Thoughts On Larry Jennings
"Gambler's Triumph" from
Ultimate Secrets of Card
Magic was the first advanced card effect I ever attempted to
learn, and I’ll always remember sitting at a card table by a
fireplace, practicing it over and over during a high-school
Christmas vacation. Many years later, when I finally made it to
the Magic Castle, I was too intimidated to actually sit down next
to the creator of that routine and introduce myself. For some
time, I’d just kind of look the other way as I walked by the bar,
even if Larry were sitting alone. Finally, I was there one night
with my friend Tom Meyer, a magic fan who’s now an associate
member of the Castle. Taking matters into his own hands, Tom
politely introduced himself to Larry and said that he had a friend
who admired him who was sitting down at the end of the bar. Larry
called me over, and—as I think I had secretly feared—asked me to
do a trick for him. I don’t remember what I did, but I think it
went OK, and after that I was able to walk up to Larry without
needing an intervention.
I knew Larry for only five years,
which seems very strange, since I carry with me so many stories
and tricks and good times from that short span. He had such
charisma and such spirit that he made you live life more fully
simply by being in his presence. Behind that gruff exterior, he
was actually a sentimental guy who truly loved those around him,
and I’ll be forever grateful for the wonderful people I met
through Larry, who all seemed to have the same sort of positive
energy: Bill Goodwin, Mike Skinner, Alfonso, Fenik, Randy Holt,
and, above all, B.J. Larry and B.J.’s house was an oasis where you
never knew what trick might arrive in Larry’s head, or what magic
legend might be calling on the phone. It was a warm place, a safe
place, and I miss horribly not being able to go there.
When Larry was working on a piece of
magic, he often closed his eyes to see it in his head, nodding his
head as he worked through its particular beats. It was as if he
were visiting a lovely, removed world—and, if you study his
elegant magic, you’ll see that it’s a world that never goes away.
I used to be jealous of the old
timers, when they would speak of seeing Leipzig perform, or Cardini,
or Malini. How lucky they were to be born at the right time! Then I
realized that I was spending time with the legends of the future. I
got to spend time with Larry Jennings, one of the most brilliant
minds in card magic.
It was not hard to figure out why Larry was able to design such
wonderful magic. He had a passion for it, he thought about it, and
he did the work. He didn’t dream about better magic, he would sit
for hours, just trying to come up with the most elegant solution for
a card problem. He wasn’t afraid to experiment, to practice or to
study the past masters.
When you first met Larry, you wouldn’t suppose that he could do such
subtle, perfect sleight of hand. He was a bear of a man, more like a
boxer than an artist. His fingers were thick as sausages, with the
cuts and scars of his plumbing work evident on his hands. But put a
pack of cards in his hands, and you would be hard pressed to find a
more accomplished sleight of hand artist.
Now if Larry’s talents stopped at his hands, he would still deserve
a reputation as one of the very best in history. But Larry was so
much more. Larry dove into his magic, head first. He didn’t just
follow the crowd and do the “pop” magic of the day. He thought
differently. He knew that good sleight of hand starts in the head
with study and experimentation. It is not just doing difficult
moves, but rather being thoughtful, direct, and precise. Anyone can
come up with contrived moves and routines. But Larry made things
simple and direct. That is where the art lies.
My first exposure to Larry was from Genii magazine. I learned
every trick in his special issue. I still use several of those
routines today, and certainly have applied the thinking to all my
Our mutual friend Allen Okawa has told the story about Larry wanting
to be buried in the cemetery next to Vernon and Faucett Ross. Well,
there is one more story about that cemetery.
On one particular visit to Faucett Ross’ house, Larry boasted of
having bought a new gun, and asked if there were someplace in the
country were he could go to try it out. Faucett recommended the
cemetery just outside of St. Joeseph, in Faucett, Missouri, a tiny,
simple town, which was founded by Faucett’s relatives.
They both went to the secluded country cemetery in the evening,
after dark. Larry set up some cans on the fence and had a little
target practice for a couple hours.
The next day, the town was abuzz with talk of the “mob shootout” in
the cemetery the night before. It is now probably part of the
legends of that quiet tiny town!
As I slowly watch the time go by, I realize I am getting to be one
of the old guys. I start to see the envy in the eyes of the young,
when I boast, “I used to spend time with Larry Jennings.”
I remember the
first time I met Larry Jennings.
