Stars of Vaudeville #715: Dai Vernon
Today is the birthday of Dai Vernon (David Verner, 1894-1992), a.k.a. ‘The Professor” and “The Man Who Fooled Houdini”). Vernon’s father, an amateur magician first interested him in magic as a child. Born and raised in Ottawa, he taught himself sleight of hand, studied mechanical engineering then moved to New York to pursue his dream of performing in 1915. Performing the vaudeville circuits, he traveled the country, seeking out cheaters and card sharps to study in each town so that he could learn their secrets, in the process becoming one of the great close magic practitioners of the 20th century. His last three decades were spent holding court at LA’s Magic Castle, where he passed on his knowledge to such modern masters as Ricky Jay and Doug Henning.
While most famous for his manipulation of cards, he was by no means restricted to those props. In the attached clip (from the 70s, when he still had another couple of decades ahead of him) he does his breath-taking take on the cups and balls:
To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc