The Ultimate Endless Chain Routine by Chuck Smith
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii May, 2003)
If there's a sure guarantee of how opening my mailbox can lead to putting a beaming smile on my face, it's seeing an envelope with the name of Chuck Smith on the return address.
Chuck Smith is an underground legend who has crept above ground a tad in recent years, even though most of those who know him would much rather keep him, his ideas, and his fabulous magic to themselves. Longtime readers of this column know what an enthusiastic supporter I am, having waxed enthusiastic, over three of his publications: What If? (Genii, September 19951; Why Not? (Genii, August 1996); and Tools of the Trade (Genii, September 2001).
Now Mr. Smith has turned his attention to "The Endless Chain," which has received an enormous amount of attention of late, starting with the superb manual by Whir Haydn. Notes on Fast & Loose (School for Scoundrels, 2000). Frankly, I haven't seen much else that's necessary or terribly interesting other than Mr. Haydn's booklet, at least of recent vintage, but Mr. Smith's treatise is a notable exception.
I had the privilege of seeing Mr. Smith perform this for me when I made a pilgrimage to his home a couple of years ago, and he fooled me badly with a delightful concluding segment in which he introduces a wonderful presentational strategy in which to package the effect where a knot slides down the chain and then physically drops from it. Although I was shown a version of this trick when Lou Tannen first taught me how to throw the chain almost 40 years ago (I still have that Flat-linked aluminum chain), I was caught badly by Chuck's handling and never saw it coming.
Chuck also has some excellent in-the-hands handling (an approach I first learned from Ray Hyman, whom I believed published it in a Linking Ring "Parade" many years ago), and which makes the trick more visible at a distance. Mr. Smith has excellent ideas about routining this material so as to avoid embarrassing or frustrating the spectator, and I can't emphasize enough the value of his giving the routine a magical climax (and in fact, he provides alternatives). He also makes a nice if simple chain, nothing fancy and obviously innocent, made in a continuous loop with-out any fastener, and with a very convincing knot piece to match.
If you're interested in "The Endless Chain," a.k.a. "Pricking the Garter," "On the Barrelhead," et al, I highly recommend this manuscript. Hey, its Chuck Smith: if you've got a brain in your head you know it's got to be worth the meager price asked.