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April 9 - 19, 2004
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Remembering Lee Remington, Gentleman & Craftsman...
(April 9, 2004) LAS VEGAS -
FIrst off, just spent the afternoon with my pal, Rick Thomas, seen above with one of his "babies" (the one in this picture is Sampson, who now weights about 400 pounds!!!)
Magic Matt Alan and Alexandra were in town, along with faithful producer and designated driver Rex Dale, and they very much wanted to see the best magic show in Vegas...
So, naturally, I took them to the Tropicana to see the magic of Rick Thomas. Needless to say, they were suitably blown away. I never tire of watching his sleek, down-to-earth show, and wondering where all the tigers appear from.
A TRIBUTE TO LEE REMINGTON
Just spent an hour reading through one of my favorite books in my library, a book that I cherish because I learned so much from it, and I constantly return to it to find another routine or refresh my memory on an old move or effect. My copy is easy to recognize, it has blood on several of the pages. Let me explain.
So many people contributed to my magic development and my early learning. I wish I had been able to tell them at the time how much they really meant to me, but…who knew? Magic was an obsession with me, from the very beginning. I never really thought much about the future, and what it might hold for me. I knew I wanted to do magic as a profession, but didn’t really know how to go about it. So those early days of sessions with people who were far more knowledgable than I was were nothing more than fun. I asbsorbed everything and discovered that I had a gift for remembering the tiniest details. I would keep journals of my notes from these sessions, and later would refer back to them as my studies became more serious and concentrated.
One of my early mentors was a man named Leland Remington. Lee was an amazing craftsman, in addition to being a fine performer. He actually preferred to work behind the scenes. He was a mechanical engineer by trade, actually the vice president of a large engineering firm in Worcester, Massachusetts. He invented many props and tricks that he built in his workshop, which was under his house. I met Lee at the local SAM chapter, he was an officer in the club, and he invited me and others to his home on many occasions to talk shop and view his collection of magic and books.
Lee created a number of effects which he sold by the dozens to Tannens and Abbotts, among others. He was highly respected by magic dealers all over the country. His trademark was the high quality of his work, not mass-produced, but hand-crafted from the finest woods and metals. He made a beautiful set of Hippity Hop Rabbits, a small size and a large stage-sized set. Also, a magnificent shooting wand that used .22 calibre blank shells, a cups and balls set that finished with lit candles underneath, a cool vanishing pot of flowers, and a number of children’s show props. Many times his workshop would be filled with all of these items in various states of completion. I often assisted, painting bunny faces on the hippity-hops or spraying the wands.
I remember borrowing many old books and manuscripts, studying them, returning them and showing off the things I was learning from within their pages. On weekends, several of the members would gather at Lee’s house and we would each demonstrate a trick, discuss it, and teach it to one another. Great fun. During the week, I would often go there by myself, after school, and watch him build props or pick out some prop from his collection and practice with it.
A typical visit would go something like this; my mother would drive me to his house, drop me off and I would spend several hours with him. When our session was over, Lee would make sandwiches or a light snack, we would talk magic, I would listen to his stories, then he would drive me home.
Lee was in his seventies, in great shape, with an infectious smile and instantly-likable personality. He was always busy, with work and magic-related projects. He lived alone, his wife had died many years prior, and he didn’t have any children. He attended the magic club meetings every month and has a full social calendar. When I met him, he was in his final year of employment. I attended his retirement party where he entertained the group with some of his props. I recall he was very well-received. His demeanor was one of a sophisticated, yet casual gentleman, a style that suited him well on stage. (I cherish many of the props he build and gave to me over the years, they are still in perfect working order.)
One afternoon, when I was dropped off at the front door, I went into the house but didn’t see him anywhere. I looked into the back yard and saw him up in the huge tree in the middle of the yard. He waved to me from the highest branch.
I went out into the yard and he was perched on a large branch, busy cutting branches off, using an electric saw. He told me to make myself at home and he would be down in a minute.
I went into his library, grabbed a book and sat outside under the tree, reading and practicing coin moves while the loud buzz of the saw whirred above my head. Suddenly, there was a loud crash, and the buzz of the saw changed pitch. I looked up as blood began to drip on the pages of the book.
In the course of cutting a branch, the saw slipped and cut into his leg. He was mumbling something and climbing down, not paniced at all. I was.
jumped up and said, “oh, God, I’ll call an ambulance”.
He laughed and said, “Don’t be silly, I’ll be fine.”
By now, his whole leg was dripping blood, there was a huge gash in his upper leg. He was holding a hankerchief against it, but the blood was pouring out. He wrapped a towel around it and said, “You just relax, enjoy your book, and I will be right back.” He insisted that I remain at his house while he drove himself to the hospital to take care of his little cut. I was freaked. Surely I could go with him and make sure he didn’t pass out or die or something.
Well, he drove off alone, and I paced around the house, hoping he would be okay. About an hour went by and he drove back into the garage, all smiles, covered in blood, but no longer bleeding. He had a freshly-baked pie, he had stopped at the store on the way home, after they stitched up his leg with 40 stitches, and bought a fresh pie for us to eat. Cherry pie. Looked like a blood pie, if you ask me. I was a wreck, he was fine.
see my stitches?” Uh, no, thank you, but he insisted. I took one
look and I passed out cold. When I came to, I was on the couch, and
he was sitting at the table, watching television and eating pie. When
I recovered sufficiently, he drove me home. He gave me the book I was
studying at the time. It sits on my shelf, proudly, and as I said in
the beginning of this story, I refer to it often. It’s J.B. Bobo’s
Modern Coin Magic, a first edition, with
blood spots on several of the pages. Every time I open the book, I am
reminded of my friend, Lee Remington.
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