- Bill Wisch
"Slydini-Sphere" by Bill Wisch
Original Publication Date:
First let me say that I KNOW this has never been in print. In fact, I'm not even sure Slydini ever performed it...but I did on several occasions and it was a knockout!
Learning this effect was rather humorous. Let me explain. Slydini's lessons were never really structured. The only thing he would do the same way at each lesson was to ask the familiar question..."What-a we going-a to do today?" If there was anything from the previous lesson you wanted to work on then that was what you did. Or if nothing was on your mind then Slydini would give you the "special look" (while his mind was going over some possible things to work on) and he would then amble over to his "magic cabinet" and remove something or other. Then he would do a trick or routine that would "fry" you and ask if you would like to learn it. That was the usual sequence.
However, one day I had been to Tannen's (magic shop in NY) just before going for my lesson with Slydini and had seen a really remarkable effect created by, I believe, Tony Spina. I bought it for no other reason than for the sheer mystery of the method. I knew it would take a bit of work but the effect was worth it. I think it is probably still available. The name is ASTRO-SPHERE or something like that.
It is a floating ball effect using a scarf and zombie-like, silver ball about 6" in diameter. The ball floats all around the scarf and even behind, in front of, below and even above the edge of the scarf. It is not like the Zombie at all and the moves are quite startling to any audience. I will not give the method since it isn't mine to give but I will give you Slydini's method. It is quite different and allows for some radical moves that Spina's version couldn't offer, due to a different construction. If you have or are familiar with the original then you'll see the vast improvement of Slydini's refinements.
Now, the humorous story that goes along with my learning this. Slydini saw the item in the bag that I had brought to the lesson and asked what it was. I told him and he gave me a "special look". Then he asked me..."would you like to see how I do this?" Of course I agreed and he proceeded to remove the effect from the bag. He went over to his cabinet and brought back two regular, signet finger rings...some thin wire...scissors...a spool of invisible thread...a needle...some matches and his glasses. He looked like a master tailor ready to attack that gown ordered by the queen for the royal ball! Many people know this but in case you don't, Slydini was extremely talented in a number of other skills and arts. One was sewing and tailoring. He made everything himself. Those ornate, gorgeous, totally unique costumes he wore for his stage shows were created and made by no one but him. Also, he did all the work on the scarves used for the "knotted silk routine" and, if you're not familiar with them you have to know that making the hems is a major magic trick in itself! He did all that himself. He was a regular, "domestics fool" and never made anything that wasn't up to his "mega-particular" satisfaction. In other words he was a real stickler!
Why am I going into all this? Well, the lesson with his version of Astro-Sphere goes down as one of the most frustrating, mind-boggling, exasperating, "fun" lessons I ever had with him. After he removed the effect from the package he began cutting threads...sizing wire...wrapping everything around something else...painstakingly reworking the threads for the effect to make use of his two finger rings instead of the two corners of the scarf that normally were threaded. It was quite a time and if that had only been the situation then all would have been well. However, after he showed me his handling and moves he had me put the rings on and hold the scarf and sphere to try to practice it. I felt like a punch-drunk city-slicker trying to reel in his first fish. I got everything tangled and retangled and to make a long tangle short...I ended up with what looked like the fur ball from robot feline.
Now, are you ready for this?...Slydini proceeded to spend FOUR HOURS untangling the mess I had gotten myself into! It was a true study in dedicated lunacy with a supreme purpose. Never have I witnessed what another person could do with a mess like that! He actually untangled the whole thing! THEN, we began learning the moves!!! After about two hours of that I was literally "burnt" and I remember thinking I never ever want to see anything that even resembles a thread again as long as I live. To this day I don't know why he didn't just cut the thread, throw it away and just start with two new pieces.
After the initial ordeal wore off (after a couple of days), I actually set up and practiced the effect as he had shown me. To make a long story short, I used it at several shows, once in New York City at an awards program for the MAGIC TOWNE HOUSE after I was honored by winning a sleight-of-hand award. I wanted to do something different and this literally freaked everyone out, from what I was told. I learned a number of valuable lessons from Slydini during our years together but the most profound was the value of the virtue of patience. He was a true master of patience and it naturally showed in all his work for his entire career. He was the absolute best!!!
If you have the courage, here is a nutshell of the handling. I'm going to leave the moves and extras to your imagination since they will become evident after you've gone through the trouble of making this up.
I would recommend that you buy the effect so all you have to do is make the changes and most of your props will be supplied already. Also you'll see how the original version goes.
Basically, you need a clear, 6 inch, plastic sphere (available as two halves in craft stores) that you spray-paint silver on the inside...allow to dry, and then glue together to form the sphere; a cloth approximately 36 inches square; two finger rings and some thin wire, similar to wreath wire...flexible, thin and strong. Also you need about two yards of invisible thread (not magic thread...just the normal invisible thread available in any sewing supply store.
You heat the point of a needle and make a small hole in the rim where the two halves of the sphere are joined. You tie one end of each of the two pieces of invisible thread to that pinhole in the sphere. Now take your wire and wrap enough around the bottom of each finger ring so you can have a small loop at the bottom and it won't come off. Thread each 36" strand of thread through the loop in each ring and attach the other end of the thread to a small fish hook (or the eyelet of a small, open safety pin).
If you carefully put the rings on each hand...attach the hooks to each side of the waist of your slacks (experiment)...and reach out and pick up the sphere, you are essentially ready to go.
Pick up the cloth and hold it with one hand. Hold the sphere against the cloth and you'll find that it will remain floating if you let go, due to the thread being attached to your slacks. All I can say is experiment and try any and all zombie moves and any other moves you can think of. You won't believe the amount you can do with this configuration.
At the end of the routine is the supreme improvement and the one that fools those that even know the effect. Since the set up is totally different you can let go of the corners of the cloth and it will drop to the floor. As this occurs you reach out and grab the sphere with both hands! It is spectacular! The audience probably believed that the sphere was attached to the cloth in some way. By using this killer move you totally baffle them!
After you're holding the sphere you bow and walk off the stage (and unhook, of course).
I know this is sketchy and probably confusing but,again, the effect is not mine so I cannot give the original method away. If you know it or ever get a chance to buy or see the makeup of the original "Astro-Sphere", you'll see that "Slydini-Sphere" is an awesome improvement and worth it's weight in gold for a performer who has some patience and wants something that nobody else will probably ever take the trouble to do.
If you try it please let me know how you make out. But PLEASE!!!! try not to let the invisible thread get tangled! Better yet...if it does...just cut it and chuck it and start over. Have fun!