Bob Stencel Passes...

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Postby Lance Pierce » 11/04/08 11:29 AM

Here in Oklahoma City at Kindred Hospital, Bob Stencel passed away at 6:45 this morning. He'd suffered various health issues the last few years, even becoming critical at times, but last week he became seriously ill. Bob's reputation in magic was primarily an underground one, but he's known for an eccentric kind of brilliance that resulted in outstanding magic. One afternoon in Chicago years ago, I watched Bob go toe to toe with Michael Skinner, each taking turns doing tricks, each not wanting to be the first to stop. They went on for hours.

Bob will be missed by the many who were privileged to meet him.

Communications may be sent to Irene Stencel, 5214 Quail Drive, Guthrie, Oklahoma 73044.

Thanks,



Lance

Added: Irene asks that we not send flowers, but contributions to charity in Bob's name would be wonderful.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/04/08 01:45 PM

I'm very sad to hear this, and also sad to see that no one else has posted any remarks about Stencel. What an incredible magician he was--what a genius, and how generous. He was ill for many years and fought very bravely.
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Postby Tom Dobrowolski » 11/04/08 03:59 PM

I was fortunate to see him lecture some 20 years ago in Chicago at Magic Inc. I still even have the typed xeroxed lecture notes with the hand drawn cover he was selling. His magic card work was astounding. I remember it to this day. I have never seen anyone before or since that has left such an impression on me.

My sympathies to his family and friends.
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Postby Darryl Harris » 11/04/08 05:08 PM

I have very pleasant memories of Mr. Stencel. I remember meeting him at a F.F.F.F. Convention, and Richard asking him to show me Stencel's Aces. My chin hurt for a week after bouncing off the table. He was kind enough to share his method with me, prior to it being published in Richard's Almanac, and making sure I had it right. And, I remember the hat.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/04/08 06:17 PM

I think Darryl and I were rooming together at that FFFF, and Stencel was rooming next door, and the rooms were connected. With the connecting door open, Stencel was making balloon animals all night! Yes, he was a master at balloon twisting.
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Postby NCMarsh » 11/04/08 06:44 PM

I was very fortunate to get to spend a few days around Mr. Stencel. I have never seen anyone who cared so much about every detail -- down to using superglue to create a permanent "shelf" in the hand for absolutely natural palming. The result was material that felt like real magic.

Outside a barbeque restaurant in Austin, I got to see Mr. Stencel perform for laymen. He took a powerful effect -- the change of a card -- and extracted from it every ounce of impact. He did 4-5 phases of a single card changing while held in the young woman's hand, each phase used a different method, each phase looked completely natural: the magic just happened. And the result was an experience of real magic for the spectator: she was convinced that the card changed while in her hand.

That was a hallmark of Mr. Stencel's work as I saw it. He choose the most clear, direct, and powerful effect; and then he worked tirelessly to uncover every possible way of accomplishing that effect. He was systematic in his creativity, giving himself a clear goal -- i.e. "the most convincing card change" -- and then forcing himself to generate a specific number of possible solutions to that goal every day.

More than being a prodigious creator, he was an evangelist for getting all magicians creating at a high level. He would speak at length about the process of generating ideas, and seemed to tell everyone who sat down with him "you're going to create something really special." It was his way, I think, of trying to encourage people out of their complacency; that if they believed that the master saw something special in them, they would put in the work that would result in something really special.

He was unbelievably generous. He sat with me for hours, working through every little detail of Vernon's topping the deck...how to close windows, how to come out of it...and when he did it...it was a moment when it seemed like a new world opened up...when you've been in magic for a while, and you've read a lot of books and seen a lot of videos, and seen "experts" perform the move...you think you know what it is supposed to look like...and then Mr. Stencel did it and you realize that there is this whole other level of mastery that you didn't realize was possible

On the generosity end: he had me write down my name, address, and "I will create the best change yet devised" on his legal pad. A week later an envelope arrived from Oklahoma, with my name in Bert Allerton block letters. Inside were three handwritten pages of Stencel on the card change -- tips, methods he loved, who did what best and how to contact them. It was wisdom that came from a lifetime of work and experience, and he poured it out freely.

Bob Stencel was a master craftsmen -- a rare man who was passionate about excellence for its own sake. He didn't want praise. He didn't want to do well because of how it would make him feel about himself, or how it would reflect on him. He loved his craft and could not give it anything less than the very best.
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Postby D. Andrus » 11/05/08 12:42 AM

Bob Stencel was my first mentor in magic here in Michigan before moving to Oklahoma. I'll miss our phone conversations and his surprise mailings. I was amazed at the amount of work and detailed thinking contained in his letters. I will also miss his stories....he took private lessons from Slydini.

