Question about Blackstone Jr.

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby ed rhodes » 09/14/11 11:11 PM

I have a question and it was suggested (on the "green page") that I post it here.

When you read histories of Harry Blackstone Jr., they always mention that he resisted doing magic (no surprise when you're comparing yourself to Harry Blackstone Sr.) but finally worked up the nerve and capital to begin a night club magic show.

It seems to me that I used to see Harry Blackstone Jr. performing on variety shows, but he was actually doing a pickpocket trick messing with the audience members who were supposed to be watching "The World's Fastest Card Trick."

Now, am I totally off the mark here, thinking of a different performer whatsoever or is there some reason why no one ever mentions Harry's "pickpocket" act?
ed rhodes
 
Posts: 4
Joined: 07/28/11 06:37 PM

Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/14/11 11:21 PM

The pickpocket act was part of Blackstone Sr.'s act, passed along to Blackstone Jr. It was a famous bit, and completely fake. Neither of them knew how to do pickpocketing. Junior had a microphone that he could turn on and off (perhaps Snr. had the same thing), and he would give verbal instructions to all the audience members on stage, telling them to be quiet and cooperate, etc. I saw him slap a guy across the face once who was not cooperating.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
 
Posts: 20606
Joined: 07/18/01 12:00 PM
Location: Washington DC

Postby SteveP » 09/15/11 09:02 AM

The pickpocket act was called "The Committee" and it was a routine that could go long or short, depending on the situation. I've seen him do 5 minutes with it on TV and 25 minutes live. It typically involved the card trick as a loose premise, then went into a Kellar rope tie and the pickpocketing.

Harry had a custom mic. It had 3 cut-off switches on it. If I remember correctly one was near his waist, another at his lower back and another on his leg.

David Alexander also used to do this routine and learned it from Blackstone Sr. in the early 60's. At the time Blackstone would teach it to anyone for $50. David told me Blackstone only charged him $5. David actually did the routine longer than Harry Jr because Harry didn't start doing it until later on. David and I talked about him releasing the routine on DVD, teaching the whole thing. I'm not sure how far he got with it. I do know he had the routine on video several times and his widow has those.

Harry Jr. had gone in different directions early in his life including being a tour manager for the road show Hair. When he was in the military, because of who his father was, he was encouraged to perform occasionally. Tommy Smothers is the one who encouraged him to put together a small show and perform. Talking to Harry about it, it was my understanding that it was a gradual process.

But Harry didn't start out with a big show. He didn't have his father's props as those were sold off years earlier. He was working small venues with the cage, the hanky, the committee and maybe the lightbulb. He worked at The Tropicana in Vegas as one of the acts in between the dance numbers.

It's a funny routine and unique because not everyone has the balls or personality to make it work.
SteveP
 
Posts: 330
Joined: 01/20/08 01:00 PM
Location: St. Louis, MO

Postby Diego » 09/15/11 11:24 AM

I remember Blackstone, Jr. on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour", for their Halloween show, when they had the top-rated show of the season.
I remember seeing Blackstone, Jr., taking control and recovering from mishaps and problems caused by assistants, crew, or volunteers.
Once in San Jose, among the committee volunteers was a person with mental/emotional problems who tried to confront him, but he handled him both with firmness and empathy, that neutralized what was becoming an uncomfortable experience for the audience.

Both Blackstones had control of THEIR stage/world and those that happened to be in it.
Diego
 
Posts: 213
Joined: 06/16/08 11:29 AM

Postby SteveP » 09/15/11 11:56 AM

I tried to find a clip of that appearance on YouTube, but nothing came up. It was before he grew his goatee, so a very young Blackstone Jr.

Also I haven't been able to find a clip of Harry doing The Committee either.

In 2005 Gay Blackstone put out a DVD - Blackstone Magical Moments, but I don't know what she was thinking when she picked the clips for it. The birdcage is on there and the lightbulb too, but no committee, no dancing hanky. Most of it is all the production numbers and several illusions repeated, like the Girl Without a Middle.
SteveP
 
Posts: 330
Joined: 01/20/08 01:00 PM
Location: St. Louis, MO

Postby El Harvey Oswald » 09/15/11 12:04 PM

"I saw him slap a guy across the face once who was not cooperating."

