Guy Bavli is unquestionably a worker with thousands and thousands of miles logged traveling the world performing the art of Mentalism. Here is a look back at an article originally published for GeMiNi: The Greater Magic Network in 2001! You can see what Guy is up to by http://www.masterofthemind.com Thanks Guy for your contributions to the art and GeMiNi!
Magic from Israel! As you know, I am from Israel – a far away land, small but always on the main issue regarding news and world publicity. Being so far make things very hard for the professional magicians as we are a land surrounded with countries that are not really in good relationship with us. The market here is very small, we can not get into the car and drive to other countries to work – like you can in Europe, as I would not think it will be a good idea to drive and work in Lebanon (either if I want to vanish completely from the world … which is a one way trick …)
Although Israel is a small land almost isolated from the outside world (geographically), it is a very advance and modern country if speaking about high technology, business, companies, art etc… That bring us to the magic activities and magicians in Israel.
From my point of view I divide the magic art in Israel in two: before and after the ’80s. Before the ’80s, the magic art in Israel was very unknown, most of the magicians performed the old fashion way. There was no respect to this art – not from the public and also not so much from the magicians themselves.
There were also few good magicians. One of the magic stars these days was under the name of “Amos Kadabra” which was the stage name for Amos Levkovitch, one of today’s famous and best dove workers I know! Amos was born in Israel and worked a lot those days doing parties all over the country with his sister Tamar Lanzer, and stage shows as well. Amos did a production show with one of Israel’s famous stars for kids Zipi Shavit, the name of the show was “Zipi Kuntz.” This was a great show and Amos was one of the characters in the show, performing magic, illusions and also doves. This was one of the successful musical shows for kids in Israel in the late ’70s. Most of the magicians came to see this show, and took ideas and after a while you could see that most of the magicians in Israel were trying to do the same effects as Amos did. To them he was a source for information and due to the fact they didn’t have lots of sources they copied him. Amos left Israel in 1979 and settled down in California, he is still living there today and achieved great success all over the world from the general public as well as magicians! Amos became my best pal over the years; we are in contact all the time and he helped me a lot in the U.S. Thanks Amos.
Most of other magicians in Israel these days were performing with casual clothing (jeans, shorts or an old style suits). Also the magic effects and performances were undeveloped. Most of the magicians did the same tricks, as they all bought from the same magic shop in Tel-Aviv (which was the only one available in the country) and copied from each other. This was not because they didn’t want to be professional and original. They didn’t know what professional was. It is not that they were bad magicians. People didn’t know what good was. But in comparison to the outside world, most of them did very low quality magic.
Those days we had only one Israeli black-and-white TV channel, which didn’t provide us with many TV magic specials from the out side world. Hardly any. So how we can expect magicians to know what good magic is? Those days I was a young magic fan (about 10 years old) and I didn’t know much either. In fact I was exactly like them. I looked on every magician in the country as a master. I dreamed to be like them. I think I was so lucky, because my father was a pilot in El-Al Israeli airlines. He took me to the U.S. when I was very young. When I flew with him, I looked for a magic shop in N.Y. (through the yellow pages my father helped me with the English) and found Louis Tannen’s Magic shop (then it was on Broadway). For me it was the first knock out as a boy! I remember going into the shop, looking all over and not being able to concentrate on anything … my eyes went all over looking at the colors of the flowers, boxes, posters etc… Then every time my father went to NY, I asked him to buy me a trick from Tannen’s. This is how I was starting to be familiar with the outside world. Later on I even joined the Tannen’s Magic Camp (as a young boy) in 1984-85 and even once I won the competition there.
But yet, this is not what had changed my professional magic life, as well as other magicians in Israel. In 1980, The “Israeli Society for Promoting the Art of Magic,” was founded by magician Roni Shachnaey whose stage name “Ronaldo.” Roni was born in Israel in 1944, and was interested in art since small age and became a musician (playing Bass Guitar writing songs and having a band). In the late ’60s Roni decided it was time for bigger and better things and left Israel for England. While there he married an English wife. After a while in England, Roni met the late Jimy Rogers, a retired master magician from whom he got the love for the magic art. Roni stayed in England for 10 years and became a professional magician.
In the late ’70s Roni came back to Israel with his wife and kids and brought with him a different kind of magic style which the magicians in Israel didn’t know.
When Roni came to Israel and saw the Magic level – he felt that he must do something about it. His goal was to raise the magic level in Israel to an art and gain recognition from both the public and magicians to create a new generation of magicians.
He gathered few magicians and started to meet with them every month teaching them and working with them along with other magicians in the country. Later on in the ’80s, he founded the important magic club known as: The Israeli Society for Promoting the Art of Magic.
Roni was (and still) a very charismatic person and a fine stage magician. He did beautiful stage manipulations, doves, and a marvelous Linking Ring routine in a classical way we didn’t know before. He also did wonderful mentalism work. In 1985, a magician friend of mine invited me to the magic convention in Tel-Aviv that was arranged by the Israeli Society for Promoting the Art of Magic. This was the first time I meet Roni and the magic club. Roni did private lessons for magicians and agreed to take me under his wing. So I started to be his magic student. After a while I became very close with him and the feeling was like father and son. I studied with Roni for two years, and he changed my complete life and thoughts in magic. Most of my success in magic is because of him.
His house was like a magician’s station, from morning to night magicians were coming in and going out. I stayed almost all day, every day. Most of the famous and successful magicians in Israel were his students: Twik Brothers (a well-known illusion workers in Israel), Lior Manor (a well-known magician/mentalist in Israel), Chris Vio (a fine French magician who lives and works in Israel). Roni didn’t teach us as many tricks, as he taught us how to think and create magic routines and develop personality. Roni left Israel again in 1987, he went back with his wife to England where he is still living today. In those years – as I call them “Roni’s years,” all magicians became like him, we all performed manipulation acts, linking rings and doves. He was our sample model. After few years, every one of us understood and developed his own style and created his own personality. Today all of us who came under Roni’s influence are working professionally, each one in his own way and style. Today I can appreciate his words and attitude for the magic art and I understand how much he changed all of us.
Roni was the first one to show me a bending spoon move (in 1985). As we all know Geller came from Israel and due to that fact mentalism as well as spoon bending became very popular here. Before Geller left Israel for England, he had his big success here – doing shows, TV and working for companies. The fact that Geller did claim to have powers made people believe in supernatural powers. It was new and people didn’t know what to think of it. Chan Canasta was another out standing mentalist who worked here. He did his amazing book tests, his famous mind reading with cards and amazing memory bits. All those gave mentalism a different aspect in Israel and made it very popular.
I think that Geller and Canasta were the inspiration for many of us later on to get into the mentalism field, but the push and the basic studies and ideas that created the new and professional generation of magicians as well as mentalists in Israel came from Roni.
Today, many television stations provide work and acknowledgment to the magic art in Israel. Magic became more and more popular in Israel. Today you can see many important magic specials (like “Best of Magic,” TV Magic specials from Vegas etc…). Israeli magicians do spots on TV every week. We also had a magic serial with Lior Manor as well as lots of Israeli magicians in prime-time talk shows doing their bits. All of those helped to create a positive image for the magic art in Israel. We hope it will go better and better from here.
Till next time, I wish you all best in magic and life and hope to see you in one of my trips somewhere around the world. Who knows maybe I’ll see you in Israel. – Shalom!