Photo: Globe & Mail, 1960s, courtesy J. Giordmaine. It has never appeared before now!
How This Site Came To Be (Cont'd)
HOW DID HE BECOME SO SUCCESSFUL IN MAGIC? WHAT WERE THE KEY FACTORS?
The first things that made possible his career in magic were his energy and ambition. He didn't wear them on his shoulder, he was just working all the time. He did the real work, the learning of the technical aspects of magic, early on. He learned through the Tarbell course which came out in 1927 when he was twenty nine. He subscribed to it, it was a typescript edition at the time. It teaches you all the moves, everything that magicians have to do.
By the early 1930s he was performing as a featured act at magic conventions, SAM, IBM. He was working in front of magicians. He was no amateur by then, he had really done the work. You have to walk the walk, you have to demonstrate mastery of sleight of hand. That he could do. So for the first ten years or so, he put in the work so he could do the card fans, the multiplying balls... I watched him so many times do the multiplying balls at Eaton's. He made it look so easy. You could buy them for a few dollars. He always used to say "you can do this with fifteen minutes practice" and would add in a slightly lower voice, "for twenty years". (LAUGHS)
HOW IS IT THAT HE RELATED SO WELL TO CHILDREN?
He didn't present magic as great feats of expertise, he got kids interest by challenging them to figure it out. They loved trying to catch him out, the "gotcha" experience. He had so many effects. The Die Box was a favourite - such a simple trick but it really set them off, they took such delight in it. And he always had a way of turning it around. The Torn & Restored Napkin was another favourite, one of his simplest tricks but I always loved it. You thought you were learning how to do it but there was more to it than you thought.
YOUR DAD WAS A PIONEER OF MAGIC ON TELEVISION. NOT ONLY WAS HE THE FIRST MAGICIAN EVER TO APPEAR ON TELEVISION IN CANADA BUT LATER HE WENT ON THE TOP NORTH AMERICAN TELEVISION SHOWS OF HIS DAY LIKE CAPTAIN KANGAROO AND ED SULLIVAN.
It was a closed circuit demonstration in 1933 at Eaton's in Toronto. It was very primitive technology. He said there was nothing as hot as the lights for that show. They needed them to get enough light for the detectors [cameras]. It was viewed on another floor of Eaton's and it did attract a lot of attention. It really was a pioneering thing but he didn't give a lot of thought to it.
Unfortunately I don't have a recording [of the Ed Sullivan show] but I did watch the show. He had such misgivings about the whole experience because something went terribly wrong. He came to New York and was waiting in the hotel for a call to tell him when to arrive for the rehearsal. He briefly went out and returned and there was still no call. It turned out that there had been a call but it had never been relayed to him, so he missed the rehearsal. It was a disaster! So he did the show without a rehearsal. When Ed Sullivan looked over to the wing on the show, my father came out from the other wing! Sullivan handled it by saying it was magic, that he'd materialized over there! Everything went well from then on. He pulled Sullivan's famous polka dot handkerchief out from his pocket and made all of the polka dots fall off. Another trick was he pulled a shiny red and white barber pole out of his pocket and it went twenty feet up into the air! So it went very very well but he got off to a shaky start for sure. He got pleasant comments from Sullivan afterwards so he was obviously forgiven [for missing the rehearsal].
Today, he certainly would've had a website! And your website is pretty close to what he would've had probably, a similar collection of pictures and articles about him. Your website is connecting a lot of people with him and is a mechanism to spread the kind of message he had - that magic can transmit a level of entertainment that knows no bounds.
WHO WERE HIS ROLE MODELS?
People like Dai Vernon, Nelson Downs, Thurston, Blackstone. Gee was Blackstone [senior] good, he had a completely different kind of rapport with his audience than my father's, he was more of the kind of magician who was above it all - he's going to show you some wonders. You really believed that there were wonders! Dad also had enormous respect for Tarbell for his course. The Tarbell books are magnificent. His books are so practical, in such simple English. When my father wrote up his effects his prose was influenced by Tarbell, it was very clear and simple.
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