It was ten years
ago and I was doing a lecture at the Magic
Castle (first and only one) and nervous as hell. Sweating like
As if that wasn’t
bad enough, who do I see sitting out in the front row (along with
Martin Nash) when I first step out after my introduction?
I was in a state of
sheer panic as I went through my stuff. It was like I wasn’t even
there. The sweat was pouring out of my pits in rivers onto my hands
I spewed out my
patter thinking, “The Great One is now officially going to know I
Well, I got through
After the lecture I
met Larry and I learned something I’ll never forget. What I learned
was that it wasn’t about me after all. Never was. It was
about the magic. Larry was extremely gracious and comforting. He sat
down with us at the card table and we sessioned. Larry was about
“ideas.” I don’t think he gave a rat’s ass about me or my sweating.
He did want to talk about some card stuff though, and was genuinely
interested. He wanted to think about some of the stuff he
I repeat, Larry was
about “ideas.” When he had an idea, he pursued it
voraciously—explored it with every fibre of his being. I could
identify with that immediately. The products of his persistence
permeate close-up magic today and always will. The Jenning’s
Revelation, Ambidextrous Travelers, Open Travelers, to name just a
His “status” never
got in the way of pursuing excellent magic with a pack of cards, and
it didn’t matter who you were. If you had an “idea,” well, that
he respected. He could easily spend hours pursuing every avenue
of that idea. He also was very blunt. If something sucked, he told
you. (Or me anyway.)
For Larry, I think
the love of magic was in the creation. Victory really never meant
anything. It was always the battle that mattered. The pleasure was
the pursuit, never the capture. When an idea came to fruition, and
the cards relented and submitted to that dream, I think his joy was
short lived. There was, of course, the period of sharing that
victory—and that was good—but soon he had to be on the hunt for
It never was about
me. Or him. I think he would agree.
Larry, I’ve got
some ideas to run by you. See you in a few.
My Life...Larry Jennings
year was 1961 and I was a very young fellow, performing close-up at
the Columbus Magifest. After I’d performed my close-up set, a guy a
few years older than me walked up and told me he really liked what I
had done. In fact, he went on to say, “You and I are the only two
sleight of hand magicians at this convention.” He told me that he
only liked pure sleight of hand and everyone else used those
was an unknown Larry Jennings, talking to an equally unknown Bruce
Cervon. He had come to this convention from
and was disappointed in what he saw. He’d approached me because I
was doing exactly what he liked—pure sleight of hand.
spent the rest of the convention together, doing tricks for each
other, finding that we both avidly studied Marlo’s works and happy
to have met a person who thought as you did.
I told Larry that I
was crazy about Dai Vernon material and did some of Dai’s “work” for
him. He, too, thought this stuff was great! He said he really hadn’t
made a study of him as I had.
the convention, Larry went home to Detroit and I went back to Akron,
Ohio. But we kept in touch and met at the Magifest again the next
with interest, in the Genii, that the Magic Castle was
opening, and then later that Dai Vernon was living there. I told
Larry I’d love to meet Dai Vernon and Larry said he would, too!
I received a letter from Larry which changed my life. Larry said
that the reason I had not heard from him the previous month was that
he had MOVED TO CALIFORNIA! I talked about it, but he had done it
before I had! Larry told me that Dai Vernon was everything I
thought and MORE! “Why don’t you come out,” he said, and I was on my
It took me two days
to drive to Hollywood with all my worldly possessions in my car.
stumbled into Larry’s apartment one afternoon in October of 1964
exhausted. I met Larry’s wife Nina and Joan Lawton (Frieden then)
for the very first time and only hours later met Dai Vernon. My wife
and I slept on the floor of Larry’s living room. We couldn’t sleep
on the couch as Charlie Miller was sleeping there!
We spent a lot of
time at Larry’s apartment as at the time it was the place where we
all got together, pooled our money to buy food, spent holidays and
established a real sense of “family.” It was like a magic convention
every night…for years. It was a wonderful time.
Larry was a large
part of the early Castle days, for then he was a performer, too! A
very good performer, in fact. I used to love to watch him work along
with the other early regulars! Dai Vernon, Charlie Miller, Leo
Behnke, Bob Gwodz, Jay Ose, Lou Derman (Friday night Lou) and of
course I was there too! Larry did some very commercial material.
Ideas to do some of the items were sent to him from Detroit by his
old friends Ron Bauer and Milt Kort.
many knew Larry for as long a period as I did or as closely—but Ron
Bauer, Milt Kort and Ron Wilson, his teacher in magic, certainly
only say that some of the best times of my life were spent with
Larry. It’s a shame they had to end.
Larry was great and
I’ve always been a huge fan of his magic. There is a unique style to
his magical creations, which is as recognizable as the work of any
great artist. Like very few other magicians (Al Baker and John
Carney immediately come to mind), I’ve always felt that Larry’s
magic was “finished”—there was nothing that needed to be changed or
“improved.” His thought process, routining, and methods were so
clean and so well thought-out that if one was to put an unknown
Larry Jennings handling of an effect among other methods created by
several other famous magicians, I truly believe that I would be able
to recognize Larry’s unique version. Clean, crisp, streamlined,
ingenious, and subtle are words that come to mind when describing
the fiendishly clever mind of Larry Jennings. The art of Magic has
been elevated to a higher level as a result of Larry Jennings
sharing his ideas with us. Thank you Larry.
I can remember the
first time Larry Jennings came into my shop for a haircut. Mid
1990’s. I had only met him briefly at the Castle and had heard that
he wasn’t very friendly with some of the Magicians. I was sort of
worried that I might set him off if I said the wrong thing. I
remember him sitting in my chair and I thought, “I can't believe I
was this close to a legend in Magic.” Let alone have his head in my
hands. Weird thought. I have had that thought with just about
everyone in the field of Magic. Interesting position to be in for
someone who looked up to all of these guys. I realized shortly that
he was just a pussycat. He had a hard outer shell that sort of
covered up the person he really wanted to be. I remember him telling
me during conversation that he didn’t believe in a supreme being.
But he always said that he wished that he could believe. That kind
of thinking just didn’t compute for Larry. He was at least honest
about wanting to. He would always surprise you with some off the
wall comment that would take you back a step.
One thing I knew
about that man was his true passion for Magic. He would start to do
a trick for you and you would think he was telling a true story as
he started, and would continue until the trick was done. About half
way through an effect it would dawn on you that it was the patter
for the trick he was doing. That is how convincing he was when he
communicated. He would always look you right in the eyes when he
talked. Totally absorbed in the moment and the effect. He cracked me
up when he would mess up the trick. He would always get so mad and
curse at his mistakes. He would always say that he needed to look up
the trick in one of his books. He would say “I always forget my &%#*
tricks. I have too many of them to remember.” He would finally work
it out and everything would be OK.
He would always
love to see you do a trick. I remember the day I showed him
Blizzard. He was totally blown away. He said “I have no &*$% idea
how you did that. You fooled me.” That was a nice moment for me,
especially knowing that he was one of the best in the business. He
never had too much pride when it came to giving you compliments. You
must deserve them though. He didn’t just give them away freely.
Even when he was in
the Hospital in his last days he loved to see card magic. When I
went to see him, and he wasn’t feeling good at all, he would always
want to see a trick. His poor hands were swollen and he would still
take the deck and try to show us something. Even up to his last days
on this planet he kept trying. I couldn’t believe that anyone could
love the art as he did. Especially when you are ready to pass on.
He would always say
“Hello young man,” and then “thanks for coming to see me.”
I consider The
Classic Magic of Larry Jennings to be one of the best books in
magic today. So much great material in one book. He is truly missed.
I saw Larry
Jennings perform close-up on my first visit to the Castle—that was
over 20 years ago. The audience seemed a little restless, Larry too,
maybe. I was enthralled. A few years later through the kindness of
near strangers I had the opportunity to sit for a few hours with
Larry, Michael Skinner and Vernon in the Professor’s corner of the
Castle. I knew I didn’t deserve my seat but would allow no one to
pry me from it. Larry showed me such generosity that night—the
proper way to do the Stevens control, tipping the bottom palm the
old bastard deity in the corner had repeatedly “demonstrated,” the
generous inscription in my copy of Larry’s just-published book (the
best collection of sleight-of-hand we had seen for many years). I
see now that it was his kindness that transformed a remarkable
evening into such a cherished memory. A few more years passed and I
spent a weekend with Larry and three other giants of his generation
in a small private gathering. It was my own little city but I was
the one out of place. Closing my eyes I can still picture Larry, his
personal pitcher of Margaritas in hand, boldly wobbling through that
gaudy Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque. He probably could drink
anybody under the table. (Except Michael Skinner, that is—bad idea,
that.) I do envy the ones who spent more private time with him. But
how lucky we all are that his beautiful mind is on perpetual display
through the description of his best magic, infused with a grace of
thought and elegance of construction that is scarcely to be matched
I will tell you
that Larry was simply the best. Here are my reasons.
