“Dai Vernon’s Tribute To Nate Leipzig” by Lewis Ganson
By ChrisDeleo in Magic,magician,sleight of hand
When Nate Leipzig passed through Ottawa Canada with his stage show, Dai Vernon, then a young teenager, would sneak backstage to learn a thing or two from the famous magician. Leipzig’s thoughts on magic would stay with Vernon for the rest of his life. Vernon would eventually write his “Tribute” book so that a new crop of magicians would have reference to one of the all time great personalities in magic. For Leipzig, magic was more about humble presentation than fancy flourishes. He maintained that “an audience likes to feel that a gentleman has fooled them”. Showing off was not his style.
“… quiet, genteel, soft in manner and voice … he gave at all times the impression that here was a man it would be very pleasant to know better.”
Leipzig On Stage
With a handful of thimbles and a pack of playing cards, he performed on stages throughout the world. He would stand beneath a strong spotlight and announce:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I shall show you a few simple novelties using no apparatus whatsoever … only my hands. Watch me carefully.”
The orchestra would break into a waltz as he produced a silver thimble on the tip of his index finger. The thimble vanished and reappeared several times until finally, with a bang of the drums, he extended the fingers of both hands and displayed a thimble on top of each.
From here, he would invite members of the audience on stage to participate in his card act. These committees became of the eyes of the crowd. Leipzig didn’t need fanfare or colorful boxes to get attention. He seduced his audience with small tricks coupled with charm and wit.
Leipzig Up Close
Off stage he was an expert close-up worker, performing for high society types in upscale venues. Coins, dice, rings, handkerchiefs and playing cards were his tools. And was meticulous with them. Once when Dai Vernon asked to borrow his cards, Leipzig made it a point to say this was the first time he allowed another person to handle them.
G. W. Hunter, known as “the father of pocket tricks,” taught Leipzig his cigars from purse routine. Leipzig added his own touch and made it a staple in his act. The Cigars From Purse has stood the test of time. John Carney, Eric DeCamps and Chris Kenner have all created their own versions of this classic effect.
On disc 3 of the Michael Skinner Audio CD’s, Skinner pages through the book while offering his own expert opinion. Ring On Stick, Slow Motion Coin Vanish, Slap Aces, The Vanishing Matches and Tear Up With A Twist were among those he used professionally.
In the above photo we see how neat and orderly Leipzig was. He would lay out his props every night before bed then fill his pockets the following morning. Everything had its place. In this way he knew exactly where his tricks were in the event he needed to perform a miracle on the spot. This attention to detail was what made him such a smooth performer.
Dai Vernon posed for the beautiful illustrations throughout the book. Above we see him demonstrating “Leipzig’s Pride,” a variation of the Cap and Pence. Leipzig never missed a chance to perform this miracle. It is well worth your time and effort to read and study this beautiful routine.
Nate Leipzig was that rare breed of expert who was devoid of smugness or conceit. He loved magic and enjoyed sharing it with those who expressed an interest. He valued the effect in magic and never showed off his skill. Like Dai Vernon, we can all learn a thing or two from this master. Mostly, how to be humble.
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