Smiles of Yesterday – Richard Adler

 

Warm Smiles We Recall

Like Jimmy Stewart running through the streets of Bedford Falls after he learns that he no longer existed, we drove through the streets of our old haunts here in Florida to find the world had changed.  It became hard.  Where there were once friendly shops offering wares appropriate for children, there were now tattered holes and kiosks selling services from tattoos to piercing to porn.

 

Where we once took refuge after magic meetings, we now found bars where women will join a customer for a bottle of $125.00 champagne and “have personal party.”  In the same way the article is missing from the advertisement, the class is gone from the neighborhood we once called home.

 

South Florida is no longer the southern portion of a southern state visited seasonally by those from colder climes.  Our old high school and its theater have been fenced-off but not destroyed.  Like a caged animal, the home of the Rams is now just an exhibition of urban blight.  The funds ran out before the buildings could be destroyed but not until the garish chain link fence circled the campus.

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Unlike Jimmy Stewart’s run through Bedford Falls, there is no happy ending to this story.  There is no realization to which we may come sufficient to bring back the neighborhood we once knew.  The magic shops we visited, loitered around, learned from, and spent our newspaper money in, are gone.  The mall that contained the newest magic kiosk responsible for taking the business from the institution that was Johnny’s Playland and Trickshop, is itself a victim of newer malls.  Where young men, learning at the right hand of the talented Barry Gibbs, once walked their invisible dogs to drum up business, police officers now circulate to decrease the threat of gangs.

 

Everything changes.  We know nothing is permanent.  Our memories of the area will always exist even though the…

 

Warm Smiles We Recall

Like Jimmy Stewart running through the streets of Bedford Falls after he learns that he no longer existed, we drove through the streets of our old haunts here in Florida to find the world had changed.  It became hard.  Where there were once friendly shops offering wares appropriate for children, there were now tattered holes and kiosks selling services from tattoos to piercing to porn.

 

Where we once took refuge after magic meetings, we now found bars where women will join a customer for a bottle of $125.00 champagne and “have personal party.”  In the same way the article is missing from the advertisement, the class is gone from the neighborhood we once called home.

 

South Florida is no longer the southern portion of a southern state visited seasonally by those from colder climes.  Our old high school and its theater have been fenced-off but not destroyed.  Like a caged animal, the home of the Rams is now just an exhibition of urban blight.  The funds ran out before the buildings could be destroyed but not until the garish chain link fence circled the campus.

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Unlike Jimmy Stewart’s run through Bedford Falls, there is no happy ending to this story.  There is no realization to which we may come sufficient to bring back the neighborhood we once knew.  The magic shops we visited, loitered around, learned from, and spent our newspaper money in, are gone.  The mall that contained the newest magic kiosk responsible for taking the business from the institution that was Johnny’s Playland and Trickshop, is itself a victim of newer malls.  Where young men, learning at the right hand of the talented Barry Gibbs, once walked their invisible dogs to drum up business, police officers now circulate to decrease the threat of gangs.

 

Everything changes.  We know nothing is permanent.  Our memories of the area will always exist even though the reality upon which those memories were loosely based, have gone the way of all realities.

 

This brings us to Richard Adler.  Mr. Adler was a classmate, friend, and fellow magician of ours.  He was always the better performer and forever inventing where we were buying store-bought.  He found ways to take virtually any effect beyond the instructions and garnered well-deserved praise for his work.

 

In the midst of our depression, we set out to find Mr. A.  We knew he had persevered in the art.  He was the owner of a magic store out in the country, and then moved it into the big city.  He performed constantly and was the four time winner of the Florida State Magicians’ Association highest award (we only one it once). 

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Where we loved the effect, Mr. Adler loved the effect the trick had on an audience.  He developed the crazy notion that tricks could be routined together and that those assembled routines could be selected to match certain types of audiences.  How novel, we thought, to have a different show for each audience we might encounter.  Of course, that would require work; planning, practice, and dedication.  We stuck with our one show that fit all.  From women’s prisons to nursing homes to kids’ parties, we did the same seven tricks.  Mr. Adler, on the other hand, performed four different shows for the four different audiences. 

