Dai Vernon

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

Postby Guest » 10/23/01 04:59 AM

Like most of us, I cannot seem to get enough information when it comes to this man. Since some of you actually knew Dai Vernon, I thought it might be interesting to hear a few lesser known stories. Even the most incidental anecdotes would be terrific.

My interest has always been, not the public, but the private figure. What was he really like in quiet moments?
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/23/01 11:47 PM

I first met Mr. Vernon when I was 16 years old, and it remains my favorite Vernon story (that I am willing to share). It was while attending a magic convention ("The Hollywood Cavalcade of Magic" if memory serves) at which he lectured. Afterward, a friend and I approached him to ask questions about the retention of vision coin vanish he demonstrated during the lecture. He was so kind and patient. He demonstrated this stunning vanish over and over for us. Even though we (there were several more people surrounding him by this time) knew exactly what he was doing, the vanish was incredibly magical looking. Even at his age (80), his technique (a fine blend of "put" and "take") was impeccable. There seemed to be no question that the coin was placed into his other hand, until he opened it of course! I can still see and hear him doing the vanish again and again ("you see, you just place it the hand...[gone!]...You just place it in the hand [gone!]").

You asked for "private" moments. Those that I had with the man later in his life (when I would find him sitting alone at "his" couch at the Magic Castle) are those that I, respectfully, will not share. They are mine. While I like to think that they were his as well, I also know that I was just one of many people who encountered him. By example, he taught me that one never ends being a student of this wonderful craft. He was a special man who holds a very special place in my memories.

Regards,
Dustin Stinett

[ October 23, 2001: Message edited by: Dustin Stinett ]
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Postby Adam Brooks » 10/25/01 03:30 AM

I am very fortunate to be currently studying with Chuck Fayne, one of the Professor's oldest students. Oh, the stories he has about the Professor, some you just wouldn't believe.

Unfortunately, the stories are not mine to share, they're Chuck's.

If you ever get the chance, sit down with Chuck and just listen. You'll hear history few people know even exist.

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Postby Guest » 10/25/01 05:04 AM

You're very lucky Adam!
There is so much mystique and legend around Vernon that it's impossible sometimes to even imagine him as a real person.
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Postby Ruben Padilla » 10/25/01 11:08 AM

I was a kid of about fourteen when Vernon walked into my local magic shop. Even then he was practically ancient (I'm in my 30's now). The lovely Mary Martinez ran the shop and asked me, "Do you know who that is?". I didn't, and she replied, "That's The Professor. You don't realize it now, but you're going to remember this day for the rest of your life. Go ask him for his autograph." And I did. And he was very kind. He took a half dollar, traced a circle on the back of a business card, and within it stylishly wrote his name. I still have it. And yes, Mary, may she rest in peace, was right. :)
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Postby Guest » 10/29/01 01:58 PM

I am only posting a message here so that I will get an e-mail when more posts are made!! Is that allowed? :)

I love The Professor and everything he did for magic. The Revelations videos have changed the way I look at magic forever!

Being only 21 years old and living in Ireland, unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet the great man - something I will always regret.

I have bought all the Vernon material I can get my hands on and would love to hear some more stories from those of you fortunate enough to have met him, or those who perhaps have some "inside information".

Please share!

Regards,

Paul.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 10/30/01 06:41 AM

Paul Higgins -- I hope that, among your purchases, you have acquired the video of Dai Vernon's 1974 Interview, in which he performs many of the things that he is known for, and quite well. This 2-video set is my most prized magic video and the ones I would keep over all others. There are probably many sources, but I just found one at:
http://www.murphysmagicsupplies.com/cat ... rview.html.
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Postby Guest » 10/30/01 10:17 AM

Thanks for the info, I didn`t know about these tapes. Ordering asap!
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Postby Guest » 10/30/01 03:15 PM

The only problem with the 1974 interview tapes is the insane camera work.
This cameraman was so hell bent on filming Vernon's hands that even during rather long stories, all we see is a close-up of hands.
I recall a moment during a nice wide shot, Vernon merely went to touch the deck and that camera zoomed into a tight close- up on his hands.
Probably some of the most amatuerish camera work I've ever seen.
There is an entire segment where Vernon is completely back lit; Practically cast in darkness due to the bright BEHIND him.

The producers should turn these into audio tapes and lower the price.

Sorry for the rant, but I found these flaws unforgivable.
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Postby Guest » 11/05/01 09:02 AM

First time I saw Dai Vernon was upstairs in Joe Berg's old shop in Hollywood. My wife was with me, sitting in a chair waiting while I looked around. I saw Vernon sitting by himself and almost died.

I rushed over to my wife and told her breathlessly "That's Dai Vernon!", trying not to be too obvious as I pointed him out.

She looked at him and said "he's a nice looking old man."

Ah, fame.
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Postby Guest » 11/05/01 09:26 AM

Actually, I'm in awe of quite a few of the famous names on this forum. You may have been in awe of Dai Vernon (well, who amongst us wouldn't have been?), but I often can't get over the fact that I'm e-conversing with famous names in the conjuring world.

