Swiss on Jack Chanin

Discuss the views of your favorite Genii columnists.

Postby Guest » 01/11/03 12:22 AM

I did hundreds of illustrations for Mr Chanin in the 70's for these books and got to know him very well over the years. I have been away from magic since 1980 and I don't know who Jamy Swiss nor Mr Haversat is but I do know Chanin would have taken his review as mean spirited and it's attitudes like his that drove me away from magic 22 years ago.
Gladly I am slowly immersing myself back into magic but will stay clear of the mean spirited.
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Postby Guest » 01/11/03 07:55 AM

Mr. Morley:

Your post is surprising. I have read both the review and the book in question, and would appreciate if you could specify exactly what aspect of the review reveals a mean spirit.

Swiss speaks glowingly of Jack Chanin throughout the article, and of the value of the book. He points out the shortcomings of Haverstat as writer, editor, and designer, critical comments which I share.

What am I missing?

--Randy Campbell
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/11/03 08:39 AM

There was nothing "mean spirited" about the review. It was mildly critical of some aspects of the book, but these deserved the criticism they received.
It sounds like Mr. Morley would rather be reading The Linking Ring.
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 01/11/03 02:03 PM

I don't think that Jamy is mean-spirited, uncharitable, or misanthropic. However, he does not suffer fools lightly and he is forthrightly and viciously smash-mouth in his candor.

Part of the reason he would point out the mediocre layout and drawings is because he knows that the material (of Chanin) deserves better "framing." I agree.

This does not mean that the artist was not well-meaning or is an artistic crumb-bum.

Hey! I get blasted all the time about this or that shortcoming...mostly from friends...who are not mean or vicious. They may be wrong some of the time. Nevertheless, I ALWAYS appreciate their directness and candor.

I never met Jack Chanin; however, from what I've heard, I'm sure he always spoke his mind--loud and clear. The ultimate criteria for him, it seems to me, would have been: (1) Does anybody think highly enough about the material to master and DO it? (2) How many books sold? (3) Show me the money?

Onward...
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Postby Guest » 01/11/03 03:21 PM

I suppose I over reacted to the critique but if I did it's only because I have waited since 1976 for such a book and always felt Chanin was overlooked in the industry. So with eager eyes I read the review and although I don't know David Haversat from Adam I felt defensive of him.
I was grateful to see anything on Chanin and now as I read my copy of the new book I wish some of the elements were different.
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Postby Jim Morton » 01/11/03 03:29 PM

Originally posted by scott morley:
I did hundreds of illustrations for Mr Chanin in the 70's for these books and got to know him very well over the years. I have been away from magic since 1980 and I don't know who Jamy Swiss nor Mr Haversat is but I do know Chanin would have taken his review as mean spirited and it's attitudes like his that drove me away from magic 22 years ago.
Gosh, I must have gotten a different review in my issue of Genii. I thought Jamy Swiss was rather lenient. The Chanin book is a wonderful thing, but there is no reason for the poor quality of the graphics in it. Either the images were not scanned at a high enough resolution, or the images were not sent with the job to the printer so the placer images got printed. The book deserved better. I'm surprised that someone who did those illustrations wouldn't be hopping mad at the results. I know I would be.

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Postby Danny Archer » 01/17/03 11:57 AM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Jon Racherbaumer:

I never met Jack Chanin; however, from what I've heard, I'm sure he always spoke his mind--loud and clear. The ultimate criteria for him, it seems to me, would have been: (1) Does anybody think highly enough about the material to master and DO it? (2) How many books sold? (3) Show me the money?

I did know Jack and John hit the nail on the head ... Jack loved magic and was a incredible magician but first it was a business and the measure of a business is how much money ... when I met Jack he was pretty old but I was still impressed with his skill, I can only imagine what he was like in his prime....
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Postby JR Russell » 01/27/03 12:11 PM

I first met Jack Chanin in 1976, when I was a freshman at Villanova U in Philly. My copy of BoBos Coin Magic had his autograph on p.94. I always wondered who this guy was. While looking for a magic shop in Philly, I came across Jack Chanins. A buddy of mine and I went down one afternoon and I told this old guy that I had such a book. He boldly snapped You have a BoBo book with MY autograph in it?...thatll be $50 kid

He spent the rest of the afternoon entertaining us. I went back a couple more times and he would rib me about the autograph. I still have the Okito box and Hopping Half he sold me.

