Neil Foster by Dorny

Neil Foster by “Dorny”

 

 

Important to Abbott Magic Company history and the village of Colon, Michigan is a man by the name of Neil Foster (1921 – 1988). Dorny writes about Neil in his Entre Nous Column in the February 1965 issue of TOPS magazine. Neil Foster was editor at the time. “Altho it is the right and privilege of a magazine or newspaper editor to eliminate, change or entirely omit any of his contributor’s efforts, I sincerely hope that Neil Foster will NOT exercise this royal right in this particular article for I feel that one should issue forth with the bouquets while his subject is still living. And to make it easier for our general editor to cooperate with me in this request I will save the name of the aforementioned subject for the end of the column.

Let me begin by saying that our hero this month is one of the latter day’s most modern performers. Born and raised in Aurora, Illinois, he became addicted to the practice and presentation of magical finger flinging at a very early age. But he never essayed a public appearance until AFTER he had spent many arduous hours practicing and developing any and all trix he presented. Altho he was exceptionally clever with playing card manipulations, he was never quite satisfied. To further develop his latent talents he enrolled in the Chaves School of Magic in Los Angeles. Here he graduated cum laude and was immediately hired by Ben Chaves to become one of his teachers. In this way he not only was one of the most proficient of all digital dexterity exponents but helped a great many others who subsequently went on to becoming recognized standard theatrical artistes. After a spell of magical “Pedagogging” he came back to the old hometown and for a time worked as a clerk in his brother’s grocery store. Although he was now eating regularly, he was never happy “in trade”. So he began to work casual club dates, nite clubs, etc. and while in Florida he met and married his wife, Jeanne. She became his assistant and after showing his wares to a flock of agents he landed a long contract to play the so-called University Lyceum Courses. This being a very rugged way of making a living, it affected Jeanne’s health and reluctantly they had to give up all this lengthy booking. “Our hero” now went to work in the Ireland Magic Company’s Chicago Magic shop. Here he demonstrated and sold tricks to the aspiring tyros of the Windy City. Then, receiving a very fine offer from Recil Bordner, the owner and former partner of the late Percy Abbott, he moved to Colon where he was, and still is gainfully employed as super salesman and vice president of the Abbott Magic Co. Here he revived the long defunct “TOPS” magazine, which in a very short time has become one of the very best of all good contributions to magical journalism.

Has a nice home in Colon and besides having agile fingers he also has a “Green Thumb”. His flower garden is one of the show places of the town.

To see him perform at any kind of a public show is to witness an exhibition of the excellence of stage magic. Albeit he employs no big effects or illusions, his every effort with cards, cigarettes, etc., can be seen and enjoyed in the largest of modern show shops. Has a magnificent sense of timing and a most pleasing personality as well. Has taken up one of the more recent magical effects and made it a masterpiece of beautiful mystery. This of course, is his version of the much-abused “Zombie”. This stunt, unless handled by a master performer can be a total loss to a mediocre magician’s reputation. But when it is shown by a real artiste it can make the reputation of anyone who has the ability, showmanship, skill and charm of this month’s subject, NEIL FOSTER. And I KNOW that anyone who ever has see Neil in action will agree with me that I am right.”

When Ben Chavez died in 1961, Marian Chavez continued to operate the school. When she died in 1978, it was her wish that Neil Foster and Dale Salwak become the co-owners of the Chavez school. Together over the next nine years they made every effort to carry on the training school. When Neil died in 1988, it left Chris Jakway Dean of the Midwest Studio (along with instructor Larry Wirtz) and the East Coast. Dale Salwak still continues the tradition at the west coast branch.

 

Surgery for Neil Foster

Feature by John Sherwood about Neil Foster

 

 

 

Published August 9, 1981, in the Battle Creek (MI) Enquirer:

Early inspiration lured Foster to lifetime in magic.

About 1929, one of the great touring magicians of the day, the late Harry Blackstone Sr., performed his stage shows of illusions in Aurora, Ill.

Edgar Neil Foster Jr. then was just 9 years old, and was enthralled as Blackstone – the first magician he ever had seen – stepped on stage.

“He had black hair then. That was before he became the ‘white-haired magician,’ Foster recalled.

Blackstone’s visit to Foster’s hometown had a lasting effect.

“Some people make their decision about their life’s work when they reach college, and that’s the most important decision of their lives,” Foster said. “For me, the only thing I ‘ever’ wanted to be was a magician.

