Anthony Darkstone In Conversation with Eugene Burger

As some reading this may be aware I have written a series of articles entitled, “Anthony Darkstone
in Conversation With… “ featuring many of the major names in the business.  For some reason the
following article which was written some years ago was not included in that series.  No real reason
except that sometimes for reasons which we are not privy to things occur. Since the passing of The
Master I believe the reason has become transparent. Those who can understand the space between
the music will be acquainted with this concept.

I am deeply honored to have had many quality times with The Master, to have broken bread with
him and discussed many philosophies. Our conversations rarely included the actual Methodology
& Techniques of effects;  they centered on the more Esoteric aspects of our Art.  

 These conversations brought me deep and unparalleled Joy as it was truly wondrous to share &
learn with an erudite mind several of my own beliefs on Life, indulge in Mysticism and indeed also
The Art of Magic.

 I recall with deep affection being heartily patted on the shoulder accompanied by his joyful laughter
when in conversation at a dinner table at his favored restaurant in Vegas, I ventured,
“ Magic is theater. If it is not Theater it is not Magic!”  

 At the end of that dinner The Master proceeded to entertain us and I was his volunteer . My chosen
card was the only one with my name on it! How thoughtful to have prepared that well in advance
knowing I was going to be there.

I passionately believe that his passing can be best expressed by the words of a Thinker/Philosopher
that we both enjoyed:

Anthony Darkstone in Conversation With Eugene Burger – Respect. RIP

Recently at the Texas Association of Magicians Convention in Fort Worth, a group of us were in deep
discussion about how magic should be presented and not surprisingly Eugene Burger’s name
featured greatly in the conversation. All of us agreed on one vital point. Eugene Burger is not only
the magician’s magician but also a true master of the art of magic. That splendid beard, the tone of
his voice and his ability to create sheer enchantment and mystery makes him truly unique.
He can literally weave a spell that no one else can.

I am more than pleased to publicly state that I am one of his greatest fans. If you have ever read one
of his books or articles, watched one of his videos or attended one of his lectures or workshops or
better yet watched him perform you will understand exactly what I mean. He’s amazed and delighted
audiences from Las Vegas to Tokyo. As StageBill magazine proclaimed, Eugene Burger is
“universally recognized as perhaps the finest close-up magician in the world.”

His deep understanding of the psychology and philosophy behind the magic have won him
international accolades, cover stories in conjuring magazines and four awards from the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood.

When ‘MAGIC’,  a leading international magic magazine compiled its list of the one hundred most influential magicians of the twentieth century, Eugene Burger was included for his ability to “arouse feelings of astonishment, as well as a host of other indescribable sensations.”

By definition, magicians are pretty special people, but Eugene Burger is considered exceptional even by other magicians. He has written fifteen best-selling books for the trade, starred in eight instructional videos, lectured extensively to magicians’ groups in over a dozen countries, and his writings have been translated into several languages.

“Close-up magic” is just that: magic performed right under your nose, where everyone becomes part of the show.

And with Eugene Burger it is an unforgettable experience, for as the ‘Chicago Reader’ noted in an unprecedented eleven-page cover story about him, “Burger adds something extra.” His warmth and humor are captivating and his magic is simply amazing. But as much as he loves discussing magic with fellow performers, Eugene’s true passion is bringing mystery and enchantment to the public; at this he is unparalleled. His special presence has led to numerous television appearances in Great Britain, Canada, Belgium, Finland and Japan, and on such highly acclaimed shows as The Art of Magic on PBS and Mysteries of Magic on The Learning Channel. He’s been profiled twice on CNN.


Recently, I was privileged to converse with him about some of his philosophy. :-

You have often been heard to remark that all magicians should “create a special experience ” for
their audiences. Can you please elaborate?

Magic, by definition, is special; it is not the everyday, the ordinary. Magic is the extraordinary, the
amazing. One of the contributions of 20th century magic has been to take something that is, by
definition, special and to trivialize it through thoughtless performances. In my view,  purveyors of
Tricks are just that – Tricksters;  that for better or worse and I fear it is often the latter is all that
happens. That is ok for those who want to do that but it is not for me. Magic is special, Magicians
are special. I want my audiences to experience my performances and not to be mere observers devoid of emotion.

You get invited to many conventions, quite literally, all over the world – what do you personally think
makes a good convention?

Primarily the people present. I don’t go to magic conventions for the food! I had a wonderful time,
for example, at the FISM 2000. I loved the city of Lisbon and had the opportunity to meet and talk
with many magicians from all over the world.

Tell us a little about your involvement with Jeff McBride’s Master Class- how it came about and what
the International students take way from attending that experience?

