The Passing of Another Great

Betty and I are off to Las Vegas again to see Aerosmith. You may recall from a while back that we’d gone to see them in Concord, in the Bay Area, and the concert was unexpectedly cancelled due to the drummer be sick. It was disappointing to say the least — and frustrating — especially to die-hard fans like Betty.


But, we’re going for Round 2, Aerosmith, so wish us luck. This time the concert is in Vegas so we’re hoping Lady Luck is on our side.

Final Curtain Call for Lee Grabel

In case you haven’t’ heard, we lost another great of magic this week, Lee Grabel. He was truly one of the finest performers our Art will ever encounter.

Grabel and his wife Helen spent much of the mid-20th century on a perpetual national tour, making horses vanish in Stillwater, Okla., doves fly out of scarves in Mayfield, Ky., geese pop out of hats in Salina, Kan., and pianos float all over the place.

They performed two shows a day, at small town high schools, county fairs, nightclubs, Kiwanis clubs, college campuses and anywhere else that would book them. The pair was hailed everywhere for its charisma, creativity and stunning sleights of hand, and the reviews were ecstatic.

Here’s his story.

Recognized as America's No. 1 magician after Blackstone Sr.'s retirement in the 1950s, Grabel was chosen by Dante as his successor.

Recognized as America’s No. 1 magician after Blackstone Sr.’s retirement in the 1950s, Grabel was chosen by Dante as his successor.

March 12, 1919 – July 27, 2015

He was a magician and illusionist of worldwide reputation. He stood as a living legend in magic and was recognized by many as the last of the grand masters in the tradition of Herrmann, Kellar, Thurston and Dante. He was the man upon whom Dante, just prior to his death, bestowed the title to continue his magnificent show.

Lee Grabel was born in Portland Oregon, March 12, 1919. The spark of magic was kindled in his heart when early when as a boy he witnessed a performance of a remarkable old conjuror, Professor Turtle. Lee always remembered the magical fantasies Turtle created.

Among his mysteries, Turtle took an oriental fan and fanning his empty hand a snowstorm of white confetti was created. Suddenly amongst the confetti a snow-white dove made its appearance. The white dove circled the stage and returned to Turtle’s forefinger. He then placed it in a cage. More paper snow fluttered in the air, grabbing a handful the professor squeezed it into a paper ball, which when bounced on an oriental fan transformed into an egg. The egg was broken in a glass; it was a real egg.

Turtle then took a sheet of newspaper, folded it in half and poured the broken egg into the newspaper. Looking out at the audience with a smile, the folded paper opened out flat. The egg shells, yoke and all had vanished.


Turtle was an artistic performer and the aura of fantasy he created was an enchantment that started Grabel on his way to become a master of magic.

These early years in the life of a budding magician were the Great Depression years, and the need for money was keen in the mind of everyone. Young Grabel was no exception and he honestly states that making money motivated him towards making magic.

During those years, Lee worked five shows a week for $5.00 a show. It was good money for those times as his father worked ten hours a day, six days a week for only $18.00.


For a fifteen year old to make $25.00 a week in the 30’s was mighty good. The money he earned made a deep impression on a young man that magic was the road to riches.

In 1931 Lee presented his first one-hour program which was sponsored by The Boy Scouts of America. In 1936 Lee advanced to win the coveted award for sleight-of-hand presented by the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians at the convention in Seattle. His reputation quickly grew as an accomplished magician.

Success followed success and in 1940 Grabel was engaged as a performer-lecturer by the University of California. He demonstrated to the students aspects of the psychology of deception. His appearances on the Berkeley campus lead to an initial tour with his show to other Western Colleges. During this period he also engaged as a featured attraction at the San Francisco World’s Fair on Treasure Island.

When asked the secret to his success, without hesitation, "I could never have done it without Helen," he said. "I put her through hell."

When asked the secret to his success, without hesitation, “I could never have done it without Helen,” he said. “I put her through hell.”

World War II came and Grabel was inducted into the army in 1942. His talents as a magician proved a boon to Military Special Services and he was sent to many bases to entertain. It was while playing at an army base in Southern California that he met a beautiful librarian. A swift courtship followed and in 1944 Lee married the lovely lady. She became an indispensable part of Lee’s show, and became known as Helene.

In 1944 Lee was sent to General Headquarters in the South Pacific to organize soldier shows in that area. While in New Guinea he ran into Arnold Furst, who likewise was in the war theater in those battling years of the 40’s. Arnold was touring for U.S.O. The two magicians began a long friendship that has culminated in the publishing of this book, The Magic and Illusions of Lee Grabel.