During the ensuing 18 years, Foster worked at various jobs around Aurora as he developed his own magical repertoire of effects and illusions, devised by himself or purchased from magic stores, including the then-new Abbott Magic Co. in Colon.

Foster first assumed the magical *nom de guerre “Retsof,” but had second thoughts a few years later when he was billed rather unflatteringly as “Ratsof,” so about 1938 he dropped his first name to differentiate himself from his father, and became Neil Foster.

In 1940, Foster’s fascination took a new turn when he saw a performance by Cardini, a monocle-sporting manipulator of coins, cigarettes and balls. Cardini entertained audiences nationwide on a theater circuit with a sophisticated, urbane characterization of a slightly tipsy magician.

Reflecting on that experience, Foster said, “The parallel is very strong to that of a pianist. He may play popular jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, but he may find that fine, classical music stirs him. When I saw magicians like Cardini and Okito perform, I knew that had to me my kind of magic – with the hands, the finer essence of magic.”

On the two occasions they were to meet, Foster found Cardini distant and aloof, but Foster still considers him the greatest manipulator who ever lived.

Even as Foster reached his 20s in Illinois, two people he had yet to meet were establishing in California the first major school for magicians. They were Ben and Marian Chavez, who had been vaudeville and touring performers since the 1920s. together, they set up in 1941 a state-licensed school, the College of Manual Dexterity and Prestidigitation, also known as the Chavez School of Magic.

In 1947, Foster went to California, enrolled in the Chavez course and demonstrated a flair for precise dexterity and creative skill that impressed Chavez. When Foster graduated from the course, Chavez hired him to tutor new students.

“My teacher, Ben Chavez,” Foster once wrote, “taught me that magic is just and excuse for being before an audience, for it matters little what you do, it’s how you do it. You first must become an accomplished performer, then a super salesman.”

In 1951, Foster left the Chavez school to work the magic field, and was chosen in 1953 to be one of the performers of the Gala Coronation Convivialities in London, England, when Elizabeth II was crowned queen.

During that show, he performed a floating-ball illusion which he not only had mastered but which had become his trademark. Apparently young Elizabeth was impressed, for Foster got to meet her during an intermission. And a few years later, Cardini himself saw Foster perform the illusion and applauded it enthusiastically.

In his book, “The New Modern Coin Magic,” magician J.B. Bobo wrote: “Cardini’s magic and Neil Foster’s beautiful magic are rare treats, to be enjoyed time after time. Who could ever tire of watching an artist work?”

In 1955, Foster married an Ohio native, the former Jeanne Hammond, while both were working in Florida. As a magical team, the Fosters toured for several years under the sponsorship of the lecture bureaus of the universities of Wisconsin, Minnesota and North and South Dakota, performing on the demanding school-assembly circuit.

The Fosters had a lifetime contract with their sponsors, but the work often meant performing daily – sometime several shows a day. The grind taxed Jeanne’s health, leading Foster to seek more stationary magical employment.

After a stint for the Ireland Magic Co. in Chicago, Foster came to Colon in 1959 at the request of Recil Bordner, president of the Abbott firm. Foster became the company’s chief magician-in-residence and its vice president.

In 1960, Foster revived the firm’s magazine, “The Tops,” which had been defunct for several years. With Foster as editor, the monthly periodical was re-titled “The New Tops” and eventually achieved worldwide distribution among magicians.

Foster invented many of his own effects. In particular, he sought to make difficult magic tricks achievable by those whose slight-of-hand gifts were less distinguished. Many of these simplified effects with cigarettes, balls and coins – as well as many other advanced tricks with doves, flowers and other materials – are manufactured and distributed by the Abbott firm. Foster also is the editor of several Abbott books.

Foster never left the stage, though, and played many dates with his wife and with another Colon resident, the late “Monk” Watson. It was not unusual, when Foster presented his floating ball effect at Abbott’s get-togethers in Colon – as he will during a public performance during the annual magicians’ convention this August – for hundreds of magicians to give him a standing ovation.

Foster has logged performances in 28 countries in Europe and North and South America. In 1977, at a ceremony in California, the Academy of magical Arts presented Foster with a Performing Fellowship Award, honoring his creativity and contributions in teaching magic and in editing the Abbott publication.

After Ben Chavez’s death in 1962, Marian Chavez continued to teach the course and arranged with Foster and one of his own protégées, Dale Salwak of California, eventually to take over the enterprise. She died in 1978.