He was a very unique person and a great thinker. He will be greatly missed.
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Postby David Thomas » 11/05/08 10:57 AM

Shame I never got to meet him. Bob seemed like a great guy and a great magician as well. I would be interested in learning some of his work. Where can I learn stencel's aces? (The version Jennings first showed Vernon, not the Jennings '67 version).

My condolences to his family

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/05/08 11:02 AM

Not many people took the time to get material from Bob, and it was difficult. After reading several of my books, he felt that I could capture the details of his work and offered me two items, both of which appear in Richard's Almanac (The Collected Almanac). One of those is "Stencel's Aces." (The version Jennings first showed to Vernon, by the way, includes a different sleight which Jennings substituted for one of Stencel's. That has not been published yet.)
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Postby Lance Pierce » 11/05/08 11:41 AM

Bob Stencel's favorite magician -- and favorite person except for his wife -- in the whole world was Bill Malone. Bill and I had dinner with Irene last night and only then through conversation became aware of her financial situation. She didn't ask for anything, but if anyone is considering a charitable donation, you might consider directing your gift directly to her.

Thanks,

Lance
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Postby Greg Eanes » 11/05/08 09:49 PM

I am truly saddened to hear of Bob Stencels passing. I had known of his reputation through Richards Almanac, but it was through a chance meeting many years ago that I got to know what a real gentleman and magical personality the man really was. It was Saturday morning; August 27, 1988. I got a call from Bobby Rockman of LaRock's Fun and Magic in Charlotte, NC. Bobby said, "Greg, there's someone here I think you'd like to meet. His name is Bob Stencel." "You mean, the 'Stencel Aces' Bob Stencel?" was my reply. I don't recall Bobby's answer to my question, but I do know that in minutes I found myself at LaRock's introducing myself to a refined-looking gentleman named Bob Stencel---indeed, it was the man himself.

After our introductory dialogue evolved into more detailed discussions of card magic and such, Bobby asked Bob and me if we would like to use the session table set up in a little side room of the shop. I really did not want to impose, but Bob was happy to spend some time. In fact, after we sat down at the table Bob said, Wait here, Ill be right back. He walked out to his car and returned with a pad and pencil. Here, you may want to take some notes, Bob said with a warm smile. (That blew me away!) I was delighted to witness some incredible card magic and to participate in some seriously enlightening discussions of magic philosophy. He performed his legendary Stencel Aces, did a lot of J C Wagner routines, and quite a few routines with using the Gamblers Cop, a move that I had never seen so well-handled up to that point. Cards Across, ace trick variations, Cards to Pocket, All Backs---we covered them all. That session went for five and hours!

It turned out that Bob had some business dealings in Charlotte and would be in town for a while. We made plans to have dinner the next week and continue our discussions and card sessions; and so we did, meeting at the Little Italy restaurant near the magic shop. We traded more secrets and more stories. I showed him a handling of Holey POD (Richards Almanac) that I developed and gave him the necessary cards for the trick. I found that he had an interest in origami when I demonstrated how to fold a Fujimoto cube---a particularly elegant method of folding a square piece of paper into a cube. He seemed impressed with the fold and asked me for the instructions (which I brought to him later). I remember during my explanation of the folding procedure, I got to this one particularly nice part of the process, and I saw his eyes light up---and as I was saying now at this point, you---Bob politely interrupted me and said, No, wait. At this pointyou pray.

Yes, Bob seemed to be one of those well-rounded renaissance types with an eclectic taste for all things intriguing. And he really enjoyed being with people. He paused long enough from our dinner/magic session to twist a balloon into a parrot for a young child passing by our table. When Bob took out a sharpie pen and applied some deft strokes to the parrot, giving it eyes and feathers, and presented the surprise sculpture to the boy---it was smiles for everyone!

During his Charlotte visit Bob got to know several of the local magicians and showed a genuine interest in helping others with their magic. I recall his emphasizing the importance of writing in magic---that is, scripting the presentation. He referred us to the work of Terry LaGerould as good examples of scripting routines for presentations with emotional impact.

I never did see Bob after those few brief encounters; brief, yes, but dense and rich. I found Mr. Stencel to be one of those complete package magicians: great skill, superb entertainer, a wealth of knowledge, and extremely generous. And it is the latter that I remember the most.

My condolences to the family.
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Postby David Thomas » 11/05/08 10:03 PM

Thanks for the info Richard.

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Postby Lee Almond » 11/05/08 11:15 PM

Rest in peace Bob. So sad he was only two hours south and I never made the time. I remember a very brief meeting years ago in the Stevens shop. RIP Bob.
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Postby Pete Biro » 11/06/08 01:32 PM

I saw Bob a few times at Abbott get togethers and he always had original and amazing magic for the boys... his LOAD METHOD for the Chop Cup, popularized by Larry Jennings and Ron Wilson was genius...a real fooler.

