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Magic Circles's magician of the year Michael Vincent-The Mechanic - Articles Surfing
There is a magician I've known on and off for some years through our membership of The Magic Circle. He's been around for some time but he's always been noted for being very smooth with a pack of cards or anything that involves sleight of hand. Indeed I once saw one of his business cards where he described himself as "Sleight of Hand Magician", a revealing term perhaps but one of which he is clearly very proud. He's been working professionally for 15 years and now in his mid-life is receiving due acknowledgment from his magic peers with invitations to appear at important gatherings all over the world such is the quality of his work. He was contracted to perform as a featured artiste at FISM in Stockholm where many new magicians became aware of his work and his personal philosophy that acknowledges his deep deference and religious-like fervour for the magic of past masters ? Hofzinser, Leipzig, Malini, Marlo, Slydini, Vernon, Jennings, Skinner and other pioneering greats.
He is black, born in this country of parents from St. Lucia and in his early days of professional work often suffered racist taunts at alcohol-fueled dinner tables of "Here comes old black magic" Never fazed, it was the quality of his work that won audiences over that went beyond the colour of his skin.
Today, it is meaningless. Always immaculately dressed, polite, never immersing his presentations in questionable contemporary or ethnic humour, he will command your respect and applause by the sheer unseen skill of the impossibilities he will present at your dinner table. Echoing perhaps the demeanor of one of his idols, Michael Skinner. He is Michael Vincent who is one of the most accomplished close-up and platform workers in Britain today who takes great pride in the sheer execution of his work that depends largely on a high degree of digital skill and performance management, commodities upon which his heroes depended to achieve their miracles.
To this end he practices, and practices and practices. Every day. Hour upon hour. Remorselessly giving as much time to achieving and keeping his digital skill and timing in tune as a professional musician or an athlete bent on a one-off ten second race at an Olympic event. Inspired at an early age on seeing David Nixon on television and later Fred Kaps and Doug Henning, at the age of 12 he dived headlong into intricate card sleights such as the side steal gleaned from "The Magic Book" by Harry Lorayne (a bible for any aspiring youthful magician he claims). He received encouragement from friendly magic dealers Ken Brooke, Duncan Trillo at Hamleys,. Jake at Davenports and Alan Alan at The Magic Spot and on seeing his passion and aptitude with cards he received considerable help and advice from Cy Endfield. (Michael believes that Cy's book "Entertaining Card Magic" is one of the most under-rated and outstanding books on card magic).
On leaving school he went through a variety of jobs ? printer, clerk and then a postman and later in the sorting office, a mechanical operation which left him thinking time for magic. He got himself to the United States in 1983 and performed at the Tannen Jubilee facing a front row audience of Ken Krenzel, Slydini, Howie Schwartzman, Harry Lorayne and Frank Garcia, a real baptism of fire for an emerging Cagliostro. Later with Alan Alan in New York he spent time with Slydini and Jim Cellini who greatly influenced his magic evolution with their work and advice. After six years of sorting the nation's post he felt confident enough to become a full time professional. It wasn't easy.
He continued with intense practice both in method and presentation and worked hard at selling himself to bookers. But his equal application to the philosophy of magic as well as technique has paid off. He studied other practitioners in this aspect of performance ? Michael Skinner, Darwin Ortiz and Larry Jennings with whom he spent a five hour masterclass whilst in the U.S. Later his application to self-presentation was noted by national marketing experts who invited him to speak at their seminars on the techniques of selling oneself.
This part of his career has been so successful that he was invited to speak to top police officers at Scotland Yard, a story that made front page news in the Evening Standard..
He believes in something he calls "Identity Driven Magic". That is magicians who are famous and identified totally with the tricks they perform, so closely do the effects blend with their personality. He cites Channing Pollock with the doves, Jay Marshall with Lefty and Albert Goshman with the Salt Pots and Coins. He also enthuses about Don Alan who totally blended his magic with his personality. The value of this theory was proven to him when performing in the U.S. and Mike Caveney congratulated him on the choice of effects which he said were completely in tune with his personna. Michael Vincent passes on this knowledge and practical experience to magic students in his workshops and lecture "The Tapestry of Deception". But he is not just an egg-head in theory. He has been Magic Circle Close-up Magician of the Year three times, won the Close-up competition at Ron Macmillan's International Magic Convention in 1994 , and as there was no 1st prizewinner named for card magic at!
FISM in 1997, he took third place on points.
Some may think it arrogance but I know for a fact that nowadays he will not accept any engagement for anything less that a four figure fee, such is his confidence in his ability. But he's worked harder than most to achieve this standard and market acceptance and the quality of his work justifies that figure which results in repeat bookings. It's also enabled him to travel the world to North America, Europe, Africa, Japan and his parents homeland, the Caribbean. Something he did not easily imagine pounding the streets of North London with a sack of mail over his shoulder.
He also works just as hard to bring individuality and perfection to his cabaret performances. He contacted Tommy Wonder years ago and persuaded him to make the necessary apparatus for Wonder's unique version of the Oswald William's classic "The Hold-up" whereby the magician is mugged of his wallet, watch and ring later restored by magic. He studied Al Koran's "Ring Flite" effect and performs it in the original Koran routine whereby the ring flies from the left hand but finishes up in the right hip pocket having travelled up the sleeve and across his back. With the potential for misdirection this makes this wonderful effect even more amazing. And recognising the need for a spectacular and different climax to his act he purchased from Michael Bailey the "Skyscraper Boxes", a stunningly visual Nest of Boxes routine whereby the borrowed ring in found in the stack that stands over six feet high after being removed from a combination safe
But his present situation may suggest that he is an introverted, singular individual, so focussed on magic to the exclusion of normal life activity. Perhaps like Vernon who gave up everything for his magic ? family, relationships, career, financial responsibility, home, everything. Magic came first. But Michael Vincent recognises this and has firm, lifestyle principles well in place encouraged by the religious upbringing that was part of the Vincent family. He appreciates the need for a balanced lifestyle that can lead him to satisfaction in his accomplishments, fitness and future wealth. So guess what he does three times a week?
He works out in a gym, he tap dances, he's into computer technology and he creates graphic design. And in the tradition of his family he holds religious beliefs that at 42 years of age have led him to self introspection that has brought about a certain calm and peace of mind. All this plus hour upon hour of practice, reading and absorbing everything he can about his chosen path. Seeking improvement by any means necessary to bring dignity to magic. So how would he like to be remembered? He hopes that he'll leave a legacy of quality magic, that may have inspired his pupils and other younger magi; in the manner of his heroes. In the way that he was inspired as a 12 year old black boy sitting in front of a television set.
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