Lou Tannen - Memories

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.
Tom Smith
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Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Tom Smith » December 20th, 2004, 10:01 pm

I have heard about Lou Tannen over the years, but he had retired by the time I was able to get to NY. Any antecdotes would be appreciated. I heard he was a great salesman. What did he do that made him so outstanding. Does anyone have info on the history of the company? He certainly made a success!

Thanks!

Tom

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Richard Kaufman
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Richard Kaufman » December 21st, 2004, 8:28 am

It was Lou Tannen's idea, not Frank Garcia's, to put out a version of Peter Kane's trick that eventually became known as Wild Card.
Bill Simon told me the story long ago, and he was there when the issue of Hugard's Magic Monthly came into the shop with Kane's trick. Lou saw it and told Frank to come up with a version they could market. And so was born Wild Card.
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Michael Edwards » December 21st, 2004, 9:13 am

Richard,

I seem to recall -- though I can't confirm -- that Lou once toured as an assistant to Jon "One Arm" McDonald, who popularized the effect Vernon termed "McDonald's $100 Routine" and we know as "McDonald's Aces."

Michael

Cesar Munoz
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Cesar Munoz » December 21st, 2004, 10:46 am

I have fond memories of going there as a young boy. I grew up in Manhattan and started going to Tannen's when I was around 12 years old. On any given day--Frank Garcia, Harry Lorayne, Derek Dingle, Ken Krenzel and Meir Yedid could be found in front of or behind the counter performing magic.

I believe the store was on 42nd street at the time. It truly was a magical place--the hallway prior to entering the store was lined with autographed photos of many of the greats. Inside--the store was always packed with merchandise and customers!

Lou Tannen was a great salesman. While this was a long time ago--I do remember Lou as an enthusiastic and charismatic person--someone who could sell ice cubes to Eskimos.
My lifetime magic buddy and I had a running joke--any time we bought anything where the ratio of "secret" to "something tangible" seemed askew--we would look at each other and say "IT'S A GAFF" and just laugh! Lou sold us a lot of gaffs over the yearsbut we kept coming back!

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Guest » December 22nd, 2004, 3:37 pm

Michael, Lou Tannen (Louis Tenenholtz) at that time did tour with Joe McDonald and Don Mendelson.

Cesar, Tannen's was on 120 W 42nd Street till 1970 when the Wurlitzer Building was torn down. They then moved to 1540 Broadway until 1984. Lou retired in 1975. Meir Yedid certainly was not working at Tannen's at that 42nd Street address. I remember him starting work at "1540" around 1980.

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Cesar Munoz » December 22nd, 2004, 7:14 pm

Doug,

Thanks--I knew my timeline was off.

Cesar

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Matthew Field
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Matthew Field » December 23rd, 2004, 3:12 am

When I was around 8, my dad took me to a store called The Magic Center near the old Madison Square Garden. That got me started in magic. Then, at around age 14, a friend took me to Tannen's on 42nd Street. I could not believe it -- a retail store on an upper floor of an office building, and what a store at that. I met Lou there as well as Ed Mishell. I never really started hanging out until Tannen's was at 1540 Broadway, and I became friendly with Irv Tannen (who was the "book guy" for the operation).

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Richard Kaufman
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Richard Kaufman » December 23rd, 2004, 7:46 am

I also went to The Magic Center at a young age: it was like walking through a time warp. The proprietor was Russ Delmar, an old vaudeville dancer (half of a team). Nice guy.
Very sorry to see it close so many years ago.
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Guest » December 23rd, 2004, 11:27 am

Irv and Lou Tannen were always nice to me; I have nothing but fond memories of those two 'redheads.' Mike Tannen seemed more brusque and formal. But then again, he had a tiny shop blocks away from the 1540 location.

