton). Eclipses the Sun. Blackstone. Greatest Magician The World Has Ever Known. Long Island City: National Printing & Engraving Co., ca. 1928. Billboard-size poster bearing a bust portrait of Blackstone against a bright yellow sun, the majority of the poster filled with bright, bold text. 108 ½ x 80”. Minor expert restoration at old folds and tiny losses; A-. Linen backed. One of three examples known. 4,000/6,000

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164. Blackstone, Harry (Henry Boughton). Blackstone’s Own Magic Trick Bubble Gum. Havertown, Penn.: Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corp, 1962. Complete set in box (8 x 4 x 1 ½”) with five-cent gum packets in wax wrappers, instructions, apparatus, and folding advertising banner. Banner folded, some signs of use/handling, box creased; very good. 200/300

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213. Appearing Canary Cage. Circa 1900. Finely made antique cage. A canary appears inside, visibly, at the command of the performer. Based on a design of Okito. Lacquered in gold and red with brass bars and adornments. 13 ½ x 9 ¾ x 12”. Very good condition. 800/1,200

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There are hundreds of other items up for auction in this unique collection of magic ephemera. Here is the link to the catalog.

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Categories
Book Shelf Cinema Pranks Sideshow Story Teller Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Ventriliquist

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “The Unholy Three” by Tod Robbins

Step right up, folks, and prepare to have your blood run cold as you meet the strangest, most bizarre trio of misfits ever spawned by a carnival of blood: TWEEDLEDEE, an adult man trapped in the body of a three-year-old toddler, whose mask of childlike innocence hides a seething brain plotting hideous revenge against all that is sane and normal! HERCULES, the circus strongman, brutal, bestial, reveling in carnage and murder – yet the submissive slave of a deadly dwarf! ECHO, the expert ventriloquist with the uncanny ability to throw his voice so that lifeless wooden dummies seem to speak even as you or I! Together, they are THE UNHOLY THREE, star attractions of Tod Robbins’ classic novel of hate, murder, and madness on and off the midway. Best known as an author of the story which inspired the still-controversial fear-film FREAKS, Robbins first stunned the public with this intense account of a ruthless war on society waged by a triad of carny castaways.

It seems to have garnered much interest by the director Tod Browning and actor Lon Chaney as they made a film out of this book.

Here is the description of the film by Wikipedia:

The Unholy Three is a 1925 American silent film involving a crime spree, directed by Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney. The supporting cast features Mae Busch, Matt Moore, Victor McLaglen and Harry Earles.

The film was remade in 1930 as a talkie. In both the 1925 and the 1930 version, the roles of Professor Echo and Tweedledee are played by Chaney and Earles respectively. The films were based on the novel of the same name by Clarence Aaron “Tod” Robbins.

The Plot:

Three performers leave a sideshow after Tweedledee (Harry Earles), the midget, assaults a young heckler and sparks a melee. The three join together in an “unholy” plan to become wealthy. Prof. Echo, the ventriloquist, assumes the role of Mrs. O’Grady, a kindly old grandmother, who runs a pet shop, while Tweedledee plays her grandchild. Hercules (Victor McLaglen), the strongman, works in the shop along with the unsuspecting Hector McDonald (Matt Moore). Echo’s girlfriend, pickpocket Rosie O’Grady (Mae Busch), pretends to be his granddaughter.

Using what they learn from delivering pets, the trio later commits burglaries, with their wealthy buyers as victims. On Christmas Eve, John Arlington (an uncredited Charles Wellesley) telephones to complain that the “talking” parrot (aided by Echo’s ventriloquism) he bought will not speak. When “Granny” O’Grady visits him to coax the bird into performing, “she” takes along grandson “Little Willie”. While there, they learn that a valuable ruby necklace is in the house. They decide to steal it that night. As Echo is too busy, the other two grow impatient and decide to go ahead without him.

The next day, Echo is furious to read in the newspaper that Arlington was killed and his three-year-old daughter badly injured in the robbery. Hercules shows no remorse whatsoever, relating how Arlington pleaded for his life. When a police investigator shows up at the shop, the trio becomes fearful and decide to frame Hector, hiding the jewelry in his room.

Meanwhile, Hector proposes to Rosie. She turns him down, but he overhears her crying after he leaves. To his joy, she confesses she loves him but was ashamed of her shady past. When the police take him away, Rosie tells the trio that she will exonerate him, forcing them to abduct her and flee to a mountain cabin. Echo takes along his large pet ape (who terrifies Hercules).

