Friday December 27, 2013


What do the Mona Lisa, a pink beach ball, a $20 bill, and a deck of cards have in common? Magic! Last night we enjoyed Ivan Amodei at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

The show was in the Fairmont Hotel, on Mason St at Sacramento, in San Francisco.

Ivan Amodei at the Fairmont

The Hotel

The Fairmont lobby is resplendent at this time of year.

Gingerbread fairmont  They have a large Christmas tree and an enormous gingerbread house (actual gingerbread "bricks", lots of icing, various candies attached).

Apparently they do this every year. From a news story:

For more than a century, The Fairmont San Francisco has enchanted guests with its joyful holiday festivities and exuberant ambience. Once again, the Fairmont elves are working overtime this season to create the iconic hotel’s unparalleled interior and exterior holiday décor. The Fairmont San Francisco’s talented culinary team has meticulously planned for construction of this year’s enormous Gingerbread House, which will be equal in size to last year’s stunning, two-story-high Victorian. The San Francisco Fairmont's two-story gingerbread house measures 22 feet high by 12 1/2 feet wide by 10 1/2 feet deep and was built with 5,500 pieces of gingerbread, 850 pounds of royal icing, 425 pounds of candy and 8 gallons of chocolate.

The people at the concierge desk didn't seem to know exactly what room the show was in. We wandered around the hotel. We found a hallway with a poster for the magic show but nothing that said "This is where the show will be". The door into the hallway near the poster doesn't have a label.

We found the restrooms. There was a blonde woman in the women's restroom arranging her dress, a 20's style, floor length, green sheath. She also had a red feather plume in her hair. I wondered if she was with the magic show (it turned out she was).

We wandered back to the area where the poster was. Around a corner, another door was labeled "Gold Room". That door was open and we could peek in and see that this was going to be the right place.

While we were hovering around waiting for someone to come, a dark-haired man in a white shirt and black jacket and pants came down the hall, checked the room, then closed the door. Rich asked him where "will call" would be. He said "There's no will call but the door around the corner in the other hall will be opened at 6:30."

We said "Thank you." The man went into another room next door. I said to Rich "I think that was Ivan." (It was.)

The Gold Room

The walls of the Gold Room feature ornate, gold-leaf bas-reliefs, while indoor balconies reach up to the coffered ceiling. Crystal chandeliers, wall sconces, and hand-painted murals complete the turn-of-the-century accents in this one-of-a-kind setting.

The Fairmont, perched high atop Nob Hill, was just about to open when the 1906 earthquake struck. The hotel survived the earthquake, but was ravaged by the ensuing inferno. Exactly one year later, on April 18, 1907, the Fairmont opened to universal acclaim, welcomed as a lofty symbol of San Francisco’s indomitable spirit. In 1909, President William Howard Taft was honored with a dinner in the Gold Room. Over the years, the hotel fell into some disrepair, and by the 1940s, the Gold Room had turned a dirty copper color. After a general hotel renovation, the Gold Room was restored to its original luster and since then has remained one of the Fairmont’s premier venues.



We went around the corner to wait by the other (unmarked) door.

Rich went off and bought us a couple of Irish coffees.

After a short while, three more people showed up (attendees). We chatted with them. They were up from San Mateo.

A few more people arrived.

Eventually a man in a black suit came (black shirt too). He was in charge of keeping us in order, forming the line(s), checking tickets, etc. We chatted to him. The line formed. Eventually we started a second line on the other side of the hallway.

We talked to people. We waited.

A little before 6:30, the man said "I could start checking your tickets now." So he checked our Groupon vouchers, then the people behind us (also Groupon), then moving down the line. A lot of people had Groupon vouchers. One woman asked if it was OK that her vouchers were on her phone. (Yes)

A little after 6:30, a woman opened the door and peeked out at the line, then closed the door. Then she opened the door again. Two women came out and they opened both doors. One door stayed open without being held, but the other didn't. Rich made a door stop with his empty Irish Coffee mug.

The woman who had peeked was wearing a dark blue satin floor-length gown, tight on the hips, curving in at the legs, then out in a bell at the feet. On the other side of the door was the woman in green I had seen in the restroom earlier.

In we go...

The first row was reserved for full-price guests. Otherwise, everything was open seating. We sat in the second row on the aisle. Nice seats. Good view.

While everyone was coming in and getting seated, a woman in high heals, a short tight black leather dress, and a red feather in her hair, stood at the front and helped ensure that only people with front row tickets sat on the front row.

Stage photo at Fairmont

The show

First, a woman came in wearing a floor length, late 1800s style gown in red satin. Her makeup looked like a silver mask around the eyes. She went up on stage, picked up a bow and cello, and played some pieces while standing. A bit of Vivaldi. A bit of "Carol Of The Bells".

Then she sat down and in came a man, from the back, wearing a black hood over his head. I never did understand what that was all about. This was Ivan.

Once up on the stage, he took off the hood and talked about the secret of the Mona Lisa (a copy of the painting was on stage). He said that da Vinci had left a secret message in the painting...

Then he grabbed a pink beach ball (about the size of a basket ball) off the stage and tossed it into the audience and people tossed it around. He asked people to catch it ("this isn't dodge ball") and eventually someone caught it. Then threw it again. ("No. Hold it. Catch it and hold it.")

Ivan asked the last person who held the ball to come up on stage. He handed the man a stack of 12 large red envelopes and asked him to shuffle them and cut them so there were two stacks of 5 or 6.

Then they threw the ball again and a boy of about 10 caught it. "What's your name?" "Elsas" "What?" "Elsas" "I think I'll call you 'Bob'" (Laughter) "Bob, choose a hand, left or right...") This determined which set of envelopes was put back on the table at the back of the stage.

Then Ivan walked into the audience and handed one of each of the 5 remaining envelopes to random people. He handed one to me.

Then he had people toss the ball again and the person who caught the ball chose three of the 5 people with envelopes. ("White sweater, white sweater, green sweater..") (I was "green sweater".)

Those three stayed standing and the other two gave back their envelopes. Throw the ball. Choose two of the three standing people. Those two were asked to return their envelopes and sit. And that left me.

I was asked to come up on stage.

Ivan reminded everyone that there were 12 envelopes initially. What comes in 12s? Months. He asked various people in the audience what their birthday month was. September, November, January,... He asked me. (January)

He asked if I wanted to keep the envelope I was holding. Yes. Was I sure? Yes.

"Let's look in one of the envelopes you aren't holding." He opened an envelope to show that it contained a large printed card that said "August". A second envelope contained a card that said "June".

He gave me one last chance to trade my envelope. I said I'd keep it.

Then he opened my envelope with the flap toward me and asked me to remove the card inside. It said "January".

Then he said "Of course, a birthday isn't just a month, right? There's a date." He asked a few people what their dates were. Then he asked me. (29).

Then he said "It's a little known fact that the Mona Lisa's birthday is also in January and there's a message in the painting but you need a blacklight to see it." Then he took a backlight flashlight and aimed it at the painting of the Mona Lisa and there in blacklight-visible writing was "Jan 29".


Then he thanked me and shook my hand and I went back to my seat.

Next, Ivan he asked who in the audience had a 20 dollar bill in their wallet? A bunch of people did. Please get one out and hold it up.

The ball went around and the person who caught the ball got to choose someone with a 20. Ivan borrowed the 20 and clipped it to an extender wand and handed it to someone in the front row to hold.

Then he asked, "Who knows what telepathy is? Is anyone here telepathic?" One woman answered "Sometimes". So he asked her to stand. He took several small square decks of cards from the table and showed us that each deck had 10 cards, numbered 0 - 9 in large numbers.

He dropped one deck, face front, 0 on top, into a large wine goblet on the table on the stage, in view of the audience. He handed the other two decks to two men in the audience. He asked each man to shuffle his deck, then asked the first man to look at the top card and "send" that card to the woman by telepathy.

