Don Lawton: one of magic’s true gentlemen.
It was my very first evening at the Magic Castle. Quite an occasion for any magician and to a twenty-one year old Brit it was very exciting indeed. I arrived at the front desk and introduced myself to the receptionist. She was very friendly and said she would page the host and have him give me a bit of a tour. I waited in front of the sliding bookcase and after a few minutes a tall gray haired gentleman wearing a tuxedo arrived and greeted me. That was the first time I met Don Lawton.
I didn’t know who Lawton was but he quickly introduced himself and told me to walk towards the bookcase and say “Open Sesame” to the small golden owl with the flashing red eyes. Once we stepped through the bookshelf/door I was astounded by the amount of people in the club. Don pointed out the “Close-up Gallery, the “Irma Room” and the steps to the Palace of Mysteries and was about to leave me to my own devices. Then he seemed to think better of it and said that if I waited till after he had introduced the next show he would give me the proper tour. I decided to wait. Five minutes after he left me, Don reappeared with a mug of beer in his hand and the tour began.
What a tour! We explored every room at the Castle including the library where Dai Vernon was sitting playing cards with two friends. Everywhere we went Don introduced me to staff and magicians alike and in ninety minutes I was made to feel as welcome as a person could ever feel. About every twenty minutes Don had to dash off and introduce a show, but he always returned with a fresh beer in his hand and picked up where he had left off. I was fully aware that he had other things to attend to but you would never have guessed it from Don’s manner. He showed a kindness and consideration for a new member that was way beyond the call of duty. He wanted my introduction to the Magic Castle to be done the right way. I later realized that this was a typical action from one of magic’s true gentlemen.
I very soon got to see Don Lawton introduce a show at the Castle and realized that this distinguished looking host was also a very funny man. I still remember the way he would stick his head through the curtains in the Close-up Gallery and say “Oh, Porter, which station is this? ” instantly letting the audience realize that the showroom really did look a lot like a Pullman coach on an old fashioned railway train. In the Palace of Mysteries Don would notice a drink in the hand of an audience member and ask if he could try a taste as he pulled out a six-foot straw! “My doctor told me to keep away from alcohol!” None of Don’s jokes sound as funny in print as they did the way he told them. The jokes were corny but there was a little glint in his eyes that let you know that not only did he realize they were corny but that was the way he liked them.
I had plenty of occasions to watch Don Lawton perform his full show at the Castle. I truly believe that I laughed just as hard at each performance. When Don started his act it only took one laugh and you were going to be laughing till the show ended. One-liners, sight gags and some very smooth magic were stacked together in such close proximity that the show had a life of it’s own. Don had mastered the art of comedy magic and every time I watched the show I learned something performing. However the fondest memory I have of my friend Don Lawton was the ninety minutes he spent making me feel at home in the Magic Castle. He really didn’t need to spend all that time but he did, he was just that kind of a person!