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RandyWakeman
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When Secrets Were Secret


Times have changed in our tiny world of Magic, remarkably so. To those of you who grew in magic at the same time as I, perhaps you can reminisce with me a bit. To the upcoming and incoming magical enthusiasts, perhaps you can gain perspective in these words.

It wasn’t all that long ago, perhaps twenty-five years, when Magic was a strikingly different place. Your VisionQuest may have started earlier or later, but the trek was the same. In the specific area of close-up sleight of hand, pet routines and techniques were jealously guarded like a cache of the most precious gems. They weren’t for sale, you couldn’t steal them, and most would never know they existed. They were quite real though, and vitally important. They were the secrets.

No matter how hot the thirst for knowledge, no matter how you hungered for more, these esoteric parcels of erudition did not come easy. This was a time when to gain knowledge, you had to display it. To receive information, you had to give it. Trading a pet move was about the only way you could learn another’s. The path was slow and ponderous, yet the thrill of new ideas blazed the way brightly. Passion was ignited, reverence was instilled.

Your sincerity had to be proved, your effort had to be obvious. Your love of the Art had to be unquestioned. Those days were the days of the real secrets. So hard were they to acquire, that they commanded tremendous pride and respect. The notion of having them quickly explained to you without effort was unthinkably disrespectful. You could not ask for them, they had to be entrusted to you.

Like a blood oath, only individual struggle gave you entrance to this tiny world. I’m referring to the back stage door, the tiny upstairs room at the magic shop, and the table at the restaurant when reverent, hushed tones were the standard of comportment. These were the days when you would follow “the man” around for months, to try to learn the move. Sometimes, just a touch, an important touch on an idea. A shift in timing, a different cover, a different hold of the card or coin. The realization that merely knowing a method was nothing, the understanding and ability to effectively perform a piece of impossibility was everything.

A sip of new knowledge burned your throat like liquid electricity. With caution and care, the acquired wisdom was inscribed into your notebooks. You worked tirelessly in front of the mirror for weeks, waiting for approval from the Master before you dared incorporate it into your paid engagements. When the final stamp of approval came, the thinking of how and why was so firmly etched into your being, it could never be torn away. It was now part of you, part of your soul, never to leave.

The scratching and clawing at these tiny drops of technique made them all the more precious. When responses from audiences confirmed your journey was not in vain, the newly gained inner satisfaction that warmed you glowed with a light that was never to dim. We hungered for more, to the exclusion of all else.

This was a time and place when secrets really were secrets. It’s now a different place, a later time, but thankfully it still prevails. Now, these secrets are even more so. Obscured by the torrent of information, the sand that hides the pyramids piles ever higher.

For me, it was Al Andrucci and Eddie Malkowski. For others, it was Arturo, David Frederick Wingfield, or F. Robinson. Perhaps for you, Ramsay, or Walton. Maybe a diminutive man with knots in his silks named Tony. For those who can relate, the bonds created cannot be broken. We were the lucky ones. We were touched by the flame, and shown how to light our own personal paths.

Secret people, secret places, and secret things are to be treasured and cherished forever. The tears of laughter soothed the pains of ceaseless striving. We hope you can sense why. If you can, you’ll have a smile on your face, and no doubt tears in your eyes, as do I.


Randy Wakeman
Garrett Nelson
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I like the idea you comment on that the great secrets are just as secret as ever because they are lost in the plethora of other things without proper guidance.

And I agree that finding someone to help is extremely important.

After I had been doing magic for a short time, I got some of the best magical advice I ever got.

“Work really hard at what you do. It will show. When people see you have worked hard, and are working hard, they will be willing to help you out.”
John Smetana
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Wonderful post Randy. It brought back a lot of very very pleasant memories. For me it was the NY magic scene in the 60's and 70's.
An occasional lunch with Paul Curry, talking with Frank Garcia up at Tannen's, sharing a sandwich with Tom Waters, trekking around Manhattan with Richard Himber looking for a jeweler who could do 'whatever' with a coin..and many many more.And all the while talking about, thinking about, learning about magic.It was really a special time. Wow. Thanks for awakening the memories Randy.

Best thoughts,
John Smetana Smile
RandyWakeman
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Frank Garcia - - - John, you got me going now!
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