Then he asked her what number she got. She said "3". He asked the man to show the card and it was a 4. Oh too bad. Let's try again.

Second man, shuffle, send the number... She said "6". That card was also a 4.

Ivan took back the two decks of shuffled cards with the 4s on top. He asked the woman to come up on stage and said that maybe telekinesis would work better and he'd help. He handed the woman the wine goblet with the deck of cards in it (0 showing). Then he dropped one of the shuffled decks with the 4 on top into another goblet that he held. He passed a red cloth over the woman's goblet, and the front card changed to match the front card in his deck.

He brought over a bar stool and set it in front of the woman, then asked her to take the first card out and lay it on the top of the stool. He did the same, and the second cards in the goblets matched, then the third, and the fourth..., through the deck. (He said, "I'm not even watching. I'm just doing what you're doing" while she pulled cards out one at a time faster and faster and laid them on the stool.) They all matched.

The woman did a curtsey before going back to her seat. Then Ivan said "I made a prediction before leaving Los Angeles." He asked a man in the front row on the other side to please go get the sealed Fed Ex envelope from a table off to the side.

Ivan opened the envelope and it contained a large folded paper. He asked a boy from the audience to come up and help him hold the paper. He asked the first man "what number did you have again?" and the man said "4". Ivan started to unfold the paper and the first number written large in marker was... "J".


Unfold another turn and the second number was "G".


He asked someone else to come up and help unfold the strip of paper (about 15 feet long) and there was a long string of numbers followed by an A (I recognized the format).

Then he handed a flashlight and magnifying glass to a woman in the front row and asked her to read the serial number on the $20 bill that the guy had been holding al this time (and we'd all forgotten about) and it matched.

He did a trick where he talked about Houdini and how Houdini was an escape artist and could escape from jail cells because he had learned to swallow and regurgitate a lock pick. Ivan said he could swallow pins.

He had a shot glass with "about 90-95" small tailor's pins and three long pins -- one red ball tip, one yellow, one green. He showed the pins to people, let them feel them. Then he filled the shot glass with sparkling water and said that the water clumped the pins together with the points inward and made them easier to swallow. Then he drank the water (appearing to swallow the pins).

Then he said he'd bring them back up. He asked a woman in the audience (the woman next to me) what color to bring back first.

She said "red" (he said "yellow"). "Are you sure?" "Red" ("yellow"). "Red is pretty far down are you sure you won't change your mind?" "Red".

So he made strangling faces and out from his lips emerged... a yellow pin. :-)

Then he did the red one and finally the green.

A boy in the front (the one who had helped hold the paper with the bill serial number) asked "What about the white ones?" and Ivan said "they're just to make it easier to swallow the whole set. Come back tomorrow."

Then he pulled a "Mayan blowpipe" out of his pocket and talked about dart guns and dropped the three long pins into the blowpipe cylinder. He said "Before you all came in, some people in the line were asked to think of a place they loved and write the name on a piece of paper. Who did that?"

Several people raised their hands. He chose three people and asked "What place did you choose?"

A man: "The desert". The woman next to me: "Australia". Another woman: "Maui".

(Ivan asked the man, "Just 'the desert'? Could you be more vague? Any particular desert? All right...")

Then he grabbed a globe off the back table and spin it on his finger, very fast, and blew through the pipe at it and ... the pins were in the globe.

He said "Now, you're all thinking, I can do that. I can go home, take a globe, spin it on my finger, and blow pins at it from a dart pipe. How hard can that be?" (laughter) "But can you pick the spots for the pins to land? I'm going to bring the globe and this magnifying glass to the people who chose the places.... The first was what, Australia? If the pin is in Australia you chose, I want you to say out loud, 'Oh My God, Ivan, the pin is in Australia!' (And if it's not in Australia, you can still say 'Oh My God, Ivan, the pin is in Australia!')"

