Tommy Wonder was the stage name of Jacobus Maria Bemelman, a Dutch magician, inventor and author, who performed close-up and stage magic. He has published 2 major books, the books of Wonder. Born in 1953 in Lisse near Amsterdam he, unfortunately, died way too early in 2006, after a brief battle with lung cancer.
He developed an interest in conjuring at an early age and studied acting, dancing and singing for three years at the Performance Academy in The Hague subsequently touring for two years with De Haagsche Comedie. Because Wonder designed and developed all of his own repertoires, he is still held in high esteem amongst his colleagues in magic.
I met Tommy Wonder at a magic convention in the ’90s in Ludwigsburg. At the time I had heard about him but had never seen or read any of his work. He had a certain quality, to give magic importance and certain class. I have never been so mystified by a magic performance like that. His direction of attention and how it is implemented in his effects were second to none. Because of this lecture, I started to work more on the finer points of a presentation and direction of attention. Here is a short video of a TV performance that highlights 3 of his effects, enjoy.
- Take your performance and magic seriously
- Give the performance a touch of class
- Continuous ‘re-engineering’ of effects and presentation
- To be effective you must be in command
- Books of Wonder Vol. l, 1996
- Books of Wonder Vol. II, 1996
In the next couple of posts, I will introduce you to people, the magic mentors that have inspired me to become a better performer. You’ll meet people who have offered advice, or acted by example, to help develop and direct my career as a magician.
Some of them are alive, some have passed on and some were alive before I was born. By reading classic books and magazines I have stories about their life and performances that inspired and influenced me. They are mostly magicians but also a movie director and Karate masters.
Magic Mentors – Joro
We will start with Joro (Bruno Hennig). Joro was born Oct 1928. He was working at a bank and part-time as a magician. He has published multiple articles in magic magazines and has invented effects that are still used by professionals worldwide today. The dancing cork and the card in the box. Here a clip the famous Dutch magician Fred Kaps performing one his effects on TV.
In the lecture, Joro highlighted to focus on a handful of effects and perform them over and over again and develop your own way of doing the effect. It took me a long time to put this advice into action. But today, almost 25 years later I can say that it was exactly what I needed at the time.
I believe that Joro has influenced hundreds of magicians in Germany with his style and thinking and I would highly recommend reading his books on his stage show and other effects as well as his book on the cups and balls. Unfortunately, they are only published in German.
I met Joro at 3 magic lecture at the Magic Hands magic shop in the mid-’80s. I was lucky that this shop was about 45 min car ride away from my home town. Joro, despite the fact he performed part-time, was never an amateur. He had a very interactive stage show that had been honed in hundreds of shows. The lecture came for me at a time where I consumed a lot of magic. I read books, bought effects and I was chasing alway the latest trick on the market.
Kleines Becherspiel-Kompendium, Coesfeld 1999
Das Joro-Buch – Verlag: sic, 1993, 1. Auflage, 18×25, 192 Seiten
Magic show in Bangkok
Last week I performed at an event in Bangkok at my clients’ regional Sales Award dinner. The audience consisted of about 200 guests from countries in Asia, Australia, the UK, and the United States. I performed close up magic during the cocktail hour and later a stage show. A fun show, a terrific audience at a nice location. I love what I do.
Still Eating Cards
Last weekend I performed at my residency at the Heidrick & Struggles Xmas Party. The new party room at the Hyatt is a great venue for parties and events. Below some pictures from the performance.
For information regarding the Close-Up & Personal Show click here.
Halloween Magic at Lulu’s Lounge
Event: Oct 27 Club Performance –
Venue: – Lulu’s Lounge
Package: Close Up Magic & MC to introduce late night acts
Lulu’s Lounge hosted a special event for Halloween called the Carnival of the Absurd. I was hired to do roving magic and to introduce the burlesque acts. Below some snapshots from the event.
Close Up Magic at Alice in Wonderland Event
Oct 18 I was performing at the IQVIA annual Dinner and Dance, themed ‘A Night in Wonderland’. All the guests were wearing a theme related costume. Since I perform mainly with playing cards I faced an ideal situation using guests dressed up as playing cards in my effect.
Entrance to the venue:
What are the types of venues and events that can make use of a Roving Magician?
Last week I performed close up magic at 3 different events and each of them was set up differently.
The first engagement was a performance for Givenchy at Bar Rouge. It was basically a cocktail event leading up to the launch of a new product. The client asked me to involve some of their items into the performance. I created an effect using a make-up container inside which a freely selected card appeared. Typically for an event like this is that the magician works for small groups of people and the performance is usually about 5 minutes. The performance does not require any setup and it is ideal for events where the show is not a highlight but an addon to support the theme.
The second engagement was a performance at an award dinner at the Marriott Hotel. I was hired to perform in between the 4-course dinner. The difference to the cocktail event before is that one can cover more guests in the same period of time. At a banquet each table seats on average 10 people. In an hour, about 6-7 tables can be covered which means one performer can be used for 120-140 guests. The performer is also able to do a complete mini act of 8-10 minutes for each table, which give the guests a feeling of a personalized performance.
The last engagement was at a restaurant at Chijmes. The dinner was held in a private room at the restaurant. I was engaged to perform a formal 30-minute close-up after-dinner show for an audience of about 50 guests. Usually, the performance takes place after the main course or dessert. This type of show requires more planning but in my opinion, it is the most memorable option of all.
Magic Convention – How magicians improve their skills
The question I am asked the most, apart from how did you do that, is how did you learn your craft and how do you improve your skill.
Like with any other business, there are conventions. There you can attend lectures held by famous or not so famous magicians, there are shows and usually exhibits that shows the latest and the greatest trick.
Personally, I don’t go very often because of the focus on tricks and sales. I believe improvement comes from doing as many performances as you can and analyzing what went well and sometimes what went wrong.
Every now and then there is a magic convention that goes off the beaten track. Earlier this year I signed up for a convention/lectures in Madrid Spain. What drew me to it was the fact that it was limited to 15 participants. It is called Campus Magico.
They had 6 teachers and the focus was on the way magic is approached in Spain. There were lectures about the history of Spanish Magic, lessons in active theatre and mime, storytelling and others. Each lecturer did a full day seminar with various exercises.
The location was about 30 km outside Madrid in a beautiful farmhouse. There was nothing around to distract your attention, so full focus on the lectures and exercises was guaranteed.
What I liked best is that I didn’t learn a single effect but improved on the ones I do already. Furthermore it was great to meet other performers from the UK, Germany, Spain, Canada and the US. I hope to be back next year