Shortly after his wife’s death in 1979, Foster retired from full-time work at the Abbott firm and now instructs students who reside chiefly east of the Mississippi. Salwak, a professor of English literature at Citrus College in Azusa, Calf., tutors magic students at his own studio at Pasadena and distributes the Chavez correspondence course.”

 

 

 

Neil Foster by John Sherwood 1981

Feature by John Sherwood about Neil Foster

 

 

 

Published August 9, 1981, in the Battle Creek (MI) Enquirer:

Early inspiration lured Foster to lifetime in magic.

About 1929, one of the great touring magicians of the day, the late Harry Blackstone Sr., performed his stage shows of illusions in Aurora, Ill.

Edgar Neil Foster Jr. then was just 9 years old, and was enthralled as Blackstone – the first magician he ever had seen – stepped on stage.

“He had black hair then. That was before he became the ‘white-haired magician,’ Foster recalled.

Blackstone’s visit to Foster’s hometown had a lasting effect.

“Some people make their decision about their life’s work when they reach college, and that’s the most important decision of their lives,” Foster said. “For me, the only thing I ‘ever’ wanted to be was a magician.

During the ensuing 18 years, Foster worked at various jobs around Aurora as he developed his own magical repertoire of effects and illusions, devised by himself or purchased from magic stores, including the then-new Abbott Magic Co. in Colon.

Foster first assumed the magical *nom de guerre “Retsof,” but had second thoughts a few years later when he was billed rather unflatteringly as “Ratsof,” so about 1938 he dropped his first name to differentiate himself from his father, and became Neil Foster.

In 1940, Foster’s fascination took a new turn when he saw a performance by Cardini, a monocle-sporting manipulator of coins, cigarettes and balls. Cardini entertained audiences nationwide on a theater circuit with a sophisticated, urbane characterization of a slightly tipsy magician.

Reflecting on that experience, Foster said, “The parallel is very strong to that of a pianist. He may play popular jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, but he may find that fine, classical music stirs him. When I saw magicians like Cardini and Okito perform, I knew that had to me my kind of magic – with the hands, the finer essence of magic.”

On the two occasions they were to meet, Foster found Cardini distant and aloof, but Foster still considers him the greatest manipulator who ever lived.

Even as Foster reached his 20s in Illinois, two people he had yet to meet were establishing in California the first major school for magicians. They were Ben and Marian Chavez, who had been vaudeville and touring performers since the 1920s. together, they set up in 1941 a state-licensed school, the College of Manual Dexterity and Prestidigitation, also known as the Chavez School of Magic.

In 1947, Foster went to California, enrolled in the Chavez course and demonstrated a flair for precise dexterity and creative skill that impressed Chavez. When Foster graduated from the course, Chavez hired him to tutor new students.

“My teacher, Ben Chavez,” Foster once wrote, “taught me that magic is just and excuse for being before an audience, for it matters little what you do, it’s how you do it. You first must become an accomplished performer, then a super salesman.”

In 1951, Foster left the Chavez school to work the magic field, and was chosen in 1953 to be one of the performers of the Gala Coronation Convivialities in London, England, when Elizabeth II was crowned queen.

During that show, he performed a floating-ball illusion which he not only had mastered but which had become his trademark. Apparently young Elizabeth was impressed, for Foster got to meet her during an intermission. And a few years later, Cardini himself saw Foster perform the illusion and applauded it enthusiastically.

In his book, “The New Modern Coin Magic,” magician J.B. Bobo wrote: “Cardini’s magic and Neil Foster’s beautiful magic are rare treats, to be enjoyed time after time. Who could ever tire of watching an artist work?”

In 1955, Foster married an Ohio native, the former Jeanne Hammond, while both were working in Florida. As a magical team, the Fosters toured for several years under the sponsorship of the lecture bureaus of the universities of Wisconsin, Minnesota and North and South Dakota, performing on the demanding school-assembly circuit.

The Fosters had a lifetime contract with their sponsors, but the work often meant performing daily – sometime several shows a day. The grind taxed Jeanne’s health, leading Foster to seek more stationary magical employment.

After a stint for the Ireland Magic Co. in Chicago, Foster came to Colon in 1959 at the request of Recil Bordner, president of the Abbott firm. Foster became the company’s chief magician-in-residence and its vice president.

In 1960, Foster revived the firm’s magazine, “The Tops,” which had been defunct for several years. With Foster as editor, the monthly periodical was re-titled “The New Tops” and eventually achieved worldwide distribution among magicians.

