Who the hell is Harry Lorayne and what has he become? I used to know Harry Lorayne only as the publisher of the "Apocalypse", a magic magazine which ran monthly for 20 years. This was only possible through the constant input by other magicians who regularly contributed their magic creations to be published by Harry Lorayne. While reading it two things became obvious. The way he "improved" on the tricks of others and constantly referred to his "mind" and his "knowledge" and that he is rarely wrong were not signs of modesty. Modesty is a word that totally not describes Harry Lorayne.
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As an inordinately shy and only child, it took all my courage to step up to the counter and ask a question of Lou, or one of the demonstrators, before deciding on my excruciatingly-deliberated purchase, which typically only totalled a few dollars. But then came the profound moment when Lou would take me aside, away from the crowd, and bestow the secret upon me—the highlight, and privilege, of the venture.
The rest of the time, I was far too shy to make friends, or to ask questions of the experts gathered there, who so intimidated me.
And of course, I could also return to the counter, over and over again, to watch the endless demonstrations of tricks from the bursting showcases. The group would take over a bunch of tables in the back in order to session well into the afternoon until dinnertime, or beyond. And thus was spawned a generation, or two, of close-up and card magicians. Ask any one of us: that is our holy trinity; that is our collective origin story. I hope my non-magician readers will indulge me as I, in this particular Take Two, step a little further into detail that may be of greater familiarity to the magicians among us.
I actually got Royal Road in my early adolescence and learned the fundamental techniques and several of the basic tricks. I was also doing general sleight-of-hand close-up magic and had a steady interest in coin magic. One day Lou took me in the back where he kept all the damaged books—ever a wondrous experience to be permitted to step behind the counter! From there on, I was truly off and running down the path toward serious artistic card magic.
Lorayne was a national celebrity as both a television performer and as a best-selling author—but that had nothing to do with card tricks. For all the books and journals he would eventually produce about card and close-up magic, he mostly kept that side of his life from the public. There was always one name in the middle where Harry would feign having difficulty with, only to successfully name that person as a climax to the routine.
The combination of super-human memory demonstrations with his New York-accented machine-gun commentary and outsized Energizer-Bunny performing persona rendered Lorayne as an unforgettable character. Meanwhile, in my late teens and early twenties, there were two men on the New York magic scene who powerfully demonstrated to me that it was possible to thoroughly entertain an audience with little more than a pack of cards and a pair of hands: Harry Lorayne and Frank Garcia.
I admired and was inspired by both of them, and I learned from both of them—I learned a lot. I studied their books, I attended their lectures, I asked them questions at the magic shop. Their influence remains palpable in my work to this very day. By my early twenties I was thoroughly obsessed with card magic.
As an amateur performer, I followed—or more accurately, I anticipated—the advice that Eugene Burger would codify in his writings a decade later. But this was before I, or anyone else, had heard of Eugene, and before he ever set pen to paper to write about about magic.
During these formative years, I concentrated on mastering a small repertoire of material, accompanied by original scripts, written down and well-rehearsed, which I would put to use when called upon to perform at social gatherings. While I was constantly working on new things, that core repertoire, if I performed all of it, amounted to, perhaps, 25 minutes, which included a strong closer and an optional encore piece. I always had a deck of cards with me in case the opportunity arose. I could vary the set with other material like coin magic, or some other close-up prop I might have put in my pocket, but the card set became the core of my amateur performance repertoire.
So recently, when a student of mine happened upon a number of Lorayne publications and expressed an interest in them, I recommended Close-up Card Magic, along with a few other early titles. And I found myself wondering what it would be like to study that material now, more than half a century after it was originally published—and half a century after I had studied and been shaped by it.
But that was a different time; a time before the literature became properly obsessed with tracking the credit record. And what about all those great tricks I learned, loved and performed, that served me so well for so many years? What of Stabbed in the Pack, along with the correspondence in The Best of Benzais by Johnny Benzais, which would eventually inspire my own routine, Stabbed in the Sandwich, a feature of my Magic Bar days in the Eighties, and indeed, in my current magic lecture today?
And, I guess, to also say: Thanks, Harry. You know the drill, but please—set aside the smart phone, expand the browser to the max, and turn up the volume, and get ready to enjoy some of the classic card magic of the truly inimitable Harry Lorayne. Here is one of the pivotal, foundational plots in close-up card magic. Because of the nature of the methods and techniques applicable to this plot, magicians often continue to study and update their versions of this trick, as their skill and technical repertoire advance.
I varied and honed my routine well into my late twenties, and it became the cornerstone of my work as a Magic Bartender in the Eighties. And it remains a staple of my repertoire, ever-present in my shows in the Close-up Gallery at the Magic Castle.
I love the bravura feat he starts this off with, one I saw him do many times at lectures and performances. Credit where credit is due aside, in my youth I performed this exactly as Lorayne does here, virtually to the word. It went well the first time or two, and I developed an unwarranted sense of confidence—until I was challenged by a woman who caught me out.
It was an utterly humiliating moment, the details of which are mostly lost to time, but the sensation of which is indelibly etched into my soul. Instead, I was motivated to improve, and I did. And this trick became a staple of my amateur repertoire for years. It brings back an ocean of memories as I watch Harry perform this. Lorayne, at 92, continues to reassemble and repackage much of his earlier work as well as adding newer versions and material, too.
His latest book, And Finally!
Take Two #61: Harry Lorayne
It has a simpe plot. It must not be confusing to those who watch. The modus operandi is simple. It is interesting. It has a surprising denouement sic. I hope you agree this makes for easier reading.
Close-up Card Magic by Harry Lorayne
Close-Up Card Magic
close up card magic von lorayne harry