The Amazing World of John Scarne

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The Magician Who Fools Magicians


5. Meeting the Greats of Magic: Houdini, Thurston, Leipsig

Now that I was a full-time professional magician, working on the average of two club dates a week, I had much more time to practice than before and I certainly took advantage of the extra time. During these practice sessions I found myself shifting back to cards more and more, but not with the same thoughts I had in mind when I was a boy. I now began visualizing myself working the nation's biggest vaudeville houses within a few years and could picture my name on the theater marquees in big bright lights:
IN PERSON -- JOHN SCARNE -- THE WORLD'S GREATEST CARD MANIPULATOR

I realized that to reach the top in card manipulation there was no magical solution except hard work. This meant practice, practice, practice, and more practice. These sessions would usually run into the early morning hours, and at this time I was practicing how to shuffle a deck of cards in each hand, revolving half of the deck around my fingers while so doing. These sessions became so prolonged that the back of my fingers began to chafe and bleed, so that for awhile I had to forego this feat until the backs of my fingers healed. However, this didn't prevent me from practicing other magical feats with cards that did not require the use of the backs of my fingers. I still practice two hours a day and I'm continuously trying to develop new moves and magical effects.

There's nothing easy about continuous practice. This brings to mind what the great Ignace Jan Paderewski, the famed Polish Pianist and composer, once said to me. Paderewski had just completed one of his many piano recitals at the Plaza Theater in Englewood, New Jersey, when the chairman who had sponsored the recital asked if I would like to meet him. I was brought backstage to the music master's dressing room and introduced to him. There were three or four people present, and they were congratulating Paderewski on a wonderful evening's entertainment when the chairman mentioned to him that I also had achieved a point of accomplishment with my hands. Paderewski smiled at me and asked if I was a musician. I couldn't help but smile myself as I thought of the mandolin lessons, and the chairman hastened to explain that I was a card manipulator and magician. Paderewski then asked if I would show him what I did, and it wasn't long before I was doing a few tricks for the great artist and his friends in his dressing room.

After witnessing a few fancy card flourishes and a number of card vanishes, one of the ladies in the group remarked, "You certainly must have practiced years to develop that skill."

Paderewski then made a remark which I have never forgotten. "My dear lady, to achieve unusual skill in any profession or art one must endure a great deal of personal sacrifice, and from what I have seen this young man accomplish with playing cards, I am sure he has forfeited many boyhood pleasures to become so skilled."

I thought to myself how right Paderewski was about practicing and about me. I was twenty-one at the time and most of my youth had been spent with older men, working and practicing. The only pleasure I'd really enjoyed was in doing tricks for people. The rewards would be their bewildered expressions and encouraging remarks which usually were something like this: "Johnny, you should be on the stage doing those card tricks. You're much better than the magicians we see performing at the Lincoln Theater."

...

One evening I entered the Bergen Diner for a cup of coffee and was no sooner seated when Happy called me aside and introduced me to a man named Samuel Horowitz, who said he was a professional magician. Sam and I soon became good friends as we talked magic and magicians in general, and it wasn't long before I found out Sam was a top-notch card magician. Through Sam Horowitz I learned of the Hornmann Magic Shop (formerly Martinkas and now Al Flosso's Magic Shop at 304 West 34th Street, in midtown Manhattan), and he informed me it was the favorite meeting place for the nation's top magicians and that Houdini, Thurston, and Leipsig often visited there. Today Sam Horowitz is still my friend and a stellar performer who uses the professional name of Mohammed Bey.

Several days later I visited Hornmann's Magic Shop. I was disappointed to find it situated over an average-looking lunchroom. I made my way up a flight of wooden stairs in a hallway, and as I opened the door and entered, a bell attached to the door announced my presence. No one was in the shop, and for a moment I thought I was back at the Lane Novelty Company in Hoboken, as this place closely resembled it.

