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.