We are easily affected by many things. We cry at weddings, movies, supermarket openings. But we were very moved by the passing of Johnny Thompson and Marshall Brodien. We knew both – although we are sure they didn’t know us – and respected each for their incredible contributions to our wonderful art.
We are originally from Chicago and watched Mr. Brodien on the Bozo Circus show as Wizzo the Wizard. As a young (first very young and then just younger than we are now), Wizzo was wonderful. It was live television and Mr. Brodien was performing real magic effects for both the studio audience and the kids home for lunch during school days.
Later, Mr. Brodien was seen nationally with his TV Magic Cards. Realize we had never seen a Svengali Deck before and so Mr. Brodien’s commercials were memorized and worshipped. We could not understand how he could pull off the miracles he performed with a simple deck of cards.
We bugged our father for days to take us to Walgreens to purchase the deck. We had saved the money and when we brought it home, it was worth ten times the $2.95 we paid for it. It was incredible in construction and instruction. Within an hour, we were performing the effect for family and then in our shows at the elementary school we attended. A true miracle.
It also taught us a very important lesson: never perform the same trick twice for the same audience. A Svengali Deck is to be seen only once. Once is enough. Put the deck back in the case and back in our pocket. We learned this lesson the hard way when one of our classmates asked, “Is it always the 2 of Spades?” We said something about how she was just lucky and moved on to our next trick.
We finally met Mr. Brodien at an Abbott’s Get-Together. We introduced our family to him. We just assumed he knew us. We saw each other for years on the Bozo show and the TV Magic Cards commercials. He was very gracious and kind. We now assume hundreds of strangers had walked up to him whilst he was otherwise engaged with his life – perhaps just as he took a bite of his dinner. He knew how to handle such encounters with class.
Johnny Thompson on the other hand, was someone we met before we saw him perform. We were at a convention and he was in the standing room crowd at the back of the room watching the first night’s show. We engaged in conversation and we learned he was going to be performing close-up the next day and would be in the closing night’s gala show.
Foolishly, we asked if he was nervous. We had no idea we were talking to the Johnny Thompson. He thought he would probably not be nervous. He had performed the act so often. We learned that we were both from Chicago and that we shared a love for the Chicago Cubs.
The next day we saw his close-up show and realized we had been talking to a true star. His performance using small balls and a net blew us away. Everything was done slowly and deliberately and honestly. He had a smile that disarmed the fiercest cynics in the crowd. He was your friend showing you something unique that he had come across.
The next night we saw his The Great Tomsoni performance with his wife, Pam. We laughed as hard as we had ever laughed whilst watching a magic show. His persona was perfect, Pam as his disinterested assistant was perfect, their interaction was perfect and of course his magic was truly amazing.
We take great joy in watching magic we cannot explain. Mr. Thompson provided much of that type of joy in his close-up and stage show. We could relax and let the magic take over our consciousness. For many of his effects there was no easy explanation but more importantly, we didn’t need one. It wasn’t important.
We met him many more times over the years; including times at the Magic Castle and other conventions. He was the same each time we met. We would introduce ourselves and he would give the impression that he remembered us from some prior meeting. His smile and manner was always so delightful. His skills never diminished nor did our amazement.
To think that both men have passed is devastating. It feels as if an important pillar has been removed from the structure that is our magic world. The art will never be the same.