Foster invented many of his own effects. In particular, he sought to make difficult magic tricks achievable by those whose slight-of-hand gifts were less distinguished. Many of these simplified effects with cigarettes, balls and coins – as well as many other advanced tricks with doves, flowers and other materials – are manufactured and distributed by the Abbott firm. Foster also is the editor of several Abbott books.

Foster never left the stage, though, and played many dates with his wife and with another Colon resident, the late “Monk” Watson. It was not unusual, when Foster presented his floating ball effect at Abbott’s get-togethers in Colon – as he will during a public performance during the annual magicians’ convention this August – for hundreds of magicians to give him a standing ovation.

Foster has logged performances in 28 countries in Europe and North and South America. In 1977, at a ceremony in California, the Academy of magical Arts presented Foster with a Performing Fellowship Award, honoring his creativity and contributions in teaching magic and in editing the Abbott publication.

After Ben Chavez’s death in 1962, Marian Chavez continued to teach the course and arranged with Foster and one of his own protégées, Dale Salwak of California, eventually to take over the enterprise. She died in 1978.

Shortly after his wife’s death in 1979, Foster retired from full-time work at the Abbott firm and now instructs students who reside chiefly east of the Mississippi. Salwak, a professor of English literature at Citrus College in Azusa, Calf., tutors magic students at his own studio at Pasadena and distributes the Chavez correspondence course.”

 

 

Queen Elizabeth II & Neil Foster

Reflections By Neil Foster

 

 

Published June 16, 1977, The Battle Creek Enquirer: “Magician Neil Foster of Colon (the Magic Capitol of the World) had cause to look on the Silver Jubilee celebration for Queen Elizabeth II of England last week with nostalgia.

Foster, who recently was honored in California for his contribution to magic, was one of the featured performers at the Gala Coronation Convivialities in London 25 years ago, when Elizabeth was crowned queen.

His greatest memory of the occasion is of meeting the queen during an intermission.’

“It was like meeting an angel,” he said. “It was the only time I ever was told to extend a limp hand to anyone. She doesn’t like it when people firmly grip her hand.”

For the three minutes that Foster was on stage during the royal convivialities, he performed magical manipulations with balls and cards and the floating silver sphere illusion for which he was becoming famous and has won numerous awards.

How was his royal performance received? “I knocked them off their feet,” Foster recalled.

 

Reflections of Neil Foster by John Sherwood

Reflections of Neil Foster

From The “TOPS” Magazine, May 1988. By John Sherwood: “The year before I entered my teens I coerced my mother to drive me the 35 miles that separated me from a fabulous place – a place a friend had described in terms usually reserved for heaven or hell.

The place was Abbott’s and, as the car pulled up to the skeleton-adorned black blockhouse, I could only imagine what might lie within: Strange initiation rites? Ethereal hiding places? Fog shrouded and shadowy sorcerers?

Instead, I was both disappointed and consoled by the fact that inside it looked like a hardware store. Still, the friendly man behind the counter had an unmistakable demeanor; a movie-star face, the un-stooped bearing of an actor, the easy familiarity with strange and wonderful things that lay on the shelves. He sold me a few gimmicks and a catalog, which I took home and memorized from one cover to the other.

On one of the first pages was a picture of the salesman. I read that the was a professional magician – a star. His name was Neil Foster.

That August I pleaded with my family to attend one of the Get-together shows. We missed Blackstone Sr. (to my eternal regret), but I did get to see Neil Foster perform the Zombie. It was the first time I had seen that little miracle performed, but still I had no idea that he was doing the same trick that sold for a few dollars in the magic catalog. The gasps of the audience were electrifying. It was magic, pure and simple.

I got to see my own dad once a month and my grandfather was at home in Marshall, Mich., but I still went shopping for father-figures where I might. Tom “Silky” Sullivan had been my first mentor in magic, and Neil was to tel me (eventually) that any extra attentions I received in the magic showroom were the result of a little sympathetic conspiracy between them. Thus, I grew up, in part, with the occasional advice of Neil shepherding me, in magic and in life.

By the age of 16, I had published some of my scribbling, most prominently for “Top Hat,” the magazine of the old International Club of Magic. Neil took me the next step by offering me the “Just for Us Young Guys” column in The New TOPS magazine. I was floored and flattered by the challenge, which, he assured me he expected I would meet.

