Dai Vernon’s Legacy

This cannot be an endorsement of Magician Edward Brown’s book (The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown by Trevor H. Hall and Andi Gladwin) because we have not yet had the chance to read it.  But when you have praise from the true Dean of Magic, Dai Vernon, one’s attention must be drawn.  “England’s finest sleight-of-hand performer.” That is what Dai Vernon said of this performer and yet we never heard of him. 

Dai Vernon’s word is good enough for us. 

In our youth we had a chance to watch Mr. Vernon perform close-up (within a few inches on one occasion) and he astounded us. 

He astounded us to the extent we had an existential crisis.  On a warm afternoon in May of 1974, five hours after we won the Florida State Magic Close-Up Award as a 14 year old, we encountered Mr. Vernon sitting beneath a large table umbrella.  While we were convinced our win was due to luck we were still a bit full of pride as we sat down near the master.  We were feeling our oats or whatever we had stuffed in our pockets to provide sustenance during at our first magic convention. 

We sat with Mr. Vernon on the pool deck of the beautiful Langford Hotel.  It wasn’t a private audience – we were one of ten or so magicians of all ages – but it felt special and private.  We studied the famous Stars of Magic publications and even could perform some of Mr. Vernon’s effects – not well.  What we saw that afternoon was too much.  There was no rush, no strange configuration of fingers, apparently no distraction – although we knew there had to be – and no end to the incredible card and coin magic performed. 

Being 14 and having acne problems weighed in our existential decision.  We didn’t have the suave manner of Mr. Vernon.  We couldn’t perform sleight of hand whilst holding a drink or cigarette.  We couldn’t even legally drive in the state of Florida. 

We knew, at that moment, that our freshly gained title would not serve as a sufficient bed of laurels upon which we could rest.  But, we wondered, did we have the innate ability to perfect our sleight of hand to the level of this phenomenon.  Again, Mr. Vernon never rushed, never gave a hint of performing anything other than what the audience could see.  We, on the other hand, feared being caught out with sleights and our clumsy palming talent that was usually distracted by humor. 

We are proud that we took the path we did.  We resolved in that moment that while we could never master the true Master’s ability, we could be inspired by him to continue working and performing in his style – never rushing, nothing out of the ordinary, sharing in the magical experience with the audience.  An audience willingly in attendance to watch something they could not explain but enjoyed.

We could have given up magic in that moment. 

Despite our big trophy and gift certificate with which we purchased “Instant Art” by Supreme Magic ($25.00).  But we didn’t.  Now decades later, we have come nowhere near the perfection we sought.  In fact, as we have aged, our hands have grown drier, our moves less certain and our reliance on humor to hide our moves has only intensified.  Still, before we perform – especially at the Magic Castle – we think about Dai Vernon and his kindness to our younger self and his encouragement to continue “what you’re doing.” 

It was hardly the endorsement received by Mr. Brown but, to come full circle, it provides a great incentive to learn more about the performer who received such accolades from the man we respected so well. 

We look forward to reading the new book from Vanishing Inc.  You can do the same by clicking here.

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