David Alexander Has Died...

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Anthony Blake » 12/15/10 01:04 AM

News From Alan Watson via Richard Webster that magician, mentalist and regular Genii forum commentator David Alexander has died...

The following was sent via PM on Facebook:

Message from Richard Webster

Just heard that David Alexander has tradgically passed away. More information to follow shorty.

A Brief Bio
David Alexander daily accomplishes his lifes goal of doing interesting things. A professional magician for much of his adult life, magic has taken him to places and introduced him to people he would not have otherwise met. It has also given him a second career as a published author and a third as a successful artist.

As a child, David was fascinated with magic, becoming an original member of the fabled Long Beach Mystics in the mid-1950s. Prodigious study and contact with older magicians broadened his understanding. Extensive reading combined with performances in high school and college enhanced both his skill and self-confidence.

David was fortunate in being apprenticed to the noted Spanish vaudeville and nightclub magician, Jose Frakson. David was in good company for it was no less than Jack Benny who once said that he had learned how to walk on a stage by watching Frakson. David learned several of Fraksons exclusive tricks and routines, material he still uses today, decades later. During his formal seven year apprenticeship, David learned the inner secrets of stagecraft: the ability to quickly establish rapport with an audience and entertain them.

David was also fortunate in being friends with Charlie Miller. Unknown to the general public, Charlie Miller is a legend among magicians and it is from him that David received one of his signature tricks: the production of a glass of water from an examined bag. (See the video clip.) David and Charlies friendship was cemented one evening when they were talking about Max Malinis famous production of a chunk of ice from under a hat. Charlie went through the moves and David emulated them with a hat hed brought for the occasion. At the end David lifted the hat and there, to Charlies great surprise, was a five-pound hunk of ice. Charlies feelings were expressed in his inscription on the flyleaf of Expert Card Technique: To Dave Alexander, whose feat of ice has made me most impressed. Charlie Miller.

Leaving college in the mid-1960s, David traveled to San Francisco where he became the Hotel Claremonts first Resident Magician, performing in their restaurant for several months. During this time the Carter Collection of rare magic equipment and memorabilia was rediscovered in San Francisco. David became the first curator of the fabled collection.

Returning to Southern California David was hired by Princess Cruises as their first magician. David cruised for several years, both for Princess and later Sitmar, logging more than half a million miles at sea while entertaining tens of thousands of happy passengers.

David toured Mexico and Central America, performing in Acapulco for nearly a year, as well as Mexico City, Veracruz, private parties in Cuernavaca, as well as El Salvador and Guatemala.

David is the only magician ever hired by the Trader Vic Organization and was a feature of their Seor Pico Restaurant for over two and one-half years. David entertained at private parties for Old Hollywood royalty such as Norma Shearer, Ray Milland, Randolph Scott, Van Heflin and New Hollywood royalty like James Coburn. The quality of Davids early work was recognized by the worlds oldest magic organization, The Society of American Magicians, when they awarded him their Manipulation Award over three decades ago.

Davids travels have taken him from the jungles of the Philippines to the top of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima Island; from the salons of the wealthy in Beverly Hills and Acapulco to the enlisted mens clubs on U.S. military bases around the world; from U.S. embassies and consulates to Fortune 500 hospitality suites. He has worked his act in Spanish, French, and Japanese and on television in the United States, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Mexico and Central America.

In 1979 David wrote and privately published in a small edition limited to the magic trade: The Complete Professional Pickpocket, considered by many to be the definitive work on stage pickpocketing. It has been out of print for over 20 years, despite continued requests to reprint it.

One of his most unusual performances happened in late 2000 when he was hired by the head of a university medical school to entertain the graduating Fellows, but in disguise. He was introduced as David Alexander, Ph.D. Harvard Medical School Staff, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh and lectured for fifteen minutes on modern advances in psychology. After garnering a number of hearty laughs, he was revealed by the head of the school and launched into his magic, but so successful was his presentation that fully half of the people who came up afterwards insisted on calling him Doctor, and asked to be remembered to friends at Harvard!

