A REMINISCENCE OF JOHN GIORDMAINE
by Robert H. Rastorp
In the early 1940s I visited Eatons Toyland in Toronto - and behold, there was a merry little magician entrancing a small audience of children, myself soon included. I then spent my weekly allowance of 25 cents to buy The Vanishing Key. Johnny took me behind the stage curtain to demonstrate how the effect worked, cautioning me that I should act as if the key was in my hand until the very moment I swung it into the air and it vanished at my fingertips. A lesson well remembered!
The following summer I recall seeing John perform at an open-air show in Riverdale Park during a time when we lived on a nearby street. My fascination with magic continued to grow and in 1952, when I applied for membership in the Hat and Rabbit Club, I was required to perform my act of about forty minutes to become a member. In those days membership was around 60 or 70 people including well known names like Sid Lorraine, Jimmy Lake, Chris Sheridan, Jack Prior, etc. Sitting in the front row, watching my performance, was John Giordmaine, who ten years earlier had introduced me to magic - a high point in my magical journey!
During this period Johns fame grew internationally, as he was a guest on the Ed Sullivan Show, then the biggest variety event on television. In 1954 I drove to Pittsburgh for the IBM convention, taking several other magicians with me including Bruce Posgate and Tom Endicott. The next morning we linked up with Johnny and went for a walk, during which he casually entertained folks in the street, including a local police officer who John stopped to ask what time it was. John then pulled out his 3-foot tape measure watch to check the time! The officer chuckled and said, I heard you folks were in town. Welcome to Pittsburgh.
Over time, John became a personal friend. As I was then employed in marketing by the Eveready Division of Union Carbide, located on Eglinton Avenue just four blocks from Johns home on Mann Avenue, he would drop by my office every few months to obtain a supply of fresh hearing-aid batteries for his wife from our employee store.
(PHOTO: Courtesy Robert H. Rastorp)
These short office visits became happy events in themselves, as coils of paper ribbons, feather flowers, etc., decorated the desks of the department secretaries. The question then being, When is Johnny coming again?
In 1966 when we bought our first home on the Scarborough Bluffs, we held an Open House, during which John appeared with a full bag of tricks and jokes, providing spontaneous entertainment to an enthusiastic crowd. A further gesture of Johns thoughtfulness and generosity.
During one of the last times I visited Johns home, in the early 1970s, he took me to his basement den filled with magical apparatus, and told me I could have anything I wanted as a gift. I selected a set of two 14 x 20 inch mounted photographs of John performing at outdoor childrens parties and requested him to sign these for me. John insisted these were not a sufficient gift and that I should take something more substantial. I remember telling him that this would be the most valuable personal gift he could give me, and he finally signed them, still insisting I also take a small pocket trick.
My last image of John was shortly thereafter, while on the way to work one cold fall morning as my car was heading west on Eglinton. John was crossing several dozen feet away from a small plaza on the northeast corner, dressed in a dark overcoat and hat, huddled against the weather. I honked my horn and waved, but with the traffic noise and wind, he failed to notice me. That was the last time I saw John. Shortly after, he passed away and I attended his funeral at a nearby Catholic church.
John represented an era when magic seemed simpler and audiences often more genuinely responsive. One of the last of a passing generation of greats. Though small in stature, he was a giant in those things that truly mattered. A wonderful performer, a good friend and a true gentleman.
About Robert H. Rastorp (In His Own Words)
The first magic show I saw was in Timmins, Ontario during the early years of the World War II when an army show to sell war bonds appeared which presented variety acts, including a magician. At the time I recall being quite impressed by the fact that he caused a woman to move from a box at one end of the stage to the opposite end. Wow! About that time, I was taken to see a movie - "The Mummy" - starring Boris Karloff. This movie included a magician who performed several small tricks. Shortly after, my parents moved to Toronto, at which time I met Johnny Giordmaine.
During my high school years I developed a 30-minute act that I performed at local clubs, business parties, and for events sponsored by my teachers (which stood me in good stead during my early academic career).
After being admitted to membership in the Hat and Rabbit Club and the I.B.M. about 1952, I was invited by Bruce Posgate to join The Magic Circle. In later years, as my interest in mentalism developed, I became an early member of the P.E.A. Since I retired to Costa Rica several years ago, I am less exposed to magic, but maintain membership in the three international organizations.
Our sincere thanks to Robert for sharing such wonderful memories of Johnny as well as for sending along the marvelous photo (above) of Johnny in action in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada (circa 1960s) which was given to him by Johnny. It is seen here in public for the very first time.
If you have any memories of Johnny that you would like to share, please get in touch. My email contact information is on Page Eleven, which you can find by clicking HERE.
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