Secrets of the Magus

Reading that Apollo Robbins piece reminded me of this splendid writeup on Ricky Jay, also originally published in The New Yorker.

Often, he would begin a performance by demonstrating a not easily marketable skill that eventually earned him a listing in the “Guinness Book of World Records”: throwing a playing card for distance. A properly launched card would go ninety miles an hour. Unobstructed, it could travel a hundred and ninety feet. From ten paces, it could pierce the outer rind of a watermelon. After impaling the flesh of a watermelon with a card, Jay would rifle one card after another into the exact same spot. He also used a plastic chicken and windup toys as props and targets, often inflicting disabling injuries. His patter was voluble, embroidered with orotund, baroque locutions; he would describe the watermelon rind, for instance, as the “thick pachydermatous outer melon layer.”

via The World Wide Website of Ricky Jay.

A Pickpocket’s Tale

Fascinating piece on Apollo Robbins, the world’s greatest pickpocket.

Within a few minutes, he had emptied the agents’ pockets of pretty much everything but their guns. Robbins brandished a copy of Carter’s itinerary, and when an agent snatched it back he said, “You don’t have the authorization to see that!” When the agent felt for his badge, Robbins produced it and handed it back. Then he turned to the head of the detail and handed him his watch, his badge, and the keys to the Carter motorcade.

via The New Yorker