Bob White - A remembrance

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Bob White - A remembrance

Postby JordanB » August 3rd, 2020, 7:41 pm

What a year it has been –it seems like it has been ages since good friend Bob White passed away. I talked to Bob virtually every day, most times twice a day, for nearly thirteen years. I've been thinking about Bob quite a bit the last few days and thought I would post a remembrance and a few anecdotes that some of you may not have known. Bob told after he died I could tell anything I wanted, but I'll save the Tony Ireland (from Scotland) story for if we ever meet for a beer some late night in a hotel lobby at a magic convention!

Robert H. White – August 3, 1941 – February 6, 2020

Bob was born August 3, 1941 at the Florence Nightingale Hospital in Dallas (now part of Baylor Hospital) to Mary Alice White, nee Graves, (1907 – 1994) and A.R. White, also known as “Bob White” (1904 – 1971). Bob spent his first few years in Dallas before the family moved to Corsicana. Bob told me once that he was actually struck by a Dallas Bus when he was a young boy and remarkably, escaped serious injury.

Bob was around magic and magicians from a young age. His father was very active in the Dallas magic scene. He was on the Texas Association of Magicians’ charter in 1946, was the territorial representative for the IBM (1948), and served various other roles in magic organizations. Young Bob performed his first act for the local magician’s group at the Mercantile Bank Building in 1946. He attended the first “official” TAOM in 1946 and can be seen entertaining magicians Russell Swann and Frank Lezama.

In High School Bob was very active in Scouting, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, with Troop 258 in Corsicana. Some of his fondest memories of those days were of his trek at Philmont and his time at Camp Constantin for summer camp. During his formative years, Bob began to take a serious interest in close up magic, particularly the magic of Dai Vernon, through both the Stars of Magic series and the Dai Vernon Book of Magic.

After graduating High School spent hitchhiked to California from Texas where he spent some time in Hawaii. He told me once that he got a ticket in California for hitchhiking and that when he got home he forged a letter from his mother saying he had died in an automobile accident. On the way back, he stopped in Las Vegas, and was introduced to a local gambler named “Tinkle” who showed Bob a bottom deal and some other moves that were generally not well known among magicians. When Bob arrived back home he described what he had seen to his father who told him that he had a book upstairs that described such things (Expert at the Card Table). Bob then began his lifelong study of Erdnase.

At an early TAOM convention (I believe 1960) – Bob’s father told him to come to the lobby and see a young man doing some tricks that he thought he might enjoy. The “young man” was Roger Klause and Bob said the first trick he saw him perform was Jarrow’s Hanky Panky from the Stars of Magic. This began a lifetime friendship between the two close-up aficionados. During this time, there were several young close up magicians that came together – Johnny Brown, Pressley Guitar, Roger, Bob, Steve Freeman, Dan Johnston, Chuck Smith, Jerry Winn, John Cornelius, John Moehring, Mike Christian, and others. During the 60’s and 70’s these friends would meet frequently to session and hang out.

Shortly after his father passed away Bob sold his insurance business and decided to perform magic full time doing school assembly programs. Bob loved selling the programs almost as much as loved performing them and he built a lucrative business performing school assembly programs all over North Texas. He would also perform at birthday parties, close up shows, and hospitality suites - he often said if he was not doing a show he was looking for a show to do. He was a regular opener for local bandleader Randall “Ran” Wilde and would often open for his band the Ran Wilde Orchestra.

In the early 1980’s, Bob learned to cut silhouettes, and on a 1985 trip to the Castle spent some time visiting with the Professor discussing the art of cutting Silhouettes. He cut the silhouette of Martin Lewis that appears on the cover of the book Martin’s Miracles. Several of his silhouettes appear in the Roger Klause book “In Concert” by Lance Pierce.

Bob gave his first seminar in Dallas at the Harvey Hotel in June 1997. This was followed over the next thirteen years by several other lectures and seminars where Bob would elaborate on his methods and system for managing magic. Bob would hate the term “mentor” but he had a long list of friends he helped over the years. Bill Malone once remarked that Bob was magic’s “best kept secret”. For many years, he would hold court for a group of us on Saturdays. Most Saturday’s of my twenties were spent hanging out with Bob. We would start at Magicland, head to a BBQ joint for lunch, and then Mexican food for dinner.

