Sunday, January 17, 2010

Project 365 (17/365): Max Maven

.:17/365: Max Maven:.

Also known as Phil Goldstein, the incorrigible Max Maven has been a luminary in the world of mentalism for decades, replete with the look and demeanor of a performer that simply looks intimidating and downright Satanic at times. Whether or not you agree with his image consultant, though, Mr. Maven is undoubtedly one of the most prolific and highly respected mentalists of our contemporary times, and with good reason.

He is joined by Banachek and Osterlind as the three contemporary pillars of mentalism, albeit mainly for the video-watching public. In my opinion, other luminaries like Devin Knight deserve their props for the ideas they continue to provide, albeit through books rather than DVD’s. As a performer, Maven establishes a persona that departs quite drastically from Osterlind’s “uncle next-door” or Banachek’s “everyday joe” or Derren Brown’s “smooth operator” persona. Max Maven, with his eyeliner, slicked back hair, and thin and well-groomed beard, appears every bit of an occultist rather than a mentalist.

Yet his body of work establishes him as one of the best thinkers in contemporary mentalism. His colored books of mentalism, his “Videomind” series and his “Nothing” special, as well as numerous young mentalists (Such as one Nomer Lasala.) who have been influenced by his undoubtedly striking onstage persona, are all testament to how big Maven’s contributions to mentalism happen to be.

It’s amazing how scary he can be, yet still possess impeccable comic timing and a very unique speech pattern that at times makes you think he is speaking English as if he memorized it phonetically, ala Bela Lugosi. The fine line he treads between coming off as an occult master and a very deadpan comedian can be quite difficult to approximate, and most mentalists who try to imitate him often fall hard to one side or the other. What sets Max apart is he manages to strike the balance in a way only he could, neither aspect of his performing style ever truly dominating the other.

Any mentalist worth his salt should get ideas from books and not exclusively videos. While videos are excellent sources of actual performances, the books give ideas to mentalists that even the writers themselves may have never considered. The possibilities are indeed endless when it comes down to it, and Maven’s books are always a good place to start for the intermediate practitioner. Personally, I continue to maintain that Corinda’s 13 Steps, while a tad dated, still serves as the best building block for the beginner mentalist, and afterwards, going over some of the Maven/Goldstein books should prove to be mighty helpful.

There are rumors, by the way, that like Derren Brown, Max Maven is actually gay. Whether or not this is true, I wouldn’t know. Nor would I care, as what he does in bed with men or women in no way changes the amazing things his mind is capable of.

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