In the early 1990s David was chosen by his friend Gene Roddenberry to write his authorized biography, Star Trek Creator, published in hardback 1994 and paperback in 1995.

Davids last published project was his investigation into the identity of S.W. Erdnase, the mysterious author of the bible of card magicians and gambling cheats, The Expert at the Card Table. His investigation resulted in an invitation to present his findings at the prestigious Los Angeles Conference on Magic History. It also garnered the cover of Genii The Conjurors Magazine, articles in various newspapers including one on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, and an extended interview on the BBC.

Davids third profession is that of silhouette artist. Twenty-seven years ago David encountered a silhouette artist who wanted to learn card tricks. The two became friends and traded skills. Today, David finds himself one of less than twenty quality silhouette artists still practicing this rare and ancient art.

Typically, David found himself going further with silhouette cutting than he originally planned. He collected books to the point that he has nearly everything on silhouettes written in the English language, but he also collected examples of other artists work.

At first the collection was simply a learning tool, but over the years it grew into the worlds most comprehensive collection of 20th Century silhouette artists work with David becoming a recognized expert. His next book, to be published soon, will be The Illustrated History of 20th Century Silhouettes and Guide to Collectibles.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/15/10 01:13 AM

Yes, I heard earlier this evening but was told the news wasn't to be made public yet.

There was a leak in his rental property, and he and his wife went over there to find out what happened. He died while in the attic trying to fix the problem and was found by his wife, Penny. The exact reason for his sudden and unexpected demise isn't clear yet.

The Genii Forum has lost one of its most valued members and I've lost a good friend.
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Postby T Baxter » 12/15/10 01:23 AM

David was my best friend in the world. His wife Penny called me earlier.

Words fail me...

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Postby Timothy Hyde » 12/15/10 01:23 AM

Sorry to hear this, David was always a great supporter of my various projects and "interesting things" offering encouragement and advice.
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Postby Paul Gordon » 12/15/10 01:29 AM

Tragic news. David and I used to "Facebook" almost weekly. Words fail me... :(

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Postby SteveP » 12/15/10 01:33 AM

Penny called me tonight to let me know what happened this afternoon. I'm still in shock.

The brief bio above truly is the tip of the iceberg regarding David and I'm sure more will come out over the next few days when things have calmed down a bit and some of us can think more clearly.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 12/15/10 02:29 AM

I was unable to find the words when Richard called me with the news. I still can't find them. Thank you, David, for all that you taught me. The next gathering of the SoCal Sodality will be in your honor.

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Postby Bill Palmer » 12/15/10 02:55 AM

I used to e-mail back and forth with David. He was an interesting fellow with a unique perspective on our art.

I really liked him a lot.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 12/15/10 02:56 AM

This is just awful in so many ways.

I never met David in person, nor ever saw him perform, but have counted him as an email friend for years. His posts to the Genii Forum have always been "must read" for me.

Mostly our offline mails were about the Erdnase thread. I didn't believe in his candidate, W. E. Sanders, but always enjoyed his evidence supporting his theory (and even contributed a few tidbits both for and against Sanders, over the years). Our discussions wandered off into other areas -- Gene Roddenberry, silhouettes, David Gerrold, gossip about other magicians. He was always cordial and informative, and it saddens me that these conversations have come to an end.
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Postby Pete Biro » 12/15/10 04:02 AM

We go back a long way. Dave was one of the most knowledgeable and a great researcher.

Can't believe he's gone... way too young.

Stay tooned.
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Postby magicam » 12/15/10 05:05 AM

Dustin wrote: [color:#FF0000]The next gathering of the SoCal Sodality will be in your honor.[/color]

Yes, indeed.

