Leipzig himself says, "There were three particular traits [running]
in our family: drawing, music and magic."
Nate Leipzig , (Nathan
Leipziger), was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1873. The third youngest
of a family of eight children.
While the other
children in the home eventually became successful and renowned artists
and musicians (especially with the piano and violin), Nate was the only
one to take up magic seriously, and eventually his choice led him to
the same successes as his brothers and sisters.
Dai Vernon first
met Leipzig in the early 1900's in New York City. They became good friends,
and Vernon praised his talents to all who would listen. Eventually,
Leipzig granted Vernon permission to capature some of his fantastic
moves and magic in the book, "Vernon on Leigzig" which is
considered a must-read for serious students of magic.
Nathan moved about
Detroit performance circles with ease as he grew up. An accomplished
performer even at a young age, he performed in theaters and clubs in
his teenage years. He never had any money, it seems. , Nate would often
borrow his props and equipment from an amateur magician he had met as
a young boy. The equipment may have been borrowed, but the inherent
performance abilities of the Leipzig family was in his veins. He was
a natural entertainer, and his skills with magic began to show immediately.
Even as a child, , there was seldom a social function that Nate was
not performing at.
He was good, but
he was not great. Not yet.Nate's full mastery of magic was still far
away. His act was sometimes crude, mistakes plentiful, and problems
seem to happen on a regular basis. While his stage presence was not
to be denied, his technical proficiency was still somewhat amateurish.
Most of his effects were self-contained. Not much sleight of hand, mostly
This changed for
Nate after witnessing performances of other magicians in a local theater.
Nate saw manipulations and effects which blew him away. He couldn't
stop thinking about the moves and the routines he witnessed. . But more
than that, Nate began thinking through solutions to the effects he was
seeing. His knowledge of sleight of hand was not very deep at this time
in his life, but that was quickly solved when the foreman of the optician
shop gave him his first magic book dealing with sleights and card manipulations.
This was the missing piece Nate had been looking for, and he devoured
the material. He studied for hours every day.
after some of the hardest work of his life, he began creating his own
sleights and effects. "After reading the correct explanation of
the rudimentary sleights and after I had mastered them, for I was more
interested in card tricks than any others, it struck me that any one
who had read such a book could easily follow all that I did. So right
then I worked hard trying to invent new and original methods and after
great efforts I succeeded in this aim. To that alone I attribute my
success, since for many years my peculiar methods remained unknown and
I was able to fool the magicians as well as the public. In fact many
years later, when I had become a professional, my brother artists often
called me THE magician."
By the early 1900s,
Nate was known to many of the legends of the time. This despite the
fact that he still lived in Detroit, and hardly ever left the city.
Magicians as far
away as Europe were talking about his talent and skill. Because of his
renown in this magical underground, Nate had a very open access to the
great performers of the day when they would play in his city, and they
found the young man charming and knowledgeable. As a result of this
openess and his obvious knowledge of sleight of hand, many of the great
magicians would pass on certain effects of theirs to him.
In what would be
classical Leipzig style, he would use this knowledge and the ideas that
came from others to further his own original effects and create even
more powerful magic. Thurston, Kellar, Downs, and others gave him an
education that books could never do, and he made the most of it. In
some cases, these prominent performers became lifelong friends who admired
and respected Nate and his talents.
Although Nate was
somewhat well-known at this point, he felt he needed to leave Detroit
to further his success. As half of a vaudeville act, Nate, against his
family's wishes, traveled to New York City. In New York, Nate met many
other magicians. Eventually the act split up, and Nate decided to invest
himself in becoming a complete success as a magician and work on his
own. It was a tough time for Nate; although he was now well-versed in
the aspects of magic, the nuances of show business of the time eluded
him. He struggled hard, trying to break into the business he wanted
so much to succeed at.
Thanks to an acquaintance,
Nate was invited to perform at a party that, unknown to him, was attended
by some well-known, and well-connected talent agents. After his masterful
performance at that party, Nate began receiving engagements regularly
for good pay. He was on his way.
Nate was happy doing
private parties. The money was good, the work steady, and his reputation
was growing. However, Nate began performing on the vaudeville circuit
after filling in for a friend of his. To say he was a success would
be an understatement. With his regal bearing, his finely-honed continental
stage presence, and his impeccable behavior on and off the stage, Leipzig
was a sensation. He was such a success that when the vaudeville season
came to a close, he immediately traveled overseas for engagements in
Europe, performing before royalty and other prestigious engagements.
Leipzig set himself
apart from others of his time by concentrating on entertaining his audiences.
His success, due in no small part to the original sleights and methods
he created, was spurred on by his easy presentations and grace. He was
one of the first to elevate mere tricks into astonishing acts. Through
natural movements during complex sequences, Leipzig appeared to be performing
as easily as he breathed. He left his mark on the world of magic. As
Vernon used to say, "there will never be another one like him."
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