Les Smith passed away

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Lupe Nielsen
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Les Smith passed away

Postby Lupe Nielsen » February 18th, 2008, 3:06 pm

Just a brief message to inform everyone that Les Smith, master craftsman and owner of Owen Magic Supreme, passed away last Friday, February 15, 2008, at a nursing home near Los Angeles, California. He was 92 years old. Magic is diminished by his death, and we will miss him very much. At this time, we don't know what the family's wishes are concerning his funeral.

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Pete Biro
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Re: Les Smith passed away

Postby Pete Biro » February 18th, 2008, 3:08 pm

SAD SAD NEWS INDEED... Having known Les for many years and knowing his contribution to magic, he will sure be missed. He was an amazing craftsman with great knowledge.
Stay tooned.

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George Guerra
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Re: Les Smith passed away

Postby George Guerra » February 18th, 2008, 6:24 pm

This is sad news. The last time I visited Owen a few years ago, Les took the time to talk and show me the many magic Owen is so well known for. He was just passing by, but he took it on his own to make this customer's visit a memorable one.

Amos McCormick
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Re: Les Smith passed away

Postby Amos McCormick » February 18th, 2008, 7:02 pm

I only met him once - a few years ago during a visit to Los Angeles. He took two of us on a tour of the shop, and acted like we were his long-lost friends. During all of this his eyes sparkled like those of a child on Christmas morning.

I was hoping to visit with him again in April. He will be missed, but he will be remembered in love.

David Alexander
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Re: Les Smith passed away

Postby David Alexander » February 18th, 2008, 8:01 pm

Les and I were friends for 40 years.

I would visit the shop and occasionally have lunch and spent some time at his home and had a few meals there, too. Les was a great character who went his own way and true to his Yankee heritage, spoke his mind. While I didn't always agree with him, I did respect his forthrightness and in his prime he could tell a story that would put you on the floor laughing. Im sorry I never recorded him telling his Len Gunn story. It was hysterical.

Les could make marvelous large illusions but he was happy to make small things, tooif he liked you and if you asked nicely. I walked in one day and asked if he had any examples of a certain type of Merv Taylor gimmick that I needed. He didnt have anything in stock, but he said hed make a couple of them for me. Given his normal work load and back log, I thought it would be about a year, but just a few weeks later he called and said they were ready, along with a couple of other gimmicks Id asked him to make. He didnt charge me anything near what he should have, certainly not anything near the time he put in, but that was Les. He liked making things that people would use and appreciate. He knew I would do both to what he'd made for me.

Les had a reputation for tossing people out of his shop. One day as I was walking out of the shop I turned and said, You know, Les, I think Im one of the few people youve never thrown out of this place.

He turned and looked up at me, put his arm around my shoulder and said, Dave, youve never given me a reason to. From Les, that was high praise.

Les worked in the shop in a slowly diminishing schedule until his deteriorating health stopped him from working completely.

He was a fine craftsman and one of great characters of our odd little business. Im glad I knew him.

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Pete Biro
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Re: Les Smith passed away

Postby Pete Biro » February 18th, 2008, 8:24 pm

Dave, you remind me of a couple of bits. My "signature" closing routine was all custom made by Les. And you know many guys would make a few more and sell them to others. But not Les, the props and their concept were all mine and he respected that.

He even made me a wooden paddle, just a simple plain stick to to the Edward Victor Bat Trick, and he put his halmark on it.

I cherished that little stick until I did the routine for Muhamad Ali when he grabbed it away from me and never gave it back.
Stay tooned.

JimAlfredson
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Re: Les Smith passed away

Postby JimAlfredson » February 19th, 2008, 8:23 am

What a shame to hear about Les. A wonderful Yankee 'character,' indeed. Ove 30 years ago, I arrived at my apartment one night to find a business card from Owen in my door, with a note, "We're in the motor home." In the parking lot, there it was. They'd been traveling across the country and went considerably out of their way to visit. Les showed me some of the custom items he built in small quantities for a hard-core cadre of customers; wealthy customers, which were really marvelous. Finally, to allow Gertrude to get some sleep, Les came to my digs and we talked 'til the wee hours. I was not a customer; fine apparatus isn't my line. However, Les was always gracious and entertaining although I'd heard stories about his rather fierce nature at times. A great friend to have, and he will be sorely missed

Jim Riser
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Re: Les Smith passed away

Postby Jim Riser » February 19th, 2008, 10:00 am

This is a real loss to the magic community. I first met Les in 1967 at the old Alhambra location. Les answered the door only to inform me that the shop was open to real magicians only. Once I showed him my regular membership card from The Magic Castle, I was in and we were instant friends. It was refreshing to see a magic builder who could and would turn away potential customers. This was my kind of guy.

The front room was a showroom for the fine Owem items and over to one side was Virgil's head chopper freshly refinished - ready for another world tour!

Les graciously took me around the shop. In one section of the woodworking area was Carl Owen building a candy cane style doll house. It was, indeed, an honor to meet Carl Owen and chat with him for a few minutes. The tour of the facilities concluded with a visit to the paint room and a sneak peek at a huge illusion being custom built. Les would not say who the illusion was for nor what it was. True professionalism.

While there I did pick up a few items that I thought I might use and a copy of the latest catalog. Before receiving the catalog, Les went through it and with his neat writing changed many prices to reflect current prices. I still have that catalog with Les' changes.

Les was a craftsman who could design and build quality items with his head and heart guiding his skilled hands. Unlike so many of today's builders who have to rely on CNC, Les could do it with skill alone.

Les has been an excellent example of a quality builder who knew how to produce a nice durable product. He was an inspiration to many of us builders who considered his work to be "the standard" by which everything else would be measured.

His passing is a loss to the whole magic community - especially those who appreciate quality.

Jim

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Donal Chayce
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Re: Les Smith passed away

Postby Donal Chayce » February 19th, 2008, 12:39 pm

Ah, such sad news. When anyone gets word about the funeral, memorial donations, etc., please post the information.
The MacGician®

HenningPaul
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Re: Les Smith passed away

Postby HenningPaul » February 20th, 2008, 4:53 pm

I stumbled upon meeting Les when I stopped by Owen on a rare spontaneous visit.

I told him that I came from Wisconsin, and he smiled and gave me one his great Owen T-Shirts.

A great man, a great company...and still in excellent hands.

See you on the other side,

HP

Bill Palmer
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Re: Les Smith passed away

Postby Bill Palmer » February 22nd, 2008, 9:07 pm

I never met Les in person, but I purchased numeroous items from him over the years. Whenever I needed some of the special things that only Owen made correctly, I knew I could get them from him, and that they would work.

He was a very special person.

In a world of makers to whom "almost" was good enough, Les Smith stood out as one of a handful who knew that for some of us, the machinery had to work every time.
Bill Palmer, MIMC

Larry Barnowsky
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Re: Les Smith passed away

Postby Larry Barnowsky » February 23rd, 2008, 12:01 pm

I met Les on a visit to Owen magic a few years ago. He had a incredible wealth of knowledge about magic and especially about the history of magic. A great man with a gift for making the highest quality apparatus. He'll be missed for sure.

Larry
Magica Analytica
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