His touch with a
deck of cards was unique. He did not pretend to have style while
handling the cards—he really had style.
His knowledge was
as big as his creativity.
personality was intimidating.
His calm while
doing difficult sleights was amazing.
His politeness when
he asked you to help him for some effect was incredibly persuasive.
His sense of humor
was light and fun.
Him humbleness was
He was simply the
He tops everyone
else. Just look at his books—his thoughts, his handlings—I simply
love them all. The construction of his effects was very solid.
I think Jennings
was so great that he always allowed his old friend, teacher and
admirer (Vernon) to be the Master and idol at his kingdom of the
Jennings had a
different kingdom in a different world.
His crown was his
intelligence and his castle was his heart where every one who liked
to witness miracles was allowed.
of Spades, the Lethal Deception.
Larry Jennings to
me was one of the outstanding constructors of card tricks—perfect
blendings of effects and methods, each supporting the other. It
seemed like he was never satisfied just to have a trick work or even
amaze—his tricks had no loose ends and no gratuitous actions. This
is in the great Walton/Elmsley tradition, and has been a goal that
I’ve tried to emulate in my poor man’s way.
The day the Professor and Larry stayed in their hotel room
When Dai Vernon and Larry Jennings visited Japan for their lecture
tour in 1969, there were two hours they shut out visitors from their
It was the two hours after they
watched Dr. Sawa's magic for the first time. He performed for them
his beautiful magic including the famous Pearl Act, Piano trick,
The Professor and Larry were shocked
with Sawa's magic and were talking about what they witnessed for
these two hours. Later the Professor and Larry admitted there was
poetry in Sawa's magic.
After coming back to the United
States, the Professor and Larry talked about the beauty of Sawa's
magic and recommended that the Magic Castle and other clubs invite
Dr. Sawa to the United States. Afterwards, Dr. Sawa became well
known for his unique magic all over the world.
I am very lucky to have witnessed the
Professor and Larry shed a tear seeing beautiful magic.
Reflections of a
When one tries to
recall the true meaning of a very close friendship that spanned
close to forty years, mere words offer little to the significance of
passing has left a tremendous void in my life. I could always count
on him to elevate my thinking when it came to the intricacies of
sophisticated sleight of hand and the role they played in the art of
total deception. Larry’s personality and philosophy were an open
book. What you saw was what you got. Larry was Larry! Few of his
friends knew that beneath that sometimes candid demeanor, was a poet
with a heart of gold. I treasure the times spent with Larry and his
devoted wife B. J. in their home. I always felt like one of the
family and still look forward to seeing B. J. and the opportunity to
reminisce about the man whose legacy has raised the bar of eloquent
sleight of hand to a level few will ever achieve.
I think Larry
Jennings is one of the most inspiring magicians ever. Larry’s work
contains some of the most surprising moments in magic. His
creativity seemed endless. His magic was consistently high quality
and innovative. His work was one of the reasons close-up magic was
so much fun for me.
I was in high
school the first time I saw Larry’s tricks. A friend showed me
“Transmutation” from Larry Jennings on Card & Coin Handling.
That color changing deck was a knockout. When I finally got a hold
of the book, I found his methods were as much fun to do, as his
tricks were to watch. I really liked that book. I got a hold of
Vernon’s Ultimate Secrets next. Larry’s section was the best
part. I started to notice that Larry’s tricks have a unique
signature. You can tell if a trick is Larry’s just by reading the
method. Learning Larry’s magic was never a disappointment. He
always lived up to his reputation.
I had the
privilege of meeting Larry in the mid-1980s. Bill Goodwin introduced
us. Larry was sitting at Vernon’s
table in front of the Magic Castle’s Close-Up Gallery. The first
trick I saw him do was “The Mystery Card.” Larry was a real
performer. He had an engaging presentation, as well as a great sense
of timing, misdirection, and humor. He didn’t tell jokes. Instead,
he dropped hints during the trick that he didn’t take himself too
seriously. I saw all this in the first trick.