Grabel levitates a 700-pound piano and spins it 6 feet over a stage, complete with a strapped-in pianist plinking at the ivories.

Arnold Furst tells of the time he was riding in a jeep with the famous motion picture producer, Elia Kazan who was in the south Pacific working on a program to enhance soldier shows. Kazan told Arnold of how fortunate he had been in discovering one of the greatest magicians he had ever seen and had enlisted his aid to join in military show production. The magician Kazan mentioned turned out to be Lee Grabel.

Following the war years, in 1946, Grabel started in earnest building his show into the theatrical institution it eventually became.

In the 1950’s, after Blackstone Sr.’s retirement, he became recognized as America’s No. 1 Magician. With his great show he toured coast to coast across America with both artistic and financial success. Variety Magazine described him as one of the theaters outstanding personalities and a master illusionist.

In 1954, Grabel was chosen by the Great Dante as his successor. In 1958, his magician peers commemorating his recognition as America’s #1 magician presented Grabel with a gold medallion.



Quotes from many great names in magic have acclaimed Grabel’s mastery of magic and illusions.

  • “Lee Grabel has the most spectacular magic show on the road today.”Percy Abbott 1955
  • “Lee Grabel is the legitimate successor to Dante.”Moi-Yo-Miller, Dante’s featured Assistant
  • “Lee Grabel was the reason I stayed in Magic.”Channing Pollock
  • “Lee Grabel was my inspiration.”Andre Kole

In 1959, at the height of his popularity, Grabel suddenly announced his retirement from professional magic and left the stage for a quiet life on his ranch in California. As he puts it, he wanted to unwind from the grinding life on the road to give Helene, along with their young daughter, Cindy, an opportunity to live a normal life. A second daughter, Kate, was born to Lee and Helene in 1963. Kate was one of the troupe during the ’77 tour. There were also investments derived from the success of the big show that required attention. Lee’s “quiet life” soon expanded to include a variety of business endeavors centered on the east side of San Francisco Bay.

The “second career” was the management of the investments he had made from the success of his shows. He was still active in such work, but the call of magic has always been great. Thus, the illusions that had made the name of Lee Grabel synonymous with the best in show business were dusted off, and what Lee called “Selections From the Big Show” (his last tour) took a twenty-week run of the cities in the western United States in 1977.Grabel Show – Capacity Crowds


But, as for a “Farewell Tour,” that will never be, for the Master Magician, like magic itself, never really quits. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word and mentor to many of us in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Sugar Trick

Scott Alexander and Puck show us their out-of-the-box thinking and creativity with the Sugar Trick. It’s a video the duo created to underscore an important message to parents and kids about sugar and childhood diabetes. This classic trick Multum in Parvo has always been intriguing, but most preseters and magicians have never known quite what to with it.

And what about that name? What does it really mean? For a quick answer, we turn to Google:


Apparently it means, a great deal in a small place.

Mystery solved!

Now take a look at Scott & Puck’s new video.

The BACKSTORY to this — Scott & Puck called a few months back procure a good quality Multum in Parvo. Luckily, we happened to have one in our Private Estate collection manufactured by Mephisto Magic. The prop was a beauty and long out of production. It was crafted by Mephisto International Magic Studio of Leper, Belgium and worked in REVERSE of the standard version, allowing the user to fill up the glasses after making the liquid grow in capacity.

Deluxe Multim Parvo

Interested in perhaps including this trick in your repertoire? Since Mephisto is no longer in business, the prop we recommend is the Deluxe Multum in Parvo, which is available here at Hocus Pocus. It is a contemporary version of the same trick and works precisely like the one in the video. Just click on the image below and you’ll be directed to it on our site.

A visual classic that has been updated for the 21st Century!

A visual classic that has been updated for the 21st Century!

The only difference in this product versus the Mephisto prop is that the largest glass (pitcher in the video) has no handle.

Magic LIVE 2015

magicLIVEWe’re getting excited about attending Magic LIVE. It being held August 9 – 12th in Las Vegas at the Orleans Hotel. And although we are not going as dealers, we will be there as attendees and both my sons, Max & Cole, will be joining Betty and me. We hope to see you there!

As always, have a great weekend my friends.

More news later,



One Response to “The Passing of Another Great”

  1. LOVE this blog Paul! Great background on Lee Grabel. Thank you.

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