I walked over to a large showcase and when I peered in saw a ghastly number of hollow fingers and hands made of tin and painted a flesh color, Chinese linking rings, shining red billiard balls, lengths of mysterious-looking ropes, a number of cloth rabbits, a string of fake collapsible frankfurters, and a top hat with a secret compartment, together with many other gimmicks. As I studied the apparatus displayed in the showcase, it seemed that it wasn't what I'd expected to find. I thought to myself that certainly the great magicians didn't use this type of amateurish apparatus to fool the public.

I busied myself exploring the shop and it didn't matter that there was no one there. I couldn't help noticing that the walls of the shop were papered with glossy publicity prints, photos, and pictures of great magicians past and present. The piercing eyes of Houdini stared down at me from a framed picture, and next to him was Howard Thurston, the Great Harry Kellar, Alexander Heermann, Harry Blackstone, Nate Leipsig, and one magician I had never head of. Underneath it was written the name Frank Ducrot, and it occupied a very prominent spot on the wall.

I head some noises in the back room and knew someone was there, but I didn't care how long it took the attendant to come out and wait on me. A clay bust of Harry Houdini, which was resting on the far end of the counter, caught my fancy. I was quite impressed by it and began to wonder if I'd be lucky enough to meet Houdini in person. After spending the better part of fifteen minutes alone in the shop, it became apparent that whoever was in the back hadn't heard the bell ring when I entered. I opened the door again and the bell rang out.

A man's voice sang out from the back that he'd be right out, and within a minute or two he filled the doorway. He was an exceptionally large person and was wearing a Buster Brown tie which he had tied into a large bow. His sleeves were rolled up and his hands were dirty.

He looked at me and said, "Sorry to keep you waiting. I've just been wrapping up a trick for Harry Houdini which he needs immediately."

My rabbit ears perked up at the mention of Houdini's name and I asked, "Where's Houdini now?"

"Oh, he's appearing in Chicago," the man replied.

"Boy! I'd sure love to see him. I've never seen Houdini perform."

"Well," the man said, "he'll be here every afternoon next week between shows when he plays the Hippodrome. Now what can I do for you, young man?"

"I'm John Scarne," I replied. "Is this your shop?"

"Yes," the man replied. "I'm Frank Ducrot."

I remembered the picture I'd seen hanging on the wall with the other great magicians and stammered, "Why, I'd like to take some lessons in card magic. Do you give lessons?"

"Yes, I can give you some card lessons if you'd like. My fee is three dollars a half hour, and you can make it any morning next week."

I thought rapidly of what Ducrot had said about Houdini and realized that next week was when he would be at the Hippodrome. Most likely he'd stop in the shop between shows, as was his custom. The Hippodrome was a two-a-day vaudeville house and the time between shows was from five-thirty to eight P.M.

I replied, "Could you possibly make it next Tuesday about six P.M.?"

I'd figured that Houdini would probably be busy on Monday, his opening day at the Hippodrome, and would most likely be unable to get away. Therefore, Tuesday seemed like a better chance of seeing him at Hornmann's.

Frank Ducrot looked at me and said, "Okay, let's make it Tuesday night for the first leson, but from then on it'll have to be in the mornings."

Next Tuesday at five P.M. I entered Hornmann's and found a comely young redheaded woman standing behind the counter. I inquired if Mr. Ducrot was in and she smiled. "You must be Johnny Scarne. I'm Daisy White, Mr. Ducrot's assistant. He told me you were expected., but unfortunately Mr. Ducrot had to take something over to Harry Houdini at the Hippodrome. He should be back before six and asked that you wait."

I thanked Miss White for the message and said I'd wait until Frank Ducrot returned. An hour or so later Ducrot arrived wearing a great big smile. As Ducrot walked in I felt a little disappointed that Houdini was not with him.

He burst into the room saying, "That's some show they have over at the Hippodrome! Houdini is greater than ever and packing them in. Nora Bayes, the singing star, is terrific, lovelier each time I see her, and Ben Welch, the Jewish comedian -- well, he's always good for a laugh. What a show!"