He comes down to the woman next to me and hands her the magnifying glass and shows her the globe and she says "Oh my god, the pin is in Australia". (It was; I saw it.)

Then a few rows back to the Maui woman and "Oh My God, Ivan, the pin is in Maui!".

Then over to the "desert" man and the pin is in... Norway. The man says "Well, it doesn't rain much there..." Ivan says "No. No. That one didn't work. Don't try to make me feel better."

He puts the globe back on the table and sighs. He says "They don;t all work."

He picks up an apple from a bowl and takes a big bite and chews and drinks some bottled water and says "So. What shall we do now?" (Laughter).

"I know". He holds the apple up to his mouth and looks slightly pained and turns the apple a bit and then turns it toward us. Written on the apple, in small white pins, is


He said "It's not spelled right because I didn't have enough pins... It's the Twitter spelling."

Next, he asked who in the audience were married couples and to raise their hands. He talked about destiny and said that he'd do a trick to show how well one of the couple knew the other. He asked the woman to "pick" a card (in her head) and asked her husband to say which what card she had picked. He said Jack of Diamonds; she said Four of Hearts.

Ivan said "Well, that's ok, because this isn't really about how well a couple knows each other. It's about how well man and women know what the other is thinking. Here's what women think about." Then he took a large poster board out of an art portfolio on stage. It had an illustration of a brain with areas labeled "Shoes", "Diamonds", and "Shiny things"...

Then he said "And here's what men think of" and pulled out another board with a picture of a brain and a bunch of empty thought balloons.

Then he asked the man from the couple to come up on stage. He said "As you know, when you're married, you need to compromise. So if you picked the Jack of Diamonds and your wife picked the Four of Hearts, the compromise would be...?" The man said "The Four of Hearts". (Laughter)

Ivan took a deck of cards out of his pocket, pre-shuffled and rubber-banded and put them on the bar stool. He said "the card at the position in the deck that matches the number of years you've been married is your card".

The man bumped the table and knocked half the cards off so Ivan gathered them up and shuffled the deck again and said "How long have you been married?" (24 yrs). "That's about half. Cut the deck to half." The man did. "Look at the top card."

It was the Four of Hearts.

Then Ivan said "I have a gift for you. Reach into my jacket pocket and there's an envelope". It was a sealed envelope labeled "Thank you". Inside was a 'thank you card' and taped into that, face down, was a playing card from a different deck.

This one was the Jack of Diamonds.

Next up was a trick about money. He laid the groundwork by talking about meeting a blind man who showed him that hearing can be enhanced when you can't see.

He collected loose change from women in the audience, asking each woman to drop the coins into a steel martini shaker.

He asked a man come up and hold the martini shaker. Then Ivan put on a black eye mask and asked the man to shake the shaker up and down with one hand over the top like a lid, then side to side, then to dump the coins out onto a tray. Then he had a woman in the audience cover the tray with a black velvet cloth and asked the man to shake the tray gently side to side. Each time the coins were moved, Ivan "listened" and then wrote something we could;t see on large pieces of foam core board with a magic marker.

Then he took off the blind fold, removed the cloth over the tray, and asked another man to come up and examine the coins on the tray using a large magnifying glass and a flashlight to get a good view. He asked "How many coins"? (15). The dollar amount? ($1.72). How many quarters (4), nickels (4), dimes (5), pennies (2)?

Each time, the reply matched what he had written on the foam core boards.

Then he asked how many of each type of coin were heads or tails up and that matched what he'd written on the reverse side of each board.

And finally, for the one tails-up quarter, he asked the man to read out the date. (1980). He had that written on a piece of foam core too.

Rich and I wondered how much foam core they go through in a year.

The ball went around again and a girl about 12 yrs old caught it (she, her Mom, two other girls and a boy, were the first people in the second line in the hallway, so they'd been across from us while we waited. Ivan asked her mom if it was OK for her to come up on stage? Yes.

The girl's name was Mackensie. Ivan handed her a large wine goblet to hold and talked about turning water into wine. He poured in about a cup of water from one bottle. Then a cup of water from another bottle. Of course, we were expecting a color change at that point. Nothing.