And no, I'm not being sarcastic.

Am I sad or what? (Please don't answer that, it's a rhetorical question.)
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Postby Guest » 11/05/01 02:34 PM

David, I agree with you regarding the names in this forum. I'm happy that they decide to join such a community and share their insights with others. Such insight and availability do much to promote our art. Without them, from whom do we learn, from whom do we receive inspiration and motivation to be better?

[ November 13, 2001: Message edited by: Robin Parker ]
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Postby Harvey Rosenthal » 11/13/01 10:26 PM

I met Dai Vernon in New York City in 1958. I was introduced to him by his close friend Ed Balducci. Balducci told Vernon that I was a young man who did some very original coin work that he wanted him to see. The three of us sat down at a table in the cafeteria on 42nd Street that the magicians who visited Tannen's on Saturdays frequented after the shop closed. After doing a number of my coin routines, Vernon, to my delight, showered me with compliments about my approach to coin magic and literally stunned me when he told Balducci that I had the most original ideas with coins that he had seen since Ross Bertram. He then spent the next two hours demonstrating and teaching me many of his then unpublished coin tricks and sleights. His execution of these wonderful tricks and moves was flawless. From that time on, I spent a great deal of time with him until he moved out to California.

I could tell many stories about this legendary magician. However, the following is a rather humorous one that I have thought about many times over the years.

In 1969, I attended a Mid-West convention with Mike Skinner. Vernon was there and invited me to visit him in his hotel room in the early evening. When I knocked on his door, he opened it and to my surprise, was wearing only an undershirt and boxer shorts and had shaving cream on his face. I excused myself for coming at what seemed to be an inopportune time. He insisted that I come in and immediately picked up a silk and demonstrated his superb handling of the Berg knot. Never having seen it before, I was totally fooled. He did it for me a number of time and finally told me he was going to teach it to me. For the next two hours, still in his underwear, and with shaving cream on his face, taught me the Berg knot until I did it to his satisfaction. The man was a great teacher.

When Karl Fulves was working on the four Vernon Pallbearers Review Folios, I supplied him with many of the tricks and sleights contained in the issues. I taught Karl the Vernon handling of the Berg knot which is described in one of the Vernon Folios. It is the only printed source of this great trick. Since I learned it, the Vernon handling of the Berg knot has been one of my favorite closeup tricks. :)

[ November 13, 2001: Message edited by: Harvey Rosenthal ]
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Postby Guest » 11/14/01 03:42 AM

Hi, just a note to let you guys know these Vernon stories are very much appreciated, you are not wasting your time!

It was interesting to read Vernons attitude towards the Chronicles (a different thread I think), did he not think it was a worthwhile project, or was it just Bruce Cervon he had a problem with?

This is my favourite thread on the board! I`m sure there are plenty of others who enjoy reading these anecdotes as much as I do, please keep them coming!

Paul.
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Postby Guest » 11/14/01 07:20 AM

What a great story by Mr. Rosenthal! Thanks again to everyone.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 11/14/01 02:17 PM

Thanks to Harvey Rosenthal for the wonderful Vernon story.

I do have a question about the Berg knot. In my copy of "The Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic" by Martin Gardner, he teaches Joe Berg's knot, which he describes as a simplified handling of the original Joe Berg knot worked out by Dai Vernon and Doc Daley.

Is this the same knot you're talking about? If so, I believe the Gardner book is easier to obtain than the Vernon Pallbearers Review Folios. If not, I would love to know what the difference is!
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Postby Matthew Field » 11/14/01 03:06 PM

Pete McCabe wrote: I believe the Gardner book is easier to obtain than the Vernon Pallbearers Review Folios.

The Vernon Folios are part of the Pallbearers Review collected volumes published by L&L, and pretty easy to obtain.

As to the technicality of a comparison of the teaching methods, I'll defer to my good friend Harvey Rosenthal. If you ever saw him perform the Berg Knot, you'd want to learn it, too!

(P.S. -- Genii Code is not enabled on this topic, so the quote above does not look as good as quotes usually do.)

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/14/01 09:18 PM

I had the great pleasure to learn the Berg Knot right from Vernon in the early 1980s. It was a bear to learn, and I practiced it weekly for years so I wouldn't lose it. But, eventually I did lose it, and can no longer do it.
What I can tell you is that my recollection is that all published handlings of the Berg Knot are incorrect. I think that Vernon describes it on one of the Revelations videotapes. If so, that is the ONLY way to learn the correct handling, though it will be extremely difficult because it's so subtle. As a person who had to sit next to The Professor for HOURS in order to learn the fingering, I can well imagine the frustration involved in trying to learn it from the videotape.
It IS definitely worth learning!
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Postby Harvey Rosenthal » 11/15/01 01:41 AM

I did not mention the Gardner writeup of the Berg knot because I found it virtually impossible to understand even though I do the Vernon handling of the knot. I strongly suspect that the handling that Vernon taught me is a refinement of the one worked out by he and Dr. Jacob Daley. The Fulves writeup is infinitely clearer than the one in the Gardner book.

