“Pop Haydn is not originally from this century, himself,” reads Pop Haydn’s website. “He is a Victorian gentleman who was suddenly transported into the 21st Century by accident–not entirely his fault–along with a bunch of other maroons stranded here from that time.”
Watching him perform in the video above, I’m almost inclined to believe that claim. Looking like he just wandered in from a saloon, possibly after taking part in a gunfight, Haydn entertained an audience at the Magic Castle with an absolutely immaculate take on All Backs, a routine popularised by Dai Vernon. Presented with easy patter throughout, the trick is an obvious hit with the crowd and especially the two volunteers Haydn has at the table. But of course it is – the trick is apparently irresistible to women, according to a slightly dubious passage in Expert Card Technique (1950):
“Magicians know only too well that women, generally speaking, are allergic to card tricks. This trick is an exception to the rule. Mr. Vernon has used it before all kinds of audiences, even those comprised exclusively of women and with complete success. The women are intrigued by it. It is one trick that they remember and talk about and invariably when another occasion arises it is the one trick they request to see again.”
At least the trick has aged incredibly well.
Dai Vernon was one of the greatest card manipulators who ever lived (learn more about his life in this great documentary), and Korean magician Ed Kwon recently paid tribute to his life and work at the Magic Castle back in December. Spend your lazy Sunday watching his full 20-minute routine from his performance there, where he controls an entire round of poker with impeccable style and elegance.
Magicana is an wonderful educational resource for magic, and the research work by sleight of hand master Jamy Ian Swiss is always a highlight. In his final Take Two column of the year, Swiss delves into the life and work of Dai Vernon.
Vernon was born Frederick Wingfield Verner, earned the moniker of The Man Who Fooled Houdini, and in the field today is often referred to simply as The Professor. His career revolutionized sleight of hand magic over the course of the 20th century. Swiss’ feature goes into much more biographic detail that’s a fascinating read for anyone looking to learn more about the early titans of magic.
The video above shows Vernon talking through some of his signature sleight of hand moves, and it’s a great example of what to expect from this mastermind. Magicana also has a great clip of Vernon doing his innovation on the classic Cups and Balls routine.
If you’re stuck at home this weekend looking for something to do, take 45 minutes out of your day and check out Dai Vernon: The Spirit of Magic, a documentary about the “Professor” of sleight of hand archived on YouTube thanks to Historica Canada and embedded above for your entertainment. The film follows Vernon’s life, from obsessing over Erdnase’s The Expert at the Card Table as a child, to fooling Houdini, to his last days at the Magic Castle. It’s interspersed with clips of interviews with Vernon himself, as well as some of magic’s most prolific historians and entertainers.