Martin A. Nash Has Passed Away

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/20/09 11:26 PM

I have just learned that my friend and one of my card magic inspirations has passed away.

Martin was a true gentleman, a fantastic entertainer, and a lot of fun to be around. He was generous with his time and skill.

His Castle Act, specifically designed for the Close-up Room at the Magic Castle, always seemed to garner him a standing ovation (hence its official name, Ovation).

Martin was one of a kind. I miss him already, but I count myself lucky to have known him for so many years.

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/21/09 12:03 AM

Sorry to see another friend gone.
I could use a good scan (300 dpi) of a photo of Martin if anyone out there has one. Please e-mail to moobooks@verizon.net.
Thanks.
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Postby Dale Shrimpton » 07/21/09 04:16 AM

A great shame. He was a true artist, and one i never got to see live....
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Postby r paul wilson » 07/21/09 04:28 AM

Martin was one of my heroes when I was growing up and I have been fortunate to call him a friend for the last fifteen years. His skill was great and he was every bit as charming as his performing persona.

I met him on my first visit to the Magic Castle. It was late and I was sitting with a friend in the Dante room practicing seconds as we talked. Someone appeared behind me and was watching me deal. I turned round to see Martin A Nash with a strange look on his face.

"You're dealing those cards right but what's wrong with your left hand?"

I looked at my hand, then I looked at him, baffled. "It's not breathing. Look..."

Martin sat down and gave me a lesson in the push-off second. It was a great session and I remember if very fondly.

Martin often talked to me about the difference between cheating moves and magic sleights. I once saw him ask someone to shuffle their cards and deal seven hands of Stud. He then asked the dealer what the hole cards were. They didn't know and Martin stood up and shouted "...then what are you doing in the game?"

A few months later a large group of us were seated at the card table in the Palace bar when Martin joined us. While we talked, several of us were shuffling cards, as is traditional. After a while, Martin started talking about one of his mentors. Out of the blue he asked me to deal seven hands of stud. I obliged only to be met by the same question I'd heard months before. I called out all of the hole cards and was correct on every single one. Martin gave me a huge smile and continued with his story. Fortunately for me I had been sitting on a memorized deck waiting for the right moment. I couldn't have asked for better.

At an A-1 convention, I had a few drinks with Martin at the bar. He was at a low ebb and was having problems with pains in his hands. Some days, he told me, he could barely pick up an ace, let alone palm one. The next day I was with him at the back of a packed room just before he went on to perform for the crowd. He was still pretty low and was massaging his hands. Frankly, I was very worried that Martin wasn't up to giving a show, let alone perform the kind of sleight of hand he was famous for.

As he was introduced, Martin stepped out, his familiar smile filling the room, his eyes twinkling as usual. He performed every move flawlessly and brought the audience to their feet. Talk about class! Martin A. Nash, the Charming Cheat, was a genuine pro.

RIP Martin.

P
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Postby Matthew Field » 07/21/09 06:00 AM

I had an opportunity at last to see The Charming Cheat, the M.A.N. himself, at a Blackpool convention. what a delight it was. I made a point to go up to him after the lecture and shake his hand, introducing myself and telling him what an inspiration he was to card students the world over.

His magic videos and books (written by Stephen Minch)are must-haves for students of card magic. I edited his book on the Infinity Crimp writtten by jon Racherbaumer.

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Postby Magic Newswire » 07/21/09 07:11 AM

I am sorry to hear this sad news. Hadn't he been ill for some time? Are there any details as to a funeral or memorial?
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Postby magicking » 07/21/09 08:58 AM

My prayers and condolences to his family. May God bless and comfort them during this most difficult time.
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Postby Tabman » 07/21/09 11:20 AM

My condolences to his family and good friends. He leaves a wide wake with his passing.

-=tabman
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Postby Roberto » 07/21/09 12:01 PM

R. Paul Wilson,
Thank you for sharing that story with us. Very touching. I never met Mr. Nash or saw him perform live.

I became familiar with some of his work via videos and through the printed page. I remember seeing him handle those cards so beautiful for the first time on video and saying to myself, "Wow, that's what I want to do". He was very inspirational and the man knew his chosen craft so well.

I'm grateful to Mr. Nash for leaving us with his material so that we may study and learn from. R.I.P. Charming Cheat.