I had sent a Real Player movie of me doing the Vernon version of the Berg knot to a close friend. When he asked me about learning it, I referred him to the Fulves writeup in the Vernon Pallbearers Review Folio and he was able to learn the handling from that description. I know this because after learning the handling from the Fulves writeup, he sent me a movie of him doing the knot asking me to critique it. He did it perfectly.

I would be happy to send anyone interested the movie I made of the Vernon handling of the Berg knot. After seeing me do it, you should be able to understand the Fulves description of the knot. You can reach me by e-mail.

[ November 15, 2001: Message edited by: Harvey Rosenthal ]
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Postby Guest » 11/15/01 07:52 AM

HI All.

Wow, all these Vernon stories are wonderful to read!
I was wondering how Dai Vernon was as a performer?? We all know that he probably had the best mind in magic, but how was he as a performer?? Did he perform alot for the lay audience, or was it mostly for other magicians?? How was his style, was he a comedian or a more serious performer?? Until was year did he perform for money?? Did anyone today get to see him at his prime??
How was his sleight of hand??

Best,
Daniel
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Postby Pete McCabe » 11/15/01 11:16 AM

Harvey,

Thanks for clarifying. The Berg knot has been on my list of "to be learned soon" moves for some time. Now I'll get off my butt and do it!
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 11/15/01 01:48 PM

To Daniel Thomsen:

There is a nice videotape titled “Dai Vernon: The Spirit of Magic” that will answer several of your questions. It is the “director's cut” of a Canadian TV special on The Professor. I believe it's available through L&L or check your local shop. It does a nice job of covering the period during which he was a highly sought after (and paid) performer.

Regards,
Dustin
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Postby Guest » 11/15/01 03:16 PM

The Spirit of Magic ranks as one of my all time favorite videos. The vintage footage of Vernon, as well as Leipzig and Malini, really gives one a sense of the time.
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Postby Guest » 11/15/01 05:23 PM

Extending on the comment made by Richard, above; the Berg Move is described in Vernon: Revelations vol. 9 (same tape with vol. 10, by L & L Publishing).
On a side note, these tapes provide one with more information (and stories) about Vernon, and are highly recommended.
D
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Postby Guest » 11/15/01 06:51 PM

I never understood the criticisms surounding the Revelations tapes. Sure, Vernon was an old man at that point, and perhaps the editing was a bit untidy at times (although hearing off-camera conversations between Vernon and Ammar could hardly be termed a fault), but Vernon had his wits in tact, and it is here that one wittnesses the admiration magicians held for this man.
I've watched these tapes a dozen times, mostly when I'm feeling down about magic. They never fail to inspire me in some way.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/15/01 09:24 PM

The "Revelations" series of videotapes was the closest many will ever come to understanding what it was like to sit with Vernon in his corner of the Magic Castle. I met Vernon in 1982, when he was 86! The videotapes are like going back in a time machine for me.
The problems people have with the tapes are not with Vernon, per se, but with the dreadful camera work, lighting, editing, etc. They really are dreadful in every way except for the central fact that they DO present Vernon exactly as he was in his late eighties. I treasure my copies, and can't wait for L&L to put them out on DVD so they are RANDOM ACCESS!
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Postby Philippe Noël » 11/16/01 05:03 AM

Dear Mr Rosenthal,
Isn'it possible to put the Real Player movie of the Berg knot on your web site?

Philippe Nol
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Postby Harvey Rosenthal » 11/16/01 04:39 PM

My web site is designed to show movies of my own tricks and sleights. As I offered earlier, anyone wanting a copy of the movie I made of me doing the Vernon handling of the Berg knot just has to ask via e-mail and I will send it off to them as an e-mail attachment. It is a small file--slightly over half a meg and is a short download even with a 56k modem.

[ November 16, 2001: Message edited by: Harvey Rosenthal ]
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Postby steve » 11/20/01 07:36 PM

Well, you guys have spent more of my money and once again, I am forced to thank you. After reading this thread, I bought Vernon's "Spirit of Magic" from our good friend Denny and it arrived today. WOW...what else can I say? As a big fan of the man, I watched like a kid watching Santa fly over the house, watching this tape. What an amazing tape. So much history and so much that was different than things I had heard. Super tape guys. Thanks for the tip on it. I also enojoyed seeing so many people who are not well known in the public world of magic. Also great to see Steve Freeman (sp?) again. Wow, has he changed since the Revelations series? :) What's he doing these days anyway?

Although I appreciate the way in which you have spent my money, please stop spending it so freely!!! :)

[ November 20, 2001: Message edited by: Steve S. ]
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Postby Countelmsley » 12/01/01 11:15 PM

You guys are right! The Revelations tapes are great, even though I only have the first three but I do plan on buying the other ones. They really are pretty inspiring, I dont care if you do close-up or stage magic, everyone's got to be pretty inspired, right?
Now, in your opinion, which tape should I buy first? As I said, I already have the first three. And , speaking of Vernon, do you guys have any news on the Vernon bio that David Ben is apparently working on? Good day and keep on flourishing...
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