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LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements




January 2014

I Got Your Pulled Pork Right Here

With the help of a cornucopia of pills, I can usually function well enough to make the casual observer think I am a normal person with just the same everyday ups and downs as anyone else. I have some skills as an actor (less than DeCaprio, more than Stallone).  These are the times when I am sound in both body and mind. When I am troubled in just one of these areas I come across as a tad eccentric but charming and witty. When I am unsound in body and mind at the same time, people two blocks away from where I'm walking will say, “My God, there’s a crazy man heading this way.”

I recently had a session of being cuckoo and physically impaired simultaneously which is one reason why it’s been so long since my last column.

Sciatica hit me first. I sneezed while I was putting on a sock and my whole body fell apart. The pain was too severe for me to even wish on Criss Angel. A few pills the size of those given to horses before a big race modified the pain but didn’t help with the limited movement that accompanied it.


Then came an onset of depression. Deep depression. I sit and cry and I look out the window and wonder why all of those people passing by can seem so oblivious to the slings and arrows of this mortal coil. The only thing that gets me through the day is my wife Lillian reminding me that these spells have come before and eventually they always go away. 


So now I am back to my normal state, which means I am stressed out much of the time but not all of the time.


A column overdue? Well, as my last column was only a brief outline of my life, it didn’t tell things I do and think about, which are the causes of much of the stress.


So here are a few, in no particular order:


What is pulled pork, and where is it pulled from, and is it possible to push it back?


I know people in the theatre do not call the play Macbeth by its name. They call it “The Scottish Play.” This bit of foolishness is all right for legitimate actors, writers, and directors, but people who have once had a walk-on in a summer stock play and may not even have had a line will call it that. They think this makes them part of the theatre world when they are really just sounding silly. Now that I think about it, I think it’s ridiculous for the legitimate theatre world as well. They do not call Hamlet “The Denmark Play,” nor The Tempest “The Play That Is On An Island.”  Henry the VIII is not referred to as “The Play About This Fat Guy Who Eats A Lot And Has His Wives Beheaded.” I could give a few more examples, but this is adding to my stressful nature.


When I ask where something is I too often get a reply like “It should be on the kitchen table.” I already know where it SHOULD be. I want to know where it IS.


Many people now pronounce the “t” in the word “often.” No harm done, but it does make me edgy.


The same is true of “different than” instead of “different from.” I come across this in newspapers and magazines and one of the latter is The New Yorker, which means the end of the world is probably near.


It’s unlikely for me to get through the day without someone saying, “Can I ask you a question?” I always say “No.” I used to say “You just did” but that was too baffling for them to understand.


There was a celebrity elephant parade in Cincinnati. I don’t mean the elephants were the celebrities. The people who rode on them were, and I had a tenuous connection to the term celebrity because I had a cult following from my radio and nightclub work. The elephants were all lined up and gently lowered their heads so the riders could get on. Looked okay to me. When my turn came, I asked the trainer how well mine behaved and he said, “I don't know. Betsy ain’t been rid yet.” My complexion suddenly matched the skin of the pachyderm. When Betsy stood up with me sitting just in back of her head, I learned that an elephant looks even bigger when you are looking down from it than it does when you are looking up at it.


I have a few hundred more examples but recalling that elephant ride has made me nervous so I have to end this column and decide which pills I need to take.

 

Jack Clements

######


About our columnist: Jack Clements is a noted boxing authority, comedy writer and greeting card writer. He has a great love for jazz, and fortunately for us... MAGIC.  Jack is also “The Wizard Bouncer of Magic Inc.”  Little Jack's Corner is updated as often as we can get a column out of Jack.


Previous Issues of Jack’s Corner may be found below.





January 2013

The Last Laugh

 

Mentalism is the current fad in magic. Magicians don’t like things being called fads. They prefer to call them “extensions of boundaries in the art of magic” “new ways to increase your bookings and attract women” and some say there is a difference between mentalism and mental magic. The former being a way to read your mind and tell you where you wish you were instead of being in their venue at this time and the other is to force a card and then say... ”is the card you are thinking of red? And... Help me now... get a picture of it in your mind” and after a moment or two of bad acting as if they are straining their brain to say “Aha... it is the nine of diamonds” and then hold their hands in applause position.

 

Whatever. To me, mentalism done well is one of the most baffling and entertaining magic performances.

 

The caveat is “done well.”

 

I recently attended a lecture by Banachek which was way more than just well done... it was outstanding.

 

When it’s done badly is the worst.

 

I shall now give you an example and you can decide which category it belongs in:

 

“I can read your mind and tell you exactly what you are doing right now. At this very moment you are reading this column. Right? Gotcha!”

If you care to book me for a show, just contact Magic Inc.

Actually, I don’t do mentalism. I tried once and got a hernia doing a paper tear. (Digression. Refer to my monograph on “how to use a truss as a topit.)

 

I did say that when it’s done well, it is highly entertaining, and entertaining is the key word. Like most members of the magic community, I am angered by those who pretend they really can read minds, instead of the performers who announce at the beginning that they are just putting on a show and have no ESP or real mind-reading ability.

 

Worse are the phony psychics.

 

Actually phony is redundant when referring to psychics. While there are some who admit they are doing regular tricks, too many pretend they are the real thing. We can ignore those small storefronts which house so called gypsy fortunetellers because they’re usually empty and are actually just money laundering.

 

It’s the ones who come to events and pretend they can read the past, future and your credit account who really bug me.

 

A few years ago I attended monthly meetings of a mystery writers club. Mystery Writers of America, I think.

 

One night a man came in with a “psychic” who supposedly had helped the police solve a crime.

 

When he introduced her he said she could read auras and know your name without being told and could also predict your future.

 

I raised my hand and said the last time I heard somebody talk like this he took off his hat and birds flew from the top of his head.

 

This didn’t go over well. I was surprised at how many there were actually buying this crap.

 

The lady came on and I asked her if my aura went well with what I was wearing and she said it was neutral. Then she said she could also tell when people were going to die. This is a common gimmick of these bottom feeders. They pretend to know something you would be afraid to ask.

 

I asked her anyway.

 

She said she never tells anyone this.

 

I said I was asking because I wanted to know if I should renew my subscription to The New Yorker.

 

That was the last time either she or her companion called on me.

 

I couldn’t believe some of the questions the others asked. They were actually buying into this whole scam.

 

“Will I continue being in good health and will that embarrassing rash go away?” “Will I win the lottery?” “How long will my dog be in heat?” You know, the usual things we think about.

 

I did ask one question.

 

“Should my Aunt Elsie have the operation her doctor recommends?

The lady said, “Yes.”

 

At that time my Aunt Elsie had been dead for twelve years. I left the meeting with a feeling of satisfaction. It’s always nice when you can out-scam a scammer.

 

Jack Clements

 

######


July 2012*


It's been a long, long time since my last column, but I've been on a long, long journey, though I haven't left the block I live on.

My starting point was depression, and then I moved to apathy. Then came insomnia, caused by my lying awake and worrying about which would be the thing that would kill me—a comet colliding with earth or the sun burning out—you now, the usual mundane stuff we all think about, but not to the point of obsession.

Finally I got to anxiety, which is my natural state, so know I can write again.

I was sitting in my reserved chair at Magic Inc. wondering what to write about when a man came in and asked for SUGAR RUSH and the demonstrator quickly got it for him. I thought the name sounded more like the result of eating a lot of candy instead of a magic trick. It occurred to me that there are a lot of magic tricks with names that give you no idea of what the tricks are, or even that they ARE magic tricks.

Okay. Now pretend you have no knowledge of magic at all. Nada. No familiarity with the names of tricks and what you might think when you hear them.

For example, let us take PERKY PENNY. This sounds like the name of those waitresses who always say, “Good morning, honey. Are we starting off with coffee this lovely day?” and I always say no because it always make me think she intends to join me.

CHINESE STICKS. They must be those things you eat Chinese food with and often stick one in your eye because you aren't good at handling them .

HOUDINI'S TOOTH. Chris Marshall says it is perfectly clear, because it's obvious it's about a tooth that escapes. He invented the trick, so he is biased and I told him he is coo coo and #2 just to ask a layman what it is. He wasn't convinced but he did give me a good one – PROFESSOR'S NIGHTMARE. Could be a nasty dream a college professor would have about Viagra being taken off the market.

TROUBLE WIT? A guy from Brooklyn saying, “da trouble wit Obama is he ain't edjucated.”

A kid tells his father he bought SCOTCH AND SODA that afternoon and the shop would be cited for selling alcohol to a minor.

Then there is NFW. Even a lot of magicians know it's a card trick but don't know what the letters stand for, which is NO FEASIBLE WAY.

Ask a friend if he would like to see TWISTED SISTERS and he would no doubt expect you to take him to see a pair of female contortionists or perhaps a just discovered film with Charlotte and Emily Bronte going at it in a most surprising way.

THREE ROPES AND A BABY? Sounds more perverse than even the Bronte ladies.

ODDBALL. HOT ROD. MONKEY BAR. Even a magician new to the craft might have to ask what they are and what they do.

Thank goodness Sandy Marshall is good at descriptive titles, as demonstrated, for example, by his title of his award winning biography of his father Jay – BEATING A DEAD HORSE.

One evening Sandy and his friend Simon Lovell were enjoying a gentlemanly few hours of wine tasting and between dainty sips they invented a new trick, which they entitled EXPLODING FERRET.

Now there's an example of how to name a trick. It tells you what it is, what it does, and even a hint as to how to do it.

*Editor's Note: Jack had this column to us in June but we were unable to get it posted until July.
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                  ######

January 2012

Practice makes perfect? Not for me it doesn’t. At least, not when I’m trying to improve a card sleight. I found this out early, way back in my teens. I was fooling around with a deck of cards and “invented” what I now know is a standard sleight — the top slip force. I kept trying it and figured it was something that really couldn’t be done without it talking and gave it up. Years later I found it in a book on card tricks. Aha! So someone else had beat me to my discovery! So I tried again, and again, and kept trying for years. Still talked. In fact it made so much noise my neighbors complained. Same thing with the pass. Mine wouldn’t fool Stevie Wonder. In thirty years no one has ever taken the card I want them to take when I do the classic force.

I gave up on the classic force and changed to a deck where all the cards are the same. For this I use a deck switch, by saying I am thirsty and going to the kitchen to get a drink of water and I bring back a regular deck. Even this has its problems. Sometimes I forget which deck I used for my “force” and bring back one that is a different color, or even a different brand.

I was talking about this to Pedro, manager of Magic Inc., and he said yes, practice did make perfect but imperfect practice made imperfect. I don’t recall his exact words but he said he was quoting some football coach and gave his name, which I have forgotten.

I wasn’t impressed because I don’t know what a football coach has to practice. I mean, his job is to line up eleven oafs with brain concussions and say “You are the offense. After someone mangles the “The Star-Spangled Banner” you will stand in a crouch face to face against men like you who also have college degrees and are mostly illiterate. They will be wearing different color uniforms from yours. They will try to keep you from scoring a touchdown, so be sure you are running in the direction YOU are facing. That is very important. Also, when you throw the ball, throw it to someone in the same color uniform as yours. This is also important. From time to time you will sit down on the bench and your teammates, the ones wearing the same color uniforms as yours, will replace you. They are called the defense. They want to keep the players they are facing, the guys in the different color uniforms, from getting past them because those men will want to score too. You and your teammates will alternate men every now and then. Remember, some of you will want to score . You are called the offense, and the men facing you want to keep you from scoring and they are called the defense. They will have brain concussions too, so you will be evenly matched. I’ll draw all this information on a white board and use circles and x’s to help you remember.”

