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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » Vernon's elbows (6 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Doug Trouten
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I've heard that Dai Vernon had his elbows smashed in a construction accident, but that's about all I know. Does anybody know the story behind this, when it happened, and how it affected his work?
It's still magic even if you know how it's done.
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Tom G
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I did read about it. Maybe David Ben's biography of Vernon?
JNeal
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This has been written about in several places. He took a conventional job on a construction site. He was carrying two buckets of something (I always seem to recall it was Mercury, but I somehow think that was inaccurate... why would there be Mercury on a construction site? ... perhaps rivets.) and h was walking along a girder and lost his balance and fell into the East River. It was a considerable drop and suffered those injuries to his elbows.

Despite a hospital recovery. (there is a well known photo of he and Mohammed Bey (S. Leo Horowitz) doing an impromptu Ball and Cone pose) he had limited range of movement in his elbows for the rest of his life.
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Doug Trouten
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Thanks for the story, JNeal. I wonder how it affected his work?
It's still magic even if you know how it's done.
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JNeal
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In my estimation, surprisingly little. Being the perfectionist he was, I am sure he altered and chose effects that didn't require the range of movement that others might need.
Slydini for example, handles his forearms and wrists in a distinctly personal way that is more vigorous than Vernon would have ever attempted.
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Leo H
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JNeal tells it correctly but I believe the plank Vernon walked on broke when he stepped on it. Perhaps due to the extra weight of the buckets Vernon was carrying.

John Scarne paid Vernon a visit in the hospital and told him: It just goes to show you guys like us shouldn't work real jobs.

The doctors wanted Vernon's permission to amputate his arms at the elbows. He refused.
JNeal
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Leo is exactly right on those details!
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Rainboguy
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I met The Professor in 1983 when he was 89 years old at the Faucett Ross Magic Fest in St. Joseph, Missouri. At the time, Bill Bowers was his "guardian".

Vernon didn't know me from Adam, but certainly knew many of the other magicians there in attendance, and was, quite typically, very talkative to them. I wanted to introduce myself to him and strike up a conversation with him, but he was so busy yapping with other magicians, I couldn't get a word in. So I waited for the right moment, and asked him, "Mr. Vernon, could you please tell me about Kennedy, the one-arm man in Kansas City?". He looked at me and said "Who are you and how did you know about that?" So I introduced myself, and told him that I was a lifelong student of the art of Magic, and had been performing since I was 8 years old.

He smiled, shook my hand, and said "Sit down. So I did....and stayed up all night long with him from about Midnight until 6am two nights in a row talking Magic and Magicians.

That first night, I asked him if he could show me his pull-through shuffle, so he reached in his side suit pocket, pulled out a deck of war torn Tally Ho, and proceeded to show me his shuffle. It was such a thing of beauty that I literally cried like a baby with tears coming down my cheeks.....witnessing this old man with "The Vernon Touch" do his thing.....

From there on he was on a roll..........doing about "a zillion" different Vernon Classics right in front of my eyes and sharing his thoughts and ideas regarding performing Magic and his "take" on various moves, etc.

If The Professor had any loss of movement from his accident, I, for one, certainly could not notice it. The man sure liked his Scotch and his cigars, though, that's for sure.

Those two nights were two of the most important nights I have ever had in my career in Magic!
Gary Plants
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Kennedy, the one armed center dealer. Smile You have Kennedy and Mac McDonald mixed up! McDonald, aka McDonald's Aces.
Dick Oslund
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Jay Marshall knew him as well as anyone! (I think!) And, "inhabiting" the CHARLIE MILLER SUITE, on a regular basis, as I did, over about 12 years, I got to know Jay, about as well as anyone did!

With Jay, like most real professionals, one had to have "credentials" to be admitted to the proverbial "back room". If one was "with it", Jay would share "anything". The story of the construction incident told by JNeal, and Leo H. is essentially what Jay told me, also.

