Magic and Malarky

Ron's magic for libraries, preschools, children's birthday parties, and more in Chicago's west and northwest suburbs and northern Illinois

Have a little Magic and Malarky at your event!

I am available for close up and walk around magic for parties and other special events.  Close-up magic is amazing because it happens right in front of you where you. Sometimes the magic happens in your own hand.

I also have limited availability for shows. A full show includes magic performed to music, audience participation, and lots of malarkey (a magical word for silliness).

Group magic classes of 90 minutes to 2 hours are also available.

For walk around magic, full shows or group classes, please contact me as far ahead as possible. I am available in the Fox Valley area, especially Elgin, South Elgin and the Tri-Cities for birthday parties and other events.

If you would like me to perform at your event, please contact me at:

A few years ago when I did not have a proverbial “day job,” I was recruiting a variety of magical events.  I now have a day job and while I know it may sound boring, having a day job does have a certain magic for one’s spouse! 

Though I am not generally available for weekday programs, I am still available for occasional evening and weekend events.  I can also arrange for a full day event a time or two a year.

I am available for performances, for walk around/strolling and close-up magic for libraries, special family or organizational events and birthday parties. Lessons for groups are also available as a part of an event or as a stand alone magical event.

 If there is interest, I can also make arrangements a time or two a year for a weekday, full-day school event where I provide an assembly or performance, as well as performances and/or lessons in individual classrooms.  

If you have an event you would like me to consider, please contact me at:

I may not be as available as I was previously, but I am still available to bring my own brand of magic and malarky to your event!

New Schedule of Availability

A few months ago, I began work at a “day job.”  For that reason, I am not available for weekday programs, unless on a federal holiday.  I am still available for evenings and weekends, and can usually work something out for libraries, festivals, birthday parties, etc.  Feel free to contact me for availability.

Housecleaning – And No, I Can’t Do It By Magic

It is the new year (well, still January), and I am doing some housecleaning and organizing on the site.  It seems like anytime someone catches me cleaning house, organizing, shoveling snow off the driveway, mowing the lawn, or anything labor intensive, the inevitable comment is something like, “Use magic!”  Well, sadly, it just doesn’t work that way….

There are a number of pages that say “NEW!” and are months old.  There are things I have tried that have not caught much interest, such as themed birthday parties; perhaps the regular performances are so great special themes are not needed?  I have updated other things here and there, and reorganized the main menu.

I am contemplating holding group lessons in the study rooms at the libraries in Elgin and Batavia.   Tentatively thinking of 6 week sessions.  Details are listed under my Wizard School section.

I am beginning to prepare routines for next summer.  To be posted soon: info on “Delicious!” for libraries using the Illinois 2012 summer reading theme.

I hope to have POOF’s treasure hunt sometime in the next few weeks.  And other items.  Stay posted!

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for Magic & Malarky.  I thought I would share it with you.

Wishing you all a very HAPPY MAGICAL NEW YEAR!!!


Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

How to Learn Magic

I am occasionally asked how I learned magic, or where I find magic tricks to perform.  How does one go about learning magic?

My very first magic trick (I didn’t think of it as that at the time) was a card trick that my friend Jim showed me when we were both kids.  It used a principle that is common in card tricks and that I still use occasionally.

My next experience with magic was in graduate school.  That was the first magic show I had ever seen, put on by another student.  The only trick I remember was the Phanto Tube, but it blew me away.  When I began performing, that was one of the early tricks I learned.  It is an old magical standard, and is one of my standard tricks in birthday parties and preschool shows.

After graduate school, I became friends with my children’s elementary principal.  His name was Ron and we used to play chess together.  I told him that I hoped to take up magic someday and if I ever did I would be glad to do an assembly.  One day he called and asked if I had ever done that – he would like to have me do an assembly.  I told him I would be there, then went to the magic shop in Des Moines, bought tricks and began to learn.  In those first shows, I did a little chemical magic as well.

The pattern continued over the years.  I would go to The Secret Magic and Joke Shop in Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines, Iowa.  Jerry would demonstrate tricks and I would think about what effects I wanted to perform.

An excellent way to learn magic is to see someone else demonstrate a powerful effect, then learn that trick.  That is the model I use when I go to Farmer’s Markets.  I perform generally, but I also demonstrate the magic tricks I am selling.  When someone buys a trick, I take them aside and show them the secret and how to perform the trick.  Of course, instructions are included with each trick, but magic is a visual art, and it helps to see it done, then to see how to do it.

At magic shops (there are several in the Chicago area), staff are generally happy to demonstrate various tricks and effects.  Remember, though, magic stores sell the secret.  You will not be shown how something works until you buy it.

A new twist on the “watch it done” principle comes from online.  Magic stores often have videos demonstrating various items.  Or performances of various magic tricks and effects can be found on You Tube.  And DVDs may be purchased that show various effects and how to do them.  Of course, in the case of the DVDs, you must purchase them to see how a trick is done, but you will know ahead the types of tricks that are featured.