Sounds like a great guy, poised performer.
El Harvey Oswald
 
Posts: 314
Joined: 06/21/11 11:37 PM

Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/15/11 12:11 PM

It was shocking. Might have been at the SAM convention in Grand Rapids Michigan in the early 1980s. The spectator was just being a pain in the ass, and you could see Harry getting annoyed, and he just walloped the guy across the face. The audience fell dead silent and it took a long time for Harry to regain any traction in the performance.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
 
Posts: 20606
Joined: 07/18/01 12:00 PM
Location: Washington DC

Postby erdnasephile » 09/15/11 01:19 PM

Harry Jr. certainly suffered no fools on stage.

I saw him in a public performance at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in the early 80's when he brought a spectator up and asked him: "Have we ever met before?"

The spectator replied: "Yes, out in the parking lot...you gave me $20 to help you..."

Harry shut him down with: "Don't be an a**!" and dismissed him back to the audience.

Could hear the crickets after that incident too...
User avatar
erdnasephile
 
Posts: 2034
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM

Postby Chas Nigh » 09/15/11 02:32 PM

True story. Harry Jr. was doing a Mike Douglas show. Mike asked him if ever had any regrets about becoming a magician. Harry told him that if he could start over again he would have never become a magician. Shocking.
User avatar
Chas Nigh
 
Posts: 109
Joined: 03/24/08 10:45 PM
Location: California

Postby Jonathan Townsend » 09/15/11 02:36 PM

How is that shocking?

And did Harry offer any discussion of what he might have done instead?
Mundus vult decipi
Jonathan Townsend
 
Posts: 6644
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Westchester, NY

Postby Chas Nigh » 09/15/11 03:13 PM

No further comment was made after the statement. I was a little stunned that he made it on national TV.
User avatar
Chas Nigh
 
Posts: 109
Joined: 03/24/08 10:45 PM
Location: California

Postby SteveP » 09/15/11 06:01 PM

It's not that surprising actually. When you look at Henning, Copperfield and even Mark Wilson, these guys had their own act. Blackstone was performing his father's act exactly like his father. Add to that early on he was being compared to his father and many times not in a positive way. He never took his show in another direction. Maybe it was out of a sense of tradition but maybe he felt that he never got out from his father's shadow.
SteveP
 
Posts: 330
Joined: 01/20/08 01:00 PM
Location: St. Louis, MO

Postby Chas Nigh » 09/16/11 03:47 PM

As I recall he performed Brainwave with a deck production. His presentation was immaculate. In my opinion he performed as a MAGICIAN. With all of his success at the time I found it to be a downer after hearing the statement.
User avatar
Chas Nigh
 
Posts: 109
Joined: 03/24/08 10:45 PM
Location: California

Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/16/11 04:15 PM

I enjoyed Harry's performances on stage very much. His was a grand style that is now lost. He never failed to evoke my sense of wonder when performing the Floating Lightbulb.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
 
Posts: 20606
Joined: 07/18/01 12:00 PM
Location: Washington DC

Postby John M. Dale » 09/16/11 08:54 PM

I can second that, Richard. Having dabbled in magic for waaaay too long, it's hard to watch it without automatically going into "I know how that's done" mode instead of experiencing the wonder.

I saw Harry live a few years before he passed and it was no different until he did the light bulb. I can honestly say it was mesmerizing. I hadn't had that kind of feeling in years. Even though I wasn't "fooled", it didn't matter because I was seeing MAGIC!

JMD
User avatar
John M. Dale
 
Posts: 230
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Santa Clara , CA

Postby Chris Aguilar » 09/16/11 10:28 PM

Blackstone's live performance of the floating light bulb was one of the most purely beautiful pieces of magic I've ever seen.

Others have tried to emulate it (such as Darren Romeo, who I believe has official permission to do so) but it's never the same.
Chris Aguilar
 
Posts: 1516
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Sacramento

Postby ed rhodes » 09/17/11 05:52 AM

I would imagine he would have stayed in theater production.

So I was right, Blackstone DID do a pickpocket act (whether it was faked or not).

So how come I never see any mention of it? I've read several biographies and one interview and each one pretty much states; "He wasn't doing magic, then he got talked into it, scraped together the capital and put together a night club show." Now maybe "The Committee" was the night club show, but I never see mention of Blackstone doing pickpocketing, faked or otherwise.