Even when Larry
was busted, he kept his sense of humor. I took my girlfriend to the
Castle and we ran into Larry (at the same table, of course). I asked
him to show her some magic. He showed her three tricks and at the
end of each one she apologized and admitted she saw what he did, and
described it. She was right each time. Larry looked at me and said,
“Young man, you’ve been showing her too many card tricks.”
inspiring thing about Larry is that although he published hundreds
of effects, I suspect this material represents just the tip of the
When people think
of sleight of hand artists, they tend to think of “virtuoso pianist”
hands—lean, lithe hands with long slim fingers. Larry Jennings was a
bear of a man, with hands the size of dinner plates. But there is no
question he had the touch of the “virtuoso.” Observers didn’t see
quick, furtive movements of those hands; the movements were slow,
deliberate, natural, and yet magical things happened. How could that
be? How could those coins fly one at a time into my hands? How could
those aces appear on top of each packet, and do so face up? It must
have been magic!
Here is an amusing
story of my late great friend and magician, Larry Jennings. The
story was related to me in 1979 while on a visit to Faucett Ross in
St. Joseph, Missouri.
One time, both
Dai Vernon and Larry were paying a visit to Faucett and he took both
gentlemen to the Ross family cemetery. After pointing out the names
of his bygone relatives, Faucett said that there are only two plots
left—one for Dai and Faucett. Larry couldn’t resist in asking where
was his plot. Faucett again said to Larry that there are only two,
so after Larry pondered awhile, he said that he had a solution.
Larry said that all you have to do is dig the Professor’s hole
deeper and then he could be buried with the Professor. The Professor
said that you’re not going to do that because—“let’s face it, Larry,
you’re a large and heavy man and I don’t want a heavy person buried
above me.” Faucett couldn’t contain himself and laughed aloud. They
later said that it was a leg pulling and they all laughed. Larry
held the Professor in the highest reverence as we all do.
LAISSEZ LES BON TEMPS TOULEZ
A Meeting of
feels the full weight of their mortality and when the “dwindling
down of days” seems fast enough to take your breath away, you pause
and reflect. Otherwise, there are enough distractions on the fast
track to keep eschatological thoughts at bay. Nevertheless, sooner
or later, you reach the “end of idle and serious play” - a time for
savoring prolonged moments of reverie.
This comes to mind because I’m remembering an all-too-brief session
I had with Larry Jennings at the Magic Castle. It was the last time
I spent with him person-to-person. Twenty-five years had passed
since our first meeting in New Orleans at the 1971 I.B.M.
Convention. We had quite a session back then and I was impressed by
how much Larry had learned from Dai Vernon. Likewise, I had learned
a lot from Ed Marlo, my mentor. We did not speak about our teachers
that first day, but their influence was obvious, along with our
abiding affection for each of them. As they say in the Big Easy, we
“let the good times roll.” Laissez les bon temps toulez!
Despite disagreements and dust ups in the past, Larry was a kindred
spirit. We share similar blue-collar backgrounds and have a similar
rough-edged way of verbally expressing ourselves. But it was
uplifting to see him again at the Magic Castle, despite his
debilitating health problems. We eventually ended up in a corner
across from Irma, the ghostly piano. Our extended conversation,
probably unintelligible to outsiders, was marked by meaningful
silences. We sat, sipped Diet Cokes, did a few card tricks, and
talked about our beloved, departed teachers. Few people noticed the
two white-bearded, slightly grizzled, decidedly odd cardmen in the
corner; and nobody knew they were the fortunate benefactors of two
legends in magic - Dai Vernon and Ed Marlo. We may have looked like
veterans of an undeclared, unremembered war, but one thing was
certain: we were grateful for our lasting friendships with our
For us, the physical passing of Vernon and Marlo was a hard fact to
accept and reconcile. Our recovery was slow, but enduring memories
of those friendships were nurturing. Besides the wealth of published
material everybody shares today, Larry and I were privileged to
share their secret thoughts. More important, a certain elan vital
was permanently drawn into our hearts. Vernon and Marlo loved magic
in a contagious way and such enduring ardor inspired creativity in
others. They empowered friends and colleagues to seek excellence and
mastery; and they encouraged us to love magic as deeply as they did.
In almost a whisper, Larry turned to me that day and said, “I think
of him everyday!”
