Monday, September 18, 2017

Loosing My Mentors

Over the weekend, I lost a dear friend and my mentor in all things escape related. My friend was Steve Baker, known professionally as Mr. Escape. He was a unique individual. He was one of only a couple of people who really kept the art of escape alive and in the eye of the public during his lifetime.

The first time encountered Mr. Escape was watching him on a TV show many years ago. I saw him do a recreation of Houdini's Water Torture Cell. I was not impressed. My thoughts at the time were, "Who does this guy think he is doing Houdini's tricks?" And then I would see him again, and again on TV over the years. I guess my attitude softened over time. Eventually, I got to meet Steve and get to know him. We hit it off right from the start and unlike many others, our friendship lasted for 17 years. Let me just add, that when I watched the footage of his Water Torture Cell years later, I was more than impressed. It was breathtaking. And a little known fact, Steve never presented the Water Torture Cell on TV the same way twice. He always added a unique moment to the escape.

In his life, he had only three students that I am aware of. The first was Tony Clark, the second was me, and the third was Andrew Basso. Steve was very guarded about his secrets and didn't share them with many folks. Even when he would have things built, he would often change the method so even the builder was unaware of how a device worked.

Our meeting came about over a very small escape he did called The Tug of War Rope Tie. I saw a video of Steve doing this thing and wondered how it worked.  The truth was there was no trick to it. No fake knots, no fake tying, all 100% legit. And I could do it. Steve was impressed, actually now that I recall, he was more than impressed. We spoke of the effect for many hours and he sent me numerous videos of his performances of the escape. I loved performing it and did so for many years. In fact, I've recently put it back in my show. See the video below for a very impromptu presentation.

Steve and I had plans to do a TV Special together. There were negotiations going on with Steve and Dick Clark productions. Everything was looking like it would happen and then Dick Clark had a stroke. All projects got shelved and so did our special. We worked out many cool original escapes to feature on the special, but with the cancellation, they were never performed. Who knows, perhaps I will dig out those notes and do one before I get to the point where even I can no longer do escapes, lol!

Steve died Saturday September 16th, 2017 at 11:11pm. His final escape was leaving this world. May You Rest In Peace Old Friend.

My other mentor, was very different from Steve. His name was Cesareo Pelaez and he was the creator and performer of a show called Le Grand David and His Own Spectacular Magic Company. Cesareo and I had an odd connection. We got along quite well, and were very similar in many ways. But unlike a mentor who might spent countless hours teaching you, Cesareo and I only had a few meetings together, a couple phone calls and numerous email exchanges. But because I understood his way of things, he would still influence me without being here. I would often ask myself, "What would Cesareo do in a case like this?" and the answer would soon come.

Cesareo was a college professor of Psychology by profession, but his heart and soul were both stuck in the world of theatre and magic. He was influenced by magical artists like FuManchu, Chang, Richiardi Sr and Jr and many others. His style of performance was very different from what is seen today. I think it could be best described as Broadway meets Vaudeville. It was grand and full of spectacle. And as a performer he was exceedingly charasmatic and charming. I learned so much from Cesareo and still do. Because I am friends with many of the cast members from Le Grand David, they often share stories of Cesareo and these stories always resonate with me.

I have written quite a lot about Cesareo over on my other blog, which can be found here:

Cesareo passed away March 24th, 2012 (Houdini's birthday, btw). He was also 79.

RIP Cesareo You Are Missed!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Carnegie's Magic Fish Illusion

I love doing tricks with fish, goldfish to be exact. I have presented a LOT of different effects with goldfish. One of my favorites was filling a 10 gallon aquarium FULL of fish, magically! But today's routine is a little less spectacular as it only uses 2 fish. However, it's no less amazing! I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dean Carnegie Gives a TED Talk

It was such an honor to be asked to speak at the TEDx Foggybottom Conference this year. They wanted me to talk on magic history and they wanted me to present some magic. The only issue was the 8 minute time frame in which to do it all!

If you've never listened to or watched a TED Talk, you really should go over to Youtube and check
out a few of them. They are excellent and on many different topics. In the past, other magicians have talked or performed at various TED events across the globe, so I'm in good company.

My talk was about 5 minutes with the rest of the time taken up with the magic routine I selected. Because I was speaking on history, I chose to present it in my Victorian garb and that also meant the magic routine had a bit of that style with it as well.

The organizers at the TEDx Foggybottom event were fantastic during every step of the process. They helped me take my speech from an ok talk to a TED Talk. I was very happy with the final result.....HOWEVER, I really wish I had gone ahead and delivered the final paragraph of the talk that I had just edited out to make the whole thing fit the timeframe. I noticed that many of the speakers went over their allotted time. In fact, some went VERY far past the time constraints. I would have probably gone over by 2 minutes at the most. Would it have made things any better? In my mind, I think it would have made the talk a tad stronger. But alas, I was happy with what I delivered.

If you'd like to see the speech for yourself, you can view it below!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Atlas Obscura, Houdini, and Carnegie

For the second year in a row, the folks at Atlas Obscura in DC asked me to be part of their HOUDINI In DC event. This year was a little different from last year. In my performance last year (2016) I performed outside in McPhearson Park, and then gave the walking tour to the Old Keith's Vaudeville Theater on 15th and G St.