Even posters here state they can't find footage of it and Gay Blackstone didn't include it in the DVD of her husband's career!
ed rhodes
 
Posts: 4
Joined: 07/28/11 06:37 PM

Postby SteveP » 09/17/11 09:35 AM

What is on the DVD is, I feel, Gay's attitude towards the show. The big expensive numbers is what she cared about. Unfortunately those illusions didn't make the show. They were dated and had drawn out presentations.

Gay wanted to keep doing the big show even when it wasn't financially realistic and it wasn't realistic for years.

I don't know why there isn't much or any mention of The Committee. It was considered his bread & butter routine. Unlike the birdcage or hanky, the committee routine isn't easily copied.
SteveP
 
Posts: 330
Joined: 01/20/08 01:00 PM
Location: St. Louis, MO

Postby Steve Bryant » 09/17/11 11:15 AM

On MAGIC Live's Divided We Stand program, David Charvet was excellent as Blackstone performing the Buzz Saw illusion.
User avatar
Steve Bryant
 
Posts: 1669
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Bloomington IN

Postby El Harvey Oswald » 09/17/11 12:03 PM

"True story. Harry Jr. was doing a Mike Douglas show. Mike asked him if ever had any regrets about becoming a magician. Harry told him that if he could start over again he would have never become a magician. Shocking."

Shocking?
El Harvey Oswald
 
Posts: 314
Joined: 06/21/11 11:37 PM

Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/17/11 01:16 PM

He never wanted to be a magician, so it's not really shocking that he was sorry he eventually chose that profession. The fact that he would admit it on TV is what's surprising.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
 
Posts: 20606
Joined: 07/18/01 12:00 PM
Location: Washington DC

Postby Diego » 09/18/11 03:02 AM

This sounds a little like the Hollywood story about the guy who always wanted to be a professional waiter, but kept getting acting gigs that prevented that!

I remember T.W. Waters once told me that Jr. had told him, or maybe T.A. surmised, that if he didn't have the name, (and the talent) he would have not be doing magic.

I have no idea what his ambitions may have been, but it might be good to qualify that he EARLIER, may not have wanted to do what his father had been doing.

Regardless, he DID have the talent and "IT" to do it and pull it off, which the children of many stars, (magic and otherwise)could never do themselves.

Ironic that there have been many who were good at something else, but wanted to be a magician and that Jr. was good/great at being a magician but may have wanted to do something else instead.
Diego
 
Posts: 213
Joined: 06/16/08 11:29 AM

Postby Q. Kumber » 09/18/11 03:33 AM

HBO made a TV special of the Blackstone stage show called "Blackstone Live In Seattle" which aired in Ireland in the early eighties. It was excerpts of his full touring show.
User avatar
Q. Kumber
 
Posts: 924
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Manchester, England

Postby Diego » 09/18/11 12:02 PM

The Committee WAS a key/signature part of The Blackstone Show, a routine that took skill, timing, and moxie, few performers have.

The card trick and pickpocketing was secondary to the interaction with the committee which had the most entertainment value, and connection to the audience. That The Committee was done near the end of the second half of his show showed the importance/impact of the routine.

Nick Ruggiero said watching Sr. do the Afghan Bands was likewise a lesson in how he took a simple effect to connect with the audience, that they remembered THE PERFORMER/PERSONALITY, not just seeing another magic show some guy was doing.

On another note, movie star Sterling Hayden was said to say that saying lines from a script in front of a camera was a ridiculous way for a grown man to earn a living, but as long as the checks cleared.....
Diego
 
Posts: 213
Joined: 06/16/08 11:29 AM

Postby Richard Hatch » 09/19/11 10:03 AM

Diego wrote:T
Nick Ruggiero said watching Sr. do the Afghan Bands was likewise a lesson in how he took a simple effect to connect with the audience, that they remembered THE PERFORMER/PERSONALITY, not just seeing another magic show some guy was doing.
...


You can watch most of Blackstone's Afghan Band routine here (in the first two minutes or so, with talking heads interspersed):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J__QN5XTTv8
An actual set of his bands was available for auction here:
http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/6087827
User avatar
Richard Hatch
 
Posts: 1587
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Logan, Utah

Postby mai-ling » 09/19/11 04:31 PM

I will have to ask dad about Papa Blackstone
doing a pick pocket routine.
I don't remember seeing Uncle Harry performing it.

Yes it is true that Uncle Harry's first choice
was not a magician, he went to school to become
a radio broadcaster. Hence he amazing voice.

