Influential Amateurs

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby Gary Brown » 07/17/05 03:01 PM

Here's a thought: who are the most influential amateur magicians in the history of magic?

I'll start with my favorite: Professor Hoffmann (Angelo Lewis). An attorney by profession, his elegant, encyclopedic texts -- including Modern Magic, More Magic, Later Magic and Latest Magic -- provide a remarkable catalog of a broad spectrum of the art of illusion.

Hoffmann's seminal work catapulted generations of magicians into the art. In My Magic Life, David Devant credits obtaining a copy of Modern Magic with his entry into conjuring. One professional conjurer suggested that Hoffmann should be "hanged" for exposing so much of the craft to the public. Yet his tireless efforts virtually created the hobby, converting a guild-like profession into an accessible pastime and entertainment for countless millions.

Even today, more than a century after their creation, his works remain a joy to read.

Image

There must be scores of other amateurs who have advanced the art. Any ideas?

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Postby Joe Pecore » 07/17/05 04:05 PM

I nominate Milt Kort, a Detroit pharmacist.

From the back cover of the book "Kort":

"Milt Kort is a legend of sorts: a magician who has seldom traveled outside the Detroit area, who rarely performs at magician's conventions or lectures, yet a man whom the professionals and greats in magic came to see; men like Paul Rosini, Dr. Daley, J.B. Bobo, Charlie Miller, Cardini, Dai Vernon, and many more sought out Milt Kort and shared secrets with him. But why? Milt was a pharmacist by trade, not a professional magician. The answer lies in the word love. It was his great love of magic that drew magic's greats to him. Magic has been Milt's abiding passion since childhood, and he always did it for the love of it, for the fun of it, not for the money or the fame in it.

Well, there was one other reason they came; Milt often fooled them with devishly clever tricks of his own invention."
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Postby Bill Duncan » 07/17/05 04:10 PM

Roger Klause?
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Postby Bill Wells » 07/17/05 05:39 PM

John Ramsay
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Postby Tabman » 07/17/05 07:49 PM

Good question Gary - fun to think about. Don't forget about our own Pete Biro, photographer, writer, magazine editor, as an amateur magician has had a marked influence on magic and the way magicians think. I know he has on mine.

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Postby Pete Biro » 07/17/05 11:17 PM

Hey, I got paid for my shows! :D :D :D
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Postby Tabman » 07/18/05 05:16 AM

Originally posted by Pete Biro: Hey, I got paid for my shows! :D :D :D
And John Ramsay didn't ???

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Postby Guest » 07/18/05 05:24 AM

Pete,

You also get paid, and make your living from, photography, if I understand correctly. Ramsay made his living as a grocer, and as a judge for gardening and dance contests (he was an expert at both and in high demand as such).

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Postby Brian Marks » 07/18/05 09:02 AM

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Postby Michael Kamen » 07/18/05 09:27 AM

Paul Curry, notably for Out of this World and the Turnover Change.
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 07/18/05 09:43 AM

Henry Christ
Jacob Daley
Frank Thompson
Oscar Weigle
Ben Braude
Fred Braue
Ed Marlo - Machinist
James Elliott
Jim Steranko
Karl Fulves

and so on...
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Postby Bill Duncan » 07/18/05 03:32 PM

Let's not forget
Jon Racherbaumer
Steve Minch
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Postby Earle Oakes » 07/18/05 03:46 PM

In my humble opinion,Jon,is not an amateur.
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Postby CardFan » 07/18/05 05:22 PM

Alex Elmsley, for sure.
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Postby Tabman » 07/18/05 06:38 PM

Originally posted by Jon Racherbaumer: Ed Marlo - Machinist... and so on...
Thats an interesting aside. I never knew that. I'd like to hear more about this and of course it has me wondering if he ever did any magic related machining???

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Postby Jacky Kahan » 07/18/05 09:40 PM

John Bannon... ?

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Postby Ian Kendall » 07/19/05 12:25 AM

I think Roy Walton _has_ to be here.

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Postby Terrence » 07/19/05 07:25 AM

Bill and Milt Larsen.
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Postby NCMarsh » 07/19/05 09:34 AM

In the strictly literal sense of the word ("one who does a thing because she loves it, a lover") every one of the masters was/is an amateur...Generally, we have a misplaced respect for "professionals" in our culture, and a misplaced contempt for "amateurs"...beautiful magic will always come from an amateur -- were that there were more amateurs in magic!

as to the conventional sense of the word, a case could be made for Dai Vernon. His period working for Frances Rockefeller King was fairly brief and he seemed to be fairly hesitant to be involved (at least according to Karl Johnson's The Magician and The Cardsharp)...much of his life seems to have been spent living hand to mouth from the silhouette cutting and then being supported by the castle...in the latter case, his means of support is coming "from magic" but not from paid performances for the public...however we want to consider this in terms of the making a living with magic/making a living some other way distinction; he remains, in the real sense of the word, one of the greatest amateurs of magic...

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Postby Bill Mullins » 07/19/05 03:26 PM

Gary Plants. Ken Krenzel.
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/19/05 04:06 PM

Fred Kaps always said he was both, a pro AND and Amateur... he did his act as a pro... but pleyed with magic for the shear pleasure.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 07/19/05 07:27 PM

Then there is the entire cast and crew of Le Grand David, who probably toil elsewhere during the week but put on a most professional show on the weekend.
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Postby Guest » 07/20/05 04:40 PM

Well, the jury may be out on this, but I believe one of, if not THE, most influential amateurs of the 20th century would have to be: ERDNASE!

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Postby NCMarsh » 07/20/05 05:06 PM

Intriguing suggestion -- though I've always imagined him as a "resourceful professional"...
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Postby Ray Haddad » 07/29/05 03:04 PM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
Hey, I got paid for my shows! :D :D :D
Come on, Pete. Getting handed a Snickers bar back stage doesn't count. :D
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Postby Guest » 09/24/05 05:16 PM

Originally posted by Bill Duncan:
Let's not forget
Jon Racherbaumer
Steve Minch
Steve Minch is a professional writer and publisher of magic books, isn't he? I think by "amateur" this thread refers to people who make (made) their living outside of magic.
Wasn't Larry Jennings a plumber?
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