A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Up To His Old Tricks #atozchallenge

The Magic Show "Up To His Old Tricks"  (1974)

 Up to His Old Tricks

          When I was in junior high I saw the S.S. Adams catalog of jokes and magic tricks advertised in Boy's Life magazine and sent off a quarter to get a copy.  I convinced my mother to let me order a number of practical jokes and a few magic tricks.  The jokes were to cater to my more devious side while the magic tricks were part of a genuine interest in learning to be a magician.  I never mastered the tricks or attempted to perform them for anyone other than my parents and a few friends, but my interest in magic grew.

         From early childhood I had always been a fan of performance magic.   After taking a job with an actual touring magic show when I was 24 years of age, I became a fanatic about magic.   Traveling with the Ken Griffin Magic Show starting in the summer of 1975 I began to live and breathe magic.  Since I was hired on as stage manager I needed to become knowledgeable about the workings of the tricks we used.   Ken and his wife were old timers and had many great stories to tell about show business in general and especially other magicians.    I read magic books and looked for anything about magic I could find.

         Ken and Roberta Griffin had been touring with their illusion show since the early 1950's and had gained fame among magicians with their book Illusion Show Know How.   It was not long after I began touring with them that I realized the celebrity standing they had in magic circles.  In each town where we performed there would be fans anxious to meet the duo and I would feel proud to be affiliated with their show.

          During the two years I worked with the Griffin's show, we were booked at a number of prestigious magic events and venues that featured magic.   In the summer of 1976 a portion of our show was featured as one of the attractions at the prestigious Tannen's Magic Convention held at the legendary Brown's Resort Hotel in the Catskills region of New York.  A very young David Copperfield was also there in a breakout performance before the all magic crowd.

          After the Tannen's Convention ended, we decided to go on into New York City since we were so close.   The Broadway production The Magic Show starring Doug Henning was a big hit at that time.  I'd seen excerpts of the show on television and it was the buzz among magic fans everywhere.  Since we were there we decided that it was a must see.

            Inquiring about tickets at the box office, we were informed that the show was completely sold out.  Naturally we were immensely disappointed having come this far especially to see this show.  Roberta jotted a quick note and asked if it could be taken backstage to Doug Henning.  Someone in the box office complied and within minutes we were being whisked backstage to meet the famed hippie magician.

         I was extremely excited.about meeting this famous magician, but he seemed even more excited to meet Ken and Roberta.  He told them how their book had been a big help to him in putting together his show and that they were among his heroes.  Even though every seat in the theater was sold, Henning managed to get us permission to sit on the steps at the front of the balcony--it was an ideal vantage point actually and not at all uncomfortable since the steps were plushly carpeted.  We were able to not only see the show, but we got to see it free.   I couldn't complain about that at all.

         That incident raised my esteem of the Griffins another notch.  They may have been in their waning years of performing, but they were legendary in the world of magic.  Not only that, but Roberta was an oft published writer and Ken was a well-respected leather worker who specialized in Western leathercraft.  His book Ken Griffin's Scrap Book, a collection of leather work patterns, used to be regularly sold in the Tandy Leather Stores when they were still prevalent.

          Years later, after Ken had died, Roberta settled down in Burbank, California.  I caught up with her when I too moved to California.  One day she took me and my daughters to the Gene Autry Museum.  Among the many artifacts on display was a fine leather saddle and gun holster that had belonged to cowboy movie star Gene Autry.   The identifying placard showed that the items were the craftwork of Ken Griffin.

          They were good people with more stories than I ever heard them tell and I heard them tell many a story.  Interesting stories about a full life of experiences.  And they had a darn good magic show.

          Are you a fan of performance magic?    Do you have a favorite magician?   Have you seen any shows on Broadway?

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  1. LEE, I was always interested in magic as a kid, and I used to order magic kits and books with magic tricks.