In his early years, Dai had a family to provide for, and, he would "cut silhouettes" (more or less busking). The construction job was another income source.

As a "middle westerner", I never really got to KNOW Dai Vernon, but, like my relationship with Jay, our relationship was one of mutual respect. I told the story of my first lecture at the Magic Castle in my book, "Dick Oslund--Road Scholar". I had never met him, but, when the "professor" walked up, as I was packing my few props, after the lecture, he was smiling. I thought, "What will he say?" He flicked ashes off his cigar, and said simply, "A lot of the fellows at the Castle, should have been here for this!"

A few years later, in New York (SAM Convention--1978) I was helping my friend, Roy Snyder, the incoming SAM's "most illustrious", backstage, at one of the evening shows. Dai, was going to do his rings in the second half. With two acts to "go" before the intermission, Dai hadn't "appeared" backstage yet. Roy said, "Dick! please go find him!" I set off on a "tour" of the "many" bars, and found Dai, in the fifth one. He had been sampling the Scotch, quite freely, but, came with me. We got backstage, with only one act to go before his scheduled appearance. As the act ahead of him, finished, Roy closed the proscenium curtain, and the MC, did a few lines, as Roy and I "led" the professor to center stage. I handed him his rings, and "exited, stage right"! The MC introduced him, and Dai did his Symphony of the Rings. Watching from the wings, I was thrilled to see the Master's exquisite performance!

A year later I was working the Parlor at the Castle, and "he" came in with Dick Cavett, to see ME! THAT was a thrill! (He didn't "leave early"!)

Leaving the Castle, later that night, he and Kuda Bux were sitting at a small table. Dai beckoned to me, and, we had a brief conversation! I felt honored to visit with two old legends! I listened more than I spoke!

If you haven't read "The Magician And The Cardsharp" by Karl Johnson, (Henry Holt & Company, New York, copyright 2005) and would like to know more about the PROFESSOR, you should search for a copy. I am certainly NOT a cardician, but, I enjoyed it immensely.
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
JNeal
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The documentary from Canada " Dai Vernon: The spirit of Magic" tells you nearly everything you would want to know to get a sense of the man.
It isn't a hagiography, but rather a more critical perspective... You can watch it on YouTube.
I knew Vernon well enough, particularly during my formative years at the Castle until his death.
He didn't suffer fools gladly and always had a few tips to share with those sincerely interested in improving their magic.
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Doug Trouten
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Thanks, Dick. Just ordered "The Magician and the Cardsharp."
It's still magic even if you know how it's done.
Terry Pratchett
Rainboguy
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Dick:

I forgot to mention, in the story above, that Jay Marshall was one of the Magicians seated at the table with The Professor when I introduced myself and he asked me to sit down. As I sat down, Jay extended his hand for a handshake and said "Hi...I'm Jay Marshall". I told Jay that I met him many years ago at Magic, Inc., but since I was a "Nobody" at that time, of course, he did not remember me or know me. After that, whenever I was at Magic, Inc., Jay "Rolled Out The Red Carpet" for me.

Interestingly, Vernon told me that The Midwest Magic Jubilee was his favorite magic Convention.
Jerskin
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I think he was carrying buckets of cement which is heavy and makes more sense than mercury at a construction site,
GrEg oTtO

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JNeal
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I seem to recall that they were buckets of rivets on a construction site.
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Jerskin
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Possibly, it's in the David Ben biography.
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JNeal
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Well now you've got me nearly convinced I was crazy or wrong. Rivets make more sense than concrete... even on a construction site.
Who carries Concrete in a pail? Not on any major piece of construction....Rivets... maybe?

But I don't have David Ben's book so I re-read the biography Chapter of Ganson's book: "The Dai Vernon Book"
and he writes that it was MERCURY... as I initially thought!

Click here to view attached image.
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Jerskin
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I stand corrected!
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JNeal
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OK, now what other subject should we now tackle?

A week in the Peller?
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Leo H
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It's also a pail of mercury in David Ben's Vernon bio.
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