The first time I met Michael Skinner was about fifteen years ago at the invitation of Bill Malone. I knew of Michael, of course, but Id never heard of Bob Stencel. Bill said both of them were coming to see him in Chicago for the weekend and that I was invited.
Michael and Bob both regaled us with effect after effect after effect for days while Bill and I simply did our best to keep up. At one point we were sitting in a sandwich shop (the same sandwich shop where Bill and I had our first session), and as Michael was known for, he said that we would just go around the table, and everyone would do tricks. This session literally lasted hours, but Bob and Mike lasted the longest. I remember Mike pulling out gem after gem after gem, but also that he loved being fooled, and he laughed loudly when Bob made an entire deck disappear and lifted his hat to show them sitting on his head.
That night, we were up until about four in the morning. Michael finally retired first and went to his room. Bob and Bill and I talked for a little bit, and then Bill went home. Bob and I, believe it or not, played a game of chess and then finally went to sleep.
The next morning, Bill came by about nine oclock. We got ourselves up and went knocking on Michaels door. There was no answer. We knew he was pretty tired, so we figured he was just totally out of it. We decided to check on him later after we ate breakfast.
When we got to the sandwich shop, Michael was sitting there with all the wait staff around him, watching him with great fascination. Hed been unable to sleep and had gone right back to the sandwich shop. By the time we arrived, hed been doing magic for the staff for about three hours.
Michael was always thinking ahead about the effect he was going to do next. Later that day, we went to Ciaos, where Bill worked, for lunch. As we were sitting there, Mike started to do a trick, but Bob just grinned and pointed at his shoulder. You see, Michael was wearing a yellow shirt that was a little sheer, and there, trapped beneath the fabric against his shoulder, you could see three playing cards that hed loaded some time before. When Bob pointed and Mike looked down, he started laughing so hard he had tears coming out of his eyes.
A little while later, a lady whom Bill knew came up to the table. Bill introduced Michael first, and Mike set the tone by standing up and greeting her very graciously. He was the consummate gentleman, and she recognized it.
That afternoon, Mike said he wanted to visit Magic, Inc. Now, Bill had taken some pains to not tell very many people that Mike and Bob were in town, because he didnt want them to be harangued by crowds of magicians everywhere they went, so their visit was rather hush-hush. However, when we arrived at Magic, Inc., there must have been 50 magicians standing around waiting for him to show up. Again, Mike was very gracious and talked and performed for quite a while.
Yes, the magic was impressive. Yes, the tricks were great. Yes, the sleights (and the sheer number of them) were wonderful. But what I remember most is how kind Michael was to everyone and how he set a standard of behavior for the rest of us that trip. I also remember how he managed to find some kind of beauty in even the smallest trick, whether it be with playing cards or a paper clip. Nothing was beyond his scope or unworthy of performance. His love for magic shined through. It couldnt be ignored.