Tony Giorgio. Actor, magician, grifter and legend.

This is a reprint of a colunn I wrote in 2008 about the Tony Giorgio. As you can tell I was a great fan. He sent me a wonderfully eloquent response and told me I had it SO right with my description of his relationship with Dai Vernon. I got another email from him at a later point telling me how much he looked forward to my little columns in Magic New Zealand, it was an honor and joy for me to hear this. He said he especially loved the columns about the Magic Castle in the 70s and how many happy memories he had of those times when (as he put it) I loved the Castle and the Castle loved me. Well, Tony–the Castle never stopped loving you neither has any  single magician who knew you. I like so many others am proud to have got to know you a even a little bit. You will be sorely missed by the real magicians.

One of the great delights that I enjoyed during the seventies in the Magic Castle was watching the interplay between Dai Vernon and Tony Giorgio. The appearance of confrontation that sometimes seemed to exist between the two was just that. An appearance. On a closer look it became very apparent that there was a bond of respect and friendship that linked these two very different characters. Tony would tease Dai and draw him out to reach deeper and deeper into his professorial bag of sleights and tricks.

If as Robert Houdin famously said, “A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician.” Tony Giorgio is the perfect man to prove the point. Tony is one of that special breed of actors who is recognized by the vast majority of people who chance to meet him. He has been featured in more movies and television shows than I could even list in my column without Alan having forty fits.

Tony was the perfect hood and villain throughout his acting career and to my mind made his greatest impact in ‘The Godfather’ ‘Foxy Brown ’and ‘Magnum Force’. To put it mildly he is a very imposing movie presence. To be absolutely honest he was also pretty damn imposing when you saw him perform his brilliant sleight of hand and gambling ‘cons’ in the Castle’s Close-Up Gallery.

I never missed a chance to watch him work his wonders. He was an amazing character with a full force talent that was second to none. Mind you he never quite abandoned his movie tough guy persona and I for one would never have dared to find the ‘broad’ he was tossing just in case he really was packing heat!

I remember one evening I was standing in the back of the Close-Up Gallery enjoying the show. My hand was resting behind the back of the chair next to me. Ronnie Berg was occupying that particular chair and at one point he threw his entire weight against the rear of the chair and it resulted in the most unbelievable pain I had ever experienced. I screamed out at the top of my lungs causing more than a little excitement and confusion in the tiny room. Everyone turned around and stared at me. Highly embarrassing.

My eyes eventually met Tony’s eyes and he was looking at me in a rather bemused manner. He politely enquired if he could continue with the show. I nodded and made a vague gesture towards my throbbing hand, the gesture failed to really indicate anything at all but the show began again.

No sooner had the show started when Ronnie Berg whispered an apology to me and then said; “ I can fix it for you, I am really good at setting bones.” He then took my injured hand and gave it a hefty squeeze. This resulted in another lusty scream from yours truly and once again the show ground to a halt. Even more embarrassing and trust me if there was ever a show you wanted to avoid bringing to a grinding halt it was Giorgio’s show.

There was another, very unexpected, side to Tony that I was delighted to discover several years later. Aside from his other skills and talents he is one of the worlds greatest authorities and performers in the truly occult area of ‘Griffter Poetry.’ I listened in fascination as he recited nearly lost odes to a lifestyle and era that has all but disappeared. It was a glimpse into world I scarcely knew existed.

A man of many parts, a jack of several trades and master of any that took his fancy, there aren’t many people who don’t fade into insignificant next to Tony Giorgio. He is one of the richest and most unique threads in the tapestry of the performing arts and a very unique addition to my list of Remarkable Magicians.

~ by Nick Lewin on February 1, 2012.

4 Responses to “Tony Giorgio. Actor, magician, grifter and legend.”

  1. Tony had a BIG personality and I knew him only as Persian rug specialist. One day we were in Hollywood and he showed us how to buy a rug (not that we would have had enough money to do so). He very dramatically flipped over a rug and explained the thread count. He looked and spoke like a gangster and he was a guy you did NOT want to mess with. He once said to Nick “If you know anyone casting gangsters let me know and I’ll make it worth your while.” One hopes he was not referring to the Mafia, but one did not know for sure. Never do I look at a Persian rug without thinking of Tony–he was one of the Castle’s greatest characters.

  2. Thank you so much for reprinting your wonderful column which so accurately captured my husband’s persona. He was a multi-talented, brilliant and complicated man, often misunderstood, who was and is the love of my life. There will never be another Tony Giorgio.

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