January 7, 2007
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Norm Nielsen Gala...
Norm and Lupe arriving at the Orleans Event in Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - Greetings friends all over the world!
Happy new year to all of you. Hope the holidays were fun and full of good cheer for you and your loved ones. And, if you had any of your relatives or friends hanged recently, we trust that things went off better for them than for the other hanging we all watched over and over on our computer screens.
I am sitting here in my office, with my New England Patroits Jersey on which means its that time of year known as the NFL Playoffs. Two big games today, and this is really the only time I try to watch the games all year. I used to be a big football fan, watching every game all season long. But life has a way of eating up all that free time, and I find that the only time I can justify the space during which I can watch the games is this month, when the games are exciting and the goal of the teams is to reach the Super Bowl.
The first game is New England, broadcast from my home state of Massachusetts, where it is surprisingly WARMER there than it is here in Vegas. Usually the folks in New England are shoveling snow at this time of year, and we are swimming in the pool, but not this year. My friends in Worcester are now on their way to Foxboro to sit in the stands and root for the team, and they have already called to tell me how beautiful the weather is there...
Then, later in the day, I will switfch jerseys to the Philadelphia Eagles team outfit, so I can cheer for the team that plays the later playoff game in the elimination round of the playoffs. And in between, I will be preparing for a road trip down to San Diego for some shows and to watch Jan give one of her motivational talks for a convention there.
This column is my first of the new year, and it was originally planned as my last column of 2006. Technical difficulties prevented that from happening, as I have been busy with travels and holiday activities, and the computer that held my column became jammed or blocked, or whatever it is that happens to these electronic devices, and the office was prevented from getting access to my files until I returned yesterday.
Next week (I promise) will contain an update of our progress here in the cyber world, what the future looks like and our plans for 2007. I will also have a report (and photos) from one of the last gigs I did in 2006 - a private party for the Pussycat Dolls. I know, I know, a nasty job, but somebody's gotta do it.
Tis the season, as they say, and a jolly night it was here in Las Vegas, as IBM Ring 257 Fantasma Magic Club chose Norm Nielsen as their Magician of the Year in what has become an annual event the magic world looks forward to.
Fantasma Ring 257 Magician of the Year
Date: December 4, 2006
Location: Orleans Hotel
Honoring: Norm Nielsen (and Lupe, of course!)
Photos by: Jan Dacri
Last year it was our old pal, Carl The Amazing Ballantine, and true to form, Carl was one of the first to arrive at the ballroom of the Orleans Hotel and Casino just off the strip. Smoking on his huge cigar, Carl was happy to be a part of the festive evening, even presenting a funny, aand magical moment onstage as part of the tribute for Norm.
At left, Jack Goldfinger, Lupe, Norm and Jeff Hobson, who acted as the able-bodied host for the festivities.
As Roger Dreyer said to me, "this is what magic is supposed to be about, getting together for laughs, fun, a bit of food, and a lot of comraderie." This night was all that and more.
Here's Kevin James, Steve, Gay Blackstone and Simon Lovell...
The evening got under way with camera flashing and music filling the ballroom, and a cocktail party. Soon, the place was packed, and the food began, and I do mean food.
There were salads and breads and cheese and all kinds of meats, plus a carving station with what looked like a large cow lying on its side, getting sliced and dished out to the eager magi who love meat.
Eventually, the food went away and the guests found seats, and the show began.
The overall opinion seemed to be that these three cabalero's (at left, Simon, Steve, Jeff)
stole the show with their triple card to mouth routine. I can tell you that more magicians came up to me after the dshow to ask how we did it.
Three cards were simultaneously chosen, by three different spectatos by SImon, Jeff and myself. The cards were signed, returned to the deck, then somehow they cards ended up in our mouths, but I had Jeff's, Jeff had Simon's and Simon had my card. It was a wild bit, and one that left them all scratching their heads.
Roger Dreyer (at right), who spends countless hours and mucho dollars from his own wallet to put on these annual events, offered to pay the three of us after the show, but we insisted he instead take the money down to the Crazy Horse and put it to good use. (He did.)
The rest of the show was impressive, too, with Aye Jaye, Kevin James and Company, Ballantine, Goldfinger and Dove, The AMazing Thompsoni and Company (okay, PAM is the company), Fielding West (with a funny bit using one of Norm's Coke bottles), Jeff Hobson magically printing a new image poster for Norm (I think it was Norma...) and concluded with an amazing display of dove magic by Amos Lefkovitch.
When Amos finishes, and all of the doves are gone, they suddenly fly back to the stage and land all over him, a stunning finish to a fab show.
Music for the show was presented by the one and only Michael Close, who did his usual wonderful job...
The show ended, the deserts appeared, along with tea, coffee and more adult beverages for Simon and the rest of the cocktail imbibers.
Here's Robin Leach talking magic with Simon and myself.
The party then continued on into the night up in the top floor suite reserved for the magicians and their pals. Gary Darwin was there, he presented his vanishing toes routine in the show (let's try to forget that, shall we?) and spent the rest of the evening up in the suite drawing cartoons of many of the people present, incuding Ballantine, Lance, myself, others...I expect to see these on eBay next month. Especially the ones he did of Carl, who then autographed them all.
