1955 - 2010
Posted: Aug 17, 2005 9:07pm
Better known as "Rod the Hop"...
I remember the first time I saw Rod. He came into the "House of Magic", where I worked for "Buma" Burger, in SF. He acted like he didn't know anything, and watched me demo for a while. Then he asked me if I could do any of the tricks in the books we had for sale. So, I did "Triumph" I think, and "Spellbound", both from the "Stars of Magic" and several things from "Royal Road". Then, smelling a fish, I asked him what he did. "Aw, nothin', really, I just like the stuff is all..." Yeah, right!
He did his "hop" for me, in the course of a sort of "Jazz Magic" trick. Knocked my socks off! He was just a kid, maybe 19, at the time. Then he told me he was in the Navy, stationed at T.I. and that he was a gambler, that dice was really his thing.
Well, after what I just saw with cards, if dice was his "thing" he would have to be amazing! So I asked if he could do a dice switch. He said he could, asked for two sets of dice, and switched for me. It was so good, I didn't believe it. I gave him a second set of dice, a different color, and asked him to do the switch again.
He picked up those whites, shook them once and tossed them out, and I swear they changed to red in mid-air! And, he was clean! No dice in his hands. Rod had a "holdout" for the switched pair that was instantaneous, and can be done in slacks and a short-sleeve shirt. It seems impossible.
I sent him over to a friend of mine,(at the time!), named Jeff Busby. Jeff was something of a "gambling expert", or at least very well-read. And, he knew a lot of the top guys, like Vernon and Jennings and Skinner. So I figured he would want to see Rod, and maybe Rod would meet some of the guys that way. That's exactly what happened. Rod got introduced around, and he and I became very close friends, and from then on the game was on...
Rod could "Pitch the Broad", throw Three Card Monte, like no one you've ever seen. Unless, of course, you've watched the real deal on the streets. I can still remember the lines he used, some of them:
"This here ain't no three card monte, this here's the Mexican pitti-pat, where you win on the red and you lose on the black...
"Watch me now, I'm gonna race 'em and chase
'em, so watch where I place 'em..."
"If you gotta lotta nerve and you gotta lotta plenty, five'll getcha ten and ten'll getcha twenty..."
"They's ony three kinda men I won't play with - Thet's a po' man, a blind man, an a police-man!"
"I've played this game with Yankees and Southerners, Senators and Governors. Money on the card or no bet, where's the red? If I can bluff you I can beat you. Come on bet five, bet ten! Ho down now, get your chicken dinner in the center, where's the red?..."
So, as you can see, Rod is an OLD friend of mine (I've known him for over 25 years). He is an expert card handler at almost every level. There is little he doesn't know regarding gambling techniques, the "real work", not the psuedo-gambling material that magicians do in exposes.
This is not to knock the magic/gambling material, quite the contrary. The "real work" in gambling would be deadly boring to most of the public. All but hard-core gambling fanatics are more entertained by the material developed by magicians, since it is written with the goal of entertaining people, not fleecing them.
Rod was a big fan of Derek Dingle's and could do most everything from Dingle's first little book when I first met him. He handles small objects as well as any close-up guy you are likely to meet. Dice, coins, cigarettes, are all second nature to him.
So there you have it, a little bit of background on one of the true "characters" on the fringes of the magic world. Maybe next time a little bit about "Snapping The Rag", Jazz music, short cons, holdouts, coolers, "playing the light", and "Adventures in Chinatown", all with "Rod the Hop" and his merry gang of..., well, you know.
"You can't steal a gift..." Dizzy Gillespie