A few years ago a young Vietnamese journalism student named Mai Nguyen was given an assignment to write an article about a Toronto magician. She was supposed to focus on one particular magician. She phoned loads and loads of magicians in the city to see if she could come out and see one of their shows. She had no luck in this search until she came across me. It seems that I ended up being the only magician who was able to accommodate her. I told her that there was indeed a place where she could come and watch me work. It was not at a corporate engagement, or a circus, or a night club, or a theatre. It was at a flea market where I was demonstrating and selling magic tricks. However, she could watch me for as long as she wanted and in fact she stayed for several hours.
I discovered that her professor was so pleased by the piece she wrote, that she submitted it in an application for the Jerry Gladman Memorial Scholarship and lo and behold she won! This is a scholarship for the student who produces the best single story in a first year print course. Jerry Gladman was a very respected journalist whose name the scholarship was associated with. However, I found out quite recently that by some strange coincidence his brother Larry was actually a magician too!
She wrote such a charming little article that I wanted to include it in this blog. I have already included it in my memoir, “The Lives of a Showman”. Here it is:
The magician wriggles Jeremy the Magic Snake through his fingers, attracting a curious young boy who inches closer and closer.
“Would you like to look at Jeremy?” he asks. “He likes children. He had one for breakfast this morning..”
The boy’s mother approaches from behind and watches as the magic man slithers the furry, blue snake swiftly between his fingers, around a basket and through a book. Suddenly, the snake stops moving and falls asleep inside a glass jar. “Oh no! Can you do me a favour young man?” After the magic salesman counted to three, the boy loudly shouts, “Wake up, Jeremy.”
Magically, the blue snake swiftly slides up out of the jar and slithers back through the trickster’s fingers. People, engrossed by the trick, stop to watch at a distance. “Come in closer everybody. Don’t worry, I won’t pick your pocket. I’ve got a brother out there that does that.”
Sporting a black tie adorned with stars, playing cards and white rabbits, the magician regularly performs magic tricks at the Fantastic Flea Market in Mississauga. He commutes on weekends to promote and sell his magic products. His booth attracts some of the largest crowds at the flea market.
“Sometimes it’s tough to get people’s attention, but normally I can get a big crowd going.”
As people begin to gather around the booth, the boy whispers to his mother, begging her to buy the snake. “You nag your mother until she buys it,” says the magician. “Make her life a misery until she does. If that doesn’t work, try your father!” The mother ignores her son and walks him away from the booth.
At the booth, he revealed to his audience one of his most captivating tricks, the three-card trick. He lays out a three of diamonds, a four of clubs and a five of spades, all face up. Carefully, he flips each card over one by one, keeping them in order.
He singles out a young blonde woman. “Can you tell me which card is the four of clubs, please?”
She chooses the card in the middle with confidence. Before revealing it, He flips over the other cards, the three of diamonds and five of spades. He flips over the middle card. It’s not the four of clubs. It’s the queen of spades. The young woman is speechless. He picks up all three cards, fans them out and shows the audience. Now, the queen of spades had turned back into the four of clubs. The young woman’s mouth is wide open.
“How did that happen?” says the young woman. “That is insane.”
A young boy leans towards his sister and whispers, “How did he do that?”
Facing an open-jawed and wide-eyed audience, the magician continues with the performance. “Can anybody tell me where the queen is? Does anyone know where the queen is right now?” Everyone is silent. “I’ll tell you where the queen is,” he says. “She’s in Buckingham Palace, that’s where she is.” The silence is replaced with laughter.
He continues with a new trick and whips out a deck of cards, showing the audience that each card is different. He fans the entire deck across the table, face down. He asks a man wearing a leather jacket to pick a card. The man pauses, contemplating which one to choose.
“You’re quite slow,” the magician comments. “Do you work for the post office?”
The man finally chooses a card, keeping it hidden from the trickster. He reveals the card to the rest of the audience. The magician interrupts. “Just make sure you remember that nine of hearts, sir.” The man smiles and returns the card. Indeed, it was a nine of hearts.
“Yes, we British are very clever,” says the UK magician. “That’s how we won the Empire. I don’t quite know why we lost it.”
“Now, I know what you’re thinking,” he continues. “You’re thinking that all the cards were nine of hearts. Well, you’re wrong.” He flips through the entire deck of cards, revealing each card to be different. “I told you. They’re all different. If they were all nine of hearts, it would look like this.” He quickly fans the same deck of cards across the table, revealing them now to be all nine of hearts. A bewildered woman grabs her partner’s arm and hides her face in his sleeve. “Don’t worry, though,” says the magician. “They’re not all nine of hearts because like I told you, they’re all different.” He collects the deck and flips through it once more, revealing all the cards to be different again.
Some audience members look at each other in astonishment. Some simply gaze at the cards. A teenager stares intently at the deck, rubbing his chin, trying to figure out how the trick was done. The bewildered woman and her partner are impressed. “How much is it for those cards?” asks the woman’s partner.
The snake is $5. The magic cards with instructions are $10. A cup-and-ball trick is $5 and the three-card trick is $3.
“You can have the entire package, which comes with a book of 102 tricks, for just $20, but you can have my mother-in-law for free.” The audience laughs. “This entire package comes with a money back guarantee,” says the salesman/magician “Providing you can find me”
Meanwhile, the young boy who wanted to buy Jeremy the Magic Snake pushes through the crowd and returns with his weary-looking mother. “He won’t stop begging me,” she says. “He has been begging me to buy the snake this entire time. I give up.” She lets out an exhausted giggle as she reaches into her purse to purchase the toy snake.
With the toy snake in his hands, the boy walks away with a smile on his face