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Postby David Regal » 07/21/09 12:57 PM

Martin was a force. Generous, engaging, and charismatic. He not only knew moves but intimately knew structure and elements of performance. To clarify the observation that Dustin made, getting a standing ovation within the intimate confines of the Magic Castle's Close-up Gallery is virtually unheard of...and Martin received them all the time. He designed an act and a performance specifically to produce standing ovations, with ever-building sequences and theatrical subtleties that made people rise. Endless jealously was the result, of course, with jaded magicians complaining about the "tricks" Martin used to effect his audiences. May we all learn a fraction of those "tricks." Martin's strategies were the result of a deep knowledge of the card table as a performing stage and a gift to his audiences. They rose, and they rose not just because they were fooled, and not just because they were impressed. They rose because they were thrilled.

I miss Martin already - always so kind to me, always so warm. We performed tricks with dissimilar plots, but had a similar desire to reach an audience and that, I think, was a commonality that made everything easy between us. Of course, what I will never share with him is his suave demeanor and that look of a charming cad, a twinkle in his eye as he opened the door to his knowledge just a crack to an eager audience...and within seconds of his arrival they were always eager.

Martin Nash knew many, many secrets.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 07/21/09 03:27 PM

I'm kicking myself for missing his performances at Blackpool a couple of years ago, but I saw him on the Monday morning and braided a bill for him. He took it graciously, if a little bemused, and that was my contact with him.

Arse.
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Postby Q. Kumber » 07/21/09 03:47 PM

He lectured at the Manchester Circle a couple of years back, and there is one word that can describe him and that was simply 'Charming'.

It wasn't a slogan. The man was totally charming.
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Postby Kent Wong » 07/21/09 06:15 PM

Martin's last official lecture was here in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. This was about one year after his terrible car accident. You could tell he was still suffering from some of the effects of the accident, but he still put on a terrific show. His charisma and charm won over the room within seconds and the time just flew by.

For the last several years, I have been privileged to call Martin one of my closest friends in magic (which some may find strange since I'm not a card man). I've literally spent days at a time with Martin as he regaled me with stories from his past. I think that's what I'll miss the most.

Last summer, when I became a member of the Magic Castle, Martin met up with me in L.A. We spent 3 days together as he enthusiastically showed me where he used to live, the airfield where he used to fly his RC planes, and the magic shop on Hollywood Blvd.

I still remember when we approached Hollywood Magic, Martin turned to me and said, "You know, I used to spend a lot of time in this shop. In fact, I spent so much time here the guys gave me my own stool with my name engraved in it. That was a long time ago." Well, as we approached the shop, you could tell it was a Saturday afternoon. The place was packed and magicians behind the counter were busily showing there wares. Then, one of the guys looked up and saw us walk into the shop. Everything stopped. Suddenly one of them yelled out, "It's Martin Nash!". He immediately sprung into action, ran in the back room and re-emerged with a tall wooden stool containing a little gold plaque. It simply read, "Martin A. Nash - The Charming Cheat".

After several hours in Hollywood Magic, we worked our way up to the Magic Castle where I was treated to a personal tour by the M.A.N. himself. Martin knew every nook and cranny of the Grand Old House and he literally came alive with every step he took. Martin may have lived in Parksville, B.C., but he CAME ALIVE at the Magic Castle.

These are experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Martin, you will be missed. Thank you so much for your friendship and for the memories we shared together.

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Postby Terry » 07/21/09 06:29 PM

Richard Kaufman wrote:Sorry to see another friend gone.
I could use a good scan (300 dpi) of a photo of Martin if anyone out there has one. Please e-mail to moobooks@verizon.net.
Thanks.


I forwarded a .jpg taken at Mr. Nash's lecture for Louisville Ring 4 years ago.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/21/09 06:40 PM

Thanks for all the photos sent! I now have enough.
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Postby Paul Green » 07/21/09 07:00 PM

Marty Nash was an inspiration to all of us that perform. Style and grace just do not describe what he was able to do with a deck of cards.

Here is a poem that Marty shared with me:

The Loser
A dim light flickered above his head,
Sheets are rumpled on the bed,
A deck of cards clutched in his hand,
He was the best damn cheat in the whole damn land,
He would practice dealing both day and night,
Learned every move and every sleight,
Seconds, centers, bottoms, Greeks,
Gamblers cops, and gamblers peeks.
Never had a family, never had a wife
For the way of the cheat is a lonely life.
As he would silently sneak from town to town,
Seek out the marks, then take them down.
Now another player has joined the game.
Cant see his face, doesnt know his name,
But its Father Time, and hes out to win,
As he makes hands grow stiff, and the eyes grow dim.
The cheat reflects on his checkered past,
His time is coming he cannot last,
No longer deal the cards that win,
And Father Time sits back with a twisted grin.
Now hes spent every nickel, squandered every dime,
So he must play the game just one more time.
He tries a second; its just not there.
He grabs a bottom, and just grabs air.
Now where can he go, where can he run?
The game is over, his deal is done.
So he gently lies down on the bed,
And puts a forty-five up to his head.
A dim light flickered, and then went out.

