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January 02, 2013  |  Sleight of hand  |  7062 hit(s)

Two stories, both lifted from articles in the New Yorker, about magicians who are, well, magic. The first is about the sleight-of-hand master Ricky Jay, from a profile in 1993 titled Secrets of the Magus:
Deborah Baron, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, where Jay lives, once invited him to a New Year’s Eve dinner party at her home. About a dozen other people attended. Well past midnight, everyone gathered around a coffee table as Jay, at Baron’s request, did closeup card magic. When he had performed several dazzling illusions and seemed ready to retire, a guest named Mort said, “Come on, Ricky. Why don’t you do something truly amazing?”

Baron recalls that at that moment “the look in Ricky’s eyes was, like, ‘Mort—you have just fucked with the wrong person.’ ”

Jay told Mort to name a card, any card. Mort said, “The three of hearts.” After shuffling, Jay gripped the deck in the palm of his right hand and sprung it, cascading all fifty-two cards so that they travelled the length of the table and pelted an open wine bottle.

“O.K., Mort, what was your card again?”

“The three of hearts.”

“Look inside the bottle.”

Mort discovered, curled inside the neck, the three of hearts. The party broke up immediately.
Then this appeared in the current issue in an article about Apollo Robbins, a different kind of magician, titled A Pickpocket’s Tale:
A few years ago, at a Las Vegas convention for magicians, Penn Jillette, of the act Penn and Teller, was introduced to a soft-spoken young man named Apollo Robbins, who has a reputation as a pickpocket of almost supernatural ability. Jillette, who ranks pickpockets, he says, “a few notches below hypnotists on the show-biz totem pole,” was holding court at a table of colleagues, and he asked Robbins for a demonstration, ready to be unimpressed. Robbins demurred, claiming that he felt uncomfortable working in front of other magicians. He pointed out that, since Jillette was wearing only shorts and a sports shirt, he wouldn’t have much to work with.

“Come on,” Jillette said. “Steal something from me.”

Again, Robbins begged off, but he offered to do a trick instead. He instructed Jillette to place a ring that he was wearing on a piece of paper and trace its outline with a pen. By now, a small crowd had gathered. Jillette removed his ring, put it down on the paper, unclipped a pen from his shirt, and leaned forward, preparing to draw. After a moment, he froze and looked up. His face was pale.

“Fuck. You,” he said, and slumped into a chair.

Robbins held up a thin, cylindrical object: the cartridge from Jillette’s pen.

Brian MacDonald   06 Jan 13 - 11:45 AM

Cool stories, and I believe that they are true. I've got another one for you: On April 26, 2006, David Copperfield was performing a show in West Palm Beach. As he was walking back to the tour bus with a couple of his assistants, they were accosted by some teenagers with guns who demanded their wallets, phones, etc. The assistants turned over their money and phones, but Copperfield, who was carrying all those things, was able to turn out his pockets and convince the thieves he had nothing. They also took the muggers' license plate number, and they were arrested in short order. I never had much respect for David Copperfield, because frankly, he looks pretty smug, and I was convinced the whole "vanish the Statue of Liberty" thing was TV trickery. But doing unprepared sleight of hand, at gunpoint? That's impressive.

(Incidentally, I've since found out how the Statue of Liberty trick was done, and it's pretty darned cool -- no TV trickery at all.)