Site Is Always Under Construction. All data and photographs copyright by me 2005/2006/2007/2008/2009/2010

Elaine, my wife and sweetheart of 29+ years says, "The trouble with our marriage is that the magic HASN'T gone out of it!"

(I THINK she is kidding.......)


The Marine Corps Hymn is being played as a tribute to ALL of our armed service men and women that have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. God bless you all!

I served two years in the USMCR Platoon Leaders' Class (Aviation) during college, got commissioned as a Second Lieutenant at graduation, and was thrilled to be selected to go to flight school in Pensacola, Florida. While there, I flew the single-engine T-34, the SNJ (AT-6), the twin-engine SNB (TC-45), the single rotor H-13, and the tandem rotor HUP (H-25). I got my "Wings of Gold" in 1958, and served two years in HMR(C)-363, flying the HRS (H-19) and HOK (H-43) as Instructor Pilot and Instrument Flying check pilot. I transferred to the USMCR and stayed in a flying reserve unit, HMM-764, for another fifteen years, flying the UH-34D and the CH-46. Just before I was to "hang it up," I was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and named as Commanding Officer of HMA-773, flying AH-1G cobra attack helicopters. I accumulated 5,200 hours as pilot-in-command in the USMCR. I retired from the USMCR in 1976. 

I have three lovely daughters, Cathy Sotos, Lynn Lewis and Cheryl Mears, and six grand children, Melissa, Catherine, Joshua, Justin, Abigail and Margaret Grace, all of whom we love very dearly.

My flying education in the USMC paid dividends for me in civilian life as well. In 1963 I landed a job selling helicopters for the Aircraft Division of Hughes Tool Company. Starting out as a Regional Sales Manager in Memphis, I later was named as Western Division Sales Manager, and then later as National Sales Manager. The original product we were selling was called the Hughes 269A, and if you could fly that, you could fly anything! I told people back then that I didn't "hover" the helicopter, I "levitated" itIn 1986, we were bought out by McDonnell Douglas, and the factory was transferred to Mesa, Arizona. I was the first commercial salesperson to get checked out in the U.S. Army's OH-6A, a sporty turbine-powered four-seat helicopter. I was fortunate to help organize a "Blue Team" to design and build an eight-place, twin-turbine helicopter called the MD Explorer, which was primarily designed for the Air Medical market. WOW! What a GREAT machine that is, even today! Boeing bought McDonnell Douglas, and then sold off the civilian Light Helicopter Division to MD Helicopters in 1998. I stayed on with MD Helicopters, Inc. as Director of Sales and Marketing for two years, and then retired in 2000. What a RIDE! Because of "frequent flyer miles," Elaine and I have flown helicopters in Paris (4 times!), Singapore, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Tahiti, Hawaii, London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Ketchikan, Grand Cayman, Bogotá, Panama, Toronto, and Acapulco - as well as all over the United States. What a grand and glorious way to see the world! I logged an additional 3,850 hours in civilian helicopters.


Like most youngsters, I received a magic set for Christmas when I was 10 years old, and in January of the next year, I had my head cut off at a church carnival! I was helplessly hooked, and have been performing and collecting magic ever since. I am a member of the Society of American Magicians, and proud to be a Past-President of the Bert Easley/Danny Dew Ring 55 of The International Brotherhood of Magicians in Phoenix, Arizona. Check out our Ring 55 website at <www.ring55.org>.

My interests and passion in several areas of magic sort of evolved without my being totally aware of it. For instance, two magic friends, Leo Behnke and Jack Hurlbut were over for supper one evening, and made the comment, "We didn't know you collected books on magic!" I told them I didn't, but they pointed out my 15 or so books, and said "Sure you do." Now my accumulation is over 600 hard bound magic books, most of which are out of print classics on the history of magic and magician's biographies. To nurture this love, I served as assistant librarian at The Magic Castle, under the tutelage of Leo Behnke and Sammie McKay for over 17 years. I am indebted to several magical friends that have deemed me a worthy friend and steward, and who have given me many of their treasures to study and maintain - Larry Parsons, Sammie McKay, and Ed Rosenthal.

Charlie Miller (one of my sponsors at the Magic Castle) once told me, "The minute a spectator believes that the apparatus is gimmicked, the magic is gone. They think, 'If I had that magic box, I could do the effect also.' The magician loses all credibility for his skill." I have tried to remember that advice as I added new effects to my repertoire. So, the very first chop cup I acquired was Jerry Mentzer's leather dice cup in the mid 1970's. It does not LOOK like a magician's prop. Then one day I spotted an ordinary looking can of Coca Cola that had been "chopped" by a magician named Mycroft. He also made chop cups from Pepsi cans, tomato juice cans, and a few beer cans. Once again, I was hooked. I have all of the admiration in the world for professionals that utilize RNTII and other beautiful chop cups, but they have one advantage that I do not. Every performance they give is to a new audience. Most amateurs like myself help keep the magic shops open because we are constantly looking for new material. I happen to LOVE the chop cup idea, but now have 97 different ways to do it, and to my friends they all are "different' and apparently above suspicion. And all of a sudden, without my knowledge, I also became a collector of chop cups!

All of this is due to the ingenuity of an Australian-born magician named Alvin H. Wheatley. He was born in 1901, and performed under the name of Tung Pin Soo as well as "Chop Chop." He is acknowledged to have invented the idea sometime in the mid 1950's, so the gimmicked cups were named after him. Two "magical" names are readily associated with making the chop cup popular, and were their "signature" pieces - Don Alan and Larry Jennings. History records that Wheatley saw  Jennings perform his chop cup routine at The Magic Castle shortly after it opened in 1963. He was so impressed that he asked Jennings to please not reveal his method or routine in print until after his death. Larry kept his promise, and did not publish his routine until a year after Wheatley's death. It was published in Genii Magazine, Volume 29, Number 7, in March of 1965.


Al Wheatley -  AKA "Tung Pin Soo,"  AKA "Chop Chop"



This is one of the original bamboo "Chop-Chop's One Cup and Ball" routine, sold by Al Wheatley at Exacto Magic on Hollywood Bouvelard. I was finally able to acquire mine on an eBay auction from David Charvet in January, 2010!

Mike Rose (also author of "Joe Karson - Beyond Zombie") told me that he is preparing to publish an entire book about Al Wheatley, and I am very much looking forward to it. To any of you seriously interested in the subject of "chop cups," I will gladly email a copy of the bibliography of books and pamphlets that I own relating to the subject. Email me at Clark Wirthlin


On December 13th, 2005 I presented a 90 minute lecture on the history of the chop cup to the members of Ring 55, and showed or demonstrated all 66 different "unique" chop cups in my collection (at that time). Friend "Andy" Greget also shared an original Wheatley bamboo cup, and original Wheatley/Joe Berg "Master Cup," and the first re-tooled master cup made by them for Don Alan.

Now it is YOUR turn to see them........

This is what started my love affair with chop cups - Mentzer's leather dice cup.

Stone's Dragon cup came in a Chinese "to go" paper box.

While technically NOT a chop cup, Jenst's "Jiggernaught" is a great single-cup routine.

Solari's small brass goblet is beautiful!

Somebody "chopped" a plastic Disney thermal cup. A gift from pal Ed  Rosenthal.

Viking makes a very "rich" wooden cup, with a surprise ending!

Mikame's "Super cup" can even fool those "in the know."

Mycroft's Pepsi and Coke chop cups

Mycroft's Light and Bud chop cups (and Mike Rogers' baseballs)

Mycroft's large and small tomato juice chop cups (What could be more innocent?)

An early RNT aluminum cup - a favorite of mine! It FEELS good.

Another non-chop cup, but Wilson's "Kiss Off" is terrific!

"Dr. Bob" Blodgett's chop goblet - a gift from my pal, Jay Gorham!

Wayne's coffee mug has a clever "variation" from most cups.

Mile High Magic's bamboo chop cup, same material as Wheatley's original.

Whitlock's "Shaken, Not Stirred" has a real martini hidden in it!

Jim Riser Micro cups with Dennis Loomis' routine, has a clever "Squash" climax!

  Ghastly Gallimaufry's brass goblet. An elegant piece of art!

RFA's "Trashed" is not for the squeamish the way I do it!

Osama Assaf's Large "Sterling Silver" (wink, wink) chop goblet.

"Bell of Bombay" - a gift from my pal, Ed Rosenthal

Ghastly Gallimaufry "chopless" chop cup.

"Mom Crosewl's" (Mike Rose) mahogany chop goblet. Note the leather balls.

Mini plastic. Found in many magic sets. Still a great prop!

Home made "plumber's helper" chop cup, complete with wand!

Borgoin's Pool Ball, complete with magic cue stick wand.

Borgoin's tennis chop set.

Borgoin's dice cup with "wad" final load. A VERY nice set!

RAR's very rare "flat leather" cup. Final load is 22 half dollars! "Ball" is a borrowed dollar bill.

"Great Scot" leather chop cup and balls.

Bill Palmer's (of Cups and Balls Museum fame) leather "Merlin" cup.