I got to know David through two little groups that met from time to time in Orange County (So. Cal.), one that met at John Booth's home for lunch, chat, show and tell, and lots of magic reminiscing from old-timers like Booth and Richard Buffum (sadly, both gone now), and the other the SoCal Sodality mentioned by Dustin, a group of history buffs and collectors who meet to talk about well, you know!

My most vivid memory of David at these little get-togethers is a moment at Rev. Booth's house. Somewhat had brought a P&L coin pail, we were discussing presentations using the coin pail, and David stood up and briefly performed with the coin pail. I already knew that David was a professional magician, but when I saw him do his impromptu bit, I remember thinking, this guy really is a professional. It was readily apparent from his mere presence.

Doubtless folks like Pete and others knew him better (and longer) than I did, but I did get to know him reasonably well. David was opinionated, wasn't afraid to express his opinions, and he didn't suffer fools very gladly. For better or for worse, you always knew where you stood with David, a characteristic I've always liked in a man. And if he liked you which in David's case meant that he respected you he could be quite generous with his advice and experience.

When David moved back to Chicago, the SoCal Sodality had a little going away dinner in his honor. Somewhere I have a picture of our group taken that evening, but couldn't find it after a brief search. After he moved, we'd see him at the Conference on Magic History, and mention how nice it would be for him to join our little group for another dinner the next time he was out our way. Little did we know

Of course, shockers like this remind us of the life is short, life is precious, and such other cliches. But there's a lot of truth to them. David and I would speak periodically by telephone, and almost always it would be a 1-2 hour conversation. Recently I'd been thinking we were due for another chat, and called him. He was busy at the moment, so we only spoke briefly and agreed to talk again in the next day or so. That didn't happen, alas.

Many of David's talents and interests are noted in the opening post, and among them, he was a gifted silhouette cutter. On a moment's notice, and as a personal favor to me, he very kindly agreed to cut a silhouette of one of my dearest magic friends, and I hope this silhouette will be published soon in Genii.

We'll miss you, David, and our thoughts and condolences go to Penny and the rest of David's family.
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 12/15/10 07:22 AM

This came out of left field. I'm stunned. David was preparing a book on 20th century silhouette cutting and I wonder if he managed to complete that. Years ago he sent me a signed copy of his biography of Gene Roddenberry. He was generous with his time and always had tips on the proper way to cut a silhouette.

He once considered working at the Disneyland in Tokyo as a silhouette artist. When he realized that his accomodations there would be the size of a closet, he backed out.
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Postby NCMarsh » 12/15/10 09:09 AM

Shocked and saddened. Just re-read the last email from David which I'd been meaning to reply to, but you get busy and it goes to the back-burner and then...

David was a man of many, many gifts -- and an informed passion for great performance (and was a link to so many performers who deserved to be remembered). His gifts were equaled only by his generosity. Lost way too soon.

As a young guy trying to learn this business; David's generosity meant the world to me. Whenever I was working on a major new piece I'd shoot David a video and would get back freely an unbelievable depth of information that had been hard-won over decades. I know I wasn't alone, David had a passion for helping others and working with young performers -- I'm sure driven, in part, by his mentor relationship with Frakson -- and magic is richer for his presence.

I would not be surprised if that passion extended to the other fields in which David became an expert. David didn't waste his time on the planet; when he became interested in something he became an expert in it. He knew what he wanted out of life, and he got it.

You are missed...
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Postby Andrew Pinard » 12/15/10 09:21 AM

We have lost a true mentor to the craft. A dedicated professional and devoted student of our art, David's generosity was overwhelming. He was, and will continue to be, a profound influence that will resonate through coming generations of performers.

David had many passion projects on the burner and I hope that a few of these come to be. David told me he was preparing to share his knowledge (and perspective) with our field and I (along with many others) were the recipients of his thoughtful recommendations.

I am grateful for our many long conversations and humble to say that I lost a true friend.

My condolences and kind wishes to Penny during this trying time...

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Postby Q. Kumber » 12/15/10 09:34 AM

David and I met at Docc Hilford's WEERD weekend in 1994, where he kindly signed my copy of Gene Roddenberry's biography.

