MALTA WHO'S WHO (1965)
GIORDMAINE, John Nichol, Magician, Conjuror. BORN: Rabat, Malta, 26th September, 1898. Son of Vincenzo M. Giordmaina and Caterina (nee Vassalio). EDUCATION: Lyceum; Electrical Engineering Courses, City & Guilds of London Institute Dept. of Technology 1915-1918; Technical school, Toronto, Canada 1919; Jarvis Collegiate, Toronto, Canada (Associate Member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers). Married Anna Cain, October 21st, 1930. Son: Joseph A., MA, PhD. Telephone Examiner HM Dockyard, Malta (3 years). Emigrated to Canada 1919. In electrical work 1919-1929. Professional entertainer since 1930. Managed a magic department at the largest department store in Canada, The T. Eaton Company Limited, 1930-1960. Received the Star of Magic Award, New York 1963; Diploma of the Tarbell Course, Chicago, Ill. 1929. Member, Inner Magic Circle, London; Academy of Magical Arts & Sciences; Society of American Magicians; International Brotherhood of Magicians; Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists; American Guild of Variety Artists; Past President Hat & Rabbit Club, Toronto; Order of St. John of Jerusalem (O. S. J.) RECREATIONS: Music (piano and flute).
(LEFT, ABOVE) "The Linking Ring" magazine from 1935 featuring Johnny on its cover. (BELOW) Many thanks to IBM Toronto Ring 17 immediate past president Bob Taylor for his wonderful recollections of Johnny.
BOB TAYLOR REMEMBERS JOHNNY
John was, I think, the best magician overall that I saw - ever - and I still think so. I was not privy to Blackstone, Sr. and Thurston although having now seen several videos of those greats I have found no reason to change my mind.
I visited him at his Eaton's magic counter several times when I visited my aunt and uncle in Toronto during summers in the 1950s. I bought numerous things from him during that period - Sponge Cubes, not Balls actually rectangles; Vampire Magic Aero Egg - with a catgut loop a la Handkerchief Ball; Nickels to Dimes; Tarbell Colour Changing Silk; Colour-changing and Bending Pencil; Vanishing Key; Japanese Locked Box puzzle; Coin Slide; Vanishing Glass of Liquid; 6-Shot Lota; and maybe some Bill Elliott's Royal Specialty Sales items to cite a few. He was a wonder with card fans and productions and the Multiplying Billiard Balls. Even Dai Vernon said Johns ball work was the best he had seen, which was really something since he had, after all, seen and admired Roy Bensons and Cardinis similar and legendary work. Johnny was an energetic and effervescent personality who could make you momentarily forget that his work was trickery. It sometimes left an eerie feeling that you were seeing the real thing even when he made you laugh, often as part of a group of youngsters and adults.
John once did a two to three hour lecture for members of the Society of Canadian Magicians at the Inn on the Park Hotel during that same September 16th, 1973 meeting when his 75th birthday was celebrated that you refer to on page 7. I know because I was there along with a sizable crowd of S.C.M. members. It was truly memorable and constituted much of the best of the magic he did during the course of his career - minus much of the apparatus type magic he also did like his Dove Pan; Barber Pole Production; Donald Holmes-made Nest of Clocks Production (the best version); Wizzy Dizzy Milk (I think Abbotts still sell it, at a now sizable price); Come Black; his Vanishing Glass of Milk to Hat, done on its own on Captain Kangaroo, I recall; P-L Bowl of Water Production; Grants Miracle Dove Act - he vanished the rubber dove in a Devils Handkerchief - probably Grants Devils Napkin, with the non-sag feature, not in the take apart box that came with the outfit; Drink-Up - the glass of liquid and straw suspension - he referred to it as "a balanced diet"; Rabbit from Top Hat (with his utterly devious and nervy method) and other such items.
