Vernon’s $1,000 Lecture?

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

Postby Guest » 04/11/06 02:34 PM

Vernon aficionados and historians:

If you have a moment, go to this link: ... 34&start=0

and then skip to the second web page and scroll down to about mid page to Lee Darrows post.

Darrow discusses what appears to be a Dai Vernon lecture in Chicago one summers evening in the 1970s. His story is fun to read, but what got my attention was that Lee called it a 1,000 lecture. Maybe this has been discussed here before, in which case, my apologies. But if not, anybody here know the story behind this? A lecture costing $1,000 in the 1970s? That sounds more like myth than history, but Lee's story sure doesn't read like he's pulling the readers leg!


P.S. For those who have some time, the thread itself has its own entertaining aspects. :D

Postby Guest » 04/11/06 03:38 PM

This actually happened. I haven't read Lee's post, but I was at the lecture Vernon gave in Texas.

Vernon and Joe Cossari did the tour together. I think this was in 1975. The idea was that Vernon would lecture to any magic club in the country if they would pay him $1000. There was no limit on the size of the audience.

Roger Crabtree decided to host one of these lectures in Arlington, Texas. So he basically sold 100 slots to see the lecture for $10.00 each. He turned it into a dandy event.

It actually took two days. Each attendee performed. Joe Stevens was there, and had a dealer's booth. Ricky Jay, Steve Freeman, Larry Jennings, Roger Klause ... almost everyone was there. It was really neat.

This lecture in Arlington was the first of what later became the Desert Magic Seminar.

Postby Guest » 04/12/06 06:39 AM

On May 7, 1976, Dai Vernon lectured in Saddle Brook New Jersey at the Holiday Inn. I have no idea of the financial arrangements, but I DO have a photo of me standing next to him. (I just wish I could loose that mint green leisure suit I was wearing!!)

A MOST enjoyable evening.


Postby Jerry Harrell » 04/12/06 07:28 AM

On April 11th, 1976, Dai Vernon gave one of those thousand dollar lectures to the magicians of Norfolk, Virginia. This took place in a meeting room at the Lake Wright Hotel. I was the editor of the local IBM rings newsletter , happily sitting in the front row. I had met Mr. Vernon ten years earlier at the Magic Castle, just before Denny Haney and I were to ship out for Southeast Asia.

He began his thousand dollar lecture by saying that his lectures were all ad-lib and free form. He spoke briefly about his_friendships with Kellar, Thurston, and The Houdini's as he placed his personal set of Paul_Fox Cups and Balls on the mat. He explained that he liked to start with this trick because it was one of the few in magic that incorporated several magical things that happened all in one routine.

Vernon told some stories, and did a few gags written for him by his friend Lou Derman, who had just passed away. (Derman was a Castle regular who wrote the hottest show on television, All In The Family, as well as a long-running column in The Linking Ring.)

Vernon performed and explained magic by Milt Kort and John Ramsay, card magic from his early days in New York, tips on handling small objects, and on and on, for over three hours. The evening ended with Vernon answering questions from the audience and enjoying the standing ovation he had earned.

I still have my ticket from that lecture.
Jerry Harrell
Posts: 200
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Norfolk, VA USA

Postby Guest » 04/12/06 08:45 AM

Vernon and Cossari did this lecture in the late 1970s at the Midwest Magic Jubliee in Kansas City. It was spectacular, starting at midnight and going on until about 3 AM as I recall. I too was on the front row and was absolutely mesmerized. I recall asking him during the Q & A about hole card switches and he replied "I know 17 different ways to switch a hole card, but here are the best 5" which he proceded to demonstrate for us. I also remember him going into detail about "The Trick That Cannot Be Explained". He was gracious enough to autograph all my Vernon books for me, each one different, with that printing of his for which he became famous. Pleasant memories indeed.

Postby Michael Close » 04/12/06 11:26 AM

Harry Riser arranged for Vernon to lecture in Indianapolis - 100 people, $10 a head. I remember that even with Vernon's reputation it was tough to get 100 people.

In Harry's first book there is a picture with Riser, Vernon, and John Railing that was taken at the $1000 lecture.

One thing I remember in particular was that I asked Vernon about an ace laydown that he used in the Slow-Motion Ace Trick. I wanted to ask the question succinctly enough that Vernon would remember the sequence, but with enough nonchalance that no one else would pay attention to the answer. Vernon did recall the sequence, which is absolutely great. (I believe it is described in the first Vernon Chronicles book.)

It was great to watch Vernon work. Even at 82 he was spry enough to hop up on a chair to demonstration moves so all could see.

M. Close
Michael Close
Posts: 360
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: The Great White North

Postby Bill Wells » 04/12/06 02:13 PM

I was fortunate enough to attend not only the Arlington, Texas event which Bill Palmer refers to as the "first of the Desert Seminars" but also the Vernon lecture given in Arlington, Virginia as part of the same tour. I actually taped that lecture with Vernon's permission using a huge camera with 1/2 inch tape. I believe a special coin with Vernon's profile was sold at those lectures. At least that is where I think I bought the coin that I have.
Bill Wells
User avatar
Bill Wells
Posts: 299
Joined: 01/21/08 01:00 PM
Location: Lexington, VA

Postby Guest » 04/12/06 04:36 PM

Originally posted by Magicam:
Maybe this has been discussed here before
Yes it has. See my post in THIS THREAD from 2003.

Postby Guest » 04/14/06 01:01 PM

To all, many thanks for the responses. It sounds like those lectures represented a truly magical experience (no pun intended) for some of the attendees. $1,000 paid for the lecture makes more sense. The post I originally referred to was not clear on that point (at least to me) and I began to think that it cost $1,000 per person to get in! So that's why I asked.

Hopefully this lecture tour will be one of the events covered in the forthcoming Vernon bio.


Return to Magic History and Anecdotes