Ducrot apologized for keeping me waiting and invited me to step into the back room with him. The room was crammed with stage tricks, and parts of many big illusions were scattered about here and there. I recognized a number sliding die boxes and sword cabinets, which I'd seen at many of the different side shows. A girl would enter the cabinet and then the magician would pass a number of swords through small holes in the box without any harm to the lady assistant. I also saw a number of duck vanishes, similar to the ones I had seen in Dagmar's workship, as well as a number of production cabinets and many other magic gadgets.

It didn't take Ducrot long to clear a table and arrange two chairs for us to sit down. My first card less was about to begin. I reached into my pocket and took out three dollars which I'd folded for the occasion and handed them to Ducrot, who accepted it with thanks, pocketing the money. He walked over to a dusty shelf and removed a deck of playing cards. As he returned, shuffling the cards, he said, "The first requisite of a magician is to be able to do several tricks with an unprepared deck of cards."

I sort of nodded my head to indicate yes, but was anxiously waiting for Ducrot to get started with the lesson, as time was flying and the lesson was only for half an hour. I hadn't mentioned to Ducrot that I'd been practicing with cards since I was a boy.

He went on, "The first thing you must learn to do when performing a card trick is to learn how to force a card." This is a term used to describe the act by which the magician compels a spectator to select a specific card -- the magician's choice -- while the spectator believes it was a card of his own free choice.

Ducrot then pretended that I was a spectator while demonstrating the force to me. As he ran through it, I dared not tell him that the method he was using was a favorite method of mine, one I'd used since I was fourteen, and since then I had added a number of improvements to it. Instead, I listened in awed attention and appeared as interested as I could.

Ducrot went on, saying, "To become a good magician, Johnny, you also must learn to palm a card," and with that remark he started demonstrating a magician's palm to me.

It appeared so amateurish compared to the palms which gamblers used and with which I was familiar that I finally asked, "Mr. Ducrot, can't I take a lesson in some other form of magic instead of cards? Maybe coin or handkerchief magic?"

"What's the matter, don't you want to learn card magic?" Ducrot said in a startled tone.

"Sure," I replied. "In fact I've already learned a few card tricks from some card mechanics I know."

Ducrot started laughing and said, "Card what?"

"Card mechanics," I replied matter-of-factly.

"What's a card mechanic?" Ducrot asked.

"Why, a card mechanic's a man who manipulates cards for cheating purposes," I replied.

"That's a new one on me, Johnny. In fact, it's the first time I've heard of a card shark being called a card mechanic. Suppose you show me what you've learned from these card mechanics."

Ducrot handed me the deck of cards, which I placed face down in the palm of my hand with my index finger curled around the narrow portion of the deck.

Ducrot said, "I've never seen a magician hold a deck in that manner."

"That's called a mechanic's grip," I replied, "and all the top-flight card mechanics hold a deck in that position. It facilitates the action of dealing seconds or dealing cards off the bottom of the deck when pretending to deal cards off the top of the deck."

Ducrot appeared spellbound by my actions and said, "Can you deal a card off the bottom?"

I ran through the deck and removed the four aces from the pack and placed them on the bottom of the deck and said to Ducrot, "I'm going to deal five hands of poker and I will deal to myself the four aces from the bottom of the deck. Watch."

I dealt out the five poker hands and before I turned up my hand Ducrot said, "Don't tell me that the four aces are no longer on the bottom of that deck."

When I exposed the five cards I'd dealt myself, the four aces were among them. Ducrot immediately grabbed the deck of cards from my hand and turned the deck over to see if the aces were still there and found that they were not.

He then shouted, "Daisy, Daisy, come in here. I want you to see something."

As the redhead sauntered into the room, Ducrot asked me to repeat the trick which I'd just done. It wasn't long before the magic lessons were forgotten and I found myself doing card tricks for Ducrot and Daisy during the next hour.