Once one is started in magic, another way to learn magic and an excellent value is a magic book.  Early on, I began collecting magic books.  Where one trick (such as you will find in the Magic Shop on this site) may cost anywhere from a couple of dollars to $6.00 or more, a book may give you several tricks.  The booklets that I sell for $3.00 contain 50 tricks each.  There is no equipment provided, but generally common items are used.  In more advanced books, special items may be referenced that can be found at magic stores or magic shops online.

There are some books that constitute an entire course in magic.  While a little more expensive, these books are excellent values and valuable resources as one continues to learn and grow in the art.  I have built props and devised my own tricks from instructions in books.  Comprehensive books or sets of books are also good ways to find different ways of doing the same effect.

Of course, another way to learn is to take magic lessons.  One may take ongoing lessons, much like music lessons.  Or one may take a few lessons, then continue learning on one’s own with the purchase of individual tricks and effects, books, and DVDs.  Lessons are a good way to start.  They are also a good way to make the most of a magic set if you are new to magic.

Another way to learn magic is to join a magic club.  At a magic club, magicians share tricks back and forth, helping one another learn new material.  When you join, you generally will need to perform for the group.  You will not be expected to wow old pros; they just want to know that you are serious about magic.  Do some basic, simple things that show that you really are a magician.

One last way to get started in magic for children is to have me perform at a birthday party.  When I do that, I bring a small bag of magic tricks for the birthday child.  If time permits, I include a complimentary lesson on how to use the tricks in the bag.   This combines the watch it done and learn principle above.  It also includes a show which, in addition to bring fun to the occasion, also can inspire the child to want to learn.

Respect for Children and others in the Audience

A fellow magician, John (Doc) Morrissy, recently wrote in his newsletter about mistakes that clowns – and magicians – make in approaching children.  He initially addressed it to clowning because the costume can be particularly scary to some children, but his comments apply as well to magicians.

Those of you who have met me in person know that I am aobut 6 feet tall, a bit on the hefty side (I could stand to lose a few pounds), and I have a beard.  Someone this size can be scary to small children.  And some are additionally scared by a man with hair on his face, if they are unfamiliar with beards.  It only makes the child more timid of performers such as clowns and magicians if said performer rushes into the child’s space unwelcomed.

Recently at the St. Charles Farmers Market, the organizer of the market, Rob Murphy, mentioned to a group that there was a magician across the way.  The group was made up with a little girl, possibly about 4 years of age, a mom, grandmother, and another woman.  The group was about 15 feet away from me.  One of the adults in the group pointed me out to the little girl, who promptly turned and walked the other way.

The little girl was a beautiful child, with curly hair and bright orange sun glasses.  (As I recall, but you know how THAT is at my age……but I digress…)  I knew the totally wrong thing was to go and try to talk to her.  So as the group moved away from the vendor’s booth they had been at, I armed myself with a certain red silk, and went and hung out about 15 or 20 feet away from the group.

After a few moments, the little girl noticed me, then watched for a moment as I waved the red silk.  Then I tossed the silk in the air and, presto chango! it turned into a magic cane.  The little girl shrieked in excitement, and pointed me out to the adults.  She then wanted to see more magic and I performed for her and the group she was with for about 10 minutes.

I hope this little girl grows up with a positive feeling for magicians.  But it begins with respecting the child and the child’s personal space.  Many times I have asked a child permission to reach behind his or her ear and sometimes the child will shy away.  When that happens, I say, “Ok, may I reach behind your mom’s ear?”  That is almost always ok.  Frequently, as soon as they see the red silk that was “behind” their mom’s ear, they start to warm up to me.  If not, I perform the trick at a safe emotional distance for the child.

{NOTE: The silk comes from behind the ear.  We don’t put things in our ears, now do we??  🙂 }

I believe that this same respect is important for all audience members.  I don’t understand performers who ridicule and totally embarrass audience members.  Certainly, there are times where one teases or jokes with audience members who assist the magician.  But in my mind, this kidding and joking should be gentle and friendly.

And, for what it is worth, I am the subject of my jokes as often or moreso than any audience member.  I believe that a performer must be able to make fun of himself or herself, to be able to be the object of humor if they are going to use humor in their routine.  I believe that such self-deprecating humor is an important part of humor in an act.  Not in every joke or quip, but still used occasionally.

This lesson of respect and space is especially important with children, though, because it is too easy for a performer to get involved in their schtick and patter and routine and invade the child’s space, making them uncomfortable.  But if one respects that child and their space, and slowly wins them over, they might well have a great new fan.  And the parents and adults will notice the care one takes as well, and appreciate it.

What do you think?  Have you seen performers who were not careful enough with children or other audience members?  Click on the “Comments” link immediately below to share your experiences and thoughts.