Father and Son

Blackstones, Father And Son, Warmly Remembered in Colon

 

 

Sturgis Journal, 1979:

“Magician recalls childhood, early times

By Jacque Malesh

COLON – Blackstone. The name alone conjures up magic, with visions of impossible illusions. The name is and always will be the epitome of magic, especially for the people of Colon, for they consider the two Harry Blackstones, father and son, as Colon citizens. .

Harry Blackstone, Jr., is home. Home means his late father’s residence on Blackstone Island in Colon.

Forced to move to California in 1949 because of his health, Blackstone, Sr. sold the property shortly after, but always said he would rather live in Colon than anywhere else.

It’s easy to understand why. At the time Blackstone Sr., owned the property, only one other house stood on the island. Deep woods surrounded the house, and orchards grew where cottages crowd the shore of Sturgeon Lake today.

The present owner of the property rented it to Blackstone Jr., for Magic Week.

As he sat on the lawn in a concrete chair, crafted by his father to look surprisingly like wood, Blackstone. Jr. watched two of his four children struggle to launch a rowboat. Other than the girl’s laughter, the only sounds to be heard were those made by an occasional fish jumping in the lake, and the wind blowing through the towering oak trees.

“Isn’t this beautiful” he remarked.

“This was called a summer home,” stated Blackstone, “but this was the only permanent home we had. We were on the road from Labor Day until Memorial Day every year.”

“I was born June 30, 1934, and started touring the very next season. My father kept a scrapbook and by the time I was six years old, he had a picture of me standing on the state capital steps of all 48 states.”

The house and grounds have been changed greatly since Blackstone, Sr., lived here. Although it is still impressive, the house no longer is surrounded by the stately formal gardens which Blackstone loved almost as much as magic.

Blackstone, Jr., walked about the lawn and described how everything used to look. He pointed to trees his father had planted, one of them a willow at least 30 feet high.

He walked towards Sturgeon Lake, at the edge of the property line. “Here on the lake, dad had a botanical garden,” he stated. “He grew dozens of varieties of water lilies in all colors, pink, white, gold. He had cut a path through them to get the canoe out onto the lake.”

A few feet away an ornate gazebo used to stand. “My parents were married in that gazebo,” Blackstone said.

Clearly this place means as much to him as it did to his father.

When his stay in Colon is over, Blackstone will go back on tour. His father’s genius still influences Blackstone, Jr.’s act.

“Probably 30 – 40 percent of my act consists of illusions created and performed by my father,” he stated. “Very few magicians do them, largely out of respect for my father. Sometimes, too, they think that it takes something away from their own performance to admit that they are recreating my father’s illusion.”

“I have the strongest moral and legal right to do his illusions. I always acknowledge they were created by him, or I give something of the history of the illusion.”

Blackstone, Jr., has created startlingly original illusions himself.

“Two weeks before Easter, I open on Broadway. I have a new illusion utilizing a laser beam. In it, I burn a hole through my assistant with the laser. Then I pass a light bulb through her. You can actually see it come out the other side of her. Then the laser shines on me, and comes out the other side as a fabulous light show.”

He isn’t reluctant to change his act whenever it seems necessary. “It isn’t for me to decide what’s good and what isn’t,” he declared. “My purpose is to entertain. If something is entertaining and enjoyable to the audience, it stays in the act. If it ceases to entertain or to be enjoyed, it is dropped.”

On the topic of Colon, Harry Blackstone, Jr., has definite opinions. “Colon is the magic capital of the world. Magic conventions are held all over the world, but the locations and dates are always different. The only place I know of that approaches the intensity of Abbott’s Get-Together is the Magic Castle, a private club in Los Angeles that is devoted to magic performances.”

“There is nothing in the world that compares to Magic Week in Colon. Magicians everywhere know that the second week of August in Colon is the biggest magic event of the year.”

 

 

Ceremonies Special

Ceremonies Special to Blackstone Family

 

 

From The Sturgis Daily Journal, August 15, 1977: “COLON – ‘This is one of the most special experiences of my life, along with the marriage to my wife, Gay, and the birth of our children,’ stated Harry Blackstone Jr., during the Colon Blackstone Society dinner, Friday evening at Sturgis Holiday Inn.

The Michigan State Historical Society and Colon Historical Society combined their knowledge and historical information to commemorate the evening and the midnight dedication ceremony of an official State of Michigan Historical Marker at the township library in Colon to Harry Blackstone, Sr., and Colon’s history and heritage of magic.

The marker project was organized by Jerry D. Roe, Lansing, executive director of Michigan Republican party and the Michigan Historical Commission. Co-chairman was Mrs. Robert Smith, who heads the Colon Blackstone Society created to finance the marker and she staged the dedication, also helping was Congressman David Stockman of the 4th District.

Other committee members were Shirley Filip, Jackson, O. F.  Decker, Colon mayor; David Farrell, president of the Colon Historical Society; Recil Bordner, president of Abbott’s Magic Manufacturing Co.; Marylyn McManus, Allan King and Attorney William Drake of Colon.

On the general arrangement committee were Jerry Roe, Paul Andres, Grand Ledge; Tim Tarry, Grand Ledge; Shirley Filip, Jackson; Diana Shaw, Lansing; Connie Smith, Colon; Congressman David Stockman, St. Joseph; Tom DeCair, Lansing; Chris Taylor, Grand Rapids; Congressman Gary Brown, Schoolcraft; Peter Fletcher, Ypsilanti; Jim and Polly Youngs, Galesburg; John and Sue Collins, Marshall, and Representative Ernest Nash of Dimondale.

Peter B. Fletcher, chairman of the State Highway Commission and Michigan Republican National Committee, served as master of ceremonies.

Guests of honor were Harry Blackstone, Jr., his wife Gay, and their children, Harry Blackstone III, Cynthia, Adrienne and Tracey.

Blackstone introduced aunt and sister-in-law of his father, Millie Bouton, who is the wife of the late Peter Bouton, Harry Blackstone Sr’s brother. Harry Sr. and Peter traveled around Chicago doing magic shows. They went on the road with a vaudeville act known as Harry Bouton and Co., in “Straight and Crooked Magic.”

Among the 200 guests were such dignitaries as 3rd District Congressman Gary Brown, Schoolcraft, who was honored with a special cake as he will be retiring this year; Judge and Mrs. William McManus, Colon; Judge and Mrs. Stanley Everett, Battle Creek; Judge and Mrs. Stanley Everett, Battle Creek; Judge and Mrs. David G. Gee, Howell; Representative and Mrs. Melvin Larsen, Oxford; Representative and Mrs. Ernest Nash, Dimondale; Judge Luke Quinn, Flint, and Representative Mark Siljander, Three Rivers.

Following cocktails and dinner, certificates of membership in the Blackstone Society and a gold engraved deck of cards were given to each guest.

Harry Blackstone, Jr., presented illusions of magic, dedicated to his father.

A number of presentations were awarded to Blackstone and his family. Among them were several framed certificates, two from Governor William Milliken; a special contribution certificate to Blackstone, Jr., and a certificate signed by the Governor proclaiming Colon August 10-13, 1977, as Magic Days in Colon. Others were from Michigan State Historical Society, tribute form the House of Representatives, award of merit from the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, a United States flag which flew over the capitol in Lansing; flag of the State of Michigan, two bottles of hand fermented champagne from Tabor Hill Vineyard in Paw Paw and each family member was awarded a gold pen from the governor.

