Magic: Page by Page by Patrick Page
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii March, 2012)
I first saw Pat Page at a lecture he presented at the 1976 S.A.M. Convention at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. He taught a broad range of fundamentals, all of which he did remarkably well, but what knocked me out was his work with the Topit, and I will never forget that first time I witnessed the barehanded vanish of a deck of playing cards. No fancy sewn-in, pocket-cut-through, custom tailoring was required; just a simple black pouch pinned into the coat, which Page had demonstrated for years behind the counter at Davenports Magic in London. There Page was following in the illustrious tradition of the great George "Gilly" Davenport, a master of the same secret device, who demonstrated behind the Davenports counter for decades until his death, which led to Pat Page's eventual entrance as Davenports demonstrator, a position he would maintain for 17 years.
Years later I got to know Patrick Page and spend time with him, attended more lectures, and had the privilege of presenting him many times on the stage of Monday Night Magic in New York City. Every time I saw him perform on our stage, I would invariably have the same involuntary thought: "Why aren't I doing this repertoire!?" Anyone who doubts the power of classical magic—the "Miser's Dream," the "Color-Changing Silks," the "Card on Forehead," the "Cut-and-Restored Rope"—would find Pat Page's performances revelatory, as I did, and repeatedly at that. He under-stood the power of simple clear effects; he understood sleight of hand technique; he understood misdirection; and he understood the importance of creativity and originality, and how to make the classics his own. All this, combined with a winning charm and a natural but well-honed sense of humor, rendered Pat Page nothing less than a fabulous magician, one of the greatest of his time. Adding to all this his encyclopedic knowledge of magic served to make him a master, and a treasure for those who crossed paths with him, and had the chance to reap the benefits of his wisdom and guidance. In the States we had Jay Marshall and Billy McComb (along with Johnny Thompson, of course), while across the pond they had Pat Page and All Bongo. The wisdom of the ages walked among us.
I hope you had the chance to cross paths with the one and only Pat Page, but whether you did or did not, either way you will want this fabulous new book, which he wrote before his death, collaborating with editor Matthew Field to put down on paper a significant portion of what he knew about magic, along with his invaluable advice. Pat was a fine teacher: generous, kind, direct, honest, informative. In fact, I learned the Top Change from him—via the Trik-a-tape audiotape series he put out decades ago. Now that same clear instructor's voice is indelibly present throughout this book, written in his distinctive conversational style, with the voice of an expert, and a justifiably opinionated one at that, coming through loud and clear in every page.
Perhaps above all, Pat Page was a "worker." He had made his way through every kind of venue, and continued to work professionally until the end of his life, adapting to new venues, developing new material, and ever refining and updating the standards of his repertoire. There is so much material in this book it is impossible to cover it all, and almost as difficult to know where to begin. But I think, for example, of his "Continuous You Do As I Do," an amazing and entertaining card routine in which the magician and the spectator repeatedly choose cards from their half of the pack, simultaneously turn the cards up on the count of three—and they match! The crazy thing is the trick can be repeated ad infinitum, and while the method is incredibly easy, the effect becomes more and more remarkable to the layman. I liked this trick when I first saw Pat do it years ago, but what I loved reading about it was his comment that he had discovered that the trick is perfect for banquet tables, for reasons he explains—and any pro knows that banquet tables are the toughest setting for close-up workers.
So, yes, this is a book for everyone—for close-up magicians, stage magicians, cardrnen, coin workers, general magic types, amateurs and pros alike, historians, lovers of the anecdotal oral history of magic—but above all, for me, this is a book for workers. The section on the "Miser's Dream" represents 30 years of experience, put down on the page for every student, new and old alike. There are pages just of sight gags and comedy props in the comedy magic section—and if you find that right one that just perfectly suits that moment you need in your banquet act or trade show set, you will have received your money's worth for the purchase price of this book, along with all the accompanying pleasures of simply having had the chance to read and savor all the rest, and spend time with one of the great personalities of our art and craft.
And, too, this is a book for every time, as well. Not merely every kind of magic, not just for amateur and professional alike, but also for the expert as well as the beginner. Pat Page tipped some of his work on the stacked deck in this very magazine some years ago, and that material is further expanded upon in a lengthy and substantive section in the book at hand. Pat F., the Eight Kings stack and subsequently Stebbins system, developed what he dubbed the "PaPa System," which rendered these stacks the equivalent of memorized decks in his hands. Using his simple but expert tecniques, he could "jazz" with the best of the and producing any card called for repair on stage—"Do you want it on top, on bottom, middle?"—was a feature of his standup work. With these techniques, you can learn to estimate and cut to any card in a Si Stebbins stack, and you can even learn to quickly determine the stack number of the location of that card; it is still a "system" rather than a pure memdeck, but now you get the best of both worlds. And there are fine tricks with the method, from a Think-A-Card approach, to a deceptive four-card revelation, based on sound handling along with a very clever glimpse. There are 37 pages of material here on professional, commercial applications with the stack, along with expert handling ideas, and it is all accessible, useable—ready to be learned and used in the real world of professional magic that Pat Page inhabited.
I defy any magician at any level of his or her hobby or career to read this book and not come away with some-thing to use. There's a clever standup presentation for the "Card in Wallet," for example, that uses two assistants and can be performed on stage. The book is filled with invaluable advice; read the theory section on the Top Change, and then learn the "Unknown Soldier's Card Trick" and, if you possess the necessary comic timing, you'll have a plat-form trick you can do for big or small audiences, anywhere, anytime, with just an ordinary pack of playing cards.
Consider his advice on why you don't mix other cur, Plots with the "Miser's Dream" (a theory that I believe also applies to "3-Fly," for example—no matter how many other tricks you know with three coins). Read his thoughts on why you're not doing yourself any favors when making suggestive jokes about "balls" while performing magic with sponge balls—and pay attention, because Pat Page was no prude. Read the original "Easy Money"—a startling and magical change of plain white papers into real paper money—and understand the difference between why adult audiences respond to a damn good magic trick, versus kids on the street screaming over the mere fact you're showing them $100 bills. And buried in these pages you will find utility tools including a great standup deck switch, and a clever Egg Bag Switch—just keep digging and the treasures will continue to be unearthed, page after page. I will mention that the best thing I learned from Pat Page isn't in this book, because it's not a trick. During a London stay some years ago, Pat phone me up and asked, "What day are you leaving?" I told him, and he said, "I'll see you that morning, then." "What do you mean?" "I'll come by and pick you up. See you then." And he hung up.
I was amazed, but also exceptionally grateful when Pat came by and drove me to the airport, sparing one the aggravation and stress (not to mention expense) of finding my way around a foreign airport prior to the long trip home. And when I mentioned this to our mutual friend, Charles Reynolds, Charles told me that many years before, Pat had said to him that the kindest thing you can do for a magician is give him a ride to or from the airport. And it's true. When I think of Pat Page, I consider the pure "workerness" of this insight—and the generosity of spirit behind it.
And so, yes, I loved this book, and I think you will, too. The pleasure of reading it is well enhanced by its gorgeous oversized production and design, and once again, the name of designer Michael Albright seems to be invariably associated with some of the most beautifully conceived magic books of our time. This book is a fitting and lasting tribute to a great magician, and whether you will be visiting yet again with an old friend, or meeting a new one you will never forget, Magic: Page by Page is a doorway to real magic.