Ducrot finally looked at me, saying, "Are you a professional gambler? The magicians I know can't do this type of card moves -- why, they're positively sensational. Daisy, we've got to have Harry Houdini see this. He's been talking about the Hearst papers being after him to do a series of articles on exposing bunko men, and he'll get a real kick out of this!"

"Does Houdini do card tricks, Mr. Ducrot?" I asked.

"He used to, Johnny, years ago, before he went into the escape act."

Daisy walked over to a drawer and pulled out a large rolled-up theatrical advertisement which she unrolled. It depicted Harry Houdini in his younger years with a deck of cards in his hands and the cuffs of his shirt rolled up. It read, "Houdini -- King of Cards."

"That's something," I said. "I never knew Houdini was a card man."

"Yes, Johnny," Ducrot replied, "but Houdini will flip when he sees you deal those bottoms, and especially that card in the wallet trick you just did for us."

"Well," I replied, "I'd sure like to meet Houdini. Can you arrange it?"

"Sure," Frank replied. "This is Tuesday. I'll see Harry tomorrow. How about Friday, Johnny? I'm sure he'll be here after what I have to tell him. Let's say Friday night around six o'clock. Harry doesn't have to be at the Hippodrome untilafter eight for the evening show."

"I'll be here, Mr. Ducrot," I replied. "And I don't know how to thank you."

As we shook hands and I turned to leave, Ducrot called me back and reaching into his pocket handed me back the three dollars I'd given him for the card lesson, saying, "I should be paying you. I'm the one that got the lesson today!"

Wednesday evening I was sitting in the front row at the Hippodrome Theater in New York watching The Great Harry Houdini perform. It was the first I'd seen him in person. I was greatly impressed by his showmanship that evening and wondered if it would ever be possible for me to acquire such stage presence.

The first trick of his act was a needle-swallowing routine which he called the East Indian Needle Trick. This was the effect: Houdini passed several packages of needles for examination to the committee he had summoned to the stage, and he then asked the committee to examine his mouth to confirm that he did not have any needles concealed in his mouth. He then placed a quantity of needles which he'd removed from the packets on his outstretched tongue and then withdrew his tongue into his mouth. He would then pull off about four feet of sewing thread from a spool, and after folding the four feet of thread into a small packet he would place this into his mouth also, leaving about six inches of thread protruding from his lips. Houdini then reached for a glass of water which he drank, apparently swallowing the thread and needles as well, with the exception of the six inches of thread which still could be seen hanging from his bottom lip.

Harry Houdini then announced in a very dramatic fashion that he would thread the needles while they were in his stomach. The bright spotlight played directly on his face and shoulders as he slowly started to pull the thread from his mouth. As he slowly pulled it, the needles began to appear and were threaded on the thread, each neatly separated about one inch apart! As he finished the Hippodrome shook with applause, which he acknowledged. Then he went into the preparation of his next feat.

He proceeded to do an escape from a strait jacket and another escape from a number of handcuffs which were locked on his wrists...

Thursday night I didn't sleep much wondering what Harry Houdini would think of my card manipulations, and by the time morning rolled around I'd worked myself into a nervous lather. I was up bright and early.

The day seemed to drag out, but finally it was five o'clock and I stepped into Hornmann's Magic Shop. Houdini arrived about six P.M. in the company of his head assistant, Jimmy Collins.

Ducrot introduced us by saying, "Harry, this is the young fellow from Jersey who does the gambling sleights. His name's Johnny Scarne."

Houdini noticed my short haircut and remarked, "Pleased to meet you, Pat Rooney." (Apparently Pat Rooney, the dancer, also had a very short haircut at the time.)

It wasn't long before Houdini, Ducrot, Collins, and myself were in the back room of the magic shop. Daisy White asked Frank if she couldn't join us in the back to watch and looked rather glum when Ducrot asked her to remain out front in case any customers came in. After they'd settled themselves about the small room, Houdini took out a deck of cards from his inside coat pocket and when he removed them from the card case they really appeared worn and beaten. He took a number of cards from the deck and started to make them disappear by back-palming them one at a time. After he had back-palmed about four cards, he asked if I could back-palm cards.