We stayed in touch and from the postings above, I know how many more lives he touched and helped. He was a remarkably perceptive man.

R.I.P. David.
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Postby Jerry Harrell » 12/15/10 09:39 AM

A terrible loss to the magic community. My condolences to his family and many friends. I will miss his thoughtful and informed writing, and his incredible knowledge of all things magical.
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Postby Jim Maloney » 12/15/10 09:48 AM

This is terrible news.

I got to know David through this forum and via e-mail. He was always encouraging me in my research on Nate Leipzig. We'd trade e-mails back and forth on some new tidbit I uncovered, trying to pull out any bits of information we could. He'd suggest a new avenue to explore or share some tip on conducting or organizing the research.

He will certainly be missed, and it's a definite loss to the magic world, and particularly to the younger generation that he was mentoring, however remotely.

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Postby mai-ling » 12/15/10 10:47 AM

how unexpected.

David shared a different story about the zig zag in Chicago
that probably no one knows about and for him to take the time
to write it out to me, was very generous.

I remember how happy I was to hear he was moving back to
Illinois. And how he would have been one of my featured
artists for my creative arts group on his work and research
on Gene Roddenberry.

My condolences to his family.
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Postby Magic Newswire » 12/15/10 11:32 AM

This is indeed a terrible loss
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Postby Andrew Martin Portala » 12/15/10 12:16 PM

This is very sad.
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Postby Diego » 12/15/10 12:43 PM

Very sad, unexpected news. Reading the accounts of others, regarding David's generosity, I can gratefully say the same thing.
From the beginning when I started researching different performers, David was encouraging and instructive from the start.
We spent countless hours on the phone, (Thank you Penny) as we discussed the focus of our research and David would do research from the data I would provide. Sometimes it seemed too hard or fruitless to keep pursuing, but David continued, bringing out the gold.
Locating the relatives of Robert amd Larry Nelson, Mel-Roy, Mr. Q, Princess Yvonne and many others was as a direct result of his skill and persistence.
As I began doing research independently on my own, the many skills and approaches to a goal and the motivating persistence to finish, I learned from David. When others expressed their appreciation of my own research, I could gladly say the basis of my abilities were learned from David Alexander.

Last May, the last time I saw David was when we shared in a panel discussion, (with Gary Hunt and Jim Maloney) at The Magic Collectors in Chicago, about historical research, which many later said was a highlight of the convention.

Opinionated and direct, I too am glad to know where I stood with David and benefited from it.

Thanks David!
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Postby Roger M. » 12/15/10 01:02 PM

Best to his family.

I exchanged lengthy emails with David, primarily related to the search for the identity of Erdnase.

David was generous, encouraging, and shared openly.

What a shock to sign on to the Genii forum this morning and read this sad news.
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Postby Tom Frame » 12/15/10 02:01 PM

I'm saddened by his passing. David was not only a magical treasure, but he was a true Renaissance Man. My condolences to his family.
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Postby gfajuri » 12/15/10 02:05 PM

This is very sad news. So sorry to hear it.
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Postby JP Jackson » 12/15/10 03:03 PM

Huge SHOCK; bordering on surreal - no words.
Farewell to a friend I'd known too short a time. J P
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Postby Bill Wells » 12/15/10 05:42 PM

What a tragic and major loss to magic and all the other disciplines he blessed with his involvement.

Sincere condolences to his wife and family.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/15/10 06:04 PM

I find it interesting, and revealing of David, that he never got on the phone and told me "I just helped so and so last week," or anything like that. All the people in this thread writing about how much he advised and helped them is news.

He also helped me, most recently with some astute guidance on the David Berglas book during its writing. Terrible he's not here to see the finished product.
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Postby erdnasephile » 12/15/10 06:28 PM

For me, David was so often a valued voice of reason here.

