February of 2017 ended with horrible news – news that sent waves of shock and sorrow through the magic community. Daryl Easton – Daryl “The Magician’s Magician” – had taken his life. On social media expressions of grief were profound and sincere. For almost forty years Daryl had been a vibrant force, with performances and lectures for audiences around the world. He seemed to have an indefatigable enthusiasm for magic and magicians. That he would choose to depart the planet was a situation many (myself included) found hard to accept.
I met Daryl in the late 1970s or early ‘80s. Our paths crossed at magic conventions. Later, when I joined the ranks of the performers/lecturers, we found ourselves performing on the same close-up shows, often in some far-flung place.
At one of the Joe Stevens Desert Magic Seminars, I sat next to a well-known card man as Daryl performed in one of the close-up shows. (This was back in the days when close-up magic actually resembled close-up magic and the performers moved from room to room.) Daryl was doing a super-duper card location, full of moments that destroyed any possible way that Daryl could find the selected card. The patter hook that ran through the routine was, “Believe it or not, there is one way, and one way only, that I can find the card...” The card guy next to me was getting toasted; he had no idea how Daryl could find the card. At the start of the routine, I noticed that Daryl was using a deck of Bicycle League Back cards. Once I saw that, and heard the patter hook, I couldn’t stop laughing. The more the guy next to me expressed his astonishment, the harder I laughed. It was a wonderful moment.
In Australia, in 1992, I discovered what a tremendous magic salesman Daryl was. During this trip I learned Daryl’s method for deciding what items he would sell at a magic convention: profit per pound per square inch. He brought a suitcase packed to capacity with product; the only other thing you could have fit in it was loose sand. He left that convention with the suitcase similarly packed with money.
Lisa and I spent time with Daryl and his wife Alison when we lived in Las Vegas. On one visit to their house, Daryl showed me the map on which he had outlined their two-year, around-the-world lecture tour.
When that tour wrapped up, Alison stayed in England to visit with relatives and Daryl returned to Vegas. The day he got in, he called to say he was back. I suggested he come over to our house for a home-cooked meal, something I thought he’d appreciate after such a long time on the road. He came by that evening.
Lisa and I prepared a pasta dish, with salad, bread, and red wine. We ate, talked, and listened to stories of the life of a lecturer. It was obvious Daryl was jet-lagged and beat to hell, which made him the perfect foil for a practical joke.
We finished dinner and continued talking. Our dining table was next to the kitchen. At the time, we had two Chihuahuas – Murray and Pablo (some of you may remember them from lectures I gave in 1998 and 2005). I began to clear the table. I picked up a plate and a salad bowl and walked them toward the kitchen sink. Instead of putting them in the sink, I bent down and let the two dogs lick the plate and bowl clean. Then I opened the cabinet above the sink and put them away with the other tableware.
I did this without comment, continuing whatever conversation we were in the middle of. It wasn’t until the third plate and bowl that what I was doing began to sink in. Daryl watched me take the plate and the bowl, and he watched the dogs lick them clean. And then I put them away. He didn’t say anything, but his facial expression said everything. We laughed until the tears ran down our cheeks.
I’ll conclude this with what I posted on Facebook the Sunday after Daryl died. All of us were looking for a coping mechanism. If you’re still looking, this may be helpful:
“Two days ago, on Friday, Abby, the Close clan dog, was under the weather. I volunteered for downstairs duty, sleeping on the couch so I could hustle her outside if she needed to relieve one end or the other. I was up several times during the night. About three in the morning, I read on Facebook that someone had died at the Magic Castle. The question of who that was kept me from sound sleep the remainder of the night. On Saturday morning, I had the wind knocked out of me when I found out it was Daryl.
“I had to work a private party on Saturday afternoon for a client for whom I have done several events. The combination of a severe lack of sleep and my emotional state did not put me in the mood to do magic. But I did so.
“I was not in top form, but the effects were successful and everyone laughed and had a good time. As I performed, I was reminded of the real power of conjuring. For a moment, my audience’s reaction of ‘How is that possible?’ produced by a trivial, insignificant piece of magic drowned out my outraged, unanswered shout at the universe, ‘How was this possible?’”
“When the party ended several hours later, everyone’s spirits were buoyed, mine included. I felt better than I thought I could feel under the circumstances. And this is why it is so important to be the best conjurer you can be, presenting miracles that are driven not by ego, but by the desire to produce a shared experience of astonishment. Performed in this way, everyone (including the magician, who is well aware of how these little tricky tricks are accomplished) can experience wonder.
“And that is what I did yesterday, to honor my friend, whose performances buoyed the spirits of so many.”