Simon Lovell related the sad news of Derek Dingles unexpected death to me the day after it happened. This particularly hit home because Derek was a contemporary and among those I dubbed the boys of autumn in am elegiac piece in The Looking Glass. The others in that group were Larry Jennings and Martin Nashalthough I would have included Mike Skinner, Roger Klause, and Bruce Cervon. Jennings and Skinner have passed onand now Dingle has unexpectedly left us. This fills me with sadness as it simultaneously evokes many memories. Although Derek recently preferred to remain off the radar, he quietly stayed in the game. In fact, Simon Lovell was helping him put together a new set of lecture material for upcoming conventions this year.
I always thought that Derek was a natural, surrounded by an aura of superb softness. That is, he had a soft touch when performing. Coupled with his almost preternatural calmness (in his later years) and the soft-sell of his presentations, he created an aura around everything he did. He avoided anything manic, over-heated, or overly dramatic. Instead he swaddled his magical effects in velvet and then showcased them as dazzling gems, allowing their intrinsic radiance to dazzle. Anyone who saw him in his prime will attest to how powerful his stuff played. His close friends will also attest to his deadly, comic side
Although I will likely write something later, perhaps its fitting to share what I wrote about Derek in The Looking Glass a few years ago?
FROM THE LOOKING GLASS:
I met Derek Dingle in 1969 when he held court at a table in a cafeteria near Tannens magic shop in New York City. Everybody hung out on Saturdays. He was showing tricks later published in Dingles Deceptions and his performance was impressivehighly stylized, accented in precise English, with just enough razzle to dazzle fast company. Back then tricks like Color Triumphant, Through and Through, and Four Coins in the Countin were cutting-edge stuff and the looks on the faces of the slack-jawed faithful were something to behold. He was on the verge of becoming a star and had studied under Ross Bertram and Eddie Fechter. The former engendered a deep appreciation of refined sleight-of-hand and the latter taught him how to woo-and-wax lay people.
Perhaps all cardmen move through stages, beginning as tyros-earnest, fiery, and serious-as-a-heart-attack? This is the intense Student Phase when wholesale absorption of knowledge occurs with manic avidity. There are long sessions of card-tricking and intensive reading. (If you have a caring mentor, this can be a memorable, exciting phase.) Next comes the Newbie-Whiz Phase when the brain-bursting new-guy cannot contain himself. He must show-and-tell, must test his newly acquired knowledge, and showcase his cleverness for anybody (besides his mother).
When I saw Dingle for the first time, he was past the Newbie-Whiz Phase and was beginning the Celebrity Phase. During the 70s he was the man-of-the-hour and his confident skillfulness ushered in an influential period in card magic. He would join Michael Skinner, Larry Jennings, Roger Klause, and Bruce Cervon as the Second-Wave Cardmen, the guys rocking and rolling with what they learned from Vernon and Marlo. Dereks approach emphasized sturdy sleight-of-hand. double blow-offs, and Technicolor kickers. Al Schneider may have introduced Matrix in Genii, but it was Derek who yanked Hoe into another dimension and put Matrix on the map. Everyone with four coins and a close-up mat picked up on the Pick-Up Move.
Derek also took certain tricks to higher levels, stretching limits to their breaking point. He sought extra oomph and vital after-shocks and his tacit message was: Why be content with just "blowing minds when you can shout Gotcha!" in the hollow space that remains? Resonance is one thing, reverberation is another. He made the deck change color after performing Triumph. He rolled over and flattened a Ron Ferriss effect and re-created a knuckle-busting reputation-maker, Rollover Aces. He rehabilitated and tweaked Bruce Cervons Dirty Deal, creating a bar-room show-piece called Poor Charlie. At the height of the Universal Card craze, I showed Derek The Chameleon Card (The Universal Card) and he immediately worked up an improved handling. All in all, he invented a lot of card tricks during the 70's and a distillation of what percolated during this time in Cardopia is recorded in The Complete Works of Derek Dingle (1982).
Perhaps the final phase in a cardmans development is the Mature-Zen Phase? The quality and character of this phase largely depends on the professional experiences each cardman has. Derek, for example, worked trade shows, exclusive private engagements, and in a saloon. These are gritty, real-world gigs which dramatically temper ones working repertoire. What fools and impresses the cognoscenti can be irrelevant and boring in the real world. Derek learned quickly and learned well. The Zen way (although he would scoff at this term) to performing maturity is by rumination. You strip away the immaterial and unnecessary and eventually get down to the quick of what you really know and need. Learners, in the beginning, fervently add things. Adepts take things away.
Derek is now smack dab in the middle of his Mature-Zen Phase and if you want the see the result, watch what Dominique Duvivier captured on a video of Derek Dingles performance at the Double Fond in Paris (March, 1995). You will see a settled, subdued Derek, blissfully comfortable in his own skin, completely receptive to any foreign experience at hand, and manifestly convivial. The been-there-done-that knowingness of the past fifteen years has left him in good humor. He seemed bemused, unhurried, and content. There was relaxed deliberation in his movements, and instead of blasting lay persons out of their chairs, he permits them to savor the impact of his trickery and languish in their own astonishment. In the 70s, he would mentally jitterbug and knock down the rubes like tin ducks in a shooting gallerybingety-bang-bing! He would go full-speed-ahead and wouldnt stop until all the ducks were down.
Now he is one of the boys of autumn. He may still crinkle his nose in an odd way and work his brows, but these days he peers over his eye glasses like a gentle solicitor and seems to be enjoying himself. The presentation pieces on the video are vintage Dingle: Edward Victors 11-Card Trick, Card In Balloon, Sympathetic Coins, Quick Copper, Australian Poker (much stronger than it reads), Cards Across, and the Collectors. After you watch this video, closely reexamine the big book written and illustrated by Richard Kaufman.
Thats how the Looking Glass piece ended. With Dereks untimely passing, it may be a good time, As David Regal suggests, to reexamine his books and videos or any surviving legacy. To me, his television appearance on the old Barbara Walters Show is vintage Dingle. His appearance in Sesame Street was equally impressive.
Tonight Cardopia seems a smaller, somber place...