Question: When did you first fall in love with magic?
James Randi: Well, let’s get some definitions going first of all.
I prefer to call it "conjuring" because magic would be controlling
nature by means of spells and incantations and I’ve tried spells and
incantations. They don’t work. You’ve got to use tricks, you see. So,
conjuring is approximating the effects of what would be a genuine magic
miracle of some kind. So, with that definition in mind, I got
interested in magic; I was one of those unfortunate kids, I was a child
prodigy. And believe me that is an unfortunate circumstance. I had a
very unhappy time of it and I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada and
I stayed out of public school because I didn’t need it. I was
self-educated. And so I took a trip to the Casino Theater on Queen
Street in Toronto, Canada, many, many years ago. Just a little guy,
about so big. I guess I was about 12 or so at the time. And I saw a
magician. Oh, man, that got my attention. I figured maybe that’s
something I could know something more about.
Up until then, I was going to be a chemist or an archeologist; one or
the other. I didn’t know. But archeology and chemistry lost me to the
art of conjuring and I immediately took it up and learned a few things
and here I am.
Question: Which magicians did you admire growing up?
James Randi: Well, the magician I saw at that theater on that
Wednesday afternoon matinee was Harry Blackstone, Sr. A rather short
gentleman dressed in tails with busy white hair and a bit of a lisp. He
spoke like this, more or less. And he was wonderful. He was a giant.
He was... well, either a demon or an angel, I wasn’t quite sure. But
he could do wonderful things and it really got my attention. And from
then on, I started to meet the other people in the business all the way
up to Blackstone, Jr., who was his son and took over the trade after his
father died. And both of them are now deceased unfortunately, and I
miss both of them.
Recorded April 16th, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen