Book Review: The 80's Called...They Want Their Magic Book Back

The 80's Called... They Want Their Magic Book Back

I remember the first time I saw an ad online for The 80's Called... They Want Their Magic Book Back on Vanishing Inc.. It was a related book to another I was looking at and my first thought was "oh, that's neat." And I didn't buy it. I did, however, add it to my never-ending list of books to look back into.

What felt like decades had passed by when I finally saw it again (via said list) and looked into it a little more. Quirky magic? Magic with flair? Sunglasses? Who is this Jonathan Friedman character and what on earth did he write?!

And so, I ordered a copy. When it arrived and I unboxed it, the first feeling I got from the cover was definitely a Miami Vice and Michael Jackson's Thriller vibe - that blue and pink fade, you can't escape it! The back's covered in quotes from other magicians, and it has some dude in sunglasses hanging out with a freaky chick. After you read Well Traveled, you might get that one a bit more =P

Books... that's so 80's

Jonathan's preface kicks off with a travel back to the 80's and describes how books -- actual physical books, were a huge driving factor for his magic back then, all the way to today. Sure, there was a break in-between to play a few tunes on the road, but the magic was always there and the books were a constant companion. So much so that he wanted to, or perhaps needed to write one of his own. This aligns with my own story just a little too strongly to not feel drawn to it that much more.

The book is a soft-cover. Nothing flashy, just straight to the point. The contents aren't divided into chapters or different related-sections -- nope, what we have here is a book full of routines. But wait, there's more! Hidden within the pages of routines are actually a decent number of sleights, scripts, and notes too (see below for a more in-depth on that topic).

Taking the extra step towards the 80's vibe we get to see era-specific graphics like jazzercising, Rubik's cubes, Pacman, and more! What's that have to do with magic? Nothing. But nostalgia is magical in its own way and these tie it together quite nicely.

The flow of this book is very smooth. Well, each routine flows smoothly. The routines don't flow into one another at all. Card magic followed by coins followed by another coin routine and then some pretzels. You don't have to read this one front-to-back at all, you could definitely skip around. However, the table of contents (i.e. the names of the tricks) doesn't really indicate what the individual tricks are about so you'll probably need to read the Effect of each trick first. That's one thing I really like about this book though, the layout of each routine. Each starts with a really good description of the effect, followed by what props you'll need and then any necessary preparation. Oh, and then and list of steps for the routine itself of course. And follow-up notes which may or may not include a handful of puns.

Quirky Routines, or Just Right

For some reason, my first thought when writing this was to start with the table of contents of the book. It's there, in the beginning. I glanced at it when I got the book for the first time. And then, I moved on. It helps with page numbers, but that's about it -- there's no good indication via the names of the routines as to what the routines are, or are about. Check out Routines & Themes below for an annotated table of contents for this book if you're curious about everything that it covers =]

The description you'll find online about this book is that the magic inside is quirky and visual. Visual, most definitely. Quirky, also! But, only if you're following the script as outlined by Friedman who has some pretty fun and quirky routines outlined in this volume. After reading the intro and preface, I knew that I'd need to read this book from beginning-to-end, and so I did.

The opening trick, Wannabe Ninja, sets the tone of the book quite perfectly. This trick is a barrage of effects that's inspired by, and ends like, Stabbed in the Pack by Johnny Benzais and Harry Lorayne (The Best of Benzais, 1967), or as Friedman says:

A booty-kicking, three-phase, "find-a-card" routine utilizing top-secret ninja techniques to get the job done.
- Jonathan Friedman, Wannabe Ninja

Now, when I say that Wannabe Ninja sets the tone, I mean it. Friedman recommends that the reader channels and vocalizes "various Kung-Fu sound effects and hiyah's" when performing the trick. You say tone, I say Karate Kid flashback!

The first routine has focus on cards, but then we jump to keys! Then we get to dabble with coins, more cards, a guitar pick, pretzels, and what?!... popcorn? You know, there's just not enough popcorn magic in the world.

The Kernel, a trick utilizing the principle of "the right place at the right time," reads like it would be the perfect candidate for the French Drop. But no, none of that nonsense here -- Friedman flips the script and utilizes a more practical drop to make an unpopped popcorn kernel magically pop right in his hand. I definitely got a kick out of the introduction of a Zippo lighter into the routine too... if you don't know, don't ask =P

Speaking of The Kernel and quirky, the provided scripts very much read as though they've been practiced and used. But, they also read as a very specific personality type. I love "fun and quirky" things, but the majority of my routines aren't. They're playful, and I love to include storytelling in them, but double entedre used in The Kernel wouldn't fit my likely audience of kids. Well Traveled is a very fun packet-to-pocket routine too, but a story of a freaky and paranoid queen doesn't mesh with my personality either. So what do we do here? Well, I love both of these routines as they read in the book and I want to use them, I just need to go to the drawing board and adapt them to my personality.