I replied I could, but before I had an opportunity to do so Frank Ducrot said, "That's easy for Johnny, Harry, and that's not what I want you to see him do."

Ducrot threw a new deck of cards on the table and said, "Go ahead, Johnny." I felt a little nervous as I reached for the deck and removed them from the card case, spreading them ribbon fashion across the table. Looking up at Houdini I said in my best professional manner, "Would you be so kind as to select a card, sir?"

He removed a card and smiled at his assistant, Jimmy Collins, when he showed him the face of the card.

I then said, "Now, sir, if you'l be so good as to mark your name on the card you've selected I'll--"

"That's O.K., son, I know the name of the card," Houdini said.

I was beginning to get flustered as I wanted Houdini to mark that card, and was glad when Ducrot insisted that he do so. I then asked Houdini to replace the card into the deck, which I now had scooped up from the table. As he replaced the card into the deck he didn't appear to be watching very closely, for if he had he would have seen me take my wallet out of my inside coat pocket and place it on the table. It had all happened in a split second. When I opened the wallet and removed the four of spades from the billfold section, Houdini quickly examined the card to see if his identifying mark was on its face. He then said, "You caught me napping that time. I didn't even see you take the wallet out of your pocket." And he started to smile.

From the expression on Houdini's face I could see that I had completely fooled him and he hadn't seen me cop the four of spades from the deck.

"What else can you do?"

I went on to cut the four aces from the deck, the same effect that I had performed for Arnold Rothstein, and Houdini looked much more puzzled.

After about twenty minutes of my card tricks, The Great Harry Houdini said, "Johnny -- that's your first name, isn't it? -- would you like to come over to the Hippodrome tomorrow afternoon? I'd like my wife, Beatrice, to see some of those gambling tricks of yours. I know she's never seen any card moves like that."

Of course I leaped at the opportunity, and that Saturday I spent a delightful afternoon doing the same card tricks for Houdini and his charming wife, Beatrice, in their dressing at the Hippodrome Theater.

Houdini didn't do much talking during this performance but asked a lot of questions as to the gambling moves I used when performing these tricks. I could tell from the expression on his face, and by the types of questions he asked, that I'd completely fooled him on a number of occasions. Some tricks he probably could see through but I was certain that the card-cutting trick completely mystified him.

When I got home that evening I told Mother about meeting Houdini again and the great thrill I got on going backstage with him and meeting his attractive wife, Beatrice. But I dared not tell her that I thought I'd fooled Houdini with a card trick. I had too much respect for Houdini to ever tell Mother that I'd fooled him and, furthermore, if I did, I thought she wouldn't believe it.

...

Hornmann's Magic Shop shortly became my favorite stop in New York City. Each and every Saturday afternoon I could be found draped over the magic counter, smoking a cigar, and doing card tricks for the many magicians who visited Frank Ducrot's shop. It was in this little shop during the next few years that I performed for practically all the greats in magic. Leroy Talma and Bosco, Carl Rosini, Horace Goldin, Tommy Nelson Downs, Roland Travers, Carter the Great, Selbit, The Great Okito, Nicola the Great, Dante, and many other magicians too numerous to mention, frequented Hornmann's. I learned the secrets of most of their favorite tricks by scouting their acts and later by discussing the tricks they performed with them.

On many occasions I would go backstage to visit these magicians after their performances and many of them would discuss with me how their illusions or tricks worked. I soon learned the secret of all the top illusions, such as the sawing of a woman in half and the rising lady, which were two of the favorite illusions of the period. In some instances, a performer would do his favorite sleight-of-hand trick for me, but most of the time they had me performing for them.