O. F. Decker was presented a framed certificate for Colon and Reverend David Farrell a certificate from the Historical Society Museum.

The Blackstone Society members then traveled in a caravan of over 60 cars to the Colon Township Library where they were joined by magicians and friends for the unveiling of the State of Michigan Historical Marker by the Blackstone family. Blackstone, Jr., read the bronze letter tablet on both sides which tells of his father, Harry Blackstone, Sr., and Colon’s heritage and history of magic and Abbott’s Magic Manufacturing Co.

Members of the Blackstone Society then went to the home of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Smith, Colon, for refreshments.”

The Historical Marker was moved to the Colon Community Park in 2010.

 

Blackstone’s Magic

Blackstone’s Magic

 

From The Detroit News Michigan, March 2, 1986:

The great magician has had his share of tragedy, so he has few illusio0ns about life, Maybe that’s why he works so hard at making things disappear.

By Richard Willing

 

The band plays and the lights come up and suddenly the folks who have bused in from Allentown aren’t staring anymore at the bright orange trunk dangling from a mesh of chains, 20 feet in the air and stage right.

They are looking instead at the big box, hollow and black, being opened to reveal its emptiness by the provincial beautiful assistant at stage center. “What the hell, there’s nothing in there,” says the guy who retired from Pennsylvania Bell but now comes down to Atlantic City “regular, to see the shows.”

Ah, but is there really nothing? Faster than it takes to describe this, the drummer goes into a roll, the announcer announces the “world’s most famous magician” and – buh-wham! – he’s there, opera cape, goatee, rhinestone studded tuxedo and a sanctifying smile which is somewhere between Siddhartha and a smirk.

Harry Blackstone Jr., a 51-year-old frame built on 100 years of magic lore, is appearing (and disappearing) once again in magic show number who knows-how-many. In the 90 minutes that are to come, the audience – several thousand retirees, their grandchildren and curious gamblers who have decided to give the dice and slots a rest – will be invited into the charming world Blackstone is creating – from nothing – on the Tropical Hotel stage.

It is a world in which flowers spring full bloom from empty pots, where handkerchiefs dance across the stage and disembodied light bulbs float above it, where beautiful ladies are vanished, transformed, dismembered and reassembled, where the magician’s lovely wife herself is changed into a Bengal tiger, if that isn’t redundant, while Blackstone stands by cracking wise. It is a world where anything that seems to be hollow, empty or insubstantial is shown, through the magician’s art, to contain ribbons, prizes and wonder. And it is a world, as the magus is about to explain, that cannot be conjured up by magic words alone.

“Ladies and Gentlemen – dear friends,” Blackstone says by way of preface to each and every show, “I’m going to ask you now to willingly suspend your belief in reality. For it is only through your imagination that what we do becomes real,”

That is a very old lesson, one that Harry Blackstone Jr. learned as a child in Colon, Mich. His father, Harry Blackstone Sr., eminent vaudevillian, contemporary of Thurston and Dunninger, great rival of Houdini (“he couldn’t put his hand into Central Park without rustling the leaves,” a contemptuous Blackstone St. once said of the escape artist), moved his personal and professional families to the sleepy mint farming community in the 1920s.

Harry Jr. spent his formative years there in the company of mentalists and musicians, animal handlers and showgirls and his father’s brother, Pete Bouton, a former magician who served as the Blackstone show’s stage carpenter, trick rigger and unofficial historian.

With that kind of upbringing, Blackstone the younger learned early, as he puts it, that “where the trick really occurs is in the mind of the audience.”

“I could show you how every trick is done, but that would only spoil it for you,” he says, “What I deal in, I suppose, is the capacity to wonder. That is something very ancient and at the same time very relevant and important to life.”

Three hundred days a year, in casino showrooms and college theaters, in surviving relics like Detroit’s Music Hall and in spiffy modern nightclubs, at trade shows and conventions and occasionally on Broadway, Blackstone and his ménage – tigers, camels, elephants, bunnies, reindeer and ducks and, as often as not, 16 dancers and an orchestra – ply their ancient craft. On a trail where many once traveled, they are now almost alone.

“There are tens of thousands of (amateur) magicians worldwide, and thousands more who make at least a little bit of their living performing magic,” says Bob Lund, curator of the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Mich. “But there are only perhaps two dozen anywhere who perform magic full time. And really, among these there are only three – (David) Copperfield, (Doug) Henning and Blackstone – who are at the very top.”

The hours are long – 13 shows a week during a recent Atlantic City run – and all the bouncing around takes its toll on a body. Blackstone recently underwent arthroscopy surgery, running-back style, on a right knee weakened by thousands of hours of being bent, folded and mutilated onstage.

And the pressure – unlike the bunnies and babes and birdcages in Blackstone’s act, never disappears.

“This is not a movie, not a past event that he is presenting,” Lund notes, “This is a live performance. At 8 o’clock tonight, Harry Blackstone is going to make you wonder. And he’s going to be on demand. That’s asking a lot.”

But membership in magic’s charmed circle is not without its rewards. Blackstone himself, a witty, warm and occasionally melancholy man, earns enough to afford a comfortable (“and I hope to get to visit it someday”) home in Los Angeles suburbs. He has the pleasure (“it is exactly that”) of “doing well at something I’m good at” And never underestimate the warming influence of applause.

“My mother (former magic show girl Billie Mathews) took me on stage with her for the first time at age three months in Chicago,” Blackstone says. “My father used to say that I cried and cried until the lights hit me and the audience began to applaud. Then I started to coo. Right then he knew I was a trooper.”

But at least as important as all that, say magic’s historians, is this: In the 10 years since he began to tour, Blackstone Jr. has earned a place alongside his magician father – the “Great Blackstone” – in the pantheon of prestidigitation, Blackstone Sr., on the road from the first years since this century until shortly before his death in 1965, was referred to as the “Last of the Great Magicians.” That was until Harry Jr. came along.

“Harry Jr.’s road show gave magic a great resurgence,” Lund says. “With the tuxedo and the goatee and that rich voice of his, which is the best voice I’ve ever heard on a magician, and a whole bag of illusions which the current generation had never seen, he really touched a nerve. And there’s that rapport he has with the audience and the obvious enjoyment he derives from interacting with people. That may be old-fashioned, but Blackstone has proved that it is not out of style. He has the kind of chemistry, which comes across best in an old-time, live performance. That’s Harry’s magic.”

Blackstone is flattered, but insists that the basis of his art is quite simple.

“All good magic is rooted in reality and in the mind’s ability, at least momentarily, to escape it,” he says. “Audiences know I’m not really sawing my wife in half or firing her out of a cannon, but if they can have the ability to let that knowledge go for a while, then some of the unpleasant things may be let go for awhile, too.

“But the magic itself has to be rooted in reality to make the whole thing work. Unless you understand reality, you can’t understand magic.”