Among the guest magi who were not on the show, but who stopped by to show support for Norm, were Lance Burton, Jeff McBride, Justin Tranz, Joey King, and so many others. Robin Leach even slipped in, as he loves magic and tries to hit all of these events.
Yes, friends, a splendid time was had by all. A great way to end the magic year.
In between the green felt of the tables and the chink-a-chink of the machines, there really is a a transformation that goes on here, and even though its not like the great winters of the Northeast that I remember so fondly back in Boston and Worcester and Vermont, if you use your imagination, you can actually be transported to the holiday winter time even here in the middle of the desert
Las Vegas really goes to town at Christmas in more ways than one. There are light displays all over the city, not just on the strip, but everywhere, including some spectacular ones in local neighborhoods.
We had friends in from London this week. As much as we try to avoid the strip, you HAVE to take those out of towners down there at least once, right? I made 3 stops, then left them on their own for their very own shopping and gambling frenzy, and met up with them later in the hospital where they invariably always end up from sheer exhaustion and over-stimulation. The three stops went something like this.
The Bellagio: This is my favorite spot, and my wife, Jan visits it at least once a week to breathe the fresh air and smell the fresh plants in the Conservatory. The giant Christmas tree (an impressive 35 footer), is lit, the decorations are up, and they'll stay up through January 6. This year's display has an edible theme, featuring a "cranberry bog" comprising more than 100,000 cranberries (I counted them), not to mention six reindeer made of real pecans, which someone tried to eat. There are twinkling lights and dancing fountains, sparkling stars and vibrant poinsettias and other colorful flowers and happy plants. And at least 200 Oriental tourists, whom we followed on over to...
Caesars Palace: The casino has discontinued its traditional Strip-side holiday ice rink, which is a shame, because it was such great fun to stand and watch people crashing into each other and listening to the sounds of bones crashing and children screaming. But they still have this giant tree' which is lit with 9,675 individual lights, and another one million lights are up around the property. Most hotels have displays but none as elaborate as this or the Bellagio. Fun to walk through, then into the Forum Shops, if you dare. We did, but I was able to get everyone out quickly when I told them that Paris Hilton was closing the place down for the day so she could shop in private.
Next it was over to Wynn, the newest hotel that my friends had not yet seen: Lights and decorations are up around the property, but the main focal point of this year's Christmas is obviously the Esplanade shopping mall, which has been transformed into a "Wynn-ter Wonderland." Store windows displays remind me of Manhattan, where ever department store tries to outdo the next with elaborate, exciting displays. This being Vegas, the Wynn-dows are filled with mannequins attired in "enchanted holiday apparel," set against frosted backdrops evoking an enchanted, money-grabbing forest of retail therapy.
After a few adult beverages, we carted the gang off to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino for a little rock and roll Christmas cheer. The front of the casino has been transformed into the "Hard Rockafella Center," which includes a public ice skating area. We strolled through the lobby and the casino, grabbed a meal in Simon’s Kitchen (said hello to Simon), and we were off to the Rio to see their "Holiday in the Sky" a Christmas-themed version of the free Masquerade in the Sky show, which continues through Christmas day.
I personally hate the fact that so many places put up holiday lights and Christmas trees around Halloween. I try to ignore them until December, then I enjoy checking them out, as I was getting the chance to do with my Londoners.
We next headed for Lake Las Vegas. While Caesars no longer has its ice rink, Monte Lago Village has taken up the tradition with its giant floating skating rink, which opened November 17 this year and will operate through January 15. At It's Rockerfeller Center-sized and can accommodate up to 60 skaters at a time, floating on the lake while skating, how cool is that? The floating rink is open to the public daily, so we strapped on some skates and zipped around until a really hefty man dressed like Santa crashed into me and knocked himself unconscious. I figured that was the sign to go. We slipped into the Gingerbread House Gallery, a display of 35 gingerbread houses in MonteLago Village. All was fine until we were thrown out when one of my friends was caught eating bits of the displays.
On the way back from Lake Las Vegas, we stopped in Henderson. For the 6th year in a row, Sunset Park hosts the "Gift of Lights" -- millions of them, illuminating 300 animated and twinkling light displays in a drive-through setting of festive tunnels haunted caves, with surprise visits from Santa, Rudolph, Michael Jackson, and many others. Anderson Dairy was manning the Hot Cocoa Corner, with proceeds going to the Boy Scouts, of which I am one (an Eagle Scout is for life). T We had a few cups, then I loaded my mostly-drunk visitors into the limo and we headed for the real jungle...downtown:
They wanted to see the Fremont Street Experience. It's a holiday wonderland down there, mixed together with the homeless and the street vendors, it's like no other place on earth.
dinner, we had the limo drive up to Mt. Charleston for a dinner by the
cozy fireplace at the lodge. Since official records began back in the
1930s, Las Vegas has never had a White Christmas, so if you're looking
for snowman-building opportunities, your best bet is Mt. Charleston.