This year, we were indoors. Like last year, they also brought in my friend Ken Trombly to share some of his incredible collection of Houdini posters and photos. He then gave a 35 minute talk on the life of Houdini which was great! Then there was a short break and it was my turn.

I was going to do a recreation of more Houdini magic. But what happened was I did sort of a mix of lecture/talk and performance.What happened was this, when Ken gave his talk, there were all these spots where I just wanted to jump in and fill in some areas he missed. But truth was, Ken didn't miss anything, he was just having to fit a lot of information in a short period of time. I tried to fill in all gaps that Ken left in his talk. Make no mistake, Ken's talk was GREAT. My talk acted as an enhancement of the information he gave. For example, Ken had brought his King of Cards poster and my talk actually began with a Card Trick that I discovered from Houdini's own notes. At the time I hadn't fully researched Houdini's Card Act and I wish I had. Because, later in the year I did and I wrote about it on my Magic History blog. The article can be found here:

After my first card trick I went right into some of his classic escapes and brought out several pair of cuffs to display. Then I chose one and had an audience member examine it and then put it on me. I then proceeded to escape right in front of the crowd. They really got a kick out of the escape. I forget, that people don't see that sort of thing everyday. Me, I'm used to it.

Houdini and Harry Cooke
I wanted to give people a feeling for Houdini beyond just the regular stories, so I threw in the story of Harry Cooke, and how they were associated. I always thought their connection was because they were both escape artists. But I now believe that their connection was, #1 because of Cooke's Anti-spiritualist crusade years before Houdini was born, and #2, Cooke's connection to Abe Lincoln, who was Houdini's boyhood idol.

I shared the story about Cooke being summoned to Washington to demonstrate his ability to free himself from ropes. And here, I took the opportunity to present a rope escape.  I chose to use a technique found in Houdini's book, Magical Rope Ties & Escapes. The technique allows for an almost instantaneous escape from the bonds. In truth, Cooke had been tied up with 100 ft of rope and still escapes in seconds. I had 100 ft of rope on hand, but was saving it for later but ran out of time.

The closing routine was a Spirit Slate routine with a story. A true story? Sort of. Aspects of the story are true, but I do take liberties, it is a show after-all. The story is an emotional one, and I use it to help people understand the deep connection that people have when they see mediums....and also WHY Houdini was so angered by the whole thing because he knew the mediums were fake and playing off the emotions of the grieving.

After this, I answered a host of questions from the very attentive audience. I really love speaking on magic history, so it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for me. Plus, I love to do routines that Houdini had done. It's all history and it's great fun.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Result of Our Americas Got Talent Audition...

Well, seeing as the show is about to go into it's final few shows, I think you can see that we did not get chosen to appear on the show. I'll just come out and say it, I believe the judges or producers or casting folk, made a mistake in not choosing us. BUT, I'm not upset about it........(anymore, lol) At least they called us 'The Best Dressed Act' while we were there. We auditioned in Charleston SC.

We gave it our best shot, and for whatever reason we were not chosen. Will we audition next year? Hard to say. We are considering trying out in another country. Given the fact that many of the acts this year on AGT were not from America, we may go elsewhere and try out. I have friends who have appeared on Got Talent shows from other countries, so it's certainly a viable option.

I do want to add this, I don't envy the producers job at all. The process they must go through just to locate just a few acts after viewing tens of thousands of performers, ugggh, that is one job I wouldn't wish on anyone. They do an incredible job with the show. The acts, for the most part are great. My favorite this year was Puddles the Clown, who I think got eliminated early. He should have won the whole thing.

I generally like the magicians, some more than others. I loved the Clairvoyants from last year and wished they had won. This year among the magicians I think Eric Jones was great and I'm sorry he was eliminated.  But the young girl ventriloquist will win. I knew that after watching the first episode. You watch, I'm posting this before the big finale show, so check it out and see if I got it right. I have no doubt I have nailed it!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Carnegie Magic Videos, Videos and MORE!

2017 has proven to by quite the year and I've done a most terrible job of keeping you up to date. Actually, that's only partially true. I've not done a good job on this blog, but if you look at Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, I'm ALL OVER THERE! And I'll soon be on other platforms as well.

I started a project earlier this year called Weekly Wizardry. It was on Facebook and the plan was to do a weekly magic video every week in 2017. It was going along splendidly when, out of the blue, I came down with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in March. At that point I fell behind and didn't resume the videos until June. In order to get caught up I was doing daily videos for a while, and I'm happy to report that I am all caught up and current.

The video above is episode 37, the latest, and in the video I demonstrate a routine that I've performed for many many years in my live shows. It's a great routine, though I must admit, if you see my LIVE show, you'll see a different presentation....same effect, but the presentation is very different.

I'll be posting quite a bit over the next few days so I hope you enjoy the content and the news and please, feel free to make a comment. AND anyone looking for LIVE magic for an event, contact me through my website at