But up on the Tropicana stage, it is illusion, not reality, that is the order of the day. Blackstone has swung into some “silent magic,” meaning that the tricks themselves do the talking for him. Dressed in a conjurere in the court of a Chinese empress, he converts a woman on a trapeze into a giant stone Buddha, and vice versa. Birds appear; objects are shredded into bits, then restored to wholeness; confetti flies from a teapot, and the stage is a colored storm. It seems that every time something hollow, empty or otherwise incomplete is presented it is destined, in very short order,, to be filled,

“The trick is to keep it moving,” Blackstone explains later. “We do far more in the time allotted than the old-timers used to. Houdini used to draw out his escapes by getting out of the locks, then sitting backstage reading the paper. If the turning of the pages threatened to alert the audience, he would tell the band to play louder.

“Audiences today are too sophisticated for that.”

Perhaps, but not too sophisticated for the patented Blackstone humor, which gives portions of the show a decidedly corny flavoring. Purists say that Harry Jr. is merely emulating his famous father, who used folksy jokes to counterbalance his magisterial stage presence. Harry Jr. says it’s a duplication as well as homage – some of the jokes go right back to Harry Sr.’s day.

“Meet my wife, Gay, mother of our four children and co-producer in life as well as in this show.” He will say, “I never do a trick without her – anymore.”

Or: “We traveled all over the world performing magic, .. Those who have seen the show before will understand why we must travel so much.”

Or, as he hands the empty tutu of a freshly vanished lady to an assistant: “Have this refilled and back in time for the 8 o’clock show.”

Charles Reynolds, a production consultant who helped stage Harry Jr.’s show on Broadway and who co-authored Blackstone’s Book of Magic and Illusion, calls Blackstone’s asides “just another form of stage craft.”

“There aren’t any throwaways with Harry,” Reynolds says, “Everything is worked out to contribute to the desired effect.”

Reynolds points to Blackstone’s patter during a recent Atlantic City performance. After inviting children from the audience on stage to “better observe” the disappearance of a birdcage, Blackstone suddenly stopped one small girl.

“Look,” he said, pointing to her white-gold hair,” A little Carole Lombard”.

Notes Reynolds: “That’s the kind of reference that an audience of a particular age could relate well to. And Harry is quite aware of who is in his audience.”

By way of postscript, Blackstone acknowledges tailoring his patter to an audience when the occasion is right. But this situation, as he recalls it, was different.

“The miniature Carole Lombard was our 5-year-old, Bellamie,” he says. “Her grandmother had just dressed her up and done her hair, and I hadn’t seen her that way in a little while. When she bounced up on stage, the thought of Carole Lombard just came to me.”

The magic was in him early, and when he left his father’s magic show the show’s magic never went out of him. As a college student, in the Army, in business and just in real life, this want and the need to suspend reality came roaring out of Harry Blackstone Jr. at the oddest of times.

As a freshman at Pennsylvania’s prestigious Swarthmore College, he used an old mentalist’s trick to convince a psychology professor that he could “read” through the covers of learned tomes. The dean, un-amused, convinced him to become an ex-freshman.

And the security guys at Tokyo’s famed Mikimoto pearl store didn’t laugh when a pearl being examined by a young American soldier suddenly disappeared. Boy the Japanese have a strange sense of humor. Some of them are pretty big, too.

There were better audiences to play. An Italian shop clerk got a hoot out of the tall stranger who cut American dollars from a large sheet, crushed them into his hand, then pulled lire notes out to clinch a sale. And back stateside in the mid-1950s, a small magic show helped pay the way through the theater arts programs of the University of Southern California.

“I had the idea of working in the theater in the production end of things,” Blackstone recalls. “My father actively discouraged me from pursuing magic as a career – not because he didn’t approve or disliked what he did. It was just the financial uncertainty of it all. Some weeks his pockets were so full of money he could hardly walk. Other weeks, when he got through paying the company off and all the bills and taking care of the people who put the touch on him, there was nothing left for himself.”

After USC, Blackstone conjured up a fellowship at the University of Texas cataloging magic artifacts for the Library of Congress while working on his master’s. his dissertation subject – tah dah! – was the art and science of levitating a woman.

“The thesis was in the form of a performance, in a theater with a live audience, so of course I threw in a few more tricks and made a little show out of it.” Blackstone recalls, “The applause I got was quite gratifying, but then from the back of the hall came the sound of a very unusual whistle. It was the whistle my father used to call me when I was a boy! He was there, in the audience, flown in unbeknownst to me.

“I stood in the center of the stage and froze. I felt as if I’d been stabbed in the neck with a giant icicle. It was only gradually, and much later, that I realized what had happened: I was frightened absolutely petrified of performing in front of my father.”

It was the father – the Great Blackstone – who did the performing at first. During the summers at Colon – we went out Labor Day, came back home Decoration Day” – and later on the road, Harry Jr. picked up the tricks, the techniques and the stagecraft Harry St. had spent a lifetime learning.

The dancing handkerchief, still in the act today, was called “Cassadaga Propaganda,” after the New York headquarters of the American Spiritualist Movement. “Multum in Parvo” was self-explanatory after you saw Harry Sr. pour pitcher after pitcher of beer into a single beer glass, and then use that single glass to pour back dozens of glasses for thirsty audience members. That dazzling series of vanishes and reappearances, of transformations of man into beast and back again which closes the modern Blackstone show – it was called “Who Wears the Whiskers?” when Harry Sr. did it beginning in the 1920s.

“There only are 10 basic tricks in magic – period,” Blackstone says. “Everything that’s done, everything you see is a version or a combination of one of those tricks. But it’s how you present that trick that’s the secret. Dad taught me that.”

Blackstone Sr., almost 50 when his first and only child was born, labored mightily to be the textbook “good father.”

“Dad had left school himself in the seventh grade and he was always on me about getting an education.” Blackstone Jr. recalls. “He would point to his head and say, “They can’t take away what you have up here.”

Around the house, Blackstone Sr. kept the conjuring to a minimum “unless of course he had an audience.”

“Even when it was just the two of us, sometimes he couldn’t resist, “ Blackstone recalls. “If you were eating breakfast, for instance, and he said, “Harry, isn’t that a beautiful bird flying by the window?” you could pretty much be sure that when you turned back to the table, the plates would be gone or something.”

Blackstone’s parents divorced when he was 7, and he divided his time thereafter between a succession of military schools and the Blackstone show. During school vacations the doting father worked his little cadet, uniform, and all, into the act, introducing him as a “midget Turkish general” or the “commander of an army of Lilliputians.” Harry Jr., in turn, came to regard the show wherever it happened to be playing as “home.”

“Each holiday I still associate with a particular theater and a particular hotel in a particular city,” he remembers, “You know – Easter in Boston, Christmas in Philadelphia. I remember one Christmas in Detroit. I was about 12 or 13, he gave me a chemistry set and I nearly burned down the Fort Shelby Hotel. I hid out in all-nigh movies for two days. He put a notice in the paper: “Come home, Harry, all is forgiven’ … It was that kind of relationship. He was my friend as well as my father.”