Beginning in 2003 Bob started hosting a get together that came to be known as the Dallas Super Session. Held every March it was an informal get together of close up enthusiasts with only one rule - every one must do a trick of some sort. Those who attended will agree that it was a blast. Bob hosted these through 2007 with the 2008 Super Session being held in Borger, Texas to honor Bob's lifelong friend Roger Klause who passed away later that year. I hosted Super Session for several years afterward and Bob enjoyed coming and holding court. The Super Session would bring in friends and magicians from all over the country.

Having spent his entire life around magic and magician’s Bob had a knowledge of magic that was vast, and he often had very strong opinions, but he was willing to share if he thought you were serious. He could help you on anything from the Slydini Newspaper Tear, to a cigarette vanish, to Bluff Aces.

Bob’s biggest influences in the performance of magic were Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller. He and Roger would often travel great lengths to see the Professor at conventions or lectures. The Professor was a guest at his home in August 1967. The Professor’s natural and conversational style of presenting magic was something he spent his life applying to his own magic. Bob was also friendly with both Don Alan and Karrell Fox – two men he often said taught him how to make money from magic.

In 2008, due to health issues, Bob cut back on performing in the schools before fully retiring in 2010. He performed a final show in Madisonville in December 2014. Many of the high school students who had seen him perform during elementary school came to watch his show one final time. Bob loved working in the schools and missed it until the day he died. After he retired, he spent his time practicing magic, working on vintage razors, and cooking. He passed on Thursday February 6, 2020. He is survived by his sister Linda, daughter Stacy, son Bob, and one granddaughter- Lauren (aka – “Monk”).

Tom Gilbert
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Re: Bob White - A remembrance

Postby Tom Gilbert » August 3rd, 2020, 9:00 pm

Bob would always say on every phone call, "Tom, it's been --years and --months since I've done a show." You knew he missed it a great deal. He also taught me an easy way of making BBQ ribs.

Tom Gaudette
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Re: Bob White - A remembrance

Postby Tom Gaudette » August 4th, 2020, 9:39 am

What a wonderful remembrance by my good friend Jordan Burgess of Bob White - the best magician I ever witnessed. Bob had a quality which I only witnessed with one other magician, Bruce Cervon. That is, every trick that Bob did was the best version of that trick which I had ever seen.

In addition to visiting Bob in Texas, I was fortunate to have telephone conversations with Bob every day for close to twenty years. These conversations ran the gamut from what is the true secret of ironing to what is the true secret of the two handed pass. The depth of his knowledge of sleight of hand, Dai Vernon, Charlie Miller, Erdnase and naturalness was breathtaking. We would discuss what being natural meant until the batteries in our phones died. I sincerely doubt that anyone had a better understanding of Dai Vernon's approach to magic than Bob. Bob understood Vernon's naturalness, psychology, trick construction and performing style at a PhD level. More importantly, he knew how to apply this knowledge and insight to his own magic.

Anyone looking to seriously improve their magic should review Bob's DVDs and notes. Pay particular attention to the 2 1/2 pages in his notes on "Uniformity of Action" and the pages titled "Some Things in Magic are Important and Others are Not" and "Some Random Thoughts." Anyone who studies and absorbs the wisdom in those pages will become a much better magician.

After I witnessed Bob perform, I eliminated probably 85% of my repertoire of sleights and routines and rebuilt my magic from the ground up. Meeting Bob was the best thing that ever happened to me in my magic life and in many ways my life itself. I think about him every day. There was no one like him.

Bill Mullins
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Re: Bob White - A remembrance

Postby Bill Mullins » August 4th, 2020, 10:33 am

Thanks very much, Jordan. This was great to read.

JordanB wrote: In the early 1980’s, Bob learned to cut silhouettes,

Can you speak any more about this? Was Bob self-taught, or did someone teach him? Was this something he just did for fun occasionally, or did he do it professionally?

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Re: Bob White - A remembrance

Postby JordanB » August 4th, 2020, 12:40 pm

Bob was a naturally talented artist, he was great at sketching and had a knack for naturally knowing proportions and getting the details right.