“I know what you mean,” I added. “We were blessed!”
An apothegm by William Arthur Ward springs to mind: “The mediocre
teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher
demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Vernon and Marlo were
great teachers. They are, in fact, still inspiring and teaching new
generations of magicians. I saw this whenever Larry performed a
trick. Although he wheezed to breathe that day, the force of
Vernon’s elan vital made the cards magically move in his hands. It
brightened his eyes and made him glow. When his shoulders shook and
his laugh ruffled the air, I laughed as well and for the same
reasons. Now Larry’s body of word teaches and inspires.
Laissez les bon temps roulez.
This originally appeared in slightly different
form in the May 1996 issue of Magic (p. 61).
When I moved my
family west in 1992, I learned that Larry Jennings lived in North
Hollywood (a residential neighborhood, not to be confused with
Hollywood). This was very close to the town I’d settled in, Burbank
(an ultra residential neighborhood, not to be confused with North
Hollywood). One evening he saw my act at The Magic Castle, from the
front row. Nothing fell on the floor or burst into flame that night,
so I had an excuse to talk to him. Eventually I gathered the courage
to call Larry up and pretty much invite myself over. Outside his
house was a big, big maroon car, the kind of car you don’t walk by
without noticing. Inside the house was Larry, also big. I’m not sure
if we went out for ribs that day, or if it started later, but that
happened a few times. Larry would get one rack to eat there, and one
rack for home. And of course we’d talk/do magic. In general, the
things I’d planned to show him would go awry, but he never seemed to
mind. He always got the idea and he’d have a thought or two, if not
his own (better) version of the plot. I never understood Larry’s
generosity to me, I was simply grateful for it. I’d get together
with him for all the selfish reasons. He was famous and
knowledgeable, and I loved soaking up what I could from him, and
forcing him to do moves I’d only read about. I did bring In & Out
burgers over a good deal of the time, so in that small way I wasn’t
completely selfish. He started staying in more, and our
conversations we’re often about things other than sleight of hand.
One day, when talking about his background, he told me that he never
had a plan. He never intended to become an internationally known
close-up master, he just did what he did and that was the result.
Everything about Larry was an education. Here was this great bear of
a man, a plumber, whose contemplative mind and superior skills
brought him to a strange and beautiful part of the world where he
will be remembered for generations. Larry’s death occurred not long
after my mother’s, and with it the ugly lesson that, in one way, a
life comes down to a person in a room. But Larry created beautiful
things. He made music, and so many of us continue to enjoy it.
recall I had been in LA a couple of years. A few of my first
friends—Dai Vernon, Ron Wilson, Steve Freeman, and Jeff Altman—would
tell me about this guy Larry Jennings, and what a terrific mind he
had for constructing magic effects. More specifically—but not
exclusively—cards. I was anxious to meet him, but our paths never
seemed to cross since he lived in
Lake Tahoe. One day I had an opportunity to attend my first magic convention
in San Diego. I went with a friend, Frank Simon, who authored a
terrific magic book called Versatile Card Magic.
and I went into the hotel and we were introduced to the famous Larry
Jennings by, I believe, Steve Freeman. Larry sat at a table, smoking
a cigarette and having a drink. He didn't know us from beans, but
welcomed us to sit with him, and soon we were laughing our heads off
as Larry performed some of the most magical, unique card effects I
had ever seen (exempting Steve Freeman from any contest). I found
him willing to share some of his work with us, and an open book in
sharing thoughts and emotions.
My nature is to ask
a great deal of questions when I meet people. I asked Larry these
same questions: Where did you grow up? What was it like? In general
tell me about your life? Larry held back nothing, and we bonded.
Unfortunately, many of the stories Larry told cannot be shared here
because of the nature of those stories. He did tell me he was a
little guy, very poor, who was picked on as a kid until one day he
took the bully and beat him up. After that, no one fooled with
little Larry Jennings.
Larry was a warm,
gentle, giant, who could lose his temper when he had a few
drinks—not unlike most under the same duress. He was typical of many
of the people I had grown up with in Bangor,
Maine. He shared his love of magic with everyone, and helped so many
of us refine our handling of the pasteboards and other items. Larry
also had an extraordinary ability to put patter together, which we
all know is the most difficult part of creating magic when you need
I loved getting
together with a few of the guys at Larry’s house to watch a
professional fight on television. Often, my friend Tony Giorgio
would be there and between he and Larry (who dug the hell out of
each other no matter what they said), there was always a little
preliminary match before the one on television! The evening always
ended in laughter.