But life on the road wasn’t always a magical existence for a boy growing up without brothers or sisters. Blackstone remembers that his nearest contemporaries often were dancers or stagehands already in their 20s. “They were friends, I suppose, but I was more like the kid brother they were adopting,” he recalls,

His harshest memory involves an attempt to attract friends. One day in Atlanta, the 9-year-old Blackstone donned an oversized cape and hat and stood at the stage door after the matinee, giving away rabbits to all comers. Eventually the Blackstone show’s entire rabbit supply was handed out.

“I can’t ever seeing my father angrier,” Blackstone recalls, “He wasn’t mad at me for showing off, or even about the expense of replacing the rabbits. What he said was this: “Harry, people will come to see me perform the rabbit trick tonight and there won’t be any rabbits to do the trick with. What you have done has reflected poorly on the profession of magic, and that is something that cannot be allowed to happen.”

“God how that hurt! He never laid a hand on me, but the bruises to my ego were deep.”

But it’s physical pain that Harry Blackstone Jr. is feeling just now. The time is shortly after 7 a.m. and that surgical knee, still throbbing from last night’s casino show, is about to accompany its very tired owner to a promotional appearance in nearby Philadelphia.

“There are,” he says, a pained expression crossing his face, “exactly 166 steps from the Tropicana stage to my room on the fifth floor. Today, I can feel them all.”

The promotional appearance, on a daytime TV talk show, goes well, Blackstone does a few bits of stand-up magic – making a birdcage vanish, moving a marked card from his hand to a zipped wallet in his breast pocket – for an astonished early morning audience of retirees and school children. Then its into “The Committee,” his father’s patented rope trick. The magician slips out of double knots tied to both wrists and around one leg faster than the audience can say “Blackstone!” along the way, he somehow has lifted a wallet from one bystander and a watch from another, while simultaneously unbuttoning and removing the dress shirt of a third nearby man without disturbing his suit vest.

It’s buffo stuff, but back in his hotel suite in Atlantic City, minus the magic of makeup and short a good night’s sleep, Blackstone is anything but the magus triumphant.

“Sometimes I wonder whether it’s worth it – the big show, I mean,” he says, and his dark eyes close into dark, deepening circles. “There’s a guy out of Pittsburg who does better than any of us working just trade shows. No camels, no dancers, no $65,000 a week in expenses … God, I’m tired.

And sad. The talk has turned to fathers and sons, and friends have warned that Blackstone is still deeply affected by the loss of his only son (he has four daughters by his three marriages) in a construction accident in August of 1983.

“Yes, it’s been an awful blow,” he says, and in the manner of the newly grieved begins a description of the minutiae of the time, place and manner of death.

“… And Stanford University saved the vital organs, the skin, the ear on the side of Harry’s head that wasn’t crushed. “It’s truly amazing what they can do with organ restoration, isn’t it.”

“Harry and I were apart a lot, but we had such great times when we were together. He was a lot like me, you know – into the marines, then onto a job in South America where he used his Spanish, then doing his own thing with a rock band for awhile. But what do you know; he decided he wanted to give the magic show a try. He was on his way to join the show, just doing a favor for a friend, in fact, when it happened.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. Maybe it’s the male ego thing, you know, having a son to carry on you name and the family tradition. But there isn’t a day goes by …”

A voice interrupts to urge Blackstone to prepare for the afternoon show. Another exhorts him to “knock ‘em dead.”

“Yes,” says Harry Blackstone Jr., sinking deeper into an armchair. “It’s just that sometimes it’s a tough knock.”

The band plays and the lights come up once more and this time everybody who has bused in for the day is looking at that bright orange trunk dangling from a mesh of chains, 20 feet up now, and stage right, Harry Blackstone is dressed like a circus ringmaster now, and in a minute he’ll use that dangling trunk and our suspended belief and a whole lot of those things he learned from his father to vanish the reality that smashes bodies and wears down souls.

But right now, Harry Blackstone Jr. – the Great Blackstone – is having one hell of a time. He’s pumping his arms and waving his head and blowing his whistle in time with the music. His eyes are dancing and his feet are following along and he’s pointing at that box and whistling, whistling, whistling. All signs of pain, of the knee, the heart, the spirit, have – buh-wham! – done a vanish. He is smiling that sanctified smile.

How does he do it? Ladies and gentlemen – “dear friends” – it would spoil it for you if you knew. For here is the grandest and most sublime illusion the Great Blackstone can perform. It’s the trick of doing the trick – night after night, state after state, generation after generation – like it was the first time ever for you, for me and for him.

A lot of Harry’s friends think it’s the best trick they’ve seen him do. This is the trick he taught himself.”

 

“Colon? Of course I remember Colon (Mich.)! I could find my father’s house in my sleep, even now. Down the main street past the bank, over the railroad tracks and down the long road and a right at the end of it along the lake to Blackstone Island … It’s where it all began, for me. It’s where my father and my Uncle Pete are buried. It’s where I buried my son.”`1

 

++++++++++

When I first met Harry Blackstone about 20 years ago, he was selling Muzak to the office buildings of Austin (Tex.). But I wouldn’t say I knew him before he was a magician. I think deep down Harry always was a magician …”

Lee Swift, attorney and friend

 

Harry Blackstone Jr. by Monk Watson

Harry Blackstone Jr. 2nd Greatest Magician

HODGE PODGE

Joe Ganger

Written by Monk Watson. Taken from the September 1963 “TOPS” magazine: “When our editor asked me to write about the World’s Second Greatest Magician I thought it would be hard to do as so many have made this claim to fame. However, I do believe that we have the real “Second Greatest” at this time … will Harry Blackstone, Jr., please stand up!

As I write this I’m talking with Harry Junior and listening to a tape recording made this past spring when he visited Colon. Having watched him grow up, I got to know the boy rather well. He was not born in a trunk, but in a hospital like most people are, at Three Rivers, Michigan, in 1934.

I must tell you about the gag I pulled on Harry Sr. at that time. There was an extra bed in Mrs., Blackstone’s room. I had rushed over to the hospital, climbed into this extra bed, pulled the sheet up over my head and had the nurse put a screen around Mrs. Blackstone’s bed. When Harry came bounding into the room he rushed over to the bed I was hiding in, suddenly I sat up and said, “Dada! Show me a trick!” Billie, got as big a kick out of this as did Harry.

I was named the Godfather, and as Uncle Pete Bouton and I held the baby … it really took two men to hold him (the baby, that is, not Pete) he received the name of Harry Bouton Blackstone, Junior. To top off the ceremony of baptism, Harry Sr. took a dive into the lake and swam under water for several rods. The following is the birth announcement, which the parents sent out:

”BLACKSTONE SPECIAL”

1934 MODEL

Produced Under the National Recovery Act

Combining Finest Materials and Workmanship

 

DESIGNER – Harry Bouton Blackstone

PRODUCTION MANAGER – “Billie” Blackstone.

FIRST SHOWING – June 30, 1934

ON DISPLAY – Three Rivers Hospital, Three Rivers, Michigan

Specifications of

HARRY BOUTON BLACKSTONE, Jr.

 

WEIGHT – seven Pounds.

WHEEL BASE – 21 ½ Inches.

VACUUM FEED.

FREE “SQUEALING.”

WASHABLE SEAT COVERS – “What Have You.”

TWO INCH PISTON – self Lubricating (Designer, I. M. Bragging.)

SELF DRAINING TANK – Stream Lined.

