We always hear the reference of “standing on the shoulders of giants”. In other words, what we do is only built upon and a continuation of what others before us have created or done. A statement which is probably true in most cases. One of the iconic magicians many of us admire and some idolize, is the late great Eugene Burger. In his writings, Eugene Burger expressed how he was influenced by another great but lesser known magician whose name was Bert Allerton. Bert Allerton who started a career in magic very late in life hasn’t much of a legacy in print. Aside from some material contributed to a few magic magazines and a few effects collected by Karl Fulves, Allerton only has one small pamphlet printed in which his magic lives on.
Out of print for many years The Close Up Magician is a collection of tricks Bert Allerton performed at Ambassador East Hotel Pump Room in Chicago as well as the House of Murphy in Hollywood and the Hotel Pierre in New York City. This small pamphlet has twenty-nine magical effects which made Bert Allerton famous. They range from card and coin tricks to tricks which use props such as cigarette cases, handkerchiefs, and tableware. As you read through this small collection of ideas, you can’t help but see parallels in the magic performed by Eugene Burger. Perhaps the matchbox Eugene used was a substitution for aspirin box Allerton used. Allerton’s impromptu multi-phase handkerchief routine can easily be recreated with a napkin from most restaurants. Of course, the famous glass through table was one of Allerton’s favorite routines which he refined through hundreds of performances.
Every day we see new books, DVDs, and downloads released to the magic community. I, like everyone else, salivate at these shiny, new and glitzy releases, tempting me to part with my hard earned money. Every now and then though, we should take a walk down memory lane and see where all these new ideas came from. If you can find them, pick up an old, perhaps dusty copy of some magician you may have never heard of and study the ways of those who came before. By the way, his real name was Albert Allen Gustafson….sound familiar.