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Bill Wisch
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(Above) The Mongolian Clock


Linking Rings ala Slydini

Bill Wisch, the student chosen by Tony Slydini in 1976 to deliver lectures on his behalf upon the release of The Best of Slydini and More by Karl Fulves, impressed us as a master in his own right on February 22, 2011. Slydini died 20 years ago (January, 1991), and this is a commemorative lecture filled with memories and stories by Bill about Tony. His enthusiasm for Slydini’s magic was apparent from the beginning of the lecture, as he discussed meeting and studying with Slydini, which led to Wisch presenting Slydini’s Paper Balls to Box (also known as The Paper Balls in the Hat) with silent, smooth, gentle motions accompanied by music, fooling us all the way. Wisch broke the moves down in great detail, especially the vanish of the last ball and the hand motions related to it. He described how Slydini taught him to talk to himself as he performed to help him believe in his magic—meaning he used an interior monologue, not that he was crazy: “I put the ball in my left hand, I slowly open it, and look! It’s gone!” Slydini insisted on this because he felt that the more you believe that the ball disappeared, the more the audience will too.

Throughout the lecture Wisch noted the importance of angles while performing and how to use them to your advantage. His demonstration of how to use one’s elbow as a servante was not only clever, but provides a great way to perform the Balls to Box or Torn and Restored Napkin while standing and using a wand. It was touches like this where one can see how Wisch has created his own style of magic.But, no doubt, the Slydini tricks were a treat to watch and fascinating to learn. For instance, I didn’t know the famous Paper Balls Over the Head was originally a Blackstone Sr. effect, done with silks over the head. But among the subtle Slydini touches Wisch taught us, was how to guarantee that the spectator would not see the ball disappear as they watched you like a hawk in this classic routine. Fun fact: Slydini used Marcal napkins in performance, though Bill prefers the cheapest 1-ply ones. Bill ended the first half of the lecture with card tricks.


Bill Wisch showing how to tie the Slydini Knots


Showing us the moves for The Helicopter Card

Slydini’s Mongolian Card Trick, an easy to do and totally baffling trick and Slydini’s Oil and Water was shown, and when explained we were introduced to Wisch’s original sleights, his Phan-Thumb Techniques. These techniques allow you to do a totally convincing Elmsley or Jordan Count while standing up, counting the cards slowly in front of your chest, their faces to the audience and their backs to you. In fact, Wisch has created many original and practical sleights that can be found in his lecture notes and DVDs.The second act of his lecture opened with The Helicopter Card, a bold and challenging classic, followed by Slydini’s Aces, an obscure but fantastic effect. This four ace trick led to a discussion of the Slydini Switch; the timing, rhythm, and postures involved in lapping were memorably described and demonstrated by Wisch. He next showed us the famous Slydini Knots and then the Coins Through Table with penny. The coins provided an opportunity for Wisch to expound further on lapping, giving us excellent advice for how best to use The Imp Pass.

The evening ended with Slydini’s Ring on Rope coupled with his Linking Rings Routine, using 4” rings. This was a killer routine and, once again, showed how you can take any effect and make it your own. Wisch told us a story how Slydini originally dismissed the Linking Pins trick when he was first shown it—“That’s just a toy!”—but then, a week later, Slydini developed his own version of the Linking Pins that became quite famous.The last effect, a rope trick Wisch called The Chicago Loop Mystery, was an amazing bit of chicanery. As Wisch told it, Slydini, as an older man, attended a magic conference in Chicago and he got the feeling that many of the magicians there thought that Slydini’s magic was limited to performing at a table and was therefore inappropriate for modern magic; he felt they were dismissing him as an historic relic. When asked to perform something impromptu for the gathered magicians, Slydini did this rope trick, stand-up, and it baffled the magicians then, as it did us now. Knots are tied to form a figure 8 in a rope yet, despite one of the knots being held by a spectator, the magician can make the other knot vanishand reappear at will. According to Wisch, after performing this trick Slydini said he left the room “feeling like a matador!” What a wonderful piece of trickery to end the night with—and it can play well in a children’s show too.


The Chicago Loop Mystery

If you have any interest in the magic of Slydini, you will find Bill Wisch a source of true insight;
if you have any interest in performing fun effects that involve audiences, you will find Bill Wisch
to have a treasure-trove of them that he willingly shares.                               ---Pat Farenga