By this time I was smoking cigars regularly and usually had one in my mouth whenever I was sitting around Hornmann's and gabbing with Frank and Daisy. Whenever a magician came in whom I didn't know, Frank would always introduce us and ask me to do a few tricks. I'd lay my cigar aside, start a trick, and occasionally pick it up to take a puff or two. Many of the magicians began saying that the cigar was my misdirection and if it wasn't for my cigar-smoking I wouldn't fool them so completely. However, they soon found out that this wasn't the case, for when I appeared at my first magical convention to perform, I was minus the cigar. Nevertheless, even to this day some magicians credit the cigar-smoking as one of my magical props. But if it is, I'm not telling.

As my friendship with the amateur and professional magicians grew, some of them began inviting me to their homes; but I soon learned many of these invitations were made not on a social basis, but as a means whereby they could find out one or two of my magical secrets. On one such occasion I caught my host's wife behind an open door taking shorthand notes of all the conversation going on between her husband and myself when he was shooting questions at me a mile a minute. Naturally I began, after that, to avoid invitations for dinner when proffered by a magician I didn't know too well.

Frank Ducrot finally put a tag line on me while I was entertaining several magicians in his shop one afternoon. He looked at me rather seriously and said, "Johnny, from now on bill yourself as: The Magician Who Fools Magicians." And it wasn't long after that that my new business cards read:

John Scarne
The Magician Who Fools Magicians

While all of the professional entertaining was going on, the magicians would often say among themselves, "Scarne -- why, he doesn't care about working paying dates for lay audiences. He'd rather entertain the magicians for free or do tricks for his friends in that lunch wagon in Jersey, instead of playing a professional date for a hundred dollars."

Without my realizing it, this statement contained a great deal of truth. I was really getting a bigger kick out of doing tricks and fooling the magicians than calling on some theatrical agent and cooling my heels off in his office until he was good and ready to give me a date. It soon became generally known that the only way I'd play a show date was for an agent to get in touch with me, either at home or through Hornmann's Shop where they often left word. Strange as it may seem, I have stepped into an agent's office only twice in the last twenty years. Mother and I were happy with what I was earning and the rest didn't really matter, so I continued merrily on my way of fooling the magicians and having a grand time doing it!

As this went on I realized the reason I could fool the professional magicians was because I'd become ambidextrous and could palm cards and do many other card moves with either hand. These card sleights that I'd perfected were far superior to the card sleights used by the magicians of the day, for many of them were based on gamblers' moves. With all the excitement of foolign magicians, I realized that I'd not met the one man I'd most wanted to see -- The Great Nate Leipsig -- the world's greatest card manipulator.

I'd heard and read of his fabulous career, that he had climbed the heights of magic with nothing but his ten fingers and a deck of cards.

One afternoon at Hornmann's, an amateur magician by the name of Eggers mentioned that Leipsig had returned from his European tour and that he'd seen him the previous day. I became excited all over again. Eggers had mentioned me to Leipsig and Leipsig had replied that he would like to meet me.

When Eggers told me this I said, "Gee, Eggers, I'd sure like to meet Leipsig. Do you think you can arrange it?"

Eggers excused himself to make a phone call and returned in a few minutes saying, "It's all set, Johnny. Let's go."

In about half an hour Eggers and I were knocking on the door of Nate Leipsig's suite at the Claridge Hotel in mid-Manhattan, a favorite hotel of the theatrical greats of the day. Leipsig answered the door and asked us to step in.

I felt really proud to meet him, and I said, "Mr. Leipsig, this is really an honor. I've been wanting to meet you since I was fifteen when Charlie Dagmar first told me you were the greatest man with a deck of cards."

Leipsig smiled and said, "Why, thank you, I've been anxious to meet you too. I've heard many glowing reports about your work from magicians in Europe."

I couldn't quite fathom what Leipsig meant by the magicians in Europe, so I said, "I'm surprised to hear that magicians in Europe have heard of me. I can't quite understand that, Mr. Leipsig."

Leipsig laughed and said, "In our business, Johnny, a good trick flies as fast as bad news whenever magicians are concerned. Yes, I heard your name mentioned often when magicians visited me backstage after my show at the London Palladium. Does that surprise you?"

"It sure does!" I gasped.