I continue to meet his expectations for 14 years with that column and for more than seven with the current one. Occasionally I overstepped myself and Neil firmly pushed me along proper lines. I realized now that even though he was the gentlest editor I’ve ever worked for, I may have learned the best lessons from his quiet diplomacy.

Now and then I wanted to quit writing the column. “I’m not a professional magician,” I would argue. “You know more about magic than a lot of pros,” he would counter, “besides, I need someone I can rely on. And you’re one of the best writers I’ve got.” You see he could work wonders with words, too.

I kept writing. My odd prolixity on the subject of magic oozed into other fields and it is because of Neil that I’ve never suffered from writer’s block.

Neil’s interests were wide-ranging. He read novels, which we discussed. He enjoyed gardening, painting and theatre. He always had an open ear for my current fascination. I often suspect that enjoyed a getaway from magic. But magic entered into it, too. He urged me to take the mail order Chavez course. I’d studied the fist lesson and couldn’t fathom it. My hands were too small, I thought. Neil insisted that, someday, I had better complete the course.

College came and went. I itched to travel and I asked his views. It was one of his favorite subjects. He loved England, especially, and I enjoyed hearing his reminiscences. In 1974, when I visited the Magic Circle, I was asked frequently about Neil. His name opened doors in London, where he was well remembered. When I told him about this afterwards, only a small smile revealed that I had repaid his flattery.

I married Marti, moved to a larger town, and went into journalism full-time, had a son named Nathan. In 1981, while enmeshed in a series of events which a Tarot reader would call reverses, Neil finally convinced me to take the Chavez course, which he was teaching in the basement of his home on Goodell Avenue in Colon.

It was like a life preserver in the middle of an ocean, and I clung to it. After just a week of practice, I marveled at how much magic I’d learned and how much time I’ve wasted. I’d known Neil Foster for 19 years and had never bothered to learn his kind of magic. I tried to make up for lost time. I learned to do the Zombie, studying it at his elbow, I felt like Plat o and the feet of Socrates.

That was a wonderful year. Marti and I, occasionally with Nathan in tow, went to Colon practically every chance we got, learning routines that would suit a couple, watching his videos and slides, gabbing about his days on the school assembly circuit. I’d drive Neil up to Battle Creek for dinner parties, discussing our travels, and chitchat.

It was on one of these occasions in the Colon basement when Neil gestured at the equipment lining the room.

“If there’s anything you’d like to learn here, just ask,” He told Marti and me, “Is there anything you’d like to see?”

It was a profoundly selfish thing to ask, but I asked it anyway, “Would you do the Zombie? Just for us? That’s all.”

That little smile again. He rose, set up the equipment, put on the familiar music. For the next few minutes, Marti and I were the only people in the world watching Neil Foster perform his most magical illusion.

That is how I remember him now, and I shake my head in disbelief at my own incredible good fortune.’

Neil Foster Press Release, 1981

Press release for Neil Foster, distributed April 24, 1981

 

 

“Neil Foster is an internationally known lecturer, teacher, inventor and performer of magic. He began his career when a senior in high school in his hometown of Autora, Illinois. In 1947 he attended the Chavez College of Manual Dexterity and Prestidigitation in Los Angeles, where he remained as an instructor for three years. He then toured the United States and 14 European countries. In 1953 he performed at the Gals Coronation Convivialitys for Queen Elizabeth II and was made a member of England’s Inner Magic Circle. In Paris, he became a member of the Association Francaise des Artistes Prestidigitateures. He is also a lifetime member of the All India Magic Circle.

Neil Foster and his wife Jeanne, toured for many years under the sponsorship of the Lecture Bureaus of the University of Wisconsin, Minnesota and North and South Dakota.

In 1959 the Fosters joined the staff of the Abbott Magic Company of Colon, Michigan, the world’s largest manufacturers of professional magical equipment. Neil is vice-president of the company and editor of  “TOPS Magazine,” a monthly trade journal published by Abbotts, which has readers all over the world. (The following added in handwriting). In 1979 he retired and became Editor Emeritus. Presently he teaches privately in his home studio. (End of handwritten segment.) In 1974 Neil was invited to represent the United States in a ten day FESTIMAGIA in Argentina, a fund-raising event for charitable works of Semana Don Orione Cottolengos. In Buenos Aires he was made an honorary member of the Society of Argentine Magicians and the Argentine Magic Circle. On March 12, 1977, he attended the ninth annual Academy of magical Acts Banquet at the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel in Beverly Hills and was presented the Performing Fellowship Award. Mark Wilson read the plaque” “In recognition of his many years of performing and bringing dignity and stature to the are of magic. We also recognize his ability as a creator of new effects, as a teacher, and as an editor, he has proven himself to be, in addition to all these things, a wonderful human being.” Sleight of hand artistry, expressing skill and mystery in pantomime with a musical background, is Neil’s forte. His manipulation of playing cards and golf balls is sheer poetry in motion, and his presentation of the “Floating Silver Sphere” is the acme of the magician’s art. Goodlifee, leading magical authority of England, recently name Neil Folster as one of the leading magicians in the world today.

