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"I knew Al for a few years 50+ years ago (my first years in magic).
He was pitching magic at the Treasure Chest in downtown Chicago. His pitch for the stripper deck was great. I was one of 6 magicians that attended his two hour magic class. There was about seven items covered in the class. Sponge rabbits (still doing), Pen in sleeve routine, Memory List (still remember), Coin through pocket (still doing), Black art board demo, and a couple of others I don't remember. With his black art board he was able to produce vanish and change Cards, Jumbo Cards, Coins, Silks, and even milk. I wanted to buy his board but did not have the money. Only one guy called Oki (in class) purchased his board."
"The year was 1959, and I was taking the subway home to Brooklyn, where I had a room with my brother Norman. I passed by the shop, stopped and got hooked on a Stripper pitch that Al was doing. After buying a deck, I started to hang around the shop, day in day out as I was totally fascinated by magic. I hung around so much Al finally took pity on me and put me to work. My first effect that I learned was the Wizard Deck (Stripper).
It seemd that Al had changed the name of the deck because because he hated the name 'Stripper' as he thought it revealed too much. He drew the Demon on the wrapper and made a deal with Ronnie Haines, of Haines House Of Cards in Norwood Ohio, to print the wrappers for all customers. We always used Fox Lake cards (bridge sized cards made by the US Playing card company in Ohio). Al made a deal with me to work 4 hours after his normal closing time of 6 PM, and he would give me 25% of my sales. Also he took me under his wing, so to speak, and taught me to be a good demonstrator. For the first 6 months that I worked there, he made me take a new trick home every night, and read the instructions, and learn the trick. Let me tell you it paid off big-time!
Physically Al was 6' 6" tall and weighed about 300 lbs. He was a BIG man, but he was always very gentle with people. Even though it was in the kind of envrionment that you wouldn't want to walk through at a slow pace (we had a lot of the 42nd street people coming through the arcade) no one ever gave Al a hard time. Only one time did I ever see him get angry, and that was when a guy was beating his girl up right in front of the shop. Al grabbed him, looked both ways to make sure that no one was looking and booted the guy about 12 feet in the direction of the fare zone (we were in an underground arcade that was actually a passage to the subway gates). The guy picked himself up, took off running, and never showed his face around there again. I believe the girl ran in the opposite direction, but I do know she sort of vanished.
Al then told me that what had just happened was the one thing he
couldn't stand to just 'watch'. Now besides being big Al also was very
prolific in the magic world. Charles Windley sells a magazine called Back
Stage, in which he has written a lot about Al. I wil soon write more about
what Al invented (about 50 different effects in all) including the Invisible
Goldfish which I will write about in the next installment."
"I met Al shortly after I turned 8 or 9 through my association with Arnold Belais and his IMPS, which would have been about 1959.
Al was a great, gentle and kind man. I'm proud to have known him. He taught me a lot of magic, how to make that ring out of hundred-dollar bills, and much else. He gave me someone to look up to at a time in my life when that sort of parental figure was missing and sorely needed. It was quite a crushing blow to me when he moved on."
"I was introduced to Al in 1961 or 62 at age 11 or so by a slightly older kid, a friend from Queens named Ed Kelly. Ed was a student of Al's and always used to talk about "going to class." I was quite envious. The Wizard's Shop in the arcade became a regular stop in my Saturday magic sojourns into the city from home in Levittown. Ed told me about Al's "Fantasy In Black" or black-art board as we called it, and I saved money from my newspaper route to buy one. I remember giving Al my $35 and getting a receipt. He promised me the board the following week. Several weeks went by however with Al not coming in to the shop. I think Al may have been ill. Al did come through with the board though eventually and restored my faith in humanity."
"My memories of Al Stevenson are quite splendid. The first place my wife and I lived in NYC was at The Camelot on W 45th Street at 8th Avenue. The magic shop where Al worked with Russ Delmar (shop owner, and I think his real name was Tony diSario, but I may have the spelling wrong) was close to where I lived, so I spent a lot of time browsing there.
Shortly after I moved to that address, I was cast in a children's show and the producer asked if I could do some magic to fill out the show. I hadn't done magic for several years, and though I had a lot of experience with children's theatre, I had not done children's magic. So I stopped into the Magic Center and explained the situation to Al .. he took charge and gave me an excellent textbook about the psychology of children's audiences and how to routine a kids magic act. He also showed me some excellent tricks, which he not only sold me but helped train me to present effectively.
Al was a wonderful teacher: personable, friendly, funny, and caring. He had a genius for devising splendid new effects. (One of them later appeared in a version designed for them by Harry Lorayne. I mentioned it to Al, and remember he muttered about Harry often coming up with ideas that Al showed him in the first place.)
One of the moves I tried to master at that time was the pass, that difficult card sleight that almost never looks natural. (When I later wrote my 1st and most popular magic showmanship guide, The Handbook of Magic, I purposely avoided all but the most essential sleights.) I asked Al to show me the pass .. he did so several times, but I could NEVER see him doing it. When I told him how it impressed me, he said, 'Well, that's the result of practicing it for an hour a day for ten years.'
He also coached me in some of the best rope maneuvers .. especially, cut and restored, and a chair tie and release that for many years I did to laughter at area hospitals. His routines were very effective and form the basis of those effects in my Handbook
The most interesting piece of magic equipment that Al sold me .. sadly, I no longer have it, though I may still have his instruction sheet) .. was called Fantasy in Black. It was a beautifully conceived black art demonstration that included appearing and vanishing cards and other midsize props that were displayed against a three-sided standup screen lined in dead black cloth (probably velvet). It was an excellent platform-size adaptation of a magic principle usually employed for stage illusions. I never got that proficient using it, but I had to buy it, because in Al's hands it looked so spectacular!
I still have treasured copies of Al's superb books of variations workable with a Svengali deck and the stripper deck. I wish I had a photo of this gentle, splendid showman, but in my mind he will always be the charismatic magician who helped me learn the rudiments of the magic craft."
In loving memory of Alwyn (and his pal and boss Russ Delmar!),
September 7, 2006