If perfect practice is this easy I am more confident about my ability to practice perfectly.

So, now I have decided I will go back to Card College I and practice what it says and try to copy what the pictures show.

To be sure I’m practicing perfectly instead of imperfectly, I am going to show Pedro each move I am studying and have him take a deck of cards and demonstrate what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong . We will do this for two hours every day until we get through Card College IV.

I haven’t told Pedro this yet. I want to make it a surprise, so he will learn what we’re going to be doing together when he reads this column.

I hope I’m there when he reads it. I want to see the expression of happy anticipation on his face.

                                                                                                               # # #

July 2011


I had been a little down for a while, but I was cheered up when my Magic Inc. family hosted a roast for me on my birthday on May 6. My age is still in double figures, but HIGH double figures, so that was the theme of the evening. Sandy Marshall opened with a bunch of old age jokes - he said when I was young rainbows were in black and white - and that was one of the gentler ones.

It’s unlikely I will still be around when Sandy reaches the age I was at the roast, so I won’t be able to retaliate in person. Therefore I am supplying a list of jokes now about Sandy and his eventual old age.

Sandy is so old:
He can remember when Saturday Night Live was funny.
He was the first magician to say “Take a card.”
He calls John Calvert “son.”
He flew business class on the first flight at Kitty Hawk.
His sex drive has been in park for decades.
When someone talks about a movie he asks if it is a “talkie.”
He planted much of the Redwood Forest.
He got wounded at the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
The last person to call him “Dude” was Warren G. Harding.
He yelled “louder!” when Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.
He always gave water to the horse when his mail was delivered.
He said to Alexander Hamilton, “Relax, Aaron Burr is a lousy shot.”
Once while on a bus he saw a man give a pregnant woman his seat.
He has met all of his favorite composers - Gershwin, Kern, Ellington, Brahms, Beethoven and Bach.
He denies he knew Julius Caesar. Says it was AUGUSTUS Caesar he was friendly with.
He knew Alexander before he was great.
He lost money when he bet on Goliath.
He told Moses he should have put quotation marks around the Ten Commandments.
His birth certificate was written on papyrus.
When the Titanic sank he told a woman, “I’m sorry, madam, but this life boat is full.”
He cried when he left the cage open and his pterodactyl flew away.

In closing, Sandy, my friend, I wish for you to have so many years ahead of you that these jokes will be appropriate.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements

February 2011


As I was fooling around with a deck of cards the other day I tried to recall what was the first card trick I learned, and decided it must have been the Twenty-One card trick. You know, three rows of cards, seven in a row and the person just thinks of a card and you pick them up and lay them down again in a certain order, and the card arrives at a place which tells you what card the person is thinking of. (I’m describing it because with YouTube and the proliferation of DVDs some young readers may never have seen it, and are doing side steals and classic forces instead.) As for the rest of us, I’m guessing 90% began with this one. I started to lay the cards out as I remembered them, but it’s been so long since I’ve done it that I’ve forgotten just exactly how the rows are picked up and put down again. Plus it occurred to me that even if I did learn HOW to do it I still wouldn’t know WHAT makes it work. That started bugging me soon after it was taught to me, and thinking about it ruined much of my childhood. From time to time I still dream about it, and I’d almost give that nightmare up for the one in which I dream I’m married to Joan Rivers.

Eventually I asked Pedro, manager of Magic Inc. not to show it to me, but to explain what makes it do what it does. I said nobody who does it really knows, but they just won’t admit it.

Pedro said it was just based on a simple mathematical principle. To me a simple mathematical principle is an oxymoron. My mind doesn’t think that way. I can add and subtract and do long division, as long has it doesn’t have decimal points but that’s it. (When I was in my freshman algebra class my teacher asked me “How do you find the circumference of a circle?” I said, “I ask Joyce Ernst,” the girl who sat right in back of me. Flunked the course.) My life’s been that way since. I don’t drive so I don’t need to know how many miles I get to a gallon, and I seldom handle money because my wife knows how to tip at a restaurant, and this is all I need to get by.

But--certain card tricks? In addition to the ancient Twenty-One, here is Shufflebored, also sold as “The Little Bunny Card Trick.” You hand the person for whom you are doing the trick some cards and you keep some and he or she turns a packet over and you do the same unless you decide to keep it right side up and then he or she does the same thing. You both keep reversing your packets and laying them on each others, right side up or not, and after you exchange them for a while the cards are laid out and you read a prediction and the layout is exactly as your prediction says.

I do this one sometimes and it always works BUT I DON’T KNOW WHY!!!!

Luis, a demonstrator at Magic Inc. does a good perfect Faro and once he told me that if you do eight of them, the cards will end up back in the exact order they were before the shuffle. I asked how they did that and Luis said he didn’t know; they just did.

Now I have THAT to think about, and I am on too much medication as it is.

I’d ask Pedro, but if I ask him too many questions he says, “First, look at this and gets out some scratch and sketches what the universe was like before the Big Bang and I just can't go through that again.

So I’ve finally given up and I'm going to do my best to accept these tricks for what they are, and to get rid of the nerve-wracking dreams. I’ll choose a book to read to calm me down before I fall asleep. I don’t want it to be a big heavy novel or a history book; just something light and I found a nice small one that looks promising. It’s by someone named Martin Gardner and I’m looking forward to relaxing with it.

# # # 

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements

October 2010

When I was in grade school a local magician put on a show in the school auditorium. The admission charge was 25 cents.

The magician introduced himself and his assistant.

Then he said, “Boys and girls I am going to mystify and entertain you. Your part of the show is to give me a little of this” – and he clapped his hands indicating applause. “Don’t wait until the end – just show me how much you like each trick with a little –” and he again gave us lessons in applauding.

The show was okay, and when he did a trick we applauded. Sometimes when we weren’t impressed by a trick and the applause was light, he said “remember –” and again clapped his hands and we all did likewise.

At the end of the show he bowed and we clapped our hands, and he cupped his ears indicating we weren’t applauding loudly enough so we just hit our hands harder and he bowed again and walked offstage and the show was over.

I hadn’t seen many live shows of any kind, but I had seen a few and no performer ever asked for applause.

I thought it was just an eccentricity of that particular magician, but a few months later a different magician gave a show at the neighborhood movie theatre and before he started he said, “Now, I want to hear all of you out there applauding during the show and if you want to whistle too that’s even better.” So he did his show and we clapped our hands virtually by command but I don’t think anyone whistled.

I thought maybe all magicians virtually demanded applause as part of their tradition.

Then I saw Blackstone Senior. He got applause all through his act although he hadn’t asked for it – but when he brought an elephant on stage and made it disappear there was the sound of thunder.

I hadn’t thought about this in years – decades, really, until I saw Ricky Jay and his 52 friends. At one point he threw cards at a watermelon and they all pierced the skin and went into the melon, like sharp blades.
Then he looked at us and said, firmly “...and usually that brings a round of applause.” Now Ricky is not one about whom the word “charm” would be used. In fact, he’s actually a little scary looking so we all applauded, more out of fear than appreciation, as it was a small theatre and the house lights were up and he could see each one of us and would no doubt recognize us if he saw us on the street.

Okay. Two local semi pro magicians and Ricky Jay asked for applause. Now I thought it was an eccentricity or simply bad manners. I mean, if you had someone over for dinner you wouldn’t ask your guests to give your prime roast beef a standing ovation, or to stomp on the floor and whistle when dessert was served.

But by this time I was a regular at Magic Inc. and have attended a lot of lectures. And when the lecturer does tricks many of them say things like, “You can applaud now” or “Thank you for that round of indifference” and we usually applaud, some of us out of pity.

During every lecture after a trick is taught, the lecturer holds his hands widely to his side or makes some other plea of supplication and says “...and this leaves you in applause position.”

I thought about some other performers I’ve seen over the years. Frank Sinatra didn’t ask for applause. He just came out and sang and during his first song there was applause and shouts of “We love you, Frank” even though Frank didn’t ask the audience if they indeed did love him.

I’ve been to a lot of jazz concerts and there are many times when a musician will stand up and do a solo and then sit down and the audience applauds. He does not hold his saxophone in the air in applause position.

Comedians, cocktail lounge singers, and pianists do not ask for applause. So I've come to the conclusion that magicians are the only people in show business who flatly come out and ask for applause.

I’m suggesting to any magicians reading this who aren’t getting applause without begging for it, maybe they should improve their act.

I’ll even tell you one way to get thunderous applause and foot stomping and whistles.

First, buy one elephant.....

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements

May 2010

It’s been so long since my last column for a time I forgot what it was about, until I remembered something about Sandy Marshall’s trying to read me parts from “Beating a Dead Horse”- his biography of his father Jay. This was before I bought it. I didn’t want to hear anything as I wanted to come across the stories myself. It got so that I had dreams in which Sandy would hide in back of a tree and when I passed by he’d leap out and say , “You’ll love this one about the London Palladium,” or “Look at this picture of Jay in his underwear.” 

Well, of course I bought it and thoroughly enjoyed it and found it informative and entertaining as I expected it to be. So many people I know have read it, and more than one has asked me to write a column of stories about Jay that weren’t in the book.  I thought this was a tough challenge. For one thing, as a writer Sandy has two more Emmys than I have, and for another of course he knew Jay for all of his life.

But then it occurred to me that there were times when I was around Jay when Sandy wasn’t. He didn’t come into Chicago as often then, and I was at the store every day, while Sandy was doing his world travels, producing something here, directing something there, and doing both here AND there.

So - here are a few memories that come to mind. First, though, I must tell you that Jay had the same effect on me that George Burns had on Jack Benny. Jack was known to go into fits of laughter at a mere hello from George, if the latter flicked his cigar a particular way when he said it.

I was walking with Jay on a spring day and I said "There are some really slow bloomers this year,” and Jay said, “I once knew a woman who had the fastest bloomers in town.” I almost fell down.

Another day we were walking and encountered a lady from the neighborhood who was notorious for stopping people and talking and talking. When you tried to move away she’d stay right in your face until you escaped. So on this occasion she was going on and on and on, and finally Jay said, “Well, it’s always nice to talk to you, but I must be getting home. I’m defrosting some salmon.” It was sheer will power that kept me from hysterics right there.

I said, “What made you come up with that one?” and Jay said, “Well, it worked, didn’t it?”

Once a local magician, (I'll call him Alfred; not his real name) gave a lecture at Magic Inc which was, by consensus, the worst lecture ever given in all of the years of Magic Inc hosting lectures. This was on a Saturday. On the following Monday Jay and I were sitting and talking in our usual chairs as we did most every day and this fellow comes in. I said to Jay, “Now there’s an example of “Undaunted Courage”, the title of a best selling history book at that time. Jay thought this was terrific, and when he laughed he often looked as if he was crying . As Alfred was leaving the store Jay recovered to say, “We were just saying how much you have in common with Lewis and Clark” which started both of us all over again and the poor guy in question left with a befuddled expression.

Some of my favorite incidents happened outside of the store , during restaurant dinners that Jay hosted for people he called “The Saturday Night Indigents.” Sandy has written about this, and how the number of guests ranged from as few as six to as many as fifteen or even twenty. 

Jay always sat at the end of the table and Elliot Cutler ( a regular) and I tried to sit on each side of him so he’d have someone to talk to and to listen to because he often said how bad his hearing was.

One night Elliot and I were farther away, halfway down the table, and it was noisy. Elliot and I were talking about the great old movie “Gunga Din” and I said,it wasn’t until I saw the movie that I knew the correct pronunciation of the the water boy's last name didn’t rhyme with IN but was pronounced Deen. Without looking up from his soup, Jay said “Gunga Din got a bullet in the spleen.” If I had had something in my mouth I would have needed the Heimlich Maneuver.

