Monday, May 31, 2010

Project 365 (164/365): Dai Vernon

.:164/365: Dai Vernon:.

It seemed fitting to end card magic month by giving tribute to arguably the most famous name in card sleights and magic among magicians for decades already: the Professor, Dai Vernon.

According to Wikipedia, the man born David Frederick Wingfield Verner, Dai started magic at seven years of age, even remarking that he “wasted the first six years” of his life by not doing magic. His eventual stage name, Dai Vernon, was the amalgam of two misattributions to his first and last name that became so persistent, they ended up being his name.

Arguably the most influential magician of the last two or even three generations, Dai Vernon’s renown is possibly topped only by the likes of Erdnase and equalled only by Marlo when it comes to the magic industry. Nonetheless, his ability to perform, to impart knowledge, and ultimately, to mentor such luminaries in the magic world such as Ricky Jay and Michael Ammar, both performers that have been discussed earlier on this month.

With his wide body of knowledge, Vernon has managed to capture the imagination of both magicians and card sharks throughout the 20th century. He has invented or discovered sleights and moves that have allowed him to actually fool none other than Harry Houdini himself seven times with the exact same card trick, which has earned him the monicker “The Man Who Fooled Houdini,” and rightfully so.

The things we now take for granted, such as the DL, the Ambitious Card, and other similar moves and principles were all bits and pieces that Dai Vernon has managed to bring into the forefront for our generation. It cannot be stated enough how his devotion to the art of magic throughout his entire life has shaped future magicians who learned from the man not only his skills and his knowledge, but his work ethics as well. With today’s world of get-famous-quick magicians as peddled by certain unscrupulous magic merchants who prey on the craze magic has become in the last decade, Dai Vernon’s influence is one that emphasizes meticulousness, mastery, subtlety, and finesse in performance.

Dai Vernon spent the last three decades of his life in the Magic Castle, as a resident prestidigitationist of sorts in its hallowed halls, which has given him the opportunity to mentor the luminaries we have earlier mentioned. Anyone who could catch the infamous video series called “Dai Vernon: Revelations” would see precisely the kind of perfectionism and pride that Dai Vernon places upon his work and those of his
mentees and contemporaries.

Magic is experiencing a rebirth of sorts, with much thanks to the rise of street magic from Blaine and (Ugh.) Criss Angel. As such, the new generation has bypassed some of the gatekeepers of old, Dai Vernon being one of them. It is with the fervent hope that this reaches a new generation of magicians that I write this Project 365, both as a journey into the kind of magic I’ve exposed myself to, as well as the kind of history that I have dug up, being an avid student of the art, albeit I don’t have the kind of experience under the belt my elders have.

It’s all about respect for the art, and knowing those who came before us. Before we blaze a new trail, we need to know what trail we already walk upon.

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