He covered the goblet with a cloth. Took it away. Nothing

Cloth again. Took it away. "White wine! ... No?... OK."

Cloth. Goblet. No change. He's talking. Mackensie is looking at him.

The liquid in the goblet suddenly goes dark. Mackensie is still looking at Ivan who is still talking. The audience notices the goblet. The audience sees that Mackensie has not noticed. The boy who asked about the white pins calls out "look at the glass".

Mackensie turns her head and looks and her eyes go wide!

Ivan takes the goblet, swirls it, and the color is gone.

He puts the goblet back on the table, takes a new goblet, and hands it to Mackensie. He fills this one nearly full with water from another bottle. He says "That was wine. But what is more important than wine? Life!"

He takes a small bubble wand and blows several soap bubbles, catching each of them into his hand. Then he holds the hand over the goblet and deposits - 2 gold fish.

Mackensie is round-eyed. From this point on, she stared at the goblet.

Ivan asked "What shall we do with the goldfish?" He pulled out a book on sushi. Mackensie shook her head vehemently.

Ivan pretended to grind a little pepper in the water, then shake in a little salt, then said "Just swallow one? Really fast so it doesn't wiggle. Not even one? OK, what then?"

He took the bubble wand, blew a few more bubbles, caught them, and "sprinkled" half a dozen smaller goldfish into the goblet.

Then he blew a few more bubbles and turned them into a lollipop which he traded to Mackensie for the goblet of goldfish.

(After the show, Mackensie's mother told me she wanted to take home the fish.)

The last trick was all numbers. Ivan started by saying "I like these intimate shows because you get to see me and I get to meet some of you. I like to learn something abut my audience and then I can go home and tell my family."

He pulled out an iPad running a calculator app. He said "Give me some numbers.". He pointed to a man and asked "What's your social security number?" (Laughter) The man gave him a nine digit number and he did something like input the first three digits, then add the next two as a two-digit number, then multiply...

He asked someone their house number and someone else how much was in his savings account, someone else the year of the car they drove today. He got various numbers, and did addition, subtraction, etc. Then he handed the iPad to a woman in the front row to hang onto, pulled out a regular calculator, and did similar number games on that.

The he asked someone to read the number off the calculator (824) and he wrote that at the bottom of a new sheet of foam core.

Then he asked the woman holding the iPad to read the first 3 digits of that number(950) and he wrote at the top of the sheet of foam core. Then he asked her to read the rest of the number on the iPad (12126113) which he wrote in the middle of the foam core.

And then he said:

    We're here at 950 Mason St.
    on 12/26/13
    and the show has ended at what time?
    He handed his cell phone to someone but several people pulled out their phones and called out

Then he thanked us all for coming.

On the way out, I was able to shake Ivan's hand and thank him again for a wonderful show.

Restroom stop. While I was in the line in the restroom, the woman in the leather dress who was at the front helping people get seated came in. We all said "please, you can go to the front of the line! You need to get back." She thanked us and did so

When I left the restroom, a man in the hallway (waiting for a woman who came out after I did) recognized me and said "Wasn't that a great show? You were trick number one, weren't you?!" (To the woman: "She was trick number one!") To me again, "So, were you a plant? Do you know him? Have you seen the show before?" I said "Nope. I'm not a plant and I've never seen the show before." We talked about what fun it was and I said I'd enjoyed being part of the first trick.

On the way out of the hotel, I chatted briefly with the man and woman who had been seated in front of me. They thought maybe the boy who asked about the pins was a plant but I said I didn't think so. I said I'd seen him come in with his parents earlier and they were sitting in the next row back. (The boy snuck up to an empty seat in the front row).

If you ever get the opportunity to see Ivan Amodei perform, take it! We had a great evening!

Magic! ( in category Treasures , Trivial Pursuits ) - posted at Fri, 27 Dec, 23:22 Pacific | «e»

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