Take Two # 14: Daryl
Browsing through the incredible archive of The Magic Palace videos here at Magicana, I happened upon two clips of the magician known at various times as Daryl Martinez, later Daryl Easton, but renowned among magicians the world over as simply: DARYL.
I first met Daryl in 1976, at a magic convention, perhaps the Tannen’s Jubilee. He was one of a small band of Young Turks that included Paul Harris and Michael Ammar, who broke onto the magic scene at about the same time, circa ‘76/’77, and went on to profoundly influence a generation of close-up magicians, each in their own distinctive fashion. (With the addition of producer/promoter Adam Fleischer, they would be briefly known by the unfortunately self-dubbed moniker of “The Magical Hedonists,” who collaborated to produce the book, Brainstorm in the Bahamas in 1983.)
Daryl was and remains an incredibly charming, engaging performer, who specializes in close-up magic and is renowned as a close-up card worker. He is one of the most award-winning such magicians of his and all time, having not only been a multiple award-winner of the Academy of Magical Arts including Close-up Magicians of the Year, along with other such Magic Castle awards, but he also took first prize in Close-up Card Magic at FISM, the most prestigious international competition in magic (and this was back when not only did the FISM awards carry greater significance than they do today, but also when the American Invasion transformed the prize-winner contingent that had for decades been dominated by Europeans).
All three of those Young Turks went on to become particularly successful magic lecturers, producers, and marketers, with differing approaches. While Paul Harris became renowned for his innovative plots and methods—featuring unique ground-breaking effects like “Bizarre Twist”, “Immaculate Connection”, “Twilight”, “Solid Deception”, and many more—Daryl concentrated on superb sleight-of-hand with somewhat more traditional plots, accompanied by a playfully charismatic persona. His first two books, Secrets of a Puerto Rican Gambler and For Your Entertainment Pleasure, both written by Stephen Minch, much like the early books of Paul Harris, were enormously popular and influential. Although out of print and hard to find for many years, both have recently been repackaged and reissued by Vanishing Inc., thankfully available to influence a new generation (at least I, for one, certainly hope so.). In those days and for years thereafter I performed many of the routines described in those marvelous volumes.
Among his many other productions, Daryl’s eight-volume instructional video set, The Encyclopedia of Card Sleights, remains a remarkable and invaluable resource, a rare and wonderful case in which the person chosen to attempt such a daunting task turns out to actually be the guy best qualified to do so. While video has severe limits as an instructional medium for magic, and carries with it many under-acknowledged drawbacks (the greatest of which being that it is far more prone to induce imitation than print instruction, along with a consistent low level of provided detail by comparison with print), there is no doubt that seeing how a sleight looks, properly performed by an expert, has always been a part of mastering conjuring, albeit that in the past it was done person-to-person via personal mentorship. While still the vastly preferred approach, the Daryl video set is a terrific reference to assist the process for any serious student.
Above all, however, Daryl is a magnetic performer and a joy to watch. Although I know his repertoire intimately, when we both performed at Caesars Magical Empire in Caesars Palace in the ‘90s, I would still sit in on the occasional show, because I literally never get tired of watching him work, and he still makes me laugh. And clearly I am far from the exception in this, since when he makes a rare appearance at the Magic Castle (as he will coming up in February), the Castle books him for the entire evening of two shifts and six shows in the Parlour of Prestidigitation, a privilege extended to few if any other performer.
In this first video, I’m leaving the entire eight-plus minutes intact, in which Daryl performers several signature card routines. Some of the techniques he relies on here are considered standard today, but were cutting-edge at the time, and fooled a lot of magicians when he first appeared on the scene. His expert version of the classic plot of the Ambitious Card was unusual in its length, and actually helped to give me the confidence to show my own lengthy routine around magicians. His technical execution is consistently smooth and seamless, and while most have forgotten the fact, Daryl is the guy who significantly brought the airy openness of “dribbling” the pack into mainstream card handling (along with a number of jokes that have since become “stock lines,” and thereby now in use by many who don’t even know who from whom they were originally stolen).
So put the smart phone down, please—expand the browser, turn up the sound, and pay attention because if you blink, you’ll miss something—and enjoy the close-up magic of a modern master: DARYL.
Although the entire original clip is worth watching, I’m singling out one trick for you in this second video: Daryl’s “Cardboard Chameleons.” At a time when packet tricks (card tricks done with small packets of cards rather than the entire pack) were all the rage, Daryl’s routine is one of the best. While never as popular as some other neo-classics of the era such as Peter Kane’s “Gypsy Curse” (popularized as Frank Garcia’s “Wild Card”), doubtless because Daryl’s routine is far more technically demanding, the number of changes that occur in rapid fire, and the facts that two selected cards are involved and that you end clean, add up to an amazing result. I first saw him perform this at the 4F convention at The Forks Hotel in Buffalo in the early ‘80s, and as one of his first performances of the piece—I believe it was the debut for magicians—the trick brought the house down. I used it in my work as a magic bartender, and I’ve always loved watching Daryl do it.
In the late 80s when I was living in the Washington DC area, Daryl came in to do a lecture, and Daryl, David Williamson and myself spent the day together, among other things visiting the Library of Congress where, at that time, we were able to request seeing their collection of original Hofzinser props, and astonishingly, a crate was brought to us in the reading room, where we examined Hofzinser’s Rising Cards and several other remarkable props. I asked Daryl if he would include performing Cardboard Chameleons in the lecture, and he was resistant because while it takes up time to do, he explained that it rarely produced significant sales. I encouraged him and pressed my case, and so he was kind enough to do the routine that evening. Sure enough, he wryly pointed out to me after the lecture that no sales of the trick had resulted. But I enjoyed it and I’m sure it fooled much if not most of the gathering. Now you get to share in the amazement. Watch closely!
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