I believe it was around 1995 when I dialed a telephone number terminating at a home in Carmel, Indiana. I dialed the number with the best of intentions; to report a slimy little bastard who was apparently duplicating and subsequently selling a video tape originally produced and sold by Michael Close. I believed this was the case because the tape I bought from the bastard (the slimy little one, I mean) was too horridly produced — both in technical quality and packaging — to have possibly come from the man who produced the three “Workers” books I owned — books with which I fell so deeply in love on first reading that the state of Louisiana actually considered passing a law against such romances.

When the ringing line was answered, the fellow on the other end verified that he was, indeed, Michael Close. Now, he didn’t come right out and ask what in the living hell did I want and how dare I dial his telephone number, but that’s the impression I got.

So I quickly got directly to the point, explained why I called, and gave him the contact information of the SLB. He thanked me. I hung up.

Then I turned out all the lights, locked myself in the closet, and wept. (I’m kidding, of course. There are no locks on any of our closet doors.)

Over the years — and despite the involuntary eye-twitching I experienced when thinking about that telephone call — I’ve continued to purchase Michael Close stuff, which includes five Workers books, one VHS tape, the L&L Publishing VHS “Workers…” series as well as the reissued “Workers…” DVDs. As someone who recognizes the difference between clever magician creations, and magic tricks that play to real and paying audiences, I’ve loved Close’s work.

I also read with near-religious ferver his review colums in MAGIC Magazine. The only thing that ever came before them was when Stan had Max Maven writing his (much missed) Parallax column.

Okay. So let’s fast forward to Las Vegas in late August 2004, and probably my favorite magic-related event ever: MAGIC Live!. Not only was it everything you heard it was and then some, it was two firsts for me. It was the first time I’ve been to Vegas, and it was the first time I’d actually met my longtime Internet friend Jim Sisti (and his lovely wife Sandra). During that week in Vegas, we all hung around together and made more friends than a human being should be allowed. (I’m getting weepy now. Tito, hand me a tissue.)

In the dealer room, I found myself at Dean Dill’s table (he of Dean’s Box fame). Dean was sharing a booth with — that’s right — Michael Close. I stepped up, said hello, and half expected both barrels to go off. Of course he simply said hello and we entered into a chat. Brief as it was, and with our telephone chat from nearly ten years previous fresh in my mind, I wondered which alien race had kidnapped Michael Close and substituted him for this very personable, funny and darned likeable guy.

I purchased a copy of his new CD-ROM, “Closely Guarded Secrets.” That night when I returned to the hotel room, rather than climbing into bed for desparately needed sleep, I suddenly remembered I was at a magic convention in Vegas, and, instead, called the front desk for a hooker popped the CD-ROM into my laptop. I read the entire thing and watched all the embedded videos that night/morning, taking notes and wondering about one of the tricks in particular — all actions for which I would pay dearly the next morning at reveille.

The next day I find myself in the dealer’s room once again. (Being a magic convention, I know, you’re shocked.) I pass Dean’s booth again and Michael was there chatting with someone a little taller and with a bit more hair than I (neither of which is much of a surprise, frankly.) I patiently waited for this fellow to finish talking with Close, which he did and then started chatting with Dean without moving an inch. I pushed this guy aside so I could step up and discuss something from the CD-ROM with Michael. (Turns out the fellow I shoved aside was David Blaine.) Close was as kind and just plain nice as he was the day before.

Okay. Let’s fast forward to the present time. Michael Close and his wife Lisa have slaved over the computer converting the five “Workers…” books into an ebook. (It’s not really my fault for buying and downloading the thing I already have in four other formats; my credit card told me to do it or else. No, really. Look, I’ve got “Dark Side of the Moon” in all seventeen different versions, and I don’t recall you berating me for that.)

The ebook version has the added bonus of being annotated by the author himself, rather than the usual method which first requires the author die first, and then suffer the indignation of having someone else do the annotating. And, in places, the annotations double the value of the material on which the annotations are based.

It’s almost 20Mb in size and over 650 pages in length. And formatted, dear Lord, formatted beautifully. It is a joy to (re)read.

In the introduction to the ebook version, Close says this:

All the material in the Workers series was created and performed in and around Indianapolis. The books were written in Carmel, Indiana, from 1990 to 1996. This was a dark period in my life, and looking back, I’m amazed that I was able to produce these books at all. I carried a lot of pent-up anger during this time, and, unfortunately, that anger manifested itself in my performances, personal interactions, and perhaps even in the pages of the Workers books. I wish (for many reasons) that I had handled things differently back then, but we can’t change the past, we can only learn from it. I guess my point is that if you met me during that time, and you walked away from the encounter thinking, “That guy’s a jerk,” you might not have been wrong.

So the moral of this story is: don’t walk where you’re not supposed to walk because there may not be someone with superhuman strength to save your little ass. And don’t do drugs.

Wait, that’s Sal.

No, the moral of the story is people are not portraits on the wall. While first impressions are important, the older you get the quicker you’ll stop letting those first impressions make such an impression on you. Ten years is an awfully long time and people change. For whatever reason, people change. I know I’d just as soon not be remembered for some of the things I said ten years ago (except, maybe, for my comments about Jeff Davis and his Origami copy, but that’s a post for another day.) I know this may be hard to believe, but I have been known to be somewhat bombastic in the manner in which I make my points.

Now that I think about it, I’d probably rather not be known for some of the things I said last week.

Is there someone you’ve been harboring a sore spot for? (And I don’t mean Jeff Busby; feel free to let that fire burn.) Could it be that, over the years, you’ve both changed and that snapshot in your mind that gets your eye twitching is no longer accurate? Is that possibility worth making a phone call to say, “hello”? Hey, it’s just a question.

With Thanksgiving clearly on my mind — I’m putting the finishing touches on my famous rice dressing — I’m reminded of a few things I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for being above ground today. I’m thankful for being married to the Cute Redhead, for having the daughter I have, and the granddaughter she gave us. I’m thankful to have such a deep interest and love for magic and mentalism– which brings me great joy and not a few shekels — and for the creators who share their idea-babies with us. I’m thankful for friends like Jim and Sandra Sisti. I’m thankful you, kind reader, for actually reading this entire thing and not skipping directly to the end, thereby avoiding the eternal fires of hell and damnation.

And you thought this was a post about magic.

4 thoughts on “Getting Close.

  1. Dear John,
    As I wipe away a tear, the thoughts that you expressed show wisdom (or at least a reasonable facsimile). Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    Best wishes,


  2. Is this a pre-cursor to you kissing & making up with Gerry McCambridge perhaps?


  3. McCambridge doesn’t really need anyone else kissing his derriere. P.J. (and what self-respecting person over the age of, say, 10, wants people to call him “P.J.”?) has enough sycophants. (Present company excluded, of course…)


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