Sam Spruell
Valerie Koch

Hiding the Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer


Hiding the Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer

Author:Jim Steinmeyer [Steinmeyer, Jim]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Crónica, Otros
Publisher: ePubLibre
Published: 2004-01-01T05:00:00+00:00


I can say that all the drawings purporting to explain [the Levitation] are very little like the mechanism that does the trick. With the drapes, it packs in nine big trunks, easily a ton and a half. The first time in a new house, it takes three men four hours to set it. Of course, that includes stalling and going out for beer. For each performance, it takes three men thirty minutes to set, and it strikes and packs away immediately after it acts.

Each wire was connected to a leaf spring, in the grid above the curtains, which helped to keep the proper tension. After they were installed, the wires were plucked and tightened, the way one would tune a musical instrument. Once the twangs were identical, the wires were sure to carry the same amount of weight. Finally, each wire would be chemically treated to remove the shine and give it a dark, dull finish so that it wouldn't reflect in the stage lights. After the trick was performed, the fans of wires were carefully retracted on the felt-covered rollers, which left the stage clear for Kellar's other illusions.

Valadon and Kellar concealed their plan for almost a year. As Kellar had the illusion quietly constructed in America, Valadon continued to work for Maskelyne, presenting his act and starring in the magic plays at Egyptian Hall. During this time, Devant came to the United States. Unaware of the plot to steal the Chief's treasured secret, he actually met with Kellar in Philadelphia and New York. Devant seemed to share a genuine friendship with Kellar. He used Kellar's distinctive graphic elements in his own posters and, several years later, hired Kellar's chief assistant for his own touring company. Kellar, in turn, was grateful when Devant improved a new trick for him, a wooden ball that mysteriously rolled up and down a plank. Early in 1904, Devant first heard rumors from America that Valadon might be leaving Egyptian Hall and planning to join Kellar. He hesitated telling Maskelyne, but did begin auditioning performers who could take over in an emergency.

Valadon stayed as long as he could and finally quit Egyptian Hall around the time Kellar introduced his new levitation in America. He joined Kellar's show about eight months later. When Maskelyne finally realized what had happened he felt double-crossed by Paul Valadon, who he had always considered a valuable member of his company. But he was also mystified by Kellar's success with the temperamental illusion. Although he publicly insisted that Kellar's illusion was only a poor copy of his own, the Chief did pay to have someone in America sneak backstage and take a flash photo of Kellar's apparatus, sending it off to London so he could study any improvements. That photo, like Kellar's bold visit to the Egyptian Hall stage, wouldn't have shown him very much. It was actually the little tool that made the eyelets, and the felt-covered rollers—two simple additions that never looked very impressive backstage—that had made all the difference.



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