Falling in Love With Magic

Conjurers perform skillful tricks, not miracles. But when the magician first saw one of his idols perform, he wasn’t sure whether he was seeing “a demon or an angel.”
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TRANSCRIPT

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