Martin A. Nash June 96

My best wishes to his family.

Respectfully,

Paul Green
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Postby mark » 07/21/09 08:11 PM

I had been a great fan (and student) of Martin's for some time before I met him at the LVMI where he was the guest of honor. I met him that day in the registration line, and I cannot begin to tell you how gracious he was to me. He immediately counted me a friend, and as all of the movers and shakers of the magic community came to pay their respects to the Charming Cheat, he made sure that he introduced me to each and every one as if I'd been a friend for years. We spent the whole day together, meals and cards, and finally we began to talk about his place in magic. Hearing that I was a writer, he said, "You know Mark, I have never been featured in one of our magazines." Though he stated it as fact, there was a sad note to his voice, and I was just stunned. With all of the faces I'd seen on the various magic magazines and none had ever featured the Charming Cheat? We'd always planned on remedying that situation but life got in the way. After his absence from magic he became quite active again and traveled a lot. I wish that after my move to Washington I'd gone up north to make it all happen, but like too many things in life, the ship has sailed. Fair winds and following seas, Martin - you were certainly the most Charming Cheat that I've ever known.

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Postby Rafael Benatar » 07/21/09 08:22 PM

I saw Martin for the first time at the Magic Castle long before I became a magician, and he was the the one performer I remembered from that visit. The second time I saw him was about 15 years later when I went to the Castle as a performer and immediately became his friend. What thrill! A wonderful guy and a superb cardman who did the real work.
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Postby Nathan Muir » 07/21/09 11:07 PM

r paul wilson wrote:Martin often talked to me about the difference between cheating moves and magic sleights. I once saw him ask someone to shuffle their cards and deal seven hands of Stud. He then asked the dealer what the hole cards were. They didn't know and Martin stood up and shouted "...then what are you doing in the game?"

A few months later a large group of us were seated at the card table in the Palace bar when Martin joined us. While we talked, several of us were shuffling cards, as is traditional. After a while, Martin started talking about one of his mentors. Out of the blue he asked me to deal seven hands of stud. I obliged only to be met by the same question I'd heard months before. I called out all of the hole cards and was correct on every single one. Martin gave me a huge smile and continued with his story. Fortunately for me I had been sitting on a memorized deck waiting for the right moment. I couldn't have asked for better.


That is quite a story!
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 07/22/09 02:02 AM

MARTIN NASH
1933-2009

Martin Nash, along with Brother John Hamman and Darwin Ortiz, was a pure cardman. That is, he strictly performed magic with playing cards. He and Ortiz combined gambling [cheating] with magic and Martin established an ingratiating model he called The Charming Cheat, a role he relished and played for at least 50 years.

I met Martin for the first time in 1969 at Clarke Senator Crandalls dark, shadowy bar in Chicago. Our first session included two diametrically different Eddies, namely Fields and Marlo. In those days, Nash was thinner, intense, and hungry. He was in town to lecture at the Lawson YMCA. Lots of heavy-weights turned out and Nash was not well-known at the time. He may have been nervous, but he performed daring, difficult, knuckle-busting tricks. Later, he met Marlo face-to-face and Marlo was impressed and said so.

First impressions are often off the mark. Back then Nash seemed right out of central casting: slicked-back, neatly combed hairoily, but not too oily. There were other signs: well-manicured hands, a satin shirt, a thin mustache, a stereotypical pinky ring, and a slightly sly smile. His voice was gentle with a hint of sweet reticence and he spoke with an unctuous, ready-for-prime-time suavity, smiling like a man whose soul had been saved in a nick of time. He might cheat you in principle, but never in reality. He could induce you to buy a used car from him and you might even trust him with your wife and a bottle of Scotch when you were out of town. He was that kind of guy.

On another occasion, Marlo, Fields, and I met with him at his hotel room where he demonstrated a bean shooter (hold-out) and the fabled juice deck. During the session, nobody could read the juice on Martins deck, yet he called out cards from twenty feet in a dimly lit room. Everybody was
amazed.

I didnt see Martin again until 1995 at the Magic Castle. He was stockier then and looked dapper and relaxed, a deck in one hand, a cigarette in the other. He had just created a video with Johnny Thompson that explained the tabled faro shuffle and the Infinity Principle. Although we were sitting at the main bar, I asked Martin to demonstrate his faro technique. He quickly complied and performed several perfect Tabled Faro Riffle Shuffles on the top of a nearby bar stool. Each riffle-weave was perfect and he also performed several remarkable effects using the Infinity Principle.

I was never a big fan of the breather crimp. The lowly corner crimp suits me fine. But the work Martin showed me was equal to the little used snap crimp that Scarne favored. At the time some critics sniffed, Its just a #*%#* crimp! But in Martins hands, it created miracles. I think the video is still around and I wrote a book on this work called Infinity Power that Lee Freed published on a very limited basis.

Over the years I only saw four people perform effortless Tabled Faro Riffle Shuffles: Edward Marlo, David Ben, Steve Forte, and Martin Nash. Martins video-instruction was exacting and explains the precise, coordinated pressure required at every step of the shuffle. He also divulged an important tip: Both thumbs should lift and riffle-release a hair-breadth ahead of the weaving cards.

About six years ago I had several heart-to-heart talks with Martin, who was beginning to have a series of mishaps and health problems. He talked of completely retiring and putting the cards away. I talked about the importance of completing his legacy, namely consolidating everything he knew into a final series of hard-cover books. He agreed, but circumstances intervened and the books never materialized. However, much remains to be studied and enjoyed. For my money, Martin was one of the most dedicated, diligent practitioners I have ever known. He truly loved our subtle craft, and as Dustin Stinett pointed out in this Forum, the climactic routine of Martins card act (described in a manuscript titled Ovation) always earned a standing ovation. It was a joy to behold and a consolation now as it is remembered.

RIP, Martin.
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Postby Roger M. » 07/22/09 02:20 AM

I loved reading that Jon.
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Postby Bob Farmer » 07/22/09 07:31 AM

Several years ago when I was doing research on marked cards I spoke with a forensics expert with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He told me a great story about Martin helping them catch cheats working the lumber camps of British Columbia. The "Juice Deck" was in use, among other things. He also told me that they had analyzed the "juice" and it turned out to be a particular shade of Lady Clairol hair colouring.

He thought Martin was an amazing guy and he'd never met anyone quite like him.
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Postby Kent Wong » 07/22/09 11:15 AM

Bob,

I have the news article related to hat particular bust. According to the article, the undercover police could not demonstrably prove the purported markings of the alleged juice deck to the judge and so, the loggers were released. This is one of many news articles and glowing letter about Martin, contained as part of his old promotional package. I'm likely going to donate this material to the Magic Castle library, where Martin felt most at home.

Kent
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Postby Ian Keable » 07/23/09 06:02 AM

Martin Nash was one of my earliest heroes in magic as a result of his great books Ever So Sleightly, Any Second Now and Sleight Unseen. I still perform his $10,000 Ace routine the best version I know of the four ace assembly routine and his Aces for Experts Only. I am looking at the three books now in those rather old fashioned comb bindings. They are all signed by Martin with little inscriptions my favourite being May the Shuffled Deck of Life deal you only happiness. With anybody else those words might sound a little hackneyed; but not with him.

They are dated 1983 which may surprise some British readers but that was the first time he came over to the UK: to do a lecture organised by Chris Power and JJ of OPUS fame. He stayed in my house in London for a few days and was most put out that it was so far from the flesh pots of Soho!

He was a genuinely a very charming man and one of the few whos reputation in performance actually exceeded ones expectations from reading the books. Although I did catch him out with one of his sleights The Flip Switch: a mid-air double lift colour change. I could never master it and asked him if he could show it to me: he couldnt do it either!

He had some great stories about how to impress people. When he had arranged a meeting with someone who he hadnt met before, he made sure he found out what they looked like. He would always arrive early at the meeting place and immediately approach them shaking them by the hand and saying their name. When buying lunch he would get them to order first; and then order something which was just a little bit more expensive.

Another comment I remember was with reference to his business card which just had his telephone number on it. If they cant afford to ring me, they cant afford to book me, he said. And when it came to his magic, he said he constructed his routines like a Shakespearian play.

Well he certainly did it for me: I'd take a Martin Nash performance before Hamlet any day of the week.
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Postby Kent Wong » 07/24/09 12:24 AM

It has just been announced that the Magic Castle will be holding a memorial celebration for Martin A. Nash on August 23, 2009, at 4:00 pm. I will be working with Martin's executor to bring down some of his personal effects and his ashes.
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Postby Dr. Oliver Erens » 07/24/09 03:48 PM

Met Martin just once when he gave an exclusive lecture (here in Germany). That was the most impressive lecture I ever attended; I will never forget that experience.

Wrote an obituary to be published in our national magazine. Can anybody please email a photo to go along with it? Thanks you in advance; your help is appreciated.
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Postby Jason England » 07/24/09 06:11 PM

Kent,

Could you please contact me at: jason@jasonengland.com

I'd like to contact the executor of Martin's estate.

