Fred Becker – The Embarrassed Deck

Columnist:
Fred Becker

I love lecture notes. I have a thing for them. I always buy lecture notes. I buy notes for lectures that I haven’t even attended. As you might imagine, this drives my wife the accountant absolutely nuts.

I like reading notes for a lecture that I haven’t seen because it forces me to fill in the blanks. Lecture notes are usually fairly sketchy accounts, designed only to jog your memory of the effects you saw at the lecture. However taken on their own, they are an exercise in creativity. You must take those bare bones and add the meat to it yourself.

Back when I was a kid, in the late 70’s I bought a set of notes written by Steve Dacri. I don’t know why I hadn’t heard anything about the lecture, nor about the notes. To this very day I’ve never even seen Mr. Dacri. Yet, as a teenager scanning through the Tannens’ Catalog, something about his notes called to me.

And it was a good thing it did. Dacri wrote up a working routine for the “Color Changing Deck” that became a standard in my close-up work. I use the color changing deck in almost every close-up situation I perform. It is visual, versatile and has the kind of whimsical nature I look for in my intimate magic.

I hadn’t read those notes for many, many years until recently. I was surprised to find that my handling of the mechanics have changed only a little from Steve Dacri’s notes. It worked too well as it was. Indeed, as I recall, Dacri didn’t claim originality to the effect; rather some subtitles that he found effective.

My contribution to this trick for your consideration is the use of story and motivation for the magic. I have added a number of presentational items to the effect, which pull the viewer into the entertainment. The basic technique that I use will not come as a surprise to many, but let me highlight the presentation that I use and more importantly, WHY I use it.

There was no script in Dacri’s lecture notes. What is laid out below was written over years of use in the field.

The basic effect goes like this; A blue backed deck of cards is casually shown. The performer explains that the cards suffer from stage fright, and when one is singled out it will blush and turn red. A spectator points out a card and sure enough, it blushes as described. Explaining that this ruins his trick the magician has another card selected and signed, where upon all the cards turn red except for the chosen card (remaining blue). Finally the spectator “causes” the last (selected) card to blush, retaining the signature. Quickly the completely red deck is handed out for examination.

The required and setup is this; A red backed deck of cards, remove the jokers. Grab two Jokers from a blue deck (same back design) and stick each in the deck at different locations but not too close to the top. Finally put a double back red/blue of the same back design, blue side up on the top of the deck and close it up in a blue card case.

Here is the routine; Display the box with the cards inside saying, “I thought all cards were created equal, but I have one deck (point to box) that has given me nothing but trouble. I think it is because they just aren’t cut out for show business.” Slide the cards out of the box flashing the blue back. “Now I should tell you that these cards act so strangely that I’ve actually had people write on the faces of them.” Flip face up and fan out showing some of the marked up cards.

I have called attention to the marked cards for several reasons. First, it explains their presence. Lay people have no relation to cards with signatures on them. It is not an ordinary sight for them or a comfortable action to do (signing a card). Indeed to them it “ruins” the deck. Second, I engage them in the faces of the cards instead of the backs. I want them suspicious of the faces, therefore missing the fact that I am passing off 52 red cards as blue. I never mention the word “blue” until the end of the trick and by then it’s too late. Third, it draws in the spectators. It begins to engage them, making them think, “Why does he have the faces all marked up?”

As I remark, “I’ve actually had people write on the faces of them.” I add, “But they are marked on the wrong side for cheating.” As I fan through the deck I get a break under one of the Jokers. I square, keeping the break and I pivot the portion above the break up and turn it over revealing the blue back of the Joker. This appears to be a random split of the cards and therefore “proves” the blueness of the deck without saying it. We are using assumption. Once the pivot is done I hold the two halves (both face down then rotating back and forth face up/face down as I say)”Card games are all based on the idea that all cards look exactly the same on the backs, and everyone completely different from the fronts.” With that I turn the packs face up and reassemble the deck.

“With one exception, they always put two jokers in the deck. And I think I they’re still in this one.”

Fan through careful not to flash to double back. Up jog the jokers when you come to them.

“Since they have almost exactly the same name, I’ll kick those out right from the beginning to avoid any confusion.”

Suit action to words, remove the jokers and place them face down on the table. This reinforces the blueness of the cards visually.

Square up. Its possible to give a little false overhand shuffle, keeping the deck face up and leaving the double back undisturbed. Simply hold back the bottom cards, pulling from the middle and shuffling onto the top. Once squared you can flash to the blue card on bottom by tilting you hand in a gesture or pointing with the deck hand.

