Picks and Pans Review: Be a Magician

updated 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

SECRETS OF MAGIC

While both of these enjoyable tapes are devoted to teaching children to do magic tricks, don't worry: Nobody is going to end up learning to saw Grandma in half or change Rover into a goldfish. The magic involved is all relatively simple and safe, at least as long as the kids don't poke themselves in the eye with the magic wand. Be a Magician (Random House, $19.95) is designed for slightly older children (it's stated age range is for those 8 and older). The 60-minute tape, which comes with a magic wand and a few pieces of magic apparatus (rope, rings, etc.), is hosted by Martin Preston, a magician who performs the tricks in a stage setting, then explains how to do them. He frequently urges viewers to stop and practice what he has taught and critiques the attempts of a boy, Doug Blemker, 12, to do the tricks. There are a lot of rope tricks and such familiar illusions as the "Invisible Hole," in which a coin seems to pass through the material of a scarf. Secrets of Magic (Twin Tower Enterprises, $24.95) is more entertaining in a way, largely because of host John Thompson. While Preston is calm and articulate, Thompson—who bills himself as "The Great Tomsoni, Poland's Finest Magician"—is ingratiatingly corny. Most of the tricks he demonstrates have to do with manipulating playing cards, and they are easy enough that even smaller children might learn to perform them passably well, or at least well enough to entertain their less skeptical friends. Thompson also does a few illusions he doesn't explain, such as making a pigeon appear out of a hat, and that's probably just as well.

FACERCISE

Stick out your tongue. Now try to touch your left ear with it. (Yes, yes, of course, but try anyway.) Meanwhile raise your eyebrows until you look like Faye Dunaway; at the same time smile coquettishly like Madonna and with your right hand stretch your nose so that it meets the tip of your tongue. Hold that position for 45 seconds. That is not exactly one of the exercises on this tape, but they're along those lines, and Bonnie Carlyle, the creator of "Facercise," insists things like this will make anyone's face look smoother and less wrinkly. Inspired by the facial exercises she underwent 17 years ago after a disfiguring car accident, Carlyle and five other women appear on the 46-minute tape to demonstrate her techniques. The idea seems to be something like isometrics. While the ladies all appear to have remarkably well-toned faces, it's not clear that the facercises got them that way (before and after pictures of a particularly dramatic case might have come closer to proving the point). Anyway, the process doesn't seem dangerous—although a particularly vigorous practitioner might dislocate a jaw or an eyelid—and is probably more socially constructive than, say, mah-jongg. Masculinists will note, however, that no attention is paid to the extent of the destructive aspects of wrinkles and jowls on the male psyche.

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