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The International Brotherhood of Magicians

05 Apr

Dennis Anyone? On Writing Obituaries

Category: Broken Wand   Posted by: C. DENNIS SCHICK


For more than a dozen years I have been editor of the Broken Wand, in The Linking Ring, the monthly magazine of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (I.B.M.). I have averaged writing ten to fifteen obituaries a month, adding up to over 140 per year. Since I keep a record, the totals we have published in recent years are the following: 2018, 122; 2017, 153; 2016, 130; 2015, 136; 2014, 143; and 2013, 208. Most of the time it is rather routine — although always sad — to write obituaries for people you do not know. Although I feel bad for their families and friends, they are people unknown to me and — to use an often-spoken phrase — it is what it is. We all are going to die, and those who have led a full life and have reached a “ripe old age” should be praised for a “life well lived.”

I try to do a good job with every obituary, because they were important to someone and some family. Further, many magicians gain “celebrity” status within their own city, state or region. I am still sad when I read that so-and-so loved to hear the laughter and see the smiles of people — especially children — he or she entertained, but that the laughter stopped with the death. But one of the greatest things God created is our memories. So when a person dies, we can still remember all those laughs and smiles, knowing the person spread joy and wonder for many years.

What brought all this on is that I came across an obituary I wrote almost a year ago, about a man who died April 16, 2018. His name was Harry Anderson. He was a well-known television actor, but also was a terrific magician. I never met him but I followed his career, and followed his accomplishments as a magician. That got me to thinking about other “celebrity” magicians — those who have gained wide-spread fame and recognition for whatever reasons.

Two recent examples are Marshall Brodien and Johnny Thompson. Obituaries for both of them are in the April Broken Wand. In addition, a longer In Memoriam for Johnny Thompson is in the April issue of The Linking Ring, and one will be published in the May issue for Marshall Brodien. Other well-known magicians who died in 2018, besides Harry Anderson, are June Horowitz, and Ricky Jay. I knew David Linsell, and knew of Moi-Yo Miller, and Peter Scarlett used to write a column on magic happenings in Great Britain for The Linking Ring.

During 2017 we lost a bunch of super stars, including Eugene Burger, Daryl (Easton), Celeste Evans, Fantasio (Ricardo Roucau), and Deanna Shimada. Further, I have read Kenneth Silverman’s book on Houdini, and I knew Violet Twaddle, wife of long-time Sick & Convalescent Committee chairman, Harold Twaddle. What a sad year.

It was in 2016 that a magician died who hit me the hardest of all the deaths of the last dozen years — Tom Mullica. I had seen his Red Skelton Tribute Show three times in three different theaters, and interviewed him for a cover story in the October 2013 issue of The Linking Ring. And the way he died made it even worse. He went to the hospital for a routine operation and died on the operating table. How tragic.

One other death hit me hard in recent years — that of Joanie Spina, in 2014. She did so much to help other magicians and improve their acts that it’s sad to think how many magicians missed out on her advice. That same year we also lost Aldo Colombini and Phil Willmarth. I knew both of them.

Yes, I am honored to write one of the last — if not THE last — tributes to magicians who have died. It is not easy and sometimes is teary. But I depend on many other people to help get the information to me, starting with Sindie Richison at the I.B.M. headquarters office, and Editor Sammy Smith. Then there are Harold Twaddle, Chairman of the Sick and Convalescent Committee; Terry Richison, Chairman of the Membership Committee; and people who report deaths of Ring members and other magicians to the I.B.M. office.

One final note, when you hear of the death of a magician — or a magician’s assistant — please do not assume someone ELSE will notify us. YOU do it. We would always prefer to hear from multiple people rather than from no people. 

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