When he was a second-grader in his native Canton, Joshua Jay groaned at the magic books he'd check out of the library. How can a magician teach a visual art to a beginner if there are no pictures to show you how to perform it? he complained. Nearly 20 years later, the 1998 champ of Las Vegas' annual World Magic Seminar has written a glossy how-to, Magic: The Complete Course, which gives readers a pictorial walk-through of more than 100 blink-and-you'll-miss-it card tricks and numbers games that only seasoned magicians have perfected.
"There's a difference between telling a person how a trick is done and how to do a trick," says Jay, who'll perform a few of them and sign the book at the Beachwood Barnes & Noble Booksellers (28801 Chagrin Blvd.) tonight. "I show you how you reproduce it, where your eyes should be looking and what you're saying when you're doing it. I just had to figure out exactly what the best way was to convey magic on the printed page."
Jay hopes the book will give magic an overdue makeover. Ditch the tux, lose the top hat and don't saw an assistant in half ever again, he advises, because they only stereotype his job. And please don't pull a rabbit out of a hat. "No birthday party is complete without it," he says. "For 50 bucks, the Amazing Larry will do the honors. And every time a rabbit comes out of a hat, another dozen 9-year-olds think magic sucks."
In his book, Jay gives clear instructions on how to make money disappear, bend metal and perform the sure-fire "Australian Shuffle," in which a magician guesses a card that an audience member has drawn from a deck. Jay even shows you 35 tricks on a DVD that comes with the book. "There are two things the printed word can't teach about magic: One is timing and the other is direction," he says. "I can tell in great detail what you're supposed to do and when your right hand is supposed to be resting while your left hand is at work. And when you see it, it all becomes very clear."
Magic: The Complete Course also includes magic history and dozens of testimonials from revered showmen like Las Vegas' Michael Close, Chicago's Simon Aronson and Texas' Daniel Garcia. Jay traces his friendship with them to his Las Vegas victory 10 years ago. "It's opened so many doors," he says. "It's a thing on my résumé that every magician respects. It's the only job I've ever had and I feel really lucky to do what I love." The magic happens at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Booksellers. Admission: free. Call 216.765.7520 or visit barnesandnoble.com. - Cris Glaser
A CHRISTMAS STORY 25th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION & CONVENTION
Movie fans will pay tribute to late director Bob Clark this weekend at the Christmas Story 25th Anniversary Celebration & Convention. The memorial is courtesy of filmmaker Deren Abram, who made the documentary ClarkWORLD, which features Clark's work on the holiday classic that was shot in Tremont a quarter-century ago. Clark and his son were killed last year in a car crash in California. "Cleveland is really where it all began," says Abram, who'll premiere his movie at 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. "In essence, it's like coming home."
The convention will also reunite eight cast members - including the guys who played Scut, Flick and Grover - from noon to 5 p.m. today at the hotel. You can also meet some of the 1983 film's extras, who were paid $1 a day for their non-speaking roles as elementary-school kids. In the house where several of the movie's scenes were shot, fans can scope out some of the Parker family's costumes that were thought to have been lost until their discovery earlier this year.
Folks can also jump on the fire truck that was used in the film's famous tongue-on-the-flagpole scene. The ride alone should bring back a few memories for audiences. "Put yourself in Ralphie's spot or Randy's or the Old Man's," says Steve Siedlicki, the house's director. "Then you can say, 'That is me! I did the same thing!" The confab runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow at both the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel (24 Public Square) and the Christmas Story House (3159 W. 11th St. in Tremont). Tickets: $3-$10. Call 216.298.4919 or visit achristmasstoryhouse.com. - Reyan Ali
David Brenner influenced a legion of comics who've embraced the "did you ever notice?" brand of humor he made popular in the '70s. But even his record-breaking 158 appearances on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson between 1976 and 1980 can't get him a complimentary dinner once in a while. "If I go over to a cashier at a restaurant and say, "I've been on more talk shows than any other entertainer in the history of television,' she would say, 'That'll be $32.14,'" laughs the 72-year-old Brenner, who's in town this weekend for five shows at Hilarities. "That's what it's come down to." Brenner tracks his career to his native Philadelphia, where high-school classmates voted him both class president and class clown all four years. In 1976, he co-starred in a sitcom about hair stylists. But because one of the supporting characters was gay, the network got cold feet and axed the show after seven episodes, which aired only in Australia. The next year, fellow comic Billy Crystal won the honors of playing the first-ever homo on TV in Soap. But Brennan prides himself on pioneering "observational humor." "Someone once said to me, 'You must be very proud that you opened the door for so many comedians,'" says Brenner. "Then he named a few who really, in a sense, were doing a warmed-over me. I said, 'Yeah, I just wish I would have gone through the door instead of holding it.'" Showtimes are 7:30 and 10:15 p.m. today and tomorrow, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Hilarities (2035 E. Fourth St.). Tickets: $25. Call 216.241.7425 or visit pickwickandfrolic.com. - P.F. Wilson
ZOMBIE WALK & BAR CRAWL
A square-mile block of Lakewood will look like a scene from Night of the Living Dead today for the 2nd Annual Zombie Walk & Bar Crawl. But the American Red Cross and Cleveland Foodbank won't mind, since gory-faced revelers will donate pints of blood and canned food to the agencies. "What better image is there than zombies giving blood?" laughs organizer Joe Ostrica of the Old School Sinema slasher-movie series. "It's just too funny, too ironic. Instead of zombies taking blood, they're giving it." The walk starts at the 5 O'Clock Lounge, where the club will pour "brain shots" for $2 while rockers Scarlet Fever, Death by Rodeo and the Punk Rods warm up the crowd. At 2 p.m., costumed participants will walk west to Cove Avenue before turning north to Clifton Boulevard. They'll then head east to West 117th Street to march south to the Chamber (11814 Detroit Ave. in Lakewood; 216.228.7110) for free pizza and a stop inside the Red Cross bloodmobile to make a donation. "People driving in the neighborhood get some freakish imagery to look at," says Ostrica. "It's really a sight to see with people on a main street waiting at the bus stop to see 100 zombies walking toward them."
