The Trapdoor, Volume 3 (1994-1998) by Steve Beam
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii January, 2013)
A giant doorstep of a book, brimming with close-up magic by dozens of top name contributors from Aronson to Zolweg, more than 600 pages, almost 300 items, along with descriptions, commentary, and comedy from the inimitable Mr. Steve Beam, $90. What more do you need?
Okay, more: if you're a close-up magic enthusiast, with an inclination toward card magic both sleight-dependant and semi-automatic, an interest in coin magic and the occasional general item here and there (thimbles, anyone?), and you think there's more to magic than instant downloads, flourishes, practicing on YouTube, and possessing a greater variety of playing card decks than sleights in your repertoire—in other words, if you've been doing magic since or before the era when Steve Beam started up The Trapdoor in 1984—then what more do you need?
All right, then how's this: In issue No.53 (the third of this collection), Billy McDonnel contributes "Pocket Poker." Four Aces are lost in the pack. The magician produces any Ace called for from his pocket, continuing until all four Aces have been produced. Then all four Aces vanish from the pack and are produced from the pocket en masse.
This is a good trick, made all the better by Mr. Beam's clear instruction and useful commentary. And this is just one trick—there are hundreds more!
Not yet convinced? Okay, here's more stuff I liked but in less detail: In the same issue, Mr. McDonnel's "Shifty Poker Palm" puts a five-card poker hand through five magical changes. Elsewhere, Tom Gagnon provides 16 pages devoted to a single move, his excellent "Tap Illusion," and useful variations. The late Vanni Bossi's terrific "Suction Cup" is described, probably the first time in English out-side of Vanni's lecture notes of the era, in which a chosen card instantly and visually appears in a previously empty glass in the instant the deck is ribbon spread across the table. An entire 23-page issue is devoted to the magic of the talented Buffalo magic family, the Gallon—this is great stuff you won't find elsewhere, including practical, original, magical coin work from Mike Gallo, like "Presto Gallo," a magical take on "Presto Chango" from Bobo's Modern Coin Magic. Steve Bedwell contributes his "Shake, Shuffle, and Twist" (and here you can even find the credits missing from Gregory Wilson's entry in the Wayne Dobson book reviewed elsewhere in this column). And the Bedwell routine was recently included with permission on an Invisible Deck themed DVD by Daryl. Steve Beam provides a four-page consideration of the Rub-A-Dub-Dub Vanish from Expert Card Technique, including versions "stand-up, seated, walk-around, or surrounded." There's more great coin magic scattered throughout from Mike Gallo, including "Purse-A-Veerance" (okay, the titles can be torturous, but give Mr. Beam a break, he had to do most of the titling himself) in which four coins are returned to a purse, then the purse instantly vanishes and the coins are back in play for another trick; "Outboxed," a clever routine with an Okito box in which all four coins jump into the box, then the lid magically follows onto it, and finally the coins magically penetrate; and "Tai Coin Do," a mystifying handling of the Karate Coin that actually under-stands and renders effective this magical plot. Or you can learn Richard Bartram's "Cheese Stick" in which you apparently eat the contents of a glue stick; if you like this kind of thing, elsewhere there's a trick in which you apparently shove the entire length of a Q-Tip into your ear. (Now if only you could withdraw it with an impaled selected card.) Steve Bargatze contributes a lengthy Chop Cup routine that no one will duplicate but reveals the smart thinking beyond his trademark goofbalI hilarity. And so on!
And sometimes you can enjoy Trapdoor just for the thoughtful prose, believe it or not. A lovely meditation on the late great Jack Birnman makes this reader ask yet again, whatever happened to Mr. Birnman's book? Shame on those who have failed to fulfill this gentle innovator's final wishes. And in one of my favorite entries, Mr. Beam provides an extended examination of a single joke, and its reverberating impact, that he delivered at a magic convention close-up show a lesson in self critique. If I somehow haven't yet convinced you to buy this abundant package of magical work and playfulness, there's also an addendum with updated notes about every issue, along with complete tables of contents and an index of contributors. For the record, The Trapdoor ran for 15 years, from 1984 through 1998. This third collected volume contains the final five years, beginning in 1994 with issue No.51 when the journal went to a quarterly format, and continues through the final issue, No.70. (And speaking of the record, the publisher has not tampered with the form of the original work, thus there is no mystery in wondering about the integrity of the published record. What a concept.)
There's a ton of good magic out there you've yet to read. And like the line about the old joke, if you haven't heard it yet, is it really old? They don't seem to do magic journals like this anymore, and that's too bad. And if you don't yet have them, you can also go and buy the still avail-able previous two volumes of Trapdoor. You'll laugh. You'll learn. Like I said: what more do you need?