We usually ate at a place called O’Donovan’s. One time, though we ate at a different restaurant and as we were in line we looked at a photo of the Hindenburg going up in flames. I said, “It’s a miracle that there were any survivors.” 

Jay said, “Yes, I knew one of them. He was an acrobat. He broke his leg,” and told us his real name. He said he had a stage name, and Elliot Cutler asked what it was. He couldn’t think of it and all through dinner he was trying to recall it, but couldn’t, and that was driving him nuts.

A full week later we were at O’Donovan’s and as the waitress was laying down Jay’s plate Jay looked up and in a loud voice said “BEN DOVER dammit!” and she froze for a second and I spilled my iced tea and Jay said, “That was the stage name of the acrobat.”

There were so many more that I could think of but if I wrote them all this column would be as big as Sandy’s book.

I have no idea how these come across in print and maybe they don’t strike anyone else as funny. Maybe you had to be there. 

Well, I WAS there . . . and I’m so glad, so very glad that I was.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements

December 2009

When I intend to see a movie I want to know as little as possible about it. I don't want to know the ending, and I don't even want to know that it is a "trick" ending, because then I'll try to guess it, and I usually guess right. My wife and I put our fingers in our ears and look away from the screen during the trailers.

However, we do have problems with people who insist on telling us things about the movie we do not want to hear. The worst, and unforgivable example was the time a guy who was leaving "Psycho" just as I was buying my ticket said, "It's really a shocker. Tony Perkins dresses up like his dead mother and kills people. He stabs Janet Leigh to death while she's in the shower", and for years I've hoped the same thing happened to him.

Same with books. I don't want to hear much about them, and it's not just mysteries. It's books in general. I want to read them as a whole. I do want an idea of what the book is about, but I don't want to read excerpts from them, or if there are pictures I don't want to see them. I want the book to unfold with everything in context.

This has been a running problem lately at Magic Inc. Sandy Marshall, owner of Magic Inc., has written a book about his father Jay's life. It was a three and a half year effort for him and his wife Susan, who had the huge job of editing, checking sources, helping to find the many photographs and other chores that go along with a project like this, and without whom the book wouldn't have come out in its final form, neither in quality or as soon as it has.

The title of the book is BEATING A DEAD HORSE, a title Jay himself wanted to use because he said he did the same act for fifty years.

I have seen the book. I see it every day when I walk into the shop. It looks marvelous. But I won't be buying it until January, after the post-Christmas bills are paid.

Sandy knows this, but he doesn’t want me to wait that long to see or hear parts of it.

I explain this to him on a near daily basis, and on a near daily basis he comes to me, book in hand, and says, "Just let me read you this section, or show you this picture."

He approaches with book in hand, and I back away, covering my eyes and saying, “No! No!”

It's a scene like Dr. Van Helsing holding up a cross in front of Dracula.

I got to know and love Jay in his later years, and in conversations he told wonderful stories which were just suggest from a larger mine and I always wishes I heard more; that I knew more about what happened in all those earlier years.

And now, thanks to Sandy and Susan, I can.

But I want to have the experience of reading the book from the first of its 540 pages on and let the story unfold in context and I want to come across those parts that Sandy especially likes as they occur. The same with the pictures.

So I'm glad that I'll be getting it soon. I don't know how much longer my refusals and Sandy's enthusiasm can keep up the battle.

On final note. In full disclosure I must admit that I did look at two pages; the Index and the Acknowledgments to see if my name is there. It is. That's one thing Sandy didn't tell me. I think he wanted me to find out for myself.

(Note from Sandy to Jack: "Rosebud was his sled.")

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements

Summer 2009

There are two times when I almost fell out of my chair at Magic Inc. Once was from laughing so hard during a Jay Sankey lecture. The second time was more recent. It was when a thirteen-year-old boy came in. He was standing by the DVDs and when asked what he was looking for he said he'd like something on coin magic. When Head Demonstrator Ben (that title sounds like Ben demonstrates his head, but I'm digressing) started to show him some DVDs, the boy said "No. DVDs are okay, but I do better learning from books," and he bought the redundantly named but superb "New Modern Coin Magic" by Bobo. Now if this wasn't startling enough, Robert, who is fourteen and is a regular at the shop, was also there and he also prefers books to DVDs.

Astonishing and virtually unheard of. Two boys in their early teens who read books being in the store at the same time! The odds of that happening are bigger than the chances of winning the state lottery.

I don't know what the demarcation line is but I know it's partly generational. Somewhere there's a point where hardly anyone wants to learn from a book. They want DVDs. There was a time when they wanted video cassettes, but now these are considered something their grandparents watched years ago, when somebody named Frank Sinatra was a famous person.

The idea of reading a book just for pleasure is inconceivable, though some will read what are called graphic novels, which are really just comic books, but more expensive.

I'm one of the ancient beings who does better with books. I don't like other forms much. For example, I tried a talking book once, but every now and then I shouted "The hell you say!" and it just got me too upset.

DVDs can be a good teaching medium, especially with something like Svengali or Stripper Decks, which are easy to learn from the printed instructions, which just show how the tricks are done. The DVDs go farther and suggest ways to actually perform them.

I can use DVDs too, but in my own way.

For example I have the Killer Packet; a great collection of gaffed cards. I worked out that you can do 100,300,068 different tricks, of which 209 are almost self workers. It comes with two excellent DVDs.

So, when I played one of them and Simon Lovell showed a trick and then demonstrated the sleights I kept going back and looking at it again. And again. And once more. Couldn't get it. Then I got wise and started writing down the name of the move and then looking it up in "Card College." The problem here was after I practiced it I couldn't remember what trick it went with. Eventually I figured out that if I wrote down the name of the trick while I wrote down the name of the move I could find it again. It's a tedious process but when I'm through I have instructions written down on a piece of paper, and I can read them and practice without going back and forth with the DVD remote.

I suppose I could say I can have my DVD and read it too.

I hope this helps some of you who have the same problem I have, and if you've read this far it means you have a grasp of the written word and won't have to wait for this column to come out on a DVD.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements 

 

Remembering Jay Marshall
May 2009

Jay Marshall left this world on May 10, 2005. I think of him a lot, but even more than usual at this time of year. I was going to write a column about some of my memories of him, but couldn't think of anything new to say. Then I recalled a column I wrote about him just after he passed away. As I read it again I thought it expressed much of what I still recall. So, I am repeating it here:

I knew him first as a neighbor.

After years of living in apartments my wife Lillian and I decided it was time to buy a house. I left it up to her to check out the ads and when she found one she thought we'd both like I'd go with her to look at it. One day she came home and said , "I found just the one. There's a magic shop on the corner, and this house is just two houses away, so I'm taking that as an omen." This was because I had always had an interest in magic. Though it waned a bit through the years, from time to time I'd dig out my battered copy of the "Royal Road to Card Magic" and practice some sleights.

So we looked at the house together and bought it.

I went from peering in the window at the magic shop on the corner, to going in and buying a trick, to "just dropping in," then to hanging out and finally becoming a regular.

Now I have to back up a bit. I didn't know anyone in our new neighborhood, but one day soon after we moved in I was walking along the street, came to a corner at the same time as an old fellow I'd seen around. We said hello and he said, "I wonder what people with dyslexia think about all these corners that have signs that say POTS." I don't know how funny that comes across here, but the way he said it, the timing, if you will, cracked me up and I actually had to wait till I stopped laughing before I crossed the street.

By now of course you know that the old neighbor was Jay Marshall and the magic shop on the corner was Magic Inc.

It wasn't long before I connected the two.

As the years went on, Magic Inc., the demonstrators, and Jay became a major part of my life. They became my closest friends. I joined two magic clubs which expanded my circle of acquaintances and I got into magic more than ever before.

Lillian and I also became regular members of the group Jay called "The Saturday Night Indigents." This was a group that varied in size, as few as six and as many as twenty, who dined with Jay every Saturday night when he was in town. Jay always picked up the check. There was no way you could contribute or pay your share. We were his guests.

I could go on and on, and usually I do, but for now let's just say as I was around more I heard more and more about this fascinating man; about his show business career, about his collection of books and magic memorabilia, about his near total recall, but these stories are all known to anyone reading here and they're being repeated throughout the magic community via Internet and phone calls and gatherings of those who knew this fabulous man.

I know many of these stories myself, but for all of that, to me he was mostly a friend and a neighbor, a man who lived in back of that magic shop on the corner. A man whom I'd run into from time to time at the local Osco store, sometimes complaining about the price of laxatives, which he thought the government should pay for for a man his age. A man who bought lottery tickets at the corner convenience store, and when asked what he'd do if he won all those millions said, "I'd give some of it to Oprah Winfrey because I know she wouldn't spend it foolishly."

So, for all of his fame, I'll think mostly of losing my dear dear friend and most wonderful neighbor.

Just today, when I bought the newspapers at that convenience store, the lady who always sold him his lottery tickets said, "Gee, I'll really miss him. But, hey, he sure had a wonderful life."

Well, Jay, yes, when it's all added up you did have a wonderful life.

But, dammit, couldn't you have had it just a little bit longer?

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER

By Jack Clements 

 

It’s April; Time for March Madness.
April 2009

Early in March I made one of my rare stops at a bar and when I sat down I was afraid I had died and gone to hell. The place was filled with screaming idiots and there were almost as many TV screens as there were people. The fellow sitting next to me asked how I was doing with my bracket. I thought that was a highly personal question, especially coming from a stranger and I told him so. He apparently thought I was joking and he lifted his beer mug and said “Cheers!”

I gulped my soft drink down and got out of there before the authorities arrived to round everyone up, and I checked my pulse and found I was still alive and not in hell after all. Actually I had stumbled into a den of the demented during something called March Lunacy or Spring Break for the Criminally Insane or whatever the occasion was.

My son called me soon after I got home and I told him of my close call and he said this was March Madness,and I said that was how I had it pegged and then he told me that was the name of what was happening and asked , “Don't you watch basketball at all?” and I said no. I'm not interested in looking at a bunch of guys with overactive pituitary glands running back and forth and bouncing a ball. It's hard to avoid so-called highlights on the late night news, and it always set my nerves on edge when they would show a ball going into the basket and call it ”miracle shot.” I'm sorry, but the basket rim is wider in diameter than the ball. Now if the ball was the wider one, THAT would be a miracle.

My son is very enthusiastic about most sports. I used to watch baseball until the strike and almost got back into it and then the drug addicts took over and former 250 hitters started hitting the ball so often and so far that sometimes it was never seen again.

Football? A game played by hulks who have their I.Q.s printed on their backs for the amusement of their intellectual inferiors in the stands.

By avoiding sports for so long I don’t know the terminology any more. In football, I don't know what the secondary is. I have no idea what a nickel defense (or is it offense?) is nor what is called a quarterback sneak, except it sounds unsportsmanlike. In basketball a player gets high praise for scoring a triple-double. I don't know what that is either but I'm sure his mother is proud.

After that call from my son I was distressed that he too was one of the rabble. My mind was all fuddled up and I headed out to Magic Inc. As I walked in Sandy Marshall, heir apparent of the venerable shop, was explaining that it's phonetically Day, not Dye Vernon because it's short for David.

Manager Pedro Nieves said he hadn't done the Braue Reversal in a while and wanted to get back to it. Head demonstrator, Ben Whiting, asked me to look at his Zarrow Shuffle which he was able to do without the slip cut, and I asked him to help me with the Elmsley. A customer said he couldn't find his Erdnase and he asked if he could look up the Erdnase system of cull shuffling.

By the time I left my mind was at ease. It was just so nice to be around people speaking in a language that made sense again.

(Note: The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Magic Inc.)

# # #

 

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER

by Jack Clements

February 2009

If you are reading this in April, it means I have already broken one New Year's resolution, which was to write these columns more often. I've been wary of making these resolutions because of one I made years ago and tried to keep. It was "Learn to Drive This Year," which up to that time I had failed to do. My high school driver's education teacher offered to give me a passing grade if I promised NOT to continue taking his class. I still had faith though, and some years later I applied for a job where one requirement was to be able to drive and I lied and said I was learning. I got the job and was there for about three weeks when my boss asked me to drive him over to a subsidiary of our place. We didn't make it that far. On the way I made a right turn, bumped into a car that was waiting at the light and then went through a low brick wall and into the lawn of a factory where some workers were sitting and eating their lunches. Sandwiches flew in the air as people ran for their lives.

The results? I actually got a raise because I had to pay my boss for the damage to his car, to the other car and for the repair of the brick wall, none of which I could do on my beginning salary. By the time I had everything paid off I got so good at my job that I was transferred to a better department, one that didn't need someone who drove. On the other hand I never tried again so I don't have a driver's license; the most accepted form of identification in our car-worshipping society. Therefore officially I do not exist.

I'm not able to convince clerks and other forms of life that I am standing right on front of them but they say I can't prove it. I even had a bank refuse to let me open a bank account because I had no means to prove who I was, and I was the one giving them the money.

The only card I carry with my name on it is the one that shows I am a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Then just a little while ago I heard a wonderful story told by Jerry Sharff, president of IBM Ring #43.

He was at a big wedding and he was preparing to photograph it, but before he got all of his equipment set up he was approached by two gentlemen who asked to see his identification, because they said only union members were allowed to take pictures of this event. As a photographer Jerry had never run into this, so he started taking cards out of his wallet to see if he could find some identification that might work and as he did so he happened to show his IBM membership card. When these two guys saw the word “BROTHERHOOD” they immediately relaxed and gave him a hearty welcome because they thought brotherhood obviously referred to him as a member of a union.

Great!

So now I have an I.D. card. I haven't had a chance to try it yet but I am eager to. Oh yes, the factory whose brick wall I ran into? It was, honest, the United States Playing Card Company. So, if you came across a bad batch of Bicycle cards years ago, it's probably because they were made by some shaky workers with unsettled nerves.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER

by Jack Clements 

September 2008

It was a day like many others. I was hanging out at Magic Inc. and was just putting my cards into my pocket after manager Pedro Nieves helped me with a problem when I saw the shape out of the corner of my eye. As it got closer I could make out that it was a young guy in his late teens. I braced myself for the inevitable. “I see you have a deck of cards in your hand,” he said. "Well, I'll be damned," I said.

"So that's where they've gone to. Thanks, I've been looking all over for them." The sarcasm didn't get through. It never does.

"May I borrow them?" he asked politely, and I resigned myself and handed them over.

He did a card trick, not bad, and with a few sleights. After he revealed my card, using his favorite method, he looked expectantly at me. I knew from experience that he expected me to come forth with astonishment and praise. I smiled weakly and looked at the clock and made my getaway by pretending I was late for something. It happens too many times. It's usually a nice guy in his late teens who wants to show me his awesome talent. Even if I know how the trick is done I am supposed to gush about his dazzling skill and stunning presentation. I give him another of my weak smiles as I am wondering how to get away, perhaps by faking a heart attack, as I do not want to disappoint the lad. I like to see card tricks.

I like to watch guys exchange ideas or work out moves. It's one of the things that make magic shops fun. If a guy gets too cocky though, and threatens to show me more tricks to prove he's equal to Dai Vernon and will soon be superior to him, I explain: "Bill Malone sometimes drops in and shows card moves right here on the counter."

Thanks to Magic Inc.'s long history of lectures, I've seen Richard Turner. I've seen Daryll. Darwin Ortiz. I've seen Terrence Francisco, former Magic Inc. demonstrator, practically make the aces jump out of the deck and sing "I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time" in four-part harmony. I am not easy to impress. One day one of the young guys who often comes into the store showed off his latest learned skill; holding the deck in one hand he cut it into five parts and then slipped them back into the pack in any order he chose. The aforementioned Terrence then fooled him with a self-worker. Then there is Max. He is not a teenager. He is hovering around middle age. If he corners you, he'll shove a deck in your face and say, "Look! Look! Four queens. Boom! Now four kings!!" And to be sure you notice this marvel, he will tell you what he just did. "I turned the queens into kings, right in front of your eyes. Now look! Look!" Max would show card tricks at a funeral. He admits he is addicted, but can't find a twelve-step program for someone who can't stop showing double lifts and false shuffles.

Since my last column, I've been in and out of the hospital again, but not so serious this time. Naturally, I didn't like being there, so I tried to find at least one positive aspect — and then felt some relief at being away from these self-styled master cardicians. When I awoke from the anaesthesia, there was an intern at the foot of my table. I've been waiting for you to wake up so I can show you this.”

Then he started to lay out the three rows of cards, seven in each one. I sighed. But at least I wouldn't have to pretend to be mesmerized by his uncanny sleight-of-hand.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER

by Jack Clements 

 

Magic of the Heart
May 2008

When I'm asked what my religion is, I reply, truthfully, that I am a devout coward. It's no surprise, then, that when my doctor told me I needed a mitral valve replacement and a triple bypass I had a feeling of stark terror. More frightening than the operation was the thought of general anesthesia. Too often I've read newspaper articles with headlines like MAN DIES WHILE GETTING TOE FUNGUS REMOVED. ANESTHESIA THE CAUSE. Up to now I had avoided it all my life, insisting on a local only, but in this case local wasn't an option.

My chest would be cut open and my ribs pulled apart. Plus they like to stop for lunch while you're out and they don't want you to know that. The operation took ten hours and my wife said at one point the doctor said. “I haven't seen anything like this in years,” a comment I'm glad I didn't hear. Like OOPS! it's something you don't want your surgeon to say. When I came to I saw a blurry vision of a nurse and I asked “Where am I?” and she said “ICU” and I said “I see you too, but where am I?” and my wife, who was there from the beginning, and who knows how my mind works, said “You are in the Intensive Care Unit." I was surprised to learn that the operation had been five days earlier.

Because I was under so long, I lost all my strength, so when I was released from the ICU I was taken to the Rehabilitation Unit, which is like the Tower of London. I was depressed because I couldn't walk or do anything that required the least amount of energy, such as holding a glass or feeding myself. Luckily I was cheered up by visits from my Magic Inc. “family” and cards and visits from the members of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. and The Wizards; two organizations to which I belong. It was a visit from a member of the IBM that was especially helpful. He brought me a deck of cards.

And when I tried to open it I couldn't and it was even too heavy for me to hold. He laid the deck on my bedside table. Then I began to see improvement, which I wasn't sure was happening. The days went by and then next time I reached for the deck I was able to pick it up, a few days later to get the cards out of the case, later still to actually shuffle them, and finally even to do a card trick for a few nurses. It was a self worker but it baffled them and got a good reaction.

This deck meant so much to me because I was making progress in general but it was slow and I couldn't measure it, but with cards I could, plus they were a great exercise for my hands. One day the unit doctor came by while I was fooling with the cards and he asked if I could do a trick and I did. Same trick, and it fooled him too. Then I asked him if I would be able to do a perfect Faro when my therapy was over, and he said,

“I don't know what that is, but I'm sure you will,” and I said, "All together now on the count of three.... one, two, three... “THAT'S FUNNY. I COULDN'T DO IT BEFORE!

Add your own rim shot.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER

by Jack Clements

Winter 2008

Invariably on a day in winter when the sun is shining and the temperature is above 30 some idiot will say, “Nice day, isn't it?” and my reply is always, “Then how come the beaches are closed?” The idea of a nice day in winter is a ridiculous concept. I do not like winter and I do not even like people who do. Winter brings me cabin fever, and when that goes on too long, say for about four hours, instead of sitting around the house I go to my neighboring magic store, Magic Inc. and sit around there instead, where the sitting around is much more fun.

Before winter even officially begins, Magic Inc. is lively with pre-Christmas shoppers; those looking for gift sets for their youngsters and the professionals buying new tricks for their seasonal Christmas private parties or just to update their acts. Then after Christmas those lucky enough to get gift certificates come in to redeem them and as the chill season goes on there are a lot of people who, like me, would rather sit inside and practice a new trick, read a book or watch a DVD on magic instead of sitting in a boat hidden among weeds and making sounds that go honk honk in an attempt to lure geese or whatever it is they do.

Winter Saturdays bring an especially fun sanctuary. That's when the magicians themselves come in and attempt to outdo each other and the customers keep the demonstrators extra busy. One of my favorite Saturdays was a few years ago when Jay was still with us. It was a cold, grey afternoon and Jay had gone somewhere on an errand for a friend and while he was out the store got jammed. One woman was in from Los Angeles with a group of friends and she bought the complete Tarbell set for her nephew, a wonderfully precocious 12-year-old who had begged her to stop in the legendary store to get this phenomenal gift and also promise she would come back with an autograph from Jay Marshall.

So here's the scene. Store crowded. A juggler is testing out clubs, a demonstrator is doing a wonderful linking ring routine while another was dazzling a teenager with card moves that he too “would be able to learn from a certain DVD,” three magicians showing each other new moves, and the other regular guys who, like me, hang out there on a steady basis. The woman seeking the autograph and her friends weren't the only ones eager to see the great Jay Marshall, in person.

I looked across the street and half way up the block Jay was shambling to the store. “He's coming,” I said. “He'll be here in a couple of minutes.” The crowd stood facing the door, waiting for the Great One to arrive, and, as he got there, I opened the door and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, here he is, the one and only Jay Marshall!” and everyone in the store applauded. Jay stood silent for a while, checked out the scene, held up a package and spoke to the assemblage. “Nine dollars,” he said waving the bag in his hand. “Nine dollars for rat poison.” Silence for a moment from the shoppers while those of us who knew him fell out laughing hysterically. I don't have a finish for this story. As always, it's best to let Jay have the last word.

# # #

 

 

 





August 2013

You Don't Know Jack!

Some readers of my too sporadic columns have asked for details about me, and a lot of customers at Magic Inc. also find me bewildering (“Who is this guy?  What is his background?”), so I'm writing a very condensed outline of my life for this column.

 

I was born in Cincinnati in 1931.

 

I had a brother four years old and a sister, who was ten. Both are gone now.

 

My mother died when I was six months old. My father, sister and brother and I moved in with my maternal grandparents.

 

I started grade school in 1937 and got high grades in everything except mechanical training. I injured my thumb with a screwdriver and throughout the rest of the year at least one of my fingers was bandaged. I got a D.

 

I didn't do well in gym class either. In eight years of softball I never got a hit or caught a ball. They made me an umpire.

 

When I was about ten my father took us to see Blackstone. Biggest, best, most colorful show I had ever seen. I saw him again the next year and was equally overwhelmed.

In the eighth grade a friend and I went to see Danté. He was wonderful and had a subtle sense of humor.

 

I graduated from grade school in 1945 and entered high school in September of that year.

In the first semester my biology teacher made me stand up and told the class I specifically was what was wrong with public education in America.           

 

I got sassy with my algebra teacher while I was doing problems on the blackboard. I turned around and told her I didn't think in algebraic terms. I said, “My talents are the bon mot, the witty saying and urbane humor.”