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Guest » December 26th, 2004, 7:39 pm

I grew up with an active abhorrence of magic. During W.W.II while I was in the Pacific I assiduously avoided USO shows that had a magician. In 1948 I returned to the US and was in NY visiting my brother who had taken up magic after I had left home. I wanted to go to Wally Frank for pipe tobacco.. He wanted to go to a magic shop. Each agreed to accompany the other. He did not take up smoking. At Tannens I had the great good fortune to fall under the spell first of Jimmy Herpick, later of Lou Tannen. I took up magic. After that when ever I was in NY I went to the shop. It was there that I took a few lessons from Jack Miller in the use of the holdout.

Once when I came back from the orient with a trick that no one in the U.S. had seen. I showed it to Lou. He said he didnt like it. Later an English magician was shown the trick by the same Guild of Oriental Magicians who had taught me. He published the secret whereupon Lou started selling it. He sold lots and lots of them as did every other dealer at that time. It got so well known that I no performed it. In fact, I havent seen it for twenty years as it was sold for a buck to all the kids. You might know it as Glorpy.

When I first went to Tannens it was on a higher floor in that building on 42nd St. When he moved down to the lower floor he had the help of every magician who could spare the time. I was in NY that weekend and pitched in with the rest.

One Saturday I was there and many men whose names you would know were amazing one another with card tricks when in the door walked the man in whose presence no one dared show a card. At that time the word went around, Put away your cards. The master is here. That was John Scarne.

Younger magicians were there on Saturdays. A young Persi Diaconis had us all standing about in respectful attitudes. He soaked up magic like a sponge soaks water.

The last time I saw Lou was in Los Angeles when we both were waiting outside the theater for Milt Larsens annual production of Its Magic.
12/26/04 7:38 PM

Ira Rush
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Ira Rush » January 4th, 2005, 10:26 am

I have very fond memories of both Lou & Irv Tannen and yes, I still to this day go to Tannens every so often (and I am one of a handful who are not into Tannen bashing!), In fact Ive been a customer there for almost 40 years and have always been treated well.

Of course Lou and Irv are no longer there, Lou died many years ago, Irv last I heard was down in Florida.

I first remember going to Tannens at around the age of 10 or 11, at that time they were located at 120 West 42nd Street, on the 12th or 14th floor of a beautiful old building which is no longer there! They moved numerous times and I followed them.

I remember Lou to have a higher pitched almost squeaky voice, red curly hair, and mustache, shorter than Irv and very animated and lively. Irv on the other hand had a lower voice, a little taller, somewhat blondish hair and was more subdued. They both however were in my opinion gentleman and treated the customers with the utmost respect. They would tell you point blank if an item was a dud or a must have! They took the time to not only demonstrate an effect, but would throw in their own special handling of the effect as well!

If I couldn't be there in person,nothing was more special than going through that catalog (almost 600 pages!) not only for the effects they sold, but each catalog would have a bonus book in it. Tannens Top Hat Topics was a mail flyer they would send out each month and that too was something I looked forward to.

In terms of how and why he was a great salesman, or what did he do that made him so outstanding, or info on the history of the company, here is what I can add.

The May 1963 (Volume 27, # 9) issue of Genii featured Lou Tannen on the cover, and had a very nice article and numerous pictures detailing with the history of his shop(s) and life.

A little piece of Genii trivia here, the cover evidently had been misprinted and the caption below the picture of Lou read Lou Tanner. Since the covers and magazine had already been printed, they corrected the error, by pasting a white gummed label over the name with the correct spelling Lou Tannen. Over the years, the gummed adhesive wears away and the label falls off and you see the error in the spelling. The error is rather comical as Tannen has an ad on the back cover and had been advertising in Genii since the mid 40s
If you can, and are interested, see if RK and the Genii offices have this issue in the old archives for sale. It is a really a nice article, and now that I mentioned that cover misprint, who knows, it may likely be a collectors item too!

As a customer and a regular at Tannens in the mid to late 60s and 70s, I of course was not there to discuss the business end, I was there to learn, buy and mingle with the greats who would frequently pop in. For further information concerning the business side of Tannens check out Business Week , December 16, 1967. In this magazine yet another article and pictures appear about his success, his shop and other details.