Thank you.

Jason England
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Postby Bruce Arnold » 07/25/09 12:03 AM

I met the M.A.N. twice. Once at F.F.F.F. , and again at a convention in Atlanta around 1979. I saw him sitting alone in the hotel restaurant early in the morning and did something I normally wouldn't do-I approached him and asked him if I could sit with him.

He didn't hesitate to let me - a complete unknown card magic fan, sit with him. We had a long conversation and he couldn't have been nicer or more friendly to me. I was impressed beyond words. I've never had that experience before or after with a well known magician and I treasure that meeting to this day.

R.I.P - M.A.N.

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Postby Terry » 07/25/09 10:57 AM

When he lectured at Louisville's Ring 4+ years ago, he mentioned about reprinting his three books with updated information & photos since Hades had been sitting on reprinting them.

Shame he did get the chance to impart what he'd learned/changed/improved since the original publication.
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Postby Gordon Bean » 07/26/09 12:49 AM

Martin Nash was one of the most vulnerable people I've ever known. He was also one of the most fearless.

He could be devastated by a single perceived slight from a friend or colleague--and then calmly have yet another spectator carry the climactic loaded cut in a performance of his incredible Jacks or Better act.

It took a while to realize that his constant self-deprecation was both a cry for reaffirming contradiction as well as being entirely honest. He could rise up and head tall into the battle of a performance, but in his mind he still cowered at the feet of those he idolized.

His favorite anecdote concerned how, in his days in the New York magic scene, an aging, bald, pot-bellied Englishman would illustrate a discussion of stagecraft by transforming into Cardini, right there in front of Martin's astonished eyes.

And above all, there was Harry Lorayne, whom Martin credited with nothing less than saving his life, by showing--in a trade-show appearance--that not only was it possible to hold an audience with a deck of cards: it was possible to affect them more deeply than even the most skilled stage magician.

I had the good fortune to perform with Martin at a private party in Malibu, as well as to take a road trip with him to the A-1 convention in Sacramento that Paul Wilson mentioned. The truth was that Martin lived to perform, had a hunger to perform, and was emotionally off-balance until he could perform.

Put him in front of an audience, though, and he radiated energy and fulfillment. At his shows in the Magic Castle's Close-Up Gallery, I always sat to one side to watch faces from the just-legal to the nearly deceased all reach out in amazement in exactly the same way. He made each of his audiences become one even before they rose together. As David Regal said, Martin thrilled them, and watching him do so was one of the most thrilling things I've ever seen.

Apart from being one of the all-time greats, he was a wonderful, generous man and I will miss him very much.
Last edited by Gordon Bean on 07/31/09 01:48 AM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: Minor changes per GB
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Postby Daniel Bain » 07/27/09 02:42 AM

When I joined the Magic Castle back in 1990 (shortly after I turned 21), I was asked to perform something and a bunch of "old guys" gathered around a back table to evaluate me for membership. (Believe it or not, I didn't know I had to audition and was caught totally off guard by the request!)

I borrowed a deck of cards and did my best to show off what I could do.

One of the men told me "Ahh--I see you are doing my double lift!"

Incredulously, I told him: "Only if you are Martin Nash!"

He answered, "I am Martin Nash!" I was, to say the least, surprised (and nervous as anything to unknowingly audition without preparing in front of one of the best card men in the world!)

Anyway, he and the group were very nice and I was accepted...

Since then, I had the pleasure of watching Martin Nash perform many times at the Castle. He was so natural with a deck of cards that his skill was a combination true genius and beauty.

He was one of the best and will truly be missed.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/29/09 10:23 PM

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.

Your friend,
Dustin
Last edited by Dustin Stinett on 07/30/09 12:42 PM, edited 0 times in total.
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Postby Jeff Eline » 07/29/09 10:52 PM

Nice tribute Dustin. Very nice. Thanks.
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Postby Donal Chayce » 07/30/09 02:53 PM

Dustin, you did right by your friend. I'm certain that somehow Martin knows, and he's smiling.
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Postby Kim Bortnak » 08/05/09 05:07 PM

I have know Martin since 1981 and was a student and fan for years after. He lived in Burnaby, B.C. not far from my house. Martin stayed at our house for several days about 4 months ago and it was apparent he had never really recovered from his accident in Alberta. I spoke with him on the phone for some time about a week before he passed away. I never made it to visit him at Nanaimo hospital before he died and for that I apologize Martin, god bless you my friend

Kim
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Postby Bob Farmer » 08/05/09 06:55 PM

That's a wonderful tribute, Dustin. Thank you.
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