In the spring, Hector is brought to trial. Rosie pleads with Echo to save Hector, promising to stay with him if he does. After Echo leaves for the city, Tweedledee overhears Hercules asking Rosie to run away with him (and the loot). The midget releases the ape. Hercules kills the midget before the ape gets him.

At the trial, Echo agonizes over what to do, but finally rushes forward and confesses all. Both he and Hector are set free. When Rosie goes to Echo to keep her promise, he lies and says he was only kidding. He tells her to go to Hector. Echo returns to the sideshow, giving his spiel to the customers: “That’s all there is to life, friends, … a little laughter … a little tear.”

Production:

The “ape” was actually a three-foot-tall chimpanzee who was made to appear gigantic with camera trickery and perspective shots. When Echo removes the ape from his cage, the shot shows Echo (with his back turned to the camera) unlocking the cage and walking the ape to the truck. The ape appears to be roughly the same size as Echo. This effect was achieved by having midget actor Harry Earles (who played “Tweedledee” in the film) play Echo for these brief shots, and then cutting to Chaney, making it seem as though the ape is gigantic. (In the 1930 remake, the ape was played by Charles Gemora.)

Lon Chaney as Professor Echo in “The Unholy Three”.

Harry Earles, Victor McLaglen and Lon Chaney in “The Unholy Three” 

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One of my favorite films of all time!

 

Categories
Book Shelf Comedy Photography Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – Jackie Mason’s America – Social Commentary

JACKIE MASON’S AMERICA

First Edition – Published 1983

I bought this book when it was first published in 1983. I got it signed years later after attending one of Jackie’s Broadway shows. I went to the stage door and waiting in a short line to see him. He was cordial and ask ‘who are you?”. I gave him my short bio and he seemed delighted to sign my book. I first heard him on a 33rpm record at a friend’s house years earlier and ever since I have been a big fan. I remember laughing so hard at his Broadway show that when I left the theater I was hunched over from having my head, check and back hurting from laughing so hard.

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“I have enough money to last me the rest of my life unless I buy something.”   Jackie Mason
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This wonderfully hilarious book is still available here!

Categories
Book Shelf Mask Mime Photography Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – ‘Apostles of Silence’ by Mira Felner

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And now the Acknowledgements!

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“I find ‘Apostles of Silence‘ indispensable when I am trying to describe (which surprisingly is pretty often) the different schools of movement (mime) that influence my own work and that of many of the great directors and actors of our time. Clearly written and a brilliant tool for comparison of these distinct approaches.”

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Go here to purchase this ‘out of print’ book.

Categories
Book Shelf Cinema Magic Magic Recommended Reading List Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “The Magician and the Cinema”

Inside of book jacket flap.

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Erik Barnouw (Tube of Plenty et al.) tells an engaging story to introduce this scholarly lark: in high school, Barnouw catalogued magician John Mulholland‘s books on magic and, meeting him decades later, mentioned “how often, in exploring film history, I had come across names I had first met in his books. Had magicians had a larger role in the evolution of motion pictures than was generally recognized?”.  A rhetorical question, it quickly seems, as Barnouw conjures up–to the accompaniment of eerie posters and other archival troves–an era when “every new scientific invention had magic possibilities”; the magic lantern made apparitions materialize, and one after another future filmmaker experimented with optical trickery. Then came the Cinematographe (1895), and the scramble “for wealth and glory”–led by magician/impresario/master of special effects Georges Melies. Also in the running were Billy Bitzer, D. W. Griffith‘s chief cameraman-to-be; Albert E. Smith and J. Stuart Blackton, founding partners of American Vitagraph; and the great Houdini himself–who turned his celebrated stage feats into film climaxes. . . which, by camera magic, anyone could now perform. The irony, as Barnouw notes, was that the films displaced the magicians. Looking at the films themselves (thanks to another happy accident–the Paper Print collection at the Library of Congress, Barnouw’s present base), he traces the magic/ film intersection through several stages–from the first “”actuality bits”” (which people “readily accepted as magic””), through filmed magic “”beefed up by film trickery,”” to the trick film: ghosts, vanishings, metamorphoses, “”cheerful”” mayhem–the realm of severed heads and severed limbs. Plus: devices special to the film, like reversals, slow motion and accelerated motion. A few concluding words ponder–with reference to the “media”–the acceptance of illusions, now, as “something real.” A spiffy little addition to early film history, with outsize implications.

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