"When asked the question: What is Jazz? He replied “Man, if you gotta ask you'll never know.”
- Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong
Welcome to January's "Mysteries of the Mind" monthly newsletter
Today is a day set aside to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and next month, February, is African American History month.
This leads me to remember one of my heroes in the field of magic. He was the son of an African American slave and her master. Yet, acting as his own agent, he rose to be remembered as the first American born conjurer, ventriloquist and escape artist and became a success in his home country of America. He even made upwards of $3,000 for an engagement in the early 1800s.
His name is easy to remember today because of the success of the recent J.K. Rowling's series. His name was Richard Potter, and there is a village named after him in New Hampshire called Potter Place, where he once lived and is now buried next to his wife.
He was born in 1783 and fathered by a British tax collector. Potter performed amazing acts of magic including:
- Frying eggs in a hat
- Hindu rope trick (Believed to be the first to perform it in the US)
- Breaking borrowed watches and restoring them
- Handling and swallowing molten lead
- Standing in an oven with raw meat & remaining until the meat was cooked
- Dancing on eggs without breaking them
- Card on ceiling and card in egg
- Decapitating a bird and bringing it back to life
- Pulling a rabbit from hat
- Cups and balls
- And many other wonderful conjuring feats
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."
- Booker T. Washington, American Orator, Educator and Leader
Potter inspires me, not only because he became the most successful American magician of his time but also because of the humble beginnings from which he came. Yet, he was able to travel two continents and achieve so much in just 52 years of life.
More can be read about the history of great African American magicians in the book, Magical Heroes: The Lives and Legends of Great African American Magician by Jim Magus or enjoy fascinating stories about other early American performers including Potter in Charles J. Pecor’s book, The Magician on the American Stage, 1752-1874.
Next month let’s remember and honor our African American friends and heroes, while this week, let us remember Dr. King's message and honor ourselves, our own heritage, and the beauty of all people.
I am so very proud to be your friend and look forward to hearing from you soon.
"When I read great literature, great drama, speeches, or sermons, I feel that the human mind has not achieved anything greater than the ability to share feelings and thoughts through language."
- James Earl Jones, American Actor
A NEW KIND OF COLOUR BLIND
"Illusion is the first of all pleasures."
First you see it, and then suddenly it's gone.
A new illusion shows how our perception of objects changes as soon as they start moving.
Our minds can only handle so much change. Magicians have known this for years; the large action hides the small action.
IS THE NEW VEGAS GOOD FOR GUYS?
I was recently interviewed for the January "Is the New Vegas Good for Guys" in the popular online men’s magazine AskMen.com.
Draper, who was also the house magician at the Venetian before taking his act world-wide, told me that Vegas is about starring in your own movie. The question, he says, is simply, "How are you going to cast yourself and what kind of movie will it be?"
Also interviewed for this article are George Maloof, Jr., owner of the Palms Casino Resort and Robin Leach, host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.