BALL BEARING EQUIPMENT.

CUSHION BUMPERS – In Rear.

GAS EXHAUST – Non-Clogging

LICENSE PLATE – Dated July 13, 1933

(No foolin’ just a little Kid’n)

BATTERIES – (Two Cell) packed with power and long life and guaranteed for years of active service. With automatic recharge. Built to take it.

COLOR – Customary Pink

LIGHTS – Blue

HOOD – Black

INCOME TAX NOTE – This year’s production entered under last year’s business.

Note – When Better Babies Are Made

BLACKSTONE

Will be too old to care

 

Then came schooling in Colon under the watchful eye of Sally Banks. Little Harry learned his lessons … and very well, too. He could play the piano before he could add two and two … and had the touch of a real artist. The kids in Colon were just a little bit jealous of him and knowing that he had such a famous father they were always ready to pick a fight. Harry Jr. never did get into a real fight because he’d run up to see his Aunt Mary Watson and tell her his troubles. She’d listen to him and see to it that he had a nice snack before sending him back. Bill Watson also stood up for Harry Jr., figuring that it was pretty tough being without a dad so much of the time. I was on the road at the time too, so I didn’t know too much about what went on while I was out of town. Sally loved the boy like a son, and did a very fine job of bringing him up so he could go out on tour with the show.

Life on the road just isn’t good for any little boy. I’m sure Junior tried to make friends with everyone, but now and then he’d do like most kids would have done, kicked a few shins here and there. His father would never let him ask for anything more than once, if it were a set of drums, a new bike, a movie camera, or anything that he saw or wanted … he got it!

Then came a new type of life for Harry Jr., the Black Fox Military School in Beverly Hills, California. I remember visiting him there one Christmas. Everyone had gone home except Harry Jr., and his guard, or teacher. I went in to see the boy and what I found was … “Do you know this kid? Brother, he is going to wreck this school if he can’t go to his father.” I told Harry Jr. that I’d be glad to take him to our house for his Christmas. Like any kid he was homesick for his Dad and before too long all was well with the world.

World War II came along and this time Harry Jr. is standing in the wings and watching every move and learning the real show business, U.S.O. that his father had in the palm of his hand. The M.C. had been drafted so I joined up for a couple of weeks and did a few little quick tricks between acts. It was a grand unit of three or four acts with Harry Blackstone no. 1 at the head of the show.

Now I have lost Harry Jr. for a while, but heard all kinds of stories of how he had gone to Japan, married a girl over there and was writing some script for “Voice of America”. Part of this is true, but I’m going to give it to you straight from the mouth of Harry Jr. and then you, too, can be proud of this fine young man who calls himself the World’s Second Greatest Magician.

Six feet three inches tall … handsome to look at … like a movie star with a jaw that fits a real he-man, this is the man I am talking to on my tape.

“I understand that you speak Japanese?” “No, Monk, I speak Chinese. I spent three years over in the Orient. I was working for the American Embassy as a translator and interpreter in Mandarin Chinese.” “Where did you study Chinese, Harry?” “At the Army Language School at Monterey, California. I spent a year there, six hours a day, six days a week for fifty-one weeks, learning that difficult language. We spent three years over in the Orient and I met Tenkai and several others in the magic world. I also had the opportunity to meet some of the people in the motion picture industry, and the theatre. I was very lucky to be picked by the Embassy to be the American representative in the show, “Tea House of The August Moon”, which was being done in Tokyo. This was a real departure in Japanese Theatre as it was the first time in over four hundred years that an occidental had set foot on that stage. After a month with this play I went with a motion picture company and did several pictures with them.”

“Then we left Japan … I say we, because I met my wife in Japan and we were married over there. Her name is Alameda, and she is a Texas girl sent over there to write propaganda for the psychological warfare, and I was assigned to the Army Security Agency and had charge of all the linguists in that area. They had sent me over to translate the radio scripts that she was writing, as she did not speak Chinese, but she does speak a great “Texas English” however,”

I asked Harry Jr. about the act he was now doing and he said he was doing two acts; one a stand up comic with some magic thrown in and the other a monologue. After hearing him talk, I can well see where he could thrill an audience with his smooth Radio Voice. He had done radio work in Texas. He does the Vanishing Birdcage at the opening of every routine. This is a must with Harry Blackstone, Jr. I asked him if he ever referred to his father and he told me that he did quite often during his act. I then asked him if he wanted to take out a big show, such as his father’s and he told me that the cost of the stage crews made it impossible to even think of such a thing at this time. We continued to talk about the big show for a long time, about his dad’s props being indifferent parts of the country, and the wish of his father that Harry Jr. would some day take over the big show. Times may change things and one day we’ll read about the GREAT BLACKSTONE on the move again, this time it will be Harry Blackstone Jr. at the head of the show. Harry and Alameda have a fine young son of their own, Harry Blackstone III … and some day, perhaps, he will carry on in the Blackstone tradition, only the future can write that story.

On July 10th of this year Harry Jr. and Alameda became the proud parents of a baby girl, 6 lbs. 2 ½ oz. … and beautiful. Her name is Miss Cynthia Caswell Blackstone.

When the other acts talk about your act and have only good things to say, then success is almost a sure thing. I have heard many good things about Blackstone Jr. and I’m very anxious to see him work. In the meantime, I hope you have all liked my story, and will drop me a note when you see “THE WORLDS SECOND GREATEST MAGICIAN … HARRY BLACKSTONE JR.

 

Monk appeared in Abbott’s Get-Together in 1942. 1944, 1946, 1957, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, and 1979. He wrote a long running column in Tops called “The Professional Touch”.  He died in 1981.

John Fisher on Blackstone 1997

Harry Blackstone Junior 1934 – 1997

An appreciation by John Fisher: “Harry Blackstone Junior began his career as a professional magician with the greatest of handicaps. The son of the man who personified magic in America during the middle years of this century, he was intelligent enough to realize his challenge. Show business has so frequently been embarrassed by those offspring who think they can emulate the success and stardom of their parents, yet lack the charisma, let alone talent to achieve their goal. It seldom happens. But the Blackstones were special and it did.

Having spent a large part of his early career in broadcasting as both producer and announcer, Harry timed the decision to follow in father’s footsteps with uncanny foresight. In the early seventies critics were coming around to the feeling that it was about time for magic to be taken seriously again. The watershed event would be the 1974 Broadway opening of The Magic Show, a musical with a magic theme starring the then unknown Doug Henning. Henning’s image was a culture shock when set against the preconceived notion of how a magician should look and behave. The idea of a flower child as wizard nevertheless had a telling charm. Magic became respectable again, the irony being that in the process the public still craved for a magician of more conventional attitude. Harry Blackstone, who had turned pro soon after his father died in 1965, was waiting in the wings to fulfill that role.

By 1980 he was starring on Broadway himself in his own full evening, record-breaking show in the Majestic Theatre. No longer was it necessary for a magic show to pose as a musical or even a specialized kind of vaudeville offering. My own memory of seeing the production remains vivid. Within one crowded matinee day I caught both Harry’s show and the new musical Barnum playing across 44th Street at the St. Jame’s Theatre. Only in later years when Michael Crawford joined the London cast of the musical did the latter achieve its full promise. For the moment, as distinguished theatre critic Brendan Gill took pains to point out in The New Yorker, there was more of the true spirit of Barnum, the razzmatazz and razzle dazzle of the authentic American carnival tradition, in Blackstone! Than in the all-singing, all-dancing tribute to America’s circus hero.

