Magician Burt Sperber Passes

Inside Magic Image of Burt SperberMagician Burton S. Sperber passed away last Friday at the age of 82 of complications from surgery at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

We read the sad news in the Los Angeles Times today.

He was not only an accomplished performer and lover of all things Magic, he was also the founder and chairman of the nation’s largest landscape services company, ValleyCrest Landscape Cos.

The Magic Castle and Inner Magic Circle member turned $700.00 into a company that today boasts more than 150 locations around the world, with 9,000 employees and nearly $835 million in annual revenue.  The transformation was performed not by magic but his tireless work and keen business sense.          He purchased the nursery business from the widow of the owner.  He was just 19 years-old.

ValleyCrest Landscape worked some of the most prestigious projects in the landscape milieu including the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, Newport Beach’s Fashion Island and Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.  He preferred the title “Head Gardner” to CEO or “Boss.”

“Work is something you don’t want to do,” Mr. Sperber  told the Los Angeles Times this year.  “I love doing what I do, and there’s nothing else in this life that I’d rather do.”

Landscaping was not his sole passion.  His love for performing, watching, learning, teaching, inventing, sharing and chronicling Magic was evident always.

Mr. Sperber owned one of the largest magic book collections – with texts from the early 16th century.  His passion for our craft covered the spectrum from collector and preserver of classic magic books to inventing his own effects.  Nick Lewin posted a great story about meeting Mr. Sperber aboard a cruise ship and learning card effects from this remarkable man.  You can read Mr. Lewin’s post here.

“Believe it or not, I am actually better known in the world of magic than I am in the landscape world,” he said in a 2008 interview with C-Suite Quarterly business magazine.  We can vouch for the truth of this statement.

His texts in the realm of Magic are must-read and we assume the same goes for the books written about landscaping.  The first version of his Miracles of My Friends was published in 1982 and because he was a man with many friends who were willing to share their pet effects with Mr. Sperber,  miracles, he produced a second volume in 2010 with a limited run of 1,000 books.

Mr. Sperber’s family has scheduled a memorial service tomorrow (Wednesday, October 5, 2011) at Mount Sinai Memorial Park and Mortuary, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068.  The service will begin at 10 AM with reception to follow at the ValleyCrest headquarters in Calabasas, California.  Our prayers are with his family and his wife of more than 60 years, Charlene.

His family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to weSPARK Cancer Support Center, 13520 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423.  The organization’s web site can be found at:

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