An Audience with the Coney Island Fakir

I recently wrote about the excitement of waiting for the postman to deliver that package from the magic store. I was  amazed and delighted that so many people responded in a positive manner. Almost without exception everyone who  emailed me took the time to mention his first real magic store. You remember your first real magic store; that’s the  one where the owner actually knew your name and only recommended tricks that might actually suit you!

I had the most fleeting of meetings in a magic store back in the seventies. I was staying in a very dilapidated hotel in New York and had just taped an episode of the popular children’s show “Wonderama.” The taping had shaken my nerves till my teeth rattled. I had never been exposed to overexcited New York pre-teens before and they had been quite a shock to my system.

Having never spent any time in New York I was determined to visit its two most famous magic stores. I had a pocket full of taxi money and was ready to go. To be honest I was very disappointed when I arrived at Tannens; I mean it looked fine, very brisk and organized but something was missing. There didn’t seem to be a lot of heart plus the good tricks were not on display. They didn’t like being asked too many questions either which is a pain.

Nothing to excite a magician who spent his early years, in London with Ken Brooke in his legendary “Magic Place.”   Fortunately I had saved the best for last and I was in for a treat when the yellow cab driver dropped me of in front of Al Flosso’s magic store. The moment I walked into Flosso’s shop I just stood there gulping for air! It was without doubt the least tidy, most messy and astonishingly disorganized place I had ever seen. It was wonderful and I loved it. There were just piles and piles of books and props stacked from floor to ceiling in every direction the eye could see. Years later when I served as magical consultant on Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” part of my work was to create a magic shop.  I simply recreated Al’s amazing emporium and it worked perfectly for the show.

As I looked around the stacks of magic I introduced myself to Mr. Flosso and told him I brought special regards from Ken Brooke. As usual this acted as a perfect opening mantra and Al and I began to talk magic. I don’t remember much that we spoke about but I know I enjoyed his company. At one point Flosso turned to me and said, “Did you need anything special?” I looked around the prop filled shop and expecting to get a little laugh I said, “How about a nailwriter. It was the smallest prop I could think off.” Al Flosso was off and running though and dived into a stack of boxes, removed one, retrieved three smaller boxes from within it. He removed an old manila envelope from the smallest of the boxes and then shook a nailwriter onto my palm. I was very impressed. The store may have looked random and disorganized but Al knew where everything was. I loved that quality.

Before I left the store Flosso told me I HAD to get a spotted can trick; it was “A natural” for me.  That’s the dumb trick where the spots come off the can and end up on the silks. I had my doubts, but Al said I had to get it so I did. I never saw Al again but years later finding the spotted can in the back of my cupboard I put it in my act. Flosso was right of course; it was a natural for me and I still use a variation of it almost every show.

~ by Nick Lewin on February 27, 2010.

2 Responses to “An Audience with the Coney Island Fakir”

  1. funny thing but I had a similar experience with Herb Morrissey in Toronto who sold me my “spotted can” as he also recommended I should have it, I was 15 btw

  2. Great story Nick! I also had a great experience at Al’s shop. Posted it on Facebook for you. Yes, that place was a magician’s wonderland. So much stuff you could barely move. What a character! We’re lucky guys to have met and talked with The Coney Island Fakir. Thanks for the memory jog Nick-o!

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