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"Nothing, Jack. Johnny's just showing me a card trick. You should see it, it's terrific!"
Jack Reme was a candidate for councilman in the election soon to be held in Fairview, and as he walked over to where Happy and I were I couldn't help but feel a little proud. As I completed the trick, candidate Reme said, "Say, that is good. That's just what we need for the rally Monday night. Happy, how about bringing Johnny down with you? You're both off Monday nights."
I looked at Happy and Jack, wondering what was going to happen next, when Jack said, "There's a five-dollar bill in it for you, Johnny. How about it?"
I replied, "It's O.K. with me if it's O.K. with Happy." By this time I was really excited, as I realized I was about to make my first public appearance and be paid for it. I could hardly wait to get home that night and tell Mother the big news.
My first public appearance at Nungessers Hall was a success as far as the audience was concerned and I received a good hand when I completed the lemon trick. However, I got a little mixed up in the rope trick, which I used as an opener. I heard a few giggles from the audience which added to my embarrassment, but later I caught the audience's attention again when I started doing card tricks which were easy for me to do and I regained my composure.
After my appearance at Nungessers Hall, which was encouraging, I decided really to strike out. I talked it over with Mother and she thought it would be all right if I had myself listed with some booking agents in New York. I armed myself with some names and addresses I'd picked out of the Manhattan phone book and off to New York I went.
As I walked into the office of the first agent on my list the man listened to my story and politely said, "Well, young man, if you'll leave your business card we'll be happy to phone you if anything turns up."
I stammered out an explanation that I'd forgotten my cards and had left them at home. I did scribble my name and address on a piece of paper, though, and handed it to the man, thanking him for his trouble. He looked at what I'd written and said, "You must be some magician, Mr. Scarne, if you forget things like that."
I mumbled something inaudibly and walked out of the office feeling very dejected.
As I ambled across Forty-second Street to the west shore ferry, wondering what to do next, I spotted a printing shop and without thinking twice walked in. A tall, lanky kid was behind the counter and looked at me rather blandly when I said, "Do you print calling cards?"
"That's right. What do you want printed?"
"If you'll give me a piece of paper and pencil I'll show you what I want." After writing out my order I handed the paper to the fellow who read aloud,
John Scarne -- Magician
68 Lincoln Street
Fairview, New Jersey
Available for all occasions
"So you're a magician, huh? How about doing a trick for me?"
I looked at the fellow and said, "O.K., but I'm in a hurry."
After I'd finished a card trick he said, "Gee, that's pretty good. You're so clever you probably can turn a car into an alley!"
"Cut the comedy," I said. "I just came in here to have some business cards printed. What will it cost me for a hundred?"
"O.K., O.K., Houdini, don't get excited -- for you it's a buck-fifty cash."
I handed the fellow his money and said, "How long will it take?" and he replied, "About an hour. If you like you can wait for them."
"Right," I replied. "I'll stick around." As the fellow began setting the type and running off my first business cards on a small foot press, we started chatting more affably. He told me his name was Henny Youngman and that he was interested in show business too. As he wrapped my calling cards and handed them to me, I wished him luck. The printer's devil actually did make the grade, of course, and later became one of America's top comics on stage, radio, and TV.
This page (henny.html) is maintained by Ed Barnard. Last update March 30, 2000. There have been 11674 visitors since March 30, 2000.