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Topic: Magic Inc, Jay Marshall, and The Zombie Ball
Message: Posted by: Ahsv (Feb 22, 2020 06:46PM)
[i](note and disclaimer: I wrote this several years ago for an audience of non-magicians, so please understand and forgive the talk of "semi-famous magicians" and oversimplified effect descriptions that follow. The only magicians they had heard of then were David Copperfield and Houdini, and a zombie was a member of the undead that popped up not from behind a foulard but in George Romero movies.)[/i]

The best part of being a kid into magic and living in Chicago in the mid-1970s was visiting one of the best magic shops in the country, Magic, Inc. It was at that time located on the North Side on Lincoln Avenue, and I lived in Oak Park, a suburb that abuts Chicago on the West Side. If I'd lived in Dallas like I do now, I'd have been out of luck since Dallas has no real public transportation to speak of (though, to be fair, it's getting better,) but that wasn't so in Chicago. The El went right through Oak Park, and every street was a bus route. It wasn't really practical to take the El to Magic, Inc, but I'd take the bus.

[i](aside: interesting article: [url=http://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/May-2019/Once-and-for-All-Is-it-the-Chicago-El-el-L-or-L/]Once and for All: Is It El, el, L, or <q>L</q>?[/url] But to continue):[/i]

At first I'd beg and plead with my parents to drive me there on Saturdays, but they'd only do this perhaps twice a year. However, I memorized how to get there (Austin to Montrose to Western to Lincoln... I think. It's been over 40 years now) . After first hiding some money in my shoe, I'd just hop on a bus at North Avenue and Austin, ask for a transfer, and an hour and several different busses later I'd walk the last couple of blocks to the shop.

Magic, Inc was a real magic shop, not one of these stores you find now where 90% is gags and games and practical jokes and maybe costumes, with the remaining 10%, represented by a small shelf in a poorly-lit corner of the store actually devoted to magic tricks. No, Magic, Inc had the dusty, dark cherrywood shelves filled with interesting looking apparatus, many with Japanese characters painted on them that to a ten-year-old boy meant they were real magic tricks. You'd also have the display cases with various props and tricks laid out to tantalize you. There'd be signed 8X10 glossies on the walls of various magicians, too... sort of like the magic version of those pizzerias of my youth that had the signed glossies of various hockey players like Stan Makita or Tony Esposito. The people in these photos, however, had all of their teeth.

The best part of the whole Magic, Inc experience were the presenters... the guys who would show you a trick:

[i]Stupid gawking kid drooling over apparatus: "Hey, what's this thing, 'The Peanut Trick'? Can you show it to me?"

Jaded fifty-something guy behind counter: Sigh. "Yeah, kid, hold on". Grumble, trudge. [/i]

See, now if you happen to find that small corner in some store selling magic stuff, you're lucky if you'll get some teenage twerp with acne and dirty nails to demo something for you. And that's if you're lucky. Usually you don't even get that.

[i](yet-another-aside: I wrote this several years ago, pre-YouTube. Now, for many kids, YouTube is the demo'er, sadly.)[/i]

But what's more, often real live semi-famous magicians would be in the shop. Sometimes they'd demo the trick for you themselves, especially if it was their creation. One Saturday I wanted to see the "Knife Thru Handkerchief" trick that I had recently viewed in the yearly catalog, and the guy who "invented" it (I realized later that he hadn't invented this trick but rather improved it) happened to be in the shop, so he demo'd it for me. Another time a guy who'd recently published a book on making balloon animals tried to get me to buy his publication. I told him I didn't understand what balloon animals had to do with magic, and he sighed while he trudged off, grumbling.

Other times a semi-famous magician would just be shopping to see what new stuff was out. I saw Mark Wilson this way, for what it's worth, though of course he was more than semi-famous.

However, the best demo I ever had was done by Jay Marshall, the owner of Magic, Inc, and a semi-famous magician himself (he was of course full-fledged famous amongst the magic community, and at one point in the 50s and 60s he was full-fledged famous with the American public at large).

Did he demo some nifty new trick, or one of his own invention? Sadly, no. That Saturday morning he demo'd "The Zombie Ball" for me. For those of you who might not have seen this old classic, it's basically that "floating silver ball trick", where the ball floats under and behind this large foulard (you get to use words like "foulard" when you do magic tricks).

Anyway, I wanted to buy it, but wanted to see it first. There was just Jay there, doing some paperwork or filing something or other right in the back, and a couple of other guys, neither of whom appeared to be too keen on showing some dumb kid the Zombie effect. One of them trudged off to get the prop out of the back and was about to begrudgingly put it through its paces, when Jay offered to demo it himself. The guy was sort of taken aback, saying, no, I'll do it, but Jay was committed. Suddenly the foulard was in his hand the ball was dancing.

The guy tried to tell me what an important event this was, that I'd better appreciate it, did I know who Jay Marshall was, yadda yadda. But of course I really didn't know who Jay Marshall was then. All I cared about was whether or not The Zombie Ball looked convincing. The old bald guy with horn-rimmed glasses holding the foulard didn't matter to me.

I bought The Zombie and performed it many times during my "career" before I took an extended multi-decade hiatus from performing magic myself. It was years later, when I became a student of the history of magic and started collecting books, etc, that I finally realized that that guy was right... I was given a treat that day.

Jay Marshall performed the Zombie Ball for an ten-year-old kid with a $20 bill in his shoe and an expired bus transfer in his pocket.
Message: Posted by: Russo (Mar 19, 2020 01:36PM)
Years ago - 1960s' when upstairs off Hollywood Blvd, in Joe Bergs Magic Shop - Wife and I were standing behind Tommy Cooper and his wife as they were looking at some effects, -I remember Tommys' wife saying "NO, Tommy - you spent enough" -- Joe Berg was a pretty good guy - always helpful. Also one afternoon in Bert Wheelers Hollywood Magic Shop - in the 50's as a teen,I won an elec plane in a talent show- wasn't interested in it - took it into the shop- a LARGE HEAVY set Gentle Man asked what he could do for me I asked if I could trade the plane for some Magic - Yes he said - got a Die Box-Hat Loader and Lg. Imp bottle - plus every time I would go in he was always VERY helpful. If anyone remembers that era, area, people - P/M me - 83(in June) don't want to go through all the forums - to lazy-TIRED?????? Ralph (russo) Rousseau --- formally SAM #22 member, #6992-196 and Castle # R-2019