The 80's Called is a great magic book. It's full of nostalgia, but not in a sad or overbearing way. It's funny and carries the 80's vibe, but not in a "when I grew up, I had a funny uncle that did magic" kind of way. It has routines that span several different magic areas from cards to food, and they're all filled with personality whether it's Friedman's or one of the several contributors'.

I, personally, have bookmarked several routines in this book to add to my repertoire. But after going through it, I can definitely say that even if you or I never actually perform any of the effects here, it was definitely an interesting book and I think you'll find it the same.

The book says it's Volume One right on the cover so I'm excited to see Volume Two when it comes out. I'm also glad that he addressed what's up with the sunglasses early on.

Routines & Themes

If ever there was a nitpick I have with magic books, it's the title of routines that have nothing to do with the trick itself. Well, in The 80's Called...'s case, the titles are actually spot-on perfect for the overview of each trick. The only problem is, for most of the tricks you can't figure out what type of magic is used (cards, coins, etc.) by the name. And then there's Spoonmelt...

Here's my expansion of the Contents section of the book to help give a better introspection into what this book really dives into. Do note though, I'm avoiding copying the actual text for each "effect" from the book to leave some of the fun and quirkiness for you to discover yourself =]

  • Wannabe Ninja
    • Category: Card Magic
    • Effect: A booty-kicking, three-phase, "find-a-card" routine utilizing top-secret ninja techniques to get the job done.
  • Feats of Strength
    • Category: General Magic
    • Effect: A borrowed key is bent with the "power of the mind."
  • Twenty (by John Guastaferro)
    • Category: Card Magic / Mentalism
    • Effect: The magician predicts the spectator's ability to win at both blackjack and poker using nothing more than the magician's most excellent good luck.
  • Pencil Paper
    • Category: General Magic
    • Effect: A "pencil-paper" ink transposition, if you will.
  • Coins ala Carte
    • Category: Coin Magic
    • Effect: A coin is borrowed and split in two, plus a series of mystifying vanishes and appearances.
  • Auto Repeat, Disengage
    • Category: Cell-phone Card Magic
    • Effect: The discipline-challenged magician displays a "special" deck of cards and makes a selected card appear beautifully in the spectator's hand. Repeating the trick causes all of the cards to appear in the spectator's hand, except for the selection.
  • Well Traveled (by Cameron Francis)
    • Category: Card Magic
    • Effect: A four-Queen packet to pocket routine.
  • The Kernel
    • Category: Food Magic
    • Effect: The performer magically causes a popcorn kernel to pop in his palm.
  • One Little Letter
    • Category: Card Magic
    • Effect: A weird transposition.
  • George and Abe
    • Category: Coin Magic
    • Effect: Coin transpositions between a penny and a quarter.
  • White Light, White Heat, White Card (by Shaun Dunn)
    • Category: Card Magic
    • Effect: A brilliant display of thought transference, performed in three illuminating phases.
  • Selectigami
    • Category: Card Magic
    • Effect: A signed and selected card is revealed to the spectator after a code is "cracked," magically turning an indifferent card into the signed selection.
  • Outside the Inside
    • Category: Card Magic
    • Effect: The word "outside", written on the outside of a wrapped pack of cards is magically changed into the word "inside", written on the inside of the pack.
  • Spoonmelt
    • Category: General Magic
    • Effect: A melted spoon is magically reformed back to its original, unmelted condition in the spectator's hand
  • This is Real (by Francis Menotti)
    • Category: Stage Magic
    • Effect: An invisible knife is dragged across the performer's hand, leaving a trail of blood. When the audience looks back at the hand with the invisible knife, they see that it is now visible!
  • Greasy Pretzel Fingers
    • Category: Food Magic
    • Effect: The magician crushes a handful of pretzels to reveal a card selection in the crumbs!
  • Hot Air
    • Category: Card Magic
    • Effect: An ordinary card case defies gravity as it levitates off of an ordinary deck of cards.
  • The Sloppy Spectator (by Steve Mayhew)
    • Category: Card Magic
    • Effect: A spectator-shuffling Triumph with a four-Ace reveal!
  • Guitar-Pick-a-Card
    • Category: Card Magic
    • Effect: A guitar pick is thrown into a pack of cards, finding a selected playing card.
  • Magic Eraser
    • Category: General Magic?
    • Effect: Cleaning a quarter goes too far as it gets absorbed deep inside of a Mister Clean Magic Eraser
  • Jacked Up (by Joe Cole)
    • Category: Card Magic
    • Effect: After failing to find the spectator's card, the magician reveals the four Jacks and transforms them into 4/5th's of a royal flush, only to then spread the deck to reveal the spectator's selection face-up in the middle, completing the royal flush
  • Keycutter
    • Category: General Magic
    • Effect: An uncut key is visually cut into shape with nothing more than a little ink, a little bit of fire, and a whole lot of pizazz.


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