Both Jeff and I feel that the Master Class is part of our work for magic. It is very important work to us and we have been thrilled that magicians from all over the world,  have come to Las Vegas to participate in this intensive learning experience. Each person who attends (and usually there are only 10 or 12 people) may present a ten minute routine (or they may choose not to perform but only to observe) either close-up or platform. This is videotaped as are the comments made by Jeff and myself. Honestly, I think each person takes away something different. Hopefully everyone comes away with a deeper respect for magic as an art  and for themselves as performers. It really is three days of very intensive magical work.

You are a highly experienced and respected Performer, Lecturer and Writer – Is there one area that appeals more than others?       If so – why?      If they all appeal equally – why?

Honestly, I love all three of the activities you mention. My first love, ever since I was a very young child, has always been performing magic. I love to perform! I enjoy writing but it is more difficult for me. I do think that the quality of my writing has improved over the years. There are fewer excesses of a beginner writer.  I also deeply enjoy teaching and lecturing. I feel a responsibility to the art of magic, and to the future of magic, because magic has given so much to me.

You have rightly been described as a Sage and Grand Master of our Art. Your wisdom on the way magic should be performed is legendary. Can you please share some of your philosophy on how magic should  be performed? I don’t mean what effects but more in the nature of how a magician should present his/her performing persona.

I’m afraid that I can’t summarize all of my writings in a few words! Basically, however, I think that a magic performance is about a relationship that the performer is able to establish with the audience. I ask myself: what is the quality of this relationship? Is it simply about comedy and being funny and nothing else? Is this relationship about something deep, something that touches the audience’s emotions? This was the subject of the seven workshops I gave at FISM 2000: What do you want your magic to be? Each of us must decide this for ourselves. Yet, sadly, many magicians never ask themselves the question.

You have been quoted as saying ” that magic is a world where the impossible is made magically possible “- please share some of your thoughts on this?

As I said earlier, magic, by definition, is special: it is about wondrous things, unbelievable things, happening. Magic challenges my view of reality. It challenges my view of the world, and my life in the world. In this sense, magic also stretches my notion of what is possible and what is impossible. I may be telling myself that I cannot succeed because of this reason or that reason. Magic says to me that the impossible is possible! It tells me to get bigger dreams!

You and I have spoken at some length  about ‘clones in magic’ – i.e. where most magicians simply imitate other magicians ” like good little monkeys” . You refer to this aspect in your lectures , workshops , seminars and writings. Of course, the best way for any Magician to understand this is to personally attend one or several of your sessions. In the meantime, for the purposes of this conversation, I would greatly appreciate and welcome a few comments from you on this topic of ‘clones’.

I think it is very sad that there is so much similarity among most magicians: the same tricks, the same words, the same presentations, the same jokes and even (and this is the really sad part) they are playing the same character, the same person. I think one of the most important things that we can do in life is to uncover the people, the characters, which we already are. So I tell magicians to find out who they are and to let that knowledge influence the way they present their magic.

Without wishing to indulge in semantics, you, like most true Sages instruct rather than teach. You point to the path rather than place your students upon it. You stimulate rather than dictate. You ask questions rather than provide ready made answers. In an almost Taoist approach you instruct by making people understand the questions rather than seek the answers. Personally, I feel this to be a fascinating way to acquire knowledge from a Master. How did this unique technique of yours evolve?

My approach to magic has been greatly influenced by three trends in modern thought. First, my early study of Heidegger, Sartre and the Existentialists, especially the Christian Existentialists such as Paul Tillich. They helped me see the profound importance that symbols, metaphors and stories play (and have always played) in human life. Second, there is my study of Buddhism and Taoism.

Here I have been influenced to see the limitations of words, of thought, in our lives—and the importance of action. If I am a good teacher, then my teaching is this: you must learn to be your own teacher—in magic and in life. That is the teaching.

Third, I think my approach to magic has also been influenced by my study of the Gestalt work of Fritz Perls and also the work of Milton Erickson—both of whom I consider geniuses in their ability to make deep contact with people in very short periods of time. I am particularly fascinated by Erickson’s work in inducing light stage of trance in people. My friend Jeff McBride says that our stage entrance is when we begin our en-trance-ment of our audience.

Last but not least, if you had your own TV chat show for a day and you could choose to interview any three people, living or dead, who would you choose?

If I was most concerned about producing good shows, I would be very happy to interview the three people interviewed at FISM 2000: Juan Tamariz, Paul Daniels and David Blaine. Each proved to be a most fascinating interview that I thoroughly enjoyed.

If I were asked to name three dead magicians with whom I would like to make “spirit contact,” I think they would be Karl Germain, Beautier de Kolta and the third position I think I would leave open for the moment.

Eugene, thank you most sincerely for sharing in every sense of the word. 

Tony, you are most welcome. As always, I’ve certainly enjoyed our conversation—and the very kind things you have said about me and my work.

Written by:  Anthony Darkstone

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