He also said that he was inspired to learn mandrin
chinese because of my father.
you will remember my name
http://www.mai-ling.net
world's youngest illusionista

User avatar
mai-ling
 
Posts: 740
Joined: 05/10/08 07:25 AM
Location: 60081

Postby p.k. » 11/09/11 11:24 PM

Years ago I saw him on TV performing at halftime of The Orange Bowl (I even taped it, but can't seem to find the tape now). You probably know what happened.

Are there any stories as to what went wrong, and what his take on the whole debacle was? I read somewhere that the beauty queen wasn't allowed by her handlers to do rehearsals of the trick.

BTW someone over at TheMagicCafe mentioned something about his treating a kid at a show so rudely that the audience fell silent. So, was Blackstone known for these shocking behavioral displays towards audience members?
p.k.
 
Posts: 3
Joined: 11/09/11 10:50 PM

Postby ed rhodes » 11/15/11 05:02 PM

Maybe he would have stayed in producing

Ooops, sorry. Didn't remember I'd already said that.
ed rhodes
 
Posts: 4
Joined: 07/28/11 06:37 PM

Postby SteveP » 11/16/11 05:00 PM

p.k. wrote:Years ago I saw him on TV performing at halftime of The Orange Bowl (I even taped it, but can't seem to find the tape now). You probably know what happened.


I didn't work on The Orange Bowl number, but it isn't surprising that it went so poorly. Harry didn't rehearse. He hated rehearsing. The only numbers that he rehearsed were the Dancing Hanky & The Lightbulb.

Illusions for special events were typically poorly thought out. I know that he collaborated with Charles Reynolds on many of these things and the problem was Charles created overly complicated methods that were difficult to pull off without hours of rehearsal.

It's obvious that there were a couple of factors contributing to the Orange Bowl mess. Poorly designed/built illusions which contributed to the technical problems and not enough rehearsal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdxA_GJxpmM
SteveP
 
Posts: 330
Joined: 01/20/08 01:00 PM
Location: St. Louis, MO

Postby Oddly Bent » 02/10/12 04:03 PM

I never like Junior. Blackstone Sr. performed at Liberty Hall in El Paso, 1948-49 and he was instrumental in getting me started in magic. I recently found out that Percy Abbott and Blackstone Sr. started out as the Blackstone Magic Co. in Colon. A disagreement ensued and Abbott's was born and the Blackstone co. was no more.
I remember Blackstone as being a real magician that did real magic. It was the way he presented himself. He did not play the part, he was the part. Quite a difference from Jr. who I felt did not want to be there. Blackstone Sr. is one of those memories that I hope will never go away. I can see him now, with that white hair that seemed electrified telling a little kid to hurry up and get on stage before he turned him into a rabbit.
Oddly Bent
 
Posts: 136
Joined: 02/10/12 02:24 PM
Location: Hudspeth County, Texas

Postby Barefoot Boy » 02/10/12 11:16 PM

Once, when performing the floating light bulb out in the audience, Harry Blackstone, Jr. became enraged when an audience member swatted the bulb to the floor. Blackstone shouted, "You stupid son of a b****!"

After Harry calmed down he apologized humbly, "Sir, please forgive me for calling you a stupid son of a b**** , but..you are!"
Outward sunshine; Inward joy,
Blessings on thee, Barefoot Boy.
www.mindreader.ca
User avatar
Barefoot Boy
 
Posts: 94
Joined: 03/31/08 01:59 PM
Location: Toronto, Canada

Postby Kevin Connolly » 02/11/12 12:28 AM

Harry was right. The guy was a true a-hole.

He should have done it like another magician did when he encountered the inbred. He have them left in an alley, unconscious.
Please visit my website.
http://houdinihimself.com/
I buy,sell + trade Houdini, Hardeen items.
User avatar
Kevin Connolly
 
Posts: 2387
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: New Jersey

Postby Kevin Connolly » 02/11/12 12:46 AM

It doesn't sound like the Harry Jr. I knew.

