The Five Greatest Magicians I saw Live……

In the second of my five lists of five I want to reminisce back to the five magicians who really blew me away when I watched them perform. These were my peak viewing experiences and are amongst a mere handful of such moments during my fifty years performing magic. I have tried to add a little hint as to what it was that made them all so special in my eyes.

 Tony Slydini.

Slydini-photoBy far and away the most amazing experience I ever had as a magician was getting to sit down next to Tony Slydini as he performed and taught magic. It was in the late sixties in Ken Brooke’s tiny magic studio on Wardour Street, in London. Seated with me at the table were Pat Page, Bobby Bernard and a couple of other magicians.

What was so amazing was the sheer impossibility of everything that Slydini performed. It was one of the few occasions when what I saw didn’t look like tricks but truly appeared to be magic. A great deal is made of the fact that in order to perform Tony’s magic you need to adopt some of his style and mannerisms to make it work. Unless you actually saw Slydini perform live it is easy to fail to appreciate how incredibly natural his movements and performance were when he did them.

Billy McComb.

The first time I saw Billy perform was at the Conway Hall in London and his act included ‘The Half Dyed Silk,’ ‘The Gypsy

Thread’ and ‘A Chicken Production.’ I remember every trick almost fifty years later! What I remember most of all though was how incredibly funny he was. That was the amazing part about vintage McComb—the tricks were as strong as the comedy and combined together they were a blockbuster tour de force. Billy is still my hero.

Siegfried & Roy.siegfried-and-roy3

When I first saw Siegfried and Roy it was in their ‘Beyond Belief’ show at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. I had just taped a ‘Merv Griffin Show’ at Ceasars Palace and with a certain reluctance decided to catch their show. Why reluctance? Well I was no big fan of grand illusion (I’m still not) and thought their whole image was overblown and rather dumb. I also was no fan of the use of exotic animals in magic.

The dice were rather weighed against my enjoyment of the show and then to my delight I was charmed, astounded and delighted by what I saw. It was a truly amazing show and made me a fan for life; in fact I had to catch the show again just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. They performed a superb one-hour magic variety show and then just when you were ready to leave delighted, they did another thirty minutes of incredible non-stop magic. Truly ‘Beyond Belief.’

Albert Goshman.

The first time I saw Albert perform in the Close-up Gallery at the Magic Castle I was in magical heaven. It was the amazing skill that his show albert_goshmaninvolved coupled with a personality that was absolutely unique. It was just astounding the way those coins arrived under the salt shaker! Just as astounding was the brilliance with which he handled the two assistants who sat at the table with him. They were the ones who really ‘sold’ the magic but it was Albert who sold them!

Albert remains in my opinion the greatest master of misdirection I have ever seen, along with the late, great Jimmy Grippo. Sadly neither of these great artists were ever fully represented in video renditions of their work, as their misdirection just doesn’t seem to gel in quite the right manner.

Ross Johnson.

I am a huge fan of Mentalism and I consider Ross to be one of the absolutely convincing practitioners in this field. I could have chosen Max Maven, Glenn Falkenstein, Jon Stetson or Maurice Fogel easily in this category but I decided to go with Ross because I honestly feel he is the most convincing mentalist I have ever witnessed.

I remember being spellbound the first time I watched Ross perform his classic Blindfold Act in a small nightclub. There was a slightly edgy sense of self-irritation in his performance that I just loved. If he didn’t get it quite right, it seemed to bug him and drive him further into uncovering hidden details. He is truly a master of the wonderful world of mind reading.

Well that is this blog’s list, I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to re-think and re-live my first impressions of these master entertainers. Looking back at the list I realize that a key element is that they all really fooled me. I recently interviewed David Regal for an article and he stated that it was the real goal of every magician when watching a fellow magician to be fooled as a layman would. I think David is 100% correct!



~ by Nick Lewin on March 29, 2014.

2 Responses to “The Five Greatest Magicians I saw Live……”

  1. Gosh, Al was the One Performer, after Dai, that i ALWAYS tried to get into the Close-Up Gallery to see ! I literally watched this Master well over two dozen times, NEVER getting tired of seeing him baffle the two women sitting next to him — as well as most everyone in the audience (perhaps that was Everyone, exceptin me). I NEVER got tired of watching his wonderful skill at loading quarters ‘right under their noses’ Over & Over Again ! Forget ‘the Rules’ (as in Never do the Same Trick Twice) ! Then there was the night when the Ex-Bagel Baker was given the challenge, between sets, at the Main Bar : “Betcha can’t put a Bagel under the Shaker…” And danged if he didn’t ! I sat there absolutely Amazed, WAITING for Anyone Else to notice that Salt Cellar sitting high and at a Cock-Eyed Angle, ready to topple off that thick/uneven surfaced Bagel ! It took Several ‘beats’ & even required his requisite : “i DID !” Afore the two volunteers NOTICED it ! WOW ! I Loved Slydini, but, truly, to me Al way outdid him, at least for that one load ! May he rest in peace, i will NEVER forget that sole performance ! Sadly, Nick, you are also right about something else — his book barely gave the reader a small inkling of What Seeing It Done was really like — and i too have never seen any Video that came close to demonstrating just hiw amazingly skilled he truly was ! I suspect i will Never See anyone else that will replace him, in My Opinion, as the absolute Greatest Close-Up Artist that i, myself, got to witness ! All that, and ever notice how Thick his hands were ? (That may be part of how deceptive he was ! His abundant girth and charming humor, with those ‘big mitts’ made him seem most innocent and perhaps even incapable of the sleights he did so well). Among my very few ‘must sees’ that i wanted my Non Magician friends to see, Al was at the top !

  2. Albert was amazing! I have another fun Goshman story somewhere on my blog that you might enjoy! Thanks for sharing your comments Matt.

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