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Unfortunately, the magic community lost a giant, New York's Jackie Flosso, on Sunday. Here's the story, from The New York Times:

October 1, 2003
Jackie Flosso, 77, Magic Shop Maven, Dies

ackie Flosso, the last owner of a little shop of magical wonders that was once partly owned by Houdini, died on Sunday at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan. He was 77.

The cause was kidney and heart ailments and other problems, said Ted Bogusta, a friend who took over the business.

Mr. Flosso came from a long line of magicians, and the stage name of his father, Albert Flosso, was the one Jackie always used, on and off stage. Their real surname was Levinson, which they never used.

In December 2000, Jackie Flosso sold the store, Flosso-Hornmann Magic, to Mr. Bogusta, who promptly closed it and began offering its merchandise on the Internet. Until it closed, it was a messy Aladdin's cave of magical marvels from trick cards and ropes to a live lion that one owner, the magician Carter the Great, kept in the back room.

It was also an atmospheric fraternity house where a visiting European magician, a superstar like David Copperfield and a curious teenager from Queens might rub elbows, ideas and magic wands. The younger and older Flossos held court on an old sofa, both making smart comments in an accent not unlike that of W.C. Fields. Over the years, they, former owners and generations of customers liked to say that the store was the oldest magic store in continuous operation in the world, but it was not. With its dust and cobwebs, it just looked it.

Richard Cohn, a magician who has studied the history of magic shops, said the oldest-store honor goes to Mayette Magie Moderne in Paris. But Flosso-Hornmann may have been the oldest in the United States.

In a catalog in 1918, Martinka & Company, the original name of Flosso-Hornmann Magic, already called itself the "Oldest Magic Supply House in America." It was surely the oldest in New York, and earned a special place in the history of magic in 1902, when the Society of American Magicians was formed there. It was opened in New York in 1872, but it took over other magic stores going back to the early 1850's. Orson Welles, Danny Kaye, Jackie Gleason, Johnny Carson and even David Rockefeller were among its patrons.

"It's a magician's heaven on earth," the Great Virgil, once a famous magician, said.

Jack Levinson was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 11, 1926. His maternal grandfather was Louis Krieger, known as Pops, a magician renowned for his mastery of the ancient cups-and-balls trick. His own father became Flosso because his mother's maiden name was Flosterstein. Albert Flosso's friend Milton Berle later christened him "the Coney Island Fakir" — fakir being a Muslim holy man and, hence, a figure of mystery. This became his title for nearly a half century, as he became the first magician to appear on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and once played eight shows in eight different locations on the same day.

Houdini, who bought a partial interest in the store in 1919 and held it for several years, cuddled Jackie shortly after he was born and gave him a present, Mr. Bogusta said. Jackie learned how to read from billboards as his father traveled with a circus.

Albert Flosso bought the store in 1939 from the magician Frank Ducrot. It was started by the brothers Francis and Antonio Martinka in Germany in the 1860's. They came to America and opened their new store in the Chelsea district of Manhattan in 1872, absorbing even older businesses. Albert Flosso's first innovation was to stop tidying up the place. He said he didn't want to disturb Houdini's dust.

Jackie loved the place and always said he grew up in the store. "When you first opened the door, a mechanical monkey would start whistling," he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in 2000. "Rabbits were coming out of hats, and snakes would come out of baskets."

Jackie learned to live by the store's motto, Mundus Vult Deipi Decipiatur, "The world wants to be deceived, let it be deceived," but only to a point. Like his father, he made sure every youngster left with at least enough money to take the subway home.

Jackie's Flosso's performing career began in vaudeville, at the precise moment vaudeville was dying. "Just a soon as he played a theater, it would close down," said Stanley Palm, a magician and a friend.

He inherited the shop when his father died in 1976. In 1982, he moved the shop a few blocks east on 34th Street, but not so far he could not keep his phone number, something he regarded as very important.

In 2000, Mr. Bogusta filled three trucks with treasures like Houdini's business correspondence and took the business into cyberspace.

Less than a week before he died, Mr. Flosso, who never married and had no survivors, said he was looking forward to renewing old acquaintances — magically, of course. In a chat with Mr. Bogusta, he mentioned his famous grandfather, Pops Krieger. "I'll be catching his act soon," Mr. Flosso said.

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