Magic Castle Revisited. Part Two.

This is the continuation of my virtual tour of the ’70s era Magic Castle.

Another iconic resident of the Castle was the legendary “Senator” Clarke Crandall. My first meeting with “Senator” Crandall was in his capacity as host. No sooner had we been introduced than he began to recite a quasi-biblical story about God instructing mankind on how to make a profit on the selling of polo shirts by sewing an alligator on the front of them. As he spoke he puffed on one of his signature spiral shaped cigars that definitely looked a great deal better than it smelt. After Crandall finished his recitation, I politely mentioned how much I enjoyed the writings of Woody Allen. The tale he told had been taken word for word from Woody’s first book, but fared even better for being translated into the spoken word. After I made this observation, the Senator gave me a sideways glance, a slight scowl and said, “A magician who reads actual books. I will have to keep an eye on you.” I am not sure if he really did keep an eye on me, but if the truth is told Crandall always scared me just the tiniest bit. I wish I had got to know him a little bit better.

Upon entering the Castle, once you had passed through the sliding bookcase, the first thing most magicians would do was turn their gaze to the left and see if Dai Vernon was in his regular seat on the little couch in front of the Close-Up Gallery. Most nights would find him holding court there, with a cigar in one hand, a deck of cards in the other, and a snifter of brandy on the table in front of him. Seated around “The Professor” would be a crowd of the very best of the current crop of Young Turks hanging on his every word. They were waiting for him to casually impart the “moves” and gems of card handling in person that had escaped being immortalized in his written work. They were seldom disappointed.

Vernon was gracious and generous in these impromptu demonstrations of his mastery as he imparted his endless wisdom. After a while one began to realize how shrewdly he calculated the ability of his students to grasp the lessons he dispensed. One quickly realized that like every true master Dai was fully aware that no information passed on to lesser minds was truly worthwhile if those receiving it were unable to put the information into application. The Professor was exceedingly careful to teach each particular student exactly what it was that they needed to learn. It was also instantly apparent that nothing gave Vernon more pleasure than seeing a young magician perform a sleight or trick that added to his own inestimable knowledge. The purest form of teaching is always a two-way street between those involved in the process.

Some nights The Professor was joined in his corner by master magicians such as Bruce Cervon, Larry Jennings, Mike Skinner, or Tony Giorgio–it was truly a sight to behold as they traded their tricks. I loved to watch these mind-bending sessions.

Over the years Vernon became quite a fan of my comedy magic act, but could never quite understand my need to inject comedy into my sleight of hand work. My very favorite memories of Dai were the nights when I would drive him back to his little apartment, stopping at the local supermarket for a few groceries. Pushing a rickety shopping cart around the Hughes Market while a demonstrably inebriated Professor selected items for his refrigerator was an honor I remember fondly. Usually Vernon would take these opportunities to good naturedly assure me it wasn’t too late to forsake the jokes and concentrate fully on my card work.

The third part of my tour will be in the next blog post!

 

 


 

~ by Nick Lewin on June 9, 2017.

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