When the Chanin book came out, I eagerly scooped it up. At first glance, I agree with Mr. Swiss review. It is not as polished or pretty as the books that hit the market today. If I were in a book store and just picked it up and opened it, I would have put it back down. I was initially disappointed BUT then I started READING the book. To me it had an true essence of Jack Chanin.

The book is filled with gems and for me it feels like Jack is still joking and teaching me. I recently purchased the La Maggiore shells and started playing with them. Jacks Hello Sucker section has an interesting section that talks about dressing for the 3 shell game like an old Carnie, with a vest, derby, moustache, cigar, pocket watch etc. To me it was a classic, If you want a new idea, read and old book lesson. I also found it ironic that this review was in the same February Genii as Peter McCabes latest Scriptwriting and it was a perfect example for me on taking a wrong trick and making it something special. I dont know if Ill use it but it certainly has me thinking!

Good book, accurate review. I have no complaints on either, I wish I could have had Jack autograph the bookbut then again, he would have probably charged me another $50 bucks!
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Postby GAMOLO » 01/28/03 05:53 PM

I grew up in Allentown, Penna. in the 1950's, located about an hour from Philly. My ethnic background was the same as Jack's, right down to the same Jewish eastern European/Russian/"The Pale" villages that he and his parents and my parents traversed on their way to America.
Though not a sentimential man to nonfamily members, he took a shining to me and we spent many hours over the years speaking, much in Yiddish.
Jack was certainly an acquired taste, and his seemingly crude and rough appearance & manner was definitely considered low brow in the 1950s & 1960's...especially since at that time the "tasteful" Lee Gray, Milbourne Christopher and John MulHolland personas represented "Magic" to our community.
Consequently, Jack was under appreciated and never received proper recognition or respect from the "insiders" and frankly, was considered by many an embarrassment. Not withstanding his great Chinese stage act, he was essentially what today would be considered a street magician or close up worker, utlilizing everyday articles....very, very inexpensive articles, at that.
Of course, he took a very Gaucho Marx public attitude about not being welcomed in the "club" and compensated somewhat by being perfectly outrageous at MAES and local gatherings. He very infrequently traveled, and since he was used to not really ever having what we would call "real" money in his life he was not willing or able to accomodate or transform himself to become a more "commercial" enough act/performer to acquire wealth.
He was, like Duke Stern, the last of a certain breed. There is no one like him today.
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Postby Guest » 01/28/03 08:23 PM

I first met Jack at an MAES convention in 1950.
Yes, he was brash and bruised the egos of the tender. Since I had no illusions about my place in the magical hierarchy -- right at the bottom -- I didn't suffer from his barbs. I had more than a dozen years of dealing with the vicissitudes of life at sea and with sailors so was able to take care of myself. Later, in 1955 when I was for a short time at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard I visited his shop many times and found him a good friend, indeed. He was actually more interested in chatting than in serving his customers. One day there was a young teenager browsing in the shop and that interferred with the chat Jack and I were having so he chased the kid out.

Granted that at a convention he had very short shrift (Have you ever seen long shrift?) for the loud amateurs who congregated in the dealers' area.

Several years later I was stationed in Washington and by that time had got tired of spectators at a magic lecture who would interrupt to ask silly questions such as
"What do you mean when you say 'hold a break?'"
So I engaged Jack to come down to DC and give a lecture for a small, select group that were prepared to get something from such a teacher. There were ten of us and Jack gave us a great evening.

When Jack came to Los Angeles to play the Magic Castle he stayed with me. I must say that it was not the best venue for his style of performance. He never seemed at ease there.

I had a collection of the booklets Jack had issued. Among them was what was probably the best work on the shell game. I gave the collection to the Magic Castle library whence they were swiped.
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