He was largely self taught. He obtained several books of drawings and designs (think Dover book series) and he would practice....all the time. He would cut himself, animals, pictures, anything. He would often go to craft fairs and set up shop. Additionally, he cut them at Six Flags Over Texas for a time. The Texas School Legislature passed a law that hurt his business in the very early eighties and so he decided if it was good enough for Vernon to make a living it was good enough for him. He eventually turned his school programs into motivational programs to meet the educational/motivational requirements under the law, but he continued to cut silhouettes afterwards.

I'll try and upload some pictures later of his silhouettes. I have two that he cut of the Professor when he went to the Castle in 1985.

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Re: Bob White - A remembrance

Postby pixsmith » August 4th, 2020, 6:59 pm

Thanks Jordan for a great remembrance. Another note about his silhouettes.

Bob also practiced while watching TV. He said he would start with a big sheet of silhouette paper, and cut a silhouette of someone on the show, then would pick someone else, and cut them from that silhouette, and so on until he got down to one that was two or three inches tall. Then he'd toss it away and do it all again.
I'll say something else that a lot of people might not know; he had the patience to sit and practice something until he could do it, and then the patience to sit and practice until he could do it right. And finally enough to sit and practice until he could do it well.

Thanks Jordan - great memories. Many a terrific meal, and many a terrific story.

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Re: Bob White - A remembrance

Postby erdnasephile » August 5th, 2020, 10:56 am

Jordan, thank you for that wonderful piece!

I got on board the Bob White Train late--right after he released his DVD's. I emailed him a brief question and he replied telling me to call him. That led to him spending hours talking to me, a complete stranger. I still have the pages of notes from those calls, and counted myself lucky to have encountered him in his "sharing" phase. (He told me he used to fuss at Roger Klause for giving free "lectures" in hotel lobbies.)

I loved talking and emailing with him because while he had super strong opinions, he had good reasons for them, and had earned the right to have them. Over time I realized his apparent gruffness was driven by his deep desire for me to learn to do things properly. The best advice he gave me was: "Don't ignore your wife for magic."

Thanks again, Jordan, for bringing back these pleasant memories.

Tom Gaudette
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Re: Bob White - A remembrance

Postby Tom Gaudette » August 6th, 2020, 6:01 pm

Just recalled this anecdote which illustrates how good of an entertainer Bob was.

Don Alan and Karrell Fox convinced Bob that he had the ability and mettle to be a full-time pro. When he finally took the plunge, they said "Now, you are one of us."

Kent Gunn
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Re: Bob White - A remembrance

Postby Kent Gunn » August 6th, 2020, 8:11 pm

I didn't know him well. I have a memory though.

Bob, who's a working pro from Dallas came out to the Golden Gate Gathering one year.

I knew him only by his reputation and I'd seen his DVDs. They are all simply awesome. Bob's take on the laundry ticket, egg bag and cups/balls is world-class stuff. If you want to work on these effects or card magic!!! You need to see his stuff.

When I started to communicate with him, via the phone, about ten months ago, it was a very different man than I'd seen on the DVDs. He's had a stroke and it took a toll. Initially Bob was reluctant to come out, very reluctant. I don't know all the details, but Bob did agree to lecture for us and made it out to the convention. Throughout the convention he was charming and entertained the throngs that sprung up around him. Jared Kopf came out with Bob. To see the love and care Jared had for Bob, was very special.

Bob's lecture was . . . heavenly. He did a fantastic job. Every attendee who spoke of it, to me, was blown away. He continued to fool people as he tried to explain one of his false counts. He was explaining them just fine. The moves were simply too deceptive in his hands.

I think he wanted to include the Cups in his lecture. I believe with the number of sequences in the routine he thought he could no longer do the effect justice. He left it out of the lecture.

End of the last night of the convention I busted out my table to do the cups for him. Just a few of us were outside; Jared Kopf, Bob, Mike Feldman and me. I did my routine and then . . .

He got Jared to bring out his P&L cups and explained to us how he'd given them to Jared.

There was something in the San Francisco air that night though, I swear it. In the middle of his discussion of the cups he borrowed a coat from Mike Feldman and . . .

He busted out the finest performance of that trick I've even been allowed to see. Nary a slip, not an awkward moment. That night Bob White and sleight-of-hand magic kicked heart disease square in the ass!

Most magical moment of my life.
Kent F. Gunn

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