Larry was always
sitting at the Magic
Castle bar doing his thing with the pasteboards. He always had
someone around him to entertain. My buddy John Carney does a great
impression of Larry attempting to do a classy presentation of a
‘take a card’ trick after a few too many at the Castle bar. He
addresses the well-dressed guests, “Good evening, gentlemen . . . .”
I’ll leave the rest for Carney to tell!
Larry and I were
great friends, and I often think of him, and Mike Skinner. I’ll
always miss them. They played a great role in my life in magic.
When I turned
fifteen, my brother gave me magic lessons with Derek Dingle as a
present. I met Derek at the Lamb’s Club in New York City, and he
took me downstairs to where the card tables were, and taught me
miracles. Of all the tricks he taught me, the ones that astonished
me the most were by Larry Jennings, who Derek said was a genius. For
years afterward, I would scour the magic books, looking for anything
by Jennings, which I would immediately learn. By the time I finally
met Larry in 1990 at the Magic
Castle, I’d learned and performed every single trick he’d put
in print. In my mind, Larry was one of the great magical geniuses of
the past century.
I only met Larry
Jennings once, when he attended a British magic convention.
However, prior to
that I had corresponded with him for many years by audio tapes. I
found him to be a straightforward likeable man with a tremendous
interest in magic, in particular with cards.
He was acknowledged
by his peers to be one of the top card conjurers in the world and
this honour was completely justified.
His routines are
very well constructed and he had an eye for strong effects.
I sincerely believe
that all magicians interested in the “art of conjuring” will benefit
by a study of his work.
Whilst I only met
Larry once, he is someone I will always remember and it was a
privilege to have him as a friend.
…An Old Horse
The Devil was there
when Larry smiled, not the evil lord of the Underworld, but the
mischievous sprite who looks out at you from the Carter poster, that
friendly fellow with the upturned mustache and the mischievous gleam
in his eye. The Larry I knew was always up to the kind of “no-good”
that always turned out great. I once had the privilege of watching
him go to great lengths to fool a fellow magician (and all I am
willing to disclose is that Larry was forced to purchase the same
pack of cards twice in one night). The result of Larry’s efforts was
a well-posted card man being totally fooled by a principle he knew
well but was unable to recognize under the circumstances. It was a
sinister gift from a man who knew exactly what he was giving.
involuntarily given me the same present in a different wrapper,
years before. I was fortunate to have seen Larry perform his “Look
an Illusion” during a retrospectively embarrassing early segment of
my “formative years,” a time when I knew everything. How appropriate
that the great gift of Larry’s performance was to unknowingly give
me insight by taking away my own sense of understanding.
When I think of
Larry, the moment that always comes to mind happened one afternoon
at the Magic
Castle. I had just picked-up the first completed sets of
gimmicked keys that were machined for me by the experts at Johnson
Products. I scrutinized all of the keys to find the most perfect set
for my own use. An hour later I was heading up the stairs of the
Castle to discover Larry relaxing at the bar. “Hey kid, fool me,”
was his greeting, and I did my best to accommodate his request using
my recently acquired toys. The combination of my good luck and
Johnson’s great metal work produced a very surprised look on Larry’s
face. “You fooled me!” said Larry, with a smile that was even bigger
than my own. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asked, openly
indicating his interest. “I’m going to be selling them,” was my
explanation in lieu of an explanation. “Sign me up, how much?” he
asked, his hand already reaching around to remove his wallet. I took
a moment and showed him the details of the method, finally revealing
the invisible gimmick that had been machined with impossible
precision. He smiled and shook his head as he examined the gaffed
I offered, “I’d
like to give you one Larry, I’ll go to my car and get one for you.”
“I’ll take this
one,” he replied, not looking up at me.
“No, let me get you
a new one,” I countered.
We both just stood
there for a moment and then looked at each other. Our smiles were
simultaneous and we both started laughing.
Larry spoke first,
“Don’t want to part with your worker, eh?”
I started to speak,
but before I could say a word he continued, “Relax kid, I’m an old
horse trader myself.”
I let Larry keep my
“worker” that afternoon. We met again many times after that, and
always recalled that day with me and made a point of mentioning it.
I remember all the
days with him.
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