"Unique metallic" chop cup. (OK, OK, so they aren't ALL great!)

Got to have BIG hands for Starsinic's leather cup with felt balls.

Morrissey copper cup.

Starsinic's "beaded" leather cup with "monkey fist" balls.

Not chopped, but a great cone & ball set from Starsinic.

Aldo Colombini's "Cone-tact" comes with a video. Neat!

Improvised "Dixie Cup" to show how simple the "magic" is!

Steinhauer's Cone & Ball came with free in-person instruction.

Viking's Caliph's Cone chop cup. Gift from pal Larry Wilfong.

Norm Nielsen's "UNOMI" chop bowl.

Solari's tall chop goblet.

Mikame Craft wooden chop cup.

Cheap, but gaudy - I got this in Vegas for $3!

Homemade hammered copper chop cup from Mervyn's bed & bath.

Ghastly Gallimaufry gold-plated chop goblet with gold wand.

Martin Lewis' "Canapés" (Can of peas) has a fun punch line!

Wayne Dobson's "Gin & Tonic" which I chopped. Force deck is my creation.

Funtime Innovations wooden chop cup, Gift from Larry Wilfong.

Hampton Ridge wide-mouth chop cup with progressive "loads."

Homemade "Dragon" chop goblet from Spencer's Gifts.

Brad Manuel's Dice-stacking chop cup.

Antique Russian cup, chopped by someone. Gift from pal Jim Poage.

Solari's "Major Development" is a logical scenario.

Mentzer's "One Cup and Coin" is a "different" chop idea.

Osama Assaf's small grape motif cup - a pocket-sized cup for strolling magic.

Homemade "Calcutta Cup" from Penny's bed & bath.

Another version of "Doctor Bob" Blodgett's brass chop goblets.

Two early Morrissey chop cup (2" X 2" and 3" X 3")

Antique Abbott's "Golden Cup" is a single ball & cup with a "LOTA" finale.

Original RNT Don Alan chop cup.

Another Mentzer leather chop dice cup - this one very beautifully hand-tooled.

This gold-plated "Omega" ring will chop your neighbor's coffee cup!

Damien Lee's unusual "Wizard's Cup." Gift from pal Jay Gorham.

Final load for The Trickery's "Shaman's Cup" is five MORE cups! (Two are chopped)

Fantasma's Buddha chop cup, was conceived by Roger Dreyer.

Silk, Ball and Vase. Not chopped, but very handsome! Gift from pal Jim Poage.

Magic, Inc.'s "Beer Can Magic."

Homemade "India Ink" chop cup.

Stone's coffee chop cup from pal Larry Wilfong.

Brass "Benson Bowl-type" bowl, which I chopped, from pal Larry Wilfong.

  Tim Star's Copper Lime Chop Cup, one of only 50 made. It is BEAUTIFUL!

Tannen's "Mini Money Miracle" that uses borrowed $ bill and has loads for pennies and quarters.

 Chance Wolf's Champagne Chop Cup with Viking ice final loads.

Tim Star's "Master Chop Cup" outdoes Mikame's "Super Cup!" Better looking, too.

Found this hollow-stemmed Christmas goblet, and couldn't resist! What time is the party?

Halloween shot glass also makes for a good "themed" chop cup.

Wayne Dobson and Colin Rose collaborated to create "Fruit & Nuts"

Roger Lovin's "Shaker" offers some fun opportunities!

El Duco's Die Cupo works "differently" and has unique possibilities!

Colin Rose's Harlequin edition of "Loose Change" with one-of-a-kind presentation box. Gift from Ring 55 as out-going President 2006 - 2007.

Egg cup, chopped by unknown. Bought at Magic Castle swap meet by Tom Wiese.

Jeff at BestMadeMagic created this cocobolo wood cup and miniature wand just for me.

"Killer" Chop Cup by Ambitious Card. Gift from pal Larry Wilfong.

Tex Austin's leather chop cup w/DVD. Gift from friend Jim Poage.

Ravel's "Miracle Chop Cup". Sold mostly at the magic shop at Disneyland.

Jim Riser's Amazing six pound solid cup was sold through Jack Sutherland's Sun Magic in Phoenix in the late 70's.

Chris Reesman's Encore Magic sold this RNT "Mini Don Alan" copper chop cup from his "cozy" (850 square feet) shop in St. Claire Shores.

This is Stephen Tucker's "Bell of the Ball" which I got from The Looney Bin in England. The clapper is "removed," as is the handle of the bell, and a cup & ball effect is done.  A nice change of pace.

More to come..........