His friend and creative associate Charles Reynolds once described Blackstone as the greatest contemporary magician in the classical tradition. Since his death others have more glibly referred to him as the last in that line. I hope this is not the case. His legacy is too special to think that it cannot be handed down to another aspiring performer. Blackstone was certainly the modern magician who corresponded most neatly to what the public expected a magician to be, the contemporary approximation of the storybook wizard, in line with Merlin through Herrmann to Dante. In this respect he differed, I sense, from Blackstone Senior. His father’s image was not a domineering one. He was an engaging guy from Middle America who happened to get a kick out of laughs out of performing his tricks. The American public took him to its heart, as forty years later the British would take Paul Daniels to theirs. Their performances would be grand, but not their manner. Blackstone Junior brilliantly found a middle course. The homespun moments of the more intimate items would continue to enchant and amuse; the more elaborate, dramatic items now arguably had an even stronger, more commanding presentation.

History will doubtless pass judgment on his relative stature vis-à-vis his several contemporary rivals at the top of the magic profession, a more crowded elite than his father knew. It is a fair criticism that at a technological level his full evening show did come to fall behind those of some of his peers. But this is to talk of method and perhaps means little to the audience who have paid to be baffled and entertained by a master showman. Had his health allowed, I am convinced that he had another fifteen years of performing ahead of him, not least because Blackstone at his quintessential best was timeless. His performance owed nothing to the ersatz application of contemporary rock culture or the need to sacrifice wonder for laughter in order to be entertaining, although at the right moments he could be hilarious. His was an honest talent in the he pretended to be neither Liberace nor Fred Astaire, neither Marcel Marceau nor Elvis Presley. He was quite simply himself, a striking presence with the most distinctive speaking voice in magic since Orson Welles. Blackstone, like his father, was nothing if not his own man. The performer you saw was the person you met.

It is cliché to say of stage illusionist that the greatest moments of their shows features their smallest magic. It is nevertheless one key similarity between the two Blackstones, string all those more intimate moments together and you had a Blackstone performance that with the Buzz Saw and maybe another illusion would condense into about an hour, the traditional length of act for a headline star and the format with which the jet-setting Blackstone was most in demand, while so many of his contemporaries were rooted to the more rigid, less adaptable demands of staging and technology. He once joked to me that he clocked up more air miles than any one in American show business. It was probably the truth. His routines with the Vanishing Bird Cage, the Dancing Handkerchief, the Committee – his unique combination of card tricks, Kellar rope tie and pocket picking – were the ultimate in audience participation. His sequence with the boy or girl from the audience and the rabbit was the most engaging example of theatrical rapport between adult and child that I have witnessed; only Paul’s Linking Ring routine comes close. During this sequence the walls of the largest of theatres would close in to become the warmest and coziest of parlors. You might be in the back row of the auditorium, but you felt only a few feet away. This ability to play tricks with space and dimension, of course, informed his absolute masterpiece, the Floating Lightbulb.

I have said before that this one item remains the greatest single piece of magic I have ever seen. All of these routines had their basis in the performance of Harry Senior. However, it was the lightbulb, originally performed by father with a glass of milk that Harry developed into his own most original offering. I have known no other feat of magic elicit the veritable orgasm of surprise that occurred in the audience when the first spectator released his grip on the bulb for it to hover eerily out of his reach. The Harry – ‘perhaps you over there would like to see it too’ – subsequently sent it soaring over the heads of the crowd to satisfy the curiosity of these at the rear of the theatre on either side, hearts would fill with emotion reserved for performers on a different level from mere vaudeville magicians. A simple everyday object that we all take for granted had reawakened in us the awe that an increasingly technological era has eroded.

It was my privilege to work with this great magician on many occasions, from the special in which he appeared alongside Robert Harbin in 1977, through The Paul Daniels Magic Show, The Best of Magic, and a Royal Gala, to the Disney special of a few years ago. I will miss the professionalism of the performer who agreed to perform the Dancing Handkerchief out of doors at night in front of the Haunted Mansion on the Disney lot; we had not reckoned with wind and rain, but we got the take after goodness knows how many tries. I will miss the stature and dignity he showed in that same show as he rode onto the set on that Arabian steed – as Charles Reynolds said, a magician had never looked more in command. I will miss the challenge of capturing the magic of the lightbulb for television; we did it three times all told, both knowing it was never meant as a television trick at all; by the time we got to Disney we had acquired the best television light man in the UK, but there was always the challenge of high-definition cameras! Most of all I will miss the camaraderie of all those meals at coffee shops and diners at assorted spots on the American map.

Enjoy a relaxed meal with Harry and the conversation would inevitably lead to his father. He was rightly proud of his parentage and the anecdotes would tumble forth. They are not for telling here, but any aficionado of magic at its quirkiest should be able to regale the reader of the doughnut story and the technique for bringing a dead fly back to life (sic!) and the method used by Harry Senior to save a whole theatre audience from a fire. The son relished telling these tales of the father offstage, as much as he was proud of keeping ablaze that spotlight in which the older man had basked before him. Commenting on his Broadway season, an achievement not enjoyed by Blackstone Senior in a conventional theatre show, he declared with characteristic generosity, ‘I wish my father could have played there, but I brought so much of him with me that I feel we both played there together.’ As Ray Bradbury, the great science fiction writer who was inspired by the Blackstone show as a boy, once wrote, ‘Where Harry Senior left off, Harry Junior began. They are a magical ribbon with no seam.’ One will never forget Harry’s remorse and subsequent courage when his only son, Harry III was killed in an accident in the early years of his father’s success. Sadly, the ribbon would not unfurl a third time. The tragedy had a devastating effect on the inner man, but his outward showman’ resolve and bravado remained intact.

If Harry represented anything, it was America itself. Both father and son with their complementary styles typified the land of county fairs and clambakes, strawberry shortcake and the fourth of July, in a way that none of their respective contemporaries did. For this alone, he could well justify the billing of ‘America’s Premier Prestidigitator’. There was always something reassuring about going to see the Blackstone show, like watching reruns of Bilko and I Love Lucy. Harry was rightly proud of the caricature drawn of him by the legendary theatrical cartoonist, Al Hirshfeld. All of America’s theatre guests come to receive the accolade of being captured by the deft black and white cross-hatching technique of this artist’s pen. However, Hirshfeld was not the most obvious artist to capture the Blackstone style. That should have been the equally distinctive Norman Rockwell whose full color paintings of American life at its most basic adorned the covers of magazines like the Saturday Evening Post for years. No one caught more vividly than Rockwell the wonder of the moment, whether a child’s glee upon unwrapping a Christmas toy for the magic of the homecoming of a loved one long absent. If only we had the Rockwell version of the child receiving the rabbit from the master magician or the look of amazement in the eyes of the audience when the lightbulb hovered for the first time!