                                                                                                                       

I got through the year and she gave me a passing grade. She said I didn't really earn it but she didn't want to fail me.                                                                                                                                               

I got depressed in my sophomore year and quit halfway through. This is when my real education began. I read voraciously. Somerset Maugham, Scott Fitzgerald and Shakespeare were my favorites.

 

I also got deeply into science fiction.

 

I got interested in magic. My first trick was the Svengali deck. There was no magic shop in Cincinnati so I read every book the library had and ordered tricks from catalogs. I soon found out that catalogs were no more truthful than the newspapers, so I just stuck mainly with cards.

 

When I was about fourteen I gave a magic show at the local library. It went over well.

My closer was the swallowing needles and thread trick. I pretended to swallow both. I don't remember how I did it but now it sounds too scary to ever do again.

 

I went back to school and finished my sophomore year.

 

I did a little boxing. I actually learned how to box from a book. Then I got obsessed with the sport and read everything about it, listened on radio, saw fights live and on television. I'm considered a boxing authority and historian by the boxing fraternity.

 

On Thanksgiving in 1947 my grandmother was hit by car and broke a hip. This meant a long hospital stay so my grandfather moved in with his son and daughter-in-law and I went to live with my brother, sister and brother-in-law.

 

I graduated from high school in 1950.

 

I got a job as a shipping clerk in a beauty supply store.

 

North Korea invaded South Korea. For no reason, our government got involved and started The Draft.

 

Luckily my vision was so bad that I could hardly find the eye chart, let alone the letters on it.

 

I also weighed about a hundred and ten pounds, and the only use they would have for me would be as a dummy for bayonet practice. I was 4-F.

                       

I married Bette Adkins, a girl I knew from high school, in August 1952. We eloped and got married in a grocery store in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Our witness was a man buying a head of cauliflower.

 

Our son Jeff was born on January 2, 1954.

 

I bought a copy of The Royal Road to Magic. I started doing card tricks for friends and relatives, and whomever I could corner.

 

I got a job as copywriter for an advertising firm.

 

Bette got pregnant in 1955. She contracted polio in September 1955. She was paralyzed from the neck down and couldn't breathe on her own. Our son Shawn was born in an iron lung on December 7, 1955.

 

Bette came home in 1957. She had to be on a breathing machine 24 hours a day.

 

I quit the ad agency because of erratic hours I needed regular hours so I could hire someone to take care of Bette while I was at work.

                                                                                                                                   

I went to work for 3m; called by its full name then — Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing.

                                                                                                                                               

I stayed three years until shuffling papers got me crazy. So I quit.

 

I'd been making people laugh all my life so I decided to do it for money. I wrote for nightclub comics and Phyllis Diller said I should write for myself.

 

She got me booked into clubs in San Francisco and New York and I got myself a gig at the original Playboy Club in Chicago. I couldn't stay in out of town clubs because Bette needed care 24 hours seven days a week and the people who were taking care of Bette were making more money than I was.

 

I worked steadily at clubs in Cincinnati and got a radio show on a jazz station. I interviewed many of the greatest artists in jazz history and hung out with a lot of them.

I have over 1500 LPs, and over 200 CDs; mostly jazz and standards. I have everything Frank Sinatra ever recorded.

                                                                                                                                               

Bette died on February 14, Valentines Day, 1964.

 

One night in 1967 Tom Wilson from American Greetings in Cleveland came into a club I was working and hired me to work in the Hi Brow studio to write studio cards, the funny ones. Nightclubs were drying up so I took the job. Co-workers were all zany creative artists and writers, so I fit right in. Tom created the cartoon character Ziggy. I wrote most of the Ziggy cards and calendars.

 

I took a leave of absence in 1970 because of a personal problem. I went back to Cincinnati. I was restless and depressed.

 

I moved to Chicago. In 1971 I met Lillian Petlak and we got married on June 9, 1972.

I was settled now and happy. We moved to Cleveland and I went back to the studio.

I still loved the job, but hated Cleveland. Dull, grey dismal town. I called it the Land of

Eternal February.                                                                                                                       

 

I got a contract to work at home in 1975 and we moved to Cincinnati, stayed for three years and then moved to Chicago.

 

I got a separate contract to write for the syndicated Ziggy cartoon. The contract ended when Tom Wilson's son took Ziggy over.

 

We lived in apartments in a couple of neighborhoods, and then decided to buy a house.

Lillian found one for sale and said, “It was an omen. There's a magic shop on the corner.”

 

The Magic shop was, of course, Magic Inc. I renewed my interest in magic. Joined the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

 

I'm in Magic Inc. virtually every day now and consider it my home away from home and think of those who work there and the couple who owns it my magic family.

 

I have an official title — The Wizard Bouncer.

 

I write an occasional column. This is one of them.



*Editor's Note: Jack had this column to us in July but we were unable to get it posted until August. 

######


About our columnist: Jack Clements is a noted boxing authority, comedy writer and greeting card writer. He has a great love for jazz, and fortunately for us... MAGIC.  Jack is also “The Wizard Bouncer of Magic Inc.”  Little Jack's Corner is updated as often as we can get a column out of Jack.

Previous Issues of Jack’s Corner may be found below.





January 2013

The Last Laugh

 

Mentalism is the current fad in magic. Magicians don’t like things being called fads. They prefer to call them “extensions of boundaries in the art of magic” “new ways to increase your bookings and attract women” and some say there is a difference between mentalism and mental magic. The former being a way to read your mind and tell you where you wish you were instead of being in their venue at this time and the other is to force a card and then say... ”is the card you are thinking of red? And... Help me now... get a picture of it in your mind” and after a moment or two of bad acting as if they are straining their brain to say “Aha... it is the nine of diamonds” and then hold their hands in applause position.

 

Whatever. To me, mentalism done well is one of the most baffling and entertaining magic performances.

 

The caveat is “done well.”

 

I recently attended a lecture by Banachek which was way more than just well done... it was outstanding.

 

When it’s done badly is the worst.

 

I shall now give you an example and you can decide which category it belongs in:

 

“I can read your mind and tell you exactly what you are doing right now. At this very moment you are reading this column. Right? Gotcha!”

If you care to book me for a show, just contact Magic Inc.

Actually, I don’t do mentalism. I tried once and got a hernia doing a paper tear. (Digression. Refer to my monograph on “how to use a truss as a topit.)

 

I did say that when it’s done well, it is highly entertaining, and entertaining is the key word. Like most members of the magic community, I am angered by those who pretend they really can read minds, instead of the performers who announce at the beginning that they are just putting on a show and have no ESP or real mind-reading ability.

 

Worse are the phony psychics.

 

Actually phony is redundant when referring to psychics. While there are some who admit they are doing regular tricks, too many pretend they are the real thing. We can ignore those small storefronts which house so called gypsy fortunetellers because they’re usually empty and are actually just money laundering.

 

It’s the ones who come to events and pretend they can read the past, future and your credit account who really bug me.

 

A few years ago I attended monthly meetings of a mystery writers club. Mystery Writers of America, I think.

 

One night a man came in with a “psychic” who supposedly had helped the police solve a crime.

 

When he introduced her he said she could read auras and know your name without being told and could also predict your future.

 

I raised my hand and said the last time I heard somebody talk like this he took off his hat and birds flew from the top of his head.

 

This didn’t go over well. I was surprised at how many there were actually buying this crap.

 

The lady came on and I asked her if my aura went well with what I was wearing and she said it was neutral. Then she said she could also tell when people were going to die. This is a common gimmick of these bottom feeders. They pretend to know something you would be afraid to ask.

 

I asked her anyway.

 

She said she never tells anyone this.

 

I said I was asking because I wanted to know if I should renew my subscription to The New Yorker.

 

That was the last time either she or her companion called on me.

 

I couldn’t believe some of the questions the others asked. They were actually buying into this whole scam.

 

“Will I continue being in good health and will that embarrassing rash go away?” “Will I win the lottery?” “How long will my dog be in heat?” You know, the usual things we think about.

 

I did ask one question.

 

“Should my Aunt Elsie have the operation her doctor recommends?

The lady said, “Yes.”

 

At that time my Aunt Elsie had been dead for twelve years. I left the meeting with a feeling of satisfaction. It’s always nice when you can out-scam a scammer.

 

Jack Clements

 

######


July 2012*

It's been a long, long time since my last column, but I've been on a long, long journey, though I haven't left the block I live on.

My starting point was depression, and then I moved to apathy. Then came insomnia, caused by my lying awake and worrying about which would be the thing that would kill me—a comet colliding with earth or the sun burning out—you now, the usual mundane stuff we all think about, but not to the point of obsession.

Finally I got to anxiety, which is my natural state, so know I can write again.

I was sitting in my reserved chair at Magic Inc. wondering what to write about when a man came in and asked for SUGAR RUSH and the demonstrator quickly got it for him. I thought the name sounded more like the result of eating a lot of candy instead of a magic trick. It occurred to me that there are a lot of magic tricks with names that give you no idea of what the tricks are, or even that they ARE magic tricks.

Okay. Now pretend you have no knowledge of magic at all. Nada. No familiarity with the names of tricks and what you might think when you hear them.

For example, let us take PERKY PENNY. This sounds like the name of those waitresses who always say, “Good morning, honey. Are we starting off with coffee this lovely day?” and I always say no because it always make me think she intends to join me.

CHINESE STICKS. They must be those things you eat Chinese food with and often stick one in your eye because you aren't good at handling them .

HOUDINI'S TOOTH. Chris Marshall says it is perfectly clear, because it's obvious it's about a tooth that escapes. He invented the trick, so he is biased and I told him he is coo coo and #2 just to ask a layman what it is. He wasn't convinced but he did give me a good one – PROFESSOR'S NIGHTMARE. Could be a nasty dream a college professor would have about Viagra being taken off the market.

TROUBLE WIT? A guy from Brooklyn saying, “da trouble wit Obama is he ain't edjucated.”

A kid tells his father he bought SCOTCH AND SODA that afternoon and the shop would be cited for selling alcohol to a minor.

Then there is NFW. Even a lot of magicians know it's a card trick but don't know what the letters stand for, which is NO FEASIBLE WAY.

Ask a friend if he would like to see TWISTED SISTERS and he would no doubt expect you to take him to see a pair of female contortionists or perhaps a just discovered film with Charlotte and Emily Bronte going at it in a most surprising way.

THREE ROPES AND A BABY? Sounds more perverse than even the Bronte ladies.

ODDBALL. HOT ROD. MONKEY BAR. Even a magician new to the craft might have to ask what they are and what they do.

Thank goodness Sandy Marshall is good at descriptive titles, as demonstrated, for example, by his title of his award winning biography of his father Jay – BEATING A DEAD HORSE.

One evening Sandy and his friend Simon Lovell were enjoying a gentlemanly few hours of wine tasting and between dainty sips they invented a new trick, which they entitled EXPLODING FERRET.

Now there's an example of how to name a trick. It tells you what it is, what it does, and even a hint as to how to do it.

*Editor's Note: Jack had this column to us in June but we were unable to get it posted until July.
                                                                                                     
######

January 2012

Practice makes perfect? Not for me it doesn’t. At least, not when I’m trying to improve a card sleight. I found this out early, way back in my teens. I was fooling around with a deck of cards and “invented” what I now know is a standard sleight — the top slip force. I kept trying it and figured it was something that really couldn’t be done without it talking and gave it up. Years later I found it in a book on card tricks. Aha! So someone else had beat me to my discovery! So I tried again, and again, and kept trying for years. Still talked. In fact it made so much noise my neighbors complained. Same thing with the pass. Mine wouldn’t fool Stevie Wonder. In thirty years no one has ever taken the card I want them to take when I do the classic force.