Another piece of trivia here, because I was a regular at Tannens, about 2-3 days prior to the photo shoot for the article, I get a telephone call from someone at Tannens (no it wasnt Lou or Irv, it was someone else), in any event they tell me be here at the shop on such and such date and time. They wanted me to be in the pictures that accompanied the article; needless to say I was flattered at that time some 40 years ago as I still am to this day. Of the many pictures that they shot, I am in 2 of the 3 that were finally printed in the article.

As I said at the beginning of this post I have very fond memories of both Lou & Irv Tannen and I am one of a handful who is not into Tannen bashing!

Hope this helps!

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Guest » November 22nd, 2005, 10:55 am

Resurrecting this thread almost a year later to drop my two cents in. I grew up in New York in the 50's and 60's and also remember Tannen's fondly - it's where I got almost every good piece of magic I still own today, there and the Magic Center which was mentioned above.

Uh, better wave to the forum since I'm a newcomer. ;)

The only bad memory about Tannen's I ever had was not Lou's fault - I used to attend the Dixie Magic Table even though I was just a kid at the time - the oldsters there tolerated me but it was great to sit around the table with these guys and see some amazing closeup work. Joe Barnett once sent me on a wild goose chase to Tannen's for his "book", supposedly called Barnett on Sleights, but I found to my chagrin that I had been sent looking for the proverbial skyhook. :rolleyes: Bitterly disappointed, but never held it against the Tannens. It's worthy of note that after that I never went back to the Dixie...

I was introduced to Magic by Arnold Belais - my Imps card is No. 108. Became well aquainted with Russ Delmar and Al Stevenson who hung around the Magic Center a lot, and was devastated when Al passed away at a relatively young age.

Al once did this routine with a force where he would pull out a polaroid shot of himself, proving that he had psychic powers and knew which card you were going to pick. (This picture was taken at the Magic Center, by the way).

Image

Of course, the card was wrong but then you flip the thing over and the view taken from his back showed the four of clubs and he'd say "well, I often get things backwards".

Al got me a seat at an evening with Slydini in 1965, which was a dream to watch. He taught us how to do his "coins through table" routine, and the man was just as smooth as clarified butter. What a master.

I've almost completed my collection of Tarbell books with the Tannen publisher's stamp - it's taken me almost 40 years to find them in used bookshops. Well, thanks for the chance to reminisce. Whenever I pull out my little P&L Lota Vase I think fondly of Tannen's and those magic days in New York. :genii:

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Tom Smith » January 28th, 2014, 10:12 pm

Did Mike Tannen own a magic shop nearer Central Park? If so, it doesn't seem as mentioned as Lou and Irv's shop. Did magicians "hang"at Mike's, like at Lou's? Did Mike ever work with his brothers? Wasn't Mike's shop called TheCircleMagic Shop? I think I barely remember passing it as a kid. any remember antes would be appreciated.

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby I.M. Magician » January 28th, 2014, 10:47 pm

I am almost certain that Circle Magic Shop was on Broadway next to a Bowling Alley across the street from the City Squire Hotel which, by the way, had marble bathrooms.

When I was around 12 years old, my family went to New York for the weekend. It was the mid-sixties. We stayed at the City Squire. I remember finding the Circle Magic Shop and buying Rainbow Ropes which I believe Mike Tannen demonstrated for me. You walked in the entrance and the shop was on the left side and I think there was a Bowling Alley on the right. The storefront had a display of some great novelties.

Those memories which I believe to be accurate are very fond ones for me.

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 28th, 2014, 11:05 pm

Mike Tannen's Circle Magic was a long counter inside an arcade. It was located on Broadway, opposite the Winter Garden theater.
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby I.M. Magician » January 28th, 2014, 11:11 pm

OK, so it was an arcade, not a Bowling Alley. Wasn't the City Squire somewhere across the street? It was almost 50 years ago so my memories may be off a bit.

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby I.M. Magician » January 29th, 2014, 12:18 am

It appears that the City Squire was down the street from Circle Magic. I knew it couldn't be far because my parents let me go there by myself and I was just a kid.

I still have the Rainbow Ropes I got there and still love that trick. It may be more pertinent now than it was then.