Harry Blackstone Junior died during the early hours of 14th May 1997 from, the medical report says, bacterial infections and the complications of an aneurysm. As I write these words I still cannot bring myself to believe in their reality. You do not realize the importance of an individual in you life until such a moment. We can only feel for his wife and partner Gay and for their daughter Bellamie, as well as for his other daughters Cynthia, Adrienne, and Tracey, at this time. He was a valued friend, a kindly man, and one of the classiest acts magic has had in its entire history. If you ever saw him perform you will remember him for the last day you live.

 

About Blackstone Jr.

HARRY BLACKSTONE JR.

 

Author unknown: “Throughout the world of entertainment there is only one name that is synonymous with the art of illusion, the mysteries of prestidigitation, and the world of magic; and that name is BLACKSTONE.

Carrying on the tradition of his famous father, “The Great Blackstone”, Harry Blackstone Jr. has created a most diverse career. When most magicians pull a rabbit from their hat, it’s usually a black top hat. With Blackstone, Jr. the rabbit could come from any of the several hats he wears. Not only a fine magician, he is also an executive with a most successful track record in business. In addition to magic and administration, he is an accomplished actor with an impressive list of credits. He has also recently donned another hat, that of producer.

Born in Three Rivers, Michigan on June 30, 1934, this multi-faceted personality began his career in magic at the tender age of six months; at which time he began appearing and disappearing from his father’s illusions. By the age of four he was performing a trick with his mother and father involving the identification of cards by mental telepathy. When a houseguest would select a card, Harry Jr. could be heard correctly identifying the card from the adjoining room to the astonishment of the guest and his parents. His father then worked with Harry, teaching him the art of illusion and together they performed from 1941 to 1948.

In 1952, young, but with the skill and experience beyond his years, Blackstone, Jr. began a solo career. He became an international performer entertaining audiences in Australia, England, France, Japan, Spain and throughout Europe and the Far East. Although much of his act is based on audience participation, magic, pickpocketing and comedy; his captivating personality and amazing wit have become the mainstay of the act.

Blackstone, Jr. has appeared in many of the major night spots, theatres, amusement parks, and schools of the U.S., including: Harrah’s Club in Reno and Lake Tahoe, the Sahara-Tahoe, The Nugget, The Flamingo, Ceasar’s Palace, The Sahara and the Tropicana in Las Vegas; Orchestra Hall in Chicago, The Houston Music Hall, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, The Concord Pavillion; Sea World, Magic Mountain, and Disney world; Cal-Tech in Pasadena, San Diego State University, Indiana University, Florida State University, and many more. He shared the bill with such stars as Petula Clark, Blood, Sweat & Tears, John Davidson, The Osmond Brothers, The Everly Brothers, The Smothers Brothers and The King Sisters. He also appeared with Wayne Newton, Glen Campbell, Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra (Jr. & Sr.).

His television appearances have been numerous: The Smothers Brothers Show, Ed Sullivan Show, Glen Campbell Show, The Tonight Show, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Truth or Consequences, and Elvis Presley, “Aloha from Hawaii”, aired live to 44 countries, to name a few.

He even did a Japanese television show called “Watakusi-No-Himitau” (the Japanese version of What’s My Line?). And who can forget his appearance on Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell.

The Blackstone television special entitled, “Magic, Magic, Magic” was seen throughout the country and is currently being syndicated internationally. He also recently completed work as technical consultant and magic coordinator for “The Great Houdini”, a special two-hour film for ABC Television.

You’ve also seen his national commercials for such diversified companies as Playtes, Frito-Lay, Vanish, B. F. Goodrich, Speidel, Pepsi, Tupperware and, of course, Jiffy Pop.

As an actor Harry Blackstone, Jr. was the first Occidental ever to perform The Grand Kabuki. While in Japan he also appeared in “Tea-house of the August Moon.” He speaks both Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. Harry was with the road company of “The Lark” and has performed Shakespeare with the famed Old Globe Repertory Company in San Diego, under the direction of the late B. Iden Payne. In addition, he spent time as the general manager for the national touring companies of “Hair”

In the fall of 1971, Blackstone, Jr. returned to the heritage of his name and began producing magical revues. He produced and starred in an elegant magic extravaganza at Harrah’s Club in Lake Tahoe. Acclaimed, “the finest magic production seen in America in the last 25 years.”  But this was just the beginning. The critics again acclaimed his talents when he appeared the following year with “Hocus Pocus” headlining a sixteen week extended engagement at the Fremont Hotel in Las Vegas.

In the ensuing years, surrounding his many other endeavors, he has continued to elaborate on the original productions in preparing for his life-long dream and his father’s final wish, to produce and tour the largest magical extravaganza in the history of the United States. As always, he continues to tour throughout the country working the clubs, hotels, theatres, parks, etc. and bring a little magic into peoples lives. His most recent accomplishments are the magical effects which were designed and built for the ski shows at Sea World of Ohio and Florida; on particular illusion had never before been performed in the United States, and also he has just completed his first book, “There’s One Born Every Minute”.

With the increasingly renewed interest in the magical arts, Harry Blackstone, Jr. is constantly on the go. Because of the enormous amount of activity with the productions, television and concert appearances in which he is involved; his family and friends aren’t joking when they say, “Now you see his, now you don’t.”

 

Blackstone Jr’s Ashes Come Home

Magician’s ashes returned to home for burial

 

 

 

Kalamazoo Gazette, August 4, 1997, by Lynette A. Kalsnes: “ COLON – The late Harry Blackstone Jr. will come to rest here in a little country cemetery next to his father and many other magicians during Magic Week.

A burial service Tuesday will be private, said Abbott’s Magic Co. President Greg Bordner, but the public can remember and celebrate the life of the famous magician who grew up here during a 4 p.m. memorial service at the high school Saturday.

The Saturday service is part of the 60th annual Abbott’s Magic Get-Together, a four-day combination of magic shows and a convention that starts Wednesday.

The Saturday memorial will include an invocation, speeches by magicians who knew Blackstone and his father, and a slide show on his life.

“This is their home-town.” Bordner said. “This is where Harry Jr. grew up. This is where Blackstone Sr. lived for 20 to 30 years.”

Blackstone Jr. died May 14 at age 63 in California.

The Blackstone family found Colon by chance in the 1920s.

Blackstone Sr. and his troupe were staying at West Lake near Kalamazoo during the off-season to build new effects and repair equipment, according to an Abbott’s Magic Co. history. But the company soon outgrew its quarters.

Blackstone’s wife found a new summer place for the company in Colon while she was out driving one day and spotted an island for sale on Sturgeon Lake.

Blackstone Sr. made Colon his home away from the road, helping Colon earn its self-proclaimed title, “Magic Capitol of the World.” In the early 1930s, he and Percy Abbott founded what is now Abbott’s Magic Company.

But the pair did not get along. Blackstone left the business within a year and Abbott took on a partner, Recil Bordner. Bordner’s son, Greg, now owns the business.

Blackstone Sr. opened up his tour at the Colon Opera House, said Colon Chamber of Commerce President Don Farrand, who attended those performances and played with Blackstone Jr. as a child.

“All the kids would get up on stage and he’d pull out a rabbit and give it to one of the kids,” Farrand said. The lucky child got to keep the rabbit.

