This week Jonah connects with legendary “underground” magician Howard Hamburg. Howard has never been a full time professional magician but at eighty-three years he is a long-standing member of The Magic Castle and considers some of the greatest magicians of our time to be among his closest friends.
Howard shares with us his recollections of the heydays of the Magic Castle, how he “got his name” from Dai Vernon, and his advice for today’s magicians.
“Well, do you need to see anything more”?
Today you might find Howard sitting in Dai Vernon’s old seat at the Magic Castle, and it was The Professor himself who convinced Howard to audition for membership to the Magic Castle in the first place. Howard shares with us his early days with magic, how he learned his first card trick in the backroom of a billiards hall, and how he won over the committee at the Magic Castle to earn his membership.
“An Era Where Things Turned”
Sitting at Dai Vernon’s table at the Magic Castle gave Howard a front row seat to the heyday of American magic of the 60’s and 70’s and during that time many of the greatest magic legends were just his friends that he spent his time with. Howard shares with us some of his favourite stories of the magic greats pulling pranks on each other and joking around among the halls of the Magic Castle as well as some of his own antics. As Howard puts it, he was the second biggest troublemaker at the Magic Castle (The Professor was the biggest).
“Think Like A Spectator”
Howard Hamburg has seen the world of Magic change over the years and from his front seat perspective on magic history his biggest advice for today’s magicians is to think like a spectator, not like a magician. Howard says, “If they stop thinking like a magician and start thinking like what the spectator is seeing then they will find themselves doing better magic”.
I’d love to really think this out and get back to you. There’s so many guys out there that are just wonderful, really.
What do you like about modern magic? What do you not like?
I liked the creativity that I see, the wonderful creative initiative of wonderful things out there right now. I’m talking about techniques and subtleties. I think there’s more of that coming back. Instead of just the trick, I think, people are seeing that there are things that are in between the lines of that structure, that little subtleties make the effect, the effect doesn’t make the subtleties.
I don’t like the internet or YouTube and I think it’s very harmful to magic.
Take home point
Stop thinking like a magician and start thinking more along the lines of a spectator. Also, pick up a book once in a while.
Howard Hamburg still operates underground. When the world re-opens after the pandemic you might get lucky and catch him sitting at Dai Vernon’s seat at the Magic Castle and if you listen to the end of this episode Howard will share with you his personal e-mail that you can reach him at, but to preserve his well earned mystery, and to hide it from bots that might scan this text, we won’t be printing it here.