I gave up on the classic force and changed to a deck where all the cards are the same. For this I use a deck switch, by saying I am thirsty and going to the kitchen to get a drink of water and I bring back a regular deck. Even this has its problems. Sometimes I forget which deck I used for my “force” and bring back one that is a different color, or even a different brand.

I was talking about this to Pedro, manager of Magic Inc., and he said yes, practice did make perfect but imperfect practice made imperfect. I don’t recall his exact words but he said he was quoting some football coach and gave his name, which I have forgotten.

I wasn’t impressed because I don’t know what a football coach has to practice. I mean, his job is to line up eleven oafs with brain concussions and say “You are the offense. After someone mangles the “The Star-Spangled Banner” you will stand in a crouch face to face against men like you who also have college degrees and are mostly illiterate. They will be wearing different color uniforms from yours. They will try to keep you from scoring a touchdown, so be sure you are running in the direction YOU are facing. That is very important. Also, when you throw the ball, throw it to someone in the same color uniform as yours. This is also important. From time to time you will sit down on the bench and your teammates, the ones wearing the same color uniforms as yours, will replace you. They are called the defense. They want to keep the players they are facing, the guys in the different color uniforms, from getting past them because those men will want to score too. You and your teammates will alternate men every now and then. Remember, some of you will want to score . You are called the offense, and the men facing you want to keep you from scoring and they are called the defense. They will have brain concussions too, so you will be evenly matched. I’ll draw all this information on a white board and use circles and x’s to help you remember.”

If perfect practice is this easy I am more confident about my ability to practice perfectly.

So, now I have decided I will go back to Card College I and practice what it says and try to copy what the pictures show.

To be sure I’m practicing perfectly instead of imperfectly, I am going to show Pedro each move I am studying and have him take a deck of cards and demonstrate what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong . We will do this for two hours every day until we get through Card College IV.

I haven’t told Pedro this yet. I want to make it a surprise, so he will learn what we’re going to be doing together when he reads this column.

I hope I’m there when he reads it. I want to see the expression of happy anticipation on his face.

                                                                                                               # # #

July 2011

I had been a little down for a while, but I was cheered up when my Magic Inc. family hosted a roast for me on my birthday on May 6. My age is still in double figures, but HIGH double figures, so that was the theme of the evening. Sandy Marshall opened with a bunch of old age jokes - he said when I was young rainbows were in black and white - and that was one of the gentler ones.

It’s unlikely I will still be around when Sandy reaches the age I was at the roast, so I won’t be able to retaliate in person. Therefore I am supplying a list of jokes now about Sandy and his eventual old age.

Sandy is so old:
He can remember when Saturday Night Live was funny.
He was the first magician to say “Take a card.”
He calls John Calvert “son.”
He flew business class on the first flight at Kitty Hawk.
His sex drive has been in park for decades.
When someone talks about a movie he asks if it is a “talkie.”
He planted much of the Redwood Forest.
He got wounded at the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
The last person to call him “Dude” was Warren G. Harding.
He yelled “louder!” when Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.
He always gave water to the horse when his mail was delivered.
He said to Alexander Hamilton, “Relax, Aaron Burr is a lousy shot.”
Once while on a bus he saw a man give a pregnant woman his seat.
He has met all of his favorite composers - Gershwin, Kern, Ellington, Brahms, Beethoven and Bach.
He denies he knew Julius Caesar. Says it was AUGUSTUS Caesar he was friendly with.
He knew Alexander before he was great.
He lost money when he bet on Goliath.
He told Moses he should have put quotation marks around the Ten Commandments.
His birth certificate was written on papyrus.
When the Titanic sank he told a woman, “I’m sorry, madam, but this life boat is full.”
He cried when he left the cage open and his pterodactyl flew away.

In closing, Sandy, my friend, I wish for you to have so many years ahead of you that these jokes will be appropriate.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements

February 2011


As I was fooling around with a deck of cards the other day I tried to recall what was the first card trick I learned, and decided it must have been the Twenty-One card trick. You know, three rows of cards, seven in a row and the person just thinks of a card and you pick them up and lay them down again in a certain order, and the card arrives at a place which tells you what card the person is thinking of. (I’m describing it because with YouTube and the proliferation of DVDs some young readers may never have seen it, and are doing side steals and classic forces instead.) As for the rest of us, I’m guessing 90% began with this one. I started to lay the cards out as I remembered them, but it’s been so long since I’ve done it that I’ve forgotten just exactly how the rows are picked up and put down again. Plus it occurred to me that even if I did learn HOW to do it I still wouldn’t know WHAT makes it work. That started bugging me soon after it was taught to me, and thinking about it ruined much of my childhood. From time to time I still dream about it, and I’d almost give that nightmare up for the one in which I dream I’m married to Joan Rivers.

Eventually I asked Pedro, manager of Magic Inc. not to show it to me, but to explain what makes it do what it does. I said nobody who does it really knows, but they just won’t admit it.

Pedro said it was just based on a simple mathematical principle. To me a simple mathematical principle is an oxymoron. My mind doesn’t think that way. I can add and subtract and do long division, as long has it doesn’t have decimal points but that’s it. (When I was in my freshman algebra class my teacher asked me “How do you find the circumference of a circle?” I said, “I ask Joyce Ernst,” the girl who sat right in back of me. Flunked the course.) My life’s been that way since. I don’t drive so I don’t need to know how many miles I get to a gallon, and I seldom handle money because my wife knows how to tip at a restaurant, and this is all I need to get by.

But--certain card tricks? In addition to the ancient Twenty-One, here is Shufflebored, also sold as “The Little Bunny Card Trick.” You hand the person for whom you are doing the trick some cards and you keep some and he or she turns a packet over and you do the same unless you decide to keep it right side up and then he or she does the same thing. You both keep reversing your packets and laying them on each others, right side up or not, and after you exchange them for a while the cards are laid out and you read a prediction and the layout is exactly as your prediction says.

I do this one sometimes and it always works BUT I DON’T KNOW WHY!!!!

Luis, a demonstrator at Magic Inc. does a good perfect Faro and once he told me that if you do eight of them, the cards will end up back in the exact order they were before the shuffle. I asked how they did that and Luis said he didn’t know; they just did.

Now I have THAT to think about, and I am on too much medication as it is.

I’d ask Pedro, but if I ask him too many questions he says, “First, look at this and gets out some scratch and sketches what the universe was like before the Big Bang and I just can't go through that again.

So I’ve finally given up and I'm going to do my best to accept these tricks for what they are, and to get rid of the nerve-wracking dreams. I’ll choose a book to read to calm me down before I fall asleep. I don’t want it to be a big heavy novel or a history book; just something light and I found a nice small one that looks promising. It’s by someone named Martin Gardner and I’m looking forward to relaxing with it.

# # # 

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements

October 2010

When I was in grade school a local magician put on a show in the school auditorium. The admission charge was 25 cents.

The magician introduced himself and his assistant.

Then he said, “Boys and girls I am going to mystify and entertain you. Your part of the show is to give me a little of this” – and he clapped his hands indicating applause. “Don’t wait until the end – just show me how much you like each trick with a little –” and he again gave us lessons in applauding.

The show was okay, and when he did a trick we applauded. Sometimes when we weren’t impressed by a trick and the applause was light, he said “remember –” and again clapped his hands and we all did likewise.

At the end of the show he bowed and we clapped our hands, and he cupped his ears indicating we weren’t applauding loudly enough so we just hit our hands harder and he bowed again and walked offstage and the show was over.

I hadn’t seen many live shows of any kind, but I had seen a few and no performer ever asked for applause.

I thought it was just an eccentricity of that particular magician, but a few months later a different magician gave a show at the neighborhood movie theatre and before he started he said, “Now, I want to hear all of you out there applauding during the show and if you want to whistle too that’s even better.” So he did his show and we clapped our hands virtually by command but I don’t think anyone whistled.

I thought maybe all magicians virtually demanded applause as part of their tradition.

Then I saw Blackstone Senior. He got applause all through his act although he hadn’t asked for it – but when he brought an elephant on stage and made it disappear there was the sound of thunder.

I hadn’t thought about this in years – decades, really, until I saw Ricky Jay and his 52 friends. At one point he threw cards at a watermelon and they all pierced the skin and went into the melon, like sharp blades.
Then he looked at us and said, firmly “...and usually that brings a round of applause.” Now Ricky is not one about whom the word “charm” would be used. In fact, he’s actually a little scary looking so we all applauded, more out of fear than appreciation, as it was a small theatre and the house lights were up and he could see each one of us and would no doubt recognize us if he saw us on the street.

Okay. Two local semi pro magicians and Ricky Jay asked for applause. Now I thought it was an eccentricity or simply bad manners. I mean, if you had someone over for dinner you wouldn’t ask your guests to give your prime roast beef a standing ovation, or to stomp on the floor and whistle when dessert was served.

But by this time I was a regular at Magic Inc. and have attended a lot of lectures. And when the lecturer does tricks many of them say things like, “You can applaud now” or “Thank you for that round of indifference” and we usually applaud, some of us out of pity.

During every lecture after a trick is taught, the lecturer holds his hands widely to his side or makes some other plea of supplication and says “...and this leaves you in applause position.”

I thought about some other performers I’ve seen over the years. Frank Sinatra didn’t ask for applause. He just came out and sang and during his first song there was applause and shouts of “We love you, Frank” even though Frank didn’t ask the audience if they indeed did love him.

I’ve been to a lot of jazz concerts and there are many times when a musician will stand up and do a solo and then sit down and the audience applauds. He does not hold his saxophone in the air in applause position.

Comedians, cocktail lounge singers, and pianists do not ask for applause. So I've come to the conclusion that magicians are the only people in show business who flatly come out and ask for applause.

I’m suggesting to any magicians reading this who aren’t getting applause without begging for it, maybe they should improve their act.

I’ll even tell you one way to get thunderous applause and foot stomping and whistles.

First, buy one elephant.....

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements

May 2010

It’s been so long since my last column for a time I forgot what it was about, until I remembered something about Sandy Marshall’s trying to read me parts from “Beating a Dead Horse”- his biography of his father Jay. This was before I bought it. I didn’t want to hear anything as I wanted to come across the stories myself. It got so that I had dreams in which Sandy would hide in back of a tree and when I passed by he’d leap out and say , “You’ll love this one about the London Palladium,” or “Look at this picture of Jay in his underwear.” 

Well, of course I bought it and thoroughly enjoyed it and found it informative and entertaining as I expected it to be. So many people I know have read it, and more than one has asked me to write a column of stories about Jay that weren’t in the book.  I thought this was a tough challenge. For one thing, as a writer Sandy has two more Emmys than I have, and for another of course he knew Jay for all of his life.

But then it occurred to me that there were times when I was around Jay when Sandy wasn’t. He didn’t come into Chicago as often then, and I was at the store every day, while Sandy was doing his world travels, producing something here, directing something there, and doing both here AND there.

So - here are a few memories that come to mind. First, though, I must tell you that Jay had the same effect on me that George Burns had on Jack Benny. Jack was known to go into fits of laughter at a mere hello from George, if the latter flicked his cigar a particular way when he said it.

I was walking with Jay on a spring day and I said "There are some really slow bloomers this year,” and Jay said, “I once knew a woman who had the fastest bloomers in town.” I almost fell down.

Another day we were walking and encountered a lady from the neighborhood who was notorious for stopping people and talking and talking. When you tried to move away she’d stay right in your face until you escaped. So on this occasion she was going on and on and on, and finally Jay said, “Well, it’s always nice to talk to you, but I must be getting home. I’m defrosting some salmon.” It was sheer will power that kept me from hysterics right there.