 

Foster’s Final Get-Together

Ovation Given to Foster

HODGE PODGE

Joe Ganger

Published in the Battle Creek (MI) Enquirer, August 11, 1977: “One of the most emotional moments ever seen at the Abbott Magic Get-Together in Colon during the past 40 years occurred Wednesday when an audience of more than 2,000 stood to applaud magician Neil Foster – even before his act was over.

Foster, who said he was giving the final performance of his “Concert of Magic,” had just finished 50 minutes of his routine when he approached the microphone to introduce his final effect.

Suddenly, the applause turned into a spontaneous, two-minute standing ovation.

When it was over, Foster thanked the audience and then performed his most famous magic feat, the “Zombie,” a floating silver sphere. And, as he completed it, the audience gave him a second standing ovation.

Foster, of Colon, is known as one of the most polished, skilled and personable magicians in the business.

His act was made even more memorable Wednesday by the appearance of his wife, Jeanne, in one short routine. She has not appeared in Foster’s act for many years, and her appearance Wednesday earned lengthy applause.”

 

Jeanne Foster died in1979 at the age of 64. Neil Foster died in 1988 at the age of 67. While this was his final performance of “The Concert of Magic” he appeared at The-Get-Together again. He, appeared in 1952, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1986.

Jeanne Foster’s Obituary

Jeanne Foster’s Obituary

 

 

Published March 7, 1979, in the Battle Creek (MI) Enquirer: “COLON – Mrs. Jeanne E. (Hammond) Foster, 64, of 201 Goodell Ave., wife of noted magician E. Neil Foster, died Tuesday at her residence. She had been in failing health several years.

She was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, and was a graduate of Ashtabula Business College. She was married in 1955 to E. Neil Foster in Delray Beach, Fla., and for several years worked with him on stage in shows throughout the United States. He is semi-retired from show business and is conducting private classes in magic at his home. He is vice president of the Abbott Magic Co. and editor of its publication, “Tops.”

Mrs. Foster formerly was employed by the Chevrolet Dealers Association of Ohio and Florida, and later was employed by the Lauderdale Yacht Club in Florida as an accountant, but the School Assembly Bureau of the universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and then the Abbott Magic Co., as an accountant.

She was a member of the Ashtabula Episcopal Church, and was a life member of Lake Erie Chapter 10 OES (Order of the Eastern Star) of Ashtabula.

Surviving are her husband, E. Neil Foster, and sisters, Mrs. Robert (Grace) Fickenscher of Jefferson, Ohio, and Mrs. Winifred Beardsley of Chardon, Ohio.

Memorial services will be held at 9 a.m. Friday at the Schipper Funeral Home. Memorial donations may be made to the Michigan Kidney Foundation.

Neil Foster Obituary

E. Neil Foster Obituary

 

 

From the Sturgis Journal, March 13, 1988:

 

“BATTLE CREEK – E. Neil Foster, 67, 6471 B Drive North, died March 11, 1988, at the Battle Creek Community Hospital.

He was born October 21, 1920, in Aurora, Illinois, a son of Edgar N. and Sarah E. (Hubbard) Foster.

On April 29. 1922, he married Jeann E. Hammond in Del-Ray Beach, Florida. She Died in March 1979.

He graduated from West Aurora High School and attended the Chavez College of Manual Dexterity and the Prestidigitation, a private school in Los Angeles, California. He later became co-owner of the school. He moved to Colon in 1959, where he lived until July of last year when he moved to Battle Creek. After moving to Colon, he became associated with the Abbott Magic Company, Colon, and was the vice president. He also was the editor of Tops Magazine for 19 years, retiring in 1979. He presently was owner of the Chavez Studio of Magic, Battle Creek.

Surviving is one niece, Sandra Bender, St. Louis, Missouri. He was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers.

