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Aces, stripped; Penguin, considered.

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This trick’s got a dirty name, but I promise it’s G-rated.

Back in middle school, I attended a couple lectures at the Wunderground Magic Shop in Royal Oak, Michigan.

The store was originally called “Romig’s,” but when it moved to the basement floor of another office building, it took on the name “Wundergroud”…and it kept that name the following year, when it moved into the second floor of yet another building.

I guess “Waboveground” just didn’t have the same ring to it.

Anyway, I carpooled to one of these Wunderground lectures with a kid named Oz Pearlman. I don’t remember much about the guy. I don’t remember where we met, why we drove together, or what we talked about on the way over. I just remember that Oz and I lived close by each other.

Fast-forward 15 years.

Oz Pearlman is now the Billy Mays of magic. He’s the pitchman for a magic trick company called Penguin—a company, which, thanks to the Internet, has become a distribution powerhouse. PenguinMagic.com (and Ellusionist.com) have taken off where Abbott’s and Tannen’s have left off…and where Abbott’s and Tannen’s have left off is the Information Superhighway.

Penguin sent me some tricks to review. For the most part, they were classics repackaged for the Internet generation.

I point out the repackaging because Penguin does it well. Penguin takes tricks that boys have been buying in brick-and-mortar magic shops for decades (e.g., Sponge Balls, Stripper Decks [pictured above], Invisible Decks), and makes them look hip…

…which, in the right hands (e.g., David Blaine’s) they can be.

So let’s look into one of these five now-hip tricks that Penguin sent me: The Stripper Deck. It’s basically a gimmicked deck of cards that looks just like a regular deck, but allows you to slide out certain cards (such as the four aces, pictured above) by lightly running your fingers along the sides.

Thanks to Penguin, the Stripper Deck is now called, “Stripper, Starring Oz Pearlman.” The reason the trick “stars” Pearlman it that it comes with a DVD featuring him explaining how to use the deck.

(For a couple of years, magicians debated whether DVDs or books made better vehicles for teaching magic. DVDs won. Wasn’t much of a fight. Sure, there are a couple literary holdouts, but the number wanes as time goes by. Look, I love books as much as the next guy [assuming the next guy is an author and book reviewer], but still, when it comes to learning magic, I’ll take DVDs, thank you very much.)

I watched Penguin’s Stripper Deck DVD, and I liked what I saw. Pearlman is a clear and competent teacher. He might not bring the years of experience that, say, Michael Ammar brings to the table—Pearlman is 27—but he knows how to get you excited about performing a trick.

And that’s important—every single magician in Vegas could talk your ear off for hours about the tricks he’s purchased but never performed. Pearlman’s enthusiasm all but ensures this won’t happen.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give Penguin is that their Stripper Deck and Stripper Deck DVD got me performing the Stripper Deck again. Performed it just last week, at Gary Darwin’s magic club, before the StreetOfCards.tv web viewers.

Along with the 5 old tricks, Penguin sent me a Pen-Through-Dollar illusion, which didn’t really impress me when compared to some of the other Pen-Through-Dollar tricks on the market, and a Self-Tying Shoelace illusion, which VERY much did impress me. A beginner can perform this illusion and look just like David Blaine (who performed the Self-Tying Shoelace trick on one of his specials).

All the tricks discussed in this story cost around $20.

I’m scheduled to perform at Jeff McBride’s Wonderground (unrelated to the earlier-discussed Wunderground Magic Shop) next month, and I plan to spend this afternoon debating whether I’m going to perform the Stripper Deck…

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