I said, “What made you come up with that one?” and Jay said, “Well, it worked, didn’t it?”

Once a local magician, (I'll call him Alfred; not his real name) gave a lecture at Magic Inc which was, by consensus, the worst lecture ever given in all of the years of Magic Inc hosting lectures. This was on a Saturday. On the following Monday Jay and I were sitting and talking in our usual chairs as we did most every day and this fellow comes in. I said to Jay, “Now there’s an example of “Undaunted Courage”, the title of a best selling history book at that time. Jay thought this was terrific, and when he laughed he often looked as if he was crying . As Alfred was leaving the store Jay recovered to say, “We were just saying how much you have in common with Lewis and Clark” which started both of us all over again and the poor guy in question left with a befuddled expression.

Some of my favorite incidents happened outside of the store , during restaurant dinners that Jay hosted for people he called “The Saturday Night Indigents.” Sandy has written about this, and how the number of guests ranged from as few as six to as many as fifteen or even twenty. 

Jay always sat at the end of the table and Elliot Cutler ( a regular) and I tried to sit on each side of him so he’d have someone to talk to and to listen to because he often said how bad his hearing was.

One night Elliot and I were farther away, halfway down the table, and it was noisy. Elliot and I were talking about the great old movie “Gunga Din” and I said,it wasn’t until I saw the movie that I knew the correct pronunciation of the the water boy's last name didn’t rhyme with IN but was pronounced Deen. Without looking up from his soup, Jay said “Gunga Din got a bullet in the spleen.” If I had had something in my mouth I would have needed the Heimlich Maneuver.

We usually ate at a place called O’Donovan’s. One time, though we ate at a different restaurant and as we were in line we looked at a photo of the Hindenburg going up in flames. I said, “It’s a miracle that there were any survivors.” 

Jay said, “Yes, I knew one of them. He was an acrobat. He broke his leg,” and told us his real name. He said he had a stage name, and Elliot Cutler asked what it was. He couldn’t think of it and all through dinner he was trying to recall it, but couldn’t, and that was driving him nuts.

A full week later we were at O’Donovan’s and as the waitress was laying down Jay’s plate Jay looked up and in a loud voice said “BEN DOVER dammit!” and she froze for a second and I spilled my iced tea and Jay said, “That was the stage name of the acrobat.”

There were so many more that I could think of but if I wrote them all this column would be as big as Sandy’s book.

I have no idea how these come across in print and maybe they don’t strike anyone else as funny. Maybe you had to be there. 

Well, I WAS there . . . and I’m so glad, so very glad that I was.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements

December 2009

When I intend to see a movie I want to know as little as possible about it. I don't want to know the ending, and I don't even want to know that it is a "trick" ending, because then I'll try to guess it, and I usually guess right. My wife and I put our fingers in our ears and look away from the screen during the trailers.

However, we do have problems with people who insist on telling us things about the movie we do not want to hear. The worst, and unforgivable example was the time a guy who was leaving "Psycho" just as I was buying my ticket said, "It's really a shocker. Tony Perkins dresses up like his dead mother and kills people. He stabs Janet Leigh to death while she's in the shower", and for years I've hoped the same thing happened to him.

Same with books. I don't want to hear much about them, and it's not just mysteries. It's books in general. I want to read them as a whole. I do want an idea of what the book is about, but I don't want to read excerpts from them, or if there are pictures I don't want to see them. I want the book to unfold with everything in context.

This has been a running problem lately at Magic Inc. Sandy Marshall, owner of Magic Inc., has written a book about his father Jay's life. It was a three and a half year effort for him and his wife Susan, who had the huge job of editing, checking sources, helping to find the many photographs and other chores that go along with a project like this, and without whom the book wouldn't have come out in its final form, neither in quality or as soon as it has.

The title of the book is BEATING A DEAD HORSE, a title Jay himself wanted to use because he said he did the same act for fifty years.

I have seen the book. I see it every day when I walk into the shop. It looks marvelous. But I won't be buying it until January, after the post-Christmas bills are paid.

Sandy knows this, but he doesn’t want me to wait that long to see or hear parts of it.

I explain this to him on a near daily basis, and on a near daily basis he comes to me, book in hand, and says, "Just let me read you this section, or show you this picture."

He approaches with book in hand, and I back away, covering my eyes and saying, “No! No!”

It's a scene like Dr. Van Helsing holding up a cross in front of Dracula.

I got to know and love Jay in his later years, and in conversations he told wonderful stories which were just suggest from a larger mine and I always wishes I heard more; that I knew more about what happened in all those earlier years.

And now, thanks to Sandy and Susan, I can.

But I want to have the experience of reading the book from the first of its 540 pages on and let the story unfold in context and I want to come across those parts that Sandy especially likes as they occur. The same with the pictures.

So I'm glad that I'll be getting it soon. I don't know how much longer my refusals and Sandy's enthusiasm can keep up the battle.

On final note. In full disclosure I must admit that I did look at two pages; the Index and the Acknowledgments to see if my name is there. It is. That's one thing Sandy didn't tell me. I think he wanted me to find out for myself.

(Note from Sandy to Jack: "Rosebud was his sled.")

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements

Summer 2009

There are two times when I almost fell out of my chair at Magic Inc. Once was from laughing so hard during a Jay Sankey lecture. The second time was more recent. It was when a thirteen-year-old boy came in. He was standing by the DVDs and when asked what he was looking for he said he'd like something on coin magic. When Head Demonstrator Ben (that title sounds like Ben demonstrates his head, but I'm digressing) started to show him some DVDs, the boy said "No. DVDs are okay, but I do better learning from books," and he bought the redundantly named but superb "New Modern Coin Magic" by Bobo. Now if this wasn't startling enough, Robert, who is fourteen and is a regular at the shop, was also there and he also prefers books to DVDs.

Astonishing and virtually unheard of. Two boys in their early teens who read books being in the store at the same time! The odds of that happening are bigger than the chances of winning the state lottery.

I don't know what the demarcation line is but I know it's partly generational. Somewhere there's a point where hardly anyone wants to learn from a book. They want DVDs. There was a time when they wanted video cassettes, but now these are considered something their grandparents watched years ago, when somebody named Frank Sinatra was a famous person.

The idea of reading a book just for pleasure is inconceivable, though some will read what are called graphic novels, which are really just comic books, but more expensive.

I'm one of the ancient beings who does better with books. I don't like other forms much. For example, I tried a talking book once, but every now and then I shouted "The hell you say!" and it just got me too upset.

DVDs can be a good teaching medium, especially with something like Svengali or Stripper Decks, which are easy to learn from the printed instructions, which just show how the tricks are done. The DVDs go farther and suggest ways to actually perform them.

I can use DVDs too, but in my own way.

For example I have the Killer Packet; a great collection of gaffed cards. I worked out that you can do 100,300,068 different tricks, of which 209 are almost self workers. It comes with two excellent DVDs.

So, when I played one of them and Simon Lovell showed a trick and then demonstrated the sleights I kept going back and looking at it again. And again. And once more. Couldn't get it. Then I got wise and started writing down the name of the move and then looking it up in "Card College." The problem here was after I practiced it I couldn't remember what trick it went with. Eventually I figured out that if I wrote down the name of the trick while I wrote down the name of the move I could find it again. It's a tedious process but when I'm through I have instructions written down on a piece of paper, and I can read them and practice without going back and forth with the DVD remote.

I suppose I could say I can have my DVD and read it too.

I hope this helps some of you who have the same problem I have, and if you've read this far it means you have a grasp of the written word and won't have to wait for this column to come out on a DVD.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements 

 

Remembering Jay Marshall
May 2009

Jay Marshall left this world on May 10, 2005. I think of him a lot, but even more than usual at this time of year. I was going to write a column about some of my memories of him, but couldn't think of anything new to say. Then I recalled a column I wrote about him just after he passed away. As I read it again I thought it expressed much of what I still recall. So, I am repeating it here:

I knew him first as a neighbor.

After years of living in apartments my wife Lillian and I decided it was time to buy a house. I left it up to her to check out the ads and when she found one she thought we'd both like I'd go with her to look at it. One day she came home and said , "I found just the one. There's a magic shop on the corner, and this house is just two houses away, so I'm taking that as an omen." This was because I had always had an interest in magic. Though it waned a bit through the years, from time to time I'd dig out my battered copy of the "Royal Road to Card Magic" and practice some sleights.

So we looked at the house together and bought it.

I went from peering in the window at the magic shop on the corner, to going in and buying a trick, to "just dropping in," then to hanging out and finally becoming a regular.

Now I have to back up a bit. I didn't know anyone in our new neighborhood, but one day soon after we moved in I was walking along the street, came to a corner at the same time as an old fellow I'd seen around. We said hello and he said, "I wonder what people with dyslexia think about all these corners that have signs that say POTS." I don't know how funny that comes across here, but the way he said it, the timing, if you will, cracked me up and I actually had to wait till I stopped laughing before I crossed the street.

By now of course you know that the old neighbor was Jay Marshall and the magic shop on the corner was Magic Inc.

It wasn't long before I connected the two.

As the years went on, Magic Inc., the demonstrators, and Jay became a major part of my life. They became my closest friends. I joined two magic clubs which expanded my circle of acquaintances and I got into magic more than ever before.

Lillian and I also became regular members of the group Jay called "The Saturday Night Indigents." This was a group that varied in size, as few as six and as many as twenty, who dined with Jay every Saturday night when he was in town. Jay always picked up the check. There was no way you could contribute or pay your share. We were his guests.

I could go on and on, and usually I do, but for now let's just say as I was around more I heard more and more about this fascinating man; about his show business career, about his collection of books and magic memorabilia, about his near total recall, but these stories are all known to anyone reading here and they're being repeated throughout the magic community via Internet and phone calls and gatherings of those who knew this fabulous man.

I know many of these stories myself, but for all of that, to me he was mostly a friend and a neighbor, a man who lived in back of that magic shop on the corner. A man whom I'd run into from time to time at the local Osco store, sometimes complaining about the price of laxatives, which he thought the government should pay for for a man his age. A man who bought lottery tickets at the corner convenience store, and when asked what he'd do if he won all those millions said, "I'd give some of it to Oprah Winfrey because I know she wouldn't spend it foolishly."

So, for all of his fame, I'll think mostly of losing my dear dear friend and most wonderful neighbor.

Just today, when I bought the newspapers at that convenience store, the lady who always sold him his lottery tickets said, "Gee, I'll really miss him. But, hey, he sure had a wonderful life."

Well, Jay, yes, when it's all added up you did have a wonderful life.

But, dammit, couldn't you have had it just a little bit longer?

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER

By Jack Clements 

 

It’s April; Time for March Madness.
April 2009

Early in March I made one of my rare stops at a bar and when I sat down I was afraid I had died and gone to hell. The place was filled with screaming idiots and there were almost as many TV screens as there were people. The fellow sitting next to me asked how I was doing with my bracket. I thought that was a highly personal question, especially coming from a stranger and I told him so. He apparently thought I was joking and he lifted his beer mug and said “Cheers!”

I gulped my soft drink down and got out of there before the authorities arrived to round everyone up, and I checked my pulse and found I was still alive and not in hell after all. Actually I had stumbled into a den of the demented during something called March Lunacy or Spring Break for the Criminally Insane or whatever the occasion was.

My son called me soon after I got home and I told him of my close call and he said this was March Madness,and I said that was how I had it pegged and then he told me that was the name of what was happening and asked , “Don't you watch basketball at all?” and I said no. I'm not interested in looking at a bunch of guys with overactive pituitary glands running back and forth and bouncing a ball. It's hard to avoid so-called highlights on the late night news, and it always set my nerves on edge when they would show a ball going into the basket and call it ”miracle shot.” I'm sorry, but the basket rim is wider in diameter than the ball. Now if the ball was the wider one, THAT would be a miracle.