You might have totally flipped when you saw Richiardi when things didn't go well.
Please visit my website.
http://houdinihimself.com/
I buy,sell + trade Houdini, Hardeen items.
User avatar
Kevin Connolly
 
Posts: 2387
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: New Jersey

Postby Barefoot Boy » 02/11/12 01:45 AM

Another time, Paul Rosini was performing the Linking Rings with a well-intoxicated woman from the audience up on stage with him. The woman INSISTED on examining the single ring in Paul's right hand so she grabbed it and would not let go. Paul gently encouraged her to let it go but her grip was steadfast. Finally, in a fit of rage, Paul SLAMMED the chain of three rings in his left hand over the woman's head instantly knocking her unconscious!
Outward sunshine; Inward joy,
Blessings on thee, Barefoot Boy.
www.mindreader.ca
User avatar
Barefoot Boy
 
Posts: 94
Joined: 03/31/08 01:59 PM
Location: Toronto, Canada

Postby Kevin Connolly » 02/11/12 02:08 AM

How would one know how what Blackstone Sr. would think to himself? The last time I heard about him was that he was living in a small apt and being henpecked by his wife to get a job.

And really, Senior was not a good example either to look up to. I think when he gave the order "to paint it orange" was worse than one losing his temper. IMHO.
Please visit my website.
http://houdinihimself.com/
I buy,sell + trade Houdini, Hardeen items.
User avatar
Kevin Connolly
 
Posts: 2387
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: New Jersey

Postby Brad Jeffers » 02/11/12 02:08 PM

The routine referred to as The Committee was performed on The HBO Magic Show in 1977. It ran 17 minutes, and consisted of a card trick, a rope tie sequence and a bit of pickpocketing, ending with the shirt pull.
On the same show, Blackstone Jr. performed the vanishing birdcage, the Asra levetation, and the Buzzsaw.
Also appearing on this show were Carl Ballentine, Ricky Jay, Mercer Helms, and Slydini. The show was hosted by Dick Cavett.
Brad Jeffers
 
Posts: 448
Joined: 04/11/08 05:52 PM
Location: Savannah, GA

Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/11/12 03:32 PM

I thought Harry Jr. was a great magician. I immensely enjoyed seeing him perform. Sometimes he was a pompous jerk, and other times nice as pie. He also had a nasty temper and a sardonic sense of humor. Never saw Blackstone, Sr., but they seem to have been the antithesis of one another as performers.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
 
Posts: 20606
Joined: 07/18/01 12:00 PM
Location: Washington DC

Postby David B. » 02/11/12 04:10 PM

I had the fortune of being on one of Harry's 'Committees' and was the subject of a shirt & tie pull. He was a pure master who oozed stage presence. I distinctly remember him asking a member of the audience to take their feet of the steps that led up to HIS stage.
When it was his show it was his theatre and your were his audience and he knew it was his job to entertain you with his magic...and he did it with gusto.
Thanks and rest in peace Harry
David B.
 
Posts: 1
Joined: 02/11/12 03:58 PM

Postby Jim Riser » 02/12/12 01:34 AM

Years ago in Tucson when Jr. was presenting his full evening show, I was asked to be "shirt and tie" guy. Tucson is pretty casual and I was one of the few with coat, shirt, and tie. I found Jr. to be very polite backstage and there were no committee problems with any of us that evening. I still have the signed program thanking me for my help from that evening.

Many years later we went to experience his show at the Osmond Theatre in Branson. I have long ignored how things are done and go to enjoy the presentation, show, and humor of such performances. Harry Blackstone Jr. had that certain something special. On stage he did not take himself seriously and was pure entertainment. He had a wonderful relaxed presentation style and could make the audience feel like they were his friends. Few magicians can pull of this feeling. We had a nice chat with him after the show.

Because he might not have chosen magic for a career does not detract from his ability. Many people end up doing great jobs in careers that they might not have chosen. I'll always fondly remember him and his performances.
We do what we can and play the cards dealt in life. Jr. played his well.
Jim
Jim Riser
 
Posts: 988
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Tucson, AZ

Postby Allen Tipton » 05/03/12 02:01 PM

Steve P. I am pretty sure that Harry did The Committee on a video(must be now on DVD)-- The Blackstone Show.( Home Box Office)
The only major effect missing was the Light Bulb!!!??

I have a 1 hour- 20 minute show Harry did for TV from Minneapolis in 1983.
Sometime I will run it and see if The Committe is on that.
Or easier still ask my son, in Portugal who has watched this show many times.

On the British TV 'Best of Magic 'Series 1 show no. 6 he did
The Sands effect, The Buzz Saw and his father's TYRE illusion

Allen Tipton
UK
Allen Tipton
 
Posts: 107
Joined: 07/20/08 08:42 AM

Next

Return to Magic History and Anecdotes