There will be no visitation. Memorial services are at 9 a. m. Wednesday at the Schipper Funeral Home, Colon, with the Reverend Robert E. Olson, Monroe, Wisconsin, officiating. Burial of the cremains will be in Greenwood Cemetery, Hinckley, Illinois.

Memorials may be directed to the Colon Rescue Squad. Envelopes are available at the Funeral Home. Memorials may be directed to the Colon Rescue Squad. Envelopes are available at the Funeral Home.”

 

Reverend Robert Olson was caught in a snowstorm and Reverend David Farrell stepped in with a message entitled “What’s In a Name?” at the last minute. The eulogy was done by Mr. Miller of Abbotts Magic Company.

 

Neil Foster’s Obituary

Published March 13, 1988, in the Battle Creek (MI) Enquirer; ”Services are pending at Schipper Funeral Home in Colon for E. Neil foster, 67, of 6471 B. Drive N., Battle Creek, formerly Colon and one of the most honored members of the magicians’ fraternity.

Foster died Friday night in Community Hospital, where he was taken after being stricken at his home in Battle Creek, to which he had recently moved his home and teaching studio.

The former Battle Creek Magic Club was renamed in 1981 in his honor, becoming the International Brotherhood of Magicians Neil Foster Ring 89.

Foster, a native of Aurora, Ill. Was inspired to pursue magic as a profession when he saw the late Harry Blackstone Sr. perform in Aurora. Foster began performing magic as a high school senior. In 1947, he enrolled in the Chavez College of Manual Dexterity and Prestidigitation in Los Angeles, Calif., eventually becoming the school’s star pupil and later an instructor for three years.

He became known in magic circles as one of the most polished, skilled and personable magicians in the business. Hi manipulative ability became a standard in the profession, and he became known by his trademark illusion, the “Zombie” floating silver sphere.

In 1953, he performed at the Gala Coronation Convivialities in London when Elizabeth II was crowned. At that time, he was made a member of England’s Inner Magic Circle.

He and his wife, the former Jeanne E. Hammond, later toured the United States on the school-assembly circuit. In 1959, he was employed briefly by Ireland Magic Co. in Chicago, joining Abbott’s magic Co. in Colon later that year as its vice president.

In 1969, he revived “The Tops,” a defunct Abbott trade journal, which as “The New Tops” achieved worldwide distribution among magicians under his editorship. He also edited several books distributed by Abbott, and invented many effects marketed by the firm.

Foster also was a frequent performer at the popular annual Magic Get-Togethers in Colon and a judge for its talent contests. Remaining active as a stage performer, he logged performances in 28 countries in Europe and North and South America.

In 1977, the Academy of Magical Arts presented him with a Performing Fellowship Award, honoring his creativity and contributions in teaching magic and in editing the Abbott publications.

In 1978, Foster acquired control of the eastern branch studio of Chavez school, and in 1979 he retired from the Abbott firm to pursue full-time instruction of magic and showmanship from his home-based studio. His students came from throughout the United States and from as far as India.

His wife died in 1979.

In early 1987, on a visit to China, Foster performed at a gathering of Chinese magicians. In August, he was awarded an International Brotherhood of Magicians presidential citation at a gathering in his honor of the American Museum of Magic in Marshall.”

 

 

 

Neil Foster by John Sherwood

Neil Foster by John Sherwood

 

 

Feature by John Sherwood about Neil Foster, 
published August 9, 1981, in the Battle Creek (MI) Enquirer