At 4:30 p.m., walkers will make a bar crawl across the Cleveland-Lakewood border to the Spitfire Saloon (1539 W. 117th St.; 216.226.7748), where the Nick Wolff Band, the Struttin' Cocks, the Coffin Riders and First Offense will swap stage time with the Sinema Sirens burlesque-dance team. Ostrica will also screen videos from last year's walk, where 75 zombies dressed the part, despite the late-November chill. "When you get back to the bars and have a few drinks, you warm up pretty quick," says Ostrica. "October is just too busy with other horror-related parties and haunted houses. This gives the horror fans who are depressed after Halloween one more thing to look forward to." Registration starts at noon at the 5 O'Clock Lounge (11904 Detroit Ave. in Lakewood; 216.521.4906). Fee: $3 and two canned food items or blood donation. Visit myspace.com/osszombiewalk for more information. - Glaser
GUITAR WARS 2008
Metalheads thrash for bragging rights at today's Guitar Wars 2008 in Lake County. And Medina businessman Jim Lewis will award seven-string electric guitars to the top two competitors. "These things are designed to wail on," says Lewis, who owns guitar manufacturer Strictly 7. "We want to empower the aspiring musicians with a big group effort."
A panel of judges will score contestants on style, technique, originality and showmanship after each shreds for two minutes. Audience members will then cast their votes to determine the best guitarist, who'll wind down the contest with a six-minute encore. Between rounds, metal bands Shatter Messiah, Dark Arena and Godlyke Status will perform. "We want fans to watch the best local fret-board mastery and decide for themselves who really is the shredding superstar champion," says Lewis. The thrashing starts at noon at Jimmy's Bar & Grill (7865 Plains Rd. in Mentor-on-the-Lake). Admission: free. Call 440.257.4000 or visit jimmysonthelake.com. - Chad Felton
THE BIG LEBOWSKI BOWLING PARTY
Strikes, spares and an occasional gutter ball will all be part of the Cedar Lee Theatre's cult-film series tonight when it presents The Big Lebowski Bowling Party at the Corner Alley (402 Euclid Ave.). Come dressed like the Dude, says spokesman Dave Huffman of Cleveland Cinemas, which runs the Cedar Lee. "People wear robes and drink white Russians when they're bowling, just like he does," he says.
The Coen Brothers comedy - about jobless L.A. slacker Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, who's mistaken for a multimillionaire with the same name and gets caught up in a kidnapping - grossed a paltry $17 million at the box office when it was released in 1998. But it has since become a huge cult favorite. That's why the theater will screen the film twice (along with the Coens' Raising Arizona) at 9:30 p.m. and midnight on December 6. "It's really become this huge cult classic, for sure," says Huffman. "It's developed an audience from video. People quote the lines and it's become this big, weird phenomenon." The Dude abides from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Corner Alley. Fee: $4.25 per game. Call 216.298.4070 or visit clevelandcinemas.com. - Glaser
CANDY CANE CRUISE ON CLIFTON
Convertible owners will brave the chill tonight and park their rides for the inaugural Candy Cane Cruise on Clifton Boulevard. The outdoor car show will spotlight dozens of makes and models - from Jeeps and Toyotas to Alfa Romeos and BMWs - along a seven-block stretch. There will also be a 1927 Ford roadster thrown into the mix. "We thought about projecting holiday images on the buildings for the Christmas season," says organizer Anita Brindza, director of the Cudell Improvement Corporation. "Then we found this idea of convertibles with their tops down and all decorated for the holidays by people who basically drive their convertibles all year long. It's unique, different and fun."
Besides the cars, a sculptor will shape a block of ice into a holiday design in the Charter One Bank parking lot. The Ohio Cheer Squad and the Rubato Brass Ensemble will also perform. And you might score $150 if your "Candy Cane Cruise Passport" is drawn at an 8:30 p.m. raffle. You just need to have it validated at neighborhood stores like Clifton Web, Flower Child and Starbuck's. "It's such a walkable commercial strip that it entices people to get out of their cars and go into all the shops," says Brindza. "It's not only important to the businesses and neighborhood, but it certainly provides unique gift ideas that aren't found in the chain stores." Pop the top from 7 to 9 p.m. on Clifton Boulevard between West 110th and West 117th streets. Admission: free. Call 216.228.4383 or visit academicventures.com. - Glaser