Stan Gray and Stanley Blumenthal. Castle members from the Golden Days!

Many of the greatest characters I have met in the magic world were not the celebrities or the famous magicians. In fact sometimes it can be downright disappointing how ordinary the big name folks can be.

One of the blessings in our strange universe is some of the peripheral players who enrich the daily life of the performing magician. Some of them don’t even perform much magic, but make up for it by being audience members of the highest order.

One of the great meeting spots, or should I say watering holes, of this special breed of magic aficionados used to be Friday lunch at the Magic Castle. It was always a joyful exchange of gossip and good will and there were also the amazing beef ribs that were served exclusively on these occasions.

Two of my very favorite people used to attend these luncheons in the ‘70s with a regularity that made the workings of Big Ben seem erratic. These two characters were Stan Gray and Stanley Blumenthal and they were a splendid pair of jokers to add to the Castle’s deck of magicians.

Stanley was a cigar salesman by trade and the most enthusiastic supporter of magic you could ever find. If you were performing a gig in some local club or dive, chances are that Stanley would turn up (and pay his admission-no freeloader was Stanley) and be right there in the audience with a big smile on his face. He would laugh heartily at all the right places as if he had never heard the joke before.

The only piece of magic I ever saw Stanley perform was a curious bit of business where he removed the wrapper from a cigar and then stretched it out until it resembled a gigantic condom. If it sounds strange believe me it was! The little gizmos he used to achieve this result had something to do (I believe) with the casings used to manufacture sausages. I have about a dozen of these little gimmicks left that Stanley gave me and I keep them in a beautiful wooden cigar box he gave me too. I treasure them.

Stan Gray was a character of different sort and as brash as the day is long, but he shared the enthusiasm of his namesake when it came to his appreciation of the magical arts. Stan was a tour bus driver for the Gray Line- no family connection sadly! He used to entertain his tourists with a trick or two during their sight seeing tours of California.

Stan always said he did it because he made more money in tips but he never fooled me. Stan couldn’t resist a captive audience and a chance to entertain them. There was nothing that Stan could do to support magic that he didn’t do. Nothing was too much trouble if he thought that it would help out a fellow magician.

Now, I realize that neither one of these two gentlemen will be too familiar to most of my readers but they are the heart and the soul of what magic should be all about. Both have long since passed away but in this strange and quirky memoir of magic that I seem to be writing they both deserve a special mention and tip of the hat. If you did know either of them then I am sure you will recall them with a fond smile. If you didn’t know them you will just have to take my word for it that they were as deeply entwined in the fabric of magic as Shimada and Copperfield,

~ by Nick Lewin on January 17, 2012.

5 Responses to “Stan Gray and Stanley Blumenthal. Castle members from the Golden Days!”

  1. A well written article, Tex. Many decades ago when Nick and I were both kids, we hung out with the Magic Castle crowd. Both Stanley Blumenthal and Stan Gray were two loud mouthed, brash characters. We would stop by Stanley’s house on Stansbury (south of Ventura Boulevard which means something if you are from the Valley), and he would load up Nick with paperbags full of lemons for the note in lemon.)I don’t think plastic bags were available at that timel.) I was never privy to Stanley’s condom trick, although Daniel Cros lead us down the garden path with his one night in Vegas. Stan Gray was a New Yorker, totally obnoxious, but with a heart of gold and he was a “talker,” a storyteller, a true character.

    Gray and his wife Claire, who was Jean Cantor’s dear friend, would throw an annual cocktail party at the Beverly Wilshire hotel before “the Banquet.” We all went, because we loved them, and everyone would attend: Bruce Cervon and Linda, Ron Wilson and Lizzie, Jean Cantor and Bill Snyder, John Thompson and Pam, Bill and Irene, Milt, Monte Smith, Don Lawton (the list goes on). We were all crowded in that little room eating Po Boy sandwiches and drinking tons of liquor. (Subway and Port of Sub did not exist.) Later when Gray contracted cancer he delighted in receiving “illegal cigarettes” from the Bad Boy magicians to help ease the pain, but he never stopped joking in public.

    Thanks, Tex. Your article brought a tear to my eye. We need more characters like Stanley and Stan. You don’t find them on the Internet.

  2. Nick,

    Just found this article about my dad. Even though I never thought of my dad as “brash” I found the article very touching. Both my mom and dad were very fond of you. They always talked about the kid from London with love. I have sent the article to my 3 sisters so they could enjoy it too. Thank you for the sweet memory of my folks.
    Stacy (Gray) Duge

    • I was very fond of your parents. Brash was one of the refreshing qualities your dad had that cut through so much of the Castle bullshit! It was certainly a compliment!!!!!

  3. My mom and dad are never out of my thoughts and it was delightful reading you memory of dad. He was a real character and left an impression and a smile wherever he went. My mom was his perfect sidekick, and they really knew how to party. Thanks for sharing your story.

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