“Magic Tom” was the stage name for a popular magician, mainly active in Montreal during the 1950s. I had a teensy encounter with him, once. It left me very cynical where “magic” is concerned. (Well, except for Ouija boards, which I talked about here!)
It was my cousin’s birthday – let’s call him Frankie. His parents decided to give Frankie a fancy party at a large Italian restaurant known for holding such events as wedding receptions, Sweet Sixteens, and yes, birthday parties – for a rowdy seven-year-old boy and his pals plus his quiet eight-year-old girl cousin… me. By the way, Frankie was the boy who ripped up all my paper dolls and paper houses a couple of years before this, and my aunt defended him, saying, “He’s only playing!”
Right. But I still wanted to go to his party now, because in addition to their fine pizzas, pasta, cake and ice-cream, the restaurant also featured the famous MAGIC TOM, direct from his local TV show!
Here’s how it worked: we kids, about ten of us, were sitting at a round table. Magic Tom came over and introduced himself (Hi, boys and girls!!), and then went around the table and asked us our names in turn. Next he pulled out a bunch of playing cards from his pocket. He went to each child and asked us to pick a card. Finally he put our chosen cards into one small pack and showed us the card on the bottom. Then, standing right next to me, he asked me what the card on the bottom was. I told him, but then he showed it to me – to us – and it was not that card; it was a different one!
But here’s the thing. I saw how he did it. It was a simple palming of the different card and pretending it had been on the bottom. From my vantage point I could see what he’d done, but others couldn’t see it from where they were sitting.
I started to pipe up loudly, “Hey, I saw how you-“
“Shhh,” Magic Tom interrupted me. He whispered in my ear, “We don’t want to spoil the ‘magic’ for the other boys and girls, do we?!”
Instant disillusionment. Simultaneous thoughts: Magic isn’t real. Boys are dumb. I still hate my cousin. And my mom makes better cake!!!
I suppose Magic Tom must’ve had some real skills at sleight-of-hand, to be as famous as he was, but not while doing tricks right next to a sharp kid’s eye level.