A TRIBUTE TO
TED COLLINS &
ATTN: MAGICIANS! IF YOU HAVE ANY PHOTOS, INFO OR STORIES ON TED COLLINS OR "MECCA MAGIC" IN N.J. THAT YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE.....PLEASE SEND ME AN EMAIL-
NEW PHOTO (ADDED SEPT. 16TH 2009)
( Bought this photo on ebay from a fellow in Canada...I love ebay! )
a very young Ted Collins with floating Light Bulb
Aug. 7th 2009 received message from a fellow fan/friend of Prof. Ted Collins:
in Elizabeth, New Jersey my friend John and I had our parents take us to Mecca
Magic many times.
Kenneth Dietz, RA
NEW PHOTO JUST ADDED - 1/27/09
CLICK HERE for commentary by Ford Kross
TED COLLINS 1919-1993
Ted Collins inspired many magicians through his work. I am sure that there are many stories to be told. My knowledge of Mr. Collins is limited to the brief time during the late 70's when I was a customer of the Mecca Magic shop and member of the Mecca Magic club.
I was around 12 years old in 1976 when I first met Ted Collins on my first visit to Mecca Magic which was located in East Orange N.J. at the time. ( the store moved to several locations during its existence)
I already had an interest in magic since I was around 5 years old and had owned several magic kits and the "TV MAGIC CARDS". I also horded all of the books on magic from the Lodi Library.
My first visit to Mecca Magic was the first time I actually visited a real magic shop. I couldn't have had a more magical experience.
I had been directed to Mecca Magic by the magician Bill Wisch who performed at my School ( St. Francis in Lodi N.J.). Bill Wisch's show had a big influence on me at the time...but that is another story.
My father drove me to Mecca Magic. He was not a magician but was a passive fan of magic. He also had a wonderfully creative mind and over the years came up with many fantastic ideas for my routines and shows...but this is another story also.
I think that when we entered that store for the first time he became "like a child" ...we were two friends being enchanted in a magical world under the spell of a Magic Master.
( This is an original sketch of Professor Collins done by Ed Mishell one of the finest sketch artists in the world of magic who provided the artwork for many instructions to magic tricks. I was lucky to purchase this at the final Mecca Magic auction on Sept. 17, 2000 prior to their closing and it is framed on my wall.)
Ted Collins ( The Professor, as he was known) gave us his full attention for more than an hour. He was behind the counter with his goatee, sleight of hand and quick wit and it blew me away. My father was not a wealthy man by any means and I'm sure that Ted Collins could see this.
He continued to demonstrate many miracles even though he realized we would spend a limited amount.
Oh how blessed I was to have had this experience. I have not seen many magic shops that have someone behind the counter who truly enjoys performing magic the way Mr. Collins did.. Oh yes sometimes a fellow will show a trick but if you don't flash some cash quickly the show is OVER!
I am sure that there are other really magical shops around the country and I'm sure that others have had similar experiences where they were treated to a proper introduction into the world of Magic Shops but this one was special to me.
The glass counters filled with small props and the shelves filled with mysteriously painted boxes and books that must have been filled with the most sacred of secrets. There were cards and colorful silks and wands and skulls and Tarot cards and crystal balls and dove cages. There was an honest to goodness AURA of magic in the air that filled your lungs and heart and mind and I can't see how anyone could have walked out of there after witnessing the master behind the counter and not be smitten.
I knew I was in a "sacred" place. My first experience there Mr. Collins demonstrated the "Invisible Deck" ( an unbelievable card trick) ... the "Zombie" floating ball mystery ( actually it was the "Miracle Ball"- for magicians who know the names of these things) ...the "Chinese Sticks" with the magical strings and tassels. Several others as well.
I remember the first trick he demonstarted called "The shrinking die" or dice. He showed me a normal looking die/dice and closed it in his fist ... waved a miniature magic wand over his hand and when he opened it the dice had shrunk to the size of a small pea ... he dropped it on the counter along with the miniature wand and I could see that his hands were completely empty.
I was able to pick up the tiny dice and examine it along with the wand. Of course I knew there must be some simple but diabolical secret to this mystery but as a child your mind imagines some type of special chemical or something that makes the dice shrink.
Yes, I bought this trick and still have it. I don't perform this today with dice but I do the same illusion always with children that I am performing for with a borrowed coin and the coin shrinks and I let them keep the teeny, tiny coin.
I love seeing the look in their eyes as they imagine the impossible being actually possible ... the look of wonder...same as I had at Mecca Magic a long time ago.
When I first visited the shop...although I really didn't have any decent magic props up to that time I had a head full of magical knowledge from all of the library books I had read and Ted Collins entertained my questions and thoeries even though I was only 12. He treated me not like a silly child but like someone wishing to be a serious apprentice and he directed me to several of the many books that were available. The 6 volume ( at the time) Tarbell Course was something that I had not even heard of until then and though I didn't purchase it on my first visit I did soon after.
He told me of "The Mecca Magic Society of Magicians" an actual club for magicians that met upstairs from the shop to perform and practice, discuss and critique. he invited me to join. ( David Copperfield was once a member of this club)
I have since been a guest and member of several clubs throughout the years but to a young person just getting started there was nothing like this club.
I knew that this place was special and I did not take it for granted. I can't describe the feeling I had when I attended those meetings. I was just a little kid and surrounded by so much creative talent. Ted Collins, his daughter Bunnie ( who I immediately had sort of a crush on but I was a 12 year old little runt and completely unnoticeable to a cute teenage girl like her)...there was also Bob Cassidy, Phillip Jennings, Craig Neier, Jesse Greenfield, Jim Gerrish and many more. All of these guys were older than me but they were very gracious and I learned so much from this group.
It was Bob Cassidy who suggested I purchase "The Amateur Magicians Handbook" by Henry Hay. I didn't think this book would be appropriate because even though I was only a kid, I had dreams of someday becoming "professional "... not "amateur". Why would I want the "amateur's hanbook?
"He assured me that this book was one of the biggest "secrets" in magic and that I would not be disappointed. How right he was ...this book was a paperback and easy to carry around and I carried it with me everywhere reading it through and through many times and wearing it out. (I've since gone through several copies and also recommend it to anyone interested in truly learning the art of magic) Thanks Bob.
The club was run sort of like a real apprenticeship. You had to perform before the group to be accepted as a member and then there were different levels of achievement that you could reach within the club.
When you first were accepted you were given a "red fez" hat to wear during the meetings. On the fez was a symbol signifying your rank. Apprentice, magician , sorcerer, wizard , grand wizard. I don't remember the exact order of ranking ( if someone else does please email me).
I have recently found out it was Jim Gerrish who brought about the idea of every club member wearing a fez. He was inspired by the fact that Ted Collins wore a fez in his act and it seemed like a very natural thing and a great idea.
The fez hat was a symbol.
This might seem kind of hokey now, but I took it very seriously back then. More seriously than just about anything in my life. You had to...you look around at the magnificent talent around you and you are honored to be allowed to be a part of it. And so too did the others involved. Oh there was plenty of laughing and fun and goofing around but most everyone involved knew that they were part of a tradition that went back thousands of years.
Ted Collins, his wife and family set an example for the club that showed true respect for the art and helped to create a special atmosphere. Mr. and Mrs. Collins really carried the magic torch during their lifetime and some of their children still perform today and continue to inspire.
There came a time a few years after my first Mecca Magic experience when I was so deep into magic and my brother , sister, mother and father were all involved in one way or another.
My sister was a dancer and assistant ...my brother got into clowning my mother was sewing costumes and dove bags...my father was building tricks and writing routines. We thought it would be fun to open up a small Magic Shop and so we did it!
The Mecca Magic club would produce a show once a year at a local church and members had a chance to perform.
It was truly an exciting experience and a real honor to be part of these shows.
The person who organized these events during the time that I was involved was named Jim Gerrish. Jim did a lot of work organizing and running the meetings and he is a guy who just plain LOVES magic. He obviously had the deepest respect and admiration for Mr. Collins and tried to do his best to make him proud.
Jim Gerrish was/is a very generous man with his time and talent and pretty much ran many of the activities of the club...organizing and producing the club meetings and shows. Today Jim is a consultant to many magicians. Amateurs and professionals alike are enriched by his infinite well of ideas, creations, wit and wisdom. Visit his website: www.MagicNook.com
During those club magic shows I loved to have the opportunity to perform...also, as much as I loved performing, I loved watching the other magicians perform.
Some specialized in comedy ... some serious mystery ... also dove acts, stage illusions, mentalism and more ... There was some really great talent.
I remember Ted Collins acting as MC for one of the shows and he performed what is known in the magic community as "The "sucker" Torn and Restored Napkin".
The "sucker" part is because he pretends to teach you the trick and he leads you along the path to thinking you know the secret to what is going on BUT you actually know nothing because you are completely fooled in the end.
I can still remember his stage presence and his charm... his ease of performance and smooth confidence and must admit that his presentation of that routine is what inspired my "Million Dollar Hat Tear Routine" and though I use my own personality in performing ... there is a hint of what I was inspired by in his performance.
More on Ted Collins and Mecca Magic to come!
CLICK ON PHOTO BELOW TO VIEW SOME VINTAGE PHOTOS FROM THE MECCA MAGIC CLUB FROM THE 1950'S CONTRIBUTED BY EVERETT WINROW