Monthly Archives: June 2020

How Germain Spooked Me

Back in March 1988, I visited magician and author, Stuart Cramer who wrote two books on the master magician, Karl Germain (b.1878).  I traveled from New York to Ohio to interview Cramer for an article I was writing on Germain and spent a lovely weekend with him and his wife. One of my questions was about the year that Germain had died. In one of his books Cramer wrote that Germain died in 1959. In the other book, he gave the year as 1960. When I asked Stuart about it, he wasn’t aware of the discrepancy but was pretty sure it was 1959 as he was one of the pallbearers.

On the last day of my visit we decided to visit Germain’s grave to settle the question. Stuart confessed he hadn’t visited the gravesite since Germain died about 30 years earlier. On the way to the cemetery Stuart had to make a stop at the bank and parked on the street. As we did so I looked up at the rear of the car parked in front of us. I gestured to Stuart to look at its dealership nameplate – it said Germain! Spooked, we turned and gave each other an “Oh shit” look.

Now you have to understand that by the 1940s Germain had been retired from magic for decades. However, he was still extremely secretive about his magic and jealously guarded his secrets. This was true even for Stuart would regularly take care of the blind, elderly, recluse Germain in his later years. Cramer would beg Germain to reveal his secrets to him. He expressed to Germain he would never be performing again and that his brilliant creations should not be forever lost to posterity. Well, a few times a year Germain would relent and reveal some treasures to Stuart.

Stuart and I arrived at the cemetery walked up to Germain’s grave. Now we were to settle once and for all the date he had died. However, we were both shocked when we looked down on the dates inscribed on the stone; 1878-19__. The date of his death had never been put on the stone! Stuart exclaimed, “The old bastard has fooled us again!” However, later checking with the cemetery office, the date was confirmed to be 1959.

I have since heard that some do-gooder has had the date filled in totally ruining my story. No doubt Germain is turning over in his grave over it

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Teller and Torkova

Twenty years ago this week, I was to perform my stage coin act at Monday Night Magic at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in NYC. It was challenging due to the close proximity of the audience being in a semi-circle around the small stage. I also happened to know that Penn & Teller were in town and about to open their show later that week at the Beacon Theater.

And wouldn’t you know it, just before I’m introduced (and already feeling nervous about the act), someone tells me that Teller is in the audience. No pressure! Well, the act ended up going fine except for part of the finale which didn’t work but the audience never knew it. I was pretty happy as it was the first time I had done the act on such a small stage. I received a big round of applause and walked backstage.

A few minutes later, one of the producers of the show came up to me and said that Teller wanted to speak to me (yes, he can talk) at intermission. I was surprised and flattered. When we met, he congratulated me on doing a great job. Then he gave me this long quizzical look and said, “You did some very subtle things there, some very subtle things!” Between that and the expression on his face I was pretty sure that this was his way of saying that I had fooled him – without him coming out and admitting it.

I thanked him and he was kind enough to autograph a postcard for their upcoming show. It’s hard to read here but it says, “To Torkova, from your new fan, Teller.” In recent years I’ve been rejected trying to get on their television show, “Fool Us.” While disappointing, I can still take some solace in that at least I fooled Teller once upon a time in a little theater in Greenwich Village