Leipsig introduced his wife, Leila, to me and we were soon comfortably seated around his living-room table. I noticed that Leipsig and his wife were watching me like a cat watches a mouse prior to pouncing on it, and their gaze became even more intent as Leipsig brought out a deck of cards.

Leipsig tossed the cards on the table and said, "Johnny, would you mind doing some of those card miracles I've been hearing about?"

I started to give the deck a shuffle, allowing myself time to think, because I was intent on fooling the Great Nate Leipsig but realized that to do so I'd have to do a different trick instead of those I'd done for Houdini and the other magicians. Leipsig, no doubt, having heard of the card in the wallet trick would certainly be on guard. I began to feel a little nervous, realizing that I was about to do a trick for the man who was rated by all magicians as being the greatest card manipulator in the world. As I thought of Rothstein, The Hiker, and Houdini, my nervousness slackened somewhat. I requested Leipsig to select a card from the deck and tear off a corner. Leipsig obliged and I handed him the deck asking him to return the card to the deck and shuffle the cards.

After Leipsig had shuffled the deck he handed me the cards and after indulging in a few fancy shuffles I handed the cards back to him. Suddenly I clapped both my hands and pointed to my mouth. While Leipsig, Leila, and Eggers directed their attention to my mouth, a card, folded in quarters, came sliding out. I permitted the card to drop from my mouth to the table, and after Leipsig unfolded the card, which was wet with saliva, and fitted the corner he had torn from the card everyone saw it was the same ace of spades Leipsig had originally selected.

Leipsig looked at me and said, "I didn't see you put that card in your mouth, Johnny. You certainly have a style all your own, it's most unusual."

I continued doing tricks for about an hour, and from that first meeting with Leipsig we became warm friends. I soon found myself seeing more and more of Nate Leipsig and was equally impressed by his method of handling cards for magical purposes. As we became better acquainted I learned a great deal more about magic from Leipsig, especially his method of doing tricks with coins, thimbles, handkerchiefs, and other small magic. Nate Leipsig was the first magician to make a half-dollar piece dance back and forth across the back of his fingers and I recognized in him the polished performer and great showman that he was. To be sure, he was a subtle deceptionist who ranked tops in the magic profession.

I also learned a great deal about showmanship from watching and listening to him, and I could see he was intrigued and often mystified by my own way of handling cards. He'd often say to me, "Johnny, I think you must have been born with a deck of cards in your hands; they fit you like a glove."

One day while visiting Leipsig at The Lambs (a theatrical men's club situated in midtown Manhattan), I was performing a gambler's version of manipulating the Three Card Monte for Nate Leipsig and several members of The Lambs who were gathered around watching, when Leipsig said: "Say, Johnny, you should write a book covering the various ways gamblers fleece unsuspecting players with the Three Card Monte."

I looked up and replied, "Mr. Leipsig, if you promise to write the introduction to such a book, I'll promise to write it."

"That's a deal, Johnny, you write it and I'll do the introduction -- with pleasure."

About a month later I arrived at The Lambs looking for Nate Leipsig. I had a fifty-page manuscript on the Three Card Monte in my pocket, and after I'd found him and he'd read it over he reached for some Lambs' stationery. Taking out his pen he wrote the foreword for my proposed Three Card Monte book. It read as follows:

For those who are not acquainted with the author of this book, I wish to say that John Scarne is the most expert exponent of wonderful card effects and table magic I have ever seen in my life. I have met and known personally some very fine performers, both amateurs and professionals, but I have yet to see such fine work and originality as John Scarne has command of. This book he has written is, as far as I know, the only one of its kind in existence and has some very original and puzzling effects.

Nate Leipsig

Having a manuscript and getting it published were two different things. It wasn't as easy as I'd thought and it wasn't until a number of years later that I had my Three Card Monte Book published and included Nate Leipsig's foreword.

I recall with pleasure the many hours I spent with Nate Leipsig, who added to my magic education and who was aways a gentleman to his finger tips.

On To
Taken For A Sucker

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