Harry Blackstone Jr. 2nd Greatest Magician
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:
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
HARRY BOUTON BLACKSTONE, Jr.
WEIGHT – seven Pounds.
WHEEL BASE – 21 ½ Inches.
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
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.