Farewell To The Great Marvyn Roy

On July 1, 2020, we lost one of the great magicians of our time with the passing of Marvyn “Mr. Electric” Roy, at the age of 95. Marvyn Roy was a star of magic for most of his life, and his passing has closed the curtain on an entire era of magic. Marvyn’s distinguished career included performing in just about every TV show and live venue that mattered. Marvyn Roy played the kind of gigs that most magicians merely dream about. Even more importantly, Roy has been a source of inspiration to many generations of magicians.

In the magic community, Roy was as famous for his generosity of spirit, as he was for his classic “Artistry of Light” magic act. Spending time with Marvyn was to be uplifted by his excitement and pure love of magic. He had an almost limitless knowledge and understanding of every aspect of the magical arts and shared it freely with his fellow magicians.  It was impossible to spend any time around “Mr. Electric” without becoming a better and more passionate magician.

Born in Los Angeles on April 1, 1925, Roy was the king of the themed magic show. In his teens, Marvyn developed an award-winning act of silk magic called “Marvyn the Silk Merchant.” In 1950 with help from Alan Wakeling and Ray Muse, he introduced the prototype of his Mr. Electric show.  Later in his career, Marvyn launched two more themed shows billed as Mr. Puzzle and The Magic Jeweler. However, it is as Mr. Electric that Marvyn Roy is remembered the most fondly.

During World War Two, Roy was among the second wave of soldiers that landed on Normandy in 1944. After being wounded and receiving the Purple Heart, he was attached to Special Services and performed in a variety show entertaining the troops. Upon returning to civilian life, Marvyn studied theater at UCLA to more fully develop the act. However, there was one more thing needed to propel his life and career to the next level. 

In the early fifties, Marvyn learned to ice skate to perform his act in ice shows. It was a fortuitous decision.  At The Conrad hotel in Chicago, he met Carol Williams, an ice skater and rope spinner. The young couple fell in love and were married in 1956. In Carol, Marvyn now had the perfect professional partner and life mate. For 50 years, they shared the stage and traveled the world, dazzling audiences with their iconic teamwork. Both onstage and off, “Mr. Electric & Carol,” were a perfect dyadic, and had a dynamic relationship that delighted both audiences and their eclectic collection of friends.

A brief recap of Marvyn and Carol’s career would have to mention their regular appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, and numerous other domestic and international television shows. The couple also played The London Palladium, The Lido de Paris, and Radio City Music Hall as well as the best Las Vegas venues. The couple toured Russia with Ed Sullivan and opened for Liberace for over five years. Along the line, Marvyn picked up every major award that magic has to give. An excellent first-hand reminiscence of Roy’s career is available in his 2005 book “Mr. Electric Unplugged,” it is a great read and highly recommended.

I am just one of many magicians whose life was quietly and profoundly changed by a meeting with Mr. Electric. I had watched Marvyn & Carol on various British television shows and was deeply in awe of their showmanship and high energy magic show. I particularly enjoyed the dramatic moment in their act when Marvyn donned goggles and illuminated a 10,000-watt lighthouse bulb in his bare hands. It was the powerful heart of a spectacular show. The duo seemed like inhabitants of a different universe to this teenage Brit magician. Watching them on our tiny TV set performing live from the London Palladium, I could never have dared to guess that they would become dear friends one day.

I arrived in America in 1974 at the age of 22 and began to unravel a career for myself doing what I loved best—performing magic. My first real gig was an 80 dollar “club date” at the Long Beach Elks Club. When I arrived at the venue, I was astonished to discover I was working with Marvyn and Carol Roy. There had been a hitch in the booking procedure resulting in a bill that featured two magicians and two jugglers. Even more alarmingly, the entertainment committee had decided to put both the magicians in the first half of the show, with the two jugglers comprising the second half. No-one has ever accused many Elks Club entertainment committees of having a lot of showbiz acumen! Marvyn explained the situation to me, and much to my surprise told me that he would be opening the bill, and I would follow him and close out the first half of the show. For a while, I was pretty darn excited that Mr. Electric was going to be my opening act. How little we know in those early performing days! As a gnarled old veteran, I am now firmly aware that unless it affects your fee, go on as early as you can in any bill. I learned this lesson very clearly that night in Long Beach. Almost everything I performed in my show that night had just been presented far better by Marvyn within his themed format.

My show featured a floating ball, Marvyn had floated a light bulb, I cut and restored a piece of rope while he cut and restored a microphone cord. Even my killer effect, featuring an electric chair routine, was eclipsed by being proceeded by Marvyn & Carol presenting their spectacular version 25 minutes earlier. The audience was pretty darn kind to me, which I appreciated. Still, I felt somewhat foolish, and crestfallen as my wife Susan and I were packing up my props after the show.

At the very end of the evening, I was getting ready to slink back home with my magical tail between my legs, Marvyn materialized next to me. “Would you both like to come out and join us getting some breakfast at “Denny’s?” He said. Amazed and delighted, I replied, “Of course!” I couldn’t have been more excited at this rare opportunity to act like a genuine magic professional. We followed Marvyn and Carol to the nearby coffee shop, and the four of us quickly settled into a corner booth.

After ordering our breakfast, I was to experience that signature enthusiasm and generosity that made Marvyn Roy such a prince among men. Marvyn told me how much he had enjoyed my show, especially my Chinese Linking Ring routine. This effect had undoubtedly been one of my better-received pieces, if only because Marvyn hadn’t performed it! Marvyn then spent the rest of our breakfast, educating me on the importance of having a themed act with a name that people would remember. Before we finished our pancakes, he had devised an entire act that involved me linking different items together. “What you can do,” he enthused, “is change your name to Link Lewin!” By the time we left the restaurant, I was halfway ready to do it.

One of Marvyn’s many suggestions was that I immediately purchase a Himber Linking Finger Ring to develop my linking prowess further. The next day still on a rush from being treated, totally unrealistically, as an equal by such an esteemed performer, I drove to Joe Berg’s Magic Shop in Hollywood and placed a deposit on a Himber Ring. While I never developed an entire show linking objects, I certainly got my money’s worth from that finger ring. It became a signature effect that opened many doors for me. It was the trick that I performed on my first TV appearance in 1979 on The Merv Griffin Show filmed in the enormous Caesars Palace showroom in Las Vegas.

Over the years, I worked with Marvyn and Carol many times, and we became good friends. We often recalled that first show, and I was able to thank him for his kindness to a young and nervous rookie performer. The last time I saw Mr. Roy was in October of 2019 when I was performing at the opening night of Marvyn’s namesake magic theater in La Quinta. I got to tell this little story onstage during my show and enjoyed seeing Marvyn’s laughter as he sat in the audience. After the show concluded, we did what all performers do on these occasions—we went out with a group of magicians to have breakfast. Some traditions never change.

Marvyn is already sorely missed in our community. He was the best of the best, both onstage and off. I am proud to have known him.

 

 


 

 

~ by Nick Lewin on August 17, 2020.

2 Responses to “Farewell To The Great Marvyn Roy”

  1. One of the best articles I have ever read regarding a departed brother. Thank you Nick for your generosity and thoughts about a true class act!

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