Being entertained and fooled by the late Burton Sperber.

This is a reprint of a column I wrote about the late Burton Sperber. I was very saddened to hear of his passing and thought it worth while to republish this column in my blog. The magic world has lost a true gentleman with Burt.

One of the side benefits (?) of performing on a cruise ship on a fairly regular basis is the fact that you get to meet quite a few magicians. It is very seldom the close-knit group of peers I might wish to spend an hour or two swapping stories and gags with – they are all busy working a gig somewhere else!

Often on a ship I will meet up with a socially inept amateur who insists on showing me the three rows of seven cards and then deals them into a pile and after getting the card wrong restarting the entire process complete with reassurances; “Oh no, you haven’t seen this one.” No when I see it the magician often gets the card right.

These can be the moments when you either lock yourself away in your cabin for the rest of the cruise or try and construct a make shiftescape raft out of your bed in order to escape from the ship! There are also times when you can get a delightful surprise and this is about one of those times. I was sailing on the Crystal ‘Galaxy’ and a note arrived for me that someone would like to meet me. The note was from Burt Sperber.I didn’t know Burt but very gladly met up with him and his charming wife. We had a delightful chat and arranged to have dinner in the Italian steakhouse the next night.

Somewhere along the line I discovered that Burt was a magic collector. Now when I say Magic Collector I had better use capitol letters because he obviously has a world class collection that could even cause David Copperfield’s eyes to turn green! I am in no way a collector of magic (accumulator yes!) but Burt was describing items that were even making me foam at the mouth!

After we had eaten Burt dropped the bomb. “Oh, I also perform a little magic too, maybe you want to come back to our suite and see a couple of tricks?” Well to be honest when someone defines himself or herself primarily as a collector it doesn’t exactly scream out to me that they are going to be snappy close up performers! However short of pretending to have some kind of seizure I couldn’t think of any way out of it. I have never been happier about saying yes to an offer of watching a magic show.

I sat in Burt’s suite for over an hour and gasped as he fooled me with card trick after trick! These were some of the snappiest and most commercial pieces of card magic I had ever seen mostly, if not all, were originals. His presentation was deceptively casual and initially gave no idea of how carefully he had prepared and planned his demonstration.

After he finished performing I congratulated him on doing something that very seldom happens to me- being both entertained and fooled by great magic. I then performed my very best original card trick (the one I keep for just that kind of occasion) and quickly put the cards back in their case and onto the table. When you’re socks have been knocked of it is best just to admit it!

Burt then asked me if there was anything I particularly liked and said he would be happy to teach it to me. I said; “YES.” There were two items that I had seen performed that I considered as commercial as anything I’d ever witnessed. The next two hours flew by as he took the time and trouble to really teach me these tricks. I don’t mean show me how they were done; I mean teach me the tricks.

I haven’t yet had a chance to take up Burt on his offer to view his Magic Collection but let me tell you it has a tough act to follow with his close-up show!



~ by Nick Lewin on October 3, 2011.

One Response to “Being entertained and fooled by the late Burton Sperber.”

  1. Nick,
    You really did capture the essense of Burt. As the Elder Elder, I want to again extend Burt’s offer to join us if your in Los Angeles on the second tuesday of the month. This month will be difficult for all of us as in addition to Burt we lost Robin DeWitt AKA Kardor. Please accept this as an open invitation anytime your in town.
    Richard Ganstwig

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