You will be missed, Sir...RIP.
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Postby Jim Riser » 12/16/10 03:12 AM

I am one of those fortunate enough to have called David a friend and have been in a state of shock since hearing the terrible news last night.

Everything said above about David is true and exactly why we loved him. I will miss our long phone chats. We often discussed advantages of various methods for accomplishing the magic. When David would call, we would chat until his phone battery lost its charge.

David's opinions were based upon life's lessons and were valued by his friends. He was a true student of magic and was always glad to learn something new or share his knowledge. He was always ready to perform for people. The last time we went to a Texas Roadhouse he entertained the waitresses and hostess while we waited for our table. David was always willing to share his magic and bring joy to others.

Being the student of Jose Frakson, he was probably the only person in the world who really knew the ins and outs of presenting the Frakson version of the Jon Martin Vanishing and Reappearing Cage. I was fortunate to discuss this at length with him as we mulled over various modifications I felt were needed to the actual apparatus.

Like all of David's friends, I feel he was taken too soon and I will miss him very much.

For those of David's friends who would like to remember him as the performer he was, I offer this web page for your viewing pleasure:


Farewell, my friend. Perhaps now you have really solved the Erdnase mystery. And, Penny, you have my deepest sympathy and prayers.
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Postby SteveP » 12/16/10 09:22 AM

I spoke with Penny a couple of times yesterday. There are no formal funeral arrangements and he is being cremated. Since they are both from California, she was thinking of some kind of memorial out there because he also has family there, but they also have friends in Aurora, IL, where they've been living the past few years. She joked that since he is being cremated and he has friends all over the place, she'd send a bit of him to everyone.

There is an autopsy being done and she should get the final results on Friday.

One significant thing to say and it shouldn't have to be said, Penny is not doing anything with David's magic collection for "quite a while" (her words). She has already been contacted by one magician who inquired about it. I spoke with David about this very issue several times over the past couple of years and he has spoken with Penny about it as well. She is aware to stay away from the vultures who want to swoop in.
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Postby Andrew Martin Portala » 12/16/10 09:25 AM

Thanks for sharing Jim.
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Postby hugmagic » 12/16/10 11:24 AM

I like so many others am in total shock. I knew David very very superfically unfortunately. I guess this should wake all of us to realize how fragile and precious our relationships are and to embrace everyone as much as we can while we can.

My recollections of David at the last history conference talking of the Martin book he wanted to do. As with anything David did he did it write.

Looking at Jim Riser's page, reminded me of the Las Vegas Collector's meeting. I was working the backstage to help out Bill Smith. David called me back in rehearsel and tipped the bird cage setup to me. As he said "done improperly, it could be a castration device". He knew that I would appreciate the workmansip and inner workings, and would keep it to myself. I also knew that it was something I would never, ever do.

Thank you for your time and friendship, David. Alas, another library has been destroyed with his passing.

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Postby Jim Maloney » 12/16/10 01:32 PM

Here's a couple of obituaries that I found online today:

Daily Herald
The Beacon News
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/16/10 04:52 PM

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this.
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Postby mai-ling » 12/16/10 08:36 PM

yeah, me too... its really creepy as to how it
could have occurred.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 12/16/10 09:53 PM

Richard Kaufman wrote:I'm still trying to wrap my head around this.

I still can't either. I feel like I want to wake up from a bad dream.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/16/10 10:52 PM

At least we'll find out what happenend tomorrow.
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Postby Geno Munari » 12/16/10 11:50 PM

Very sorry to lose a brilliant compeer that produced many ideas for us to ponder. His theorems were very interesting and unique and provocative. David, you now have, more experience in this world than all of us living. My hat is off to you. My sincere condolences to Davids family.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/16/10 11:52 PM

My thoughts turn to those he left behind - now dealing with their loss.

Was he on the cover of Genii one issue dressed as a detective holding a large playing card?
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 12/17/10 12:23 AM

Yes JT; that was the issue on his candidate for the identity of Erdnase.
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