Its taken a while for me to get around to doing this since reporting Martins passing (Im not very good at dealing with death). But its time that I do or the guilt I already feelwhich will become apparent laterwill only increase.
I first saw Martin over thirty years ago at a convention in San Francisco. Truth be told, I almost didnt see him at all out of my own ignorance and arrogance. As we were heading from our room to the convention floor, my friend and roommate told me he was going to see Martin A. Nash and suggested that I come with him. I was going through a coin magic phase at the time and said NaahhIm a coin guy!
I was working for Paul Diamond at his dealers booth. As I recall, it was he who kicked me in the butt and told me to go see Martin (it was a performance followed by his lecture). After all, the dealers room was dead; everyone was at Martins performance/lecture.
I was lucky and got a decent seat on the center aisle. Im not sure I ever left.
That day, Martin performed his Jacks or Better routine. It is an act that mixes gambling themed routines with straight magic and remains to this day my favorite of his four primary sets (the others being Colors on the March, Kings Incognito, and Ovation). But what was most important to me on that day was that, for the first time, I saw that close-up magic could be a theatrical experience.
You must understand that by this time I had been exposed to many truly great close-up magicians: Goshman, Dingle, Harris, Skinner, Jennings, Cros, Lenier, and others. But seeing Martin perform was the first time I had felt the same watching close-up magic as I did when seeing a great play. It was an honest to goodness epiphany.
A year or so later I formally met Martin when I interviewed him for what was to be his first ever profile in a magic magazine. Alas, the piece never ran (it was to be in Magic Manuscript). Whats worse, when I looked for it a few years ago, all I could find from the piece were some of my notes, a very rough first draft, and an original of a sidebar piece written by Harry Lorayne. (You have to keep in mind that this was written back in the day of typewriters. If you wanted a copy you used carbon paper or went to the drug store and paid 10 cents a copy on a cheesy Xerox machine.) The final draft would be wherever the files of the editor(s) of the magazine went: Perhaps in the trash.
Over the ensuing years Martin and I stayed in some contact, but it was when he moved to Southern California that our friendship blossomed. Wed see each other at the Castle and plot and plan for his feature article and maybe even a book. Sometimes I would bring guests and Martin would dazzle them (and me!) privatelyusually with his Infinity workdownstairs. It was never difficult to get Martin to perform: It was his life.
When I started writing for Genii, our plans picked up, but then he had to relocate back to Canadafor the health careand was only coming down to the US for performances and convention appearances.
Around that period, he had started working with a gentleman on a lecture tour and printed a compilation set of notes titled One Class Act (all four of his acts combined). Unfortunately the notes were misprinted (they were missing one half of one of the sets of notes). Martin was mortified and came to me to help, but the publisherrightfullypushed back. I honestly do not recall if a corrected set was ever released or if the missing pages were sent out to all the buyers (I made copies of my own since I had a set of the originals). What I do remember well was Martins disappointment over the whole affair.
This same person had also interviewed Martin for a piece that was to appear in MAGIC. But circumstances also led to that project falling through and, again, Martin was passed over for a cover article.
Its difficult to believe that Martin A. Nash has never appeared on the cover of any magic magazine, and its something that troubled him. He knew he was well liked and respected. He knew he contributed to the art he loved so much. He didnt lose sleep over it, but he simply didnt understand it. And frankly, neither could I.
As charmed a life as he appeared to have on the surface, sometimes it seemed likeas the old saying goesif Martin didnt have bad luck, he would have had no luck at all: A divorce, a rather skimpy book deal for his trilogy, a failed engagement, a couple of serious auto accidents, and various health issues that would land him in and out of the hospital over the years. And while he would bemoan these issues, once he got a deck of cards in his hands, the twinkle in his eyes would return, and the pain in his arthritic hands would vanish (at least so it seemed).
One of the last performances I watched Martin give was at the Magic Castle. He knew that Jacks or Better was my favorite of his acts. To the best of my knowledge, the only time Martin did not perform Ovation (his Castle Act) in the Close-Up Gallery was that night when, at my request, he performed Jacks or Better.
That was not the first time Martin had done that for me. A few years before, at a convention, he also changed his program for me. Only that time, it was a complete surprise to me. He smiled at meand the eye twinkle was thereand announced his intentions to the room. It was a moment Ill never forget as long as I live.
The last time I spoke with Martin was some months ago after I acquired what had beenfor methe Holy Grail of Martin A. Nash publications: A rare set of lecture notes titled Take it From Me.
Though not dated, they were printed around 1963, not long after Martin started making his living with only a pack of playing cards. (Prior to that, Martin had a standard dove act. In fact, Martin says that it was he who invented the invisible harness.)
Martin was booked for a performance and lecture at a convention somewhere in the Midwest he told me, unable to remember exactly where. Needing money, he wrote up the notes, used a headshot from his dove-worker period as the cover, and had printed as many as he could afford. That number was 75.
Someone was selling small lots of Martin A. Nash notes on eBay. One of those lots included Jacks or Better and Take it From Me (the serendipity of my favorite set and the notes Id been after for more than 30 years being in the same lot did not escape me). The seller didnt know what he actually hadlikely because few people even know about these notesso I scooped them up for a song ($30 or so for the lot). I called Martin the day they arrived in the mail: I wanted to wait until I actually had them in my hands (and make sure they were the real deal; they were).
When I told him how much I paid for them, Martinwho was not at all wellhad a wonderful laugh. He thought I was out of my mind. I charged two or three bucks each for those notes! he laughed. And theyre not that good either, he added.
I begged to differ and told him that I got the bargain of my lifetime. All I needed now was for him to sign them. Ill do that when I come down to the Castle next time, he promised. Though he was not feeling too well, he thought hed be able to come down in the late spring or summer.
I told him Id call back again soon and check in on him. I dont know if he was holding back or just being optimistic about recovering from the infection that ultimately took his life. I like to think that it was the latter. But his trip down here was not to be.
I never did call him back. Its easy to make excuses why not: I was busy working or something was going on with my family. But its a lot easierand more honestto beat myself up for being a lousy friend. I should havecould havecalled, and called more often than I did. I know that time is our most precious commodity and its a limited one at that. A few minutes on the phone with a friend is a better use of time than a lot of the things that I do with my small allotment of it. And now the moment in time where Martins and my life overlapped is gone. But I will always treasure the time we did have.
Martin, I would rather have had that time with you than none at all. I really was luckyunbelievably luckyto have found that aisle seat.
Last edited by Dustin Stinett
on 07/30/09 12:42 PM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: Spell Check Doesn't Check for Stupidity