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Thursday, February 9, 2006 - Page updated at 11:06 AM


A magicians club in Lynnwood? That's no illusion

Times Snohomish County Bureau

Don Bloomer stood in front of his fellow club members, holding two objects.

"We have a hard ring and a flexible rope," he said. "But the thing they have in common, of course, is that they're both solid. And it's impossible for a solid to go through solid, right?"



Before you know it, the ring penetrates the rope.

There's applause. And a critique.

It's just another monthly meeting of the Northwest Ring of Fire magic club.

One of the largest clubs of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, this group of 70 amateur and working magicians has been meeting in Lynnwood since 1990.

Members do performances, critiques and demonstrations. They watch vintage films of Harry Blackstone or Harry Houdini. Also, as in many clubs, members have a summer picnic and a Christmas party — though their party is in January because so many of them perform during the holidays.


Want to learn more about magic? William Darkow of the Market Magic & Novelty Shop in Seattle has these suggestions:

Web sites The International Brotherhood of Magicians, with 15,000 members in 73 countries, is the world's largest magic club. It produces a monthly magazine called The Linking Ring. The Society of American Magicians, founded in 1902, is the United States' oldest magic organization. The Northwest Ring of Fire magic club, based in Lynnwood, has 70 members. The Market Magic & Novelty Shop is in the Pike Place Market. The Hollywood, Calif.-based magic club is also headquarters of the Academy of Magical Arts.

Books, videos, magazines

"Mark Wilson's Complete Course in Magic." This 503-page illustrated book teaches magic with cups and balls, cards, money, ropes, handkerchiefs and sponges, plus "make at home" magic.

"Tarbell Course in Magic" by Harlan Tarbell is a standard eight-volume magician's reference.

"Roberto Giobbi's Card College" offers a five-volume course in sleight of hand.

Two magazines, Genii ( and Magic ( come out monthly and include articles on new methods and ideas, and reviews of books, tricks and DVDs.

Michael Ammar's videos include instruction on card tricks, money magic, traditional stage magic and other illusions.

At a typical meeting, club President Philemon Vanderbeck holds the business portion to 15 minutes. Everyone wants to focus on magic.

During a break, card technicians might exchange sleight-of-hand techniques at the back of the room while a magician such as Zinger, a medieval necromancer for a group called Royal Magick, readies illusions to perform.

Members also include slightly less flamboyant career magicians such as Bruce Meyers and Kirk Charles, who have devoted their lives to the profession.

"I like to think of it as dedicating my life to spreading wonder and joy among my audiences," Meyers said. "And a few laughs."

Meyers noted the group's relaxed atmosphere.

"There's good-natured heckling, which also tends to help you refine your act," he said.

Charles lauded the camaraderie. "These guys know what I'm talking about."

Thousands in clubs

The group is one of four Northwest-area rings of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the world's largest organization for magicians with nearly 15,000 members and more than 300 rings worldwide, according to its Web site. The other local rings are in Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma.

The Northwest Ring of Fire, so named because it holds regular meetings at Lynnwood's Blue Ridge fire station, includes a variety of people, said member Payne Fifield.

And Fifield knows about variety. He offers his customers an assortment of performances, complete with the appropriate wardrobe, including "Master Payne's Medieval or Renaissance Magykes," "Professor Payne's The Magic of Edgar Allan Poe" and "Calamity Payne's Wild West Wonder Show."

"There's a wide divergence of ages, too," Fifield said of the club. "We have young people and old people and everybody in between, and all sorts of different types of magic as well. It's a very vibrant club."

Ring of Fire members perform at corporate and charity events, nightclubs, theaters, festivals and birthday parties. Each year, the club holds a charity event called "Smoke & Mirrors." This year's show is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 15 at the Everett Theatre, with proceeds going to the Burned Children Recovery Foundation.

To the club's members, it's no surprise that magicians would seek each other out.

Where things get magical

Lynnwood club

The Northwest Ring of Fire is the Snohomish County chapter of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

It meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the Blue Ridge fire station, 18800 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood. Yearly dues are $15 per person and $20 per family. Information: Bruce Meyers, 360-652-5779, or

Benefit performance

The Northwest Ring of Fire will host "Smoke & Mirrors,"

a magic show, at 7 p.m. April 15 at the Everett Theatre. Proceeds will benefit the Burned Children Recovery Foundation. Tickets are $8-$12 and available at 425-258- 6766.

Information on sponsorships or program ads: Bruce Meyers, 360-652-5779.

For youths

The first meeting of the Young Magicians of the Northwest Ring of Fire is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 19 at the Blue Ridge fire station. The group, for aspiring magicians up to 18 years old, will educate, support and promote the activities of young people in the world of magic. Meetings are to be held on the third Sunday of each month.

Information: Bruce Meyers, 360-652-5779 or

— Diane Wright

"When a magician goes on stage, normally it's him alone. But when a magician comes to a club, we enjoy the art and the art behind the art," said William Darkow, also known as The Amazing William.

Darkow works at Market Magic & Novelty Shop, in Seattle's Pike Place Market, where merchandise includes wallets that catch fire and other tricks, along with stink bombs, whoopee cushions and other novelty standbys.

New magicians nurtured

The Ring of Fire's attention to sharing and teaching the art of magic proves especially beneficial to its emerging younger membership.

"The club gives people who want to become magicians or practicing magicians a chance to actually perform," said 18-year-old Evan Westenberger, who has been in the club since he was 15 and is one of the club's two vice presidents.

Meyers, who performs with a second generation of doves and two rabbits named Butterfly and Flutterbye, also works with his 16-year-old son, The Amazing Paul.

Meyers has long mentored young magicians and plans to launch a Young Magicians faction of the club this year, offering Sunday-afternoon sessions to teach young people up to age 18 the fun of magic. He hopes to "breathe new fire and new blood into the Seattle-area magic scene, bring out some new dreams, new visions."

The first meeting is set for 2 p.m. March 19 at the Lynnwood Fire Department's Blue Ridge station. Meetings are to be held on the third Sunday of each month.

If the new gatherings catch on, they will help another generation of magicians continue a grand tradition, one that Darkow said may have started thousands of years ago.

The cups-and-balls trick, for example, in which balls disappear, reappear, multiply and appear to go through one cup to another, is among the oldest in history, Darkow said.

"They say there's an illustration on an Egyptian tomb wall that depicts somebody doing this," he said. "There's a little controversy about that, but some of the old paintings from the Renaissance period clearly depict the cups and balls being performed."

Meyers noted that the popularity of Harry Potter books and movies has "brought magic back to the forefront."

"People are having fun with that fantasy, and we magicians love it," he said. "It kind of reflects our world to a degree; we instill wonder. Sharing the wonder with an audience is my favorite part."

Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company





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