I wrote a post sometime back regarding my childhood excursion into Magic. Legerdemain, Sleight-of-Hand.
But, even though I don’t keep up with it as I used to (I let my subscription to a magician’s magazine lapse, as has my membership in The International Brotherhood of Magicians) I was thinking this morning about a particularly dark chapter of my magical life. And it’s connection with investigation.
There was (and is) a local magic emporium named Bert Easley’s Fun Shop. It’s close to downtown Phoenix and was started by minor movie star and vaudevillian Bert Easley. Much as being a gunnie and hanging around gun stores is a preoccupation, being a magician involves hanging around magic stores. Discussing the latest secrets, showing-off, wasting time.
For years, from when I was a child until I was a young adult, the main man behind the counter was Jack Sutherland. When I wanted something automatic-he taught me the sleight-of-hand, no gimmick version. Jack was cool in that he understood his position a chief salesman-he knew to encourage the youngsters. Brings in new paying customers. When I joined the I.B.M. it was Jack and Bert who signed my bonafides!
Bert was a combination of Harpo Marx and every vaudeville guy you ever saw. Every trick, joke and schtick was in his repertoire. Jack was smoother, more serious – a chain smoking, tuxedoed, Vegas-esque character, imperially slim (save the softball-sized pot belly). He resembled a lower-case ‘B’ in a tux!
Jack was big in the local chapter of the other big national magic organization, The Society of American Magicians. A group a little more ‘elite’ than the IBM, more serious students and professionals – It was started by Harry Houdini and other contemporaries.
Tempus fugit. I went from the wide-eyed little kid spending hours eyeing tricks in the glass case to choose one for my hard-earned allowance, to the amateur high school performer for charity, to semi-professional, occasionally doing birthday parties and events. All the time keeping up with Jack and the shop.
And then, Jack left to open his own shop, Sun Magic. He became pals with Harry Anderson (of TV’s Night Court fame) and sold his magic effects exclusively. All seemed right with the world.
Then someone murdered Jack.
Right in his own home. His wife Schatzie was working in her beauty parlor at the time. Jack was found dead, shot with a small caliber handgun.
Even though I was working as a credit card fraud investigator at the time, and had not been a P.I. for some years, it piqued my interest. And my brain went into overtime (as I had no access to the crime scene or any of the pertinent information). I had to rely on the newspaper.
There was a wake at Sun Magic. Harry (Anderson) stopped production of a movie to fly down from Canada for the funeral. Everyone was in shock. And no one could figure out why.
My mind went through tons of motives – professional jealousy, a burglary gone bad, who knew? But, because I knew Jack personally, and knew how highly he regarded his wife, I blocked the most obvious motive.
Turned out Schatzie had a lover on the side, and had spurned him to return to Jack, and the guy couldn’t take it. So, Jack (who knew the guy) let him in and he shot Jack!
I think Schatzie closed her shop and left town. Of course, the guy went to prison.
The Scottsdale/Phoenix chapter of the Society of American Magicians changed it’s name to The Jack
Sutherland Assembly 248.
I think Jack would have liked that.