    Like you, I never really mastered any, but I used to fool around with it quite a bit. (Somewhere around here I still have a deck of marked cards created for performing magic tricks. Probably bought that when I was 12 or 13.)

    I wouldn't say that I have any particular favorite magician. I'm not exactly a magician groupie, but I have been to The Magic Castle in Hollyweird. That was a fun night.

    Also - I'm sure it won't surprise you - I've been to the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum a number of times and I think it's great.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  2. I do like to watch magic tricks. Did I tell you that I've purchased magic trick kits for my grandsons? The oldest one has performed in front of me.

  3. How great for you to have lived that experience, on the road with magicians! I would have loved to do something like that. In my heart I'm a rebel and carefree, in my head I'm terrified to live outside the box...so instead I marvel at people like you!

  4. Oh wow, what an experience! It looks like not only them but you had lived an interesting life full of great stories as well! Thanks for sharing it with us!

  5. Lee --

    My cousin was a budding magician and entertained us when he visited each summer. (One year we even had to figure out how to keep the doves away from our cats.) He was also the son of a skilled cabinetmaker, so he built his own illusions. So no matter what big pro magician I see, it is the living/dining room performances that remain my favorites.

    Although I did find the choreography in the Hans Klok show in Vegas to be some of the best I have ever seen. And I thoroughly enjoyed the times I saw the amazing close-up magic at the Magic Castle.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    A to Z Challenge

  6. Fascinating stuff! How lucky you were to have that time with the Griffins. Sounds like they set a good example in many different ways.

    I love performance magic, but I don't get the chance to see live shows much. My husband and I have taken a few cruises, however, and they nearly always feature a magician. I always sit in the front row when they do in case they need an audience volunteer!

    One nice thing, too, is that on cruises, you sometimes bump into the performers around the ship later on. It's fun to chat with them.

    ~Tui Snider~ Dropping by from the A to Z challenge! :D
    @TuiSnider on Twitter
    My blog: Tui Snider's Offbeat & Overlooked Travel
    I am also part of the #StoryDam team, a friendly writing community!

  7. A super-fun job at that age, I bet. I love magic shows, but it's been so long since my last one, I can't even remember when or how, just that I was completely mesmerized.
    Silvia @

  8. I love watching shows, but no, I don't have a favorite.

  9. StMc-- When I was with the Griffins in December of 1976 we played a few nights at the Magic Castle. It was exciting especially being part of their show. I kind of figured you'd been to the Gene Autry Museum and I threw that part into the story for you.

    Teresa -- Young boys especially love magic kits.

    Alicia -- The experience with the magic show opened my eyes to the world in many new ways.

    Andrea -- I've enjoyed my life and I used to like hearing Ken and Roberta's stories.

    Geri -- The spectacle of stage magic or the deftness of close-up all can be good done by the right performer. Cabinet making experience would definitely be of benefit for a magician who wanted to build his own props.

    Tui -- I've known a number of performers who did the cruise ship circuit. According to them mingling with the passengers was something they were required to do as part of their contractual agreement.

    Silvia -- I was definitely in the right time of my life when I had that job.

    Story -- I don't have any real favorites now either because I don't keep up with the industry.


  10. What a wonderful life you have led. Every story makes one wonder how you packed it all in.

  11. What an incredible story! I used to love Doug Henning when I was a kid in the 70s. I got a magic kit for Christmas in 5th grade (1974) but I wasn't good at it.

  12. Wow, Arlee. Very interesting stuff. Great background, there's a richness here worthy of fiction. You've lived some life yourself.

    My P was for poetry, and it sort of deals with magic!


    I believe we follow each other on the Twitter.

    Stay in touch, sir.

  13. CW -- It's amazing when you think back on your life and start realizing everything you've experienced. I think this holds true for everyone.

    JoJo -- It was a neat experience. I always enjoyed Henning's TV specials.

    Scribbler -- There are a number of experiences I've had that might make good fiction retellings. I'm not sure that I'd want to admit to some of the stories being true.



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Arlee Bird