He will be missed.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/06/08 02:29 PM

I will correct you, Pete, because I spoke with Stencel about the method of loading that Jennings published in his Chop Cup routine. He told me that he and Larry developed it together, while sitting in Jennings' kitchen in Detroit. Jennings did not take it from him, though Larry should have credited Bob as co-creator.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 11/06/08 03:43 PM

I brought Stencel to Austin to be a special guest for the magicians performing at Magic at the Manor. Many have overlooked his reputation for being quite critical and curt at times. I knew this, but thought the chance to spend time with one of magic's true card stars was worth the risk. I also had known that he had been ill off an on for quite some time and that he had not wanted to spend a lot of time with magicians of late. I did not know how this would play out.

After some logistical details seemingly going awry, he eventually arrived. Ideally, I would have spent time with him and the group, making sure everything was copacetic, but I had a thousand things to do. i really wanted this to be a good time for all.

Anyway, to make a long story short, the event was an amazing evening. It went VERY well. But to me, and I mean this, one of the memories I will take away from that incredible weekened was watching Stencel. He was like a 20 year old. When we went for BBQ, he was the first on the van, the first to do tricks for the laypeople, the first to order ice cream at Amy's, and the last person to go to bed. When the frenetic energy of the room was taking its toll on the younger among us, I was reminded of the old joke where the old bull says to the young - "why don't we WALK down there and ..." well, you know the rest.

He congratualted me for the event and it was clear he was having the time of his life. To see him open up and have so much fun was really a great experience.

My two regrets are not having been able to spend real time with him while he was here, and not following up with him after he returned. Every month or so I would think - I really should call or write.

I didn't.

Now it's too late.

So, Bob, in a night of a thousand memories, yours is one that will shine the brightest.

Thanks,

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Postby Marien Hopman » 11/06/08 09:52 PM

I first met Bob Stencel in Detroit at the Fox Fun and Magic Shop owned by Roy Kissell. That was about 45 years ago when I was 16 (oh to be young again)

Bob did his Stencels Aces and a trick I believed he called "The travellers". Bob was a regular at the Abbott's get together until he moved out to Oklahoma.

I spent many hours with him at the old Magic Carpet Bar in Colon Michigan and still have some funny tape recordings of our meetings. As mentioned in other colums posted here, their was no time limit when it came to magic. One morning at Curley's bar in Colon Michigan I sat down with Bob, Aldo Columbini and my twin brother. The magic went on for a few hours and I left. I returned about 2 hours later and Bob and Aldo were still going at it. There is an old saying about how to do a trick and the anwer would be, "why don't you ask Bob Stencel?" and the reply was always " I just don't want to know that much about it"..LOL.

Bob was very technical and would shout out loud sometimes and startle you in the middle of a trick and at other times I did not know if he was talking serious or nonsense. I just didn't know.

Bob steered me to getting a copy of the Tahoe File which he co-authored with Dennis Mackenzie, Milt Kort and others. The mysterious midnight flight of 747 and The man from New York are tricks from this file that many magicians have never heard of or seen.

Bob could be critical at times and would look you straight in the eye and say "are you a cripple?" No..I would reply and he would say "then why are you holding your hands like that?"....LOL...

Another one of his pet phrases was when doing a one handed palm was "now gently pull the trigger" to leverage the card into your palm etc. I loved Bob he was very informative and fun and he liked me.

Once at a flea market I bought an Elmer Fudd laple pin as Elmer was wearing a little hat as Bob always did and the pin sure looked like Bob. For years I took it to Abbott's to give him but he had already moved from the Detroit area and no longer showed up. I often told him he was the Elmer Fudd of magic and he would make some funny type of cartoon sounds etc. A

nyone who subscribes to "Reel Magic" April 2008 edition (Bill Malone) can see a picture of Bob, Ed Marlo, Mike Skinner and a very young Bill Malone during the interview. I have missed him much in the past and now will miss him even more.
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Postby Pete Biro » 11/07/08 12:16 AM

Richard: Thanks for the clarification on the chop cup load.
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Postby Ray Banks » 11/07/08 10:28 AM

I was staying at the smae hotel s the magicians for Magic at the Manor.

I noticed Bob Stencel sitting at a table in the lobby while I was checking out and introduced myself.

I spent about a half hour talking with him and he showed me a better way to one of my card tricks and, of course, did Stencel's Aces (with Queens) for me.

A short time but something I will remember forever.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/23/08 11:15 PM

I'm looking for a photo of Bob Stencel for Genii Speaks. Anyone have one? Please e-mail it to me at moobooks@ix.netcom.com
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