"When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them." - Chinese Proverb
I attended the first Laugh-Makers Conference in La Crosse, WI in 1986. At the end of the week long conference the staff and participants went to the CircusWorldMuseum in Baraboo where Jimmy "Happy" Williams was the resident clown. After one of the performances, Bob Gibbons, the publisher of Laugh-Makers magazine, took a small group of us backstage to meet Happy. A young child was visiting Happy, who performed a magic trick where the child found the four Aces in a shuffled deck. After the child left, Happy offered to teach the routine to us. I started performing that trick myself at Raging Waters that summer, and it quickly became one of my favorites.
I don't know who created the Four Ace Trick. It is known by many magicians and is considered in the public domain. I included directions for performing it in my book titled reativity for Entertainers Volume Three: Creative Routines. It is also in my pamphlet titled Charlie the Clown Presents Introduction to Magic. Carole and I have taught it many times, including to young people interested in learning magic. It appears in the March/April 2013 issue of New Calliope.
I discovered that the basic concept is very useful, and have created many variations on the effect over the years.
The first variation was based on realizing that it did not have to be performed using the Aces. Any appropriate cards in a poker deck can be used as long as their significance is known or can be revealed. For example, in 1991 I was hired to entertain at a party for a woman turning 40. She had always wanted a party with a clown when she was a child, but her parents couldn't afford it so her husband made her dream come true on this significant birthday. When she did the trick, and the cards were turned over they were the Three of Hearts, Nine of Hearts, Five of Hearts, and Ace of Hearts. There was a little response when audience members realized that each of the cards was a heart. I gazed at the cards for a moment, and then, as if I had just made a discovery, said, "That's 3-9-51. Isn't that the day you were born?" Then I got a tremendous reaction from the audience.
I had heard many magicians say, "You can't perform card magic for kids." I realized that the reason many card tricks don't work for kids is that they are performed with poker decks. Kids don't have any experience with that type of deck and don't know what the suits are called. I switched to performing card magic using decks for children's games. An Animal Rummy deck has four duplicates of each animal, making it ideal for a Four Ace trick. Instead of finding the four aces, the child found each matching card of one animal.
In school supply stores I discovered Sequencing Decks. These decks have cards depicting four steps in a process, for example, a baby girl, a teenage girl, a mother, and a grandmother. Child play games where they try to collect cards in one sequence. Using this type of deck for the trick means the child would find all of the cards in one sequence in the correct order.
However, my creativity would not have occurred if Happy had not planted the seed through his generosity in teaching that trick to a group of entertainers that he was meeting for the first time in 1986. I always think of Happy each time I perform the trick or teach it to others. I still perform it over a quarter of a century after first learning it.
In 2009, Carole and I visited the CircusWorldMuseum. While there I met Jimmy "Happy" Williams again. I was glad to have the opportunity to thank him for teaching me the Four Ace trick, to explain how valuable it has been to me, and to tell him what an inspiration it had been. He seemed very pleased to learn that he had made an important contribution to my career.
What decks can you use when performing card tricks for children? When you perform magic, how can you change the original props to something your audience can relate to better?
Who planted seeds for your career or routines that you have created? How can you keep them in mind? How can you contact them to tell them what impact they had upon you? How can you pay tribute to them so others understand their contribution?