Stuart Kaminsky: Now You See It

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Stuart Kaminsky Now You See It
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    Now You See It
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Stuart M. Kaminsky

Now You See It





NOVEMBER17, 1942

A pretty young woman in sequined tights and a glittering tiara moved onstage and whispered something to Harry Blackstone who nodded and turned to the audience.

“And now,” he announced, “I will perform an act of magic so big that this theater will not hold all of its wonders.”

Wearing white tie and tails, with a white handkerchief showing out of his left breast pocket, Harry Blackstone looked out at his audience of four hundred people and smiled. Then he winked at a little girl in a seat in the first row on the center aisle. The girl grinned and turned her head toward her mother in embarrassment.

Blackstone was tall and lean; a thin dark mustache and a thick hair of billowing silver hair helped create the illusion that his large ears were not quite so large.

“If you will just follow me into the street in front of the theatre,” he said, moving to the steps to his right and down into the audience. “I will reveal to you a secret that, in my many years as a magician, has never before been revealed to an audience.”

Blackstone stood now in the center aisle and raised his hands to indicate that the audience should rise.

He reached over to the child he had winked at on the aisle row, took her hand and led her toward the rear of the auditorium where the doors were being opened. He looked over his shoulder, saw that people were standing up, and made another gesture.

“The secret,” he said, in a strong tenor voice that everyone could hear, “will be yours as soon as we are all outside.”

“Rabbits?” asked the little girl.

Blackstone reached down to the girl with his free hand, touched her blue coat with its large gold buttons and produced a white rabbit, which he handed to the child.

“Much bigger than rabbits,” he told her in a confidential whisper moving forward again. “How old are you?”

“Six,” she said. “Can I keep him?”

Blackstone looked back at the girl’s mother who was a step behind. The woman smiled and nodded.

“You may keep him,” said Blackstone. “His name is Dunninger. Can you say that?”

“Dunninger,” the girl repeated.

“Carry him gently but firmly,” said Blackstone, moving now to use the hand that wasn’t holding hers to urge the audience into the chilly Illinois afternoon outside.

Still in costume, people from the show were also exiting the building into the street, stopping traffic in both directions to make room for the people slowly flowing out.

“Can you do that?” the girl asked.

“Stop traffic? I’ve done it before,” he said, moving with the girl and her mother.

“Across the street!” he called out. The audience followed his directions. “On the sidewalk.” They began to congregate on the opposite pavement.

There, a woman in tights and a man who looked very much like Blackstone-down to the mustache, silver hair, and large ears, but in a rumpled business suit instead of tie and tails-gently urged people into a semicircle facing the theatre. Blackstone motioned to the woman behind the ticket booth. She pointed at herself, and he nodded that he, indeed, wanted her to join the audience on the street. The woman came out of the booth and crossed the street, where she stood next to a teenage boy.

“There are two of you,” the little girl at Blackstone’s side said, pointing to the man who looked like her companion.

“There is only one Harry Blackstone,” the magician said. “That’s my brother Peter.”

“Is he magic, too?”

“He has been known to do magic,” Blackstone said. “Excuse me.”

He took the girl’s hand from his and patted it gently. The girl wrapped both hands around the nose-twitching rabbit, and Blackstone said above the afternoon traffic.

“Are you ready?” he said.

“So what’s the trick?” called a man from the sidewalk.

“And what’s the secret?” came the shrill voice of a woman.

“Behold!” said Blackstone with a sweep of his hand back toward the theater.

Smoke was now coming out of the open door. A shock of red flame could be seen inside the theater beyond the doors. The people on the street began to applaud wildly.

“Hell of a trick,” came the voice of the man who had asked the question.

“You said you’d tell us the secret,” shouted another man. “How’d you do it?”

“The secret which I could not tell you from the stage, but which I can now reveal,” said Harry Blackstone, “is that the theater really is on fire.”

Place a drinking glass and a nickel on a table. Light a match. Have someone balance the nickel on the table. Blow out the match. Bend the match and balance it on the nickel. Cover the nickel and balanced match with the glass. Challenge those present to remove the match from the nickel without touching the glass or the table and without the nickel moving. If you wish, you can give the following hint: “You can do it with the help of something you might have in your pocket or purse.” The trick: Take a comb. Run it through your hair to create static electricity. Move the comb in a circle around the glass. The match will fall and the nickel will not move.

From the Blackstone, The Magic Detective radio show, which aired from 1948 to 1950 with Ed Jerome as Blackstone

Chapter 1

JUNE 25, 1944

The Pantages theater wasn’t on fire, but Blackstone definitely had a problem. My brother Phil and I had been hired to take care of the problem before it killed the World’s Greatest Living Magician.

Inside the Pantages, Phil was sitting in the front row with his sons Dave and Nate. Dave, at fourteen, was two years older than his brother and trying his best to hide his awe. It was what fourteen-year-olds did.

Blackstone had opened the show holding a thin yellow hoop, its center covered by white paper. He turned the hoop to show there was nothing on either side. He then turned its face toward the audience, plunged his hand through the paper with a pop of ripping paper and began to pull objects seemingly from another dimension. He pulled out different color silk scarves and let them drift to the stage floor. Dozens of scarves. The audience applauded. Then he reached through the hole in the paper and began to pull out and deposit onstage a collection of rabbits, ducks, and even a pig. The crowd loved it.

Finally, he reached through the paper and took the hand of a smiling dark-eyed woman in a black dress who stepped through the hoop and stood next to him.

From the slit in the rear curtain where I was standing, I could see the boys and my brother Phil. Phil was applauding, but there was no sign of awe on his broad face.

Phil had seen it all in his more than twenty years as a Los Angeles cop. He had seen it all and had enough. We were partners now, Peters and Pevsner, Confidential Investigations, office in the Farraday Building on Ninth just off Hoover. Clients few. Prospects questionable.

Phil’s wife Ruth had died less than a month earlier. She had been sick and going weaker for a long time. When she died, Phil had walked away from the LAPD and taken my offer to join me. I hadn’t expected him to accept, but he walked away from the past and took his boys and his four-year-old daughter Lucy with him. While we were at the Pantages, Lucy and Phil’s sister-in-law Becky were at the house in North Hollywood.

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