My son is very enthusiastic about most sports. I used to watch baseball until the strike and almost got back into it and then the drug addicts took over and former 250 hitters started hitting the ball so often and so far that sometimes it was never seen again.

Football? A game played by hulks who have their I.Q.s printed on their backs for the amusement of their intellectual inferiors in the stands.

By avoiding sports for so long I don’t know the terminology any more. In football, I don't know what the secondary is. I have no idea what a nickel defense (or is it offense?) is nor what is called a quarterback sneak, except it sounds unsportsmanlike. In basketball a player gets high praise for scoring a triple-double. I don't know what that is either but I'm sure his mother is proud.

After that call from my son I was distressed that he too was one of the rabble. My mind was all fuddled up and I headed out to Magic Inc. As I walked in Sandy Marshall, heir apparent of the venerable shop, was explaining that it's phonetically Day, not Dye Vernon because it's short for David.

Manager Pedro Nieves said he hadn't done the Braue Reversal in a while and wanted to get back to it. Head demonstrator, Ben Whiting, asked me to look at his Zarrow Shuffle which he was able to do without the slip cut, and I asked him to help me with the Elmsley. A customer said he couldn't find his Erdnase and he asked if he could look up the Erdnase system of cull shuffling.

By the time I left my mind was at ease. It was just so nice to be around people speaking in a language that made sense again.

(Note: The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Magic Inc.)

# # #

 

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER

by Jack Clements

February 2009

If you are reading this in April, it means I have already broken one New Year's resolution, which was to write these columns more often. I've been wary of making these resolutions because of one I made years ago and tried to keep. It was "Learn to Drive This Year," which up to that time I had failed to do. My high school driver's education teacher offered to give me a passing grade if I promised NOT to continue taking his class. I still had faith though, and some years later I applied for a job where one requirement was to be able to drive and I lied and said I was learning. I got the job and was there for about three weeks when my boss asked me to drive him over to a subsidiary of our place. We didn't make it that far. On the way I made a right turn, bumped into a car that was waiting at the light and then went through a low brick wall and into the lawn of a factory where some workers were sitting and eating their lunches. Sandwiches flew in the air as people ran for their lives.

The results? I actually got a raise because I had to pay my boss for the damage to his car, to the other car and for the repair of the brick wall, none of which I could do on my beginning salary. By the time I had everything paid off I got so good at my job that I was transferred to a better department, one that didn't need someone who drove. On the other hand I never tried again so I don't have a driver's license; the most accepted form of identification in our car-worshipping society. Therefore officially I do not exist.

I'm not able to convince clerks and other forms of life that I am standing right on front of them but they say I can't prove it. I even had a bank refuse to let me open a bank account because I had no means to prove who I was, and I was the one giving them the money.

The only card I carry with my name on it is the one that shows I am a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Then just a little while ago I heard a wonderful story told by Jerry Sharff, president of IBM Ring #43.

He was at a big wedding and he was preparing to photograph it, but before he got all of his equipment set up he was approached by two gentlemen who asked to see his identification, because they said only union members were allowed to take pictures of this event. As a photographer Jerry had never run into this, so he started taking cards out of his wallet to see if he could find some identification that might work and as he did so he happened to show his IBM membership card. When these two guys saw the word “BROTHERHOOD” they immediately relaxed and gave him a hearty welcome because they thought brotherhood obviously referred to him as a member of a union.

Great!

So now I have an I.D. card. I haven't had a chance to try it yet but I am eager to. Oh yes, the factory whose brick wall I ran into? It was, honest, the United States Playing Card Company. So, if you came across a bad batch of Bicycle cards years ago, it's probably because they were made by some shaky workers with unsettled nerves.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER

by Jack Clements 

September 2008

It was a day like many others. I was hanging out at Magic Inc. and was just putting my cards into my pocket after manager Pedro Nieves helped me with a problem when I saw the shape out of the corner of my eye. As it got closer I could make out that it was a young guy in his late teens. I braced myself for the inevitable. “I see you have a deck of cards in your hand,” he said. "Well, I'll be damned," I said.

"So that's where they've gone to. Thanks, I've been looking all over for them." The sarcasm didn't get through. It never does.

"May I borrow them?" he asked politely, and I resigned myself and handed them over.

He did a card trick, not bad, and with a few sleights. After he revealed my card, using his favorite method, he looked expectantly at me. I knew from experience that he expected me to come forth with astonishment and praise. I smiled weakly and looked at the clock and made my getaway by pretending I was late for something. It happens too many times. It's usually a nice guy in his late teens who wants to show me his awesome talent. Even if I know how the trick is done I am supposed to gush about his dazzling skill and stunning presentation. I give him another of my weak smiles as I am wondering how to get away, perhaps by faking a heart attack, as I do not want to disappoint the lad. I like to see card tricks.

I like to watch guys exchange ideas or work out moves. It's one of the things that make magic shops fun. If a guy gets too cocky though, and threatens to show me more tricks to prove he's equal to Dai Vernon and will soon be superior to him, I explain: "Bill Malone sometimes drops in and shows card moves right here on the counter."

Thanks to Magic Inc.'s long history of lectures, I've seen Richard Turner. I've seen Daryll. Darwin Ortiz. I've seen Terrence Francisco, former Magic Inc. demonstrator, practically make the aces jump out of the deck and sing "I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time" in four-part harmony. I am not easy to impress. One day one of the young guys who often comes into the store showed off his latest learned skill; holding the deck in one hand he cut it into five parts and then slipped them back into the pack in any order he chose. The aforementioned Terrence then fooled him with a self-worker. Then there is Max. He is not a teenager. He is hovering around middle age. If he corners you, he'll shove a deck in your face and say, "Look! Look! Four queens. Boom! Now four kings!!" And to be sure you notice this marvel, he will tell you what he just did. "I turned the queens into kings, right in front of your eyes. Now look! Look!" Max would show card tricks at a funeral. He admits he is addicted, but can't find a twelve-step program for someone who can't stop showing double lifts and false shuffles.

Since my last column, I've been in and out of the hospital again, but not so serious this time. Naturally, I didn't like being there, so I tried to find at least one positive aspect — and then felt some relief at being away from these self-styled master cardicians. When I awoke from the anaesthesia, there was an intern at the foot of my table. I've been waiting for you to wake up so I can show you this.”

Then he started to lay out the three rows of cards, seven in each one. I sighed. But at least I wouldn't have to pretend to be mesmerized by his uncanny sleight-of-hand.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER

by Jack Clements 

 

Magic of the Heart
May 2008

When I'm asked what my religion is, I reply, truthfully, that I am a devout coward. It's no surprise, then, that when my doctor told me I needed a mitral valve replacement and a triple bypass I had a feeling of stark terror. More frightening than the operation was the thought of general anesthesia. Too often I've read newspaper articles with headlines like MAN DIES WHILE GETTING TOE FUNGUS REMOVED. ANESTHESIA THE CAUSE. Up to now I had avoided it all my life, insisting on a local only, but in this case local wasn't an option.

My chest would be cut open and my ribs pulled apart. Plus they like to stop for lunch while you're out and they don't want you to know that. The operation took ten hours and my wife said at one point the doctor said. “I haven't seen anything like this in years,” a comment I'm glad I didn't hear. Like OOPS! it's something you don't want your surgeon to say. When I came to I saw a blurry vision of a nurse and I asked “Where am I?” and she said “ICU” and I said “I see you too, but where am I?” and my wife, who was there from the beginning, and who knows how my mind works, said “You are in the Intensive Care Unit." I was surprised to learn that the operation had been five days earlier.

Because I was under so long, I lost all my strength, so when I was released from the ICU I was taken to the Rehabilitation Unit, which is like the Tower of London. I was depressed because I couldn't walk or do anything that required the least amount of energy, such as holding a glass or feeding myself. Luckily I was cheered up by visits from my Magic Inc. “family” and cards and visits from the members of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. and The Wizards; two organizations to which I belong. It was a visit from a member of the IBM that was especially helpful. He brought me a deck of cards.

And when I tried to open it I couldn't and it was even too heavy for me to hold. He laid the deck on my bedside table. Then I began to see improvement, which I wasn't sure was happening. The days went by and then next time I reached for the deck I was able to pick it up, a few days later to get the cards out of the case, later still to actually shuffle them, and finally even to do a card trick for a few nurses. It was a self worker but it baffled them and got a good reaction.

This deck meant so much to me because I was making progress in general but it was slow and I couldn't measure it, but with cards I could, plus they were a great exercise for my hands. One day the unit doctor came by while I was fooling with the cards and he asked if I could do a trick and I did. Same trick, and it fooled him too. Then I asked him if I would be able to do a perfect Faro when my therapy was over, and he said,

“I don't know what that is, but I'm sure you will,” and I said, "All together now on the count of three.... one, two, three... “THAT'S FUNNY. I COULDN'T DO IT BEFORE!

Add your own rim shot.

# # #

LITTLE JACK’S CORNER

by Jack Clements

Winter 2008

Invariably on a day in winter when the sun is shining and the temperature is above 30 some idiot will say, “Nice day, isn't it?” and my reply is always, “Then how come the beaches are closed?” The idea of a nice day in winter is a ridiculous concept. I do not like winter and I do not even like people who do. Winter brings me cabin fever, and when that goes on too long, say for about four hours, instead of sitting around the house I go to my neighboring magic store, Magic Inc. and sit around there instead, where the sitting around is much more fun.

Before winter even officially begins, Magic Inc. is lively with pre-Christmas shoppers; those looking for gift sets for their youngsters and the professionals buying new tricks for their seasonal Christmas private parties or just to update their acts. Then after Christmas those lucky enough to get gift certificates come in to redeem them and as the chill season goes on there are a lot of people who, like me, would rather sit inside and practice a new trick, read a book or watch a DVD on magic instead of sitting in a boat hidden among weeds and making sounds that go honk honk in an attempt to lure geese or whatever it is they do.

Winter Saturdays bring an especially fun sanctuary. That's when the magicians themselves come in and attempt to outdo each other and the customers keep the demonstrators extra busy. One of my favorite Saturdays was a few years ago when Jay was still with us. It was a cold, grey afternoon and Jay had gone somewhere on an errand for a friend and while he was out the store got jammed. One woman was in from Los Angeles with a group of friends and she bought the complete Tarbell set for her nephew, a wonderfully precocious 12-year-old who had begged her to stop in the legendary store to get this phenomenal gift and also promise she would come back with an autograph from Jay Marshall.

So here's the scene. Store crowded. A juggler is testing out clubs, a demonstrator is doing a wonderful linking ring routine while another was dazzling a teenager with card moves that he too “would be able to learn from a certain DVD,” three magicians showing each other new moves, and the other regular guys who, like me, hang out there on a steady basis. The woman seeking the autograph and her friends weren't the only ones eager to see the great Jay Marshall, in person.

I looked across the street and half way up the block Jay was shambling to the store. “He's coming,” I said. “He'll be here in a couple of minutes.” The crowd stood facing the door, waiting for the Great One to arrive, and, as he got there, I opened the door and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, here he is, the one and only Jay Marshall!” and everyone in the store applauded. Jay stood silent for a while, checked out the scene, held up a package and spoke to the assemblage. “Nine dollars,” he said waving the bag in his hand. “Nine dollars for rat poison.” Silence for a moment from the shoppers while those of us who knew him fell out laughing hysterically. I don't have a finish for this story. As always, it's best to let Jay have the last word.

# # #

 

 

 


 
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