After dinner, we made a 40-foot snowman, then rolled it down the hill,
knocking down power lines and burying a Honda at the far end of the
This note comes from Dean George Schindler who asks for your urgent support.
AT THE SOCIETY OF AMERICAN MAGICIANS HALL OF FAME AND MAGIC MUSEUM
Rick moved off the strip to the locals casino that I called home for six months, the Orleans. He loves the theatre, which seats 800, and the stage is so large his tigers get to have their own dressing rooms.
Rick's show is basically the same as it was while over at the STardust and the Trop before that, but he plans on adding some new things as the year goes on. If he can get the crowds tomaterialize at this locals casino that is off the strip.
WHat has been over a yeara in delays continues to frustrate the man whose name appears on the bottom line. Steve Wyrick never did open in 2006 as he had plans to do. The show is now set for a Jan 29 open, but I am not holding my breath, and neither is he. Like he said to me earlier this week, nobody wants to get into that theatre more than he does. These delays are seemingly endless and ongoing. By next week we should have a better idea of the actual opening night, and of course we will be there to cover the show.
This is our first installment of 2007 and one that will continue as long as movies keep coming out, and you keep telling us that you enjoy this feature.
I've reviewed a NUMBER of films to guide you through the holidays. Lots of great films, a few stinkers to avoid...
Santa Clause 3 - The Escape Clause
Another wonderful and timeless movie to see year in and year out, right? That's what DIsney is hoping for, but there's little in this unnecessary sequel to put you in a festive mood—unless you just love bad Canadian jokes, farting reindeer and no story to speak of. Bah-humbug, this one is a turkey. Don't waste your time..hopefully it has vanished from theatres by now. Just beware when you hit the rental places, don't bring this stinker home for any reason.
Twenty-two years later, Emilio Estevez has a hot film on his hands, full of great acting, and a solid script, this is one that will be enjoyed, if you let yourself. It is happy, sad and totally enjoyable.. Bobby is Emilio's baby. He wrote it, directed it, and appears in it, so it's his imprint on everything both in front of and behind the camera, not an easy feat, especially while wearing a bad mustache in the movie. His period piece ensemble is the one of the best moviesI have seen all year, and I loved every frame of it.
Bobby mixes archival footage of Robert F. Kennedy with tales of regular-folk drama unfolding at the Ambassador Hotel, all on day of Bobby Kennedy's assassination. (I stood on the very spot where he was shot, setting my props for a show there, in the kitchen...it was eerie.)
The brilliant cast includes Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen, Lindsay Lohan and Elijah Wood, Laurence Fishburne and Freddy Rodriguez Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Christian SLater, Ashton Kutcher and as if that isn't enough to get you into the theatre, Harry Belefonte and Anthony Hopkins portray old men who hang around in the lobby of the Ambassador.
It's campy and dizzying.. The actors all shine, it's a delightful, nostalgic treat from beginning to end.
The Nativity Story
Nativity Story is no whitewashed Christmas story, but it's not a masterpiece
either. The movie addresses the issues that come up when Mary is chosen
to bear God's child—and we must believe she's a virgin, (yeah,
right!) and hustles to Bethlehem without getting caught by the evil
King Herod and his henchmen. Locations, scenery, camera work, costumes,
all top nitch, but the script is bad, and it all plays like a mundane
TV Movie designed to grab the holiday-movie-going crowd.
A horror movie that even horror movie fans will hate. It's a laugh, and insulting to the intelligence of all. Unless you enjoy watching girls in thongs hiking through the forest (which is not a bad thing, but in this cae, the only slightly redeeming value in terms of something to look at), I think you know what the movie is all about.
It takes an hour before the killings begin, but then it's just a bunch of tourists getting killed and gored until the movie mercifully ends and you get up and wonder how something this predictable gets made?
brings out what's unique and gripping in Gibson as a director. It's
pure adrenaline -- a tremendously exciting chase movie, shot in Mexico,
that just happens to be set in ancient Maya with dialogue spoken in
Yucatec Maya, with English subtitles. Full of blood and action, with
a good script and a wonderful to look at setting.
Gibson has made a film of blunt provocation and bruising beauty -- it's breathtaking to watch and a must-see film for movie lovers. Say what you will about Mel Gibson, he may be an idiot and a racist, but he's a filmmaker right down to his nerve endings.
EMAILOFTHEWEEK"I heard that you will be visiting London again in 2007, do you have the dates planned yet? We enjoyed seeing you a number of years ago and we hope to catch one of your shows this time" - Edwin Gleasonl, London, England
Yes, indeed, Jan and I are planning a 3 week tour of the UK again, in the month of June. Tour stops are being finalized now, and they will include performances and lectures in Dublin, Ireland, somewhere in Scotland, Wales, and a bunch of stops in ENgloand, including a reurn to The Magic Circle in London. We will have specicif dates shortly, and you can always check my calendar on my website, www.SteveDacri.com.
Disclaimer:The opinions expressed in this or any of our columns represent the opinions of the writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Magic Web Channel or it's Esteemed Panel of Magic Advisors. (The lawyers made us say that.)