|Monday March 20, 2006|
Gene Alfred Maze (October 24, 1928-March 13, 2006) died last week at the age of 77. Gene was a highly skilled and creative magician who specialized in card magic. He influenced, taught and nurtured many of the New York City magicians who attended the weekly meetings at the "cafeteria" during the 1960s through the 1990s. His brand of magic had the distinction of being direct and visual -- much of it was considered difficult but all of it was worthwhile. He first came to the attention of card magicians all over the world in Karl Fulves' "Packet Switches" series (Volume 4 and 5, 1970s). Later Richard Kaufman wrote and published the definitive book "The Gene Maze Card Book" (1980) and "Gene Maze And The Art Of Bottom Dealing" written by Stephen Hobbs and published by Richard Kaufman. In 1992 Meir Yedid released the two volume video set "The Magic Of Gene Maze" that featured Gene performing and explaining many of his trademark routines and techniques.(3/20)
A Gene Maze Tribute
Gene Maze was one of the most influential magicians in my development as a magician and the closest thing I had to a mentor and teacher. He always held magic and magicians in high regard and offered his services selflessly to help beginners understand the fundamentals of magic and was the first to volunteer his services when a magic club needed funds. Although he has given many lectures about his brand of card magic he never accepted payment for the lectures as he felt that magic has given him so much he didn't want anything else in return.
His first career was as a boxer. He fought under many different names but the one that he was best known for was "Dancing Bill Daily." Unfortunately the boxing industry was very unscrupulous at the time and his manager took advantage of him. Gene once mentioned that what regularly happened was after a fight in New York his manager would tell him that there was a very good card in Boston that night and they should go see it -- both would board a train -- when they arrived Gene would find himself on the card fighting under a different name. Although I don't remember his exact record as a boxer it was a very impressive, 30 something wins to one loss or 50 something wins to one loss. He was very glad to leave the Boxing industry when he enlisted in the army during the Korean War. He was a decorated member of the 511th airborne signal company.
His interest in magic was sparked when he befriended New York magician Max Williams who showed Gene a few tricks. Gene immediately took an interest in card magic and began to experiment and practice. Early on he began working on switches with cards, many of his early creations appeared in Karl Fulves' magazines and especially in the "Packet Switches" series in the late 1970s. He also began creating new plots and changing existing routines that were streamlined using his switches. During this time he began gaining a reputation for doing very difficult magic -- but the magic was very good -- what made the routines difficult in execution was Gene's insistence for direct effects that were very easy to follow by lay people. Many of his best routines were published by Richard Kaufman in "The Gene Maze Card Book" (1980).
In the late 1970s and early1980s many of his routines made it into my working repertoire and I later performed some of them in "The Magic Of Gene Maze" (1992) video set. (The two volume set of videos was scheduled to be re-released this year on DVD with two bonus routines and more than two hours of home movies where he performed and taught many still unpublished routines).
Gene's constant attention to blocking and angles during his card switches and lapping techniques was very educational for me and much of these theories were used by me when I constructed my finger routine that took full advantage of the staging and angle work I learned from Gene.
His dedication to mastering false deals took the same path and lead to the excellent book "Gene Maze And The Art Of Bottom Dealing" (1994) written by Stephen Hobbs and published by Richard Kaufman. I remember when I decided to learn how to deal bottoms -- his "lessons" began by teaching me how to deal tops using the Erdnase grip, which lead to one-handed bottoms and much later to the techniques for the actual two-handed strike bottoms.
Although many of the routines Gene created had gambling themes he never gambled. Gene was also not a performing magician. He received his pleasure from practicing and creating magic. Most of his performances were for intimate groups of 1-6 people who sat in front of him. The impact of his magic was always very strong – both magicians and laypeople were completely baffled by the directness of his magic.
His profession was one of a carpenter and he built my entire library as well as the libraries and magic rooms for many of his friends. One of the non-related things he liked to build was wooden puzzle boxes. And just like his magic effects the solutions to the puzzles were very direct and often requiring just one move and rarely more than three. The locking and unlocking methods he came up with were ingenious and he used all kinds of hidden parts, magnets, false hinges and nails. When he first moved to California in the late 1990s he set up a work room and began making many boxes -- I used to get one or two boxes a week -- I managed to open most of them but did give up a few times. Around my library I have some 15-20 different boxes that all use different methods and are made of different types of woods and finishes. One day I received a wooden clock that he built -- I thought he went nuts until he explained that it had a secret compartment that I will have to find.
The above reminiscences are not unique to me -- you can ask many of the magicians who used to "hang out" every Saturday at the "Cafeteria" in New York City from the 1960s through the 90s and they will have there own Gene Maze story and how he helped them and taught them. He was a kind and honest magician and he is already missed by the friends whose lives he touched.The last time I spoke to Gene was around a week before his death. He was in the hospital and knew that he did not have long to live. He mentioned that the only reason he was dying is that his prostate cancer was not caught time -- he was also hopeful that if they could get the pain under control he would be back home. That never happened but he did mention that he had a deck of cards beside his bed and wouldn’t leave home without it.
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