Early inspiration lured Foster to lifetime in magic

About 1929, one of the great touring magicians of the day, the late Harry Blackstone Sr., performed his stage shows of illusions in Aurora, Ill.
Edgar Neil Foster Jr. then was just 9 years old, and was enthralled as Blackstone — the first magician he ever had seen — stepped on stage.
“He had black hair then. That was before he became the ‘white-maned magician,'” Foster recalled.
Blackstone’s visit to Foster’s hometown had a lasting effect:
“Some people make their decision about their life’s work when they reach college, and that’s the most important decision of their lives,” Foster said. “For me, the only thing I *ever* wanted to be was a magician.”
During the ensuing 18 years, Foster worked various jobs around Aurora as he developed his own magical repertoire of effects and illusions, devised by himself or purchased from magic stores, including the then-new Abbott Magic Co. in Colon.
Foster first assumed the magical *nom de guerre* “Retsof,” but had second thoughts a few years later when he was billed rather unflatteringly as “Ratsof,” so about 1938 he dropped his first name to differentiate himself from his father, and became Neil Foster.
In 1940, Foster’s fascination took a new turn when he saw a performance by Cardini, a monocle-sporting manipulator of coins, cigarettes and balls. Cardini entertained audiences nationwide on the theater circuit with a sophisticated, urbane characterization of a slightly tipsy magician.
Reflecting on that experience, Foster said, “The parallel is very strong to that of a pianist. He may play popular jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, but he may find that fine, classical music stirs him. When I saw magicians like Cardini and Okito perform, I knew that had to be my kind of magic — with the hands, the finer essence of magic.”
On the two occasions they were to meet, Foster found Cardini distant and aloof, but Foster still considers him the greatest manipulator who ever lived.
Even as Foster reached his 20s in Illinois, two people he had yet to meet were establishing in California the first major school for magicians. They were Ben and Marian Chavez, who had been vaudeville and touring performers since the 1920s. Together, they set up in 1941 a state-licensed school, the College of Manual Dexterity and Prestidigitation, also known as the Chavez School of Magic.
In 1947, Foster went to California, enrolled in the Chavez course and demonstrated a flair for precise dexterity and creative skill that impressed Chavez. When Foster graduated from the course, Chavez hired him to tutor new students.
“My teacher, Ben Chavez,” Foster once wrote, “taught me that magic is just an excuse for being before and audience, for it matters little what you do, it’s how you do it. You first must become an accomplished performer, then a super salesman.”
In 1951, Foster left the Chavez school to work the magic field, and was chosen in 1953 to be one of the performers at the Gala Coronation Convivialities in London, England, when Elizabeth II was crowned queen.
During that show, he performed a floating-ball illusion which he not only had mastered but which had become his trademark. Apparently young Elizabeth was impressed, for Foster got to meet her during an intermission. And a few years later, Cardini himself saw Foster perform the illusion and applauded it enthusiastically.
In his book, “The New Modern Coin Magic,” magician J.B. Bobo wrote: “Cardini’s magic and Neil Foster’s beautiful magic are rare treats, to be enjoyed time after time. Who could ever tire of watching an artist work?”
In 1955, Foster married an Ohio native, the former Jeanne Hammond, while both were working in Florida. As a magical team, the Fosters toured for several years under the sponsorship of the lecture bureaus of the universities of Wisconsin, Minnesota and North and South Dakota, performing on the demanding school-assembly circuit.
The Fosters had a lifetime contract with their sponsors, but the work often meant performing daily — sometimes several shows each day. The grind taxed Jeanne’s health, leading Foster to seek more stationary magical employment.
After a stint for the Ireland Magic Co. in Chicago, Foster came to Colon in 1959 at the request of Recil Bordner, president of the Abbott firm. Foster became the company’s chief magician-in-residence and its vice president.
In 1960, Foster revived the firm’s magazine, “The Tops,” which had been defunct for several years. With Foster as editor, the monthly periodical was retitled “The New Tops” and eventually achieved worldwide distribution among magicians.
Foster invented many of his own effects. In particular, he sought to make difficult magic tricks achievable by those whose sleight-of-hand gifts were less distinguished. Many of these simplified effects with cigarettes, balls and coins — as well as many other advanced tricks with doves, flowers and other materials — are manufactured and distributed by the Abbott firm. Foster also is the editor of several Abbott magic books.
Foster never left the stage, though, and played many dates with his wife and with another Colon resident, the late “Monk” Watson. It was not unusual, when Foster presented his floating ball at Abbott get-togethers in Colon — as he will during a public performance during the annual magicians’ convention this August — for hundreds of magicians to give him a standing ovation.
Foster has logged performances in 28 countries in Europe and North and South America. In 1977, at a ceremony in California, the Academy of magical Arts presented Foster with a Performing Fellowship Award, honoring his creativity and contributions in teaching magic and in editing the Abbott publication.
After Ben Chavez’s death in 1962, Marian Chavez continued to teach the course and arranged with Foster and one of his own proteges, Dale Salwak of California, eventually to take over the enterprise. She died in 1978.
Shortly after his wife’s death in 1979, Foster retired from full-time work at the Abbott firm and now instructs students who reside chiefly east of the Mississippi. Salwak, a professor of English literature at Citrus College in Azusa, Calif., tutors magic students at his own studio at Pasadena and distributes the Chavez correspondence course.

Neil Foster died on March 11, 1988.