Blackstone also called children up on stage when he would make a birdcage disappear. He gathered children around him and had them touch his hands or the birdcage. “He just moved his hands and away it went,” Farrand said.

Blackstone Jr., who started appearing and disappearing from his father’s illusions when he was 6 months old, later performed that same trick, Farrand said. He also performed some of his father’s other signature illusions, such as the dancing handkerchief and floating light bulb.

Blackstone Jr. performed around the world until late in his life. Last December, he was still listed as the main attraction at Ceaser’s Casino.

“Harry (Jr) was the last of the old-time magicians,” said Farrnad.”

 

Blackstone Jr at Sea World

BLACKSTONE, JR.’S MAGIC a feature this summer at “Sea World of Ohio”

July 1976, newspaper clipping, source unknown, by Richard Hughes: “Harry Blackstone Jr., recently paid a visit to Northeastern Ohio to train the personal at Sea World of Ohio how to use the illusions he has rented to the marine amusement park for the summer. In a $250,000 production, three illusions are integrated into the super hero theme of the ski show. The Torture Spike Illusion, Twin Sawing a Woman in Two, and the uncanny Jarret House Illusion, are all performed by the park’s skiers in between various skiing acrobatics.

Harry was accompanied by his wife, Gay, and son, Harry Blackstone, II. While Harry directs the technical aspects of the illusions, Gay coaches the skiers in stage movement, acting and carriage. They spent the entire first week of May helping the skiers become familiar withy the fine points of presenting each illusion.

The Jarret House Illusion is well worth the trip to see the show. This illusions principle has not been seen in this country in over twenty years. The Jarret books themselves have long been off the market. The complete vanish of a girl from a three foot cube set up on a foot high stage built over a sandy beech in less than seven seconds has go to impress a lot of people. It certainly did impress me. Attempts to describe it can only do an injustice to it. This is one of the very best illusions I have ever seen.

While in the Ohio area, Harry got a chance to talk with Mrs. Horace (Marie) Marshall. Marie and her late husband, Horace, became well know for their fine feather products after building the Great Blackstone’s opening act, the Enchanted Garden. Harry Jr. has recently recreated this great act of his father’s. Since Mrs. Marshall has continued to operate the business since Horace’s death, Blackstone Jr. inquired about some effects once made by the Marshall’s for his father’s act that he has been unable to duplicate. It seems the Marshall flowers might be starting business with the second generation of Blackstones.”

Harry Blackstone Jr Birth Announcement

“Blackstone Special”

1934 MODEL

Produced Under the National Recovery Act

Combining Finest Materials and Workmanship

DESIGNER – Harry Bouton Blackstone.

PRODUCTION MANAGER – “Billie” Blackstone.

FIRST SHOWING – June 30, 1934.

ON DISPLAY – Three Rivers Hospital, Three Rivers, Michigan.

 

SPECIFICATIONS OF

HARRY BOUTON BLACKSTONE, JR.

WEIGHT – Seven Pounds.

WHEEL BASE – 21 ½ Inches.

VACUUM FEED.

FREE “SQUEALING”

WASHABLE SEAT COVERS – “What Have You.”

TWO INCH PISTON –Self Lubricating (Designer, I. M. Bragging)

SELF DRAINING TANK – Stream Lined.

BALL BEARING EQUIPMENT.

CUSHION BUMPER – In Rear

GAS EXHAUST – Non-Clogging.

LICENSE PLATE – Dated July 13, 1933.

 

(No foolin’, Just a little Kid’n)

BATTERIES – (Two Cell) packed with power and long life and guaranteed for years of active service… With automatic recharge. Built to take it.

 

COLOR – Customary Pink.

LIGHTS – Blue

HOOD – Black

INCOME TAX NOTE – This year’s production entered under last year’s business.

NOTE – WHEN BETTER BABIES ARE MADE

BLACKSTONE

 WILL BE TOO OLD TO CARE

Blackstone Jr at Miller 1985

Blackstone at WMU Miller Auditorium This Thursday Evening at 8:00 P.M.

Colon Express, March 6, 1985: “Editor’s note: The picture and press release of Harry Blackstone Jr. were sent to the Express from Western Michigan University’s Miller Auditorium. Some of our readers keep scrapbooks of Colon’s magicians, and since Harry is probably our most famous one, following in the footsteps of his father, here’s his latest.

Kalamazoo – Continuing a legacy of magic magnificence dating back nearly a century. Harry Blackstone Jr., son of The Great Blackstone, will bring what Newsweek Magazine has called, “The largest and most spectacular traveling magic show ever” to Miller auditorium on Thursday, March 7, at 8:00 p.m.

As a child, he learned the elements of the craft of magic under the watchful eye of his father and uncle. By trial and error he mastered all the world-famous Blackstone illusions … the Floating Light Bulb, Dancing Handkerchief, Vanishing Birdcage, even the terrifying Buzz-saw.

But then in his late teens, feeling eclipsed by the shadow of his famous father, he decided to specialize in some other area. His love of the theatre prevailed, however, and he majored in theatre arts, eventually starring in stage production of Teahouse of the August Moon and eventually moving into a part-time job on a local television stationed owned by then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, in his job as producer, he cast himself as a magician for a commercial. The spot was successful and led to further involvements as a magician.

Later in other producer jobs, he was involved with the Smothers Brothers’ CBS-TV variety show, managing three west coast companies of the smash hit Broadway musical Hair and producing the Smothers Brothers’ acclaimed Las Vegas act. He was, in fact, creating another kind of magic .. the offstage masterminding of elaborate shows. And this experience and success eventually came together with his mastery of magic to create “the most spectacular magic show ever”.

Harry did not re-enter the world of magic until after the death of his famous father in 1965, but at the urging of many of his father’s former associates, Harry decided to devote his considerable skills to enhance the name of Blackstone and all it stands for.

Harry Blackstone says, “What I am undertaking is the challenging, but delightful, task of bringing this magnificent art to even higher levels, building on what has gone before, but injecting a modern, innovative presentation that is very much of the present, of the future and of my own creation.”

Harry has headlined at top nightclubs, hotels and television shows all over the world, including his own syndicated special. In 1978 he mounted the largest illusion show the world has seen since his father’s retirement. His first tour was an immense success as have been subsequent tours. His 1980 Broadway show was the longest running illusion show in the history of New York theatre.

The success of Harry’s magic show has not kept him from other forms of theatre. He has acted on TV in “Hart to Hart”, and on stage. He has starred in numerous TV specials. He created all the illusions incorporated by Earth, Wind and Fire into their 1983 international tour. In addition to all his appearances and collaborations he has authored several books and magic kits, has done numerous commercials, and won numerous awards acknowledging him as the master magician of his time: America’s Bicentennial Magician in 1976; the Star of Magic, an honor bestowed only 11 times in 80 years; “Magician of the Year” by the Academy of Magical Arts. Through Harry Blackstone Jr. one of the world’s favorite forms of entertainment flourishes. To his skill he adds charm and wit and the extravaganza of a major musical production. And he invites his audience to participate with all the good humor of a house party.”

 

Harry Blackstone Jr. (1934-1997) appeared at the Abbott’s Get-together in 1964, 1971, 1972, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, and 1996.