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Brad Jeffers
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Brad Jeffers » January 29th, 2014, 1:25 am

The Circle Magic Shop was at 1661 Broadway

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Matthew Field » January 29th, 2014, 3:13 am

1661 Broadway was the home of the Broadway arcade, a pinball palace where I once played a game with Lou Reed.

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Richard Kaufman
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 29th, 2014, 10:13 am

You so cool, Matt.
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby R.E.Byrnes » January 29th, 2014, 2:20 pm

Not Tannen's per se, but the Tannen's magic camp (initially called Tannen's Magic Week). . . I went to the first five years of the Tannen's camp ('75-'79), and it turned out I was the only person who had attended each of those first five years. Tony Spina indicated that some sort of gift from Tannen's marking that would be forthcoming. I was hoping for a book out of my price range, but as it turned out Tony and Irv Tannen presented me with the trick Soft Soap, an OK trick that entailed buying replacement boxes. A nice gesture, if a bit of a letdown. Herb Zarrow, Slydini, Al Flosso, and Frank Garcia were regulars at the camp in those early years; it was a very young and witty Tom Ogden, however, who was most popular with the attendees. I believe the October 1975 Genii has a picture of nearly everyone who was there the first year, in the gym at LaSalle Military Academy, which is where both Herb Zarrow and Frank Garcia lectured. There was only a stage competition; no close-up. Dancing canes were disproportionately successful in the competitions; that, coupled with David Copperfield being associated with the dancing cane made it ubiquitous. While Tony Spina and Irv Tannen (and later Jack Ferraro) were around constantly, I never once saw Lou Tannen, either at the camp or at the 1540 store.

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby jgottlob » January 30th, 2014, 4:02 pm

Lou and Irv was always very nice to me. When I got out of the service I moved to Pittsburgh, but during every visit to NY, I'd stop in to the shop. At that time Mitch, John and Presto were behind the counter. Lou told me that Pittsburgh magician, (and one of my good friends), Harry Albacker was probably the busiest magician he knew. (Harry used to order soft soap boxes from Lou, and Lou would keep track of the number he ordered every year.) One time, Lou sent me home and asked me to make an offer to Jim Swoger, who was a fine craftsman, to move to NY and take over the wood shop. Jim wasn't interested.
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Richard Kaufman
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 30th, 2014, 5:32 pm

I saw Lou at the store all the time in the early 1970s. I'd say he probably retired around 1975 or 76.
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Sam Kesler » January 30th, 2014, 6:54 pm

Richard, where might I find a print copy of the May 1963 Genii, and what would be a reasonable asking price? I saw one on Amazon I think for +$30. which seems high.

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Sam Kesler » January 30th, 2014, 10:20 pm

Found a copy. Thanks.

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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Kent » October 14th, 2015, 4:25 pm

Well I got there after Lou retired with Irv and Tony running the show and later with Jack Ferrarro with the help of Mario and John Muller and a few others. Working the mail order in the back with Michele and Ron Frost was always a blast as many celebrities would pass through from KISS mgmt to Orson Wells and Dick Cavett. Mitch and later big Norman in the shipping section and Michael Carrion made working there very entertaining over at 1540 Broadway until one afternoon the 5th Isle where the Flash Paper was suddenly caught fire and in a manner of minutes the whole place was ablaze and I managed to warn everyone by running around the floor that it was time to leave. That was my time at Tannens and have probably met or talked with many of you out there. When Senior Mardo passed away, they asked me and Michele to put on a few tricks as a tribute and they set me up for my one and only magic show at a ballroom across from the Garden....fond memories that I thought I would share. I only went to Browns Jubilee once, helping Dave Copperfield on his show since my summer cabin was a few miles away. I miss some of those days but remain loosely involved when I see a few perform on cruise ships and such. Thank you for allowing me to share some after 35 years or so.......

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Richard Kaufman
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Re: Lou Tannen - Memories

Postby Richard Kaufman » October 14th, 2015, 4:39 pm

Kent! I remember you. Do you remember when we bumped into each other at Carnegie Hall for the Tony Bennett/Bill Evans concert in 1976?
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