“Here’s the trouble I’ve had, just point to a card, it really doesn’t matter which one.” Fan the deck face up and offer a free choice. Spreading from the face usually means a card will be pointed to long before you’re in danger of spreading the bottom portion too much and flashing the double.

I usually question their point. Fingers are wider than the card indices, so you can say, “Is that the two or the jack?” This is minor, but it establishes an atmosphere of casual freedom. This card, that card, it doesn’t matter.

Remove the card they indicated still face up.

“When one card gets separated from the safety of its friends, it gets nervous. (Give gentle shake to the card.) It has stage fright. This card will actually become so embarrassed, that it will blush (turn face down) and turn red.”

Giving the cards a human quality is fun and seems to disarm the spectators. Fear of public speaking is overwhelming to many people. It is something all experience. Therefore it is a good theme to play with. Everyone relates to stage fright why not cards?

“Now of course, the trick is ruined. If I were to place the card back in the deck, (push the red card into the facedown deck so that one quarter protrudes from the pack) it sticks out like a sore thumb. You’d say, ‘big deal, Fred. I could find that card just as fast as you can.’ Because it becomes effectively marked on the back.”

Remove the red card and lay it facedown on the table near the jokers.

“There is a way to avoid this from happening. Instead of removing a card from the pack, we leave it where it lies. I’ll run my thumb down the edge, you say ‘stop.'”

Holding cards face up, you do as described.

“Do you like that card or would you rather go a few more?”

Giving them this chance to change the card is important when the recap comes in a few steps.

Once settled on a card, cut the deck at the indicated position, and lay the upper portion on the table but close to you. Have them mark their card in anyway they wish, but hold the card on the bottom portion. If they want to take the card explain that removing it would cause it public humiliation and make it surely blush.

After it is marked, “We’ll give it a moment to dry, I don’t want the ink to get on the backs of the other cards.”

Act as though you are inspecting the wetness of the ink, and get and retain a little finger break under the chosen card. Then cover with the tabled portion and square the deck, holding the break.

“It is my job to find your card just by looking at the backsides. (Flash blue back) Now you stopped me right in the middle, so let’s give them a little mix.”

With deck face up, double undercut the deck, which brings the double back into the center and the selected card to the bottom.

“Oh, I should warn you, when one card gets embarrassed, (touch the tabled red card to the bottom of the face up pack, then revolve the deck over, finally displaying the deck face down) it seems the rest of the deck thinks there is something to be upset about too.” Casually fan with an eye to not yet showing the blue card. I have found with experience that it is not difficult to spread the cards fairly, but with hiding the blue card in a clump. There is not really a technique to describe, just a judicious use of displaying.

“But that’s okay, it is still hard to tell one card from another, I mean would you know which one is her card? (Make an offering gesture with the deck to a spectator.) No, otherwise you’d have my job. Still, you can put yourself in the magician’s shoes.”

“It’s pretty much impossible to know which card might be…”

As you are saying the above, you spread passed the blue card, interrupting your sentence.

“Look at this, one card and only one card, remains its true blue color.” *First mention of “blue.”

Remove that card (the double) and place it on top. Keep the cards slightly spread and you will be able to show the contrast of the rest of the deck next to the blue one. This also lets you get ready for the double lift coming. Slowly get into position as you recap the action.

“Now when you picked your card, you could have gone further, but you said, ‘no Fred, I want that six of hearts!’ (Or which card it was) I think it would be a remarkable coincidence if the only blue card left in this deck was the six of hearts But not just any six of hearts, but the only one in the entire world with your [mark], in your own handwriting.”

Turn over the double, showing their card with their mark.

This is a powerful moment and let it sink in. I scan the faces of the audience and usually spot one lady that looks perplexed. At which I say, “Look, she’s mad at me now.”

This gets a laugh. I hold the double away from the deck, showing the apparent blue back. Then I lay it face up on the face down deck. I split the double by slightly up jogging the selection.

“Here do this for me, tickle the six, right there on it’s tummy.” They do. “Hey, you made it blush.” Turn it over revealing the red back. This kicks them in the teeth. Hand out the card.

All attention will be on that card. If I want a little extra cover for the clean up, I’ll add, “Is the mark still on it?” Everyone looks to check. I pick up the jokers, simultaneously getting a break under the double back. I turn the jokers over onto the deck briefly. Then casually place all three in my pocket.

Now I’m free to say, “And take a look at the entire deck, make sure it’s not battery operated or anything like that.”

If asked, I can reach back in my pocket taking the jokers out, leaving the D/B. I say, “They’re here, but as you probably already know, there is no way to embarrass a Joker.” This seems to have some social comment and actually gets a good chuckle. But I only use it should the question, “what about the jokers?” comes up.