 

The Inside Magic Web Cam had been silent for a while and so we took it on a trip through the old neighborhood with the hope of finding Mr. A.  We hadn’t seen the man who easily beat us for Most Witty and Most Funny in our high school in ten years.  We wondered if he would have changed in a negative way – like the neighborhood from whence we both sprang.

 

The Dr. Flea’s Flea Market is where the old Farmer’s Market used to be located just down the road from the Palm Beach International Airport and close to the small burb of Palm Springs, Florida.  The recent tirade of Charlie and Francis had ripped asunder the outdoor signs and scattered much of the roofing but it was still a structure suitable for a mall in its most basic sense. 

 

Mr. A’s Magic Shop was down and to the right, across from the stalls selling Spanish-speaking video games and DVDs, and next to the Puppet Association’s theater.  It was our luck that the first time we saw the incredible Mr. A in years was as he completed his first of two shows in the puppet theater. 

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We are all born with gifts.  We know that because we are told so when we despair that we don’t compare in some important way to another.  Mr. Adler’s gifts are manifold but primarily seen in his presence.  He takes the stage as if he owns it but is immediately honored to welcome all of the audience to enjoy what he seems to enjoy showing.  His laugh is infectious and real.  He knows where the laughs are in any bit and covers them while finding new points of amusement. 

 

Mr. Adler’s act had not changed one bit since we last saw him.  Of course the effects were all different, the staging was not the same, the costuming and music bore no similarity to his early shows.  But it was identical in that it was thoroughly entertaining to watch not only for the effect it had on the audience but also for the pleasure Mr. Adler seemed to derive from performing the magic.

 

We are ashamed but proud to admit that he fooled us badly on two occasions.  We admitted to one when we spoke with him later.  Our shame outweighs our pride.

 

So what is it like to be Mr. A?  How does he do it and does he really enjoy doing it as he has for so many years?  He tells us that he does through words and actions.  His Mr. A’s Magic Shop is a tribute to the magic shops we all recall.  It reminded us of Johnny’s Playland and Trickshop.  Sure, it was disheveled but buried beneath the top layer of instructions, boxes, file folders and advertisement material, were real magic tricks.  This was not a trick shop that stayed alive by its sale of adult material or cans of fart spray.  Mr. A’s Magic Shop sells magic.

 

Just like Jimmy Stewart is told by the bartender in the version of Bedford Falls he could have prevented, “This is a bar for men who like to drink hard liquor to get drunk.”  Mr. A’s Magic Shop is for serious magicians of all skill-levels who are looking for magic, just magic. 

 

An example of the shop’s purity: there were three different types of Silk Cabbies; and at least as many versions of the Sucker Sliding Die Box. 

 

Larry Jay (“The Jayster”) holds court for the customers while Mr. Adler is performing and works the crowd as well as any we have seen.  He has the skills you would expect from a professional working in a professional shop.  His handling of The Matrix both with and without the cover of playing cards was something to savor. 

 

It was nice to share lunch with Mr. Jay and Mr. Adler.  We had a chance to catch up on people we knew.  Some have passed away or moved on.  New magicians and new names took their places in the magic fabric. 

 

After lunch, we had a chance to catch Mr. Adler’s second show of the day ? a day in which he would perform three times in two different Florida counties.  His second show featured many of the same effects ? okay, actually the same effects ? but they were presented with the newness and innovation for which Mr. Adler is famous.  Here he had just performed the very same effects not more than two hours earlier and yet he seemed to be offering a brand new show.

 

Mr. Adler is a busy man.  He works shows virtually non-stop throughout the week; combining steady gigs with one-time specials.  Several nights a week, he presents his magic and ventriloquism routine for the River Queen cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale.  It is his ability to keep his show fresh and entertaining, even for return travelers has made him a mainstay of the attraction. 

 

It was nice to see that some things never change or at least do not change so severely that they can no longer be recognized.  Mr. Adler may have aged slightly since the last time we saw him but we cannot be sure.  He had the same youthful smile and excitement about magic both on and off the stage.  His mind was as sharp as ever ? and still clearly deserving of the Most Witty and Most Funny awards ? and his love for our Art was as clear and as enviable as we could recall.

 

If you have a chance to visit our old haunts, West Palm Beach, check out Mr. A’s Magic Shop and say hello to the one magician that conjures within us both jealousy and admiration.

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