Phil Pitman, an Oshawa teacher and brief part-time magic dealer affiliated with Bob Littles Guaranteed Magic at the time, videotaped the whole thing with a sizable video camera on a tripod. Phil was a charter member of the now-long defunct Oshawa I.B.M. Ring 220 the Sid Lorraine-John Giordmaine Ring, which I believe never really lasted long as it had a very small membership from the get-go. I managed to get a hold of Phil a few years ago. He told me that he still has the tape.
I'm glad you found Randi helpful which, knowing Randi by reputation, doesn't surprise me. Maybe he knows the story of John fooling Burling Hull with a Hooked Coin vanish. [EDITOR'S NOTE: HE DIDN'T.] He ditched it on Burling's own tie apparently and then reproduced it in some way - maybe at his elbow or perhaps behind his tie. I think this was in the late '20s or early '30s when John was demonstrating magic for Joe Whitlam in his Japanese Magic and Novelty store window. It was begun in 1913, evidently, probably when the original Arcade was built. John would stop traffic some days too, would you believe? The cops were brought in at least once, so I heard, to control the crowd. Burling was in town at the time performing professionally in some place locally. This was probably when Burling was still living in New York with his alleged magic factory and before he moved to Deland, Florida. You have a picture of John at that time on page 20, third photo down but in it he appears to be performing on a stage inside the shop and not in the store window out front where he did the demos at noon hour when people were heading out to lunch. Incidentally, Joe Whitlam's store seemed to carry a lot more magic equipment back then if that picture is any indication than when Harry (and later, Sophie) Smith ran it. They bought it from Joe in 1942 and renamed it the Arcade Magic and Novelty Store given the anti-Japanese and maybe anti-German sentiment at the time. They might have had a bigger stock before the February 27, 1953 fire that leveled the Arcade Building on Yonge St. (It was rebuilt and reoccupied in 1960). The fire left them in semi-dire straits. They had to rent a store at Queen and Church in the pawnbrokers' district in the interim. It was the first magic shop I visited. Their walk-in trade was pretty dismal no longer being on Yonge Street. Harry had to do a lot of shows - he did among other things marvelous card and card fan production; billiard ball work (which I saw him do in the store); and fire-eating, would you believe, to keep bread on the table. Sophie worked as a nurse as well.
By the way perhaps you recognized, did you, the trick John was doing on Page 1 in the coloured photo. If you look at the shape of that prop in John's hands and the kids' reactions it is obviously Harry Leat's classic trick Run Rabbit Run. Although I never saw John do it, I can just imagine the excitement he generated with it, remembering how he milked to the hilt that Light-up Bow Tie he featured. A lot of the kids just went crazy the way he did it! He would have the lights on the tie - one on each side - light up using a wire connection to a battery set up in his pocket. The kids would immediately make that known to him - which he initially ignored until they began shouting. Then he would look at his tie - with its lights off by now - and wave his hands dismissively and continue undeterred. Then the whole thing would start all over again. He really could work the kids into a frenzy with this, which really was a side bit. It was particularly funny to the adults who realized what he was up to. He would also repeat it a few times in other parts of the show.
As to my other recollections of John, I do know he used a lot of gags along with his magic, such as the tape measure watch; the Bird Warbler of course; the noisy watch winder; the fake bloodshot eyes on springs on horn-rimmed glasses; probably some of the squirting items like the squirting nickel; the cap pen that went off when you removed the cap; the giant watch that opened up to contain a sandwich as his supposed lunch; maybe the joy buzzer; that fold-up Phoney Ring - complete with the ringer; probably Jack London's Pop-up Tie; and likely a lot more that I can't recall at the moment. Also, he did send me some magic by mail that I ordered when I was in my hometown, which was nice of him, since he really didn't have to. He was popular with his fellow Eaton employees, particularly the women, doing stuff that would most likely really make their day. He could create quite a bit of excitement on occasion. He used a few giant props so he could make jokes about his diminutive size. I do recall seeing John on the Captain Kangaroo and, possibly, the CBC Razzle Dazzle shows.
I hope you might find this information useful to assist you in your fine work in assembling this collection of Johns life and magic.
- Bob Taylor